The First World War and the new Israeli historians

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We thank Avi Shlaim of Oxford University for the article below published on the Open Democracy website which compares the controversy in Britain about the origins and nature of the first world war with the controversy about the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which Avi himself and other members of the group of "new …

Israel: talk of sanctions

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In our posting of 13 December we commented that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, in the past a mere series of pinpricks, might be close to the point where it would exert influence both on politics and on international business. Since then there have been more pinpricks including the continuing row about Scarlett Johansson and …

The media, Israel and the Iran negotiations

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The Arab/Israel dispute has always been an exceptionally divisive issue for the international media. When Israel's politics were dominated by the left international support for Israel also came largely from the left; the opposite is now true, with support largely from the right. On top of examination of the dispute itself, the media have …

Price tag

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Violent incidents in occupied Palestine committed by both occupiers and occupied are nothing new. For some years the expression "price tag" has been used for acts of random violence by Israeli settlers in retaliation for any action perceived as against the settlement enterprise. Some commentators consider that price tag incidents go back to the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza …

Syria: grim outlook

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The civil war in Syria continues to rage, with shocking effect on the population today and no less shocking implications for the future. The veteran Reuters correspondent Bernd Debusmann has pointed out that “a look at past civil wars suggests that the Syrian conflict is far from resolution. On average, civil wars since 1945 have lasted …

Washington rebalancing: turbulence

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In a recent article in the Washington Post  Andrew Bacevich of Boston University set out the view that the US is turning away from the Arabs. ‘Washington is bringing down the curtain on its 30-plus-year military effort to pull the Islamic world into conformity with American interests and expectations. It’s about time… The U.S. military presence …

Sinai: trafficking, torture, kidnapping

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In recent postings about Egypt we have referred to lawlessness in Northern Sinai, Egyptian territory adjoining Israel and Gaza. This is the route through which refugees, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, try to make their way to Israel hoping to go on from there to Europe. A new report The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond makes shocking reading; the authors are a human rights activist based in Sweden and two academics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. According to the report, since 2009 …

The Gulf states and the Iran deal

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In our posting of 27 November we mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s official response to the Iran interim deal was cautiously positive. Reactions elsewhere in the Gulf have reflected the varying interests of the Gulf states but have generally been more positive. According to the Kuwait Times the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers meeting in …

Israel: life on the edge

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A new book on Israel, “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit, concludes according to a review in the New York Times for which we thank Caroline Cracraft that “What this nation has to offer is not security or well-being or peace of mind. What it has to offer is the intensity of life on the edge.” …

Russia and the Middle East

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Since the end of the Soviet Union Russia has not played a major role in the region. But as a permanent member of the Security Council and a close neighbour it cannot avoid involvement in the region's problems even should it wish do so. Examples are the preparations for Geneva II on Syria, and the current …