OPINION & ANALYSIS – 17 September
Eleven great reads from the doyen of SA Zionist communications
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Week Ending 17 September 2014
1. Israel’s challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean
About 90 percent of Israel’s foreign trade is carried out via the Mediterranean Sea, making freedom of navigation in this area critical for the Jewish state’s economic well-being. Moreover, the newly found gas fields offshore could transform Israel into an energy independent country and a significant exporter of gas, yet these developments are tied to its ability to secure free maritime passage and to defend the discovered hydrocarbon fields.
2. Everything you need to know about international law and the Gaza War
This article is not a rejection or disparagement of the laws of war themselves, but an attempt to accurately define the laws’ requirements. It is also a critique of the abuse of international law by politically motivated jurists whose actions only serve to undermine the legitimacy of the law, leading many respected scholars to question the law’s “inadequacy” in dealing with modern combat. These laws are still valid and fully adequate when properly understood and objectively applied, and this critique is made in the interest of preserving them and the objectivity on which they must be based.
3. Christians in the crosshairs
I have since learned that Israel is the only country in the Middle East in which the Christian population is safe and thriving: There is authentic religious freedom in Israel. In other countries across the Middle East – the cradle of Christianity – brutal assaults against those who belong to ancient churches are constant.
4. Why many Arabs and Muslims do not trust Obama
Many Arabs and Muslims identify with the terrorists’ anti-Western objectives ideology; they are afraid of being dubbed traitors and U.S. agents for joining non-Muslims in a war that would result in the death of many Muslims, and they are afraid their people would rise up against them. Many Arab and Muslim leaders view the Islamic State as a by-product of failed U.S. policies, especially the current U.S. Administration’s weak-kneed support for Iraq’s Nuri al-Maliki. Some of these leaders, such as Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, consider the U.S. to be a major ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi and his regime will never forgive Obama for his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Also, they do not seem to have much confidence in the Obama Administration, which is perceived as weak and incompetent when it comes to combating Islamists.
5. Is media anti-Semitism on the rise?
Jews may seem paranoid, but that doesn’t mean that their foes aren’t after them. Though Jews are often accused of undue sensitivity about contemporary anti-Semitism, it doesn’t mean that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in many places, including the media.
6. Europe must act to reign in Israel
The latest Israeli announcement of the largest West Bank land seizure in 30 years confirms the view (that Israel had no intention of ever conceding Palestinian control beyond the disconnected blocks of Area A). Unless Europe responds with more than the usual condemnations and fruitless pleas to Israel for delay, the cycles of violence will continue, with their appalling toll of injury and death, and the Palestinian population will be further impoverished.
7. Islamists are not our friends
On one side are the Islamists — both Sunni and Shiite. ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood represent the Sunni end of the spectrum, while the Islamic Republic of Iran and its militias, including Hezbollah (in Lebanon and Syria) and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (in Iraq), constitute the other. Many of these Islamists are at war with one another, but they are also engaged in a bitter struggle with non-Islamists to define the fundamental identity of the region and its states. What the Islamists all have in common is that they subordinate national identities to an Islamic identity.
8. BICOM Briefing: Following the Gaza conflict, what to expect next
Israeli officials say Israel is ready to see a swift relaxation of border crossing restrictions into Israel for the entry of construction materials, but they want to see mechanisms in place to track the use of dual use materials like cement and the reintroduction of PA forces onto the borders. Egypt is also making relaxation of restrictions on the Rafah border dependent on the reintroduction of the PA. However, tensions between the PA and Hamas are high, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas accusing Hamas of killing 120 Fatah activists during the operation and threatening to dissolve the Palestinian unity government unless Hamas recognise “one authority, one gun, one law” in the form of PA control in Gaza.
9. Iraq jihad is a Zionist plot, say the Sunnis
If all other arguments fail, blame the Jews. That was the message this week from Egypt’s top religious figure, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar. Declaring the Islamic State “criminals”, he justified attacks against them because they are part of a “Zionist plot” to undermine “Arab unity”. The Western media conveniently chose to ignore this idiocy. But that it came from the head of the most revered institution in Sunni Islam, whose salary is paid by the Egyptian government, tells us that we should indeed pay close attention.
