Monthly Archives: January 2009

Getting Serious about Israeli Settlements

In recent days, 60 Minutes has come under attack from pro-Israel groups for its expose on Israel’s West Bank settlements (Clip 1, Clip 2). Today, Ha’aretz reported that the Israeli government has released a new, comprehensive database about its settlements in the West Bank.

“Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements – about 75 percent – construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police
stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.”

The database, which can be accessed online in Hebrew, is the product of two years of work led by Baruch Spiegel. While the initial purpose of the mission was to compile accurate information about the settlements–information which the Israeli government did not have, in part because, presumably for legal reasons, it did not want to know about land appropriation, but some of which the United States and the nonprofit organization Peace Now did. Continue reading

Israeli Political Ad Uses Holocaust Survivors To Laud Benefits of Marijuana

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

“An unbelievable political ad in an unbelievable country,” says Jeffrey Goldberg.

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obama’s first tv interview as prez on middle east peace, to al-arabiya

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

As you can see in the video above, President Barack Obama gave his first television interview yesterday, to Dubai station Al-Arabiya. The full transcript can be found here.

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George Mitchell: Good for the Jews?

By Jeremy Gillick

Yes, it’s true. Barack Obama has ordered Guantanamo closed. That’s big news, at least symbolically. But the bigger news, the decision that could really change things in the Middle East, is his selection of George Mitchell as special envoy for the Middle East.

Unlike the other candidates for the position-Dennis Ross and fellow Clintonites like Martin Indyk, Aaron David Miller, and Dan Kurtzer-Mitchell’s resume includes making peace in addition to policy.

And critics of the Mitchell appointment (lefties: the special envoy doesn’t matter anyway, righties: Mitchell is too “fair”) are not very convincing.

Perhaps the most fascinating tidbit I stumbled on while parsing through old magazine articles about Mitchell was a piece by Atlantic Editor Andrew Sullivan titled “Fighting Irish” from the New Republic’s August, 2001 issue. Sullivan argues that Mitchell, among others, was naive to think that militant groups–the IRA, in this case–would put down their arms and enter the political mainstream. Continue reading

Former Senator George Mitchell to be Obama’s Middle East Special Envoy

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Sen. George MitchellPresident Barack Obama (still sounds so new, doesn’t it?) announced that he has chosen former Senator George Mitchell to be his special emissary to the Middle East. Mitchell is a veteran negotiator, most known for an agreement he brokered in Northern Ireland, and the appointment of such a high ranking diplomat points to the Obama administration’s desire to make real progress in the region.

Although Mitchell was born to a Lebanese mother, experts agree that he will bring a neutral perspective to the region. From the New York Times:

“He’s neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel and an adviser to the Clinton administration. “He’s, in a sense, neutral.”

Stay tuned to ITM for further analysis.

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Celebrating Martin Luther King Day

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To read more about the alliance between Jews and Blacks, check out our January/February cover story.

Photo courtesy of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

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Some weekend reading

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Here’s a couple articles to check out if you have some down time this weekend:

  • In the Guardian’s sport blog, James Montague writes about soccer and the Gaza crisis. We love the pieces Montague writes connecting soccer to contemporary socio-politics.
  • Slate published a five part series by Sarah Wildman, describing her journey to explore the mystical Holocaust archives.

Cool. Happy weekend!