Tag Archives: Egypt

Gaza doctor rejects cease-fire [updated]

Imagine you are a young doctor in Gaza during the current war: there is terrible destruction, frequent and fearsome airstrikes, some 200 of your fellow Gazans have been killed and more than 1000 have been wounded. Local hospitals are facing a shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. Surely you would want nothing more than a cease-fire to end this misery?

Not if you are Dr. Belal Al-Dabour. As soon as there were rumors about a ceasefire, Dr. Al-Dabour took to Twitter – where he has a sizable following of almost 10,000 – and protested passionately:

AA no ceasefire

One could perhaps interpret this as meaning “Death is better than the life we have here under Hamas,” but there is no indication whatsoever that Dr. Al-Dabour is critical of Hamas – quite the contrary: he generally refers to casualties as “martyrs” and the rockets that Hamas and other terror groups launch from Gaza against Israeli towns are for him “resistance rockets.”

It is thus hardly a coincidence that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada (EI) was among those who retweeted Al-Dabour’s determined rejection of a ceasefire. Indeed, last year, one of Al-Dabour’s blog posts was cross-posted at EI, and since both Al-Dabour and  Abunimah passionately oppose a cease-fire that doesn’t fulfill the conditions set by Hamas, several of Al-Dabour’s related tweets were now featured in an EI post by Abunimah with the typically Orwellian title “Hamas did not reject a ceasefire, Israel did.

From the comfort of Abunimah’s home in Chicago, it is obviously easy to oppose a cease-fire half a world away, particularly if the ongoing fighting gives a boost to your usual anti-Israel activism. It sadly seems that supporters of Hamas “resistance” view the current fighting not that much different from Hamas, and as Jeffrey Goldberg concluded in a recent must-read column: “Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.”

The explanation offered by Abunimah is that Gazans “don’t want to waste all this blood.”

AA no ceasefire2

Apparently, the logic is that when a conflict provoked by Hamas has already cost some 200 lives, yet more lives have to be sacrificed in order to enable Hamas to reach its goals.

But while it is hardly surprising when a professional anti-Israel activist lobbies for Hamas and against a cease-fire, it is arguably quite shocking to see a medical doctor who has to deal with the resulting suffering oppose an end to the bloodshed. Indeed, Dr. Al-Dabour’s stance is all the more appalling given that he has been posting countless tweets on the hardships and suffering experienced by his fellow Gazans. He has also written about his difficult experiences during previous escalations, and he has now been repeatedlyinterviewed by BBC Radio. According to the tweets he posted, he was asked in his most recent interview “what people think about resistance rockets” and he answered “that people dream about a life in which their [sic!] are other options!” He also added: “When you’re cornered you fight back, that’s how it is. With the siege and the occupation we’re left with no options and with nothing to lose.”

AA Gaza doctor3

It seems Dr. Al-Dabour has never pondered the question asked by Jeffrey Goldberg in the already quoted column: “What if, nine years ago, when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, the Palestinians had made a different choice. What if they chose to build the nucleus of a state, rather than a series of subterranean rocket factories?”

As Goldberg rightly points out:

“In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds — and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder — and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.

The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.”

Sadly, while Gazans like Dr. Al-Dabour who now oppose a cease-fire in order to give Hamas more time to achieve some sort of “victory” may claim that the people of Gaza ‘dream about a life in which there are other options,’ they will only ensure that there will be more wasted opportunities as long as they see nothing wrong with the “resistance rockets” of Gaza’s terror groups. Couldn’t a medical doctor be expected to be smart enough to realize that these “resistance rockets” inflict much greater damage on Gaza than on Israel?

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First published on my JPost blog.

Update:

Tonight, after Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip began, Dr. Al-Dabour again posted some tweets, including one that reads:

“On BBC radio I told my horrific stories, then he asks: Who do you blame for civilian casualties Israel or hamas who stores weapons in houses?”

Naturally, Al-Dabour could be sure his followers would agree with him that it was outrageous to even ask such a question; on the other hand, it’s very unlikely that his BBC interviewer or the BBC Radio audience were aware that Al-Dabour regards the arsenal of Hamas as “resistance rockets.” According to the Israeli media, such “resistance rockets” had been stored not far from Gaza’s Wafa Hospital, and as the Washington Post reported, Gaza’s Shifa Hospital once again serves as “de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”

Since Al-Dabour so passionately agreed with the Hamas approach to reject the cease-fire without any hesitation, it is important to understand how crucial this rejection was. As Ha’aretz reported tonight:

“A senior [Israeli] official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cabinet ministers had already approved the ground operation when it met Tuesday night, after the Egyptian cease-fire initiative fell through. […]

The same official also said that despite the authorization, the ground operation was delayed in order to give the Egyptians another opportunity to forge a cease-fire. On Wednesday, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military affairs department, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo.

The Israeli delegation shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast, with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami and his senior advisors. After meeting for a few hours, the delegation returned to Israel. The message Cohen, Molho and Gilad brought back was that Hamas is only increasing its demands, hardening its position toward a possible cease-fire.

‘We found out that we, the Egyptians and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are more or less in the same place regarding the need for a cease-fire,’ said the senior official. ‘But we also found out that Hamas is playing a totally different ballgame. We felt that they’re forcefully trying to sabotage the Egyptian attempts and mediation, and escalate the conflict.’

After the Israeli delegation returned to Israel on Thursday morning, pessimistic about the chances for a cease-fire, the decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape. The decision was bolstered by the fact that Hamas did not even honor the six-hour, UN-initiated humanitarian cease-fire on Thursday.”

The banality of Lisa Goldman’s Israel-bashing

Peter Beinart’s Open Zion website claims to “foster an open and unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future.” The “unafraid” apparently reflects the popular canard that it is somehow dangerous to criticize Israel, but the site’s offerings tend to prove that most Open Zion contributors – among them avowed anti-Zionists like Yousef Munayyer – are indeed “unafraid” to depict the Jewish state in the worst possible light.

