Vintage 1969 Middle East Fanaticism Quotation

Before I go to sleep I like to read a few pages of something, anything, to take my mind away from the days events. This summer I have been reading Miles Copeland’s 1969 The Game of Nations: the Amorality of Power Politics, about Egypt’s leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and the events between his rise to power in 1952 and the 1967 Six Day War between the Arabs and Israel. Last night’s page was particularly effective. I fell asleep on page 206 (literally “on” the page) with all the lights on. I offer here a selection from p. 204:

A player of limited popular resources such as Nasser is understandably tempted to use fanatics, whereby, as has been proved time and again in history, small minorities can cause majorities to make concessions to them out of all proportion to their numbers or the strength of their arguments–if, indeed, they have any clear arguments at all. When entirely on their own (and this is rare), fanatics sooner or later make such nuisances of themselves that the majority clamps down on them, paying whatever price it takes. In the hands of nonfanatical leadership, however, they can become a weapon of flexibility and finesse. They can be brought to a halt just short of suicide, while their willingness to go to suicidal lengths is so manifestly genuine that the opponent cannot know where they will halt–or even be sure that they will halt. The nonsense they talk can be polished up so that it not only makes a modicum of sense, but seems to be on a high moral plane. So long as the more vocal members keep their mouths shut (or can be kept away from direct contact with journalists) a fanatical movement can be excellent public relations material. They are “a valiant body of men fighting for their beliefs against overwhelming odds.” They are sometimes as valuable dead as they are alive. They are beautifully expendable.

One hundred and two more pages left. It’s going to be a restful summer.

Note: for biographical information on Miles Copeland see here and here.


Related posts:

Palestine just a pawn in Copeland’s 1952 Game of Nations


Posted in Books, Conspiracies, Middle East, Terrorism. Comments Off on Vintage 1969 Middle East Fanaticism Quotation

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of Palestinian legislature boycotts.

Hamas is boycotting the Palestinian legislature, reports the New York Times.   The reason?   Oh,  “at least 39 Hamas legislators from the West Bank now being held in Israel jails without charges”.

Imagine that.

The legislature can’t meet without a quorum.  You’ve gotta love the Palestinians though.  When the video link between Gaza and Ramallah was lost during the emergency session, what did they do? Whipped out their cellphones, of course.

What else? Sunday, Omar Karmi of the Jordan Times reported cessation of hostilities by the Fateh Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade”:

Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet Sunday approved a plan to stop hunting 178 Fateh members in the West Bank in return for their agreement to end any attacks on Israeli targets.

Scores of wanted members of Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades convened on Palestinian security forces headquarters across the West Bank to sign the agreement.

A spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Miri Eisin, said Israel agreed on a list of those who have “deactivated themselves as terrorists… are going to hand down their arms, and, as part of the new developing security relationship, Israel will not pursue them any more”.

It’s a busy region this week.

Sunday, former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres was sworn in as Israeli president replacing Moshe Katsav, who resigned in the latest scandals.

Monday, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his official residence in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will be in town.

Palestinian news service Ma’an  now reports 45 Hamas legislators detained in Israeli jails. Oh, dear, they’re missing all the fun.

Posted in Arabs, Middle East, Palestine, peace. Comments Off on The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of Palestinian legislature boycotts.

The Palestinian State: Parsing King Abdullah

Last week I suggested the reason Palestine had not yet declared statehood might be the lack of a viable security plan, rather than ineffectual leadership. What does have to be in place before Palestine can declare statehood?

No one in the world is more motivated to achieve peace in Palestine than Jordan’s King Abdullah. What does the King say?

Last week in Canada, King Abdullah made the following statement:

What happens on the ground in the next days and weeks is obviously critical, but the parties do not act in isolation. The international community can and must help shape the strategic direction of events. It begins by keeping the focus on the central objective. And that is a final settlement, which can stop an expansion of violence and clear the way to thriving, stable, civic life.

Days and weeks. This is a change from his remarks to the BBC at the side of the G-11 summit in May:

There is a historic opportunity to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement, and achieve it now, this year, before any more generations suffer, before any more destruction takes place.

Clearly the King is not speaking hypothetically. This is not a leader given to hyperbole or saber-rattling. Jordan’s King is pragmatic, practical. He chooses words carefully. In May he expected a settlement within the year. Now he is talking in terms of days and weeks. In all of my lifetime there has been war in Palestine. I cannot remember anything else; I cannot imagine anything else. But this King, who is both well-educated and savvy to the Arab street, thinks a peace is possible, workable, doable, now, this year, if not sooner.

And why not?

