Lebanon

Everybody, quite literally everybody is irked by Bibi Netanyahu's refusal to give the peace processors another two months of a ban on construction in the West Bank. As if such a prohibition would produce more than the last ten months when Israel unilaterally precluded construction in the territories and the Palestinians responded with squat. Well, I suppose I don't really mean everybody. But nearly everybody. And, my guess, dear reader, you too.

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Historical Fiction

The argument that Israel is a colonialist entity is often marshaled to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy. The theme has certainly permeated Western academia, almost uncritically. For decades, it has been employed against Israel in one international forum after another. In 1973, the U.N.

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Apparently, Muslims are also not particularly stirred by the president’s policies. They wanted him to be more forthright and more forthcoming on their issues as he had indicated he would be in his much-vaunted “new beginning” speech last year in Cairo. In a New York Times dispatch yesterday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg cites an Arab-American journalist as complaining that Obama has since left many Muslims disappointed. Well, on this count, at least, those disappointed Muslims are at one with most other Americans.

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We were all dreamers then. When we overthrew the Shah, we thought a bright new age had dawned. Tyranny had been defeated and soon we would vanquish all the secularists, Westernizers, imperialists, and Zionists. Our glorious revolution would be the model for millions, not only in the Middle East but among Muslims everywhere. Islam would be restored to its rightful place at the center of people’s lives, and piety would replace politics. Some of us even imagined that all the prophecies of the Koran were about to come true. Such dreams.

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Somehow I missed this move by CNN. I hadn’t seen anything about it until I read Tom Friedman’s column in the Times and, then, Jack Shafer’s insistently simple-minded article in Slate. Here’s Octavia Nasr’s offending Tweet: Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot. It is a stupid piece of journalism, and distorted besides.

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The brilliant young(ish) Catholic intellectual Michael Sean Winters has alerted us in the National Catholic Reporter to a venomous streak among “progressives” of the faith. The particularly repulsive iteration of this streak appeared in The American Catholic. Here is its essence: Is the ultimate plan of the Israeli braintrust to find a rationale for one big war to ethnically cleanse most of the rest of the Palestinians into Jordan/Egypt/Lebanon et al? Catholics have too much collective experience themselves in the ethnic cleansing of Jews to ever speculate on their intentions in this regard.

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One of President Obama's weirdest causes is his defense of the hijab or the niqab. Not that I want to take the veil away from any Muslim women... anywhere. Still, he is president of the United States and might just want to limit his special pleadings to truly significant ones. Anyway, he didn't. He tried out the trope in Cairo last year and followed it up during the Ramadan fest at the White House. These turned out to be not very successful interventions. As we learn from this morning's newspaper, even Syria has turned its back (or Bashaar Assad, his) on Obama's pleadings.

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Move Assad

The Obama administration has signaled in word and deed that a policy change is in the offing, a change that would accommodate the Syrian regime and normalize relations with it. The notion of autocracy as a guarantor of stability is back in vogue after the Bush years, and so the policy is being bolstered by a chorus of analysts and academics. The Syrian regime, the thinking goes, is as good as it gets for helping to keep simmering regional tensions under a tight lid. But this change would be a bit of a gamble.

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From the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Executive Director Robert Satloff comes this analysis:  The Gaza Flotilla Incident: Impact on Three Key Arab Actors By Robert Satloff June 22, 2010   The Gaza flotilla episode pitted Israel versus Turkey, with Arabs as bystanders and observers. Yet reverberations of the incident have had a keen impact across Arab capitals. Egypt: Policy Adrift The country most negatively affected has been Egypt.

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