Saturday August 23, 2014
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23.08.2014
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Ruthie Blum

Settlement construction, Syrian destruction

This weeks winner in the it-would-be-funny-if-it-werent-so-sad sweepstakes is the worlds response to two events in the Middle East that have been preoccupying the punditocracy.

The first is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus decision to uphold a Supreme Court ruling to evacuate a Jewish neighborhood, but compensate its residents by building more housing units elsewhere in Judea and Samaria.

The second is the brutal massacre of dozens of Syrians including infants by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Netanyahus move was a controversial legal compromise, which so irked both settlers and those who oppose settlement expansion that they couldnt contain their keyboards causing arguments to be whipped out every which way across the countrys op-ed pages.

Assads slaughter of civilians has been an ongoing bloodbath since oppositionists within Syria joined in the Arab Spring uprisings more than 15 months ago. This weeks mass murder was particularly up close and personal, with people being stabbed to death, as well as shot and bombed. Assad claims that he had nothing to do with the killings, accusing the United States of funding terrorists to carry out the deed.

Both incidents elicited criticism from the international community.

Netanyahus actions aroused the following reactions:

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, Were very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations, including the 2003 road map. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity."

U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry asserted: All settlement construction whether on private Palestinian land or elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law.

E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton blasted Israel for putting international peace efforts in the Middle East at risk.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced: "All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem are illegal and any settlement activity including in the existing settlements must be stopped. These steps pose a threat to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and undermine the prospects of a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Assads behavior led to similar anger, as well as stepped-up calls to allow U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annans six-point plan for Syria to be put into effect.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the mass murder unconscionable. Pulling out all the stops, she grumbled, "We have to reiterate our unity, we have to send a clear message to other nations that are not yet working with us, or even actively supporting the Assad regime, that there is no future in that. And indeed planning for an orderly transition will be an important step."

Ashton huffed: I call upon the Syrian regime to immediately cease all forms of violence and repression and to provide its full support to the U.N. Supervision Mission (UNSMIS). The in-depth investigation by the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria into the massacre in Houla must be conducted without delay and I urge the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with this investigation.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice had this to say: Our view has been that the best way to resolve this is not by intensifying the militarization, not by providing further arms into what is already a hot conflict but to try to resolve it through non-military means, through a diplomatic and political process.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who supports having an international conference on Syria that includes a representative from the regime in Tehran, posited: "To say that Iran doesn't have a place because it is already to blame for everything and it's part of the problem and not part of the solution, this is thoughtless to say the least from the point of view of serious diplomacy. We will not sanction the use of force [against Assad]..."

It is tragic that the obvious needs repeating here. Creating moral parity between the prime minister of a democracy and a dictatorial serial killer is not only the height of hypocrisy; it is the very phenomenon George Orwell devoted his lifes work to exposing and warning against.

Israel will overcome this, as the Jews have done by the skin of our teeth throughout the ages. But the rest of the Free World might not be so lucky. It needs to wake up and face facts. It is not on Israels behalf that it must stop appeasing its enemies and begin embracing its friends, but rather for its own survival.

I would like to be guffawing right now at the ridiculousness of the West. But suicide is no laughing matter.

Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the Arab Spring, to be released by RVP Press in the summer.

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