Why a lack of democracy in the Arab World? Can things change?

It's a question that often comes up in comparison to a country like Israel, where, at least for its Jewish citizens, and to different degrees, its Arab citizens. democractic processes are vigorous, if often challenged. But other than newspaper reports, it is hard to find extensive material in English about the state of affairs in the diverse Arabic-speaking world.

A Screaming Disgrace

The following letter was published in an edited form, by the Australian Jewish News on 1 October 2009. Is the front page screaming "Disgrace", along with the usual hasbarah and the twists and turns about human shields offered by Alan Dershowitz, the best the AJN commentators can do in response to the Goldstone report which highlights the disproportionate killing of civilians by Israel?

Plus ça change..

I saw a program about Yehudi Menuhin on TV, and in the course of looking up some bio facts about him, I cam across this wonderful quote from 18 years ago when he gave a speech to the Knesset after being awarded an Israeli Prize. Speaking of the occuption, he said--

Debate needed on nuclear weapons

Letter in The Age 01/10/09 CONGRATULATIONS to Amin Saikal (Comment, 30/9) for his thoughtful and courageous entry to the labyrinth of Middle East nuclear tensions. His thread of an exit strategy has many complicated turns but offers a credible hope that demands serious examination. Saikal canvasses diplomatic and political initiatives that might bring about a ''region-wide regime of arms control'', none so fanciful or utopian as to warrant the scorn or silence they are all too likely to meet in Australia.

Is Iran a threat, or is it the Occupation?

Today's Sydney Morning Herald (23 Sept 2009) has an interesting op-ed piece by Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis. But it doesn't appear in the Melbourne Age, which is a great pity. He notes: " Last Friday, according to Jewish New Year’s tradition, Barak gave an interview to Israel’s biggest selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Instead of the usual palaver about the threats facing Israel, Barak surprised his questioners with this frank admission. “Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel,” said Barak."

UNHCR Report on Gaza

The following is a verbatim cut and paste from the UN Press Release on the Goldstone report. Elswhere, it is reported that only a summary of the report is available. In fact, the full 575 pages can be downloaded. Note the following statement at parag 20. By refusing to cooperate with the Mission, the Government of Israel prevented it from meeting Israeli government officials, but also from travelling to Israel to meet with Israeli victims and to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority representatives and Palestinian victims.

A Parliamentarian for censorship

[This, of course, is an entirely personal opinion,and only reflects my views] Michael Danby, the Australian Federal Member for Melbourne Ports has read into the Australian Parliamentary Record 'Hansard' his version of a contretemps between the editors of the online magazine New Matilda and the commentary site Crikey.com. He has also republished the Hansard speech on his personal website, adding in mastheads of the offending publications in his claims about 'hate speech'. Doubtless, his speech will be mailed out (at taxpayer's expense) to everyone in the local electorate newsletter.

Uri Avneri the Israeli Patriot

Uri Avneri is 80+, but he can still pack a punch. In this piece, about boycotts of Israel, he says many things, amongt which are "...Anyway, there is no sense in arguing with those who pray for the disappearance of the sovereign State of Israel, rather than for the appearance of the sovereign State of Palestine at its side. The argument is among those who want to see peace between the two states, Israel and Palestine. The question is: how can it be achieved? This is an honest debate and is generally conducted in a civil manner. "