The Clash of Worldviews in Gaza

April 16 2018

After explaining why Israel must defend its southwestern border from the combination of attempted infiltration and assault from Gaza, Liel Leibovitz asks why this is so difficult for so many in the West, and some even in Israel, to comprehend. To answer that question, he points to an underlying difference of attitude toward nationalism and the nation-state:

If, like me and like most Israelis, you believe that humanity could hardly do better than to arrange itself by nation-state, you shouldn’t have much difficulty understanding why a border is among the key emblems of national sovereignty, and why violating it brazenly and violently is going to be met with the harshest response imaginable. But what if you believe otherwise? What if you believe, like so many on the progressive left these days, that nation-states aren’t efficient guardians of individual liberties and serviceable embodiments of our collective values but, rather, a remnant from bygone, benighted times? . . .

How to resolve this conflict? Sadly, you cannot, because the disagreement here is ontological, not political. And it is not limited to Israel alone: in America, for example, the proponents of immigration reform too often speak of an American citizenship as if it were a basic human right, not a precious privilege, and of considerations of national capacities and priorities as largely irrelevant to the question at hand. Why not, if nationalism strikes you as useless and frightening, open wide the gate and let the wide world in? . . .

The skirmishes in Gaza, tragically, are likely to continue, as are the quibbles between the two groups that the British journalist David Goodhart helpfully labeled the Somewheres and the Anywheres, the former rooted in a specific nation with specific borders and specific interests and traditions, the latter feeling no gravitational pull save for that of the world at large. We see these battles everywhere from ballots to bookshelves. They’re the ones that will shape the future for us and our children, so we may as well get the reasons for fighting right.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Nationalism

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen