Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer discusses The Ravaging of Afrin.

“Located in the north west corner of Syria, the Turkish-controlled Afrin area is largely off limits to foreign journalists.  Turkey occupied Afrin in late 2018, in an operation dubbed ‘Olive Branch.’  destroying the Kurdish authority which had previously ruled there.  Since that time, Afrin has been ruled by a coalition of Syrian Arab Sunni Islamist groups, with the Turkish authorities as the real power behind them.  Significant Turkish investment in the infrastructure of the area, along with the frozen diplomacy of the Syrian conflict, suggest that the current situation will last for some time.

Evidence is emerging to suggest that very grave violations of human rights are taking place in the Afrin area, on a systematic basis.  The situation remains largely ignored by both the global media, and western governments.”

2) At the Fathom Journal, Cary Nelson provides a Critique of ‘The Jerusalem Declaration’.

“…Cary Nelson argues that the recent ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ on Antisemitism should be rejected because it accommodates, rather than challenges, what has been called ‘the new antisemitism’. After reviewing the debate (and the falsehoods) about the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, to which the Jerusalem Declaration presents itself as an alternative, Nelson rejects the Declaration for several reasons: for defining antisemitism in an excessively narrow way, uncomprehending of the ideological versions of antisemitism that are now so influential; for dissolving antisemitism into antiracism, discrediting and obliterating Jewish identity; for employing rhetorical strategies that repeatedly draw empty or banal distinctions to disclaim antisemitic content; for naively absolving the anti-Zionist industry of any probable freight of hatred; and for being marred by a conceptual confusion about, and an impoverished history of, antisemitism.” 

3) Writing at Foreign Policy, Jonathan Schanzer discusses The Return of Palestinian Politics.

“Right now, the Biden administration appears content to let elections proceed without preconditions. Israeli concerns, even if more emphatically voiced, will yield little without U.S. backing. The rest of the Middle East is now watching nervously, bracing for yet another power struggle between extremists and a strongman.

But the blame belongs to Abbas. In his 16 years of absolute power, he has barred political challengers and shut down political debate. If Palestinian elections are held, they will occur in a political vacuum. The alternative was a patient process of institution-building along the lines of what Fayyad advocated as prime minister. As he knew well, democracy is a system of governance that cannot be built on voting alone. Rather, it must be built on parties, structures, and the rigorous debate of ideas.

That’s not possible this time around. But Abbas could still postpone the elections or work with other parties to restrict terrorist participation. Should he reject both of these paths, a new Palestinian political crisis is slated to begin on May 22.”

4) At Newlines Magazine, former US ambassador Frederic C Hof recounts a 2011 meeting with Syria’s Assad.

“Seized by Israel in June 1967 as part of the Syrian Golan Heights, this small, very lightly populated strip of elevated land was (and still is) treated by United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights as part of Syria occupied by Israel. Neither Lebanon nor Syria, in 1967 or for more than 30 years thereafter, claimed the land in question was anything other than the northernmost part of the Golan Heights; the political status of this acreage bordering Lebanon was never questioned. There was no objective reason for doing so.

All this changed in early 2000, as Hezbollah — the “Lebanese Resistance” fighting Israeli occupation for nearly two decades — anxiously confronted the implications of possible catastrophic victory: complete, unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. If the occupation were to end, what would there be to “resist”? With nothing to resist, how could Iran’s Lebanese proxy justify maintaining a militia independent of the Lebanese Armed Forces?

Indeed, as Israeli talk of quitting Lebanon picked up steam under Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 1999, Hezbollah floated its first “the resistance isn’t over” trial balloon in the form of the “Seven Villages” claim.”

Wishing Ramadan Mubarak to all our observing readers.  

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