By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 0 Comments
The instability that follows Assad’s fall will be felt far beyond Syria
The brazen, mid-morning bombing that struck Syria’s military command on July 18, taking the lives of several of Bashar al-Assad’s top advisers, may not have killed the Syrian president himself, but it is hard to believe he will survive the fallout. That stunning blow was quickly followed by a massive rebel assault on the capital, Damascus, the defections of several key generals and, this week, even the prime minister.
If Assad is toppled, his demise will be roundly cheered. But the consequences will be profound, and will echo beyond Syria, affecting the region’s volatile conflicts, those involving al-Qaeda—whose jihadists are now converging on Damascus—Lebanon, Palestine and Iran.
Sectarian bloodletting is possible in Syria. Lebanon and Iraq, with their complex divides—which know no borders—could easily be sucked in. Violence could drag in Israel.
That makes this Arab Spring revolt so different from Tunisia, Libya, even Egypt. The fight is not playing out in some corner of North Africa but in the heart of the Middle East. Syria’s revolt could be a game-changer. Syria, for decades a key player in the region’s geopolitical games, now finds itself a staging point for the ancient struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam, a fight currently playing out in Aleppo in northwestern Syria between Assad’s Shia loyalists and the Saudi-backed Sunni opposition.
Syria may be on the brink—Assad can no longer trust even his closest advisers. But the real fight has only just begun.
Here’s our nifty infographic that illustrates the ripple effects of instability in Syria in the Middle East and beyond. Click on the image below to open up the full-size graphic:
By Jamie Dettmer - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
A new report declares West Bank settlements legal, but Israel can hardly afford to further alienate Washington
For Barack Obama’s administration, the report could not have landed at a more awkward moment, just as Washington is tightening sanctions on nuclear wannabe Iran and trying to press others to toughen up on Tehran. But then even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who initiated the study and appointed the three-person committee, seemed to take the equivalent of a political gulp by delaying, by two weeks, the release of the report recommending he legalize Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The Levy committee report, recently released, presents Netanyahu with opportunity but also danger. He launched the committee, headed by former Israeli Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy, in January as a way to appease Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories; they have long chafed at a 2005 report by the country’s state prosecutor at the time, which argued that illegal settlements in the West Bank should be dismantled. Some have indeed been, to the anger of settlers.
Now the Levy committee has concluded, in contradiction of a handful of international legal rulings, and some Israeli ones too, that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation, and recommended the state approve scores of new Israeli settlements in the region, which was taken from Jordan in the Six Day War.
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 3:03 PM - 0 Comments
Remember Sarah Silverman’s Great Schlep? It was the year 2008 and the Jewish comedian implored her people—the American ones, anyway—to prove that Jews are in fact, the “scrappy, civil-rightsy” types they claim to be, by making the schlep to Florida (where old Jewish people are known to hibernate) and convincing their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.
Apparently it worked. In 2008, Obama won Florida 51-48 per cent against Republican hopeful John McCain.
But things are different this time around. Obama is currently trailing competitor Mitt Romney by three per cent in the Sunshine State. And there’s a substantial amount of Republican politicking going in Florida Senior —Israel—a country with an American expat community roughly the size of Fort Lauderdale. The Republican Jewish Coalition has been very busy in the Holy Land, most likely trying to convince its brethren that the man who orchestrated the murder of Osama Bin Laden is soft on foreign policy, especially when it comes to Israel. No doubt Zionist casino magnate and Republican Daddy Warbucks, Sheldon Adelson feels this way: the eighth richest man in America has pledged to shell out $100 million to the Romney campaign.
Which means his grandchildren must have already made the Great Schlep and failed, because Silverman has ditched the schlep strategy in favour of another one: offering Mr. Adelson her body (though not all of it, she’s a “good girl”) in exchange for a $100-million donation to Obama instead of Romney…
So what’ll it be, Sheldon? Protect the Jewish state from neighbouring terrorists and a socialist president, or be the only major Republican donor to get scissored by a bikini-clad Jewess with big naturals?
It turns out not even billionaires can have it all.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
In 1903, black civil rights activist and author W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in his most famous book, The Souls of Black Folk, “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not”. Du Bois figured that unlike your average early 20th century American racist, Shakespeare wouldn’t give a damn that he (Du Bois) was black. Because intellect and art transcend racial boundaries. Or so they should.
