x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Israel's self-defence myth

Arabic editorials also discuss reforms in Bahrain and compares killing of three children in France.

Israel's 'self-defence' argument to justify strike on Iran's nuclear facilities does not hold water

Hardly a day goes by without the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, threatening to strike Iran's nuclear facilities in what, he says, would be an act of self-defence, wrote Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a column yesterday.

But Mr Netanyahu seems to forget that his argument can be used in reverse. "Following the exact same thought process, Iran would be entitled to strike Israel first, given mounting Israeli threats. Iran could even target the United States' warships and aircraft carriers 'pre-emptively' in self-defence."

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, suggested something to that effect in his speech on Tuesday on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Surely, the discrepancy - in size and quality - between Iran's arsenal and that of Israel and the US combined is "too huge" and the comparison itself is "misplaced", the editor noted. "But if a war is imposed on Iran, the country will be faced with not more than two options: raise the white flag or fight till the end.

"As we can tell from their statements and positions, Iranians are determined to go ahead with their nuclear programme, which they insist is legal and for peaceful purposes. In other words, they don't really care."

And again, there is always the chance that Iran might strike first. Iranians are living under a "stifling embargo", which is set to become even more unbearable in the next three months, when Europe puts into effect a decision to completely stop oil imports from Iran.

"A similar, and probably less severe, embargo had once led the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait," the editor recalled.

"Now the embargo on Iran is starting to yield its bitter and mortifying fruits: the prices of staple foods have been increasing steadily; the value of the Iranian riyal is reaching record lows; and the ban on currency transfers to Iran, which came into effect a few days ago, threatens to send the country back to the Stone Age, when people bartered rice for chicken."

All the same, the United States makes a "grave mistake" when it assumes that the "make-them-hungry policy" it used in North Korea, with some success, would work in Iran. It won't, the editor argued.

"Iran is a large country in terms of area … and its people, which number more than 70 million, would not be easy to subdue, and they are known for their elevated sense of pride."

The US administration objects to Iran's nuclear programme because it says it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But that's unfounded too, the editor noted.

Israel has had nuclear weapons for more than 50 years, and that never triggered an arms race in the region.

Bahrain has made gains, but only 'partial'

King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain received on Tuesday the final report of the national committee tasked four months ago with implementing recommendations for reforms following the unrest that rocked the kingdom in February of last year, wrote Mansour Al Jamri, editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

The recommendations were made by a fact-finding commission, headed by Cherif Bassiouni, an international criminal law expert, that probed the violent events that followed protests by the country's majority Shiites.

But the reforms made so far were more "procedural" or "partial", and focused on training programmes in human rights and ways to handle similar events in the future, the editor said. "The Bassiouni report has opened up a huge file in the history of Bahrain. And that file must be closed in a satisfactory manner," he noted.

True, King Hamad stressed in a speech on Tuesday that "we want for our people to feel real and concrete change", that the doors for dialogue "will always remain open" and that all cases related to freedom of speech must be resolved without unnecessary delays," the editor quoted the monarch as saying.

But the fact remains that "procedural reforms and educational programmes … are not enough to lead to the sort of national dialogue through which we can achieve a total and complete reconciliation."

Killing of children is abominable anywhere

The Israeli government criticised on Tuesday the European Union's foreign affairs commissioner, Catherine Ashton, for mentioning the killing of children in Gaza (during Israel's 2009 assault) while she was making a comment on the murder of three Jewish children this week in Toulouse, France, according to an editorial by the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds.

So Israeli officials are angry, "as if the killing of innocent Palestinian kids must … always stay under the media rug and no official, American, European or other, is allowed to ever bring it up," the paper said.

In fact, Ms Ashton was quick to say that her comment was taken out of context.

But Israel's criticism of what she said is outrageous. Is Israel allowed to get away with killing Palestinian children without even accepting the most understated criticism coming from a European official who was actually denouncing the killing of Jewish children in France?

"The Palestinian Authority always denounces the killing of children, Jewish and Palestinian alike, because they are too young and innocent. Yet the successive Israeli governments never condemned what befell Palestinian children in the first and second intifadas and the more recent war on Gaza."

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi


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