Egypt

Tel Aviv—Among the many signs and witty slogans in the improvised tent camp that has recently sprung up on Rothschild Boulevard, part of a larger economic protest movement happening nationwide, one says “ROTHSCHILD, CORNER OF TAHRIR.” To be sure, it is hard not to acknowledge that, while watching protests sweep the Middle East, Israelis have gotten a lesson in participatory democracy from the residents of some of the least democratic countries on the globe. But, while Tahrir Square may have served as an inspiration, the grievances in Israel are certainly not the same as they were in Egypt.

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Sinking Fast

The U.S. ship in the successor flotilla aiming to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza Strip has been named The Audacity of Hope. It is a bad joke that Barack Obama deserves. His proven coldness toward Israel has emboldened these foolish and meretricious people (including the uproariously silly Alice Walker) to open yet another front against the Jewish state. Of course, their campaign is not really about the embargo. It is about the very existence of Israel. It is not genocide, but it is politicide, and this is also a crime against humanity.

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In July 2008, Bishop Thomas, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of El-Qussia Diocese in Upper Egypt, delivered a talk in Washington about the cultural history of his co-religionists, entitled “The Experience of the Middle East’s Largest Christian Community during a Time of Rising Islamization.” His lecture ignited an immediate explosion within Egypt’s government-controlled media and mosques.

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The border crossing from Egypt into rebel-controlled eastern Libya offers few clues that the country is at war. The Libyan immigration officers wear ragged uniforms and carry on the routine of stamping passports, though with a friendliness and ease that is undoubtedly new. The eight-hour drive to the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi is dramatic only for its scenery—a rugged coastline with wide open beaches, then, surprisingly, green hills, crossed by deep gorges and adorned with beautifully preserved Greek ruins, visited by no one.

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Road Block

In his State Department speech last week, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Benjamin Netanyahu. In the Oval Office a day later, and more fully in an address to Congress yesterday, Netanyahu picked it up and threw it right back.  The question now is whether this clash can be turned into a new understanding between the United States and Israel that improves the prospects for the two-state solution both parties say they want. To bring this about, Obama will have to make further tweaks to his approach and rethink his declared stance on Palestinian refugees, among other matters.

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As the revolt that started this past winter in Tunisia spread to Egypt, Libya, and beyond, dissidents the world over were looking to the Middle East for inspiration. In China, online activists inspired by the Arab Spring called for a “jasmine revolution.” In Singapore, one of the quietest countries in the world, opposition members called for an “orchid evolution” in the run-up to this month’s national elections. Perhaps as a result, those watching from the West have been positively triumphalist in their predictions.

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Politicians in Washington are grappling with how to address rising gasoline prices, but most of their answers—from repealing tax breaks for oil companies to expanding offshore drilling—are unlikely to make much of a difference any time soon. The Arab awakening, coupled with Iran’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons, ensures that energy prices will likely remain elevated for a long time. In the near- and long-term, those events are leading to less energy produced and exported from the Middle East and North Africa than there otherwise would be, as well as greater risk to their transport.

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The Throwback

In 2001, Amr Moussa, the current Egyptian Secretary-General of the Arab League, briefly achieved pop-icon status. Serving at the time as Hosni Mubarak’s foreign minister, Moussa’s frequent anti-Israel pronouncements caught the attention of Egyptian pop singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim, who released a song with the line, “I hate Israel and I love Amr Moussa.” The song became a tremendous hit. Shortly thereafter, Mubarak, who had come to regard Moussa as a serious political rival, exiled him to the Arab League. Ten years later, however, Moussa is back in the public eye.

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I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

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Sana’a, Yemen—On a recent rainy afternoon at the anti-government protest in Yemen’s capital, an old tribesman, dressed in a long white robe belted at the waist with a foot-long dagger, danced hand-to-hand with a young man wearing tight jeans and a khaki jacket, more Williamsburg than Arabian Peninsula. The two men hopped and whirled in tight circles, their shoulders draped in Yemen’s tricolor flag, their bare feet scuffing in unison on the dusty asphalt.

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