“To the best I can determine, in his present job, Kerry hasn’t ever described the U.S.-Israel relationship as ‘special.’”
Martin Kramer's insight:
John Kerry always talks about the “special relationship”—between the United States and Britain. Between the United States and Israel? Never a mention. Even in the lip service department, the Obama administration has downgraded Israel.
“Government ministers and renowned scholars, Israel-Prize laureates and philanthropists, and the members of Israel's Revolution Orchestra joined Shalem's first class of students and their families for the college's opening ceremonies at its Jerusalem campus on October 6, 2013.”
Martin Kramer's insight:
Here’s a medley of outtakes from the spectacular opening of Shalem College last week. Other coverage:
This powerful and tragic film gets startlingly close to the struggle of ordinary Syrian people against Assad brutality. Learn More: http://www.syrianrevoluti...
Their lives have been torn apart, but female photographer Nour and FSA leader Mowya are determined to continue to fight the Assad regime. This powerful and tragic film gets startlingly close to their struggle.
A little girl is singing straight to the camera during a street gathering when a mortar strikes just a few metres behind her, throwing the innocent scene into bloody chaos. This is not a dramatically staged fiction film, but the reality of daily life in Syria. "Somebody has to know what this monster is doing to us, to his own people. I'm making sure that somebody is going to know," says Nour. Aged 24, she has abandoned her teaching job to become a war photographer. "I'm not afraid of death", she says. "So many girls have died in their kitchen." The memory of her friends who have died or been tortured and raped during the conflict strengthens Nour's determination to continue the fight. She firmly believes, "we're going to build this whole country again from scratch". Walking through the destroyed and abandoned streets of Aleppo, charismatic FSA leader Mowya manages to retain a dark humour. "Maybe if you film some cats and put it on YouTube a million people will watch the video. Maybe the Americans will help the cats. They don't care about people."
Israel frets that Obama went to Congress over Syria. If that's a precedent for Iran, Israel might have no choice but to strike first.
Martin Kramer's insight:
The Wall Street Journal only gave me 300 words to explain why Obama’s punt of the Syrian ball to Congress appalled Israelis. So elsewhere I provide the historical context. Israel once went to a president with a plea for minimal action to remove a dire threat. That president balked: he needed the permission of Congress. The rest is history, and the legacy is a problem.
Bashar Assad’s full interview with Charlie Rose is an eye-opener. One of the differences between Syria and Iraq, or Iran, or Libya, is that it will be impossible to cast Assad in the role of a wild-eyed fanatic. It was relatively easy to put Saddam and Qadhafi in the kill box. Assad survives because, however savage his war, he’s the opposite of the flamboyant Arab dictator.
Filmed in the middle of Egypt's days of rage in August, this report got to the heart of the tensions that erupted into violence in Cairo, providing a close-up look at the country's newly increasing turmoil.
Following the massacre of over 500 pro-Morsi supporters, thousands have taken to the streets in defiance of the military crackdown. "Sisi wants to have massacres to frighten the people and subject us once again to military rule" cries one protester as bullets fly. But just around the corner another local, Ramy Raouf, argues Morsi had his chance and blew it. "This is not a coup. OK?" With the political gulf as wide as ever and Cairo's morgue struggling to cope, a peaceful resolution seems impossible.
In his new book published by the Georgetown University Press, Dr. Matthew Levitt offers the first thorough examination of Hezbollah's covert activities beyond Lebanon's borders, including its financial and logistical support networks and its criminal and terrorist operations worldwide.
To discuss the origin, current operations, and future of Hezbollah, The Washington Institute invited Dr. Levitt and Ambassador Frederic C. Hof to address a Policy Forum luncheon and book launch event on September 3, 2013, in Washington, DC.
The know-it-all economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote an ill-timed paean to the Erdogan regime only a few days before mass protests erupted, under the title: “Why Turkey is Thriving” (http://po.st/VD1GVM). His name can be added to the list of Western academic poobahs who’ve lost their compass when encountering “trains-run-on-time” authoritarians in the Mideast. (No joke: he hails Turkey’s “high-speed intercity rail network.”) One of his former (Turkish) teaching assistants has explained why Sachs has it all wrong (title: “Why Turkey is NOT Thriving,”http://bit.ly/17lJmQV). Money quote: “Sachs is the latest in a long line of celebrities who have recently declared their love for Turkey, or at least to Istanbul… [They] never see Istanbul’s ugly face: Their hotel is conveniently located away from the maddening traffic. They would not even be aware of the latest alcohol bans. They never get tear-gassed.”
“Judging by the continuous supplies Hezbollah are receiving however, it seems that their satellite navigation devices are still making the same mistake.”
