'Tis the season to be thankful for hard-hitting journalism. Too many media outlets focused on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and every other made-up shopping holiday. Instead, we bring you the best coverage of Israel and Gaza you may not have read: from Israel's pinkwashing to the IDF and Hamas's Twitter sparring.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“Colonial Experiments in Gaza,” by Samera Esmeir. Jadaliyya, November 18, 2012.
This is a different kind of piece on Gaza. Samera Esmeir shows how attacking Gaza isn't really about achieving anything in Gaza specifically. Gaza is the "laboratory" where Israel tries to achieve its larger goals and assert its dominance, and in this sense, Gaza is "instrumentalized." Thus, the chief motivation behind the latest aggression on Gaza is a grand scheme "to remind all concerned that Israel makes the rules," rather than an attempt to achieve concrete military objectives in Gaza.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Big Sky, Big Money.” Frontline, October 30, 2012.
The election may be over, but the fights over campaign finance limits and disclosure are sure to continue in the wake of the most expensive election in US history. This documentary, focused on the legally murky activities of a dark money group in Montana, offers a behind the scenes look at how limitless funding and anonymous donors are altering the landscape of our democracy. Those familiar with the work of conservative campaign finance lawyer James Bopp, who successfully argued on behalf of Citizens United, will find his interview particularly colorful.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency and China.
“Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip: ‘Last Trick’ to Contain China?” by Melinda Liu. The Daily Beast, November 20, 2012.
An interesting look at Chinese and Asian reactions to President Obama's Asian tour. The article's clearly written but, as per usual with Newsweek/Daily Beast, doesn't really delve as deeply as it should. A particularly noteworthy inclusion is a comment from Lu Yucheng, an official in the Foreign Ministry—"China is still a growing country with imbalanced development... It is not unwilling, but unable, to take on more international responsibilities and fully play the role of a major country." It's not clear what the implication is: does China wish to be considered a more important player in Asia? In which case, Beijing will have to accept a role similar to the one the US currently plays in the region. Otherwise, China's neighbors will continue to bandwagon with America, which will only increase Beijing's insecurity and paranoia.
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media and East Asian affairs.
“The Tweets of War,” by Emily Greenhouse. The New Yorker, November 19, 2012.
In an unprecedented move, Israel announced its bombing campaign in Gaza via Twitter. And as the death toll of Palestinians continues to rise, the IDF spreads mass-scale propaganda messages on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and, remarkably, Pinterest become digital fronts for message warfare. Greenhouse reports that the IDF's threatening tweets posed questions for these companies regarding the extent of freedom of speech on social media platforms.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“When the Smoke Clears in Gaza,” by Yousef Munayyer. The New Yorker, November 19, 2012.
Over a hundred Palestinians been killed and hundreds more injured due to Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza, while three Israeli civilians were killed by Hamas rockets. In the midst of this terrible human tragedy, Yousef Munayyer asks an "imperative question": "Is the way in which Israel exists—as an occupier, a colonizer, and ultimately, as an apartheid state—right?" The simple answer is no. Israel's policies of racial discrimination, demolishing Palestinian homes, crippling blockade on Gaza, military occupation, permanent war and other injustices against the Palestinians lie at the heart of the constant bloodshed. Not dealing with this question ensures that another war between Israelis and Palestinians will occur in the future. To settle this, Munayyer suggests that Israel cease pushing Palestinians from their land and calls for a single, democratic state in Israel to alleviate the conflict.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence and regulatory capture.
“In Leaked Docs, Honeywell Cites Obama Ties As Key to Anti-Union Strategy,” by Mike Elk. In These Times, November 16, 2012.
