Ed: 39: November/2014
The United States and its allies have launched a military campaign whose stated goal is, in the words of US President Barack Obama, to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) established by Sunni jihadis in a contiguous land area stretching from western Iraq to the Syrian-Turkish border.
As the aerial campaign begins in earnest, many observers are wondering what exactly its tactical and strategic objectives are, and how they will be achieved.
It is no accident that hardly anyone involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations has expressed optimism about meeting the November 24 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. The Iranian and US governments are continuing to meet regularly but there are few signs of meaningful progress.
Indeed, the essence of the deal that has always made most sense - a rollback of the Iranian nuclear program in return for a rollback of sanctions - seems increasingly beyond reach.
"Excuse me, looking for a guide?" While standing in the plaza outside of Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs - the burial place of Judaism's great patriarchs and matriarchs and its second holiest site, I was approached by a Palestinian man in his early twenties, waving a brochure.
I wasn't really looking for a guide - I had come to the city to independently review the situation and compare it to some of the recent reports I had seen in Australian media.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has returned to the international spotlight following its July pledge of allegiance to ISIS and its 24 September threat to behead a 71-year-old German hostage unless a US$5.6 million ransom was paid and Germany pledged to quit the coalition attacking the Islamic State. Both moves were opportunistic attempts to get back into international media attention following years of decline.
Today, the ASG is a localised kidnap for ransom gang with few if any ties to global terrorism. That's not to write it off: Its resurgence comes at a time when the United States is drawing down its presence in the southern Philippines, and this will give the resilient ASG a new lease on life.
Another month and another display of the mainstream media's enthusiasm for reporting, largely uncritically, anti-Israel propaganda that bears little relation to the truth about Israeli building in settlements and east Jerusalem.
In New York, the Metropolitan Opera began showcasing the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer", which has rarely been praised on the basis of artistic merit but gained notoriety for promoting a moral equivalence between murderers (in this case, terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front) and their victim (in this case, wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer).
Charles Ascher Small and other scholars have outlined some of the intellectual and moral failings of the opera, which begin with the title - why wasn't it accurately dubbed "The Murder", rather than "The Death"?
On October 22, Palestinian terrorist Abd al-Rahman al-Shaloudi ploughed his car into a packed light-rail stop in Jerusalem, murdering newborn Chaya Zisel Baron and Ecuadorian student Karen Yemina Mosquera and injuring eight other Israelis. Al-Shaloudi, who was shot and killed by Israeli police, appears to have been affiliated with Hamas. However what was particularly worrying was the response by official media and senior officials in the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas' Fatah movement published an online tribute describing al-Shaloudi as a "heroic martyr" to be saluted for his "Jerusalem operation, in which settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem were run over." A senior aide to Abbas, Sultan Abu al-Einein, hailed him as a "heroic Martyr" who was "murdered in cold blood."
This is part of a larger trend.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about how Israel is supposedly becoming a more right-wing, less democratic and more "racist" society. Anecdotal evidence cited to support this view usually includes things like controversial Israeli legislative proposals, incidents of racist violence or vandalism, and racially problematic statements by public figures there.
On a sublime autumn afternoon my bus rumbles towards the Rue des Rosiers. It is the heart of Paris, the heart of the Marais quarter, and also the heart of the Jewish community. Or it was.
As the bus passes the Louvre, a bleak plaster wall is covered with a huge piece of graffiti. It is the detritus of riots a few weeks earlier, ostensibly aimed at supporting Gaza but also trashing synagogues and Jewish shops. The graffiti contains a simple message: "Paris Loves Gaza".
Almost unnoticed, Sept. 1, 2014 marked the 75th Anniversary of the commencement of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, formally unleashing the darkest chapter in European history. However, insofar as the European Jewish community is concerned, we must ask: has the situation once again come full circle, endangering Jewish life in Europe?
Today, merely 75 years after World War II commenced and 69 years after the Holocaust concluded, antisemitism and hatred against Jews are once again at record levels.