Posts Tagged ‘Israel’





Two great powers with authoritarian or semi-authoritarian political systems should really attend seminars of Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. Or on how not to help your ‘frenemies’.

I am referring to China and Russia. Due to their heavy-handedness and hard-ball approaches, they manage to augment the ranks of their adversary’s (the US) allies and friends.

China single-handedly pushed the Philippines further into the Americans’ embrace due to its aggressive activism in the South China Sea. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of 2014 is the latest (most likely not the last) agreement strengthening US-Philippine strategic ties. Furthermore, Chinese territorial aggressiveness in Northeast Asia is further driving South Korea and Japan into the ‘tacit’ US-led anti-Chinese front. Japan in fact offered a strategic alliance with the Philippines (obviously versus China) last year after ‘gifting’ the Philippine navy with some nifty and spankingly-new fast craft (an obvious improvement over the decades-old US hand-me-downs). Vietnam and the Philippines cozied up to each other again due to Chinese heavy-handedness.




Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)



Elsewhere, Ukraine responded to Russia territorial incursions by firmly siding with the West. Admittedly, Russia was simply a reactor to West-sponsored ouster of a pro-Russian government in Kiyev. However, hardball tactics versus a pro-West successor goverment will only alienate the latter. What it feared–an anti-Russia and pro-West Ukraine–actually came to pass.

Should Ukraine aspire for and gain admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after clinching EU membership, the Russian nightmare of a hostile ‘near abroad’ will materialize. That Western sanctions over the Ukraine question are helping push the Russian economy to a crisis is ‘salt on an open wound’.

Strategically, China and Russia will most likely get drawn together. Partnerships within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and with the rest of the BRIC (i.e., India and Brazil) and Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments with a left-leaning social policy and an anti-US foreign policy orientation will be strengthened or cultivated. Chinese carrots will continue to be available for pariah African states (over such issues as Darfur).

In Asia, China appears to have finessed with its tack with its billion-dollar funded Asian infrastructure bank and the proposed new Silk Road. However, these new carrots are on offer while consolidation (hardening and construction of new and improved infrastructure) proceeds apace in its newly-‘acquired’ SCS territories.

Meanwhile, the US is smelling like a bed of roses. Notwithstanding the partisan blindness of the Republicans and die-hard Tea Party zealots, the US economy is slowly recovering and all other economic indicators are doing quite well. Of course,the 1%-99% divide remains a serious socio-political thorn.



(Photo from

(Photo from




On the global front the US earned a lot of brownie points with the on-going normalization of ties with Cuba. Kudos to Pope Francis for brokering the bilateral preps. On the other hand, the Americans cannot seem to realize their government’s continued support for isolated Israel’s does not help their war effort against international terror.

I will continue to monitor these global developments and post my observations in this page and elsewhere.


Self-immolation and prosecution: Israel and Russia.

Toppling Assad: In aid of Obama’s re-election?.

Republicans’ foreign affairs ‘expertise’.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is considered by most survey respondents so far to be very weak in foreign affairs relative to incumbent President Barack Obama.

He decided to do something about it by travelling to the United Kingdom and Israel; the United Kingdom being the Americans’ closest ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Israel, the most  reliable friend in the volatile Middle East.

Did the visits help?  Based on reports, it looks like they did not.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

When he met British Prime Minister David Cameron, he pointedly asked if London had the capacity to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

What was he thinking?  That he can do a better job, having managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah?

For Mitt’s information, the Summer games are bigger with more events and athletes than the Winter edition.

Some Brits rightfully complained: Hey Mitt, isn’t your plate full enough?  You are already standing for the presidency; you still want to run OUR Olympics?

London Olympics 2012

You think that’s the end of it?

Mitt is just beginning!

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband

When he met Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Mitt called the latter “Mr. Leader”.  Technically, Mitt was correct because Milliband led the Labour Party.  I am sure however that Milliband want to be called by his Christian, rather than generic, name.

Perhaps, Mitt’s aides heaved a sigh of relief as their jet left Heathrow for Tel Aviv.

Mitt was just warming up.

In Israel, Mitt espoused the thesis that cultural difference was the reason why Israeli GDP was twice that of Palestinian GDP.  

Sub-text: Palestinian culture is inferior to Israeli culture.  Since culture defines a people, then Palestinians are inferior to Israelis.

Romney delivering a speech in Israel

Of course, he won a lot of brownie points with the Israelis but obviously not with the Palestinians.

A survey commissioned by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), the Bar-Ilan University Center for International Communication and the Anti-Defamation League revealed that Israelis generally trust Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney more than current US President Barack Obama, according to the Jerusalem Post.

But Mitt’s remarks might not be a mistake after all because Jewish-Americans and the so-called Israel lobby are formidable political forces in the United States.

The liberal press back home pilloried Mitt as a racist and a bigot and for failing to recognize that continued Israeli occupation of Palestine had adverse effects on Palestinian productivity.  The conservative press, meanwhile, praised him for supposedly telling the truth.