Alice Walker–also a black civil rights activist and author of The Color Purple (the book you read in Grade 9 English if your class wasn’t reading The Catcher in the Rye) doesn’t care if her readers are black. She does, however, care if they are Israeli Jews.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author and supporter of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, recently wrote a letter to an Israeli publisher, Yediot Books, confirming she can’t in good conscience allow The Color Purple to be published in Hebrew and sold in Israel, where an apartheid regime brutally oppresses the Palestinian people.
Sit with Alice Walker and she winces a lot.
I don’t share Walker’s world view. But if I did–if I believed Israel embodied the very opposite of equality and dignity–I would probably want The Colour Purple, a book about the profound importance of equality and dignity–to be translated into Hebrew and read in every single grade school classroom across Israel.
But what can you expect from someone who thinks an “Academic and Cultural Boycott” is a viable solution to any problem. That’s right: refuse a place you think is void of human rights a book about the importance of human rights–out of spite.
Thank you Alice Walker for proving my point: anti-Zionist activists hate Israel more than they hate oppression–and worse, more than they love peace.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 12:49 PM - 0 Comments
Success has many fathers, especially in tech. Create a piece of innovative software and soon you may be fending off claims from rival coders who say they came up with it first, or from old friends who swear they gave you the idea over a beer. Bitter lawsuits ensue, musclebound twins pump their fists with rage, and so on. But there is one exception to this rule, an area of software development where success is an orphan: Malware.
Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cyber security firm, has discovered that thousands of computers in the Middle East (mostly government machines, mostly in Iran) have been infected with a malicious piece of software they are calling Flame. Flame is insidious, destructive, and very cool. And no one will ever take credit for building it.
Similarities between Flame and the Stuxnet and DuQu viruses are leading to speculation that the programs were all created by the same people. Stuxnet, which bloodlessly set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as a decade, is widely believed to be the product of an Israel-America cyberweaponry team-up. Of course, neither country has confirmed this.
By Peter Fragiskatos - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 2:29 PM - 0 Comments
And why Washington and Tehran must learn to trust each other nonetheless
For the past decade, the apparent danger posed by Iran’s nuclear program has continuously raised the prospect of yet another war in the Middle East. Granted, the threats uttered by all sides often appear to be more strategic than sincere but the tensions that have developed over the past few months between Israel, the U.S. and Iran should not be brushed aside. Hostility only serves to make war more likely. In this case, the consequences could prove especially devastating.
The fact that Iran’s military power does not come close to matching either the U.S. or Israel is not important. Thousands stand to be killed because most of its nuclear facilities – which would be the major target of any American or Israeli strike – have been built near major population centers (the expected pronouncements about “precision strikes” designed to avoid “collateral damage” notwithstanding).
War also poses problems for a global economy still struggling to recover, especially since the Middle East holds most of the world’s oil (Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer). More broadly, the already strained relations between the West and the Muslim World – which have yet to recover from the impact of 9/11 and Iraq – would surely take a severe hit if fighting were to occur.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 3:13 PM - 0 Comments
One might imagine that filmed evidence of civilian thugs shooting an unarmed protester in the head while soldiers stand by and do nothing might be big news in Canada — especially if those thugs and soldiers are citizens of a country that our Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird says “has no greater friend than Canada.”
On Saturday afternoon, Israeli settlers from Yitzhar, a small community of Orthodox Jews in the occupied West Bank, descended on the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya. Some carried guns and wore masks. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, one of the settlers was armed with a “Tavor” rifle used by Israeli infantry, suggesting he was a soldier on leave
B’Tselem filmed this and what happened next. Settlers begin throwing stones. Palestinians from the village confront them and do the same. Gunshots are heard. Uniformed soldiers arrive, as do more armed settlers and police. Grass fires burn behind the settlers. Then three of the armed settlers, one of whom is wearing what looks like a police cap, appear to open fire. The soldiers do nothing to stop them. At one point a settler appears to motion to a soldier to get out of his line of fire. The soldier appears to comply. One Palestinian, Fathi Asayira, is wounded in the face. He is not critically injured and will survive. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, April 16, 2012 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
In “What Must be Said,” the German intellectual says Israel poses a threat to world peace
That Israel and Germany have forged such a close relationship within living memory of Auschwitz is a remarkable testament to reconciliation and forgiveness. And yet the shadow still cast by the Holocaust ensures that criticism of Israel by a prominent German will trigger an emotionally charged response in both countries.