Martin Kramer's insight:
The laughable Rami Khouri, who once toadied to Hezbollah and Nasrallah as Arab and Lebanese heroes for standing up to Israel, finds himself in a tight spot now that Hezbollah has turned its “resistance” guns against Syrians on Syrian turf. He’s written another one of his silly “we-shall-see” pieces, as if all his readers were naifs: http://bit.ly/sillyrami. To which the best answer is this splendid satire by Karl Sharro.
Lebanon is filling to the brim with Syrian refugees, mostly Sunnis, and this map shows their concentrations, mostly in Sunni areas but increasingly in other locales as well. The International Crisis Group has issued a sobering report on the political strains this is creating within Lebanon: http://j.mp/141P1rc. In short, Lebanon tops the spillover list, well ahead of Turkey or Jordan.
Hamas “prime minister” of the Palestinian emirate of Gaza, Ismail Haniya, presses his kisser to the hand of creepy old antisemite Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, now visiting Gaza, where he has urged Hamas never to give up an inch of Palestine (as if they needed persuading). “Our whole ambition is to die on the path to Allah,” he said on arrival (http://bit.ly/itsthethoughtthatcounts).
Director: Mira Nair Writers: Ami Boghani (screen story), Mohsin Hamid (novel) Stars: Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber
Martin Kramer's insight:
Almost five years ago, I recommended Mohsin Hamid’s novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” here: http://bit.ly/mohsinhamid. I just saw the film, directed by Mira Nair, and I recommend that too (although it’s not entirely faithful to the novel, in that it resolves the Pakistani protagonist’s dilemma). It's more thoughtful than “Argo,” and the final equivalent of a chase scene is more credible too.
"Background Audio: Makkah Isha Salah by Sheikh Baleela from 8th Dul Hijjah 1434."
Martin Kramer's insight:
The ancient Kaaba, the cuboid structure in Mecca that Muslims worldwide face in prayer, is located at the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca, and is covered by a massive embroidered black silk fabric known as the kiswa. (For those interested in Semitic cognates, it is related to the Hebrew kisui.) The kiswa is changed each year during the hajj pilgrimage; the old one is cut up and distributed to pilgrims. The kiswa switch is quite an operation, and you can watch it in this fascinating clip, filmed during the just-concluded hajj. More on the production process: http://bit.ly/kiswa.
Prof. ltamar Rabinovich, President, The Israel Institute, Washington DC, speaking at the INSS Conference on "The Yom Kippur War:- A Launching Pad for U.S. Middle East Policy Conference," September 10, 2013.
"I don't think even the inveterate 'peace processors,' whom Lustick now dismisses so contemptuously, ever assumed repeated failures would bring them closer to their goal. Lustick did believe it."
Martin Kramer's insight:
I know, I should have ignored it, but I couldn’t help myself. So here is my take on Ian Lustick’s jeremiad in the New York Times, where he argues that the “one-state solution” is the way forward. Not so long ago, he claimed the “two-state solution” was inevitable. So what gives?
Washington, D.C., March 5, 2013 – The fabled but previously secret State Department intelligence memorandum that predicted, five months in advance, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, has now emerged from classified vaults that were so obscure that even State Department historians and CIA FOIA officers could not penetrate them. Published for the first time today by the National Security Archive the INR memo from May 1973 warned Acting Secretary of State Kenneth Rush that there was a "better than even bet" that war between Egypt and Israel would occur "by autumn."
According to the INR analysis, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would initiate a war with Israel not for specific military objectives but to spur "big power" diplomatic intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict so that Egypt could regain the Sinai Peninsula lost in the 1967 War. On 6 October 1973 war broke out in the region....
The author of the INR paper, Roger Merrick, anticipated that if war unfolded, U.S. "interests" in the region would come under attack because of the close American-Israeli relationship. He anticipated the possible nationalizations of petroleum facilities, "efforts to displace US oil companies with those from Europe and Japan," and "prolonged oil embargoes."
Following are excerpts from a Friday sermon delivered by leading Sunni scholar Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, which aired on Qatar TV on September 6, 2013:
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: If only we could be the ones to retaliate against those people [the Syrian regime]. I wish there were an Islamic power capable of punishing these people. If only there was an Islamic power capable of drawing the line for the oppressors, and imposing upon them the punishment they deserve.
We do not have such power, however, so if they are punished by others, it is better than nothing. Allah pits the oppressors one against the other. The ancients used to say: "Oh Allah, keep the oppressors busy with one another, and let us emerge from among them intact." We do not pity those people when they are attacked by whoever strikes them, because they deserve to be attacked, just like they attacked the Muslims.