But what about the question of security? Don’t Israeli troops have to withdraw before Palestine can declare Statehood? The obvious from U.S. history is “of course not.” America declared independence long before the last British soldier departed.

But what does Our King say? Ah, he chooses his words so carefully…

There must be a timetable that plans for, and sees to the finish line, the establishment of a Palestinian state. And it must expedite Israel’s implementation of required action, including a withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and an end to occupation.

Is he saying Israel needs to be out of Palestine in order to have peace? No, wait, read it again. It says the establishment of the Palestinian State must “expedite” not “precede” an end to occupation.

And look again at King Abdulla’s remarks to the BBC during the G-11 summit:

If we don’t have a Palestinian state, can we ever have peace between the Arabs and the Israelis?

and the last part of the first statement above:

And that is a final settlement, which can stop an expansion of violence and clear the way to thriving, stable, civic life.

The previous Roadmap called for decreasing violence as a prerequisite for a Palestinian state. The results were not pretty, with each side blaming the other for the latest round of attacks and counterattacks that continually set back the timetable for statehood. Now King Abdullah is saying the opposite: a Palestinian State must come before peace.

What else did the King say in Canada? His vision for the Middle East, which is economic rather than ideological, was vintage Abdullah:

Achieving peace is only the beginning. Peace can only be sustained if the people of our region have the opportunity to lead a productive and satisfying life. For that to be possible, the economies of our region must maximise their potential. There are opportunities for investment in infrastructure, for participation in a growing private sector and for developing markets.

What did the King NOT say? That was said by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government was the first to cut off assistance to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas won a majority in the legislature eighteen months ago.

But at the same time though, if I can be frank, I think Canada and others need to do two things vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority: One is obviously to indicate our support for a moderate government and negotiated solutions, but the other is to impress upon those authorities the necessity for reform and better governance. It is our view that the Palestinian people did not vote for extremism. They voted against problems in governance and those have to be addressed.


Related posts:

Palestine Independence: Who would provide security?

Remarks by King Abdullah 5-21-07 to Nik Gowing, BBC World, at the side of G11 Economic Forum

The elephant in the room: Is this why Palestine leadership won’t declare independence?

Hamas: forget “Palestine First”


Posted in King Abdullah II, Middle East, Palestine, peace. Comments Off on The Palestinian State: Parsing King Abdullah

Iraq Insurgency: the Saudi connection

Iran, Syria and Moqtadr get plenty of press  for their role in the Iraq insurgency, but the LA Times has published new information about the Saudi link.

According to “a senior U.S. military officer”:

  • 45% of all foreign militants are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa…
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliate groups number anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 individuals….Iraqis make up the majority of members, facilitating attacks, indoctrinating, fighting, but generally not blowing themselves up. Iraqis account for roughly 10% of suicide bombers…
  • With its own border with Iraq largely closed, Saudi fighters take what is now an established route by bus or plane to Syria, where they meet handlers who help them cross into Iraq’s western deserts…
  • An estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters cross into Iraq each month…
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliate groups number anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 individuals…
  • Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis…
  • …50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.
Posted in Arabs, Iraq, Middle East. Comments Off on Iraq Insurgency: the Saudi connection

Iraq initial benchmark report

The White House released the required initial benchmark report on Iraq Thursday; here is the full text.

Posted in Iraq. Comments Off on Iraq initial benchmark report

I heart Miami tees for Florida lovers

Kathryn wants to know if I can make her a tee shirt that says “I love Miami”. Why not? Here it is in the Arabic language. Available in fitted (shown), tank (shown), raglan, hoodie, and even dog. iheartmiami-fitted-tee.jpgiheartmiami-tank.jpg

If you’re in the mood for summer colors, check here.

I hope that’s something like what you were looking for, Kathryn.

Posted in Merchandise, Products, T-shirts. Comments Off on I heart Miami tees for Florida lovers

The elephant in the room: Is this why Palestine leadership won’t declare independence?

Is this the picture that is worth a thousand words?


This is the elite Palestinian “special presidential guard” that answers directly to the president of the Palestinian Authority. My high school marching band looked better than that.

The photo appeared in yesterday’s Jordan Times (articles remain online for one week).

Posted in Middle East, Palestine. Comments Off on The elephant in the room: Is this why Palestine leadership won’t declare independence?

Palestine Independence: Who would provide security?

Could security be the one thing that is preventing Palestine’s leadership from declaring independence?

Here are the clues:

1) Can Arab armies fight? An old joke about Saddam’s army is that Iraq bought tanks from France: one speed forward and four speeds reverse. The quickness of the U.S. capture of Baghdad did not surprise me in the least. I have read fictional accounts of the 1967 war that say the Arab armies–with the exception of the Jordanian Arab Legion, which trashed the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem–all ran away as soon as they met any resistance. Palestinian friends have confirmed this for me, saying, “I was in Palestine in 1967 and saw this with my own eyes.”

