Everything you need to know about the weekend coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
UNESCO casts a political shadow over Church of the Nativity renovations. Women journalists speak out after being assaulted in Cairo. And no glory days for the BDS movement if rumors of a Springsteen concert in Israel are true.
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• Iran threatens to strike NATO installations in Turkey if Israel or the US attack. AP writes:
“Should we be threatened, we will target NATO’s missile defence shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.
Tehran says NATO’s early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighbouring Iran.
• France: We got ahead of ourselves (and the EU) by talking about a unilateral boycott of Iranian oil. More at Reuters.
• JPost: A group of congressmen want to probe how the PA has spent US money.
• Israeli officials warn that they will stop supplying Gaza with electricity and water if Fatah and Hamas form a unity government. More at AFP.
• Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity got a new roof in time for the Christmas season. Although the renovations were long overdue, AP says there’s a political undercurrent too:
The PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are eager to win recognition for the basilica from UNESCO as a world heritage site, but an earlier application was not accepted because UNESCO did not consider the Palestinian government a state. That changed last month, when, in a controversial decision that triggered a funding cutoff by the United States, the U.N.’s cultural arm decided to grant recognition.
The Palestinians are now hoping their application will be approved. The renovation is motivated, in part, by a desire on their part to prove they are responsible stewards of sites of global importance.
• Gershom Gorenberg (NY Times op-ed) frets about settlers, democracy, co-existence, and price tag attacks:
If and when Israel finally leaves the West Bank quagmire behind, it will face a further challenge: the settlers need to be brought home. But allowing them to apply their ideology inside Israel, or to transplant whole communities from the West Bank to the Galilee, will only make the situation worse in Israel proper.
• Haaretz‘s Anshel Pfeffer sees signs that the Arab street is taking note of the Israeli model of democracy:
Israel is constantly on the news agenda of Al Jazeera and the other Arab news channels, and while most of what they broadcast is soldiers shooting at Palestinians, over the last few years they have also seen the Katsav and Olmert trials, generals and ministers being hauled in front of civilian commissions of inquiry following military failures, and the wave of social protest on Rothschild Boulevard last summer.
While we are full of anger and shame at our politicians’ incompetence, corruption and venality, Arabs see a state where a president and prime minister are held to account for their crimes and failures, and hundreds of thousands can take to the streets calling for their removal without fearing they will not return home alive. And while the Arab broadcasters do not work in Israel totally unhindered – their crews are often subjected to humiliating body searches before prime ministerial press conferences – their offices have not been shut down and their employees targeted and attacked in the way they have been in just about every Arab country.
None of this will make Egyptians or Tunisians support Zionism instead of the Palestinian cause, but it does trickle through. To many of us “the only democracy in the Middle East” may be a cliche, but for those who have never enjoyed any form of freedom, it resonates.
• Muslim Brotherhood speakers at a Cairo rally promise to “one day kill all the Jews.” Eldad Beck was there, describing the scene for YNet News.
• Two foreign journos working in Cairo were sexually assaulted. Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy was molested by security personnel while France 3’s Caroline Sinz (France 3) was assaulted by a mob of teenagers. The Sydney Morning Herald rounds up the relevant links.
I’m glad they’re following in Lara Logan‘s brave footsteps and speaking out.
• Looks like Syrian rebels are going to receive weapons, money, training and — possibly — volunteers too from Libya’s new leadership. According to the Daily Telegraph:
“There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”
Related reading: Assad Used Foreign Intervention First
• Another deadly clash in Tahrir Square. The Lede rounds up what Egyptian bloggers are saying about it.
• The Arab League’s drafting new sanctions against Syria. According to the BBC, “proposals include the halting of dealings with the Syrian central bank, the suspension of commercial flights and a travel ban on senior officials.”
• BBC reporter Paul Wood managed to get into Homs. See also The Guardian for a photo essay from the besieged Syrian city of Homs. See also the backstory of how the French photographer got in and out of the city.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Did a Reuters correspondent sign an online petition calling on soldiers not to serve in the West Bank? Signature 40016 is Maayan Lubell, which happens to be the name of a Reuters correspondent. Via Reuters Mideast Watch.
• Giulio Meotti slams medical NGO bias against Israel. This particular snippet deals with the authority status organizations like the Red Cross, Physicians for Human Rights, and the
World Health Organizations and what it means for Israel and the media. He writes at YNet News:
Western newspapers, imbued with the ideological reports of medical NGOs, establish a comparison between the Palestinians and South Africa’s blacks, who were critically injured and left to bleed to death if there was no “black” ambulance to rush them to a “black” hospital. Jewish altruism never finds its legitimate space in the global media because it doesn’t fit in with the stereotype propagated by the medical NGOs.
This month, no Western journal reported on the story of Adi Weissbuch, a senior physician in the high-risk pregnancy unit of Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, who assisted an Iranian doctor with a pregnant woman suffering a rare defect. Similarly, nobody knows that Israel saved the life of the three-year-old daughter of Hamas Interior Minister, Elham Fathi Hammad, after she was the victim of a unsuccessful heart operation in Amman.
That’s what’s called public diplomacy, and it’s what all countries, including the United States, do.
To label this as somehow sinister must mean that the United States is engaged in “jazzwashing” or “techwashing” when it uses music or touts its high-tech innovators to audiences and opinion makers overseas.
• No retreat, no surrender for the BDS movement? The Newark Star-Ledger picks up on rumors that Bruce Springsteen’s going to play in Israel in 2012.
• The WashPost picks up the issue of Israel stifling domestic dissent.
• The UK Observer picks up on the latest in Jerusalem’s secular/religious gender wars.
• CNN picks up on Israel advocates building bridges with the African-American community.