There is no doubt that Open Zion’s incoming senior editor Lisa Goldman also qualifies as absolutely “unafraid.” Indeed, her writings prove that she is not only “unafraid” to make a living by criticizing Israel, but that she is also completely “unafraid” to openly promote glaring double standards.

Goldman’s recent pieces for Open Zion include one article published under the headline “Israel’s Most Liberal City Introduces Racially Segregated Kindergartens.Goldman starts her piece breezily claiming:

“When the children of south Tel Aviv head back to school on Tuesday, kindergarteners will attend facilities that are segregated by race. The children of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa will go to their kindergartens and all the other kids will go to their own. As of this year, the municipality of Israel’s most liberal city decided that separate-but-equal for three-to-six year olds was the way to go—in 2013.”

Yes, dear reader, you are supposed to recoil now and remember the Jim Crow laws of the segregated American South and Apartheid in South Africa. Interestingly enough, the article’s URL also indicates that Goldman’s original title for the post was “The banality of racism in Israel’s most liberal city” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/23/the-banality-of-racism-in-israel-s-most-liberal-city.html) – and why not throw in some thinly veiled reference to the Nazis and Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” when it serves the good cause of making Israel look bad?

In response to the piece, several commenters noted that Goldman ignored the fact that resentments against asylum seekers and difficulties with their integration are not only a problem in Israel; moreover, some also noted that the Israeli reports Goldman relied on for her own piece actually didn’t justify her claim that Tel Aviv was trying to implement racial segregation.

Indeed, by now the Jerusalem Post has checked the story with the result that, while Tel Aviv is building two new pre-schools, there is absolutely nothing to support the claim that they or any existing facilities will be segregated by race. As to the other point about the difficulties asylum seekers and refugees face pretty much everywhere, here is a recent report (in German) about bitter protests that have been going on in Germany for several months because refugees feel their situation and treatment is intolerable. Even EU citizen – particularly when they are members of minorities like the Roma and try to migrate to richer states – face ill-treatment and discrimination all over Europe.

But of course, if Israel-bashers had to consider how the issues Israel is criticized for are handled elsewhere…

It seems that being “unafraid” of criticizing Israel also often means being unafraid of singling out Israel and employing double standards. Lisa Goldman’s work offers some nice illustrations: as eager as she is to accuse Israel of racism under the flimsiest of pretexts, she is determined to overlook massive evidence of Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred. That’s how she could write in March 2012 that Jews shouldn’t worry about Egyptian “bigotry” because, while “one hears quite a lot of old-fashioned anti-Semitic talk in Egypt,” Goldman was convinced that “Jew hatred is a relatively new, imported phenomenon that has little history in Egypt and does not seem to run very deep.”

Never mind that Egypt’s ancient Jewish communities were ethnically cleansed, never mind that antisemitic tropes are used to entertain the masses, never mind that Egypt’s Islamists – for whom Jew-hatred is an integral part of their ideology – had taken power.

Of course, Lisa Goldman didn’t see any reason to worry about the election victory of Egypt’s Islamists. Already in January 2012, she admonished Israelis who expressed dismay about the election results in Egypt to mind their own business and to realize that Israeli voters had handed power to people who were no better – and perhaps even worse – than Egypt’s Islamists:

“citizens of the democratic state of Israel […] freely elected, as the largest faction in its governing coalition after the Likud, the quasi-fascist Yisrael Beitenu party. […] In our Knesset, we also have Kahanists and a large contingent from Shas, which is quite similar to the [Salafist] Nour party.”

It seems that Lisa Goldman felt that this was one of her most rewarding articles: when her comment was approvingly quoted by The Arabist, Goldman happily tweeted:

 Goldman Arabist

A year later, Egypt’s Islamist president Morsi was in the news because a video from 2010 that showed him calling Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs” had been discovered. Walter Russell Mead noted in a comment:

“Morsi’s anti-Semitic views are not surprising in themselves; indeed they are completely mainstream and unobjectionable in the Egyptian context. Not many people in Egypt would disagree with the statements in question, and Morsi is more likely to be attacked for being too soft on Israel than for venting his spleen. But these statements, and the widespread support for them, should remind everyone just how slim the chances are for real peace between Israel and its neighbors.”

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This is a very belated cross-post from my JPost blog.

 

Arab hatred and Arab identity

A few weeks ago, the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat published an article on “The Israel We Do Not Know.” The author, Amal Al-Hazzani, an Associate Professor in King Saud University in Riyadh, argued that it was “sad to say that Israel – the invasive, oppressive, occupying state – lives amongst us but we still do not know it.”

While the article didn’t do much to mend this situation, it apparently generated a lot of negative feedback, and a week later, Al-Hazzani responded by doubling down with a second piece entitled “Know Your Enemy”:

“I would like to thank those who showered me with a torrent of angry correspondence about my previous article on Israel, who accused me of calling for a normalization of relations, promoting the Hebrew language, and glorifying Israeli liberalism.

This response was to be expected because I breached a taboo. However, I am sorry to say to those people, despite my appreciation of their opinions, that their outrage will not change the reality. Israel will remain as it is; a small state but stronger than the rest of the Arab world.”

It’s probably a safe bet to assume that once again, there were a lot of furious reactions.

What I found most striking in Al-Hazzani’s second article is his conclusion, where he writes:

“We must understand the Israelis to know how we compare. Wars cannot be won by sentiments of hatred alone; otherwise the Arabs would have dominated the world long ago.”

One can easily imagine the outcry if any non-Arab wrote in a western media outlet that if wars could be won by hatred alone, “the Arabs would have dominated the world long ago.”

Notice that this is no longer just about Israel.

Yet, it is of course first and foremost a problem for Israel that Arab hatred for the Jewish state – perceived as a western implant in the Arab-Muslim Middle East – is generally ignored by the media.  The conventional and “politically-correct” wisdom is that if only Israel behaved differently, the Arab world would willingly accept the Jewish state.

