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Sunday Reads: Syrian Opposition to Attend Peace Talks, The Word ‘Nazi’, On Americans & Failed States

by Shmuel Rosner

January 19, 2014 | 4:46 am

President of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmad Al-Jarba
looks on during his meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister
Nabil Fahmy (not pictured) in Cairo, November 26, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The US

Headline: US hails 'courageous' Syria opposition vote to attend peace conference

Read: Michael Mazarr writes an interesting piece about America's disillusionment from the idea of saving failing states-

After a decade of conflict and effort with precious little to show for it, however, the recent era of interventionist U.S. state building is drawing to a close. And although there are practical reasons for this shift -- the United States can no longer afford such missions, and the public has tired of them -- the decline of the state-building narrative reflects a more profound underlying truth: the obsession with weak states was always more of a mania than a sound strategic doctrine. Its passing will not leave the United States more isolationist and vulnerable but rather free the country to focus on its more important global roles.

Quote: “Since the American withdrawal, we’ve had a friendly relationship, but this strong bilateral relationship doesn’t mean we need American forces here”, Iraqi PM Nour al-Maliki discussing Iraq's basic needs from the US at this point.

Number: 25, the percentage of CFR members who view 'bolstering the economies of developing countries' as a top US priority.

 

Israel

Headline: Palestinian terrorist and boy hurt in IAF targeted strike in Gaza

To Read: Popular Israeli writer Etgar Keret criticizes the proposed ban on the word 'Nazi' which was recently suggested in the Knesset (and he uses the following anecdote about his father, a holocaust survivor, to make his point)-

More than three decades ago, he once found himself at a train station in Norway, where a group of local drunks were harassing two Chinese tourists. The drunks called the tourists “slant eyes” and “yellow dogs.” My father stood between the drunks and the Chinese and demanded that the hooligans leave. In response, he was also showered with curses and threats.

When the Norwegians called him a “kike,” he called them “Nazis.”

What my father did, according to the Knesset members who support the “Nazi” ban, was a criminal act that justifies a prison sentence. And in their Brave New Israel, it’s worth noting, the racist Norwegians would have been well within their rights.  

Quote:  “I think I can change things for the better in this country,” he said. “I’m doing it now as well, in many areas, mostly in education, higher education and technological entrepreneurship. But I think I could do a lot more from a presidential position”, Israeli Nobel Prize Laureate Dan Shechtman announcing his bid for the Presidency of Israel.

Number: 134, the number of US members of congress who have publicly denounced the ASA boycott.

 

The Middle East

Headline: Syrian Opposition Votes to Attend Peace Talks

To Read: Ehud Yaari examines the complicated Egypt-Hamas-Israel triangle and the current state of tensions at the Sinai peninsula-

The Egyptian army's substantial deployment in previously forbidden areas of central and eastern Sinai -- together with the increase in Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation and the isolation of Gaza by restricting traffic at the Rafah terminal and blocking more than a thousand smuggling tunnels between the strip and the Sinai -- has created a new geopolitical configuration in the peninsula, one worthy of U.S. support. Stabilizing and pacifying Sinai would remove the danger of terrorist operations that threaten both Egyptian-Israeli relations and the safety of shipping through the Suez Canal and its connecting sea lanes. Such an outcome would also loosen Hamas's grip on Gaza; indeed, some Hamas leaders have already expressed willingness to extend concessions to the Palestinian Authority and seek formal reunification of the West Bank and Gaza. This is but one indication that the new realities in the Egypt-Israel-Hamas triangle are bound to have a major impact on the Palestinian scene.

Quote: “another defining moment in our road map to democracy”, Ehab Badawy, a spokesman for the office of the interim president, hailing the suspicious 98.1% approval rate Egypt's new constitution got in a vote.

Number: 70, the number of fertility clinics in Iran (quite an anomaly in the Muslim world).

 

The Jewish World

Headline: Canada’s PM urges Abbas to negotiate with ‘Jewish State of Israel’

To Read: John Judis tells the fascinating story of Harry Truman's substantial role in the inception of the state of Israel-

To be sure, Truman had no regrets about Israel after he left office. Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion recounted how when, during a meeting in New York in 1961, he praised the former president for his “constant sympathy with our aims in Israel … tears suddenly sprang to his eyes.” But in the years leading up to, and in the months following, American recognition of Israel in May 1948, Truman was filled with doubt and regret about his role. The rosy portrayal of Truman’s unquestioning commitment to and constant sympathy with Israel, which is often linked to a picture of the younger Truman as a Christian Zionist, is dead wrong.

Quote:  “What do you mean ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus”, a nice historical quote by President Truman from the New Republic article (in reference to the Persian emperor who let the Jews return to the land of Israel).

Number: $110m, the amount of money that Jewish security organizations have received from the department of Homeland security since the mid-2000s.

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