Ed: 38: March/2013
On January 24, many Sunni Muslims celebrated the birth of Islam's founder Muhammad. As the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh reported, Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced during a ceremony to mark this occasion that Hamas was planning to establish a "military academy" that would offer training to children as young as 12. The children attending the school would be able to "graduate with a diploma or a BA in military affairs."
The parliamentary elections in Jordan on Jan. 23, 2013 failed to produce a clear answer as to the impact of the Arab uprisings on the Kingdom's real balance of power between the establishment, headed by King Abdullah, and the opposition, led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Both sides stayed deeply entrenched in their initial positions, with the King insisting on holding the election within the limited changes he agreed to, and the Brotherhood insisting on boycotting it given the government's refusal to accept its demands regarding amendments to the election law.
The recent announcement by Bulgarian authorities that two Hezbollah agents - including one Australian national - were being sought in connection with the deadly July 2012 Burgas bombing of a bus filled with Israeli tourists should serve as a wake up call for Australia, EU and the wider global community to list all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
The justification for a ban is so compelling, the evidence so overwhelming, that it shouldn't be necessary to argue the case for proscribing the group.
As a former head of the Australian Jewish community and now resident in Israel, I was bombarded with endless calls from the Israeli and global media soliciting comment on Ben Zygier, the Australian who committed suicide while in solitary confinement in an Israeli prison.
There is a great deal we don't know or that is pure speculation about the tragic story of Ben Zygier/Prisoner X.
But here is one thing we absolutely do know about this saga - the NGO Human Rights Watch again demonstrated that it does not need any confirmed facts whatsoever to condemn Israel.
The original ABC-TV "Foreign Correspondent" story on Feb. 12 which revealed Ben Zygier as the alleged Prisoner X quoted Bill van Esveld of Human Rights Watch extensively.
What is an academic and cultural boycott of Israel intended to achieve? The purported reason for launching a universal boycott of Israeli academics is their country's alleged breaches of international law. Supposedly, the smarting academics will help turn around Israeli policy... Of course, those Israeli academics who are smarting will tend to do the opposite, to fight back like the rest of us when pushed against the wall. The academic boycott will never be effective in its supposed objective of changing Israeli policies.
Jumping to hasty assessments can often be a mistake but, sometimes, looking further into those same assessments can lead to interesting discoveries. When first asked to write a column about coverage of the recent Israeli elections in New Zealand I said, without too much thought, "there wasn't much". Yet my research on the topic very quickly showed that assumption was, in fact, not correct.
When it was confirmed that the controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders would be visiting Australia, supporters of Australia's model of cultural diversity considered the most appropriate responses.
Given that Australia has a raft of federal and state laws designed to protect targets of racist demonisation and harassment and, in some constituencies, religious vilification, there was a strong argument that he would either respect our laws or deal with the consequences.
Judging by his first State of the Union address since his reelection, US President Barack Obama will focus in his second term on domestic issues - from the deficit, defence spending, and neglected bridges to the minimum wage, gun control and trade relations.
After all this, there was very little time left in his speech for foreign affairs. Israel was only mentioned once and the Palestinians were not mentioned at all. Then again, several days earlier the White House had announced that Obama would be arriving in Israel on March 20 for a three-day visit that will include a sortie to Ramallah, and be followed by a visit to Jordan.
AIR correspondent Andrew Friedman caught up with Professor Eytan Gilboa, Director of the School of Communications at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on US-Israel relations, for an exclusive briefing about the presidential visit, the state of US-Israel ties and how these relate to general US policy in the Middle East.