Today President Obama arrived in Israel for his first official visit to the Jewish State since being elected to high office in 2008. His trip, while lauded by many as a continuing sign of the important relationship shared between the United States and Israel, is also circumspect to those who consider this President’s approach towards Israel as less than amicable. But whichever side of the debate one chooses to support, it is increasingly clear that President Obama’s brief journey to the Holy Land is as much about where he is visiting as it is about where he is not.

kotel-western-wall-03

Topping the agenda, the President will on Thursday address a group of mostly Israeli university students at Jerusalem’s convention center. The speech, which is said to be the main reason for this trip is already garnering considerable criticism for those who are and are not invited to attend it. On Friday, he is scheduled to visit YadVashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, and mount Herzl where he will lay wreaths in recognition of modern-day Zionism at the grave of its founding father Theodore Herzl, and that of the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. Missing from the President’s route will most notably be the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, nor will he address or visit the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, as the four previous Presidents to visit Israel have, both of which are customary for many visiting dignitaries.  Read the rest of this entry »

 “..history will be the judge as to whether Bibi saved Mofaz or perhaps its vise-versa, by the efficacy of this coalition and the change it seeks to implement.”

The unexpected announcement early this morning by Kadima spokesman Yuval Harel that his party would soon join a Likud led coalition government, sent shockwaves through the Israeli political establishment and sent media outlets scrambling for information.  The statement confirmed by President Shimon Peres now in Canada, came on the foot heels of a call this past Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for early elections to be held this fall on September 4th 2012. Adding to the confusion was the fact that only hours before, Israel’s Parliament the Knesset, held a late night debate and vote to dissolve the legislature, which would have allowed its members the opportunity to begin their campaigns as soon as possible. But now that the elections have effectively been canceled by the new unity government, this decision has fueled just as much speculation as it has controversy as to the reasons behind this hastily struck deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

“The decision to burn these books can be most likely attributed to insensitivity rather than a malevolent attempt at cultural domination, and with the real cause for contempt here being a less than simple matter of logistics.”

Nothing provokes religious  indignation like the burning of sacred texts, the very mention of which conjures images of medieval church practice, inquisition and pogrom, or the more recent communist and fascist purges of the 20th century. In the annals of history, book burnings were a useful way for those in or seizing power to consolidate their authority, seeing to it that many opposing, creative, but mainly religious thoughts would be lost to humanity in this crude and ominous way. As books represented the freedom one could obtain through learning and faith, limiting access to those materials kept the masses of those ages subjugated to the educated elites and worse yet ignorant of their own culture.

It’s not surprising then that the recently discovered attempt by US forces in Afghanistan to burn copies of the Koran, the 7th Century tome sacred to Islam, would invoke outrage and protest. However the decision to burn these books can be most likely attributed to insensitivity rather than a malevolent attempt at cultural domination, and with the real cause for contempt here being a less than simple matter of logistics. As allied forces cease operations and withdraw from some areas of the region the need to dispose of materials is only natural, and while incineration seems acceptable enough for most items, the lack of distinction for scripture is numbing, so that the message conveyed and outcome is no less troubling than its medieval predecessor.

Read the rest of this entry »

“As the absolute model of a free society, the United States is expected to be democracy’s steadfast guardian”

Earlier Today the U.N. Security Council voted 10-0 with five abstentions to impose a no-fly zone on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. For the past month, his tyrannical regime has been in conflict with at first pro-democracy demonstrators and more recently rebel forces trying to overthrow his 42 year dictatorial rule. He has in his own words promised “no mercy” for the opposition, and not content with merely shooting protesters, has used all the military might at his disposal including artillery and air power to destroy the rag-tag militias fighting him.

But while the war rages on in Libya and pro-Gaddafi forces gain the upper hand, opposition forces pleas for western intervention have largely been met with little action. Much of the criticism has been directed at the United States for its indecisiveness towards the Libyan situation, choosing in its own words to “review all options” in contrast to its staunch support of removing longtime ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt just one month ago. The leadership role vacated by the US has in this instance been filled by European allies such as Britain and France that lobbied heavily for the UN resolution, and who will undoubtedly take a major military role should it be necessary in ousting Gaddafi from Libya. Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

“In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end”

Revolutions it has been said are hard to predict, and although autocratic regimes are fertile grounds for fundamental change, history shows that most attempts at it often fail or go unnoticed. An incident as commonplace as a young Tunisian being beaten and robbed by corrupt authorities should have remained strictly speaking a domestic incident. But the uprising his ultimately tragic response of self-emoliation has sparked across the Arab world caught even the most astute middle-east analysts off guard, and is having greater regional and international consequences. From North Africa to the Persian Gulf and even as far as China, demonstrators inspired by the results similar protests have had first in Tunisia and then Egypt, are taking to the streets demanding democratic reforms and a freer society. Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: ,