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Archive for March, 2013

Marseille 1973

Marseille 1973

In 1973. Before I get to that, a few words about a story that has been all over Israeli and (mainly right-wing) Jewish websites the past three days, of an apparent physical aggression perpetrated against Israeli filmmaker Yariv Horowitz on Thursday in Aubagne—just outside Marseille—, where he was attending a film festival (and where his film ‘Rock the Casbah’ won an award). The apparent aggression occurred at an ATM and, so reported Israeli news sources—including Haaretz, Ynetnews, and The Times of Israel—, was committed by a group of “Arabs” and who knocked Horowitz unconscious. Ynetnews headlined its Facebook post of the dispatch with one word: Anti-Semitism.

Sounded bad except that I was immediately dubious about the story, not that something didn’t happen—I didn’t imagine that Horowitz would have made it up—but of the details as reported in the Israeli media. First, there was nothing at all on it in the French media, which would not have ignored the incident—au contraire—had it happened the way the Israelis were reporting it. It would have been a news story, and likely a big one. Secondly, I wondered how Horowitz—who did not report the alleged assault to the police or even seek medical care—and his friend knew that the assailants were Arabs (or of Arab origin, as they were most certainly French). Thirdly—and regarding the inevitable mention of anti-Semitism—I rhetorically asked (a) how the alleged assailants could have known that Horowitz was a Jew and (b) why the latter assumed he was attacked for this reason. In the news reports there was nothing to suggest that the incident had a Jew-hating character.

But now we have more information on the incident, via the Aubagne film festival organizers and as reported in the Marseille daily La Provence. Nothing happened the way the Israeli websites reported. Horowitz received exactly one punch, but which did not seriously hurt him. The perpetrator was a minor and whose ethnic identity—as if it matters—was undetermined. There was no indication that he was of Arab origin and the incident clearly had nothing to do with Horowitz being Jewish. This was not a hate crime. Horowitz quickly rejoined the festivities. The incident should have never been the subject of a news story, let alone one with such incendiary allegations. I was going to do a longer post on it but see that blogger Ali Abunimah—who knows the French language, or has a collaborator who does—has already done the spade work and rubbished the story (here and here) as it was reported in the Israeli media. So will the Israeli websites that spread the disinformation—and particularly Haaretz, from which one expects higher professional standards—retract and apologize to their readers?

As for the title of this post—which is not entirely irrelevant to what I’ve written above—, the website Oumma.com has a post with a 55 minute documentary that aired in 2006 on Canal+, “Marseille 1973: les ratonnades oubliées.” In English: ‘Marseille 1973: the forgotten ratonnades‘. There is only one way to translate ratonnade, which is “pogrom against Algerians.” The etymology of the word: raton means ‘little rat’,which was one of the racist terms for Algerian Muslims during the French colonial era, and during which time Europeans settlers and soldiers periodically carried out bloody ratonnades. In the summer and fall of 1973 there was a wave of racist attacks on the sizable Algerian immigrant community in Marseille—with eleven murdered at random during the month of August alone—, culminating in the December 14th terror bombing in front of the Algerian consulate (causing four deaths and dozens injured—many seriously—among the Algerian immigrants waiting in line outside). Only one of the murderers was arrested and tried—receiving a five-year suspended sentence… All the other murder cases were classé sans suite, i.e. closed with no further action. Marseille at the time—and it was hardly unique in that part of France—had a significant population of repatriated pieds-noirs—a certain number of whom had been in the terrorist OAS (the KKK of Algérie française in its dying days)—, as well as military personnel who had served in Algeria during the war. Revanchists of Algérie française—with their violent hatred of Algerian Muslims—were present in force in the city’s institutions, and notably the police, judicial system, and right-wing press organs (most of the racists were on the right—including the recently founded Front National—but some were in the local Socialist party). Marseille was akin to a Mississippi town during the Jim Crow era, and with Algerians and other Maghrebis as the Blacks. What happened in Marseille in 1973 was a pogrom, even if the murders were committed by small groups of men and not rampaging mobs. There is no other word to describe it. I knew the history of this well but hadn’t seen the documentary. It’s very good. Do watch it.