In this investigation, Mike Elk reveals an internal PowerPoint presentation from Honeywell pointing to its close relationship with powerful federal officials—a photo of President Obama is shown—as evidence for its ability to “break up union cohesion across the country.” Elk presents, as he has many times before, the nature of that relationship and the pattern of aggressive anti-unionism at the company. Elk’s investigation raises the possibility that Honeywell has directly used its ties to the administration to suppress labor organizing. What really gets my goat about this story, however, is that Honeywell tried to deflect blame upon “summer interns, not full-time Honeywell employees, and as such [the slideshow] should not be considered to reflect Honeywell’s positions or policies.” Blaming the intern: truly, the lowest of the low.
Annum Masroor focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“A Former Ambassador to Pakistan Speaks Out,” by Tara McKelvey. The Daily Beast, November 20, 2012.
When Christopher Munter resigned from his position as Ambassador to Pakistan earlier this May, many believed his decision stemmed from a personal disagreement with the Obama Administration's hardline stance on Pakistan diplomacy. The New York Times reported that he "didn't realize his job was to kill people" and others speculated it was the President's aggressive drone policy at the center of the disagreement. In an interview with Tara McKelvey of The Daily Beast, Munter attempts to clear the air by explaining what led him to take up the position in the first place, and what his views on drones actually are. While he agrees that the use of drones are advantageous and in line with American strategic interests, he argues that using them to replace diplomacy has negative consequences and may even defeat their purpose in the first place. Arguing that the use of drones needs to be more measured, he says, "The use of drones is a good way to fight the war. But you’re going to kill drones if you’re not using them judiciously."
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“Climate scientists are Nate Silver, radio edition,” by David Roberts. Grist, November 19, 2012.
Remember when statistician Nate Silver predicted the outcome of 2008’s general election? Remember when he did it again this year, much to the dismay of every Mitt Romney supporter ever? That’s kind of what it’s like to be a scientist studying climate change and predicting the catastrophic damage that’s in store for our planet if something doesn’t change soon. Except when they’re proven right, a cheeky “I told you so'” at the expense of the other side probably won’t seem as satisfying.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“De-Pinkwashing Israel,” by Toshio Meronek. Truthout, November 17, 2012.
Meronek examines the phenomenon of "pinkwashing" (in short the broad endeavor to deflect attention from Israel's human rights abuses by emphasizing its progressive record on LGBT rights) and efforts by queer Arabs and allies to push back.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Study Shows Women Who Had Abortions Less Likely to Suffer Poverty,” by Danielle Kurtzleben. US News & World Report, November 20, 2012.
It's a confounding conservative contradiction: how can you force women to bear children, then cut off the social services they need to support themselves? (Not to mention restrict access to contraception that would prevent such pregnancies in the first place.) A recent study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health drives home this very question. Over three-quarters of women that were denied an abortion were on public assistance a year later. In comparison, only 44 percent of women who were able to terminate their pregnancy needed public support. As always, low-income women and their children will pay the highest price for anti-choice legislation.
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Dilma wants oil royalties in education,” by Samantha Pearson. The Financial Times, November 20, 2012.
In ten days Dilma Rousseff will push for an oil and gas bill that will difect significant energy revenues to education. The lower house of Congress has already disapproved of the bill, but Dilma insists that she will persuade not just Congress, but the Brazilian people as well. Fifteen percent of 8-year-olds in Brazil are illiterate and school days are generally only a few hours in the morning or afternoon. Dilma makes the strong and important argument that Brazil "[needs] to professionalize education," because "if we don't have education, we won't get very far."
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“The Proportionality Of A 33-To-1 Casualty Ratio,” by Eli Clifton. LobeLog, November 19, 2012.
Over 100 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed in the recent bout of violence between the two parties, making the ratio of deaths a startling 33-to-1 ratio. While every death and every rocket is one too many, this number—as well as the 4.5-to-1 ratio during the Second Intifada and the 155-to-1 ratio during Operation Cast Lead—once again proves the disproportionate level of Israeli violence against Palestinians. This means that Israel and its allies understand this number to be an acceptable or necessary loss of life to maintain their interpretation of democracy. Ultimately, this troubling disregard for life will only serve to make a lasting peace agreement increasingly unlikely.