Last week, the German author and Nobel laureate Günter Grass published a poem titled “What Must be Said” in which he claims, “The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile,” and condemns Germany for sending Israel submarines that could be used in a nuclear strike against Iran.
Grass is “one of the most important figures of German intellectual life,” says Jennifer Hosek, an associate professor of German studies at Queen’s University. He was part of a postwar group of Germans that urged their countrymen to take responsibility for Germany’s crimes during the Second World War. He has been called his nation’s conscience. But Grass also carried a wartime secret: he was drafted as a teenager into the Nazi Waffen SS during the war’s ﬁnal months. Grass revealed this only in 2006.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
Models will now have to provide proof they are in good health
Israel may not be the first country to express concern about malnutrition in the fashion industry, but it is the first to actually outlaw it. Last week, the Knesset passed a law that prohibits the employment of underweight fashion models and demands that all models seeking work in the Israeli fashion industry provide their employers with a recent medical report confirming they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards.
And that’s not all: according to the new law, any ad made for the Israeli market that uses photos in which models have been digitally altered to look thinner must include a disclaimer indicating the alteration. Supporters of the new law say they want to raise self-esteem among young women in Israel, where approximately two per cent of girls between 14 and 18 suffer from severe eating disorders.
Adi Barkan is an unlikely supporter of his country’s new law. As a well-known modelling agent, he says he’s seen numerous girls starve themselves to achieve an unrealistic industry standard. “They look like dead girls,” he says. He estimated in The Huffington Post that about 150 Israeli models would be prohibited from working under the new legislation.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
The High Court deemed unconstitutional a law that allowed the ultra-orthodox to avoid conscription
A grudge most Israeli soldiers carry may soon dissolve, as Israel’s High Court has deemed the infamous “Tal Law” unconstitutional. The law, which permits full-time religious students to defer national military service, went into effect 10 years ago. It will expire in August.
Secular and modern Orthodox citizens are for the most part happy with the court ruling, which comes at a time of rising tensions over the role of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. Many Israelis wondered where the justice lay in conscripting some and giving others a free pass. The ultra-Orthodox, however, are less than pleased. Not only would they have to drop their books to make war, they would also be forced to serve with female soldiers—a mixing of the sexes that ultra-Orthodox Judaism does not allow. Some religious students say the government could help appease their concerns by creating a separate regiment for ultra-Orthodox Jews. But another told the Israeli daily Haaretz he would rather die than join the Israel Defense Forces. “The entire Haredi ideology is built on that,” he said.
By Paul Wells - Friday, March 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
On the eve of a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a North American head of government gives a detailed interview about his views on Israel and Iran. Guess which leader it was!
Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Obama should be required reading for everyone who plans to follow Netanyahu’s visit to Ottawa today. Netanyahu’s host, Stephen Harper, may be even more congenial than Obama will be on Monday, but the United States still counts in Israel’s calculations in a way Canada won’t. In the interview, Obama takes pains to portray himself as an unconditional strategic ally of Israel; an opponent of Iran’s “unacceptable” nuclear ambitions; and as a tough guy. He even dusts off his “Vulcans never bluff” stance for the occasion. Do have a look.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
A radio station based in Tel Aviv is broadcasting news and music to the Islamic Republic. In return, its workers get threats.
They’ve received threatening phone calls directly from authorities in Iran, berating them for the work they do. And in the wake of bombings targeting Israelis in India and Thailand, they’ve been warned to “lower their profile.” But in a general meeting last week, the employees of Tel Aviv-based Radio RadisIN pledged to continue broadcasting their Farsi-language music, spoken word and news programming into Iran—despite threats of danger from agents of Tehran. “All we do is transmit a message of love and brotherhood,” says Parviz Barkhordar, the host of a weekly political and social issues program called Connection. “We believe we are doing the right thing.”
Radio RadisIN went on the air on March 24, 2009. Since then, it has started streaming its programming to Farsi-speaking audiences all over the world. Barkhordar says RadisIN has more than 200,000 listeners in places as far-reaching as Los Angeles and Malaysia.