10. Hamas’s fourth generation warfare
Psychological warfare is a major weapon of the twenty-first century jihadi warriors. The video-taped massacres of minorities and enemy soldiers spurred mass flight by locals. Hamas’ mortars led to the temporary abandonment of Israeli communities along the Gaza border, and the barrages of longer-range rockets — even the hundreds intercepted by Iron Dome – still served Hamas’ purposes and disrupted daily Israeli routine, businesses, sports events, entertainment and even the operation of Ben Gurion Airport. The Iron Dome missiles used against Hamas rockets were worth every penny, but they still cost tens of millions of dollars.
11. Saving the promised land
Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and the Tragedy of Israel is one of the most talked about books to be published about the country in recent years. According to Thomas Friedman, Shavit’s ‘painful love story’ offers, ‘the real Israel, not the fantasy, do-no-wrong Israel peddled by its most besotted supporters or the do-no-right colonial monster portrayed by its most savage critics.’ Fathom editor Alan Johnson spoke to Ari Shavit, a senior correspondent at Haaretz and a member of its editorial board, in London in February 2014.
A bakers’ dozen top reads from Bev
It’s a round thirteen items from Bev for your Shabbos reading this week. Be sure to print the ones you want beforehand
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
Week Ending 18 March 2015
1. Israel, Europe and the converging terror threat
By the beginning of 2015, the security ecosystem affecting Israelis and Europeans had converged dramatically and negatively. In the coming years, possibly decades, making sure that Europeans can go about their normal business in safety will necessitate a concerted effort to understand the ideology and modus operandi of jihadist terrorism, to contain and ultimately reduce the capacity and motivation of terrorists to attack, and to strengthen resilience in European societies. Indeed, the counter-terrorism posture required to protect civilians, whether in European or Israeli cities, while not identical, will depend on the intelligent and determined application of common guiding tenets and so will greatly benefit from intimate European-Israeli dialogue, cooperation, and learning.
2. The resurgence of neo-traditionalism
If you want to talk about real political organisation, it is invariably of an Islamist character, these days. The rise of Hamas to power in Palestine was not an exceptional development – it was the rule. When you have free elections, the Islamists either do extremely well or they win. When Jordan had relatively free elections in 1989, the Islamists of various brands got around 40 per cent of the seats in Parliament. The Jordanians have since then cheated in the elections systematically to keep the Islamists out. They changed the election law, fraud, violence – whatever you like – anything but allowing the Islamists to cash in on a free election.
3. Israelis prepare to vote: Palestinians prepare to fight
For some Palestinians, the election is not about removing Netanyahu from power. Rather, it is about removing Israel from the face of the earth and replacing it with an Islamist empire. Kerry’s statement about the revival of the peace process shows that he remains oblivious to the reality in the Middle East, particularly with regards to the Palestinians. Kerry is ignoring the fact that the Palestinians are today divided into two camps; one that wants to destroy Israel through terrorism and jihad and another that is working hard to delegitimize and isolate Israel with the hope of forcing it to its knees.
4. The evolution of Israeli politics
Editorial, The Economist, 15 March 2015
The latest opinion polls suggest that a parliamentary election on March 17th may leave the Knesset as fractured as ever. Eleven parties are likely to gain seats. Even a grand coalition of the rivals Likud and Zionist Union, the two largest factions, would be unable to secure a majority. How did Israeli politics become so tangled? One obvious explanation is the ideological, religious and ethnic diversity of a country made up of Jews from many corners of the world.
5. Israel’s gilded age
While Israel’s economy has grown, this growth has been accompanied by a disturbing transformation in the country’s income distribution and society. Once upon a time, Israel was a country of egalitarian ideals — the kibbutz population was always a small minority, but it had a large impact on the nation’s self-perception. And it was a fairly equal society in reality, too, right up to the early 1990s. Since then, however, Israel has experienced a dramatic widening of income disparities. Key measures of inequality have soared; Israel is now right up there with America as one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world. And Israel’s experience shows that this matters, that extreme inequality has a corrosive effect on social and political life.
6. Russia flexes its muscle in the Middle East
With tension arising in the relationship between Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian presence in Syria represents an enhanced threat to Israel. The Shia axis of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah under the protection of Russia is a daunting prospect. Russian nuclear power plants in Syria could lead to enriched uranium and the possibility of nuclear weapons, even though Syria signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Moreover, Iran could transfer fissile material to its neighbour and vassal state should an agreement emerge in June that gives Iran a green light on further uranium enrichment.