Later, Romney recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a round-about manner.   The Jewish state has long maintained that Jerusalem is its capital city, a claim that is contested by Palestinians and the international community. The claim also runs counter to U.S. policy. Most nations, including the United States, have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Mitt at the Wailing Well, Jerusalem

Romney made Jerusalem a campaign issue.  In his latest ad, the voice-over intoned:  “[A]s President, Barack Obama has never visited Israel and refuses to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, Mitt Romney will be a different kind of president, a strong leader who stands by our allies. He knows America holds a deep and cherished relationship with Israel”.


Contemporary Republicans are either prone to gaffes or have strong convictions.

2008 Republican party VP candidate Sarah Palin

My personal favorite remains the party’s 2008 candidate for vice president Sarah Palin, who was governor of Alaska.

When asked about her foreign affairs acumen, she proudly declared that she had a lot.

Only the Bering Strait separates Alaska from Russia!



Asked to elaborate, she explained that Alaska is separated only from the Russian Federation by the narrow Bering Strait.


The state capital of Alaska is the city of Juneau where Governor Palin held offices, is tucked near the eastern pocket of the Gulf of Alaska and is adjacent to northern British Columbia.  Juneau is hundreds of miles from the Bering Strait.  


Her house in Wasilla, Alaska is further inland and does not give one a regular glimpse of the Russian homeland, a requirement she apparently allows one to claim a respectable foreign affairs resume.  If she stayed and held offices in Nome, then perhaps that would do the trick.  Crossing the Bering strait into Russia might also exercise immigration officials on both sides.  


And that, folks, may be the sum of Palin’s foreign affairs expertise!

As I have noted earlier, death is an ordinary occurrence.  For instance, two days of fighting in Syria since Friday left more than 470 people.
Death through self-immolation, however, is extra-ordinary.  
On 11 June 1963, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, burned himself to death on a busy Saigon street to protest

Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation

the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government of President Ngo Dinh Diem.    Duc’s courageous act triggered international pressure on Diem to reform.  However, Diem simply temporized and continued to terrorize the monks.  Several monks followed Duc’s example, also immolating themselves. Eventually, a military coup toppled Diệm, who was assassinated on 2 November 1963.

The most famous self-immolation in 2010 was that of Mohamed Bouazizi, the despondent vegetable vendor, whose death led to the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.  Tunisian protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world–a phenomenon known as the Arab Spring. 

Mohamed Buoazizi

The Arab Spring overshadowed protests which begun in July 2011 in Tel-Aviv, Israel collectively known as the ‘social justice’ protest movements.  Soon, the protests spread to Jerusalem and other major Israeli cities.  The political actions involved hundreds of thousands of protesters from diverse religious and socioeconomic backgrounds opposing the continuous rise in the cost of living (especially housing) and worsening public services (health and education). 
The Israel protest movements were soon weakened by a split.   As a result, two separate social justice demonstrations were held in Tel-Aviv on July 14, 2012, to commemorate the first anniversary of the movement.

Moshe Silman in Haifa

Yesterday, Israel was rocked by news that J14 activist, Moshe Silman from Haifa, finally succumbed to his second- and third degree burns after setting himself on fire last week.  Silman was once  a small business owner who got suffocated by a grinding debt, to the point of homelessness.  Apparently, Silman burned himself to mark the anniversary of the protest movements. 
According a Sunday afternoon report of PressTV, Iran’s television network, another Israeli man has set himself on fire in the city of Yehud, two days after Silman died of burns.  The 45-year-old disabled man self-immolated at a bus stop in Yehud, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Tel Aviv.  The identity and circumstances of the man are unknown as of this writing.
It may be too early to predict how these two self-sacrifices will affect the Israeli protest movements.  However, it may be safe to say that the movements cannot be unaffected by the developments.  Already, many Israelis are carrying posters which read “We are all Moshe Silman”,  a copy of a familiar meme from the Tahrir Revolution last year.  
In Moscow, meanwhile, three young women belonging to the all-women punk-rock group naughtily named Pussy Riot, had been ordered to stay jailed for six more months.

Pussy Riot in an outdoor performance




The three–Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nnadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alekhina–together with an unidentified Pussy Riot member performed in Pussy Riot’s signature miniskirts and balaclavas a raucous song against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow’s most important church, last February 2012.  The three were arrested after the performance and had been held in custody since then.  If sentenced, they could sent to prison for seven years.




Samutsevich, Tolokonnikova, Alekhina

The criminal prosecution of the three women rests on the notion that their performance incited religious hatred.  Witnesses were presented in court and said they have suffered moral damage as a result.  A cathedral security guard claimed he had trouble sleeping after the Pussy Riot performance.  Lawyers for the witnesses also claimed that the Pussy Riot performance unleashed a wave of extremism.

Pussy Riot three behind bars






Today’s The Guardian report that supporters of the three believe that the Russian Orthodox Church, which is close to Putin, is behind the campaign to keep them in jail.  Another prominent dissident warned of some kind of ‘Orthodox Taliban’.





So, is it a case of religious desecration or an assertion of the freedom of political expression?



The answer is crystal clear.



The monk Duc, the vendor Bouazizi, the impoverished businessman Silman, and the Pussy Riot three–all wanted to communicate what was in their hearts and minds.  


They may have done so in dissimilar ways.   We may not approve of self-immolation and raucous performances on church altars.

Still, we must salute their courage and pray for the departed.