Ed: 36: November/2011
Finally Gilad Shalit, who became known in Israel as ‘everyone's son', has returned home. His liberation led to what can only be called a sense of national euphoria across the Jewish state.
The costs to gain his release after five years of captivity were, objectively, enormous. Among the 1,027 prisoners freed were those estimated to have the blood of 599 people, mostly civilians, on their hands. They include the masterminds of some of the most horrific terror bombings in Israeli history.
The Gilad Shalit deal led to the release of many heinous murderers, and one cannot but feel enormous sympathy for the distress this caused the families of those they murdered.
But if there is one individual who symbolises the incomprehensibly ugly belief system, the determination to murder at all costs, behind the Palestinian cult of suicide terrorism, it is female releasee Wafa al-Bis.
Concerns about growing religious intolerance in Indonesia have been heightened in recent weeks in the wake of violent attacks and restrictive local laws, but legislative moves appear unlikely to address the core problem.
Some recent scene-setting events demonstrate the scope of the problem.
More than a decade after Christian-Muslim clashes killed thousands across Indonesia's Maluku Islands, violence erupted in Ambon on September 11 after a fatal traffic accident in which an ojek (motorcycle-taxi) driven by a Muslim teenager was struck by an automobile driven by a Christian.
Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles, is the only Jewish holiday on which the Bible expressly commands the Jews to be happy. In Israel this Autumn, it turned out not only happy, but euphoric, as abducted Sergeant Gilad Shalit returned home after more than five years of unvisited and unlocated captivity in a Gaza basement. And yet, the national melodrama quickly gave way to a strategic hangover wrapped in moral soul searching.
The public's enlistment for the cause of Shalit's return has been unprecedented. A well organised media campaign, led with remarkable poise by Shalit's parents Noam and Aviva and public relations professionals who say they worked voluntarily, turned a previously anonymous foot soldier into a virtual celebrity and a fixture of the public domain.
Four hundred and seventy seven Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel in the deal to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive by Hamas since 2006, with another 550 to be released in November. The prisoners include some of the most notorious terrorists perpetrators against Israel including individuals involved in the Sbarro and Café Moment suicide bombings, murderers of Nachshon Wachsman and the videotaped October 2000 lynching of IDF reservists Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami in Ramallah.
Israel's new "Iron Dome" anti-rocket active defence system made its operational debut in southern Israel in two rounds of escalation in the fighting along the Gaza strip (April and August 2011). The development of active defence systems in Israel that started with the "Arrow" missile defence system in the early 1990s and in which Iron Dome is the latest chapter has always been accompanied by acrimonious public debate and behind-closed-doors battles within the defence establishment. These battles have been mainly between the political leadership and the professional military echelons - which resisted the diversion of resources from offensive to defensive weapons.
Will US President Barack Obama soon be wearing a T-shirt saying:" I SPENT $3 BILLION OF YOUR TAX MONEY IN LIBYA AND ALL I GOT WAS A LOUSY ISLAMIST REGIME!"?
The answer isn't clear yet, though there are worrisome portents. The main evidence of the moment is the "liberation" speech given by US-backed transitional leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil on October 23, marking the official victory declaration of the NATO-backed rebels. The Associated Press - notoriously cautious about saying the "I" word - characterised the speech as setting out, "A vision for the post-Gaddafi future with an Islamist tint."
On Sunday, October 23, Tunisia held the first democratic elections resulting from this year's regional political upheaval, choosing a new Constituent Assembly with a vaguely defined mandate to govern the country and write a new constitution within a year. With results still coming in at press time, the Islamist Ennahdha (Renaissance) Party - currently led by longtime exiled opposition figure Rachid Ghannouchi, though he has pledged to retire soon - will clearly be the largest faction in the legislature, winning 40 percent or more of the new assembly's seats.
Alvin Rosenfeld is a brave man, and his new work is courageous. The book is called The End of the Holocaust, and it is not reluctant to take on the unexamined pieties that have grown up around the slaughter, and the sentimentalisation that threatens to smother it in meretricious uplift.
On a different scale, but in some ways belonging to the same brand of journalism, was a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald: "A sex guide from Malaysia's Obedient Wives".
The article delivered, as one expert on Malaysia put it, "some richly deserved ridicule" - reporting the "Obedient Wives Club's sex guide" (which it did not name but simply termed "the book") was about "ways a Muslim man can have sex with all of his wives at the same time. Under strict Islamic tradition a man can have up to four wives if he can provide for them all."
Malaysian Insider Online, however, had no hesitation in publishing the book's full title: "Islamic Sex - Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World".