Jerusalem Studio – Israel’s regional standing – YouTube
In helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, Israelis are hoping to create new bonds
Mafraq is a single-story city in the desert flats of northern Jordan, built in beige and white, spiked with mosques and dotted with chalky vacant lots that suffice as soccer courts. The pores and meridians of Mafraq’s streets are clogged with bits of trash — snack baggies, mini coffee cups, old shoes, soda bottles, all kinds of plastic — that cling together in odd, twisty shapes, little trash monsters soggy with winter’s first rain.
This city of around 60,000, among Jordan’s most impoverished, has doubled in size over the past year: Mafraq is now half Jordanian, half Syrian. As the closest city to the Nasib-Jaber border crossing between Jordan and Syria, it has become a refuge for a tidal wave of people fleeing the civil war in Syria, the No. 1 absorber of refugees (per capita) in a nation that has absorbed almost a million — driving up the price of food and water and overcrowding the local housing market.“All the people in the streets are Syrian,” said Ali Shdaifat, head of the Jordan National Red Crescent Society branch in Mafraq. He said he has seen as many as 40 refugees stuffed into a two-bedroom apartment. Rent for one such apartment has gone from about $150 to $300 per month due to refugee demand, said Mohammad al-Khaldi, another local aid organizer. Continue reading
Strategic Outlook/ the Commentator
For the first time since the Gulf War, sirens were heard this past weekend in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. News stations broadcasted scenes of confused residents running for shelter along with instruction on what do when you hear a siren. Fortunately, people here adapt quickly. All of the sudden, long-hardened residents from down South were reassuring their friends and family in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion: “You have more than a minute before the missile hits” they say, “down here we only have 15 seconds!”
The escalation in Gaza and the Israeli response, a.k.a Operation Pillar of Defense, is the first Israel-Palestinian escalation to unfold in the “new” Middle East. The last two years, the years of the Arab Spring, minimized the Palestinian focus of the Middle East. Instead, citizens of the region were out on the streets, taking down dictators, and installing new governments. The people of the Middle East are still finding their way as blood continues to be shed in Syria. Israelis and West-Bank Palestinians had their own “mini spring” in the form of demonstrations against economic policies and rising prices although these issues will be left for the coming elections. As for the Gaza Palestinians, well, they were neither allowed to demonstrate nor to elect any leadership since Hamas took control of Gaza in a military coup in 2007. Continue reading
Although the Israeli Ministry of Education should continue to re-evaluate and improve the books it approves, claiming incitement where there is none, is really a form of incitement in itself.
The issue of incitement has always been a source of heated debate between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel, on its part, built an “incitement index” with the aim of monitoring the changes of anti-Israeli rhetoric. The Palestinians followed suit and decided to produce a report of their own with its second addition appearing last week. While studying the issue of incitement with the aim of decreasing it on both sides is a worthwhile undertaking, a closer look at such discourse is also due.
“Israeli textbooks foster hate” heralds the title of the Palestinian report, stating that “there is evidence that Israeli schools teach racist textbooks.” The “evidence” comes in the form of four examples of such “incitement”, three of which are taken from the book Geography of the Land of Israel (2002), which has since been taken off the approved reading list of the Israeli Ministry of Education. The illustration it includes, of an Arab in traditional attire holding a camel, is indeed somewhat stereotypical (though hardly inciting) and was probably the trigger for taking the book off the approved reading list. Continue reading