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January 4, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Welcomes New Egyptian Ambassador after Three-Year Absence (i24news)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Hazem Khairat, Egypt's new ambassador to Israel, on Sunday.
    Khairat, a former ambassador to Chile, was appointed by Egyptian President Sisi in June.
    Khairat will be the first resident Egyptian ambassador since former Egyptian President Morsi recalled Egypt's envoy to Israel in November 2012.

Muslim Rams Car into Four French Soldiers - David Chazan (Telegraph-UK)
    A French Muslim rammed his car into four soldiers who were guarding a mosque in a suburb of Valence in southern France on New Year's Day.
    The man, 29, of Tunisian descent, who reportedly had been heard shouting "Allahu Akhbar," was wounded by the soldiers.
    "Jihadist propaganda images were found on computer equipment belonging to the driver," Alex Perrin, a local prosecutor, revealed - only hours after a prosecutor ruled out terrorism as a motive for the attack.

ISIS' War on Christmas - Kamel Dauod (New York Times)
    Throughout the Muslim world in 2015, a harsh campaign was conducted against people who celebrate Christmas.
    In Algeria, Islamists worked the streets distributing leaflets denouncing the day as unholy, and discouraging customers in pastry shops from buying Yule logs and cakes.
    In Brunei and Somalia, celebrating Christmas could lead to imprisonment. To celebrate Christmas or New Year's was to imitate Westerners.
    Pointing out that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and that Jesus is a recognized prophet in the genealogy of the Quran would have served no purpose.
    Islamist literature invokes religion to reject the West as the land of Crusaders and Jews.
    The writer is an Algerian journalist who writes for the French-Algerian newspaper Quotidien d'Oran.

The Contradiction of Saudi-Style Austerity - Roula Khalaf (Financial Times-UK)
    Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, this week delivered an unpleasant New Year surprise to its 22 million nationals.
    The kingdom, reeling from the collapse of oil prices, is embarking on a long-overdue economic transformation.
    The government raised electricity rates for the largest consumers and ordered higher fuel and gas prices for everyone, as energy subsidies had been costing the treasury 13% of gross domestic product.
    Still, it will be austerity Saudi-style. Gasoline is still cheap.
    The policy of so-called "Saudization" - encouraging nationals to work and companies to employ them - has been in place since the 1990s.
    But for it to work, Saudis will need better skills; their education system, heavy on religious education and weak on analytical thinking, will have to change.
    Moreover, gender segregation laws mean that job openings for women are limited.
    In addition, at a time of belt-tightening, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition fighting the war in Yemen, bankrolling rebels in Syria and sending money to prop up the Sisi regime in Egypt.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Saudi Arabia Executes 47, including Top Shiite Cleric
    Saudi Arabia has executed 47 people convicted of terrorism offenses, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the interior ministry said. Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in 2011. Among those executed was Adel al-Dubayti, convicted of shooting dead a freelance cameraman on an assignment for the BBC, Simon Cumbers, and critically injuring reporter Frank Gardner in 2004. Those also put to death include Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in 2003. (BBC News)
        See also Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran after Embassy Torched in Tehran
    Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it would officially sever ties with Iran after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday in protest against Riyadh's executions of 47 people convicted of terrorism, which include Shiite preacher Nimr al-Nimr and al-Qaeda ideologue Fares al-Shuwail. The demonstrators smashed furniture and started fires before being ejected by police. A copycat protest at the Saudi consulate in Mashhad broke out on Sunday.
        While Tehran lashed out at Riyadh for Nimr's execution, the Gulf states, the Arab League, and the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars all condemned the attacks and Iranian interference in the region. (Al Arabiyia-Saudi Gazette)
  • In Israeli City of Haifa, a Liberal Palestinian Culture Blossoms - Diaa Hadid
    A slice of Haifa's social scene resembles that of Tel Aviv. But here the cool kids are Palestinians, and they have unfurled an Arab milieu that is secular, feminist and gay-friendly. "Haifa is a center for Arabs, like Tel Aviv is a center for Jews," said Asil Abu Wardeh. "There's a kind of freedom here. We have our own parties. Our own places. Our own discos. We dance. We drink. We do it all in Arabic," she said.
        Their public life in Haifa is a striking secular counterpoint to the conservatism of many of Israel's Arab communities, where single men and women rarely date and tend to marry in matches arranged by their mothers.
        Haifa, a city of 280,000 with several universities, has embraced its diversity. The 30,000 Arab residents, around 10% of the population, include equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, and they are generally wealthier and better educated than Arabs elsewhere in Israel. This makes Haifa a comfortable place for liberal Palestinians. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Soldier Wounded in Shooting Attack in West Bank Sunday - Gili Cohen
    An Israeli soldier was wounded in a shooting attack in the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank Sunday evening. His unit was checking vehicles on the road when they were hit by gunfire from a distance. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Soldier Wounded by Arab Sniper in Hebron Sunday - Gili Cohen
    A female Israeli soldier, 20, was wounded in a shooting attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Sunday afternoon. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Arab Kills Two, Wounds Eight, in Shooting at Tel Aviv Pub on Friday - Ido Efrati and Yaniv Kubovich
    Two people were killed and eight were wounded when Neshat Melhem, 29, an IsraeliArab,opened fire on a Tel Aviv pub on Friday afternoon. Alon Bakal, 26, a manager at the pub, and Shimon Ruimi, 30, were killed. Security footage from an adjacent grocery store shows the gunman taking out a gun from a backpack, exiting the store and opening fire. Melhem, who is still at large, had stolen the gun from his father, who works in security. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Tel Aviv Gunman Killed Arab Cabdriver during Escape
    Police said they were certain Nashat Milhem was responsible for the murder of taxi driver Amin Shaaban, a Bedouin father of 11 from Lod, an hour after the first shooting. (Times of Israel)
  • Two Israelis Indicted over Deadly Duma Arson - Efrat Forsher and Lilach Shoval
    Israel on Sunday indicted two Jews suspected of carrying out a July arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma that killed a toddler and his parents. The indictment named Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, as the main suspect in the attack. A 17-year-old minor was charged as an accessory. Two others were charged with other incidents of violence against Palestinians.
        The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to show "zero tolerance" in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Support for Jewish Terrorism Is Next to Nonexistent - Ben-Dror Yemini
    Support for Jewish terrorism is next to nonexistent. Yes, there are several hundred hooligans in Israel, and it's safe to assume they have several thousand supporters, and if we exaggerate, we'll reach something that is less than 1% of the population.
        Compared to that, Palestinian support of the current wave of terrorism - meaning, slaughtering Jews with knives - is at 67%. When a Jew is murdered in a terror attack, candy is handed out on the Palestinian street. When a Palestinian child is murdered by a Jew, which happens on average once every few years, 99% of Israelis are shocked, condemn it, and feel remorse. Saying Jewish terrorism encourages Arab terrorism is like saying an ant can carry an elephant. (Ynet News)
  • How to Block the Ongoing Palestinian Terror Wave - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    The Palestinian leadership with Mahmoud Abbas at the helm, which rejects negotiations and has spurned offers of statehood, stands unequivocally behind the ongoing stabbing and car-ramming attacks. With the support of a large majority of the Palestinian population, this leadership encourages the continued attacks and does not hide its satisfaction with them. According to the principles of Palestinian identity instilled by the leadership in the psychic infrastructure of the population, the mission of the Palestinians is to hasten Israel's inevitable disappearance through a constant struggle in which all means are permissible.
        Putting a stop to the terror wave requires making it clear to Abbas and the Palestinians in general that the benefit of sustaining it is declining and the cost is rising. In parallel, Israel must clarify to the Palestinians' Western supporters the role that the Palestinian leadership has played in encouraging the wave of attacks and demand that they stop supporting this phenomenon. The writer, director of the project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. (Ha'aretz-Hebrew)
  • U.S. Responsibility for Problems in Mideast Is Limited - Aaron David Miller
    The Middle East's challenges are rooted in internal, religious, and sectarian problems that are not amenable or conducive to U.S. military power or political persuasion. Whatever responsibility U.S. action or inaction bears for the state of the Middle East, it pales next to that of a region that lacks leadership, representative institutions, moderate ideologies, a commitment to functional governance, and a willingness to face its problems. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. (Wall Street Journal)

