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Sunday Reads: Would Obama Use Force in Iran?, On the Existence of Palestinians & Hungary’s New Past

by Shmuel Rosner

February 23, 2014 | 5:00 am

President Barack Obama, photo by Reuters

The US

Are there circumstances in which President Obama would use force in Iran? Jeffrey Goldberg believes that there are –

The answer is, yes, I still believe that there are circumstances in which Obama would use force to stop Iran from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon. It's no secret that he prefers a diplomatic solution (one brought about by a crippling sanctions regime he orchestrated with significant help from Congress) to this problem. It is also no secret that he believes a military strike might have unintended consequences that could actually lead to a redoubling of the Iranian effort to cross the nuclear finish line. But there are certainly circumstances -- two immediately come to mind -- in which I think he would use force to prevent the Middle East from falling into a destructive spiral of nuclear proliferation.

According to Lee Smith, the White House's 'Bribing Iran' policy has failed –

Contrary to the administration’s public stance, sanctions relief was never about rewarding the regime with relatively small sums of money in exchange for steep concessions on the nuclear program. The plan rather was to get Iranian president Hassan Rouhani lots of cash, the more the better. The White House’s idea is that once Rouhani understands how much easier his life is with lots of money pouring into the economy, it will be in his interest to petition Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for more concessions on the nuclear file. The problem with the strategy is that it shows how badly the White House has misunderstood not only the regime’s behavior, but also Rouhani’s role and how sanctions affect it.

Israel

David Benkof attacks the right-wing claim that the Palestinian people 'doesn't exist' –

The intensifying Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have caused opponents of a Palestinian state to revive former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s 1969 canard that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” However, “Palestine Denial” is less a debating point than a conversation-stopper: if there are no Palestinians, then there is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and thus no need even to discuss West Bank policies. One problem: Palestinians do, in fact, exist.

David Bernstein offers a curious thought experiment comparing Israel to Apartheid SA (in a very different manner than BDS)–

I find this analogy to be egregiously dumb on a variety of levels, but let’s run with it for a moment. Let’s say that occupying the West Bank and Gaza is indeed the moral equivalent of apartheid. South Africa decided to negotiate with African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, whom South Africa had previously deemed a terrorist, to end apartheid. Similarly, Israel decided to negotiate with Yasser Arafat to establish a Palestinian state and end “the occupation.” We all know that South Africa soon had a peaceful transition to post-apartheid democracy. But let’s pretend that instead South African history had developed like Israeli-Palestinian history has.

The Middle East

Bernard Avishai tells the story of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, an Iranian thinker who influenced Khomaini and Khamenei and who admired certain aspects Israel –

The admiration Al-e Ahmad showed for the Israel he saw in 1963 is one reflection of the confident piety one saw at the founding of the Islamic Republic: the human face of the revolution, some of whose cadres -- such as Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani -- the West now hopes might preside over a sort of perestroika. But for Israeli liberals, ironically, Al-e Ahmad’s is an embrace they would rather have done without. It is admiration for a compromised democracy that might have been otherwise.  

FP's Gregg Carlstrom examines Egypt's crackdown on Al Jazeera (and its harsh attitude towards journalism in general)–

But it is no coincidence that the charges are directed at a network that Egyptian security officials often describe as the media wing of an enemy state. The Qatar-owned Al Jazeera has continued to give airtime to Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist leaders, emerging as the only high-profile outlet for their members since the Egyptian government's brutal crackdown last summer.

The Jewish World

Documentary filmmaker Danny Ben-Moshe writes about Hungary's pernicious promotion of the 'double genocide' theory about the country's WW2 past–

The characteristics and manifestations of double genocide were documented in my film’s story about Lithuania, and they are seen again with what is occurring in Hungary.

Firstly, while the Holocaust is commemorated, it is relativized with local suffering. While locals in Lithuania and Hungary did indeed suffer in brutal ways, the relativizing completely distorts the experience and nature of suffering.

Secondly, and concomitantly, the relativizing acts to deflect local culpability in the Holocaust. As such, it is a form of Holocaust denial.

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove can't help but wonder whether American Jews and Israelis have anything to talk about –

I am deeply worried that American Jews and secular Israelis have nothing to talk about. I can speak a fumbling Hebrew, I have visited Israel more times than I can count, even lived there for extended periods. I privately and publicly advocate on Israel’s behalf. But put me in a bathing suit and stand me next to a 40-something secular Israeli, and I am not exactly sure what we have in common beyond watching our receding hairlines.

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