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Articles written by Ira Sharkansky


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  • Terror here and elsewhere

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Apr 6, 2018

    A Palestinian used his car as a weapon and drove into a cluster of soldiers alongside an IDF base in the West Bank. He killed two and injured two others. A few days later, a Palestinian stabbed a security guard in Jerusalem’s Old City. Those were the third, fourth, and fifth deaths so far in 2018 attributed to Palestinian terror. That equals the number of American Jews that we know were killed by gunfire. Four Jewish students and one Jewish teacher were killed in the school shooting at Parkland, Florida. The number of Israeli deaths from t... Full story

  • Palestine?

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Mar 30, 2018

    Is this another occasion to sit shiva for the idea of a Palestinian state? Or yet another indication that the idea is well within the realm of dreamland, not to die, but not to achieve anything real? Several events qualify for the label of strategic, in the sense that they signal abject failure for those wanting a state when they wake in the morning. One was the refusal of Palestinians to attend a meeting at the White House to discuss what many perceive to be a crisis in Gaza. Another was the effort, apparently by one of the Palestinian... Full story

  • Palestine?

    Ira Sharkansky|Feb 16, 2018

    There’s a question mark alongside the title of this note, insofar as the issues involved in assessing what is described as Palestine raise a host of questions and few clear answers. The problems are normative, i.e., what should be, as well as practical, i.e., what is and what is likely. Even what is, with respect to Palestine, opens us to arguments on several points. The history of Palestinians is as confused as that of any people. And while the designation of Palestinians is problematic, so is that of any nationality. Jews are as much of a m... Full story

  • The marginality of Jews

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jan 5, 2018

    Trump’s speeches, and what has happened since, remind us once again about the marginality of Jews. Some may feel comfortable, and justly, given his realism about Jerusalem the Western Wall, and non-Israeli sources of problems throughout the Middle East. But Muslims, and Europeans, are rabid, or upset about what he has unleashed. We are problems for ourselves and others. It’s nothing new. There are signs in the histories told by the Hebrew Bible, Josephus, and much that has occurred since then. It’s probably inevitable in the case of a small... Full story

  • It's the economy, stupid

    Ira Sharkansky|Nov 17, 2017

    One of Israeli’s prime time evening news programs ran a series on what it called the Palestinian middle class. It featured glitzy hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants in Ramallah and other West Bank cities, interviews with managers and patrons, details of West Bankers, Israeli Arabs, and overseas tourists sharing in what seems like the good life, and interviews with individuals seeing their future in Palestinian high tech Some of the extravagance portrayed was over the edge, too much for a modest Israeli to enjoy. The design of hotels and re... Full story

  • What to do about radical Islam?

    Ira Sharkansky|Sep 1, 2017

    There ain’t much anybody can do. It’s one of our insoluble problems. For those of us outside areas of the Middle East and Africa where one or another radical movement established itself, the problem may grow with the defeat of the extremists in areas they had once controlled. The worry comes not only from individuals that had served in Syria or Iraq and then go home to wreck havoc among the infidels. Those can be identified and watched. Even that is difficult. Europeans have been killed by those who slipped through the cracks. And scr... Full story

  • Two Jewish states

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Aug 18, 2017

    The latest acts in the long running saga of Elor Azaria emphasize the deep divisions among Israeli Jews. There are also sharpening gaps between Israeli Jews and those of the Diaspora. Especially prominent are those separating us from the large Jewish community in the United States. The Azaria problem is closer to home, but it’s not without overseas Jews signing on to one or the other side in our verbal warfare. Azaria is the young man, who when stationed with his IDF unit in Hebron, shot and killed an inert Palestinian who had been severely inj... Full story

  • Minorities

    Ira Sharkansky|Aug 11, 2017

    It’s not yet clear that the commotions surrounding the Temple Mount and the incident in Amman are behind us. An optimist’s view is that two weeks of demonstrations, nastiness from the pinnacle of the Jordanian government as well as the Palestine National Authority, a few deaths and perhaps a couple of hundred injuries were nothing more than blips on a troubled history, now seemingly back to what’s been the normal range of manageable tensions. Those few days also invite some comparisons with minorities elsewhere, and especially African Ameri... Full story

  • Is peace possible?

