Israel – a strategic asset for the US... and Australia

Israel – a strategic asset for the US… and Australia

November 3, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

The US-Israel alliance has come under increasing strain in recent time with both academics and US policy makers suggesting that the alliance has become more of a liability than an asset for US national interests. For instance, the infamous Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer based their whole “Israel Lobby” slander on the assumption that being associated with Israel was obviously and unequivocally bad for the US, and only some undemocratic and vaguely nefarious lobby could possible explain the continuing US alliance with Israel, as noted Middle East scholar Martin Kramer analysed and debunked brilliantly a few years ago.

However, a new report released by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy “Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States” (‘the report’), does even more to refute this trend in analysis and instead argues that US policy makers should acknowledge that the US-Israel alliance strongly serves US national interests in several important ways.

Is the PA qualified to protect Christian and Jewish holy sites?

Is the PA qualified to protect Christian and Jewish holy sites?

November 2, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

As Fairfax’s Ruth Pollard reported this morning, now that they have been admitted to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will begin pushing for heritage protection of holy sites in the West Bank.

JERUSALEM: Significant religious sites throughout the West Bank, including the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, will be among the first to be pushed forward for world heritage status now Palestine has been granted membership of UNESCO.

A Palestinian Authority spokesman there were many sites and shrines in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that until now had been unprotected because of a lack of recognition and funding.

”Now we will be able to protect them and make sure they are known around the world,” he said. ”We believe that becoming a member of the UNESCO is an overdue right for a country that has such a significant amount of heritage sites.”

This follows from a bid launched earlier this year to gain heritage status for the Church of Nativity, believed to be the site where Jesus was born. The idea of the PA being responsible for the care of this church and other non-Muslim holy sites should raise a few eyebrows amongst those who are even vaguely familiar with their recent history…

Goldstone assaults 'Apartheid Slander'

Goldstone assaults ‘Apartheid Slander’

November 2, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

South African Judge Richard Goldstone has written an op-ed in this New York Times on 31 October condemning the false allegation that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state. He writes:

“The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”

This is the same Goldstone who did a great deal of damage to Israel by lending his name to the biased UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza conflict in 2009 which condemned Israel for deliberately killing civilians and war crimes while all but ignoring the Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel.

Goldstone later recanted his support for the report after realising that much of the information relied upon in the ‘Goldstone Report’ was not credible and biased. In an op-ed in the Washington Post in April this year he stated, “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

Two victims from Palestinian UNESCO ploy: UNESCO and the US

Two victims from Palestinian UNESCO ploy: UNESCO and the US

November 1, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

The admission of Palestine into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, little more than a symbolic victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA), has severe repercussions on the largest funder of both the PA and UNESCO: The United States. As AFP has reported, US legislation prevents US funding of any UN body that admits the Palestinians as a member.

“We were to have made a $US60 million ($A57.11 million) payment to UNESCO in November and we will not be making that payment,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Monday.

Nuland said the Palestinian admission “triggers longstanding (US) legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO.”…

Somali-American suicide bomber calls for Muslims to fight Jihad in Australia

Somali-American suicide bomber calls for Muslims to fight Jihad in Australia

October 31, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Abdisalan Hussein Ali, a 22-year-old Somali who grew up in America and is believed to be one of two suicide bombers who struck African Union forces on Saturday, called for jihad against Australia in a recording obtained by The New York Times. In the recording, Ali repeats the Al-Qaeda mantra that jihad is an obligation from God incumbent on every Muslim and then calls for his “brothers and sisters” to fight jihad in America, Canada, England, “anywhere in Europe”, in Asia, Africa, China and Australia.

As noted in the Times article, Ali was seemingly an average, well-adjusted American teenager…

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Tunisia: Islamism or Democracy?/ Settlements yet again

Tunisia: Islamism or Democracy?/ Settlements yet again

October 31, 2011

This Update features some comment on the outcome of the Tunisian elections last week, and their wider implications.

