The demonizing of Israel, dismissing the democratic Jewish state as a right-wing, religious, racist project, continues. The latest storyline describes ultra-Orthodox Israelis—known in Hebrew as haredim—as medieval Neanderthals rapidly converting Israel into an Iran-style theocracy. This popular caricature encourages those liberals seeking excuses to stop supporting Israel.
“The list of controversies grows weekly,” Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, filing from Jerusalem, write in The New York Times.
One evening recently in Rangoon, my friend Ko Ye (not his real name) arrived at the apartment where I was staying, brandishing the latest issue of the weekly newspaper he runs. It was, he announced with great fanfare, a landmark edition: For the first time ever, government censors had allowed him to run a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most prominent dissident, on the cover. The edition also included other previously banned topics: political analysis of U.S. relations with Burma and an article about Martin Luther King that contained the taboo phrase “human rights” in the headline.
A rumor of a possible military coup against Pakistan’s sitting though often invisible president, Asif Ali Zardari, made big headlines in the country this Christmas weekend. Leading newspapers claimed that a selection of top army brass had met in early December with leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), a party led by two-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In the Jewish struggle around Zionism there were at least three strands in opposition so fierce that it was evident that the very meaning of “the people Israel” was at stake. The first of these was a vast religious cohort, at once immensely learned or purported to have such learning and having, as well, the authority of the sages. Or the ages. While ongoing study and “trust in the Lord” constituted their program, they practiced a politics that was fundamentally anti-political. God was both their instrument and their end.
Nearly a year ago, Burma, one of the world’s most oppressive military dictatorships, held elections that were widely regarded as a sham. Few observers figured that the new president, a former military man named Thein Sein, would be allowed or inclined to carry out substantial changes of any kind. The military, it was assumed, would continue to pull the strings.
The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 By Ian Kershaw (Penguin, 564 pp., $35) It can be harder to lose a war than to win one. Nazi Germany won quick victories in 1939 and 1940 against its eastern and western neighbors, Poland and France. Many Germans who had doubted the wisdom of war came around with enthusiasm to the sound of German boots on the Champs Elysées. Warsaw and Paris fell more quickly and with fewer complications than anticipated. Their conquest convinced many Germans, including army officers, that further campaigns could be won by strokes of genius.
Many Damascenes these days prefer to watch the government-run TV stations. Elsewhere, the news is bad. The local channels, with local announcers, speaking in proper Syrian Arabic, are often sweet. Often the broadcasters on these stations are beautiful young women. They smile a lot. Their channels say that in some outlying districts, vandals and religious fanatics have moved in, and have had to be removed by the army. But now all is back to normal. One cannot trade one’s Syrian pounds for dollars in Damascus anymore.
In a matter of days, or hours, the northern Sudanese state of Blue Nile seems likely to be the scene of the most violent military confrontation in Sudan for almost a decade. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) released a highly alarming report on September 23, based on substantial satellite photography, indicating that armed forces of Khartoum’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime are mobilizing in a massive formation of armor, troops, and military aircraft: “heavily camouflaged, mechanized units comprising at least a brigade—3,000 troops or more.
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] On the same day that Rick Perry displayed a complete inability to answer a hypothetical question about Pakistan, Admiral Mike Mullen accused the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) of aiding and abetting the so-called "Haqqani network," which is believed to be responsible for a recent attack on the American Embassy in Kabul.