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Aug 4, 2017

    An article by a former Israeli Ambassador to Greece details the breakdown in peace talks meant to reunite the Island of Cyprus, and suggests a parallel to frustrations at brokering a peace between Israel and Palestinians. In both Cyprus and Israel, the status quo is neither war nor formal peace. There remain unresolved issues of property ownership, and families who left, and cannot return to what they used to call home. Movement between the two sections, whether on Cyprus or Israel-West Bank has at times been easier for foreign tourists than... Full story

  • Closing the Temple Mount

    Ira Sharkansky|Jul 28, 2017

    It was best not to write about this right away. Need to see how it would percolate. It could have been massive or a momentary blip testing the level of accommodation between Israel, the Palestinians, and other Muslims. Truth is, that it is still tense, with Friday prayers posing a challenge to all sides. The initial story made the international news, and monopolized what Israelis were hearing for a day. Three Israeli Arabs, from the Galilee city of Um al Fahm, exited the Old City from the area of the Temple Mount and shot three policemen. They... Full story

  • Peace process

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jul 14, 2017

    Before we were disturbed by a dust-up among Jews about the Western Wall and conversion, we were befuddled by another delegation of ranking Americans prodding Israelis and Palestinians to sit around a table and make peace. What these worthies do not grasp is that there already is peace. It ain’t perfect, but it’s close to the best that’s possible. Alongside the well-known constraints in both Palestinian and Israeli politics in the way of agreement on all the issues that would allow a celebration of formal peace, there are ample signs that both... Full story

  • Gevalt, again

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jul 7, 2017

    The Jews of Israel are watching Muslims near and far killing themselves, and contemplating horror scenarios of a serious threat from Iran, Hezbollah, or some other evil source. There are near daily efforts of individual Palestinians to attack Jews, but for the most part, the Muslim front is quiet for us while chaos prevails among those who have declared their intention to destroy us. The furor among Jews has ratcheted up to what we haven’t seen in some time. Optimists or the indifferent see it as another round in the rituals of conflict, w... Full story

  • Sound and fury in the academy

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jun 23, 2017

    The slippery subject of academic freedom has moved into our headlines with a draft code of ethics for universities and their personnel. It is the work of Professor Asa Kasher, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University, and the author of the IDF’s code of ethics. He prepared this code at the request of the right of center Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, known for his support of settlers, increasing the importance of Judaism in the lessons of primary and secondary schools, and a frequent criticism of Jews and others who condemn I... Full story

  • Can Donald do it?

    Ira Sharkansky|Jun 16, 2017

    He says that he wants to settle things between Israel and Palestine. His initial venture outside the U.S., to the Middle East, may indicate the importance that he assigns to it. There was also a business deal with the Saudis, that will bring more work to American industries. Along the way to that, he got some positive words from reigning Arabs about shared interests against Iran, and their intentions to help bring peace to Israel and Palestine. Perhaps all are on board except the Palestinians. We’re hearing about Trump’s temper against Pal... Full story

  • Current Commotions

    Ira Sharkansky|May 5, 2017

    There’s always something to bother the Jews of Israel. Currently we’re smelling the preparations for a national election. Some may suspect that it wafts over the continent from Britain or France, but it comes from local pressures. The major responsibility may be those long-running police investigations into Sara and Bibi Netanyahu, with a lesser inquiry into one of their sons. Likud politicians are positioning themselves, still careful to say that they support the Prime Minister, but getting ready to replace him. Also playing the election game... Full story

  • Shooting ouselves in the foot?

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Mar 10, 2017

    The most prominent problem currently facing Israel in international politics is one of our own making. Not the work of us all, but the work of some. It’s the so-called settlement law, which aspires to solve the problem of some 4,000 homes built on land that individual Palestinians are likely to convince Israeli courts that they are the owners of the land, and did not agree to the construction. The enactment makes an effort to be fair. It offers compensation to the Palestinians having a valid claim. Its supporters assert that no property c... Full story

  • Barack Obama, RIP?

