Ed: 38: June/2013
The era of bad feeling that once governed Israel's relations with the eastern superpowers has been over for nearly a quarter-of-a-century.
Having exchanged ambassadors in the aftermath of the Cold War with both Moscow and Beijing, the Jewish State's trade with the two has since grown exponentially, as China became a major client of Israeli technology and Russia a major supplier of Israel's oil.
Tyler's preoccupations are those of J Street and the Israeli revisionist historians. He is out to prove a point. Pinto looks at Israel through multiple, often unfamiliar lenses and is rich in humane sympathies. Tyler finds excuses again and again for Arab terrorism, while excoriating Israeli counter-measures "brutal".
The welcome mat put out for Netanyahu in Beijing is part of a growing trend across East, South and Southeast Asia. Israel's reputation as the "start-up nation" - a dynamic economy centred on hi-tech, innovation and entrepreneurship - is causing regional leaders to sit up and take notice. And for their part, Israeli leaders - long heavily focused on the US and Europe - are starting to make the Asian region a new priority.
And so the Prisoner X story came full circle, with ABC "Foreign Correspondent" reporter Trevor Bormann on May 7 following up on his February 12 expose that Melbourne-born Ben Zygier was Israel's mysterious "Prisoner X".
After the original broadcast, it appeared that Bormann's scoop had been largely superannuated when former Fairfax Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis stepped forward to share his interactions with Zygier in the months leading up to his arrest.
Readers of the Australian media will recall several instances of reports highlighting NGO claims that Israel engages in "torture" of Palestinian prisoners. What they will not likely have heard is that there are far more credible allegations of torture on a large scale against Palestinian security forces in both the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, the worst of the cases on the Palestinian side appear to be genuine torture as most people would understand it - which is not necessarily the case with many of the Israeli cases alleged.
Amongst the outcomes of that conference was the "London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism", which has attracted many Australian signatories in recent days, including the Prime Minister, every member of the Federal Coalition, and leading NSW State MPs.
In Australia, despite what those gullible enough to believe the insipid public contributions to the public discussion on the subject by Professor Stuart Rees may think, condemning antisemitism has little if any electoral benefits and actually attracts criticism from some on the political left (which once, in the past, trumpeted anti-racism).
In South Africa, the question that haunted me was: am I crazy or is everyone around me out of their collective mind? The same question occurred again last month when I heard that the eminent Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, basing himself on "advice from Palestinian academics", had thrown in his lot with the boycott industry, which seeks to demonise and delegitimise Israel as the direct descendant of the original apartheid state.
Here they go again: Every four years, theocratic Iran holds presidential elections. If that sounds like a contradiction, if not an oxymoron, that's because it is. On the one hand, virtually all power ostensibly rests with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who claims to represent God's ultimate sovereignty on earth. On the other, the elected president (also ostensibly) represents the republican principle of popular sovereignty. This time around, about 700 people have registered to run, though no more than seven of them can be considered serious candidates. Once the list of eight "vetted" candidates was announced on May 21, the world got an idea how Khamenei and his allies in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) will attempt to tackle the challenges facing the country: faltering economy, tightened sanctions, nuclear negotiations, and the future of Syria.
On May 21, Iran's unelected Guardian Council presented its slate of approved candidates to run in the Islamic Republic's June 2013 presidential elections. Of the more than 600 who sought to have their name on the ballot, it gave the go-ahead to only eight. They range from hardline supporters of Iran's nuclear program to somewhat more soft-spoken supporters of Iran's nuclear program. Most notably, the Council disqualified 78-year-old former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on account of his age, a somewhat ironic move considering Ahmad Jannati, the Council's chairman, is 86, and revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was 77 when he led Iran's revolution.
More recently, however, the town has gained notoriety in Israel - some would say the town has become infamous - because of its proximity to the international border with Syria, and to the civil war that has ravaged that country for more than two years. The fighting is clearly audible from Majdal Shams, with the sound of explosions filling the air from the east almost every day.