Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Jordan Relies on Israel to Secure the Jordan Valley. By Dan Diker.

Why Jordan Relies on Israel to Secure the Jordan Valley. By Dan Diker. Real Clear World, October 20, 2013. Also in the Jerusalem Post.

More American Jewish Students Take Up Study of the Arab World. By Richard Pérez-Peña.

More American Jewish Students Take Up Study of the Arab World. By Richard Pérez-Peña. New York Times, October 17, 2013.

If Not Now, When? By Roger Cohen.

If Not Now, When? By Roger Cohen. New York Times, October 17, 2013.


LONDON — It is possible to imagine a scenario more favorable to Israel than the current one, but it is not easy.
Syria is giving up its chemical weapons. In the civil war there, Hezbollah and Iran are bleeding. The Egyptian Army has ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, restored a trusted interlocutor for Israel, and embarked on a squeeze of Hamas in Gaza. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, has overstretched; the glow is off his aggressive stand for Palestine.
Saudi Arabia is furious with President Obama over his policies toward Egypt, Syria and Iran. It has scant anger left for Israel. Sunni-Shiite enmity, played out in a Syrian conflict that could make the 30-year religious war in Europe seem short, feels more venomous today than the old story of Arabs and Jews. The power and prosperity of Israel have seldom, if ever, looked more sustainable in its 65-year history.
Of course things can change in the Middle East — of late very fast — but if Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is inclined to take risks from strength, the present looks propitious. As he wrote in an open letter to Israelis in July, “We have built a wonderful country and turned it into one of the world’s most prosperous, advanced and powerful countries.”
This is true. Israel is a miracle of innovation and development. Tel Aviv, at once sensual and vibrant, is a boom town. Go there and smile.
For almost three months now Israelis and Palestinians have been negotiating peace in U.S.-brokered talks. They have been doing so in such quiet that the previous sentence may seem startling. Nobody is leaking. Because expectations are low, spoilers are quiescent. There is a feeling nobody opposed to a resolution need lift a finger because the talks will fail all on their own. This is good. Absent discretion, diplomacy dies.
Ample cause exists for skepticism. The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, insists that not one Israeli soldier will be allowed in Palestine; Netanyahu wants Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley for decades. There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank with no plans to go anywhere. Several members of the Israeli government scoff at the notion of Palestine; Netanyahu has become a liberal Likudnik, of all things. The Palestinian national movement is split, incitement against Israel continues, and the idea of a two-state outcome is losing favor. All this before Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return are even broached.
Still, with scarcely a murmur, the talks continue. They are almost a third of the way into the allotted nine months. Well before that time is up, the two sides’ final positions will have become clear. There will be gaps. That will be the moment for the United States to step forward with its take-it-or-leave-it bridging proposal. That will be the time of the leaders — Netanyahu, Abbas and Obama — and the test of their readiness for risk in the name of a peace that can only come with painful concessions.
Israel is strong today for many reasons. A core one is the resilience and stability of its democratic institutions. There is, however, a risk to this: No democracy can be immune to running an undemocratic system of oppression in territory under its control.
To have citizens on one side of an invisible line and disenfranchised subjects without rights on the other side does not work. It is corrosive. A democracy needs borders. It cannot slither into military rule for Palestinians in occupied West Bank areas where state-subsidized settler Jews have the right to vote as if within Israel. If Israel is to remain a Jewish and democratic state — and it must — something has to give. Netanyahu knows this.
Palestinians must also make painful choices. They are weak, Israel is strong — and getting stronger. The world is never going back to 1948.
In Jerusalem’s Old City I was walking this year down from the Damascus Gate. Crowds of Palestinians were pouring out of a Friday service at the Al Aqsa Mosque. A large group of Orthodox Jews was moving in the opposite direction, toward the Western Wall. Into this Muslim-Jewish melee, out of the Via Dolorosa, a cluster of Christians emerged carrying a large wooden cross they tried to navigate through the crowd. It was a scene of despair for anyone convinced faiths and peoples can be disentangled in the Holy Land. Looked at another way it was a scene of hope, even mirth.
Netanyahu has recently taken to quoting Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Of course it was Hillel who said: “That which is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah, the rest is just commentary.”
And Netanyahu’s chosen quote, in this time of strength, ends with four words he has omitted: “If not now, when?”

