Ed: 39: April/2014
When the memoirs of Robert Gates were released in Australia in mid-January, much was made of his alleged criticisms of US President Barack Obama. Gates was a holdover from the Bush Administration and a lifelong Republican, as well as the former head of the CIA; so those already inclined to be critical of Obama - or for that matter inclined to leap to his defence - might be expected to jump on any criticism of the President by his former Secretary of Defence.
Yet what emerges unequivocally from the memoir is not Gates's criticism of Obama, but his lavish praise of the man.
For most of the twentieth century, inter-Arab politics were dominated by the doctrine of pan-Arabism, postulating the existence of "a single nation bound by the common ties of language, religion and history... behind the facade of a multiplicity of sovereign states". No single issue dominated this doctrine more than the "Palestine question" with anti-Zionism forming the main common denominator of pan-Arab solidarity and its most effective rallying cry. But the actual policies of the Arab states have shown far less concern for pan-Arab ideals, let alone for the well-being of the Palestinians, than for their own self-serving interests.
Some years ago, I was invited to attend the Annual Policy Conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. At that time, attendance was in the hundreds and the agenda narrowly focused.
This year I returned to AIPAC as an invited speaker on the subject "Israel and Asia - New Frontiers?" - in recognition of AIJAC's work in this region.
Estimates of total attendance at the conference ranged from 14,000 to as many as 17,000 people...
Who sends hate mail with antisemitic themes? A German researcher got a shock when she tried to answer this question.
Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a linguistics professor at the Technical University of Berlin, and her team read 14,000 letters and emails addressed over ten years to Germany's Central Council of Jews and the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Working with Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, an American historian and past president of Brandeis University, she published the result of her research in a new study (currently available only in German) "The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century."
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's position that a permanent status agreement resulting in a two state solution must include explicit Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is rejected by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, and is a key point of contention in the peace process.
Khaled Abu Toameh, veteran Palestinian Affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post and other major international media, told a group of AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on February 28 that current US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appeared almost certain to fail no matter what Israel says or does, principally because Israel's negotiating partner Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lacks the credibility and mandate to implement any agreement.
The Palestinian leadership will never agree to a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines and an end to the conflict with Israel unless all of its demands are met, but that does not mean Israel should not take the initiative towards a two-state outcome. That was a core message of renowned Israeli journalist, commentator and author Ehud Yaari who recently visited Australia as a guest of AIJAC.
Since 2011, Indonesia - home to the largest Muslim community in the world - has been conducting a dialogue on democracy with Egypt and Tunisia. This has largely been triggered by Indonesia's ambition to advance democracy in the Muslim, and especially Arab, states and to prove in the international arena that Islam is compatible with democracy and modernity.
As US Secretary of State John Kerry's self-imposed nine-month deadline for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations approaches, evidence is growing that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas' true objective may not be to strike a deal that would give his people a state, but rather to run away from such a pact and the difficult compromises it would entail.