One just wants to shake one’s head at the controversy over hapless presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comments (a.k.a. “gaffe”) regarding the role of “culture” in Israeli economic success and presumed Palestinian lack thereof. (1, 2)
Predictably, many responses were rhetorically overheated. The Palestinian Authority’s dour Saeb Erekat promptly declared that Romney’s statement was “racist.” Argument over, right?
One senses here a certain resistance to any attempt at critical generalization. Still, the general reaction is readily understandable. Obviously, any purported comparison of Israeli and Palestinian economic performance that does not take into account “the occupation” and Palestinian lack of sovereignty is, uh, let us say, incomplete. Less obviously but just as important, however, there is a real argument to be had concerning the effects of “culture”—whether in the sense of collective values or of the resultant institutions and policies—on the overall “success” of societies.
Whatever role “culture” may or may not have played in the initial success of the Jewish state, it is undeniable that a change in culture in those broader senses has, in the space of a generation, helped to catapult Israel from the level of wannabee...More >>
The past twelve months have seen unpredicted political and social upheaval throughout the Middle East and North Africa and currently just about the only certainty is that there is still much more to come.
With the cards still very much in the air and last January's confident assertions on the part of the various Middle East experts - who informed us that the two countries in which revolution would definitely not be taking place were Syria and Libya - still ringing in our ears almost as loudly as Hillary Clinton's bizarre assurance that Bashar Assad was 'a reformer', only fools would try to predict how the MENA region might look in five years' time.
What is clear, however, is that the general trend appears to be towards a rise in power on the part of religiously-motivated political elements and a deepening of the Sunni-Shia sectarian rift which has long existed in the region, alongside real cause for worry about the futures of other minorities.
In this volatile climate and with the fate of existing peace treaties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours far from guaranteed, the Middle East Quartet (comprised of...More >>
North Korean-style hijinks are afoot in the holy land. Some military analysts and news junkies will recall the tunnels North Korea built underneath the DMZ as a surprise invasion route to the South. Since the North knew its antiquated military couldn't punch its way through the fortified South Korean-American lines, the idea was to go under, envelop the defenders and storm into Seoul (When discovered, Pyongyang explained away the tunnels as coal mine shafts, or simply insisted that the ROK had dug them to invade the North).
Subways are expensive pieces of transportation infrastructure. They can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. It's not like the Palestinians don't have other more pressing financial needs (like funding the salaries of convicted murderers of Israelis). And they are usually built in dense urban centers with thriving business districts that are already facing massive gridlock.
But Rafah is a town of just 71,000 in the southern Gaza Strip. And Beit Hanoun is...More >>
The manner in which the world, and in particular the Quartet, responds to the emerging Hamas-Fatah reconciliation will be of prime importance in dictating whether the Middle East will move within the next few months from a situation of no peace to one of all-out war.
If Hamas is allowed by the international community to integrate into the Palestinian Authority without being made to renounce its armed campaigns and without being obliged to recognise Israel's existence, the already terminally ill peace process will come to a very rapid demise. Not only will Israel not negotiate with a Palestinian government which contains terrorist elements, but the terms of the Roadmap, which up to now have formed the foundations of negotiations, will become devoid of any further relevance.
That, of course, would suit Hamas perfectly; it has done all in its power to scupper the peace process for many years and by its very definition rejects all negotiations intended to lead to a two-state solution. However, it also suits Fatah which, despite dodging the negotiating table with considerable alacrity since negotiations resumed last autumn, received a serious blow to its already...More >>
A recent document drawn up by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah raises some worrying issues, not least the proposal for organised boycotts. Readers will doubtless notice the report’s reliance upon information gleaned from politically motivated NGOs such as UN OCHA and ACRI, which set the tone for the cavalier repetition of numerous untruths such as;
“Successive Israeli governments have pursued a policy of transferringJewish population into the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.” (my emphasis)
It is also blatantly apparent that despite the fact that the status of Jerusalem is supposed to be the subject of long-awaited negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the EU Heads of mission seem intent upon creating their own ‘facts on the ground’, together with a flawed narrative which seeks to over-ride any negotiation process.
However, the report’s ‘action plan’ is possibly its most disturbing aspect in that it includes outright initiatives for boycott of Israeli businesses and institutions as well as specific calls for intervention in the affairs of...More >>