Ed: 39: May/2014
Europeans go to the polls in May to elect 751 members of the European Parliament for the next five years. Expect surprises. Not that the European Parliament carries much clout; clout is reserved for the army of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels and the sprinkling of political appointees.
The surprises will come from the pop-up political parties which are, first and foremost, opposed to the stifling embrace of the EU and which long for a return to the days when the European Project aimed to be simply a tariff-free trading bloc, without the accretions of monetary and political union, along with the slew of regulations and directives that now flow from Brussels.
"Do the Jews Really Control America?" asked one Chinese newsweekly headline in 2009. The factoids doled out in such articles and in books about Jews in China - for example: "The world's wealth is in Americans' pockets; Americans are in Jews' pockets" - would rightly be seen to be alarming in other contexts. But in China, where Jews are widely perceived as clever and accomplished, they are meant as compliments.
In 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry looked at the Middle East, saw enormous upheaval, and judged that the last thing the United States needed was to add to this upheaval. In his view, as long as there was a certain level of stability between Israelis and Palestinians, Washington's task was to build upon it and make certain it was not lost. He also believed that his personal relations with the two leaders gave him the potential to produce an agreement.
The issue of water rights in the West Bank is constantly raised in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, appearing again and again in public discourse around the world. According to critics of Israel, the Jewish state selfishly exploits the area's water supplies and denies access to the local population. In doing so, the critics say, Israel is not only abandoning its responsibilities to the West Bank Palestinians, but ruthlessly and illegally abusing the natural resources of the occupied territory.
During 47 years in the public eye, Ehud Olmert has spent more time in and around the court system than any other Israeli politician.
Israel's twelfth Prime Minister had been repeatedly suspected, investigated and indicted for assorted corruption charges, only to end up cleared, though sometimes with a qualifying asterisk. On March 31, at age 68, his luck ran out, as a Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem convicted Olmert of taking NIS 500,000 (~A$156,000) as a bribe back when he was Mayor of Jerusalem.
During the past decade, Western diplomats have been engaged in protracted negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program. Though a deal remains elusive, Western policymakers remain adamant that an agreement is possible. Much of their optimism is driven by a willingness to test the proposition, put forward by their Iranian counterparts, that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons on religious grounds.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis' release on March 25 of a controversial "exposure draft" of new legislation to replace Section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) spawned reactions sensible and nonsensical.
Not one, but three wide-ranging inquiries. Not one, but a body of court cases and judgements. Not one, but hundreds of resolved complaints. But only one, potentially disastrous draft piece of legislation.
The debate over the Federal Government's move to repeal existing laws designed to give victims of racism in Australia some recourse has generated tremendous heat, but little light.
For almost two decades, the provisions of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) have largely been working effectively to balance freedom of speech with protecting Australian citizens against racial vilification.
Unfortunately, as written, the language of the exposure draft of the Freedom of Speech Bill 2014 (FSB) - released by Attorney-General George Brandis on March 25 and intended to replace those provisions of the RDA - threatens to destabilise that delicate balance and roll back the progress that Australia has made in combatting racism and bigotry in our society.
I've written before about the fallacy of media claims alleging that Israel's requirement that a peace treaty with the Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish state" or "nation-state of the Jewish people" is a "new demand". Rather than something the current Netanyahu Government just thought up - possibly to thwart progress toward peace as is sometimes alleged - the idea was pushed during 2007 negotiating sessions by Tzipi Livni, then-Foreign Minister in the Olmert Government, according to the leaked Palestinian documents called the "Palestine papers".