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Suffering 101

JERUSALEM — In the Book of Lamentations, the people of Jerusalem cry out against the destruction of the city: “Is any suffering like my suffering?” The answer, of course, is: No. Ever since, Jeremiah’s phrase has pretty much been the catchphrase of the entire Middle East.

Can Palestinians step up to self-government?

RAMALLAH — More than two decades after declaring an independent state, the Palestinians now say they may be able to run one. Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat declared an independent Palestinian state at a conference in Algiers in 1988. But in 2000, when presented with the basis for a state, he failed to agree to a final deal in negotiations with Israel. Current Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad unveiled a plan this week that would set up an independent state in the Palestinian areas in two years — whether Israel likes it or not.

Israel grapples with a new kind of violence

TEL BARUCH, Israel — It may surprise you to learn that many Israelis are only now realizing they live in a violent place. And they’re freaking out. Not the terrorist violence for which Israel is something of a byword. The murderous gang beating type of violence. The dismembered women kind of violence. The homophobic hate crime sort of violence.

Israel: less corrupt than Somalia

JERUSALEM — In its international survey of corruption, Transparency International (TI) ranks Israel a respectable number 33 out of 180 countries. Pity the poor people of Somalia (rank: 180), because the graft stinks bad enough here, 147 places higher on the list.

Meet the economic gangsters

The dismal science of economics is, by most definitions, about finding the most efficient allocation of resources. And that goes for individuals, companies, governments and — yes — criminals. Edward Miguel is an expert on that last category. He's the co-author, with Raymond Fisman, of “Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence and the Poverty of Nations.” Published in late 2008, the authors use new data, innovative number-crunching and various pattern recognition models to plumb the worlds of kleptocrats, corruption, black marketeers and violence.

The aptly-named Ariel Sharon Park

TEL AVIV — A bloated, stinking mass that everyone would have preferred not to have to see, but which nonetheless was thrust upon them. A sight that shamed the people of Israel and ought to have been marginalized, but which was situated right in the center of the nation and was impossible to ignore. In the end, it seems, people will decide they were too harsh in their judgments.

Just like the (good?) old days

JERUSALEM — It’s like the intifada never happened. American diplomats mobbed the streets of Jerusalem this week. Even Iran point man Dennis Ross, whose sad-sack demeanor was a frequent feature of the Oslo peace process, stopped by to keep the U.S. defense secretary, the Mideast peace envoy, and the national security adviser company.

What Israeli warships in the Suez mean for Iranian nuclear ambitions

American op-ed pages have been littered for months with recommendations to U.S. and Israeli policymakers over what to do with the Iranian nuclear problem.

What, and who, really killed Arafat?

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Yasser Arafat’s body lies in the back of the presidential compound, beyond the parking lot, in a mausoleum of stone and glass. Two guards in ceremonial uniforms that seem out of place in the camouflaged guerrilla world of Palestinian militias watch over the angled stone marking the former leader’s grave.

"Chop off their heads at their workplaces."

Al Qaeda says it will target 50,000 Chinese working in Algeria and North Africa, in retaliation for the July 5 deaths of 46 Muslim Uighurs in western China. Two other Al Qaeda affiliated web sites are also calling for the deaths of Chinese working in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East:
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