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A Normal Week in Jerusalem

Dec. 19 2017

For the past two weeks, newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories of rising “tensions” in Israel’s capital. But the Jerusalemite Matti Friedman reports that last week was a thoroughly normal one. Jacksonville, Florida, he notes, had far more homicides this year than Jerusalem, although the two cities are roughly the same size. And for those seeking bloodshed and religious hatred: Aleppo and Baghdad are a day’s drive away. He writes:

Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe. . . . But what is truly interesting about Jerusalem is not the proximity of the brink, but the way the city’s residents often refuse to play their part in the script by stepping off. . . .

I’ve been in Jerusalem for nearly two decades and am still trying to figure it out. What I have figured out, though, is that understanding means seeing it not as a symbol but as an actual city, and taking its people seriously as real people. . . . This week, I went to one of the big supermarkets [near my house], on ha-Oman Street, where much of the city does its grocery shopping. This is an Israeli area, but of the 50-odd workers I counted among the aisles of produce and cereal, at least two-thirds were Palestinian. One cashier, a Jewish woman in a modest hair covering (navy blue, tied at the nape of the neck), was serving three Muslim women in modest hair coverings (grey, pink, and black, respectively, clasped under the chin). At a SuperPharm nearby, the scene was similar—an Arab female pharmacist serving a Jewish woman with a prescription, a Jewish cashier and two Arab guys stocking the shelves. . . .

It was once easy to tell people apart by their clothes, but the rise of global brands has meant that people, especially young people, tend to dress the same—the same skinny jeans, the same soccer haircuts. The old visual lines have been blurred, like the old geographic lines: ten years ago, it would have been remarkable to see Palestinian customers or salespeople in a Jewish part of town, but today what’s remarkable is how unremarkable it’s become.

Read more at Globe and Mail

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Jerusalem, Media

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen