Ed: 37: January/2012
In December 2011, reports from several directions converged to suggest that Hamas is abandoning the sinking ship of Syria: that many senior cadres have already settled in Gaza and only the upper echelon of leadership that bears symbolic meaning still remains in Damascus. By and large those reports are correct. At the same time, Iran has cut its subsidy to Hamas, which now relies mostly on revenues from commerce through the smuggling tunnels, which can hardly support the Gazan economy.
Sydney is a vibrant multicultural metropolis, built by people from many nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and religions.
In the main street of Lakemba, for example, South, West and East Asian, and Anglo-Celtic sounds and sights are part of the rich communal tapestry.
Amongst restaurants, gift shops, welfare agencies, banks and newsagencies, are bookshops which serve Muslims and those interested in Islam and Muslims' opinions.
The US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, addressing a conference on antisemitism on November 30, controversially insisted that Muslim "hatred and indeed sometimes... violence directed at Jews generally [is] a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories" and should therefore not be seen as the same thing as "real" antisemitism. He went on to insist that a Mideast peace deal would see a "huge reduction of this form of labeled ‘antisemitism'."
Don't listen to the nuclear nonsense, screamed one of the main left-wing weeklies, the New Statesman, only days after a sober and authoritative International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report had laid bare Iran's pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
Why do some of our intellectuals find it so very difficult to see dictatorship when it is clear, or to summon up the moral clarity to oppose it? This question has preoccupied me since 9/11. It led me to create the online journal Democratiya and to co-author the statement of principles for a new democratic left, The Euston Manifesto.
Both Palestinian groups and pro-Palestinian Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) often accuse Israel of seeking to "Judaise" Jerusalem. For instance, following their admission to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO in October, one of the things the Palestinian Authority said they wanted to do was sue Israel in international forums for supposedly "systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem." Similarly, at a controversial rally in Cairo on November 25 at which there was also recitation of a hadith [saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad] about killing all Jews, Sheikh Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, proclaimed, "we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaise al-Quds (Jerusalem)."
SBS TV showed a four-part drama, "The Promise", from Britain's Channel 4 and France's Canal+ and Arte France, which was characterised by rampant and crudely propagandistic political messages directed against Israel and Jews, selective, distorted portrayals of historical events, and the sanitising of Arab behaviour throughout the past seven decades.
In a year punctuated by dramatic highs (the All Blacks finally winning the Rugby World Cup) and heartbreaking lows (the Christchurch earthquakes, the aftermath of the Pike River mining disaster), New Zealand's general election seemed to creep up and take many Kiwis by surprise. The lowest voter turnout since 1887 and the long-predicted, largely unsurprising election outcome combined to create something of a feeling that the entire event was merely an exercise in checking off a necessary democratic box.
When the Egyptian revolution came, we stayed home. We are young, liberal Egyptian activists who have dedicated our lives to bettering our country. But from the moment in January the crowds took over Tahrir Square calling for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, we urged observers, particularly Western idealists already hailing the triumph of the new Egypt, to be cautious. We reminded them of Edmund Burke's truism: Bringing down a tyrant is far, far easier than forming a free government.
The real surprise is the emergence of the Salafist al-Nour party, a deeply theocratic organisation that bases its ideology on a literal reading of the Koran and Sunna and, most astoundingly, didn't exist until a few months ago. Although Salafist political activity was, unlike the Brotherhood, completely banned under the Mubarak regime, al-Nour is giving the Brotherhood a run for its money in some districts.
A decade after it last held power, and some two generations after losing its hegemonic sway over Israeli politics - the rehabilitation of Israel's Labor party seems finally underway.
The election in September of Shelly (Rachel) Yachimovich as Labor Chairperson, the eighth election of a party leader since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, appears to reflect an ideological reckoning and a strategic reorientation that, in due course, may well bear electoral fruit.