Lebanon

Around 8 a.m. on February 22, Syrian security forces attempting to prop up the Bashar al Assad regime shelled a makeshift media center in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, killing the American war reporter Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik. Four other journalists who survived the blast, including Colvin’s Irish photographer, Paul Conroy, and French Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier, were transported to a nearby hospital and treated for serious shrapnel wounds.

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The Visionary

If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.

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There are few things more depressing in covering politics than the explosions of false umbrage that seem to flare up with increasing frequency. The best, or rather worst, one of the 2008 campaign had to be the McCain campaign's fainting spell when Barack Obama called Sarah Palin a pig. You don't remember that? Well, he didn't call her a pig, exactly. Here's Politico's report at the time, with the ensuing, absurd back and forth: Amie Parnes reports from Lebanon, VA: Obama poked fun of McCain and Palin's new "change" mantra. "You can put lipstick on a pig," he said as the crowd cheered.

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After a year of bloodshed, the crisis in Syria has reached a decisive moment. It is estimated that more than 7,500 lives have been lost. The United Nations has declared that Syrian security forces are guilty of crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, the execution of defectors, and the widespread torture of prisoners. Bashar Al-Assad is now doing to Homs what his father did to Hama. Aerial photographs procured by Human Rights Watch show a city that has been laid to waste by Assad’s tanks and artillery.

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Danger Zone

Newt Gingrich has dumbly stirred a ruckus in saying that the Arabs of Palestine are an “invented people.” It did not increase his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination: How many Jews actually vote in Republican primaries? (And many Christian Zionists are already for him on altogether non-Zionist grounds.) But it should not have caused such a furor in the first place.

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The Republican presidential primary has provided ample display of the party’s penchant for bellicosity in foreign affairs, and last night’s debate was no exception. It’s a posture that’s understandably gotten many liberals worried about a reprisal of the famously interventionist Bush Doctrine. “God help us if any of these jokers makes it into the White House,” wrote Fred Kaplan of Slate after watching the previous GOP’s national security debate. But maybe liberals shouldn’t fret so much.

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No, I am not writing about whether the Palestinian Arabs should have their own sovereign slice of Jerusalem. That is an extremely complicated matter, not least because increasingly the Arabs of the holy city and its close environs want to stay with Israeli rule, paying high taxes, enjoying liberties to which even their brothers and sisters enjoying whatever there is to enjoy during the Arab Spring season will not and cannot imagine and—most of all, I suppose—living, more or less, in a highly developed social welfare state.

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I take the liberty of suggesting that you read a speech given yesterday by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu has been unlucky in the treatment of his remarks for a quarter century. He has been even more unlucky in the treatment of his offers to the Palestinian people to start the peace process which they, alas, have refused to do. An article by Neil MacFarquhar and Steven Lee Myers in the Times projects Dame Catherine Ashton, the “foreign minister” of the European Union, as the leading light in the diplomacy of Europe towards Israel/Palestine.

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Of the 19 young Arabs who struck the United States on September 11, the Lebanese-born Ziad Jarrah, who is thought to have been at the controls of the plane forced down by its heroic passengers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, has always been of greater interest to me than the others, and for strictly parochial reasons: We were both born in the same country, but two generations apart. For me, the contours of his life are easy to make out. He hailed from a privileged Sunni family from the Bekaa Valley and was raised in Beirut.

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