But every now and then, even media sites that relentlessly push this conventional wisdom provide a perhaps involuntary glimpse of the intensity of Arab hatred for Israel. That happened recently to Ha’aretz when Zvi Bar’el reported on an interview with the Egyptian writer and intellectual Ali Salem. Salem had been shunned by the Egyptian media ever since he traveled to Israel in 1994, but now, almost 20 years later,  Al-Ahram published an interview with him.

According to Bar’el, Salem’s interviewer, Al-Bahaa Hussein, prefaced his piece by stating:

“I cannot allow myself to express satisfaction with Salem’s visit to Israel. Despite the fact that I am impressed by his talents, I am not persuaded that the devils [Israelis] can be good brothers, that they want peace or that they are willing to pay for its price. Nonetheless, we interviewed him not from the standpoint of a judge, as the dust has already settled; instead, we sought to understand his motives.”

Bar’el’s own article begins with a quote from the Al-Ahram interviewer telling Salem:

“When I’m on my own, I still dream of our pushing Israel into the sea.”

Salem responds by dismissing this as an unrealistic and therefore “romantic” idea.

There is much more in Bar’el’s article, but let’s just stay with this for a moment and imagine that the shoe were on the other foot: that a reporter from a respected Israeli paper interviewed an Israeli dissident who presented a lone voice for peace, saying to him: “When I’m on my own, I still dream of our pushing the Palestinians into the sea” – and that the Israeli intellectual would calmly respond that this was an unrealistic and therefore “romantic” idea.

To be sure, Salem emphasizes that “there is no path other than negotiation,” and Bar’el describes him as a “fervent supporter of peace” who “has paid a high price for his ‘crazes’” – because of course among Egyptian intellectuals, you’ll be considered a crazed outcast if you support peace with Israel, while Israeli intellectuals would ostracize anyone who wasn’t a fervent supporter of peace with the Palestinians.

Bar’el explains that Salem “remains associated with a term loathed by Egyptian intellectuals: ‘normalization’.” He lists several recent examples illustrating that Egyptian elites remain obsessed with opposing any “normalization” with Israel, among them a resolution adopted in January by an Egyptian writers’ conference at Sharm el-Sheikh which declared:

“Egypt’s identity should be preserved, along with its diverse, enlightened cultural depth; and the principled, consistent position maintained by all Egyptian intellectuals and writers in favor of rejecting any form of normalization with the Zionist enemy should be upheld.”

Mind you: this is a statement from the elites of an Arab country with which we have a peace treaty for more than 30 years now. How long will it take Arab elites to realize that by opposing “normalization” with Israel, they are first and foremost preventing their own countries from becoming normal?

As Bar’el rightly notes:

“The revolution in Egypt has yet to change anything in the way most intellectuals in the country relate to Israel. Liberals, secularists, leftists and rightists − mostly figures seen as being hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and all religious-tempered political ideologies − view opposition to normalization as a fundamental pillar of their Arab identity ‏(Arab, as opposed to Egyptian‏). This identity still views the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which is sometimes described via slogans that had currency in the 1950s ‏(such as “A cancer in the body of the Arab nation”‏), as a political anchor.”

That is definitely noteworthy coming from the veteran Middle Eastern affairs analyst for Ha’aretz: “opposition to normalization” with the region’s most successful modern state is “a fundamental pillar of…Arab identity.”

Of course, the same Zvi Bar’el will usually ignore Arab mainstream hatred for Israel and instead focus on a few widely condemned incidents in Israel to claim spuriously that “A good Jew hates Arabs.”

While racism is present in every society, racist incidents in Israel will often get prominent global coverage. At the same time, the pervasive hatred for Israel in the Arab world that is even championed by the elites is usually politely ignored – which actually reveals the bigotry of the western media. There can be little doubt that it would trigger a veritable tsunami of news coverage and commentary if a gathering of Israeli intellectuals declared its abiding commitment to “the principled, consistent position maintained by all Israeli intellectuals and writers in favor of rejecting any form of normalization with the Arab enemy.”

But supposedly, Arab hatred of Israel is justified because of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, who didn’t ask for, and weren’t offered, a state of their own when their Arab brethren were in control of Gaza and the West Bank. Of course, there are countless other examples that illustrate all too well that the Palestinian “cause” is worthwhile only when it can be used to bash Israel. Imagine for a moment how this recent New York Times report would read if Israel was involved:

“The Egyptian military is resorting to a pungent new tactic to shut down the smuggling tunnels connecting Sinai and Gaza: flooding them with sewage. Along with the stink, the approach is raising new questions about relations between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their ideological allies in Hamas who control the Gaza Strip.”

If it was not the Egyptian military but the IDF, nobody would dream of describing it rather light-heartedly as “a pungent new tactic.” If it was the IDF, it would be outrageous, indicative of Nazi-like racist contempt, a crime against humanity, a severe health risk, a threat to Gaza’s water supply, and on and on.

But when the Egyptians are doing it, it simply reflects their legitimate determination “to shut the tunnels to block the destabilizing flow of weapons and militants into Sinai from Gaza.”

It’s really something quite normal – and for Egypt’s elites, it’s probably not anything worth obsessing about like “normalization with the Zionist enemy.”

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First posted at my JPost blog and at the Polish magazine Racjonalista.

Quote of the day

“The reality is that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East. The emotional, visceral reaction against what is seen as Israel’s shaming, alien presence in the Arab world has fused with ugly and backward western anti-Semitism to create a turbo-charged fear and hatred of Jewish influence and Jewish power. A political and religious culture which cannot help but see the survival of a Jewish state in the region as a badge of humiliation and failure takes comfort in exaggerated ideas about Jewish power.

