Joanna Chen

Stories by Joanna Chen

  • Israel-flotilla-probe-hsmall

    Will Israel's Flotilla Probe Be a Whitewash?

    Rather than allowing an international commission, Israel is going to conduct its own probe of the Gaza-bound flotilla debacle. Here are three ways to know if it’s a real in-quiry or just a whitewash.
  • Israeli Filmmakers Tackle the Mideast Conflict

    A young Arab gasps for breath as he tears down the street, his feet pounding rhythmically on the asphalt. Omar, who comes from the downtrodden Jaffa neighborhood of Ajami, has just witnessed a killing and he is running for his life. It's early morning, and the streets around Tel Aviv's Court of Justice are deserted. It's an apt metaphor; there is no justice here, only a panicked teenager fleeing his own destiny. In his head, Omar hears the soothing voice of his younger brother, telling him to close his eyes and relax. His breath catches as he turns the corner and trips, falling hard on the pavement. "On the count of three you'll open your eyes," his brother's voice promises, "and find yourself in another place." But in the Middle East, there is no escape from the realities of hatred, violence, and oppression. Omar, who has been involved in a drug deal gone wrong, arrives at the getaway van, only to find it's locked and he's trapped. "One…two…three. Open your eyes!" his brother's...
  • Hiking the Israel Trail

    Below lies the sweeping Negev desert. Above, a line of camels saunter across a stretch of land dotted with yellow-flowered tumble thistle and tiny pink sun roses. In the distance, the lights of Arad twinkle as the soft slopes of the Yatir forest melt into the darkness. It's dusk on the 600-mile Israel National Trail, a footpath that ambles from the country's southern border with Egypt all the way north to the edge of Lebanon. It was modeled on the Appalachian Trail, designed as a peaceful retreat from the world. But this is Israel. No oasis of calm can keep out the heat and tension of everyday life completely.The Israel Trail was first marked in 1995, and it was carefully constructed to sidestep areas of territorial dispute, such as the Golan Heights, West Bank settlements, and even Jerusalem. From one end of the country to the other, it passes ancient ruins and biblical sites, beaches, expansive forests, a desert, and cities. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel says...
  • Israeli Stocks Still Going Strong

    Despite Wall Street's doom, one category of shares is still strong: Israeli stocks traded on U.S. exchanges have grown by more than 6 percent since the beginning of 2009, and the Tel Aviv stock market is also up. That's at a time when European and U.S. stocks fell about 18 percent. The trend is surprising considering Israel's recent political turmoil: the Gaza assault; elections that have yet to produce a government; the threat of a nuclear Iran. So how to explain the strong performance, given that bearish investors tend to run from instability? Israeli stocks on Wall Street come mainly from high-tech and medical sectors—two areas less exposed to the credit crunch. And in Israel, the financial system's lack of dependence on mortgage-backed securities has ensured its relative stability, says leading analyst Eytan Avriel. While Avriel cautions against reading too much into Israel's recent performance, in these tough times even small gains are big news.
  • Israeli Stocks Soar on U.S. Exchanges

    Despite Wall Street's gloom and doom of late, at least one category of the market is still going strong. Stocks from companies based in Israel—which is the second-largest foreign trader on U.S. exchanges after Canada—have grown by nearly 9 percent since the beginning of 2009, according to the MSCI index of emerging markets. The Tel Aviv stock market is also up. That's at a time when European and U.S. stocks fell by around 18 percent. The trend is surprising considering Israel's turmoil over the past three months: the Gaza assault in December and January after weeks of heavy rocket attacks on the Jewish state; national elections that have yet to produce a government; the threat of a nuclear Iran. Last week, Israel's intelligence chief said the Iranian nuclear program has passed a key threshold, raising new speculation of an Israeli military strike.So how to explain the strong performance, given that bearish investors tend to run from instability? Israeli stocks on Wall Street come...
  • Exit Poll Shows Americans In Israel For McCain