7. Can Benjamin Netanyahu win again?
In Israeli politics, left and right are not defined primarily by economic policy, nor religion, nor ethnicity, though these all matter. The central dispute is, as it has been since Zionism’s early days, over land. The leftists are the heirs of Ben-Gurion’s pragmatic Labour Zionists, who were willing to accept less than the whole British mandate of Palestine, in the hope of gaining international acceptance, if not Arab agreement. The rightists are descendants of territorial maximalists, the “revisionists” of Zeev Jabotinsky, who argued that no concession could appease the Arabs; only an unbreachable “iron wall” would persuade them to live with the Jewish state.
8. Southern Syria: A New Front for Israel?
In early February, an alliance of Iran, the Syrian regime, and Hezbollah launched a major military offensive against rebel groups in Syria’s south, close to the borders of Israel and Jordan. This campaign bears potential strategic consequences for Israel and the Syrian theatre, and calls for close U.S. and international attention.
9. Obama, Netanyahu’s speech and American leadership
The controversy isn’t just about Iran. It’s also about America’s role in the world. The White House, quite obviously, did not stand with Netanyahu’s Israel. And it is the reality of this divide, not merely the substantive disagreements that fill it, that ultimately lies at the heart of this controversy.
10. Netanyahu comments cause doubt on stance toward Palestinians
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party released a statement on Sunday saying that a 2009 speech the premier had delivered, which expressed support for a Palestinian state, was “simply not relevant” any longer. Netanyahu’s office issued another statement late Sunday night denying that the prime minister had renounced his previous tentative support for a two-state solution.
11. The Danger of a Failed Iran Deal
If you want a nuclear Middle East, there’s no better way than to let Tehran walk away.
12. Iran’s nuclear sunset: a strategically fatal deal
The marathon nuclear negotiations are approaching a “historic” stage of potentially entering into a strategically-catastrophic agreement, as the six world powers (known as the P5+1; the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) and Iran are shaping the final nuclear deal with reports of adding a “sunset” clause.
13. Israel is a colonial power that commits crimes daily
COSATU General Secretary says Palestinians have the right to resist when provoked and subjected to the most cruel and barbaric forms of occupation
OPINION & ANALYSIS, February 2015
Latest Zionist reads from around the world
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
1. How UN mixes, anti-Semitism, Holocaust & Israeli war crimes
While focusing on anti-Semitism has been studiously avoided by the United Nations, the subject of the Holocaust has served as the consolation prize. The UN does not want to deal with anti-Semitism because the organization would be exposed as the global platform for anti-Semitism. The foreign policy of the majority of nations today condones and even promotes anti-Semitism. Five of all the ten emergency sessions of the General Assembly in its history attacked Israel. The Assembly did not hold one emergency session about genocide in Rwanda or Sudan. The most insidious argument is the ignorant and twisted claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exacerbates anti-Semitism. At the root of this assertion is the idea that the victims of anti-Semitism have a responsibility to ameliorate the pathology of their enemies. How is it possible that in a matter of days the UN apparatus went from discussing anti-Semitism, to the Holocaust, to Israeli war crimes?
2. Islam and appeasement
Europe and America are impaled on the horns of a strategic dilemma. On the one hand, the world is besieged by jihadi religious terror, barbarity, and serial wars with jihadists. Concurrently, most of the civilized world defends the very religious cultures, Sunni and Shia Islam especially, where the problems originate. To be clear at the outset; with Islam today, there seems to be less and less daylight between secular and religious imperatives.
3. Defeating Islamic State requires comprehensive strategy
Speaking before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Secretary of State John Kerry described global terrorism as “nothing more than criminal anarchy, a nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.” Is he serious? A de facto Islamic caliphate has now been established in the heart of the Middle East and Kerry sees it as nothing more than a criminal conspiracy. Quick, call the cops.
4. Egypt’s war in Sinai: a struggle that goes beyond Egypt
Egypt is in the midst of a war that can be categorized as a low-intensity conflict. This category represents a common pattern of military campaigns in the early twenty-first century: sub-conventional wars fought by armies and security services belonging to states against armies of terrorilla- fully armed and hierarchical organizations that operate among civilian populations, combining guerilla and terror warfare tactics with the logic of terrorism. Egypt’s campaign in Sinai has tremendous significance for Israel.