It is, among other things, a reminder that the greatest victims of racist hatred in France over the past six decades have been Maghrebis, not Jews. Anti-Semitism was, of course, a scourge in France through the mid 20th century—and culminating in the collaboration of the French state with the Nazis in the deportation of Jews to the death camps—but it must be mentioned for the record that, with the exception of the Nazi occupation, not a single Jew in metropolitan France, from the Dreyfus Affair to the present day, suffered violent death in a manifest hate crime (in fact, I am not aware of any Jews being killed even in the unoccupied zone in the 1940-42 period). Such has not been the case with Algerians, needless to say. During stretches of the 1960s Algerians were murdered in hate crimes somewhere in France at the rate of almost one a week. And it didn’t end with the Marseille ratonnades of 1973. Just a historical reminder. Again, if one’s French is up to it, do watch the documentary.

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Invisible

invisible michal aviad

In the preceding post I linked to a TV reportage of the rapists preying on Syrian women in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. As it happens, I saw this Israeli film a couple of nights ago, which also has rape as its theme, specifically the psychological trauma suffered by rape victims and decades after the fact. The film is based on actual events, of a rapist—nicknamed “the polite rapist”—who terrorized the Tel Aviv area in 1977-78, raping 16 women before he was arrested. The story is of two victims of the rapist whose paths cross 20 years later (30 years later in fact, for the chronology of the film to make sense). One of the women, Lily (Ronit Elkabetz), is an anti-occupation political activist in her spare time, the other, Nira (Evgenia Dodina), a TV camerawoman who captures Lily in action defending olive-harvesting Palestinians from fanatical army-backed settlers—who are, figuratively speaking, rapists themselves—and recognizes her from 20 (or 30) years earlier. She makes contact, they forge a relationship (difficult at first), and relive the event and its traumatic sequels.

It’s not a bad film and certainly holds one’s attention, though what gave it an additional dimension for me was the discussion-debate in the cinema after it was over—which I had not known was scheduled—, led by the directrice-générale of the CNIDFF, a para-public feminist association that promotes gender equality and women’s issues in general, who called the film one of the most important and accurate that has been made on the psychological trauma suffered by rape victims. She said that she had worked with up to a thousand victims of rape in her career and could attest that the manner in which the Lily and Nira characters dealt with the experience decades after the fact—psychologically, in terms of their relationships with men (problematic in both cases), how they discussed it (or didn’t discuss), etc—was entirely accurate, that she had counseled such women countless times. On this level I learned something from the film—and which also depicted situations I am more familiar with (e.g. of how the police, judicial authorities, and even family members suggest that maybe the women bore some responsibility for what happened to them, if they didn’t outright provoke it). The CNIDFF D-G also revealed that the film’s director, Michal Aviad, had been herself a victim of the “polite rapist,” thus explaining her choice of subject and sticking closely to the historical record of the event. Here’s one review of the film. French reviews, mostly good, are here.

While I’m at it, I should mention an Israeli film I saw early in the winter, ‘Yossi’ by Eytan Fox, which has homosexuality as the theme (as did Fox’s excellent 2007 film The Bubble). The protag, Yossi, is a taciturn, pudgy, mid 30s medical doctor in Tel Aviv and gay, though has not revealed it to his colleagues or most anyone else, and has difficulty assuming his gayness even to himself. In the course of the film one learns that he had had a lover, Jagger, ten years earlier during his military service, but who was killed in Lebanon (dying in Yossi’s arms), and from which Yossi never psychologically recovered. He ends up at the home of Jagger’s parents—whom he hadn’t met—and reveals the love he had had for their son (they didn’t take the revelation of Jagger’s sexuality too well), after which he goes on a road trip to Eilat for some R&R, picks up four soldiers on weekend leave on the way, one of whom is gay—and more exuberantly so than Yossi—, and with whom, once in Eilat, things happen. One learns that homosexuality is more accepted in the IDF nowadays than it was a decade ago. It’s a small film, not essential, though may be seen, particularly if one has an interest in the gay theme. It would also help, I suppose, to see Fox’s 2002 ‘Yossi and Jagger’, which is a prequel to this one—and which I didn’t know about (and have yet to see). A review of ‘Yossi’ is here. French reviews are here.