But the radio station’s main purpose is to broadcast to the people of Iran and counter the escalating tension between that country and Israel—not to mention a wide swath of the international community—with messages of peace. “We love our brothers and sisters in Iran,” says Barkhordar, who is originally from Iran but emigrated to the U.S. before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and moved to Israel in 1995. RadisIN takes anonymous calls from people living in Iran to discuss issues in the country and create a “bridge to unite all Persians, no matter where they live,” says Barkhordar. The station also regularly attempts to call authorities in Iran while on the air. In response, they receive nothing but “bad words and hatred,” says Barkhordar.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
This one starts slow and will take you through some unfamiliar territory, but I think it’s the most intriguing foreign-policy story I’ve seen this week. Near the end, it features murdered nuclear scientists. Bear with me.
Today we’re going to give Aurel Braun the benefit of the doubt. Longtime Inkless readers (Hi, Mr. Braun!) will know this takes an effort of will.
Braun, as you know, is the chairman of the board of Rights and Democracy, who spent 2009 and 2010 very nearly running that organization into tatters; click on the “Rights and Democracy” tag at the bottom of this post if you’re free to spend the rest of the day catching up. (Here’s one small part of that copious file.)
But now, here’s the indefatigable Graeme Hamilton at the National Post noting that Braun, along with his fellow R&D board member David Matas, has been in Ottawa urging the government — which is, inexplicably, chock full of big big Aurel Braun fans — to consider the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) as a potential replacement government for Iran.
This is interesting because Canada, like the United States, has long included MEK on its list of banned terrorist organizations for “assassinations, armed attacks, hostage-taking, mortar attacks and hit-and-run raids.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
But a lengthy paragraph that expressed positive Canadian sentiments toward the Palestinians was eventually trimmed over the course of a handful of early revisions and was eventually cut altogether. ”Canada is a leading supporter of the Palestinian people, having committed $300 million over five years to assist the Palestinian Authority to build capacity in the key areas of justice sector reform, security, and sustainable economic growth, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, including refugees,” the first draft stated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Ottawa next week to meet with Mr. Harper. The Star suggests Mr. Harper might subsequently announce a trip to Israel.
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 4:46 PM - 0 Comments
The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has blamed Iran for two attacks against…
The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has blamed Iran for two attacks against Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia on Monday. In New Delhi, the wife of an Israeli embassy official and her driver were injured when a bomb attached to her car went off, while in Tbilisi, a bomb attached to an Israeli embassy car was found and defused. Netanyahu said in a press conference that Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah were behind both incidents. While Netanyahu called Iran “the greatest exporter of terror in the world,” the Iranian regime denied the allegations, claiming they are part of a psychological war against Iran. An eyewitness to the Indian bombing reportedly saw a man on a motorcycle attach a magnetic device to the car involved in the New Delhi explosion on Monday, which happens to be the same modus operandi described in the recent killing of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed on January 11.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Roland Paris considers the Harper government’s rhetoric on Iran.
Yet it is also a position that most experts on Iran would judge as dubious at best. This may be the reason why no NATO country other than Canada, to my knowledge, has made such a bold and questionable assertion. Indeed, it is especially jarring at a moment when our closest ally, the United States, is counseling restraint.
I know the prime minister does not care that Canada is out of step with its allies – that he takes pride in taking stands on principle, and in the fact that his government will not “go along to get along.” In this case, however, his “principle” is really just idiosyncratic speculation—and dangerously provocative speculation at that.
On Friday, the Prime Minister said that, “for the first time in history, we are facing a regime that not only wants to attain nuclear weapons but a regime that has, compared to virtually all other holders of nuclear weapons in the past, far less fear of using them.” On Sunday, John Baird invoked Hitler.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
“Mr. Harper wants us to believe that grandstanding is more important than being an honest broker,” said Dewar. “His unbalanced approach to the Middle East is harmful to the prospect of peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians…
“The government’s approach is unbalanced when it’s equating a request from Palestinians through legitimate diplomatic channels with Israel’s settlement policy, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” said Dewar. “The government is now calling for negotiations, but in May it did everything it could to undermine consensus for President Obama’s peace initiative.”
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:07 PM - 16 Comments
The Israeli government pulls a controversial ad campaign warning Israelis in the U.S. their Jewish identity is at risk
We expect the Israeli government to warn its citizens against the dangers of intermarriage. But the Netanyahu government has been warning Israelis against marrying or associating too closely with other Jews–American Jews. One of the 30-second television ads, pulled from U.S. TV after an outcry among American journalists and bloggers, shows a young Israeli woman living in a U.S. city with a man who is implied to be Jewish-American. The guy, an American hipster if there ever was one, doesn’t understand why his girlfriend is sad on Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli memorial day. “They will always remain Israelis,” the announcer says in Hebrew. “Their partners may not understand what they’re talking about.” Steven Weiss, who first reported on the campaign for The Jewish Channel, summed up the message as “Marrying American Jews could make Israelis lose their sense of identities.” Or as the Netanyahu government sheepishly put it when announcing the cancellation of the project, they “clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”
After receiving tips from viewers across the U.S., Weiss collected together several of these ads last month, announcing that “a concerted effort is targeting Israeli expatriates in at least five cities to convince them that their heritage will be lost if they don’t soon leave America to go back to Israel.” The campaign, created by the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, uses every technique imaginable to make Israelis feel that their identity is in danger. One billboard urges people to leave America before their children start calling them “daddy” instead of addressing them in Hebrew. In another TV commercial, an Israeli couple is appalled to discover that their American-raised granddaughter thinks that she’s supposed to celebrate Christmas. The message is clear: Jews born and raised in America might just as well be goyim.
The Atlantic’s Israel specialist Jeffrey Goldberg, who translated some of the ads for his blog, was appalled at finding an anti-American message emanating from official Israeli productions. “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” he fumed. But Sofa Landver, the minister who runs the department responsible for the ads, thinks that American critics are showing “foolishness” by taking offense, and that the response has been great from its target audience of expatriates: “We managed to touch all the right emotional buttons,” she enthused.
Talking to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., Landver said that she has “the highest respect” for American Jews, but that the campaign had nothing to do with Jewishness. “Minister Edelstein is the one who needs to communicate with the Jewish Community,” she said, referring to the Minister of Information and Diaspora. “I’m in charge of returning Israelis.” In other words, these ads aren’t saying that American Jews are less Jewish than Israelis; that’s someone else’s bureaucratic department. They’re just saying, as Landver put it, that “Israelis who linger too long in the Diaspora risk losing their Jewish roots.”
But some observers find it ironic that at the same time the Netanyahu government demands maximum American cooperation and respect, it is signing off on advertisements that portray America as an alien country, sapping the uniqueness of Israelis. “The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid,” Goldberg wrote, “but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM - 8 Comments
Speaking with reporters after QP yesterday, John Baird explained the Harper government’s response to UNESCO’s decision to accept Palestine as a member.
Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision taken by UNESCO. Canada believes the only solution to this issue is a negotiated settlement between the two parties. Under no circumstances will Canada cover the budgeting shortfall as a result of this decision and Canada has decided to freeze all further voluntary contributions to UNESCO …
We believe that statehood is the product of peace negotiations. And a significant number of UN Security Council resolutions have said that. The last peace accord said that. We believe the two parties should negotiate a peace agreement and not seek unilateral action at multilateral institutions. We think that is the wrong way to go and we cast our vote against and we’ve signalled our disappointment and our displeasure by the two actions we’re taking.
Campbell Clark explains the math.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 1 Comment
An Israeli computer science professor is trying to prove that several different people wrote the Torah together
To Jews and Christians, Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Torah. But an Israeli computer science professor is trying to prove that several different people actually wrote them together. Working with a team of collaborators, including his son, Tel Aviv University’s Nachum Dershowitz developed computer software that searches a text for hints like word preference—using “said” instead of “spoke,” for example—to divide it up according to how many people probably helped write it.
To test out the algorithm and make sure it was working, the team deliberately mixed up passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, then had the computer separate them. It did so with 99 per cent accuracy. The software still can’t decipher exactly how many people worked to write the Bible, but it can flag transition points, where one voice shifts to the next.
Experts say the algorithm could have all sorts of applications, such as shedding new light on other mysterious or very old writings, like the nature of Shakespeare’s collaborations, for example. Dershowitz said that providing new detail to Biblical scholarship was gratifying in and of itself.
By Adnan R. Khan - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 5 Comments
Abroad, he’s drawn comparisons to the legendary Sultan Saladin. But back home, many Turks are uneasy.