Death Doesn’t Care If You’re Sexy. By Anna Mussmann.

Death Doesn’t Care If You’re Sexy. By Anna Mussmann. The Federalist, October 18, 2013.

Our culture’s sexual radar cuts everyone off from platonic intimacies that were once widely accepted.

The sexualization of girls: Is the popular culture harming our kids? By Gwen Dewar. Parenting Science.

The Effects of Exposure to Virtual Child Pornography on Viewer Cognitions and Attitudes Toward Deviant Sexual Behavior. By Bryant Paul and Daniel G. Linz. Communication Research, Vol. 35, No. 1 (February 2008).

The Swimsuit Becomes Us All: Ethnicity, Gender, and Vulnerability to Self-Objectification. By Michelle R. Hebl, Eden B. King, and Jean Lin. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 30, No. 10 (October 2004).

Why the Middle East is Less and Less Important for the United States. By Aaron David Miller.

The Shrinking. By Aaron David Miller. Foreign Policy, October 17, 2013. Also here.

Why the Middle East is less and less important for the United States.


(2) Nobody wants America to play Mr. Fix-It.
One thing is clear: We’ve likely seen the last of the big transformative-interventionist schemes to change the Middle East from the outside in the name of U.S. security, a freedom agenda, or anything else. I say this knowing that there’s little historical memory here, that the military gives a willful president all kinds of options, and that the world is an unpredictable place. But watching the public, congressional, and even expert reaction to the prospects of a limited U.S. strike against Syria, there's clearly zero support for intervening militarily in somebody else's civil war.
The alliance of the liberal interventionists and neocons who bemoan the Obama administration’s lack of will, vision, and leadership and its abject spinelessness in the face of 100,000 dead (a full half of whom are combatants belonging to one side or the other) is simply no match for a frustrated public promised a reasonable return on two wars who instead got more than 6,000 American dead, thousands more with devastating wounds, trillions of dollars expended, a loss of American prestige and credibility, and outcomes more about leaving than winning.
To believe anyone in the United States is ready to invest additional resources in tilting at windmills in the Middle East is utterly fantastical. Who can blame them? Last week in Libya, the one successful example of U.S. intervention in the Arab Spring, militias kidnapped the prime minister. Car bombs kill scores weekly in Iraq. And, in Afghanistan, one can only despair about the gap between the price we have paid there and what we can expect in terms of security and good governance in the years ahead.

(5) Israel is stronger and more independent than ever.
As matters have gotten worse for America in the Arab world, the U.S.-Israeli relationship has only grown stronger. Israel’s own situation has also improved dramatically. Indeed, three factors – Israel’s formidable capacity; steadfast support from the United States; and stunning Arab incapacity – have created a situation where Israel is stronger and more secure than it’s ever been.
Iran’s nuclear pretentions remain an acute challenge, and an unresolved Palestinian problem holds longer-term worries, too. But the notion that the Jewish state is a hapless victim, the Middle East’s sitting duck, has been an illusion for some time now. Indeed, that image infantilizes the Israelis and creates a sense that they don’t have freedom of action vis-a-vis their friends and enemies – which they do. (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself projects this image sometimes: His use of Holocaust imagery when describing the Iranian nuclear challenge seems to accord the mullahs great power. I’ve seen the picture of Churchill that Netanyahu has in his office, and I know he admires him. But Churchill would never, even in the darkest days of the blitz, have ever suggested that Hitler had the power to destroy Britain.)
Israel is a dynamic, resilient, and sovereign nation, and the United States needs to realize that, even while the Israelis take our interests into account, their own matter more – particularly when it comes to their security and weapons of mass destruction. Where you stand in life is partly a result of where you sit, and as the small power with little margin for error, Israel is going to make its own decisions on the threats it faces and act unilaterally if necessary to deal with them.
Israel was never America’s client. On the contrary, we helped enable and empower its independence of action. If Israel acts militarily against Iran because diplomacy can’t address its concerns on the nuclear issue, it will be another indication that, as much as we would like to shape what goes on in the Middle East, we really can’t. We don’t live there, and we are clearly unable or unwilling to dictate to those who do.

A Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel. By Yakov Faitelson.

A Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel: The Resilient Jewish State. By Yakov Faitelson. Middle East Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Fall 2013).


Growth trends and population forecasts have played a significant role in the political landscape of the Middle East, especially over the thorny question of Israel and the disputed territories. The notion that the Jewish majority of Israel is in danger of being swamped by Arab fertility has repeatedly been used as a political and psychological weapon to extract territorial concessions from the Israeli government. In September 2010, U.S. president Barack Obama referred to the so-called “hard realities of demography” that threaten the survival of the Jewish state.
Such a conclusion is wrong. Analysis of long-term demographic developments leads to quite the opposite conclusion: In the long run, a strong Jewish majority, not only in the state of Israel—as this author projected almost twenty-five years ago and the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics recently reaffirmed—but also in the Land of Israel is quite possible.

The Palestinian Refugee Problem Resolved. By Shaul Bartal.

The Palestinian Refugee Problem Resolved. By Shaul Bartal. Middle East Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Fall 2013).


During the 1948 war, some 600,000 Palestinian Arabs fled their homes to the neighboring Arab states or to parts of mandatory Palestine occupied by Arab states (the West Bank and Gaza). Likewise, within a few years after the establishment of the State of Israel, nearly all of the 850,000-strong Jewish population living in Arab states was either expelled or escaped with just their lives. Most made their way to Israel where they were resettled.
While these latter facts may not be that well known, neither are they completely unfamiliar to students of the Middle East. What is less acknowledged, however, is the de facto agreement of Arab states to resettle Palestinian refugees in their respective territories, expressed in closed-door discussions at cease-fire committee meetings and other gatherings with Israeli representatives. Whether the Arab states properly represented the refugees or treated them and their descendants fairly is a matter for the Palestinians and their Arab brothers to adjudicate on their own.

Mahmoud Abbas: Arabs of Safed “Emigrated” on Their Own in 1948 and Became Refugees.

Abbas: Arabs of Safed “emigrated” on their own in 1948 and became refugees. Video. Palestinian Media Watch, September 30, 2013. YouTube.


The [Arab] Liberation Army retreated from the city [Safed in 1948], causing the [Arab] people to begin emigrating. In Safed, just like Hebron, people were afraid that the Jews would take revenge for the [Arab] massacre [of Jews] in 1929. The 1929 massacre was most severe in Safed and Hebron (Note: 65 Jews were killed in Hebron, 18 in Safed). Let's mention the 3 men from these cities who were executed (by the British Court, for "brutal murders"): Ataa Al-Zir, [Muhammad] Jamjoum and Fuad Hijazi. Hijazi from Safed and the other two from Hebron. The people (of Safed in 1948) were overcome with fear, and it caused the people to leave the city in a disorderly way.
PMW Note: Muhammad Jamjoum, Fuad Hijazi, and Ataa Al-Zir “committed particularly brutal murders [of Jews] at Safed and Hebron,” according to the report by British Government to the League of Nations. They were convicted of attacking British soldiers and murdering Jews in the 1929 Hebron Massacre, in which 65 Jews were murdered. They were executed by the British in 1930.

Japan’s Sexy Sailor Contest Boosts Popularity of Military. By Walter Russell Mead.

Japan’s Sexy Sailor Contest Boosts Popularity of Military. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, October 20, 2013.

“Sailor Idol”: the search to find Japan's most attractive marines. By Danielle Demetriou. The Telegraph, October 15, 2013.

Japan’s defensive military sees surge of popularity thanks to . . . anime tanks? By Rachel Tackett. Rocket News 24, August 21, 2013.

Mr. & Ms. JMSDF. Video. jmsdfmsopao, September 2, 2013. YouTube.