yossi

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Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan (Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images)

Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan (Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images)

[update below]

I haven’t had too many posts on Syria over the past year, partly because I don’t have anything particularly original to say about what’s happening there but mainly as I find the mass suffering and death in that country—not to mention the destruction of Syria’s cities and its cultural and historical patrimony—almost too painful to read about, let alone write and reflect on. But this ten-minute report the other day from the UK’s Channel 4 news, “Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria’s women refugees,” I have to post (h/t Martin Kramer). The report is from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, just over the Syrian border, which contains over 100,000 refugees (and with many more due to arrive), and focuses on the omnipresent threat of rape, not from Syrian men in the camp but predators from the outside: Jordanians but mainly men from Saudi Arabia—the Evil Kingdom—and the Gulf, who have descended on the camp to purchase temporary “brides,” i.e. disposable sex slaves. And this after many of the women fled Syria partly due to the danger of rape from one side or the other in the conflict. Heartbreaking and an outrage. Watch the report and weep. And be angry.

UPDATE: Lauren Wolfe, director of the journalism project Women Under Siege, has an article (April 3) in The Atlantic on the massive rape crisis in Syria. The lede: “All across the war-torn country, regime soldiers are said to be sexually violating women and men from the opposition, destroying families and, in some cases, taking lives.”

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Armed correlations

Tom Tomorrow 12192012

Great tribune by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker, on the NYT’s revelations of Newtown killer Adam Lanza’s home environment and the predictable response of the gun nuts. Gopnik is so good on this issue and says it better than I. Money quote (one of them, as there are several)

If America had gun laws like those in Canada, England, or Australia, it would have a level of gun violence more like that of Canada, England, or Australia. That’s as certain a prediction as any that the social sciences can provide. To believe that gun control can’t work here is to believe that the psyches of Americans are different from those of everyone else on earth. That’s a form of American exceptionalism—the belief that Americans are uniquely evil and incorrigibly violent, and that there’s nothing to be done about it—that doesn’t seem to be the one that is usually endorsed.

At this point in history anyone who supports the NRA’s position is a sick and deranged person. Pro-NRAers are loathsome and despicable people. End of argument. Case closed.

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No

no_pelicula-poster

[updates below]

Saw this terrific film from Chile the other day, about the 1988 plebiscite to allow General Pinochet to serve a second eight-year term—Pinochet’s own constitution, proclaimed eight years earlier, allowing the president only a single term in office. Normally the outcome of a plebiscite in an authoritarian regime is a foregone conclusion but the Chilean junta, succumbing to international pressure—including from the Reagan administration—to conduct the plebiscite freely and fairly, decided to allow the forces for a “No” vote 15 minutes of free, in principle uncensored TV time a night in the month preceding the vote. The opposition to Pinochet—most of which was banned, repressed, and/or in exile—was disorganized and at an obvious disadvantage vis-à-vis the junta in terms of resources (institutional, financial, and otherwise). When the campaign began it looked like the “Sí” would coast to an easy victory, all the more so as the opposition was divided over strategy—over whether to even participate in the plebiscite (which many on the left saw as a farce that could only legitimize the junta)—and didn’t have a good idea as to how to effectively use the free TV time. The latter is the story the film recounts, of a hotshot young executive (René Saavedra, played by Gael García Bernal), at what looked to be Santiago’s leading advertising agency, who essentially takes over the No’s ad campaign and imposes on the campaign’s skeptical leftist militants modern marketing techniques to win over floating and soft Sí voters to the No—and which of course won a big victory (and laid waste to the Sí’s ad campaign, which was headed by René’s reactionary boss at the agency).