President Morsi didn’t think he was saying anything weird in claiming a Jewish conspiracy runs the American media. In the world in which he lives, this is like saying that the sun rises in the east. It is a cliche, not a smear.

Israeli policies can exacerbate the problem, but it is Israel’s existence not its excesses that are the heart of the problem. The Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals. That won’t happen soon—and until it does, a huge cultural gulf is going to keep Arabs and Americans apart.”

Walter Russell Mead, commenting on Egyptian President Morsi’s efforts to explain his antisemitic remarks documented in tapes from 2010 by telling a group of visiting US senators that “we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces.”

As much as Mead’s forceful acknowledgement of the prevalence and importance of antisemitism in the Middle East must be welcomed, it inevitably also highlights how much this issue is neglected in the commentary and analyses provided by Middle East experts in the MSM. But Mead is right to argue that the “Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals.” It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that those who ignore this factor – and do so willfully if they are really Middle East experts – have an agenda that motivates them to hide or downplay a dynamic that shapes the region in important and negative ways.

Let me conclude with an excellent example illustrating Mead’s view “that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East” – because it is very important to understand that this is not just a phenomenon that animates “the street.” In December 2008, the respected Egyptian Al-Ahram English Weekly published a lengthy analysis on the rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia that had developed into a very serious and costly threat to international shipping. The title of the Al-Ahram analysis was “Israel, piracy and the Red Sea.”

Israel piracy

In the ostensibly knowledgeable and sophisticated piece, long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor Galal Nassar suggested that

“Piracy of this magnitude make [sic!] it clear that the pirates are no longer a haphazard collection of opportunists or individuals with no other sources of income to turn to in their war-torn country. There must be a prime mover seeking to further its own agenda through operations that have grown increasingly sophisticated.”

Needless to say, the “prime mover” behind this evil was of course Israel (supported by the US), which sought to implement longstanding plans – going back to Ben Gurion – to dominate the Red Sea and East Africa.

I sometimes wonder if the US officials involved in granting Egypt’s requests for military equipment are aware of the kind of political “analysis” that informs these requests.

As noted above, the author of the “prime mover”-theory on Somali piracy was a long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor. His most recent piece, published a few days ago, is entitled “The revolution continues;” and he writes there:

“The Arabs are a people without a state because the states they have lack legitimacy that can only come from the people. Israel was planted in the heart of this region to drive them mad and warp their consciousness, and despotic governments were created to force them to love Israel. But the Arab people cannot be made to love their supposed masters — the West and Israel — and they rebelled when the punishment for their refusal to do so (despotic governments) proved too harsh and iniquitous. The Muslim Brothers stepped in to save the day in Egypt; they would convert the Muslims to another (more moderate?) Islam and the intelligence authorities that count every breath people take would be given a new name, in deference to and in honour of the faith. But…

The revolution continues. The Arabs have reached the point of no return. They can no longer accept having policies imposed on them against their will. […] the Arab people are at a crossroads and not sure what to do with their revolution, which is precisely the point where a counterrevolution can be most effective. Neoliberalism, by whatever guise or name it takes, is now the instrument of choice for defusing the revolution. Accordingly, Egypt must pawn its assets, including the Suez Canal, in keeping with the dictates of the World Bank and IMF, if it is to receive financial aid. This is what they call ‘moderate’ Islam. All you have to do is sell your belongings and love Israel in order to gain favour in the current international imperialist order.

The Arab revolution that began in 2011 spread throughout the Arab world at once, as though the Arabs have a single united will. However, if such a single will exists, it must not be translated politically in institutionalised forms, such as unity in a federated system that would enable the Arabs to become strong and give them a sense of meaning and direction. The masters of the imperialist order cannot allow this to happen at all costs. Arab countries are sitting on too much oil. It follows that terrorism must loom in equal abundance, or that while international negotiations, agreements and arrangements are put into place around oil rich Arab countries, terrorism continues to lurk in nearby surroundings and rears its head on occasion. This is how Mali becomes a theatre of war.”

You see: Islamist terrorism doesn’t have anything to do with the failures of Arab and Muslim states, it’s simply one of the perfidious tools of western imperialism and its most evil creation, the Zionist entity…

 

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

In a recent article on the now widely debated antisemitic rants by Mohammed Morsi – recorded in 2010, well before he became Egypt’s president – Barry Rubin rightly criticizes that there is a tendency to pretend that we are just dealing with some “isolated acts” and that by now, Morsi’s views might have changed.

While this kind of wishful politically-correct thinking is unlikely to change no matter how much evidence is available to counter it, MEMRI recently provided translated excerpts from a very interesting article on precisely this subject by Lebanese liberal Joseph Bishara, who pointed out that Jew-hatred is a basic principle of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “philosophy.”  This is of course exactly the same assessment as the one offered by the widely respected Syrian-German scholar Bassam Tibi  in an interview that I quoted a year ago.

Here are some passages from Bishara’s article, as translated by MEMRI:

“Needless to say, tolerance toward the other has no place in the MB’s agenda. Therefore, how can certain people assume that the MB is tolerant of Jews? The MB is racist and hates the Jews and anyone who believes in Judaism. This is an uncontestable part of its creed and is reflected in extremist directives that appear in the writings of its greatest thinkers.

“This hatred did not emerge in the 20th century or [after] Israel’s establishment or the occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands by Israel. This hatred is historic, with roots going back to the inception of Islam. The MB bases its hatred of Jews on the Koranic verse: ‘You will surely find that the most intense of people in animosity towards the believers are the Jews and the polytheists… ‘ [Koran 5:82].

“The MB’s position on the Jews is evident in the interpretation of this verse by Sayyid Qutb, who said that the Koran placed the Jews before the polytheists because they had been more hostile to the Muslims throughout history. Qutb also stated that contrary to what moderate Muslims claim, the Koranic description of the Jews is unchangeable and is not dependent upon [circumstances] of time and place.

