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The Gaza Strip is a small land of strange contradictions. Where else can a rocket explosion be the sound of a ceasefire, or donkey carts be a sign of progress? Israel has restricted access across its border for foreign journalists but I was able to get in to spend 24 hours there this week. As the “calm” agreed between Israel and Gaza Hamas Islamist rulers six months ago draws to a possible end this week, let me share some notes on a day in one of the oddest places on earth.
0800 – A sunny morning drive down from Jerusalem, just over an hour on the well-maintained road network that makes travel in Israel feel as fast and easy as Europe. Just beyond Ashkelon, the main highway running south parallel to the Mediterranean coast swings sharply inland. I carry on straight for another couple of kilometres on what seems a quiet back road.
0930 – In quiet rolling countryside, sits the Erez Terminal, several hectares of airport-style transit hall opened in 2006, expecting to handle thousands of Palestinian workers coming to jobs in Israel after Israel pulled out troops and settlers. Sitting along the line of the more than 50-km of fortified wall that separates the enclave from Israel, traffic is in the dozens most days —diplomats, journalists, aid workers and small numbers of Palestinians, many having medical treatment in Israel.
1000 – Passport duly stamped, I trudge over the scarred kilometre of ground that divides the terminal from where Palestinians can wait. There are still traces of a suicide truck bomb from last April. On the one side, the fertile fields that are Gaza’s economic blessing. On the other, acres of rubble, all that remains of an frontier industrial park destroyed in 2005. The walk can be unnerving, though since the truce declared in June there is less chance of random mortar and rocket fire. And it is curiously peaceful. I always enjoy watching the birds and the lizards which seem to thrive in no man’s land.
With the Rudd Labor government now in power for just over a year, it’s worth looking what at has changed in the country’s foreign policy and its security implications for the region. Is the region, particularly Southeast Asia, ready for Australia’s new advances?
Howard’s pragmatism and ‘forward defence’ doctrine over the previous dozen years was unashamedly aimed at garnering an image of being a “considerable power and significant country” (Downer, 2006). Howard’s loyalty to the United States, no-matter-what, was also aimed at banking up some credit with Washington on the security front. Given the concerns of the time over terrorism (in particular the attack on Bali which killed dozens of Australians), one could argue his staunchly pro-American policy was well founded. Moreover, Downer was quite dismissive of past Labor policy on developing a closer relationship with its immediate neighbours. In 2006, he said of Labor: “In effect, they argue for a retreat to regionalism.”
from The Great Debate:
Salim Adil is an author for Global Voices Online, a website that aggregates, curates, and translates news and views from the global blogosphere. The opinions expressed are his own and those of the bloggers he quotes.
Will this become one of those moments in history? In years to come will you recount to your grand children where you were when an Iraqi journalist, Montather Al-Zeidi, threw his shoes at the president of the United States? For me I was at home just getting my kids ready to sleep when my father called me insisting that I simply had to switch on the television immediately.
There was jubilation, defiance and a sense of history in the making in this farming community this week when some 4,000 South Africans gathered to lay the groundwork for what may be a seismic shift in the political landscape.
It is too early to say whether the birth of the Congress of the People will be the political equivalent of an earthquake or a minor tremor. But there is no denying that the new political party caught the nation’s attention with the inaugural conference in Bloemfontein.
IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Monday that the Fund could cut its forecast for China’s economic growth in 2009 to around 5 percent. To think that only last year China was galloping at a double-digit clip. It’s staggering, and it’s worrying.
Worrying, for one thing, because - as the Heritage Foundation’s Derek Scissors puts it - ”the American economic slump is running into the Chinese economic slump, creating the conditions for a face-off between Beijing and the U.S. Congress, possibly leading to destabilization of the world’s most important bilateral economic relationship”.
The stabbing of a German police chief on his doorstep in southern Germany, which prosecutors suspect is a revenge attack by neo-Nazis angry about a crackdown on their activities, has exposed the uncomfortable reality that western Germany has troubles of its own.
The attack has shocked Germany and rekindled a fierce debate about how to tackle neo-Nazis and whether to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).
Lebanon’s beaches, ski slopes and nightclubs exude glitzy modernity. Its educated elite appears cosmopolitan and sophisticated. But beneath the gloss lie deeply traditional aspects of a society reluctant to shake off a sectarian power-sharing system in which loyalty to one of Lebanon’s 17 religious communities takes precedence over citizenship.
Nothing illustrates this better than star-crossed lovers.
Take Laure and Ali, who began dating six years ago after a chance encounter at university in Beirut when they were both 21. She studied political science and now works for an international aid organization. He is a computer and communications engineer.
William Safire, the language maven whose musings on how we use words have graced The New York Times and other newspapers for decades, has discovered something about the current crisis. Not for the first time, politicians are scrambling to avoid using common words that might get too close to the truth.
This time the target is the economy, specifically what needs to be done about it. In a column, Safire notes that some Democrats, notably the incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, are steering away from using the world "stimulus" when referring to efforts to, er, stimulate the economy. "Recovery" is being used instead. As in, recovery plan.
Not one but two shoes thrown at the president of the most powerful nation on earth! I will never forget those two or three seconds as those leather shoes — size 10s according to U.S.President George W. Bush — spun through the air, missing the president’s head by inches.
At news conferences in the Middle East, it is common for some less professional and obsequious journalists to leap up and sing the praises of a dignitary at the podium. But when Baghdadiya television journalist Muntather al-Zaidi lurched forward and threw the first shoe, I and everyone else in the room was stunned. There was silence, broken only by the shoe thrower calling Bush a dog. And then another shoe flew, and pandemonium broke loose.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Pakistan said two Indian Air Force planes violated Pakistani airspace on Saturday, one along the Line of Control in Kashmir and the other near Lahore in Pakistan proper. Pakistani officials said Pakistani jets on patrol chased the Indians away and that the Indian Air Force, upon being contacted later, told them it had happened accidentally.
The Indian Air Force, though, has told the media that none of its planes had violated Pakistani airspace. There has been no official response from the Indian government.