That’s as much as I’ll say about the film, which is one of the best cinematic treatments I’ve seen of the role of communications and advertising in political campaigns—and is quite simply one of the best political films I’ve seen in a long time, period. It is also a fascinating depiction of the slow motion collapse of an authoritarian regime once political space was willy nilly opened up for the opposition to organize (and under international pressure, which was of central importance). The film was an Oscar nominee for best foreign pic, won an award at Cannes, plus several others, all well-deserved. Reviews in the US have been tops (Metacritic’s score was pulled down a bit by the nitwit critic from the New York Post), as they’ve been in France (in addition to the reviews one may read the article in Salon “When Don Draper toppled a dictator“). The reaction to the film in Chile has apparently been mixed. I’ll let those more expert on that country than I explain why (I used to be more or less knowledgeable about South America but it’s been a long time since I’ve read extensively about any country on that continent).

The director, Pablo Larraín, did one other film I’ve seen, ‘Tony Manero‘ (2008), which is set in Santiago in the late 1970s, during the junta’s années de plomb. The film was so relentlessly bleak that I didn’t how I felt about it.

Another political film from that corner of the world I’ve seen in the past week is the Argentinean ‘El Estudiante’, by first-time director Santiago Mitre, about a student at the University of Buenos Aires (Roque, played by Esteban Lamothe) who hails from the provinces and is more interested in hanging out and racking up sexual conquests than focusing on his studies. But thanks to a young leftist professor—and one of his conquests, but whom he falls for—he gets involved in student politics at the university and becomes a political operative, and which he is clearly a natural. The pic is all about the world of university politics in Argentina, which is pretty intense—public universities are autonomous and university officials (rectors, etc) are elected—and where the student parties (which go by fictive names in the film) are linked to national political parties and movements (here, left-wing Peronists, the extreme left, and Radicals). Reviews of the pic in the Hollywood press are very good (here, here, and here), as are most in France (though the spectator reviews on Allociné are somewhat less enthusiastic). I found the film interesting enough, though also less interesting at points. As one of the reviews I link to mentioned, “it’s easy to get the feeling of becoming lost in the details,” and which is what happened to me (and I wasn’t helped here by nodding off a couple of times, on account of fatigue, not the film). Though the politicking, infighting, and backstabbing one sees in the film are universal, the political context is specific to Argentina; student politics and the organization of universities in the US are completely different, of course, as they are in France (though there are some similarities in the French case, notably with activism in student politics paving the way to a later career in politics, and which is no doubt the case in Argentina). The theme of ‘No’, on the other hand—of political communication in electoral campaigns—, can be understood everywhere. I’ll see ‘El Estudiante’ again at some point but ‘No’ is definitely the more interesting film for those not expert on Chilean or Argentinean politics.

UPDATE: In a private communication Robert Barros, who knows Chilean politics better than anyone one is likely to meet, informs me that

there are a couple of factual errors [in the post].  The important ones have to do with the 1980 constitution contemplating the possibility of a second presidential term for a candidate selected by the military junta (didn’t have to be Pinochet, though he probably always saw himself in that role) and that the franja (the provision for free air time) had more to do with the internal development and implementation of the constitution than with international pressure.  These variables in turn had to do with the internal dynamics within the military junta and with Pinochet.

Bob is probably the leading political science specialist in the world—and certainly in the non-Spanish speaking world—on Chilean constitutionalism. His book on the 1980 constitution is the one to read on that subject.

