Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East

Priest tells UN: Israel is the “only safe place” for Christians in the Middle East

November 12, 2014 | Sharyn Mittelman

Today Christians are the most persecuted religious minority in the world, according to a new report by Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. At the launch of the report, Prince Charles commented in a video message, “It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries.”

At this time of suffering and persecution of Christian communities throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population is safe and growing. This important point was recently made in a powerful speech in Arabic to the UN Human Rights Council by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth.

US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections

US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections

November 12, 2014

This Update features comment on how last week’s US Congressional election – which saw the Republicans gain control of the Senate to add to their majority in the House of Representatives and made other major political gains – may affect US Middle East policy up until Nov. 2016, when a successor to US President Barack Obama will be elected.

Carr's tall tales on settlement growth just plain false

Carr’s tall tales on settlement growth just plain false

November 11, 2014 | Ahron Shapiro

In his op-ed in the Weekend Australian, “Why I’m now a friend of Palestine rather than Israel” (paywall restricted) the new patron of the Labor Friends of Palestine, former foreign minister Bob Carr, makes the claim that “they [Israel’s settlements] have doubled in the past 54 months alone”.

This claim appears to be unsubstantiated fiction that may serve no useful purpose except to promote two complete and utter falsehoods: that new settlements are being built; and that housing expansion for Jews in the West Bank is higher than historical averages.

Al-Aqsa

Al-Aqsa, incitement and the car intifada

November 10, 2014 | Jamie Hyams

Some say that Israel may be in the grip of a “third intifada”. While the first was characterised by civil disobedience, rioting and rock-throwing, and the second by large scale terrorism, most notable suicide bombing, this one has so far featured attacks by drivers ramming their cars into pedestrians, a far more difficult form of attack to prevent. Such an intifada would be disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians, but at least some of the impetus for it appears to be coming from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself.

Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS

Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS

November 7, 2014 | Sharyn Mittelman

Terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula has escalated, and recently jihadist groups there have pledged their support to the ‘Islamic State’. In the worst assault in years, two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai on October 24 killed at least 33 Egyptian soldiers.  In response, Egypt declared a state of emergency, closed its Rafah border crossing with the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, and decreed that it would demolish 800 homes along the Gaza border, displacing around 10,000 people, to create a 500 metre wide buffer zone with Gaza in order to prevent fighters and weapons streaming into Egypt.

Sorry

Sorry, Tony: UNSC 242 says borders are negotiable

November 3, 2014 | Ahron Shapiro

Tony Walker’s recent column “First Principles in the Middle East” (AFR, October 25 – subscription required) resurrected a specious claim about UN Security Council Resolution 242 – the blueprint passed in November 1967 that created the land-for-peace formula for peace between Israel and its neighbours.

Walker claimed that the “Lack of the definite article ‘the’ before the word ‘territories’ has been misinterpreted by Israeli propagandists to argue [UNSC 242’s call for Israeli withdrawal] does not extend to all territories occupied in 1967.”

However, an examination of the stated intent of the resolution’s drafters, the newspaper accounts of the time it was written and passed, and expert analysis shows that the real misinterpretation here is by Walker.

The Success of Islamist Propaganda

The Success of Islamist Propaganda

October 30, 2014

In the wake of a series of apparent Islamist “lone wolf” terror attacks in Canada and New York, this Update looks at the sophisticated media strategy that Islamist groups – and especially ISIS – are increasingly employing to further their cause and recruit volunteers and sympathisers. It also looks at Hamas’ social media strategy during the recent Gaza conflict.

The reality TV test

The reality TV test

October 15, 2014 | Gabrielle Debinski

Furore erupted throughout the Arab world last week when the Saudi owned MBC TV network referred to “Israel” on a world map it showed on its popular TV program, Arab Idol, rather than using the name “Palestine”. MBC was forced to issue an apology after it identified Israel as the country of origin of two female Arab Israeli contestants, Manal Moussa and Haitham Khalailah, both from villages in northern Israel. Almost immediately, fuming viewers took to social media to air their anger with what they referred to as the Saudi-TV network’s “serious offence.”

The two women, aged 24 and 25 respectively, are the first Arab Israelis to ever participate in the singing competition, which launched its new season in mid-September. The reality TV show, based on the original British version of Pop Idol, boasts tens of millions of viewers and reportedly, is the most widely watched program across the entire Arab world.

US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza

US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza

October 15, 2014

This Update deals with the international donors conference for Gaza that took place in Cairo on Sunday, and led to pledges of US$5.4 billion in money to be divided equally between Gaza reconstruction and the Palestinian Authority.

We lead with a critique of the likely effects of the conference from veteran Israeli Arab Affairs journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Toameh argues that despite the promises to funnel the money through the Palestinian Authority (PA), the donors are nonetheless empowering Hamas, which will benefit politically from the money and be able to use its other resources to dig tunnels and rebuild weapons.

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end?

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end?

October 8, 2014

This Update is devoted to some increasingly pessimistic prognoses that are appearing for the p5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) nuclear talks with Iran that are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 25.

First up is Canadian-American author and columnist David Frum, who congratulates Iran’s negotiators, arguing they have convincingly won the encounter with their American and allied counterparts, even though, as of last year, the cards seemed to all be in the Americans’ hands as sanctions were having significant negative effects on the Iranian economy.

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