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Sunday Reads: The Palestinians’ Burden, Iran’s Blogosphere, Kafka’s Jewishness

by Shmuel Rosner

April 13, 2014 | 3:41 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas heads a Palestinian cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Issam Rimawi/Pool

US

Adam Garfinkle examines what reports about a possible chemical attack in Syria might mean for US credibility –

The Obama Administration should watch its mouth. It should say as little as possible about reports of the Syrian regime’s use of poison gas unless it’s prepared to actually do something appropriate to the challenge. Its feckless posturing only drives its credibility further down the crapper. It’s not time to wring hands and blurt out Hamlet-like soliloquies; it’s time to wring necks. Again, if the facts prove that a poison gas attack has occurred and the Obama Administration does essentially nothing about it, it will be open season on every American and allied interest worldwide. 

Reuel Marc Gerecht thinks that at this point the US has to do its best to try and 'scare Iran' –

Those who fear American preventive military action more than they do a nuclear weapon in the hands of the supreme leader don’t really care what kind of deal is concluded with Tehran. In the end, they would accept an agreement that neither dismantles nor intrusively monitors the Iranian regime’s atomic achievements. If President Obama isn’t in this camp, then he needs to overcome his aversion to seeing diplomacy as an adjunct to the threat of war. The Iranian regime plays hardball. To win now, we have to openly prepare to fight.

Israel

Alan Dershowitz argues that the burden of keeping the negotiation alive is on the Palestinians –

Those who seek a change in the status quo have the burden of coming forward and showing a willingness to negotiate.

It would be as if there was a dispute over a car, or a painting, or a piece of land. The person who was lawfully in possession of the item need do nothing unless the person seeking it offers to negotiate. If the claimant walks away from the negotiation, the status quo remains.

Of course captured land is not the same as a car or a painting, but the principles underlying negotiation are similar. The land at issue was never part of a Palestinian state. It was lawfully captured from Jordan in a defensive war.

David Horvitz criticizes Germany’s current role in the Israel-Palestine debate –

 And yet, when you scratch the surface and get past the smiles and the formalities, it becomes rapidly clear that the German elites’ thinking on Israel and the Palestinians is stuck entirely on the mantra that Israel must “end the occupation,” with no serious internalization of the complexities on the ground. Those same policymakers are ruefully starting to acknowledge that their lusty embrace of the Arab Spring as harbouring the imminent flourishing of democracy throughout the Middle East may have been somewhat premature and exaggerated. But that nascent reassessment has not extended to any remote reflection that perhaps, just perhaps, Israel might not be merely stubborn, obdurate and paranoid in its reluctance to place all its faith in Abbas and the Palestinians.

Middle East

Acclaimed author Khaled Hosseini laments Syria’s lost generation –

At some point this year, Syria will overtake my native country, Afghanistan, as the world’s largest refugee-producing state. There are now 2.5 million refugees from Syria, 1.2 million of them children. Two-thirds of Syrian refugee children, and nearly three million children inside the country, are out of school.

They face a broken future. Syria is on the verge of losing a generation. This is perhaps the most dooming consequence of this terrible war.

A very curious study takes a look at some recent changes in Iran’s blogosphere –

This Persian blogosphere, or “Blogestan,” however, is not what it used to be. As we demonstrate in our new report, “Whither Blogestan,” there have been remarkable changes in the Iranian blogosphere since the late 2000s. Building upon the pioneering 2008 study “Mapping Iran’s Online Public” to evaluate how the landscape has changed, we conducted a survey of 165 blog readers, interviewed 20 active bloggers, and used a Web-crawling analysis of 24,205 blogs. Of the survey respondents, 92 percent reported a change in their blog reading habits since they began reading blogs. Only 20 percent of the prominent blogs from 2008 to 2009 were still online in fall 2013, while 70 percent of the remaining bloggers publish one post per month or less. What happened? And what does it mean for the once-bright hopes of the emergence of an alternative public sphere in Iran?

Jewish World

Cynthia Ozick believes that Kafka was far more Jewish than many people give him credit for –

The culture that touched him at all points had a prevailing Jewish coloration. Family traditions, however casually observed, were in the air he breathed, no matter how removed he was from their expression. His most intimate literary friendships consisted entirely of writers of similar background; at least two, Max Brod and Hugo Bergmann, were seriously committed to Zionism. He studied Hebrew, earnestly if fitfully, during various periods of his life, and he attended Martin Buber’s lectures on Zionism at the meetings of Bar Kochba, the Association of Jewish University Students. Unlike the disdainful Jewish burghers of Prague, who had long ago shed what they dismissed as an inferior zhargón, Kafka was drawn to a troupe of Yiddish-speaking players from Poland and their lively but somewhat makeshift theater. He was a warm proponent of the work of Berlin’s Jewish Home, which looked after the welfare and education of impoverished young immigrants from Eastern Europe. He read Heinrich Graetz’s massive History of the Jews; he read Der Jude, the monthly founded by Buber; he read Die Jüdische Rundschau, a Zionist weekly; he read Selbstwehr, yet another Zionist periodical, whose editor and all of whose contributors he knew. He also read Die Fackel, Karl Kraus’s scourging satiric journal.

Yair Rosenberg reports about an intriguing event at DePaul University which featured leading Jewish legal minds talking about how Judaism has informed their work –

The all-day event invited elite law professors from across America to talk about how Judaism had influenced their understanding and practice of the law. Participants tackled questions like: What does a rabbi’s sermon share in common with constitutional argument? How might libertarianism and its emphasis on personal freedom draw upon the Jewish historical experience? And how have efforts to combat anti-Semitism influenced constitutional theory?

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