Category Archives:
Middle East

British MPs call for concrete action to sanction Israel

Stan Hoben on
Grahame M. Morris MP - UK Parliament

In Westminster last Monday, Dec 1, MPs called for the government to take concrete action to sanction Israel, with several calling for a complete arms trade embargo. The backbench debate highlighted increasing frustration within Parliament around the government’s failure to respond to the Oct 13 call for recognition of the Palestinian statehood, and on its wider failure to act to hold Israel accountable to its obligations under international law.

Israeli Oscar nominee can’t get Israeli funds for new film

Philip Weiss on
Guy Davidi

After Guy Davidi came out in favor of boycott, the Oscar-nominated director’s cultural status went to “zero” in Israel, he says. So that’s why he’s raising money on Indiegogo for his new film, Mixed Feelings

First they came for the Palestinians . . .

Annie Robbins on
Cartoonist: Michael Leunig

Annie Robbins comments on “First they came for the Palestinians”, a political cartoon by renowned cartoonist and political-cultural commentator Michael Leunig: “My initial response to the cartoon was that the conversation surrounding events in Palestine and Israel require and demand public engagement. The onus is on all of us and this is not primarily a Jewish conversation, nor should it be. We cannot be silent. This is a global conversation as well as an American conversation. Be part of it.”

David Remnick undermines Israel’s one-state president

Roland Nikles on
Reuven Rivlin image from the New Yorker

David Remnick treats Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s talk of a one-state future as nutty in a piece in the New Yorker, while holding out for a two-state solution that would deny Palestinians any real sovereignty

Muslims’ beliefs are ‘untrue’ and ‘ridiculous,’ ‘Salon’ author says, offering support for Maher’s intolerance

Philip Weiss on
Bill Maher with Ben Affleck and Sam Harris.

Rula Jebreal took on Bill Maher’s Islamophobia, saying that he was offering a literalist and simplistic view of the religion, like jihadists themselves. If you said this about blacks or Jews you’d be fired, she said. Now Salon has backed Maher up with a piece saying that Islamic beliefs are “untrue” and “ridiculous.” Yes and what about the parting of the Red Sea?

Europe is a weenie on Palestine

Marc H. Ellis on
EU flag, before European flags

Latest Palestine plans from the EU show that the European community is a weenie. Europe has been unwilling to sacrifice even its Middle Eastern policy ties with the United States, let alone assert its own vaunted EU foreign policy values on behalf of Palestinians.

Sea change down under: Ex-Australian Foreign Minister announces himself a ‘Friend of Palestine’

John Salisbury on
Foreign Minister Bob Carr press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry on March 18, 2013.

Australia’s immediate past Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, has dramatically changed his views with respect to Israel and Palestine. In his article “Why I’m Now a Friend of Palestine” published in last Saturday’s The Weekend Australian he explains his change of heart. He writes: “Forty years ago I signed up to be president of Labor Friends of Israel; I still count myself a friend of the liberals in that country but it serves the cause of a just peace better by me this week becoming a patron of Labor Friends of Palestine.”

Pressure on ‘The Lancet’ for Gaza letter another example of pro-Israel assault on freedom of expression

Catherine Baker on
'Lancet' Editor Richard Horton addresses the physicians and staff at the Rambam hospital in Haifa. (Photo: The Telegraph)

A new front in the war on freedom of expression has emerged from the pages of the international medical journal, The Lancet. A letter critical of Israel, published in July in the online edition, and subsequently republished in the August 2 issue, provoked the usual hasbara sequence of events: vociferous expressions of outrage and hurt, attacks on the character of the letter writers, insinuations that the Lancet editor is anti-Semitic, and demands for a retraction.

Experiencing sumud in the West Bank

Madeline Buthod on
Road block on the way to the Tent of Nations in the West Bank. (Photo: Interfaith Peace-Builders)

Madeline Buthod is a delegate on the annual Interfaith Peace Builders’ Olive Harvest delegation. She writes about visiting the Nassar family at the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem in the West Bank which is surrounded by settlements and the Israeli government is trying to take their land. Buthod says, “The Nassar family motto is, “Never give up hope”. In my opinion, they are the epitome of Sumud, which is Arabic for steadfast perseverance.”

Why are liberal Zionists embracing Matti Friedman’s Islamophobia?