The Negotiation Affairs Department of the PLO has put out a paper entitled “The Latrun Valley: An Integral Part of the State of Palestine” (http://bit.ly/latrun, pdf). Never mind that Israel’s Route 1, the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, runs through it. In fact, the Palestinians have never given up on the salient (part of which was no-man’s land between 1949 and 1967—they claim that too). Here is the “solution” proposed in the so-called “Geneva Initiative”: http://bit.ly/genevalatrun. Just another example of how detached from reality the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” gig has become.
This afternoon, I’ll be joining the faculty procession at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Commencement at DAR Constitution Hall. The students I taught this year have been truly outstanding. A special congratulations to these Class of 2013 graduates who studied with me for credit this past academic year: Daniel Bingham-Pankratz, Jonas Brown, Michelle Cousland, Thomas Donnelly, Kimberly Ehrman, Elizabeth Forro, Jeff Johnson, Blythe Kladney, Yael Miller, Karen Poreh, Troy Smith, Kimberly Stokes, and Wayne Wall. Wishing you success!
According to Johnson’s biographer, Johnson said that the commission came from Shimon Peres, who admired his “Glass House.” But there is evidence that Johnson urged his American Jewish admirers to angle for an Israeli commission, in order to erase, once and for all, the stigma of his pro-Nazi activities in the 1930s. Details in the biography here: http://bit.ly/soreqjohnson. Johnson later became friends with Teddy Kollek, who named him in 1970 to the Jerusalem Committee of international planning luminaries. In 1971, Johnson proposed a new international airport at Lod (never executed), and in the 1990s, an ecological village in the Negev (“Oasis House”), also never executed: http://bit.ly/oasishouse.
"Abuse of Science" Hawking’s boycott of Israel is intellectually and morally disreputable
London Times, May 10, 2013
Stephen Hawking ranks among the most famous scientists of the past century for his personal as well as intellectual achievements. A mind that has expanded knowledge of the origins of the Universe has also imbued its possessor with a mental resilience capable of surviving a debilitating disease. But brilliance in one sphere does not guarantee sense in another.
So it is with Professor Hawking, who revealed this week that he had withdrawn from a conference in Israel after being lobbied by Palestinian groups. His conduct is obtuse, mean-spirited and ungracious. Above all, it is alien to the spirit of critical thinking on which science and academic inquiry depend.
It is notable that Professor Hawking’s computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. Whereas Israeli technology literally provides him with a voice, Professor Hawking supports a boycott campaign that seeks to penalise and isolate Israeli academics. But that modest irony should not be maligned as hypocrisy: Professor Hawking is entitled to express political views. Unfortunately his views on this subject are drearily simplistic and the inferences he draws from them are pernicious.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict understandably provokes strong passions. The Times is a longstanding supporter of Israel but this has never stopped us from criticising successive Israeli governments’ policies on settlements or dimmed our belief in a two-state solution with a sovereign Palestine. The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel is not only about the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank or Israel’s security policies in Gaza. The boycotters are hostile to the Jewish State, which they compare to the system of institutionalised racial discrimination practised in apartheid South Africa.
Israel has many flaws but a central and vital characteristic. It is a democracy in a part of the world where liberal political rights and free inquiry are scarce. An academic boycott is itself made possible by the critical ethos of Israeli culture. A closed society such as Iran, whose President denies the Holocaust, is hardly likely to be an international centre for scholarship in modern European history.
But even if Israel were a society as deformed as its opponents claim, an academic boycott would still be iniquitous. Conor Cruise O’Brien, the historian and polymath, criticised the academic boycott even of South Africa in the era of apartheid, as “an intellectually disreputable attempt to isolate what I know to be an honest, open and creative intellectual community”. He was right on this. Economic sanctions against a racist regime were right; penalising scholars for the deplorable policies of their government, over which they had no control, was not.
Though there is no serious analogy between Israel and apartheid, the scholars and venues whom the anti-Israel campaigners target are in a similar position to their South African counterparts a generation ago. Israeli academics may disagree strongly with the policies of their own Government, yet are being maligned and slandered on extraneous political grounds.
Professor Hawking should never have put his name to this campaign. It is an example of intellectual obscurantism masquerading as humanitarian concern. And that is stupid.
"The civil war ravaging Syria began on March of 2011 as peaceful protesters took to the streets demanding social and economic reforms, and an end to corruption. The response to these demonstrations over the months to come, were brutal. Many protesters were shot on several occasions in an attempt to disperse the crowds and curve their morale. These measures only helped to embolden the mostly sunni civilian population - armed militias began to attack government checkpoints in the countryside as the movement spread throughout the country. Twenty seven months later, the country is now in the midst of a bloody civil war that has claimed well over 70,000 people. As international negotiations for a cease-fire continue to fail, innocent civilians (caught in the middle of this war), continue to be killed or displaced by aerial bombardments, artillery and sniper fire."