Abdullah

The return to Zion has been a trope in Jewish history for more than 3,000 years. It pertains to the people Israel itself. And it applies also to individual Jews, both in the abstract and in the tactile, as a matter of conscience and as a fact of communality. You will know already from my other writings just how much I pity those Jews who are alienated from these considerations or, worse yet, haven’t the slightest idea of what I mean. Of course, ignorance of one’s past can excuse a lot. But it’s not a satisfying answer to inquiring children.

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The king of Saudi Arabia is once again making headlines for overturning a court ruling that sentenced a woman to ten lashes for driving a car. For many, this is further proof that King Abdullah is a force for moderation and reform. Fareed Zakaria, for example, has called the Saudi dictator a “man of wisdom and moderation.” Then again, the king could also have considered stopping the recent beheading of Abdul Hamid Al Fakki for the crime of “sorcery.” Instead, he chose to do nothing.

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Sunday’s announcement that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had granted Saudi women the right to vote and stand for office in municipal elections was big news around the world. At a glance, it certainly sounded like terrific news—what, after all, is a more direct emblem of the march of progress than the right to vote? But while the announcement may represent some very marginal progress, Saudi Arabia remains one of the worst places on earth to be a woman.

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There may be some bad feelings wafting across the Jordan River. But, even in a now more tense Middle East, the relationship between the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel is pretty well-tempered. There is constant contact between their intelligence services; there is cooperative work being done to rescue the Dead Sea from being no sea at all; the two countries coordinate research on the 500 million birds which migrate between them in the Jordan rift valley, the crossing from Asia and Europe to Africa ...

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There’s just so much press attention the Arab world can receive before even obsessives like me begin to tire of its frenzy, pitilessness, and perfidy. Yes, endless repetition of violence and violation can also seem routine. Which, to tell you God’s honest truth, they are. There is a great deal of exactitude behind this morbid fact. Still, the present upheavals in their cumulative impact are deadening. Not only to the victims of the regimes but to their observers, commentators, rapporteurs. Actually, many of these observers, perhaps most, are infatuated with the Arabs.

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Dictators in Turmoil

Dictatorships fear nothing quite like they fear a mob in the streets. In Tunis and Cairo, however, it was not mobs that gathered but crowds. Non-violent crowds, thoughtful crowds. Alas, there were some 300 dead among the protestors. So this was not exactly a costless revolution in terms of human life. Still, the dynamics that unfolded in Tahrir Square were rooted in peaceful communications. In many ways this was a re-enactment of the Committees of Correspondence. These were initiated in 1773 by Dabney Carr, an intimate of Thos.

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Overstated

The most durable myth in the Middle East is: "It's Palestine, stupid." It lies at the heart of Barack Obama's Middle East diplomacy, which is why the president has been pummeling the Israelis and pushing the Palestinians to resume talks. According to this myth, the most urgent problem is not the Iranian bomb or Syrian ambitions. It is not Egypt, once an anchor of stability and now slipping into precarious irrelevance. It is not Iraq, which is tottering between occupation and anarchy. It is not Al Qaeda in Yemen, the return of the Taliban, or the ticking time bomb that is Pakistan.

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This story is about Pakistan and the flood that has desolated so much of it. The headline appeared in this morning’s Times of London. The U.S.

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It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance. Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus.

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The news was simple. It was leaked two weeks ago.

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