Israel Resource Center
The Middle East: Battle Lines Are Drawn

In the last decade, the Middle East has been living through a political convulsion of historic proportions.
Regimes that once appeared immovable have been destroyed or have receded. New forces have risen up and are making war over the ruins.

The result of the effective eclipse in recent years of the states of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon has been the emergence of a large and chaotic conflict in the contiguous area once covered by those states. The failure to develop coherent state-loyal national identities in the areas in question has meant that once central authority disappears, a political-military competition based on forces assembled according to ethnic and sectarian identity emerges. A sectarian conflict is as a result now raging between the Iraq-Iran border and the Mediterranean. This dynamic of conflict has now extended to Yemen.

In this maelstrom, the Iranians and their clients have emerged as the single most formidable alliance. It appears that Iran intends to replace the US as the hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf region. The Sunni Arab states of the Gulf are worried by this and are seeking to resist the Iranian advance. The result is growing instability.

What are the reasons behind Iranian success? What are the particular advantages enjoyed by the Iranians and their proxies in this contest? What explains the belated but determined Saudi-led Sunni reaction to the Iranians’ advances? And what are the likely implications of the achievement of a nuclear deal and the imminent lifting of sanctions on Iran on Iranian actions in the region?

The Chaos of a Perfect Storm

The Middle East is in the midst of a stormy period of upheaval. The process began in Iran, after the revolution there gave birth to a Shi’ite dynamic that even now influences the entire region. This dynamic brought together radical Islamic forces that had smoldered under the surface since the collapse of the last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire. Radical Islam, in its several different forms, views Islamic governance as the solution to the ills of the region and to the weakness of the Muslims in the world, and as a preferred alternative to the modern world order of nation states. When the British and the French divided up the region a hundred years ago – according to their needs – they created artificial states, some of which have now ceased to exist, and some of which are facing collapse. Various forces that seemed to have disappeared, as a result of repression by the dictatorial regimes ruling the region’s states, have resurfaced. In many areas, one’s family, tribe, ethnic community, and religion have once more become the chief loci of identity and power, eclipsing the state.

Major General (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror is the Ann and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and a senior fellow at JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy. He has served as National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, head of the National Security Council, commander of the IDF Military Colleges, and head of the research division of the IDF Intelligence Corps.

Purim

Purim is celebrated on the Jewish Calendar Date: 14th of Adar (15th of Adar for cities in the land of Israel that were walled during the First Temple period).

In the years 539-332 BCE the First Persian or Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled from the border of India to Egypt and Turkey. When the Babylonians expelled many of the Jews from the land of Israel in 586 BCE, they dispersed throughout the area ruled by the Babylonian Empire.

According to the Biblical Book of Esther, a senior Persian minister named Haman conspired against the Jews in the 5th-4thcentury BCE. He gained the approval of the Persian Achashverosh Commonly identified as Artaxerxes II, who ruled from 405 to 358 BCE.

It should be noted that there are many scholars who question whether the Book of Esther is meant to be read as an accurate historical account.

To wipe out the Jews and loot their wealth for the kingdom’s treasury. Haman cast a lot or pur to decide which month the deed would be carried out. The lot fell on the month of Adar.

A Jewish Persian Judge named Mordechai and a Jewish Persian queen named Esther intrigued against Haman’s plans and eventually succeeded in causing the King to execute Haman and his family. This seminal event resulted in the Jews gaining the right to organize and defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them. The Jews did so and killed many of their enemies. Thus for the Jews, the month of Adar was a month where the threat of destruction was replaced with salvation.

The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity

An Instrument of Political Warfare to Delegitimize the Jewish State

While modern Israel was born in the aftermath of the British Mandate for Palestine, which called for a Jewish national home, its roots preceded the arrival of the British to the Middle East. In that sense Britain was not Israel’s mother-country, like France was for Algeria. Indeed, the Jews were already re-establishing their presence independently in their land well before the British and French dismantled the Ottoman Empire.

As time went on, it became clear that the British Empire was not the handmaiden of Israel’s re-birth, but rather its main obstacle. The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers.

Bringing Light to the Holy Land: Israel’s Electrical System

Like every other nation, Israel is a country that is always growing – demographically, technologically and economically. As a result, Israel has an ever-growing need for a reliable and efficient supply of electrical energy.

Fuels

As a country with few natural resources, Israel imports most of its fuel for electrical energy. Currently, Israel’s main fuel supplies are coal and natural gas. Egypt provides most of Israel’s natural gas through a pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, while Israel buys most of its coal on the open market from countries such as Australia and the United States.

