US poster

This essay is published in the summer issue of New Humanist.

The nations of the world, claimed Lord Salisbury in a speech to the Primrose League at the Albert Hall in 1898, were divided into the ‘living’ and the ‘dying’. The ‘living’ were the ‘white’ nations – the European powers, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The ‘dying’ comprised the rest of the world. ‘The living nations’, Salisbury claimed, ‘will gradually encroach on the territory of the dying’ and from this ‘the seeds and causes of conflict among civilized nations will speedily appear’. The partition of the globe ‘may introduce causes of fatal difference between the great nations whose mighty armies stand opposed threatening each other’.

Less than twenty years after Salisbury gave his speech, the mighty armies of the great nations did indeed stand opposed threatening each other, and bringing calamity upon a generation. Virtually from the…

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hamas fighter

There is a terrible irony in Israel’s current assault on Gaza. More than 200 Palestinians have died in an onslaught supposedly aimed at weakening Hamas and degrading its capacity to fire rockets into Israel. It was Israel itself, however, that helped Hamas to power in Gaza. For more than thirty years,from the 1960s to the 1990s, successive Israeli governments viewed radical Islamism as a useful tool with which to counter the influence of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (of which Yasser Arafat’s Fatah was the principal component) and to sow discord within Palestinian ranks.

The Gaza strip came under Israeli occupation in 1967, after the Six Day War. Israel routed the Arab armies ranged against it and wrested control of the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and Gaza from Egypt. The PLO, which had been established in 1964, proved to be a much more durable opponent…

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‘Islamic State’ Advances in Syria

Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, 1/8

In recent weeks, far from the attention of the world’s media, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, formerly ISIS) has been fighting its enemies and expanding its borders.

There is mounting evidence that IS has obtained a chemical weapons capacity of some kind, and has utilized it on at least one occasion during intense combat against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The organization has achieved signal successes against regime forces in Raqqa and Hasakeh provinces that culminated in the capture of the Division 17 base, and the subsequent gruesome execution of over 200 members of the garrison.

There is also clear evidence of Palestinians, specifically Gazans, fighting in Syria in an organized unit under the IS banner, and of at least one clearly IS-linked group operating in northern Sinai and in Gaza itself.

The overall picture is one of a vigorous, capable and…

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