    Sure, Barack Obama is leading in U.S. polls. But John McCain can take comfort. Americans abroad have started voting already, and the first exit poll of 2008, taken late last week, showed a sound victory for the Arizona senator.The survey, published by Keevoon Research Strategy & Communications, measured U.S. citizens casting absentee ballots in Israel. These mostly Jewish respondents handed a big win to McCain, giving him some 76 percent of the vote. That preference stands in stark contrast to opinion stateside, where a recent Gallup poll of Jewish-Americans showed 74 percent favoring Obama. So just what do Keevoon's results portend for Nov. 4?The survey found a high correlation between religious observance and voting patterns: 70 percent of respondents defined themselves as Orthodox Jews, while a mere 8 percent called themselves secular. Explaining why they went for McCain, 57 percent of respondents listed foreign policy as the most important concern (many also expressed...
  • 4 Hours In Tel Aviv

    This vibrant, edgy city is the undisputed cultural center of Israel, effortlessly blending old and new. Known as the White City for all its Bauhaus buildings, it's best appreciated by simply taking to the streets. ...
  • Chatting On A Digital Chameleon

    Dov Moran was out jogging late one night when he got tired of carrying his BlackBerry everywhere. So Moran launched Modu Phone in Kfar Saba, Israel, and in October plans to bring out a 39-gram device that can mate with laptops, car sound systems and high-performance digital cameras. The black phone with red and green buttons may be at the cusp of a trend in personalization of mobile devices, says Dan Yachin, an analyst at IDC in Tel Aviv. Modu is readying a line of wired casings to go with the phone—a waterproof one for skiing, another with data storage and modem, another that displays heart and pulse rates along with text. Russian distributors are interested in casings for kids; Italian operators are working on designer models. Modu plans to launch the phone in Italy, Russia and Israel for €180 (including two casings). Moran is betting that consumers will like the idea of changing cell phone styles, if not the actual hardware. "People buy phones as if they were cars—signing a long...
  • A Palestinian Plea for Peace

    A would-be Palestinian suicide bomber explains why she has changed her mind about violence against Israelis
  • Talking With Amos Oz

    Author Amos Oz speaks on Israel and Palestine, the dream of Zionism and how politicians listen to artists and then forget everything they're told.
  • Q&A: Saban on Mideast Peace

    Haim Saban wants to discuss his latest Mideast initiative. Others prefer to focus on how he produced 'The Power Rangers.'
  • Mideast: Crossover Radio Opens New Channels

    A new Mideast radio station is attracting both Palestinians and Israelis. How a format created during South Africa's apartheid era is offering a fresh forum in a troubled region.
  • Getting Israelis, Palestinians on the Same Page

    Sami Adwan is the very model of a soft-spoken professor. He measures his words, and listens carefully to what others have to say. Yet while pursuing an education Ph.D. at the University of San Francisco in the 1980s, Adwan not only refused to listen to Jewish students, he says he dropped out of classes if he knew they included Jews. A Palestinian born in the village of Surif, near Hebron, Adwan had grown up under the shadow of the Israeli occupation, hearing tales from his father and grandfather of how Jews had seized the family's orange groves and wheat fields in 1948. Returning to his homeland with his degree, Adwan joined the then outlawed Fatah Party and was thrown into an Israeli jail in 1993.That was his real education. While awaiting charges, Adwan overheard two Israeli soldiers arguing over whether he should be made to sign a document in Hebrew that he couldn't read. Shocked to hear one of his enemies defending his rights, Adwan decided that he had some things to learn about...
  • Women and the Holocaust

    A tiny piece of cellophane smudged with bright red lipstick, a bra hand-sewn with thread from a blanket, a comb made out of scrap wire and a camp uniform adorned with a single bead. These are some of the artifacts on show at a new exhibition at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. “Spots of Light” is a stunning multimedia exhibition that displays Holocaust experiences from a feminine perspective for the first time, pinpointing the ways in which women held on to their identity under unbearable circumstances.More than 3 million women—Jews and other minorities—from all over Europe were sent to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Unlike standard documentation of the Holocaust, this is not an exhibition of blame or a catalog of evidence but a glimpse into the most intimate moments of women struggling to live against all odds. Women in ghettos, partisans hiding out in forests, young brides who write letters to their mothers explaining that their loved ones will soon...
  • Leaving Lebanon Behind