2nd UPDATE: An AWAV admirer outre-Atlantique informs me that he asked a Chilean-born and educated higher-up of a major international NGO what he thought of ‘No’. The response

He liked it both as an entertainment and as a depiction of history.  He was not concerned by critics who complained it was historically inaccurate or that the director comes from a right-wing family.  Like Argo, he said, it’s a good movie.  As for the history, he said it captured the confusion and contradictions within the anti-Pinochet intelligentsia at the time and their realization that they had to move from a negative message to a positive one in order to win the vote.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

el estudiante de santiago mitre - afiche

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death of a princess

a.k.a. Saudi Arabia. Ali al-Ahmed, a US-based Saudi Arabian activist and writer—and opponent of the system there—had a piece in FP a week ago on the execution of the Saudi Seven and which I’ve been intending to post. Voilà the details

on the night of March 12… seven young men — all in their early twenties — were still alive and praying to God for some last-minute grace to save them from facing a firing squad outside the palatial offices of the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Aseer province, Faisal Ben Khalid, who ordered their execution.

Their prayers fell on deaf ears in the kingdom. The men, who were convicted of armed robbery, were executed on March 13, in a move denounced by Amnesty International as an “act of sheer brutality.”

Al-Ahmed continues

Hundreds of people are executed in Saudi Arabia every year — because some executions are carried out in secret, no one knows the real numbers. In 2007, the newspaper Arab News reported that 400 people remained on death row in the province of Makka alone. There are 12 other regions in the kingdom, so the total number of people awaiting execution could easily reach several thousand.

The Saudi government runs one of the most backward and xenophobic judicial systems on the planet. There is no formal legal code. Judges must all espouse the government-approved Salafi version of Islam. Blacks, who make up around 10 percent of the population, are banned from judgeships — as are women and Muslims who observe a different version of the faith — because the monarchy’s religious tradition still views blacks as slaves, other Muslims as heretics, and women as half human. There is only one word to describe such a system: apartheid.

Apartheid…. Hmmm, unless I’ve missed it none of the numerous persons out there who have attached the apartheid label to Israel of late have also thought to do so to Saudi Arabia…

Continuing in this vein, al-Ahmed informs the reader that

The condemned men hail from the southern tribes of Saudi Arabia, which have been a target of the monarchy’s systematic discrimination. Since the foundation of Saudi Arabia in 1932, there has not been a single minister from the south, which composes 27 percent of the population and is inhabited largely by Sunni Muslims who follow the government-sanctioned Salafi doctrine. Before his death, one of the executed men, Saeed al-Shahrani, even refused to provide his photo for this article because he followed the government fatwas banning photos of live objects. That’s more than can be said of the members of the ruling family: The royals in the House of Saud are notorious for plastering pictures of themselves in every place possible.

The body of one of the men, Sarhan al-Mashayekh, was supposed to be put on public display for three days, according to the execution warrant. But because everything in Saudi Arabia is political, that did not happen. The government likely feared that such an act would attract international embarrassment, and possibly a violent reaction by the large southern tribes. The executed men came from five large tribes, and thousands of people gathered to protest when the men were killed — photos provided by an eyewitness showed hundreds of well-armed soldiers and dozens of armored vehicles protecting the scene of the execution.

The young men were sentenced for robbing several jewelry stores at gunpoint seven years ago. No one was killed, and the stolen gold was given back to the owners. Saeed, one of the convicted young men, who spoke to me daily since March 1 using a smuggled mobile phone, told me, “I was 15 and I did not carry a gun. I want to go to my family.”

Poverty was the biggest factor behind this crime. All seven were unemployed and came from poor families, reflecting the severe economic conditions faced by many in Saudi Arabia. The unemployment rate in the kingdom is among the highest in the Middle East — it runs over 40 percent among males and over 80 percent among females.

