Posted on December 11, 2012 in Countdown

With Friends Like These...

By now, everyone knows what sort of character Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is. Last year, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called him an “ungrateful” ally, and General Petraeus, long before his sex scandal, pointed out that Israel’s unending occupation of Palestine was harmful to U.S. interests. But don’t worry; Netanyahu knows exactly what he needs to do to repair his relationship with the United States. After Obama publicly (and tragically, we might add) sided with Israel during its assault on Gaza, Netanyahu said “thank you” by ignoring his objections and announcing new construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the sensitive E1 zone to the east of Jerusalem. The move was so harmful and invidious that Rahm Emanuel, the staunchly pro-Israel former Chief of Staff under President Obama, called it a “betrayal” of the President, while Israel’s own former Foreign Minister Ehud Olmert called it a “slap in the face” of Obama. When Israeli leaders, along with pro-Israel American officials, refer to Bibi’s actions with such language, maybe (just maybe) it’s time for the United States to start applying more meaningful pressure than rhetorical condemnations to halt his destructive behavior.

When the Rules Are Too Fair

If you are a frequent reader of Countdown, you know who billionaire Sheldon Adelson is. Things didn’t go very well for him in the last election: Gingrich (his initial favorite) didn’t win the GOP nomination, Romney didn’t win the Presidency, and all but one of the candidates he supported for Congress lost their elections. Well, if you thought he’d still be curled up in the fetal position after the shellacking he took, you’d be wrong. He’s actually quite active, going out and about, meeting with John Boehner and Eric Cantor and stuff. By the way, do you know what he discussed with Boehner and Cantor? Apparently, he discussed “possible changes to [sic] Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the anti-bribery law under which Las Vegas Sands [his company] is being investigated.” If you’re wondering why this isn’t a bigger story, welcome to the Countdown club. Oh wait, you already are in the Countdown club.

Too Soft on Radical Islam

So, President Obama may not be a secret Muslim after all, but he’s clearly got a soft spot for “radical Islam.” At least, that’s what former presidential candidate and Countdown favorite Rick Santorum seems to think. In a supplement to an episode of Meet The Press, Santorum says, “Sharia law means women have to have head coverings, have no rights – and you don’t hear the President say a word about Sharia. You haven’t heard him condemn Sharia law or radical Islam.” Putting aside the fact that everything in that statement is wrong (Sharia certainly doesn’t say that women should have no rights, and Obama has condemned radical Islam dozens of times)... wait, you can’t put aside the fact that he’s wrong about everything! Then again, he does think education is snobby, so getting everything wrong must just be the down-to-earth thing to do.

Congress Knows What's Important

Last week, we wrote about Washington’s reaction to the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid to upgrade its UN status to “non-member observer state.” This week, we also saw several official Congressional responses to the move. One Dear Colleague letter sent by the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, proposed to send letters “thanking the seven foreign governments who joined the United States and Israel in opposing the United Nations General Assembly’s recent decision to recognize a non-existent Palestinian state.”  Another letter is currently circulating the House, signed by ranking members of both parties in the Foreign Affairs Committee. Addressed to President Obama, the letter expresses disappointment that Palestine “violated both the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords.” Meanwhile, Congress has been deafeningly silent on Israel’s universally-condemned settlement expansion project to cut off Ramallah from Jerusalem, a move which even Israeli government officials recognize as likely to further erode trust and lead to renewed violence. Combine that with the House’s unshakable belief that 179 other countries were willing puppets of the Palestinians, and that Palestine’s new “honorary” status at the UN somehow grants it terrifying power, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Congress may need to rethink their understanding of the phrases “unilateral scheme” and “violation of the spirit of the Oslo Accords.”

Some News About News

Where do you get your news? According to a new Pew study, you’re more likely than ever before to be getting it from Arab American news media outlets. The study finds that Arab American newspapers and online print outlets are doing relatively well in comparison to the general news industry, which took a hit starting in 2007 and has struggled to recover since. Raising revenue through advertising is still a problem for outlets across the board, but with the Arab American population growing, the circulation of some of the most prominent papers has increased. But don’t sidle over to your friend and brag about how awesome your community is just yet. Well, ok, go ahead – but remember it’s only print media. Arab American radio is in decline, and television is, according to the study, “almost nonexistent.” So, if you care about having a strong Arab American voice on the latest developments, do something about it.

Is Peace Possible?

Considering the current political landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prospects for peace seem bleak; at least on the surface. But what if we could identify ways to resolve some of the most pressing issues impeding progress? Next Wednesday, December 19, AAI will cohost an event with the New America Foundation in Washington on the latest findings of a comprehensive survey conducted on Palestinian and Israeli public opinion toward peace. We surveyed Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in the occupied territories, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, and Jewish Americans on the most contentious issues that remain outstanding. The findings shed light on specific ways Israelis and Palestinians believe peace can be achieved.  The poll was originally conducted for the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the UAE. It is being publicly released for the first time, so join us next Wednesday.

Spread the Holiday Cheer!

Folks, if you like reading our Countdowns, and they bring you a little bit of joy, consider making a donation to AAI at this year-end holiday season. AAI will use your donation to do all sorts of cool stuff to grow our membership, which in turn will mean that more people will be getting the joys of Countdown. Do your part, and do not let another Arab American go on with a boring and ill-informed life when the blessings of Countdown are just a few clicks away. Donate today!

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