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Feb 3, 2017

    Obama’s strength is a capacity to speak, and excite many of us. Sometimes in support of what he says. Sometimes in frustration about his slippery superficiality. Sometimes with greater enmity. That he is also black adds to the appeal for many, and the antipathy of others. We should not expect that he’ll go quietly to the place where other politicians retire. His last days in office provide much to applaud or ridicule. Israelis and our friends have expressed enough, or may just be getting started about his last act with respect to the UN Sec... Full story

  • Current and perpetual troubles

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jan 20, 2017

    Only three days passed between the political storm triggered by the verdict against Elon Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot an unarmed Palestinian attacker, and the terror by heavy truck that killed four IDF officer cadets and wounded others. Immediately after the attack some of the cadets found themselves criticized for seeking cover rather than opening fire against the driver of the truck, even while others did what they were trained to do and killed the Palestinian. The Interior minister announced that he would rescind the residence permit... Full story

  • What's important

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jan 13, 2017

    I’ll indicate in advance that this is a personal and rambling note, promoted by several responses to what I wrote about the recent decision of the UN Security Council. And it is by no means the first time I’ve been provoked by what I’ve received from my Internet friends. Several responses have detailed a century’s worth of agreements, resolutions, et al, with different correspondents producing greatly different conclusions as to what it all means for international law and the obligations or opportunities of Israel. This interchange has led me t... Full story

  • Jews and others, there and here

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Jan 6, 2017

    In a recent article, Caroline Glick, a staff writer for the Jerusalem Post, takes aim at what she sees developing in the American Jewish community. Her targets include Jews supporting Obama, Clinton, and others of the Democratic Party establishment, their embarrassment at the election of Donald Trump, and their angst about Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Things have gone further, with an intemperate speech by John Kerry and a shrill response by Benyamin Netanyahu. If we’re cousins, we’re in the midst... Full story

  • What's worrying us

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Dec 30, 2016

    It’s not all Arab terror, clashing demands of ultra-Orthodox and Reform Jews, concerns about what Obama might do in the coming month, Trump in the Oval Office, or barbaric Russians, Syrians, and other Muslims just over the northern border. There’s also been an explosion of concern about women’s legs, and cartoons of the prime minister, at least one of which has raised concerns about another political murder and brought the police to investigate a first-year art student and her teachers. There is also what may be a more serious wave of accus... Full story

  • The Wild East

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Dec 23, 2016

    The concept is vague and messy in a number of ways. Where does the Wild East begin? On the eastern border of what was Israel prior to the 1967 war? With or without the expansion of Jerusalem legislated by Israel but not recognized by other countries? Another vagueness is how many Israelis have moved beyond those lines in the first and second of those conceptions. Estimates range up to 800,000, with about half in the parts of Jerusalem defined as especially unkosher by the friendly part of the international community, Officially, those... Full story

  • The present and future with Trump

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Dec 9, 2016

    Donald Trump is sending mixed messages, some of them more troubling than others. Americans might wonder why others are paying attention. The answer is simple. The U.S. aspires to influence the world, or at least large parts of it. And large parts of the world aspire to be helped, protected, left alone, or be led by the U.S. example. Soothing words heard from Trump reflect his winding down from the shrill rhetoric of the campaign. He won’t bother with criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, and thereby he removes one potential political and m... Full story

  • What's real in politics

    Ira Sharkansky, Letter from Israel|Dec 2, 2016

    Will the real Donald Trump stand up. Opps. He doesn’t seem to be ready. We don’t know. It may take some time. We may never know. We’re not yet sure who is the real Barack Obama or Benyamin Netanyahu. Going back in history, we can ask the same about Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and all the rest, including Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Successful politicians must be actors, hiding their true feelings while seeking support for election, the enactment of legislation, or the implementation of what the legislation appe... Full story

  • Us and them

    Ira Sharkansky|Nov 11, 2016

    We don’t live in a world of clear contrasts, whether we call them blacks and whites, or good and evil. Israel’s relations with its neighbors have evolved over the course of 70 years to something that is far more subtle and nuanced than what is expressed by intense nationalists or far leftists here, Arabs or Palestinians of various shades, or by overseas friends and antagonists, each with their favorite solution. We should start from the realization that there is no solution. Peace is not on our doorstep, no matter what we do. There is no cha... Full story

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