One gets the idea. Saudi Arabia is an evil, barbaric place. (I’m talking about the political system and socio-religious order, of course, not individuals; as for some of the fine individuals there, see the movie ‘Wadjda‘). The barbarism of those who call the shots in Saudi Arabia is demonstrated not only in the way they treat people but also their own historical patrimony. This is not exactly a recent development but the systematic destruction of the architectural patrimony of Mecca and Medina—of ancient mosques, buildings, monuments—is accelerating (see here, here, here, and here). The Saudis are hardly alone in this world—present and past—in taking bulldozers to their cultural and architectural heritage but still…  What is happening in Mecca and Medina today would be akin to the French state razing the entire Île de la Cité—the Notre-Dame cathedral and all—to build a hotel and shopping mall complex. And brooking no discussion or debate on the matter. As when, e.g., the Saudis announced in 2002 that they were going to raze the 18th century Ottoman-era Ajyad fortress (Ecyad Kalesi) overlooking Mecca, to build a hotel complex. There were protests in Turkey over this but the Saudis told the Turks to fuck off.

BTW, the above photo is from the 1980 docudrama ‘Death of a Princess‘, which is unavailable on DVD, that has practically never been shown on television (and never in a cinema anywhere), and that few have seen (though I did, from a video cassette several years ago). It is a very interesting film and document. At some point I’ll do a post on it.

Mecca: urban renewal

Mecca: urban renewal

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2400971439

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

I just watched it on YouTube. It was a great speech. And the Israeli university students were equally great. They cheered and wildly applauded throughout, including at numerous points during these passages

First, peace is necessary. I believe that. I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. That is true.

There are other factors involved. Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war. Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.

And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world. I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace. Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over. Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.

No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division. It would make a difference.

So peace is necessary. But peace is also just. Peace is also just. There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is all true. And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations. It has to be done by the parties. But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.

Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say,

I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them. I believe that. (…)

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that. And they have a track record to prove it. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago. So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.

There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point: Peace is possible. It is possible. (…)

Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples. Two states for two peoples. (…)

Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn. (…)

Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today. Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope. Your hopes must light the way forward.

Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that. (…)

Again, wild applause at everything Obama said here. I was surprised by these Israeli students. And impressed. I’ve been among those who thought Obama’s I-P trip was a waste of time. On account of this speech and the reception it received, I may revise that view.

UPDATE: Hussein Ibish nails it in an analysis in FP of Obama’s “extraordinary speech,” which he says “was without question the strongest ever made by a senior American politician on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

2nd UPDATE: Yossi Klein Halevi writes in TNR about “Obama’s big Israel breakthrough.” Money quote

Next time the Israeli government announces a settlement expansion, there will likely be widespread opposition, rather than indifference, among the public. Obama has reminded us that, even in the absence of peace, we have a responsibility not to take steps that will make an eventual peace all the more difficult.

I hope he’s right.

3rd UPDATE: David Makovsky of WINEP has an analysis (YouTube) of Obama’s I-P trip. Money quote

Being that [the Israelis] feel more enveloped in the warmer embrace, they were able to hear messages about what’s the compelling case for peace. Obama put the peace issue back on the agenda because it was not considered a major issue until then because people were so despairing of the Palestinian side so I think he has returned this issue to the agenda and has made a compelling and strategic moral case of why the current course is unsustainable for [Israel]…

4th UPDATE: Ian Black in The Guardian writes that “Obama show[ed] emotional and political intelligence with Jerusalem speech,” though he pointed out that

Palestinian and Arab audiences were generally not impressed – not least because the president offered not a single practical proposal to advance the long-stalled peace process

But what could Palestinian and Arab audiences possibly expect here, as every practical proposal to advance the peace process has already been put forth more times than one can count? What more can one say about peace proposals at this point? (I actually have an original proposal, that I will unveil in the near future)

5th UPDATE: Ynet News.com has a wrap up of Arab press reaction to Obama’s trip. The lede

Arab world has slightly different take on US President’s Jerusalem speech, claiming he fawns over Israel and seeks to please Israeli leaders and public.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Is this news to the Arab press? Haven’t they figured this out after all these years?

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