    At the Berlin Film Festival last month, Joseph Cedar looked more like a bashful schoolboy than a director to rival Robert De Niro and Steven Soderbergh. So it was especially surprising when the Israeli filmmaker beat out those two veterans for the festival's best-director prize for his latest movie, "Beaufort," about the abrupt Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, after 18 years of occupation. Set in a concrete maze of bunkers and trenches atop a mountain outpost, the film follows a group of soldiers battling not so much the enemy as their own fears for survival. In a stroke of precipitous timing, the film—which opens in Israel this week and globally later this year—was completed just five weeks before the second Lebanon war broke out in July 2006, plunging Israel and its northern neighbor into a fresh round of fighting.Cedar's award is one of the highest honors ever bestowed on an Israeli director. Until recently, film was not considered a high priority by the country's...
  • Israel: Peres--Exit Stage Left

    Shimon Peres's resignation last week from Israel's Labor Party might have looked like a step toward retirement. Peres is 82; he's served twice as Israel's prime minister and held every other major cabinet post. But like the career paths of so many Israeli politicians, his exit stage left was really a prelude to entering stage right: "I'll continue to serve," Peres told NEWSWEEK after throwing his support to Ariel Sharon for a promise to serve in the cabinet Sharon could form after national elections in March.Peres is gambling that Sharon's own divorce from hardliners in his former Likud Party will free them to forge peace with the Palestinians. In the interview with NEWSWEEK, Peres said Sharon had gained the "freedom of movement" to finally strike a deal. But most Labor lawmakers thought Peres was betting on the wrong horse. "He genuinely wants to bring peace, but he's deluding himself into thinking that Sharon as prime minister will give him room to maneuver," says Labor's Ephraim...
  • NO VACATION FROM TERROR

    The first warnings filtered into the offices of Israel's Shabak security service last January. Terrorists were plotting to carry out an attack on Israeli tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where luxury hotels and bungalow resorts overlook the Red Sea. But the details were scant and, as often occurs with intelligence, only partly accurate. The reports referred to a shooting attack that would be staged by Palestinians with weapons smuggled from Gaza into Egypt. It wasn't until September, eight months later, that the information veered in a different direction. New intel pointed to an upcoming attack by "international jihad"--the term Israeli intelligence uses for Al Qaeda and related Islamic groups--according to a source familiar with the reports.Israeli security officials now believe that Al Qaeda, using Egyptian operatives, probably carried out the twin attacks at the Taba Hilton and a second resort last week, killing 33 (with at least a dozen people still missing). If they're...
  • Ofir's Fatal Liaison

    Their online conversations resonated with the innocence and beauty of a budding romance. She told him he appeared to her in her dreams. He told her he missed her constantly. Many of their exchanges ended with the words "I love you." But while Ofir Rahum, the 16-year-old Israeli, who only weeks earlier had learned to shave, boasted to friends about his courtship of an older woman, his Palestinian chat pal was hatching a sinister plot. In conversations over several months Amneh Muna pressed for one thing--a meeting in Jerusalem. When he suggested a venue closer to his home, she said she couldn't get a car. When he said his parents would object, she promised to deliver him back by 5. The pledge and a few sexual innuendoes persuaded the boy. "You don't know how much I'm waiting for Wednesday," Muna wrote him two days before their meeting. Rahum would finally see Muna--and then pay for the meeting with his life. ...
  • Ofir's Fatal Attraction

    Their online conversations resonated with the thrills and innocence of a budding romance. She told him he appeared in her dreams. He told her he missed her constantly. Many of their exchanges ended with "I love you." But while Ofir Rahum, the Israeli 16-year-old who only weeks earlier had learned to shave, boasted to friends about his courtship with an older woman, his Palestinian chat pal had other plans. In conversations over several months Amneh Muna pressed for one thing--a meeting in Jerusalem. When Rahum suggested a venue closer to his home, she said she couldn't get a car. When he said his parents would object, she promised to get him back by 5. That vow and a few sexual innuendoes persuaded the boy. "You don't know how much I am waiting for Wednesday," Muna wrote him two days before. It would be the last day of Ofir's life. ...