“As far as the MB is concerned, the text is absolute and fits any time and place; hence, the animosity between Jews and Muslims is eternal, and will never end, whatever the circumstances.”

The notion of a divinely ordained “eternal” hostility between Muslims and Jews is indeed exactly what the influential cleric Yusuf Qaradawi is preaching.

Bishara also offers some chilling observations about the thinking of MB founder Hassan Al-Banna:

“The MB’s position on the Egyptian Jews is no different than its position on Jews in general; it is the same animosity and hatred. A document titled ‘The MB and the Jews,’ penned by ‘Abdo Mustafa Dsoky for the MB’s Wiki [ikhwanwiki.com], claims that MB founder Hassan Al-Banna gained fame due to his essays on the character and hidden traits of the Jews.

“[Al-Banna] wrote: ‘The Jews of today are the descendants of their warmongering, troublemaking, rabble-rousing, and scheming ancestors. There is no civil war or popular rebellion that does not have the fingerprints of Jews behind it. [The Jews] stoke [wars and rebellions] and work to magnify their effect. It is as though this people wants vengeance upon the entire world for the power it lost due to its stubbornness and the honor it lost due to its materialism. No wrongs have been done them – it is they who do wrong.’

“Al-Banna went so far as to claim that it was [the Jews’] fault that the Nazis burned them in the crematoria during the first half of the 20th century. He said: ‘When we examine modern history, we see that Russia, Poland, Germany, the U.S. and other countries were outraged by the plots of the Jews and their games of deception in the politics of these countries – so much so that the Germans took a bizarre stand vis-à-vis the Jewish race.’

“Continuing his hostility to all Jews, without exception, Hassan Al-Banna said: ‘Evil gradually grew in the Jewish character. [The Jew] does not value virtue. His only concern is to accumulate wealth in any way possible, even at the expense of virtue, honor, and the principles of exalted morality. That is why [the Jews] grew rich, leading others to impoverishment. They accumulate gold, enabling them to realize their goals and cravings, [to play] deceptive games on rulers, and to thwart the efforts of those who wish to amend things.’

“Al-Banna advised the Jews: ‘You wronged the entire world and harmed all peoples. I call upon you to repent so that we do not treat you in ways that run counter to the Torah. Repent before your Maker, kill yourselves, and free the world of the catastrophes that you cause.'”

 

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

If it was a western president or prime minister – let alone an Israeli one – who had made utterly bigoted and hate-filled remarks about Muslims not long before he took office, it sure would be a top news item all over the world. But when it turns out that some two years ago, the man who is now Egypt’s president called “the Zionists” “blood-suckers,” “warmongers,” and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” most of the mainstream media (MSM) seem to think it should be politely ignored.

In a way one could actually argue that this really isn’t newsworthy, because if the MSM accurately reported on Islamist ideology, everyone would already know that implacable Jew-hatred is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s views and agenda. After all, Morsi’s statements from 2010, which were recently translated by MEMRI, faithfully echo themes that are all too familiar from the Hamas Charter, and similar views are regularly propagated by well-respected Muslim scholars.

The question why this torrent of loathsome statements by influential and widely respected figures who clearly shape and represent mainstream views is studiously ignored in the MSM was recently addressed by Pat Condell, who focused on the Palestinians and argued that this kind of “political correctness” reflected a patronizing and ultimately racist attitude.

While I largely agree with Pat Condell’s broader argument, I think there are also other important factors at work – first and foremost perhaps the western mantra that other societies should be approached as “people like us.” The problem with this approach is that, while it is always true on an individual level – we can meet people we personally like and get along with anywhere –, it is not true for societies.  A society where the reactionary and bigoted views of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are mainstream is simply not like a society where it is mainstream to reject and even loathe comparably reactionary and bigoted views.

The Hamas bombardment of Gaza

You won’t see much in the news about this, but according to the IDF – which of course monitors all rocket launches from Gaza – about 10 percent of the rockets that Hamas shoots in the hope that they will kill and maim Israeli civilians crash back into Gaza. Inevitably, some of these rockets will kill and maim Gazans – after all, as we hear so often, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Another well-known, though not widely reported fact is that Hamas likes to fire its rockets from residential areas. Some journalists stationed in Gaza have posted tweets when they observed rockets being launched from populated areas or even from the vicinity of their offices or their hotels, and sometimes, it was also noted that Gazans were cheering these launches.

But by now, almost 100 Hamas rockets have crashed in Gaza. Needless to say, the damage and casualties these rockets are causing are usually blamed on Israel. That was also the case when the body of a young boy was brought to a Gaza hospital just when Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting there last week. The dramatic images were widely distributed by the media – but ultimately, it turned out that the dead boy whom CNN presented as “a symbol of civilian casualties” was the victim of a crashed Hamas rocket.

The blogger Elder of Ziyon was the first to point out that the available evidence in this case didn’t justify the claim that the boy had been killed by an Israeli airstrike. In the meantime, a few media sites have corrected their related stories. However, this will probably remain an exceptional case, and most of the damage and casualties caused by crashed Hamas rockets in Gaza will likely be blamed on Israel.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

According to the IDF, by the end of the recent fighting against Hamas, a total of 152 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel crashed backed into Gaza.

Several of the journalists reporting from Gaza have mentioned in their reports that rockets were being fired from civilian neighborhoods. One especially egregious example was the firing of a long-range rocket from the vicinity of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital:

“At 2.08pm, a long-range Qassam rocket, of the type Israel has accused Iran of supplying to Hamas, was fired from within 500 yards of the hospital. […] Hamas officials at the hospital were asked how firing rockets from such a built-up area could be justified as it is likely to provoke Israeli action. One said Palestinians were merely defending themselves, another that it was probably the work of the Islamic Jihad militia.”