Peter Feld on
TV coverage of Gaza onslaught

The Gaza war and collapse of the peace process destroyed liberal Zionists’ cherished vision of an egalitarian Jewish democracy, forcing many of Israel’s defenders to embrace the raw Islamophobia of ex-AP reporter Matti Friedman’s Tablet essay that blamed coverage of Operation Protective Edge in the media on ant-Semitism.

‘Exalted anti-Zionists’ are now driving the conversation

Philip Weiss on
Shlomo Sand, by Phil Weiss

“Exalted anti-Zionists” (as Shlomo Sand calls us with snark) are framing the new ideas about the conflict: You cannot have a “Jewish democracy.” Let’s choose democracy over ethnocracy. And Tom Friedman, Noam Chomsky, and liberal Zionists are all engaging these ideas.

Malala and the Nobel Peace Prize: Why Rachel Corrie would never win

Usaid (Muneeb) Siddiqui on
Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai should be celebrated and serve as a reminder for all as to how deprived today’s children are of basic human rights such as education. The point however is to consider that if Malala’s home was in the occupied West Bank or Gaza, or in the drone bombarded villages of Yemen, would she have been invited to the White House? Would her struggle make her a global icon? The chances would be slim, and few in the corridors of power would want to take notice.

‘It’s going to be rad': Amman skaters work to build 7Hills Skate Park

Sarah Aziza on
Mohammed Zakaria (right), founder of Philadelphia Skateboards, Amman Jordan  " There’s something really special about skaters here in Jordan.”

Mohammed Zakaria is leading an unprecedented campaign to create Jordan’s first community-built skate park. Zakaria is determined to provide a positive outlet for the youth of his city. “It’s not easy to be a young person in this part of the world,” he says. While warfare and revolts have upturned many neighboring cities, tensions over the flooding refugee population, high unemployment, and regional insecurity are rampant in Jordan. “Many of our skaters, and the new kids we hope to bring in to the park, come from broken homes or refugee families. We want to give them a healthy, free, accessible resource to enjoy life.” Plus, says Zakaria, “It’s going to be rad.”

Judt on Brooks and Friedman’s role in pushing the criminal invasion of Iraq

Philip Weiss on
Tony Judt

The late Tony Judt on David Brooks and Tom Friedman pushing the Iraq war: “catastrophic acquiescence in authority and plain, old-fashioned dumb ignorance masquerading as commentary. These were the circumstances which allowed a criminal political action to be pushed through the public space with very little opposition.”

Europe wearies of Netanyahu’s diversions

Philip Weiss on
Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly

Anyone say regime change? Israel is losing its friends round the world, Financial Times and Americans for Peace Now agree, because of Netanyahu’s cynical settlement policy

The Missing Context: ‘Islamic State’ sectarianism is not coincidental 

Ramzy Baroud on
An image made available on a jihadist website during the summer of 2014 which shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants holding the organization's trademark flag in Iraq. (Photo: AFP)

The United States didn’t create Iraqi sectarianism. The latter always brewed beneath the surface. However, sectarianism and other manifestations of identity politics in Iraq were always overpowered by a dominant sense of Iraqi nationalism, which was violently destroyed and ripped apart by US firepower starting March 2003. But what the American truly founded in Iraq was Sunni militancy, a concept that has, till recently been alien to the Middle East. What makes ISIS an essential sectarian phenomenon with extremely violent consequences is that it was born into an exceptionally sectarian environment, and could only operate within the existing rules.

Is ISIS a crisis for the so-called Jewish state?

Philip Weiss on
ISIS style adopted by rightwingers in Tel Aviv

The rise of ISIS makes clear how dangerous it is to fail to separate church and state. That argument for democracy is sure to bite Israel, which uses religion to justify Jewish supremacy.

American airstrikes and the universal ‘language of force’

Nima Shirazi on
President Barack Obama speaks during the general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 24, 2014. (Photo: Justin Lane—EPA)

The rhetoric used by Obama to defend yet another illegal and ill-conceived American air campaign in the Middle East is well-worn. The very same word salad, notably the “language of force” line, has been routinely served up to justify lethal action against a seemingly intractable foe and it puts the onus on the target of that aggression for bringing such violence upon itself: if they weren’t such barbarians, we too wouldn’t have to resort to barbarism.