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Sunday Reads: Can Gaza get even worse?, Israel’s war coverage, The consequences of bombing ISIS

by Shmuel Rosner

August 10, 2014 | 4:15 am

Hamas fighters march in the streets of Gaza. Photo by Reuters

US

Meghan O’Sullivan believes that Obama’s decision to cary out airs trikes in Iraq isn’t the big policy shift it might seem like –

My concern is not the humanitarian justification for the airstrikes. It is the lack of accompanying strategic arguments for the use of force, which are equally strong. ISIL and its advance are not only a problem for Kurds, Yezidis and other Iraqis, but for the region and U.S. interests there. The declaration of an Islamic caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria, having control of considerable wealth and weapons, and accompanied by veiled threats to the U.S. and its allies, is not a sideshow; the potential flows of jihadists with European passports back to the West alone is a serious, looming problem.

Steven Simon lays out some possible unintended consequences of the air strikes in Iraq –

Air strikes will almost certainly unite Sunnis against other sects and boost support for ISIS while fueling disdain for the United States. The gist of the social media commentary on the strikes has been this: For years, the United States has tolerated -- or perhaps even facilitated -- a violent onslaught against Sunni Muslims. The very instant that other groups are threatened, the United States intervenes immediately against the Sunnis. And who benefits from this intervention? The Shia. It is a potent narrative, which the air strikes, however unavoidable, will appear to affirm. Indeed, impolitic language aside, it is hard to dispute the idea that the Shia, particularly Maliki, who has presided over a state that privileges that group while marginalizing Sunnis, will reap the gains of this campaign, at least in the short term.

Israel

Daniel Ben Simon takes a look at the change of tone in the Israeli media’s coverage of the Gaza operation –

For three weeks, the Israeli media described what went on in Gaza in one voice, acting like the choir of the Red Army. Military commentators spoke on all the media outlets using almost the same words and images to describe the magnificent Israeli victory and the no-less magnificent defeat of Hamas. Almost all former upper-echelon officers appeared in one or other of the media studios to contribute their far-off military experience and words of wisdom to the music of the orchestra.

And then everything changed. Toward the end, the war underwent a surprising turnabout. It began with talk about an imminent cease-fire. Suddenly, Israelis were exposed to the magnitude of destruction in Gaza with an intensity they had not known before.

Ron Kampeas asked several Middle East specialists what needs to be done to improve the Obama-Netanyahu relationship –

Natan Sachs, a fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy who focuses on Israel, said each side needs to better understand how leaks play out on the other.

“In Israel, when a junior minister criticizes the United States, it’s understood he’s speaking for himself. In America, it’s assumed that the government thinks that way,” he said. “Israelis have to be much more careful in the way they speak. The converse is that Americans need to take it more with a grain of salt.”

Middle East

According to Matthew Levitt, it is unlikely that religious fanaticism in Gaza will become more extreme than it already is –

The extreme Salafi-jihadi groups in the Gaza Strip exist at the fringes of Palestinian society. They will find it far more difficult to seize power in the first place, much less govern if in power. These groups—from Ansar Beit al Maqdas to Jaish al-Islam and host of smaller groups—lack the grassroots political, charitable and social services that are the backbone of Hamas. While the same cannot be said for Gaza's small Salafi-jihadi groups, Hamas comprises much more than just its terrorist cells and militia units. From sports leagues and summer camps to orphanages and medical clinics, Hamas runs extensive "dawa" (proselytization) programs which provide cradle-to-grave services for its supporters.

Sonar Cagaptay writes about Erdogan’s upcoming Presidential victory in Turkey –

A year ago, it looked as though protests could bring down the administration, but the political fallout has proved to be relatively modest. Erdogan has a knack for portraying himself as a political victim forced to crack down harshly on those who use lies and conspiracies to undermine his government. He is the man leading Turkey into an ever-brighter, more peaceful future in the face of challenges from a malicious opposition. What he lacks in diplomatic tact, he makes up for in passion. He pushes his vision for Turkey with the conviction that even his least popular decisions hold paramount the best interests of Turkish citizens.

Jewish World

Mosaic’s interesting August essay, Jack Wertheimer’s exploration of the current state of Modern Orthodoxy, is definitely worth a read –

The urgent question for Modern Orthodoxy is which values can be accommodated without undermining religious commitment and distorting traditional Judaism beyond recognition—and, conversely, what losses will be sustained if Modern Orthodoxy should undertake more actively to resist the modern world in which its adherents spend most of their waking hours. The same urgent question, mutatis mutandis, has confronted other Jewish religious movements in the past, and has continued to haunt their rabbis and adherents long after they made their choice of a path forward. That is one reason why today’s unfolding culture wars within Modern Orthodoxy carry far-reaching implications not only for that movement but for the future of American Judaism as a whole.   

The eloquent Liel Leibowitz introduces his readers to a popular video game hero named Hershel –

Jewish mothers worried that their darling ones are spending too much time playing video games may find comfort in knowing that one of the summer’s hottest gaming titles features a well-educated young man who applies his considerable intellectual blessings to pursue justice and aid the needy. In a medium where protagonists are usually ripped and well-armed bruisers, this celebration of cerebral capabilities is uncommon, and it’s of little surprise that it should focus on a distinctly Jewish gentleman.

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