Of course, during the previous round of fighting, Hamas leaders used the hospital as their hide-out. As Ha’aretz reported in January 2009:

“Senior Hamas officials in Gaza are hiding out in a ‘bunker’ built by Israel, intelligence officials suspect: Many are believed to be in the basements of the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, which was refurbished during Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip. […] During the mid-1980s the building underwent massive refurbishment as part of a showcase project to improve the living conditions of residents.”

Moments of truth: Osama vs. Obama

In a first reaction to the violent assaults on the American embassies in Egypt and Libya on this year’s anniversary of 9/11, Marc Lynch prefaced his commentary in Foreign Policy with a warning that has become almost obligatory:

“It would be a tragic mistake to allow the images from Cairo and Benghazi to undermine American support for the changes in the Arab world. The protestors in Cairo and Benghazi are no more the true face of the Arab uprisings than al-Qaeda was the face of Islam after 9/11. We should not allow the actions of a radical fringe to define our views of an entire group.”

Unfortunately for Lynch, it is debatable if al-Qaeda was “the true face … of Islam after 9/11.”

As Lynch knows full well, beginning in 2003, the respected Pew Research Center surveyed Muslim views on Osama bin Laden, and the results don’t necessarily justify his rosy view.  While Pew researchers usually worked hard to highlight the silver lining when they presented the results of their surveys, some of their findings were rather shocking.

This is particularly true for the support bin Laden once enjoyed in supposedly moderate Indonesia: in 2003, it was 59 percent, and by 2011, a bit more than a quarter of Indonesians still expressed positive views of bin Laden. The numbers for Jordan were similarly alarming: in 2003, 56 percent of Jordanian respondents expressed “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing regarding world affairs,” and by 2005, this number had even grown to 61 percent. A year later, Pew recorded a “most striking decline” to just 24 percent, which was attributed to “al Qaeda suicide attacks in the nation’s capital, Amman.”

While bin Laden’s most loyal admirers were always found among the Palestinians –  72 percent in 2003, declining to “only” 34 percent by 2011 — there were several other countries where the al Qaeda leader enjoyed at times the “confidence” of some 40 percent of the Muslim population.

When it comes to Egypt, the numbers also don’t quite support the comforting view that the mob that attacked the US embassy represents a “radical fringe.” In 2011, 22 percent of Egyptians viewed bin Laden positively, and results published earlier this year show that both al Qaeda and the Taliban were viewed favorably by 19 percent of Egyptians.

Anyone who wants to see this as a “radical fringe” should note that exactly the same percentage of Egyptians were willing to express a favorable view of the US in the most recent Pew survey. So if the attackers of the US embassy in Cairo represent just a “fringe,” favorable views of the US among Egyptians are likewise just a “fringe” phenomenon.

The same holds true for the Muslim countries surveyed by Pew: results published last June show that on average, some 24 percent of Muslims have “confidence” in President Obama in general, though only 15 percent approve of his international policies; likewise, only 15 percent of Muslims have a “favorable” view of the US.

Compare these numbers with the 2011 numbers for bin Laden: in the eight Muslim populations that were surveyed, the al Qaeda leader achieved similar or better ratings in six – including, sadly enough, among Israel’s Muslim Arabs.

Given the surge of popular support for Islamist groups all over the Middle East in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring,” it should also not be forgotten that in reaction to the news of bin Laden’s demise last year, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement that referred to the al Qaeda leader with the honorific term “sheikh.”

So perhaps it’s time to realize that we should not only worry about the “tragic mistake” of exaggerating Muslim extremism, but also about downplaying it?

* * *

First published in The Algemeiner.

Quote of the day

“One needs to look no further than the Hamas constitution to see the protocols of the Elders of Zion baked into the text verbatim. Egyptian TV shows profligate conspiracy theories thick with vast webs of shadowy individuals, often Zionist, who are responsible for every misfortune that befalls Egypt.

These beliefs should not be dismissed as fringe, or just explained away as cultural relativism. The public powerlessness at the hands of powerful conspiratorial others breeds victimhood, xenophobia and hate.

These beliefs are just as toxic and noxious as racism, yet they receive far less attention. While the ugliness of racism is spotted and condemned, these beliefs are often seen as kooky and tangential. This complacency is dooming generation after generation, whether in their countries of origin or newfound Western homes, to a culture of victimhood and irresponsibility. How can I be to blame for the misfortunes that befall me if there is always someone else, hiding behind a curtain of secrecy, to blame?”

Jewish conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism, an excellent guest post by Joel Braunold at Harry’s Place; also available at Braunold’s blog and at Ha’aretz.

I couldn’t agree more with Braunold’s view that the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories that are so popular in the Middle East are too often ignored, and the very real poisonous effects they are having are generally underestimated. I’ve repeatedly written on conspiracy theories; one of my older JPost entries, entitled “Ugly lies and ugly truths”, includes several examples of commentaries that do explain the crucial role of conspiracy theories – here are the relevant paragraphs:

“It has long been one of the Arab world’s favorite memes: whenever there is any criticism of anything Arab, respond with criticizing or blaming the US and Israel. One of the most memorable examples of this reflex was provided a few years ago in an interview conducted by a Swiss magazine with the editor-in-chief of Al-Jazeera. Back then, in December 2006, Jeff Weintraub highlighted this interview as an example for the widespread Arab view that Israel is really the root cause for all the Middle East’s problems.

Weintraub argued that “when mass delusions come to occupy such a central role in a political culture, they have real effects, and generally pernicious ones. Furthermore, by dint of endless repetition, this delusional world-view is coming to take on the status of ‘common sense’ in western discussions of the Middle East as well.”

Fast forward a few years to January 2011, and you have a choice of articles that read like a sequel to Weintraub’s observations.

In the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens commented on the various conspiracy theories that recently circulated in Egypt. He argued that “the ultimate source of Arab backwardness […] lies in the debasement of the Arab mind. When the only diagnosis Egyptians can offer for their various predicaments – ranging from sectarian terrorism to a recent spate of freak shark attacks at a Sinai beach resort – is that it’s all a Zionist plot, you know that the country is in very deep trouble.”

In Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith focused on the widespread tendency of Western media to uncritically report even the most absurd accusations leveled against Israel as if the charges were based on well-established facts. In his conclusion, Smith argued:

“[The] Arabs are not winning an information war against Israel, nor anything else for that matter. Rather, the stories and lies they tell to delegitimize the Jewish state are part and parcel of the war that they have been waging against themselves, and with stunning success. The tragedy is that everyone knows where the Arabs are heading, because the signs of failure and self-destructiveness couldn’t be clearer—poverty, violence, despotism, illiteracy, mistreatment of women, and the persecution of confessional minorities, like Egypt’s Coptic Christian population. The Western journalists and NGOs who repeat and credential these lies are doing no honor to either the values of their own society or those of the Arabs; they’re merely helping a culture kill itself.”

The problem is that it’s not about values: ugly lies about Israel will remain popular wherever it seems advantageous – ideologically, politically, or economically – to suppress ugly truths about the Arab world.

The fall of Assad and the end of the Cold War

Guest post by AKUS*

 In a quiet office overlooking the Potomac River we can imagine that an old man lifts a glass to his lips and toasts himself.

As he no doubt  grimly watches the carnage in Syria on Al Jazeera, Henry Kissinger is witnessing the culmination of the strategy he put in place 40 years ago to end Soviet and then Russian influence in the Middle East. Starting with his shuttle diplomacy in 1973 at the end of the Yom Kippur War, the Soviets have gradually lost every foothold they had in this geopolitically critical region. Now the Russians are about to be expelled from Syria with the imminent fall of Bashar al Assad.

Although the Soviet military had in large part left Egypt in 1972, possibly to mislead Israel regarding Sadat’s intention to start a war in 1973, a substantial number of Soviet advisors remained until the Yom Kippur War[1]. As part of the peace agreement with Israel engineered by Kissinger, the US agreed to provide Egypt with billions in aid and military equipment. While Egypt viewed US aid as a win gained by its partial success in the war, Kissinger saw it as leverage to successfully wean Anwar Sadat and the Egyptian military from remaining Soviet influence through the supply of superior Western weaponry and military training to replace the outdated Soviet equipment the Egyptians lost in the war. Responding to the combination of peace agreement and aid, Sadat is reported to have said: “Soviets can give you arms but only the United States can give you a solution.”

Egypt has been a key state in the Middle East since at least the end of WW II. Under Nasser, who came to power in a coup in 1952, Egypt steered away from “colonial influence”. After a variety of Western misadventures such as the 1956 Suez Campaign led by Britain and France, Egypt came ever deeper within the Soviet ambit in a “non-aligned” strategy intended to play off the USA and the USSR against each other to Egypt’s benefit.

Nasser’s apparent success led to uprisings against colonial powers in other Arab countries. Egypt became a political and ideological leader for Arab countries and Nasser’s pro-Soviet bias was viewed with concern by the USA. As his influence grew, Nasser attempted to create a vast Pan-Arab federation with the abortive United Arab Republic (UAR), combining Egypt and Syria into the UAR for the brief period between 1958 and 1961.

But even though the UAR proved short-lived, it was clear that the Arab world swung between Cairo and Damascus when it came to political leadership, and in both countries the Communist party made strong inroads until crushed by Nasser in Egypt and the Ba’ath in Syria (which led to a split among the Ba’athists and the rise of the Ba’ath in Iraq). Nevertheless, in Cairo and Damascus Soviet influence greatly exceeded that of the USA, and aid and weapons flowed from the USSR in unprecedented quantities to both countries. Leveraging Egypt away from Soviet influence would be an enormous setback to Soviet aspirations in the Middle East.

Looking around the region in the early ‘70s, Kissinger would have noted that another significant area of Soviet influence was Iraq. The Soviets had established close relations with Iraq after the murder of Faisal II, essentially a British puppet ruler, in 1958. The Iraqis saw the Soviets as an effective counter to their former colonial rulers. Increasing ties with the USSR demonstrated that they were shedding their colonial past and dependence on their former rulers. In a similar manner, Gaddafi’s Libya welcomed the Soviets who were expelled from Egypt in 1972. Soviet influence extended from Baghdad to Tripoli. Western countries stopped arms sales to Libya, which only increased Soviet influence following a large arms deal in 1975. This influence continued to a greater or lesser degree until Gaddafi was finally toppled last year.

From the point of view of an American strategist desiring more influence in the Middle East, the geopolitical situation was made worse after the decisive defeat of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. With the USA clearly supporting Israel, the Soviets were able to expand their influence even further by replenishing the destroyed weapons of Egypt and Syria. The British continued to supply Jordan, the third major opponent of Israel in the war and the remnant of Churchill’s Palestinian strategy, but the Iraqis, too, swung deeper into the Soviet camp. The USA was able to retain influence only through the Saudis and the Gulf petro-states (and for a time in Iran until the Shah was toppled in 1979).

Things began to swing in the USA’s favor when Kissinger and Nixon managed to move beyond containment of the USSR in the West through NATO to encirclement in the East via the opening to China. Kissinger made a secret trip to Beijing in July 1971 while pretending to be ill during a visit to Pakistan. This could be viewed as the first real step to reducing the influence of the Soviet Union by providing China with a second super-power with which to do business, economically and politically.

Still, the Soviets continued pressing in the Middle East. Their ultimately disastrous invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to support a Marxist government against the mujahedeen indicated that they, in turn, were establishing an Islamic bulwark from Syria, through Iraq, and into Afghanistan against the USA that could also exert pressure on the Saudis and Gulf states. The role of the USA in equipping and supporting the Afghan fighters in order to oppose the Soviets is well known, and may have contributed to the ultimate failure of the invasion. The last Soviet troops were pulled out of Afghanistan by Gorbachev on February 15, 1989. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union had begun. The first step to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the retreat from Eastern Europe, long a goal of US policy, had been taken. The Middle East beckoned.

