Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Assassinations and Other Disturbing Events

Shalom All,

The past few days have seen several disturbing events:

1. Benazir Bhutto's assassination.
2. Opening of the Rafah Border Crossing by Egypt - Blatantly Allowing Smuggling.
3. Rioting in Kenya after corrupt elections resulting in hundreds of deaths and the burning of those seeking refuge in an Assemblies of God church there.

and some promising ones:

1. France condemned Syria's role in the assassination of leaders in Lebanon with Syria responding by suspending ties with France.
2. Israel has been able to target militants extremely effectively in Gaza while avoiding civilian casualties AND for the most part, the response by the PA has not been to threaten Israel with retaliation.
3. Israel has pledged to stop construction of a neighborhood in East Jerusalem that could potentially make even Arab neighborhoods impossible to place within a future Palestinian state.

The Bhutto assassination is something that while tragic and disturbing should have been expected. Not only was Bhutto strongly warned by the US and other nations, but she had already survived one massive assassination attempt only weeks ago. Furthermore, another opposition candidate was also attacked that morning, but survived that attack, something that should have heightened her fear even more. Musharraf himself has survived several assassination attempts. The very fact that killing Bhutto will have highly damaging effects upon democracy in Pakistan is likely the primary reason why she was killed. Bhutto was both important and symbolically important for those seeking increased freedom in Pakistan and for those seeking increased rights for women in the Muslim world. Her loss for Pakistan cannot be overstated. Neither can the impact of her loss upon the war being waged within Pakistan against radical Muslims in the Northwest. Whoever moves against the radical elements there puts his or her life in danger. Is there a courageous leader on the horizon?

Egypt's opening of the Rafah border crossing to allow well over 2,000 pilgrims back into Gaza without any kind of search being conducted is tantamount to enabling the smuggling of weapons, money, and militants into Gaza. The suggestion that this was done for humanitarian reasons is laughable. Israel had agreed to allow these pilgrims to enter Gaza, but through security in order to prevent smuggling and more importantly, to prevent wanted militants from entering. Egypt, on its own, decided to allow open access to Gaza, thus contradicting any supposition that they are trying to stop smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

The violence in Kenya has already been called "genocide," something that is quite a bit premature. The Kikuya tribe, who are being slaughtered are primarily Christians. We'll have to keep a close look at the events in Kenya to make sure that the violence doesn't escalate and that those suffering there are not ignored because of events in other locales around the world.

France's stance regarding Syria has changed radically since the election of Sarkozy. Syria can not only no longer count on France to defend it against criticism by the US and Israel, but changes in France have also jeopardized EU and UN support for Syria, essentially isolating Syria from the West. As a major ally of Syria in the past, France has pull with its government. Syria may well feel a need to change its behavior. However, this development could also push Syria into closer ties to Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Israel's new satellite systems have enabled its anti-militant strikes to be highly effective. In recent weeks, the IDF has targeted militants with high accuracy and with very little collateral damage. Additionally, there is some feeling that Hamas is not supporting Islamic Jihad in the manner that it once did. While openly viewing Islamic Jihad as a brother in the struggle, it seems that Hamas is coming around to the view that ongoing pin pricks aimed at Israel are not helping the cause and are leading to crippling effects on the economy. They may be functionally turning against the radicals in their midst, but slowly. We are a long way from Hamas working to disarm Islamic Jihad, but we are closer to Hamas not actively pursuing arming them.

With the future of peace between Israel and the PA likely limited to the West Bank, it is important that BOTH Israel and the PA prepare for a future Palestinian state that will encompass most, but not all of the West Bank and will include areas in the Jerusalem area that are overwhelmingly Arab, though not all of those areas. Israel may have to concede some neighborhoods in order for the PA not to insist on all of the pre-1967 boundaries in Jerusalem. Peace will require major compromises.

Just a few thoughts,


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