Why Historians Should Vote Down the Resolution Critical of Israel - Jeffrey Herf (History News Network)

  • A resolution to be discussed at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Historical Association essentially is an indictment of the policies of the government of Israel towards Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza. The standards of evaluation we use in this case should be comparable to those we demand of ourselves in our work as historians.
  • I asked the Israeli Embassy in Washington to reply to the assertions made in the resolution and on Dec. 18, 2015, received a response. The Embassy asserts that Israel does not as a matter of policy restrict the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank. To the extent to which movements are restricted or Israeli military forces enter Palestinian universities, it is because "Palestinian universities periodically serve as sites of violence and incitement."
  • "There are no restrictions on foreign academics teaching in the West Bank." They are "free to enter, unless there are exceptional security concerns." Israel does not routinely refuse to allow students from Gaza to travel to pursue education abroad and at West Bank universities, but permission may be restricted if members of Hamas seek to continue their activities in the West Bank.
  • In the war of 2014, Israel bombed the Islamic University not because it was a university but because it was used by the terrorist organization Hamas to manufacture and fire rockets at Israeli civilians.
  • The Embassy pointed out that the number of undergraduates in the last ten years at Palestinian universities doubled from 129,000 in 2005 to 209,000 in 2015, the number of graduate students in that period tripled from 14,000 to 36,800, and the faculty increased from 3,700 to 6,880.
  • The Israeli government would not support this remarkable expansion if it were adopting the policies alleged in the resolution. It also bears mentioning that almost all of the universities in the West Bank and Gaza were founded after 1967.

    The writer is Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park.

        See also Statement in Opposition to Resolutions Against Israel (Embassy of Israel-Washington, D.C.)

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