First up is the Jerusalem Post arguing in an editorial that Tunisia demonstrated why it is the most promising candidate for democracy in the Arab world – as shown by the fair and violence-free elections. Yet the country also gave a plurality to an Islamist party, Ennahda, albeit one often described as “soft Islamist”. The paper notes, however, that the head of Ennadha is not only violently anti-Israel, but his comparison of his party to Turkey’s AKP is not as positive as some seem to imagine.

Considering the last resort option on Iran

Considering the last resort option on Iran

October 28, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

International legal scholar Louis René Beres, US Admiral (ret.) Leon Edney and US Lt Gen (ret.) Thomas G. McInerney have written an insightful article in Haaretz, looking at the current Iranian nuclear predicament and the various possible responses, focusing on the legality of a pre-emptive strike. They argue that the risk presented by a nuclear Iran is so great that a US strike is at least likely to be justifiable.

The Caroline Doctrine notes an implicit distinction between preventive war (which is never legal ), and preemptive war. Even the latter is not permitted merely to protect oneself against an emerging threat, but only when the danger posed is “instant” and “overwhelming.”…

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Ilan Grapel and AIJAC

Ilan Grapel and AIJAC

October 28, 2011 | Tzvi Fleischer

As readers will note from the accompanying media release, AIJAC is very relieved and pleased that Ilan Grapel, a bright young Israeli-American student, has now been released after more than four months of detention in Egypt. Ilan served a 2009 stint in AIJAC’s Melbourne’s office as a visiting Goldman Fellow, part of a program run by our American partner, the American Jewish Committee…

In honour of the occasion of his release, it seems worth recalling some of the work Ilan did for AIJAC back in 2009…

Meanwhile, there has been some interesting discussion internationally about the motivations for Grapel’s arrest and detention by Egypt’s interim government, and what it says about where Egypt is going…

Media Week – Shalit editorials; Who to ask; Protestor points

October 28, 2011 | Jamie Hyams

The Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange prompted various editorials. The worst, an inaccuracy-riddled effort in the Age (20/10), remarkably expressed the hope that the exchange would “prompt a rethink in Israel” and “be an incentive to renew negotiations”. It doubted it would be, continuing, “In part, this is because Mr Netanyahu…refuses to end Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian land.” This is clearly untrue, as the recent ten-month moratorium on building of houses in settlements demonstrated. That this did not lead to negotiation shows that Palestinian intransigence, not building within the existing boundaries of settlements is the problem. In addition, the land is not “Palestinian”. The borders are to be settled by negotiation. The editorial goes on to advocate that Israel “accept Mr Abbas’s conditions for talks.” It should urge the Palestinians to talk without preconditions, as the Middle East Quartet proposed. Similarly, the Sydney Morning Herald editorial (20/10) stated, “The Israeli Prime Minister should also be reviewing his stance toward the Palestinian Authority.”

Islamist victory in Tunisia

Islamist victory in Tunisia, but still hope for Arab democracy

October 26, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Here is something that I would not have been able to write until today: with election results pouring in, Tunisia’s Enahda party has declared victory. In its breakdown of the results thus far, Tunisia’s fledgling English-language news agency Tunisia Live has reported that Enahda has won 43 of the 101 seats so far declared in the 217-seat Constituent Assembly and is expected to win a further 45, making a total of 88 seats or roughly 41% of the total. The Assembley will be tasked with appointing an interim government and will then have a year to design and implement a new constitution, allowing for Parliamentary and Presidential elections to be held.

Al Jazeera‘s live election blog has reported that as it searches for coalition partners,  Enahda issued a press statement indicating that it would cooperate with other parties and attempt to represent all Tunisians.

“We are pleased to see that the political climate has left behind the tension that was naturally part of the election campaign, and we are pleased to hear mature and responsible stances from political leaders. We certainly need to learn new democratic principles, including the fact that the opposition has an important role to play…

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