Ed: 40: January/2015
The third international conference on the Challenges of Warfare in Densely Populated Areas was held on December 2 at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
This year's conference was held just three months after the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, the military escalation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that led to over 2,000 Palestinian deaths (at a combatant/non-combatant ratio hewing close to 1:1 according to ongoing research by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre).
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a Middle East analyst who has repeatedly travelled to Syria and Iraq to understand the complex network of jihadist groups currently fighting there. He was recently in Australia and New Zealand as a guest of AIJAC.
Spyer told a Melbourne audience that the Middle East faces its greatest change since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, as "borders which had seemed to be permanent between states are fading into irrelevance... and new political forces are on the rise."
Twenty-two months into a maximum four-year term, Israelis are going to the polls again on March 17, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dismissed two of his ministers - Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua and Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid - and dissolved his governing coalition.
Few Israelis will be happy about voting again so quickly, but Netanyahu stated he could no longer tolerate the destructive criticism of his government from within his own cabinet.
If Muhammad can't come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Muhammad. And that's exactly what Smadar Nehab and Sami Saadi set out to do when they established Tsofen (Compass) in Nazareth eight years ago. Tsofen is an Arab-Jewish NGO promoting job placement solutions for young unemployed Israeli Arab software engineers who graduated from Israeli universities.
I know a country that is so racist it has public holidays associated with one religious faith, thus excluding and marginalising those who follow other religions or no religion. It is so racist that it has a symbol of one religious faith on its flag. Furthermore, in this country, the main calendar used by government is one that is mostly associated with a specific religious faith. It is so racist it provides special benefits and pensions to individuals who served in the armed forces - thus effectively discriminating against those minorities who are less likely to choose to serve in the armed forces. Plus, this racist country even prohibits interaction with enemy states during wartime, which clearly discriminates against members of the community originating in those enemy states.
The words were delivered in a matter of fact manner. The speakers were calm, rational, authentic and authoritative.
The information the two men shared was spine-chilling. Both were from the Central African Republic. One Christian, one Muslim, each committed to their faith and to the well-being of their faith communities.
Talking about violence, destruction of religious institutions, mass murder and lawlessness. But talking together.
The venue was the 5th World Peace Forum in Jakarta, an impressive event assembled by the huge Indonesian Muslim group Muhammadiyah, the Malaysian Cheng Ho Multicultural Trust and the Centre for Dialogue and Cooperation among Civilisations (CDCC).
We Palestinians can no longer deny our responsibility for the destiny of our people. For 26 years I have been devoting my life to the mission of defending human rights. I have seen wars and terror. I live in Jerusalem and was brought up in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camp in Shuafat, a refugee camp like 58 other UNRWA refugee camps created for the sole purpose of keeping Palestinian Arab people in "temporary" conditions, for 65 years, under the false pretence and specious promise of the "right of return" to pre-1948 villages that do not exist.
As a proud Palestinian, I must take responsibility for what will happen to our people.
UNRWA, to continue its operation, depends on death and the visible suffering of five million Palestinians who continue to wallow in and around UNRWA facilities.
Autumn ended early for Israelis this year, as winds were ruffling Jerusalem's foliage already in October and by November heavy rains poured down on Tel Aviv. Still, by early December the politicians had stolen winter's thunder, having rushed into an unseasonable election blanketed in a thick fog.
Israel has had 33 cabinets during its 66 years, but its legislatures have on average been almost twice as durable as its governments, ordinarily lasting at least three years, and in seven cases surviving their full prescribed four-year terms.
Israelis don't directly vote for PM candidates. In a parliamentary system like ours, one votes for a party - namely, an ideology. But, alas, Israel's parties, except for very few, have little to offer as far as ideology is concerned...
Is she a hawk? Is she a dove? Livni can take her seat in a government headed by Yitzhak Herzog and in one headed by Binyamin Netanyahu. The same is true for Lapid, Kahlon, Lieberman, Shas and United Torah Judaism. The same is true for Herzog himself and for Netanyahu.
The State of the Islamic Caliphate (known as the Islamic State, IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), which was declared by self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has fundamentally altered the reality of the Middle East and threatens to reshuffle the geopolitical cards, change the map of existing state borders, and undermine all the Muslim states as separate national entities.