Due to the high cost of foreign imports, Israel made many efforts to reduce its dependence on imported sources of fuel for electricity. For decades, Israel unsuccessfully attempted to discover oil or other fossil fuels within its borders. However, recent exploration efforts off the northern coast of Israel led to the discovery of a large pool of natural gas in a site called Tamar. Furthermore, Israel recently cooperated with Cyprus assisting with their undersea natural gas exploration.

War & Peace – Talk Delivered by Nobel Laureate, Robert Aumann

The talk was presented at SIGNAL’s China-Israel Symposium Sept. 9, 2011

Thus begins the Advanced Information announcement of the 2005 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, awarded for Game Theory Analysis of Conflict and Cooperation. So it is appropriate to devote this lecture to one of the most pressing and profound issues that confront humanity: that of War and Peace.

Robert Aumann at SIGNAL's Symposium

Robert Aumann at SIGNAL’s Symposium

I would like to suggest that we should perhaps change direction in our efforts to bring about world peace. Up to now all the effort has been put into resolving specific conflicts: India–Pakistan, North–South Ireland, various African wars, Balkan wars, Russia–Chechnya, Israel–Arab, etc., etc. I’d like to suggest that we should shift emphasis and study war in general.

Let me make a comparison. There are two approaches to cancer. One is clinical. You have, say, breast cancer. What should you do? Surgery? Radiation? Chemotherapy? Which chemotherapy? How much radiation? Do you cut out the lymph nodes? The answers are based on clinical tests, simply on what works best. You treat each case on its own, using your best information. And your aim is to cure the disease, or to ameliorate it, in the specific patient before you.

Beit Hatfutsot (Diaspora) Museum

From the Museum’s website:

“Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, is more than a museum. This unique global institution tells the ongoing and extraordinary story of the Jewish people… Beit Hatfutsot conveys to the world the fascinating narrative of the Jewish people and the essence of the Jewish culture, faith, purpose and deed while presenting the contribution of world Jewry to humanity”

BH1The museum showcases the development of Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora, focusing on the unique characteristics of each community while demonstrating how their roots tie them all together. Exhibitions are changing all the time and include many interactive elements. One such element has the visitor pretend that they are a Jew in a specific time and place and then make a decision as to how to deal with a dilemma or crisis typical of the period. The visitor is then given the likely result of his decision.

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

From around the 10th century CE onwards, the Jewish world was divided into two major groups. The first group, called the Sefardim or Spaniards, lived mostly in Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The second group, known as the Ashkenazim or “Germans”, lived in the more Northern sections of Europe, from France and Germany to Poland and Russia.

europeantown

An Eastern European Jewish town.

Eastern Europe was an important cultural center of the Ashkenazi Jews from the 16th century until the Second World War. This region includes what are now the countries of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Romania and Russia.

Never Again: The Yad Vashem Website

Jude StarThe Holocaust refers to the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War Two. Though the Jewish people had been persecuted in Europe for centuries, a premeditated genocidal campaign of this scope was unprecedented in modern history, thus leaving a lasting impression on the Jewish people and on the Western world as a whole. The atrocities of the Second World War remind posterity of humankind’s barbarity if left unopposed. The establishment of Holocaust museums following the war serve as a clarion call to ensure similar events will never happen again.

Yad Vashem is the official Israeli museum and research center on the Holocaust. It is one of the largest such institutions in the world. In addition to the physical museum, Yad Vashem has a comprehensive, scholarly website with information on every aspect of the Holocaust. Anyone who wishes to learn more of this shameful period in human history would do well to start here:

http://www.yadvashem.org/

The Shekel

The shekel served as the name of the currency of the People of Israel in ancient times dating back even before they were called Jews. When the state of Israel was formed, the founders of the nation termed the currency shekel as homage to the Jewish People’s ancient currency. The shekel was used in a variety of ways in throughout history.

The Half Shekel

In the first temple period (1000-586 BCE) a shekel referred to a specific measure of weight. The word shekel itself comes from the Hebrew linguistic root ‘to weigh’. The Torah (Jewish Bible) commands that all men above the age of twenty must contribute a half a shekel to the building of the Jewish Temple.

A shekel minted in the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 AD)

A shekel minted in the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 AD)

The Jewish Temple was not the same as the present day synagogue of Jewish communities around the world – i.e., a local place of prayer and nothing more. While it stood, the Temple was the most important religious building of the Jewish people. The Temple was the center for Jews from all corners of the country to come on three festivals – Pessah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot. For 2000 years since it was destroyed, Jews all over the world have prayed for God to rebuild the Temple and restore His presence within it. No other Jewish religious site has any comparable significance.

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