It was one coup among many. On Sept. 25, after passionately arguing in favour of the Palestinians’ right to a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN General Assembly in New York, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left with a hero in his back pocket. On board his government jet was a 1,900-year-old statue of Hercules, procured from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it had sat, an object of ownership controversy, for nearly 30 years. Reclaiming the relic for Turkey was a symbolic act, but the 57-year-old prime minister had done what so many of his predecessors had failed to do. He brought Hercules—his head and torso at least—home to be reunited with the Greek hero’s less attractive but arguably more manly lower half, sitting forlorn and incomplete at the archaeological museum in Antalya, a city steeped in history situated on Turkey’s stunning Mediterranean coast.
In Turkey, Erdogan’s government was hailed for the statue’s return. It was not the only praise the PM had recently received. Only days earlier, during a trip to Egypt, he’d been compared to another, less mythic but equally meaningful hero, this time from Islamic history. In Cairo, frenzied crowds showered the Turkish leader with praise, calling him the “new Saladin”—a reference to the 12th-century Kurdish conqueror who wrested Jerusalem away from Christian Crusaders in 1187. Heady times—and not without reason.
By all accounts, Turkey stands at a crossroads—and Erdogan is the one finding a new direction. After pursuing a policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours, Turkey has been forced to deal with hard geopolitical realities, breaking ties with a tyrannical Syrian regime, abandoning former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak at the height of the Egyptian uprising, and freezing its historically warm relations with Israel in the aftermath of a 2010 attempt by an international aid flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, during which Israeli commandos killed nine activists, eight of them Turkish nationals.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM - 1 Comment
Israel fears more soldier kidnappings to come
Monday’s Middle Eastern prisoner swap, in which Hamas officials returned Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to Israel in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, may have increased tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, rather than promoting good will. Shalit’s release after six years of captivity in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip was bittersweet for the Jewish nation, as the Palestinian group said that it won’t rest until all Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli prisons. Many in Israel fear the pledge will result in the capture and imprisonment of more Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner swaps. And the successful release of Shalit did nothing to convince the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Thursday excluded progress on the peace talks until Tel Aviv imposes a complete freeze on Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
Captured Israeli soldier appears weak and frail
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is back home, 1,941 days after he was kidnapped by Hamas fighters and held in Gaza. Shalit was freed after the Palestinian group struck a deal with the Israeli government that includes the release of 1,207 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom had been convicted of terrorist attacks against Israel. “I know the pain of families [whose relatives were killed by those released] ….is beyond description,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a public letter, acknowledging the criticism he’s received for agreeing to the prisoner exchange. Shalit appeared weak and gaunt upon his release, bolstering reports that he was mistreated by his Palestinian captors.
By Jane Switzer - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Palestinians don’t like him and his business dealings are under scrutiny
Tony Blair can’t catch a break. Days after the former British prime minister defended his jet-set lifestyle and denied allegations that he used his role as a Middle East peace envoy to secure private business contracts, senior Palestinian officials declared that his “bias” toward Israel casts doubt on his impartiality and called for his removal.
Mohammed Ishtayeh, a senior official and confidant of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Voice of Palestine radio on Oct. 5 that Blair was no longer trusted as an envoy for the Middle East Quartet, for which he mediates on behalf of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. “He has developed a large bias in favour of the Israeli side and he has lost a lot of his credibility,” Ishtayeh said. “We hope the Quartet will reconsider the appointment of this person.”
On Sept. 29, London’s Daily Telegraph disclosed that senior Palestinian officials had privately stated their intention to declare Blair “persona non grata” in Palestinian government offices over his role in renewing peace talks between Israel and Palestine. And senior official Nabil Shaath told the Guardian that Blair, who was appointed to the Quartet post soon after he resigned as prime minister in 2007, effectively acted as a “defence attorney” for Israel during a debate within the Quartet in July. The group had proposed in June that peace talks should resume within a month and that both sides should complete a deal by the end of 2012, but its partners were unable to agree on the terms necessary to end the year-long deadlock.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 3:51 PM - 3 Comments
Israel to release 1,000 prisoners in deal with Hamas
The Israeli government has come to terms with Hamas officials on a tentative agreement to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who’s been held captive in Gaza for five years. The deal would see Shalit released in the coming days in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, according to a report on Israeli Radio. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006 and several attempts at securing his freedom have failed over the years. The exact terms of the deal remain unclear, though a Reuters report indicates the first wave of 450 Palestinian prisoners will be released at the same time as Shalit, while the remaining 550 prisoners will be released at a later time.