To Read: Vali Nasr believes that the results of the Iranian elections should make the US rethink its Iran policy-
Washington must realize that its success in rallying the international community to isolate Iran was due in no small part to Ahmadinejad's bombastic style. In denying the Holocaust, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, and deliberately ratcheting up tensions with the West, he made it easy to paint Iran as an existential threat to Israel and a menace to the international community. Washington will find it difficult to make the same case when Iran has elected a reformist president who has publicly repudiated his predecessor. Nor will the United States be able to as easily threaten war — or inflict economic pain — on a country where half the population has voted for positive change.
Quote: “No matter how many settlers you put out there the Palestinians will have more babies”, Bill Clinton speaking in favor of a 2-state solution.
Number: 68, the percentage of Americans who believe that the US is “already too overcommitted” to Syria.
To Read: Historian Benny Morris bashes Patrick Tyler's new book about Israel's 'Spartan' nature-
Tyler’s book is a gossipy overlong pseudo-history of Israel, which is noteworthy mainly for what it indicates about the standing of Israel among the chattering classes. For Patrick Tyler is the former chief correspondent of The New York Times and the former Middle East bureau chief of The Washington Post, and his book comes festooned with blurbs from former Times executive editor Howell Raines, CNN’s national security analyst Peter L. Bergen, and others lauding its scholarship as “meticulous” and describing it as “the definitive historical and analytical account” of the role of the military in Israel. Incidentally, Tyler does not know Hebrew or Arabic, and the only archive he appears to have visited is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in his home state of Texas.
Quote: “This law redefines the concept of discrimination and says that it is legal. “It also treats the Arab as ‘the other’ and encourages incitement”, Sawsan Zaher, the head of the economic and social project at Adalah, an organization that promotes equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel, commenting on a new legislation proposal which gives preferential treatment in housing, employment and higher education to anyone who served in the army or did alternative national civilian service.
Number: 32, the percentage of Israelis who believe that Israel should ignore the position of US Jews on the peace process.
The Middle East
Headline: Scores detained in Turkey police swoop
To Read: Middle East Scholar Toby Matthiesen writes about an important Shia shrine in the suburbs of Damascus which may be the cause for much of the rising religious intensity of the Syrian war –
It might be tempting to view Shia fighters traveling to a foreign country to defend a religious shrine as the final realization of an age-old battle that started with the schism of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Such a simplistic reading is, however, deeply misleading. Sayyida Zainab—a shrine whose status as a site of Shia religious pilgrimage was largely created in the 1980s and 1990s—lies at the heart of a strategic relationship between the Assad regime, Iran, and Arab Shia groups. This relationship uses religious symbols and sectarian language but it is driven far more by geo-strategic interests than faith. The various groups that profit from a further sectarianization of the conflict, this time on the Shia side, are to blame. These include Iran, which is trying to re-establish its influence over all Shia political movements and groups, whether in the Gulf, in Iraq or elsewhere.
This is not a fight purely or even primarily about Islam; it is a war about the future of the Middle East. Unfortunately, however, all the talk about sectarian war is fast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. And by misunderstanding the complicated history of Syria’s alliances with Shia groups, we may contribute to the very sectarian tensions that are tearing the region apart.
Quote: “Our nuclear programmes are completely transparent. But we are ready to show greater transparency and make clear for the whole world that the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international frameworks”, Iranian President elect Rohani discussing Iran's nuclear program.
Number: $150m, foreign funding of NGOs operating in Egypt has reached $150 million over the last two years, according to the Muslim Brotherhood (which doesn't approve).
The Jewish World
To Read: A curious book written by an Orthodox Rabbi discusses religious Jews leaving Judaism and what can be done to prevent the phenomenon-
Judaism can be an overwhelming religion. It controls what and when you can eat, what you can wear, and even with whom you can socialize and how. So logically you might be tempted to think that it is this avalanche of restrictions that eventually snows people under. But it is not so.
The reality is that the small things often cause the most suffering. Instead of wishing he could eat bacon cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, your at-risk child is more likely wondering why he can’t eat at his friend’s home, which, although kosher, is not kosher enough.
The solution? Pick your battles very carefully…
Quote: “There are some in Bulgaria who seek to say, ‘We were just like Denmark.’ But they weren’t”, Paul Shapiro, director of US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, citing a problem with the Bulgarian embassy's push toward naming a Washington intersection after a Bulgarian Diplomat who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Number: 100, the number of Jewish kids who were thrown off a plane in a decision which, apparently, had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.