On January 6, 2008, newspapers in the province of Tunceli in eastern Turkey appeared festooned with the holiday wishes, “May your Gaghand be merry.”  Celebrated on the same day as Armenian Christmas and bearing the same name, Gaghand is an important, if almost forgotten event in the religious calendar of Tunceli, or Dersim, to use the area’s historical appellation. In the villages of Dersim, bearded men calling themselves Gaghand Baba (Father Christmas) pay visits to children and the elderly, offering them presents of sweets and pistachios.
A low-key but injudicious war of words briefly broke out between Israel’s two most senior judges in the wake of the May 2006 decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law. A temporary measure passed by the Knesset in July 2003, the law effectively bans marriages between Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israeli citizens.
“The worst humanitarian crisis in the world today”—so relief agencies and news reports refer to the catastrophe still unfolding in the westernmost Sudanese province of Darfur. With the United Nations estimating that 50,000 people have been killed and 1 million displaced, the description is apt.
But the dead and uprooted Darfuris are not victims of a natural disaster or even a localized civil conflict. Rather, the Darfur tragedy is symptomatic of a larger syndrome afflicting several regions of Sudan.
When a war breaks out people say, “It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.” But though a war may well be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.
— Albert Camus, The Plague
On February 14, 2002, the Israeli government sent several light planes to spray 12,000 dunams of crops in the southern Negev region with poisonous chemicals. The destroyed fields had been cultivated for years by Bedouin Arabs, on ancestral lands they claim as their own. The minister responsible for land management, Avigdor Lieberman, explained:
We must stop their illegal invasion of state land by all means possible. The Bedouins have no regard for our laws; in the process we are losing the last resources of state lands. One of my main missions is to return to the power of the Land Authority in dealing with the non-Jewish threat to our lands. 
Six bodies uncovered in February during construction on an old Iraqi army base in Iraqi Kurdistan were grim reminders of the Ba'th regime's past genocidal policies towards the Kurds. "The past is ever present in Kurdistan," as one Kurdish journalist says. But little reminder is needed of past atrocities when the present provides an ongoing illustration.
Last week, a shocking case of Israeli police brutality in the occupied West Bank was reported in the Washington Post. Officers accosted three young Palestinians out delivering groceries, beat them and took photographs of themselves holding up the Palestinians' bloodied heads "like hunting trophies" for the camera. Aggression and erratic behavior on the part of Israeli police is routine in the Occupied Territories — and familiar to Palestinian citizens of Israel itself.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak postponed this week's cabinet meeting from Sunday to Tuesday in an effort to resolve the crisis prompted by the Shas Party's announcement that it is leaving his government. Shas (Sephardi Torah Guardians), with 17 seats in the Knesset, is Israel's third largest party and the second largest in the current government after Barak's Labor/One Israel. It is an ultra-orthodox religious party whose supporters are mainly poor and working class Jews whose families came to Israel from Middle Eastern countries (Mizrahim).