Israel’s Aramean Christians and the Future of Religious Minorities in the Middle East

The decision of a group of Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel to identify themselves as Arameans—and not as Arabs—has deep roots in their history. By officially recognizing them as a national group, Israel is supporting their challenge to the long-accepted narrative of Middle Eastern identity. Aryeh Tepper writes:

The idea that Arabs, irrespective of religion, constitute one nation was promoted by some Middle Eastern Christian intellectuals throughout much of the 20th century. Indeed, it remains popular in certain Christian circles today, including in Israel. Self-professed Aramean Christians will tell you, however, that it was an idea born out of their community’s political vulnerability. To survive in an Arab-dominated Middle East, they had to “become” Arab. But the idea that adopting an Arab national identity would work to their benefit has been shattered in recent years, as the rise of ultra-radical Islam has resulted in attacks on Christians in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq that sometimes border on ethnic cleansing.

Read more at Tower

More about: Aramaic, Aramean Christians, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Christians, Middle East Christianity

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood