Ed: 41: April/2016
Building bridges with art and culture is a time-honoured tradition. It could be a partnership between musicians from countries in conflict, or a fine art exhibition aiming to break down the gap between different parts of the world. Whatever the form, the arts can serve to create empathy, understanding and identification in situations where it might not otherwise exist.
The word "antisemitism" currently has a strange aura around it. There is a curious reluctance on the part of some people to use it even on occasions when it seems unequivocally appropriate - like, for example, the murder of Jewish children and a Jewish teacher in a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, committed avowedly "to avenge Palestinian children." The word itself sometimes seems to have an almost uncanny quality - a "killer word" as some cynics have put it, like a nuclear bomb that must never actually be used!
SBS reporter Rena Sarumpaet's report on a series of multiple Palestinian terror attacks carried out on March 8 stated that "this latest flare up is a reminder of how paralysed peace talks are, critics citing a United States distracted by more immediate concerns such as Syria and IS."
This is relativist nonsense that attempts to hold Israel, the US and the Palestinians as equally responsible for both the violence and the lack of peace talks. The Palestinian Authority's (PA) Foreign Minister recently said the PA would "never" again directly negotiate with Israel, rejecting Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu's repeated invitations to enter unconditional peace talks.
"Similar to a class traitor," is how one BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) activist struggled to explain to another on Twitter the words of Bassem Eid, the Palestinian human rights advocate who has become a forceful voice against the BDS movement. It was not the first time that Eid has been called a traitor or worse, but his history, which is far better known to his Palestinian countrymen than to Westerners, gives the lie to such epithets.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's controversial visit to Australia prompted cautious support and stinging criticism of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for extending the invitation and appearing at a joint press conference.
On March 11, the Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan wrote, "the Iranian government has absolutely no intention of becoming a responsible player," Bishop risked "her integrity as a political leader through her political embrace of Iran" and noted Iran still spouts "hate-filled, anti-American, anti-Israel and frequently anti-Semitic rhetoric."
Muhammad Al-Amadi, a Qatari envoy charged with overseeing the emirate's funding of Gaza's rebuilding, recently inaugurated a new neighbourhood near Khan Younis in the southern Strip, completely paid for by his country. "Hamad City", named in honour of the father of the current ruler of Qatar, constitutes some 1,040 new housing units for Gaza's homeless.
The Hamas Government instituted a lottery in which those who had no home could register to win apartments for free. But that was not what was really going on.
Fresh from hosting 57 countries over March 13-14 at a special two-day Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit on the Palestinian question, Indonesia's diplomatic foray into the issue was set to be symbolically crowned with the opening of an honorary consulate in Ramallah and meetings with Palestinian leadership. But Israel refused to grant Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi an entry visa from Jordan to the West Bank, because the Minister declined to meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.
US Vice President Joe Biden visited Ramallah on March 9, and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his top officials are laughing their heads off.
Why not laugh? Biden arrived in the region hoping to persuade the Palestinian leaders to issue a "condemnation" of the reign of terror, which they continue to describe as a "popular and peaceful uprising." This in itself reeks of gallows humor.
Israeli Arab journalist Lucy Aharish has been shattering glass ceilings all her life and looks certain to continue to do so. Ms. Aharish is an anchor on Israel's Channel 2 with her own interview show and until recently presented the evening edition on i24news. She is notable as the first Israeli Arab to be a news anchor on Hebrew language Israeli television, and last April she was awarded one of Israel's top honours, to light a torch at Israel's Independence Day ceremony.
What a lot of people seem to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict boils down to one word: "occupation". Palestinians are living under occupation, this is seen as the root of the conflict, and ending this situation is seen as synonymous with ending the conflict (never mind that the conflict predates any "occupation")...
Now occupation is of course undesirable, and should be ended with a sustainable two-state resolution as soon as possible. But occupation as such is not the terrible "crime" that Palestinian supporters like to paint it as...