So much for the Palestinian Authority providing its own security.

2) What about Jordan?  After all, Jordan has the only Arab army in the world that Israel is afraid of.  Ah, but Jordan’s King Abdullah is not at all excited by the possibility.  From the King’s 7-2-07 interview:

Al Ghad: The events in Palestine have revived the issue of confederation with Jordan, or the administrative annexation of the West Bank to Jordan as a way out of the crisis. Despite Jordan’s emphasis that confederation before independence is not an option, there are those who speak of Israeli and American pressure on Jordan to accept this arrangement.

King: We’ve grown tired of discussing this issue. Our position is clear and has been made public. No one can do anything to change it. We refuse the notion of confederation or federation. This proposal at this stage is a conspiracy against both Palestine and Jordan. Our position is clear and principled. We cannot accept these solutions, no matter what the pressures are. As for the future relationship with Palestine, it’s premature to discuss it. This will only be done after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian soil. The Jordanian and Palestinian people will decide the form of this relationship. Jordanians refuse any settlement of the Palestinian issue at their expense. I say clearly that the idea of confederation or federation, or what is called administrative responsibility, is a conspiracy against the Palestinian cause, and Jordan will not involve itself in it.

So what was all that about? The Palestinians separated from Jordan long ago, and King Hussein unhappily accepted the situation (and stopped paying pensions for Palestine’s retired soldiers) after much foot-dragging. And some say Jordan didn’t do all that much to develop Palestine economically–their airport remained second rate and they were considered the poor relation. Clearly King Abdullah doesn’t want to get mixed up in that issue again.

The Jordanian annexation issue is further illuminated by a July 8 guest editorial piece by Walid M. Sadi in the Jordan Times:

Israel had ample opportunity to negotiate with Jordan about ending its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, right after the 1967 war, but it aborted it. That opportunity was lost when Israel derailed all efforts to perform a complete withdrawal from all the West Bank territories, including East Jerusalem, in favour of Jordan.

Okay, we won’t talk about those little spats between Jordan and Palestine, or all those little assassination attempts against King Hussein, or the 1969 Fateh attempt to take over the Jordanian government, or how the 1969 bru-ha-ha allowed King Hussein to secure the Jordanian-Israeli border and stop cross-border raids from Jordan  into Israel. It’s Israel’s fault and let’s talk about that.

3) Israel is cooperating with the PA to some extent and is currently supplying security for the PA. According to an AP piece published in the July 4 Jordan Times that describes renewed low-level security meetings between Israel and the PLO:

The common anti-Hamas strategies of Israel and the new Fateh-allied government in the West Bank were clearly seen this week.

On Monday morning, Israel’s Shin Bet security service announced it had arrested 11 Hamas fighters in Jerusalem over a period of months, charging them with channeling funds from abroad and laying the groundwork for a “pool” of recruits.

That afternoon, pro-Fateh Palestinian security officers arrested four more Hamas activists, including a former lawmaker, in the West Bank city of Nablus.

But this arrangement is seen as contrary to Palestinian interests:

But Israel’s interests and those of Abbas’ government don’t entirely coincide. Israel has continued pursuing Fateh gunmen — who nominally owe loyalty to Abbas — with raids like one in the town of Nablus last week, which left one Fateh man dead.

So if Palestine would become a state, who would provide for its security? 1) Not the Paletinian Authority–they couldn’t even prevent last month’s armed Hamas takeover of Gaza. 2) Not Jordan. That opportunity was lost at the end of the 1967 war. 3) Not Israel, their national interest is not the same as Palestine’s.

Perhaps the current choice is between Israel continuing to provide security or the complete takeover of Palestine by “Islamic” extremists backed by hidden powers.  A choice between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know.

Hamas: forget “Palestine First”

Hamas? That’s not the Palestinian flag they’re raising over Abbas’ former headquarters in Gaza, is it.

And who are they? They cover their faces.

Follow the money–another proxy war between Iran and the U.S.



Iraqi benchmarks progress report due Sunday 7-15-07

An assessment of progress in Iraq required as part of the supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq H.R. 2206 is expected Sunday, July 15.   The report is expected to say the benchmarks have not been met.

According to a report by NPR, the benchmarks set expectations for eighteen different areas, including the equitable distribution of oil resources and the elimination of local militias.

Posted in Iraq, Middle East, Oil, peace. Comments Off on Iraqi benchmarks progress report due Sunday 7-15-07