Kissinger was always at hand as various additional dominoes began falling in his favor. His shuttle diplomacy in 1973 in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War wrested Egypt from Soviet influence, for example. Still, not everything went his way or could be planned for – Syria and Iraq remained in the Soviet and then Russian sphere. Libya was a setback, and he could not have anticipated the role of Afghanistan in curbing Soviet and Russian ambitions. Nevertheless, the enormous influence of Egypt in the Arab world was sufficient to reduce the Soviet role in the area significantly and expand the arc of US influence from the Saudis to the border with Libya. The French kept Libya’s western border controlled through their influence in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.

If his goal was to push the Soviets back into Russia, Kissinger was able to influence US policy in the Middle East even after he left office as unexpected opportunities presented themselves.

Iraq, despite all its complexities, had the advantage, from Kissinger’s point of view, of offering a new opportunity to push the post-Soviet Russians further out of the Middle East. The development of a strong group of senior advisors in Washington who envisaged the fall of Iraq post 9/11 as leading to a more democratic Middle East – that is, a more Western-leaning Middle East – added leverage to Kissinger’s attempts to complete the Middle East puzzle. Out of office, but wielding considerable influence as an advisor, Kissinger met regularly with G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as Bob Woodward later reported [2]. It is not difficult to imagine that neocons leading the charge on Iraq such as Richard Perle, Doug Stief, and Rumsfeld were influenced by this grandmaster of the global game in developing their ideas about the centrality of Iraq in the Middle East.

Kissinger continues to argue for the centrality of Iraq. As the debate over withdrawal raged in Washington, Kissinger argued for maintaining US influence in Iraq, highlighting its geopolitical importance in an article in the Washington Post on February 3, 2010 [3]:

“Yet while Iraq is being exorcised from our debate, its reality is bound to obtrude on our consciousness. The U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq will not alter the geostrategic importance of the country even as it alters that context.

Mesopotamia has been the strategic focal point of the region for millennia. Its resources affect countries far away. The dividing line between the Shiite and the Sunni worlds runs through its center — indeed, through its capital. Iraq’s Kurdish provinces rest uneasily between Turkey and Iran and indigenous adversaries within Iraq. It cannot be in the American interest to leave the region as a vacuum.”

Moreover, Kissinger identified radical Islam as a new and dangerous player that must be dealt with, and raised the question to what degree US success in Iraq will affect the war against radical Islam:

“Nor is it possible to separate Iraq from the conflict with revolutionary jihad. The outcome in Iraq will influence the psychological balance in the war against radical Islam, specifically whether the ongoing withdrawal from Iraq comes to be perceived as a retreat from the region or a more effective way to sustain it.”

Although the overall outcome of the war in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan may not be all that Kissinger would have liked to see, from one perspective the USA achieved a greater aim – the USSR and then Russia was eliminated almost entirely from the Middle East. Except in one country – Syria.

With the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the last domino owned by the Russian inheritors of Soviet influence in the Middle East is being pushed over. It is clear that the Western powers are supporting the rebels directly or through proxies such as the Saudis, while Russia and China refuse to allow direct intervention.

The Russians are also past masters of the great game, and realize that they have nothing to lose by continuing their support for the Assad regime. If, through massive force of arms, Assad remains in power, they will retain their foothold in the only country in the Middle East where they still have influence. If, as appears increasingly likely, he falls, they will have lost nothing by supporting him since it is clear that they will be sent packing by the rebels whom they refused to support in the early going. (The Chinese expect to be able to come in as neutrals and reap their share of the gains whoever wins, simply by supporting neither side until a resolution is reached.  They after all, care nothing for either side and possibly score points with undesirable but powerful leaders around the world for demonstrating reluctance to engage in regime change).

If the Russians are pushed out of Syria, the old man in Washington will see the fulfillment of the grand design he set in motion 40 years ago. From Cairo to Beijing, Kabul to Baghdad, he has helped move the pieces on the board with one major goal in mind – the removal of the Soviets, and then Russia, from influence in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. When Syria, the last domino, falls, his strategy will have been fulfilled.

His time is almost over, and it will need a new Kissinger to devise the strategy to win the emerging multi-player global game – the USA versus the Chinese thrust for Asian hegemony, and the world against radical Islam’s global ambitions.  We have already seen Leon Panetta touring South East Asia, and the increasing awareness of the threat of what Charles Krauthammer has termed the “Islamic Ascendency”, as opposed to the increasingly meaningless “Arab Awakening”.

Perhaps while Panetta was encouraging Kissinger’s old enemy, the Vietnamese, to join an American alliance, Kissinger also smiled grimly at the strange way in which his actions in the Vietnamese conflict and its resolution almost 40 years ago have played out. But that game, and dealing with Islamic radicals, is for others to take care of.

He can toast himself while thinking that his work has been done. With the fall of Syria and the eviction of the Russians, the Cold War will truly be over.

 * * *

* AKUS is an Israeli-American who gained so much notoriety as a critic of the Guardian’s Israel coverage that he was banned from the site and is now free to channel his energies into occasional contributions for CifWatch. This is his first post for The Warped Mirror – with many more to come, hopefully!


[1] http://russiapedia.rt.com/on-this-day/july-18/ In July 1972, a large number of the Soviet troops left Egypt. They, however, belonged to the regular forces who, by 1972, had already fulfilled their mission and were dismissed, while the Soviet military advisors resumed their service in Egypt and the flow of military supplies to Egypt not only did not cease, but was increased.

[2] In 2006, it was reported in the book State of Denial by Bob Woodward that Kissinger was meeting regularly with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to offer advice on the Iraq War. Kissinger confirmed in recorded interviews with Woodward that the advice was the same as he had given in an August 12, 2005 column in The Washington Post: “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”