To Read: The American Interest recommends this piece by Walter McDougall on the History of American Exceptionalism as one of their best Essays of the past year (it is quite interesting indeed)-
In sum, the myth of American Exceptionalism, ironically inspired by Roman Catholics and Marxists, entered our lexicon as historical gloss for the campaign to persuade a skeptical, war-weary people that global commitments such as the UN, the Truman Doctrine and NATO were not really a break with tradition but a fulfillment of the nation’s hoariest, holiest calling. Exceptionalism was not an archetype of the Promised Land but an artifact of the Crusader State.
Quote: “It is essential for countries to take proactive steps to disrupt terrorist financing, especially where al-Qaeda and its affiliates are concerned,” David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, announcing financial restrictions against two Muslim charity officials who allegedly supported al Qaeda.
Number: 2, the percentage of Americans who see Obama's foreign policy as the President's biggest failure.
To Read: Oslo accords architect Uri Savir argues that since the general outlines of the final Israel-Palestine agreement are virtually known to the whole world, 2014 is the year in which Netanyahu and Abbas should just go for it-
President Obama said lately that the outcomes of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian agreement is well known. Indeed this is clear not only to the American president, but to every grown-up person who is in his right mind, except for those blinded by religious, nationalist fanaticism.
Given the international consensus on these issues – this, sooner or later, will be the framework of the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time, in the beginning of 2014, for Netanyahu and Abbas to make the decision based on America bridging proposals. They can make the historically necessary, difficult and right compromise leading to peace with the best security possible.
Quote: "We were very lucky that it happened in the middle of the night, when no one's wandering in the streets. It completely caught us by surprise. We have become used to the quiet since Pillar of Defense", a resident of Ashkelon commenting on the rocket from Gaza that hit the city.
Number: 13, the number of teens arrested for raping a 12-year old girl in a horrendous story that has been shocking the general public in Israel for the past few days.
The Middle East
Headline: Christmas break for Iran nuclear talks
To Read: Emile Hokayem is worried by how the west is warming up to Bashar Assad-
Viewing Syria primarily or uniquely through a counterterrorism lens after two years of civil war is a monumental error. Renewed intelligence cooperation is exactly how Mr. Assad hopes to lure back Western support. Some European intelligence agencies have already resumed discussions with their Syrian counterparts. Mr. Assad himself reportedly offered such assistance to Mr. Obama through the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who recently visited Washington.
Offering information about Western hostages and Western jihadis, Mr. Assad calculates, will give rise to quid pro quos and bolster him just as the chemical weapons deal did. Presenting himself as pragmatic and magnanimous will force the West to reckon with its original sin of having opposed him. Engagement will shore up his legitimacy and further demoralize his internal foes.
Quote: "The medics say they are removing people in parts; they aren't sure how many there are", Hassoun Abu Faisal, an activist with the Aleppo Media Centre, describing the horrific results of the recent air raids by the Syrian air force.
Number: 75, the number of trucks that Russia sent to Syria to help with the chemical weapons disposal campaign.
The Jewish World
To Read: Holocaust survivor Eli Gat writes a controversial piece about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and about the myths surrounding it-
At the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of Jews survived in Poland and Germany. In Warsaw alone the number of survivors is estimated at about 25,000. Death in battle, as the ghetto fighters planned, did not keep with the intentions of the vast majority of Jews remaining.
Many historians of the Holocaust and the uprising came from a political camp enlisted for political purposes. Their influence on the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum was great. They wrote our history books and shaped our remembrance of the Holocaust.
Their influence on their students and followers is still greatly felt today. Thus the question has never been raised: What right did a small group of young people have to decide the fate of the 50,000 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto?
Quote: “Everyone was saying Joe’s the most wonderful guy, the usual crap you hear. So I got up, I was the last guy, and I say: ‘I’m here to announce that I’m converting to Judaism. Because for all these years with Joe, I’ve had to eat that crappy salmon. I had to ride the damn Shabbat elevator. I’ve observed Shabbat to a point where I couldn’t even ride in a goddamn car. I’ve had all of the bull associated with this religion, and I’ve gotten not a single benefit. So I’m converting to Judaism”, John McCain joking around at an event in honor of Joe Lieberman.
Number: 2,000, Syria’s 2,000 year old synagogue is still in tact.