5. Anti-Semitism is once more on the march in Europe
Anti-Semitism is the most durable and pliable of all conspiracy theories. It supposedly accounts for the death of Christ and the Jewish dominance of the liberal media. It carefully noted the disproportionate number of Jews in the communist movement and in the capitalist movement. Anti-Semitism can account for the wealth of the Jews and their scientific and artistic achievements. They are – we are – a most nimble people. We’ve had to be.
6. Obama’s secret Iran strategy
The president has long been criticized for his lack of strategic vision. But what if a strategy, centred on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day? And how eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager.
11 Reads for week of 28 January 2015
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
Week Ending 28 January 2015
1. Christians in the Holy Land: don’t call us Arabs
Long identified as part of the country’s minority Arab population, Israel’s Christian community has recently begun asserting its own unique identity—one that is deeply tied to the Jewish State of Israel. Meet the Arameans.
2. The delirium of anti-Zionism
Last week many were quick to hail the United Nations conference on anti-Semitism as a hopeful step forward. The fact that just 37 of the 193 UN member states even bothered to send delegates should be demonstration enough of just how little many countries care about the modern-day revival of global Jew hatred.
3. Obama’s slap of Israel is shameful and dangerous
Mr. Obama’s leadership in the Middle East has been abysmal. Maybe he’s not openly hostile to Israel. Yet he’s not doing that nation — or, his own — any favours by snubbing Mr. Netanyahu or going soft on nukes. The only beneficiary is the country that’s gaining strength — Iran.
4. Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons
In his State of the Union address, President Obama forcefully announced he would not accept “a nuclear-armed Iran.” This reflects his view that the only objectionable element of Iran’s behaviour would be acquisition and possible use of such weapons. This is conveniently narrow.
5. Time to take it to Iran
It is time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most – its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home. And the pattern of concessions at the negotiating table must stop if there is to be an acceptable agreement. Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations.
6. Islamic State deepens its grip in a future Palestine
Hamas cannot afford a situation where another Islamist terror group poses a challenge to its exclusive control over the Gaza Strip. Since seizing control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has successfully suppressed the emergence of rival forces, first and foremost the secular Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas. But if until recently it was Fatah that posed a challenge and threat to Hamas’s rule, now it is the Islamic State and its supporters in the Gaza Strip are openly defying the Islamist movement’s regime.
7. Iran’s new terror base against Israel
The new base in Syria gives Hezbollah the option of attacking Israel and drawing Israel’s return fire away from Lebanon, where its most precious assets are hidden: well over 100,000 rockets and missiles that might be saved for a future battle over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
8. Response to UN’s Ban Ki-moon from Amb. Alan Baker
The ICC is rapidly and unjustifiably, – and doubtless against its own better interests – being manipulated to become a politicized “Israel-bashing” body, at the initiative of the Palestinian leadership which wrongfully perceives, and widely represents the Court as being their own private judicial tribunal, in order to conduct their political campaign against Israel.
9. The media take us for a walk
The duty of the Israeli government is to safeguard Jews wherever they are. Netanyahu feels that the most effective way to implement this basic tenet of Zionism is by advocating aliya to Israel. It is easier to safeguard people here than in the Diaspora. France’s political leadership did not like this call, but the Jews of France showered Netanyahu with praise and appreciation. The Israeli media, however, preferred to be negative.
10. Netanyahu can win re-election by fighting corruption
Coming on the heels of a spate of revelations regarding corruption in the Israeli government – as well as worrisome signs of dysfunction in Israeli governance, exposed during last summer’s unresolved campaign against Hamas – the Israeli public was shocked again recently by yet more revelations of pervasive corruption in high places. Now a dark cloud on the political horizon, corruption (as well as its neglect by the authorities) shows signs of developing into a major political storm. It could deeply affect the upcoming March elections, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to defend his seat against a still fragmented – but very determined – opposition that will run on the slogan “anyone but Bibi.”
11. Hypocrisy after the Paris terror attacks
World leaders, including our own, have been decidedly reluctant to identify this problem. What needs to be said is that there is a problem in a segment of the Muslim world. It is extremism that justifies and celebrates killing individuals for angering them and Jews just for being Jews. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, however, insisted that the attacks had nothing to do with religion, characterizing them as “criminality.” If it was just criminality, then what happened at the Hyper Cacher supermarket was a hold-up, and not anti-Semitism.
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