This Week in the World | 04.03.18
By: Alex Voisine
Last Friday has been declared the deadliest day in the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2014, following violent altercations on the Israeli border of the Gaza Strip, in which 17 Palestinians were killed and over 1,000 were reported injured. An estimated 50,000 Palestinians gathered along the eastern border late last week, launching a six-week protest in remembrance of the “Nakba” or “catastrophe,” the term used by Palestinians to refer to the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinians living in what had then just recently become Israeli territory. The protest also sought to address humanitarian concerns reported by Palestinians living in Gaza, specifically a lack of food and water, as well as high unemployment and underfunded hospitals. It is widely believed that a blockade formed by Egypt and Israel to contain the Palestinians has contributed to a stymied inflow of necessary provisions.
To make matters even more complicated, last Friday was the first day of Passover, one of the most important Jewish holidays celebrated by millions of Israeli Jews, which heightened the significance of the demonstration. Though the protest began peacefully, it quickly escalated into chaos, starting on Friday morning when Israeli forces killed a Palestinian demonstrator who they claimed was approaching the fence. As the day wore on, Palestinian demonstrators began to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers, and by the afternoon, some were rolling burning tires at the border fence. Israeli forces had valid reason to suspect that members of Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic terrorist group who controls Gaza and helped organize the protest, had sent members to participate in the demonstration, particularly to incite violence. In fact, shortly after Friday’s chaos subsided, Israel released the names of 10 Palestinians its forces had killed, claiming that all 10 had been affiliated with terrorist groups. However, the staggering number of demonstrators who were injured and the fact that Israel opened fire on what appeared to be unarmed protesters has been met with criticism by some international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International.
Israel had been warning Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border fence for days before the protest, and Israel, like any sovereign nation, has the right to protect its borders. However, the confusion and massive amount of injuries sparked the UN Security Council to call for an investigation to uncover exactly what happened last Friday. Joining the UN was the European Union and a number of international organizations, who echoed calls for an investigation. On Monday though, Israel formally rejected calls for an investigation into the deaths and injuries during Friday’s protest, even rejecting an investigation organized and implemented by its own defense ministry, let alone an independent investigation carried out by an international organization. Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, said in a statement: “From the standpoint of the [Israeli] forces, they did what had to be done.”
Hamas’ history of terror against Israel, and international frustration surrounding the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, makes for a complicated situation with a much wider scope than a simple territorial dispute. With demonstrations planned throughout the next six weeks and both sides remaining steadfast, the conflict is sure to continue.
By Alice Hakvaag
Last Sunday, Carlos Alvarado was declared the winner of Costa Rica’s presidential election. Despite polls saying that him and his rival, Fabricio Alvarado (no relation), were going to have a very tight race, Carlos Alvarado came ahead with a 21.5% lead.
The race between Carlos and Fabricio was hard fought. Big issues were the national deficit, the rising murder rate, and rising unemployment. Social issues such as same-sex marriage were also debated. Carlos Alvarado ran on a progressive platform, and had experience as a labour minister and a social security minister under the previous president. Due to this he had the backing of his larger political party, but also smaller ones as well. Fabricio, on the other hand, was criticized for his lack of political experience, since he had only spent about one year serving as a lawmaker. He had won up to that point due to his work as an evangelical pastor, campaigning against same-sex marriage.
In his victory speech, Alvarado said that “now we’ll unite and take the country forward.” Epsy Campbell, the new Vice President, said that they would start on Monday working with the national assembly to restore unity.
By Rachel Elliott
Last week, a fire broke out in a jail in Valencia, Venezuela, killing 68 people. Reports on how the fire started have mostly come from friends and relatives of prisoners. They allege that the fire started when inmates throwing a party–which was overseen by gangs–clashed with prison guards. The guards were about to enter cells when one guard was taken hostage. The prisoners threatened to kill him with a grenade if their conditions were not met. Guards then allegedly set a mattress on fire and the whole place was soon aflame. On top of the tragedy, family members who had gathered outside were sprayed with tear gas by security forces. Government investigators provided few, but differing details on the case. They accuse the prisoners of starting the fire. However, they have held the guards accountable and charged eleven already with negligence.
The fire has illuminated the real problem Venezuela has with its prisons; they’re far beyond overcrowded. The research group InSight Crime found that in 2015, prisons meant to hold 19,000 inmates actually housed almost 50,000. Furthermore, the prisons notoriously use temporary holding cells as permanent ones. In the Valencian jail, 33,000 people were staying in these holding cells meant for 5,000. The United Nations condemned the violence against the family members and denounced the overcrowding in Venezuelan prisons.
By: Alex Voisine
Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a global advocate for the education of women and girls, had largely avoided returning to her home country of Pakistan, where she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for her outspoken support of girls’ education. This weekend though, Malala returned, meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and flying over Swat Valley in a helicopter, the region of Pakistan where Malala grew up. “So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends, and putting my feet on this soil again,” wrote Malala.
Malala is a student at Oxford University in England, and also runs the Malala fund, which helps students in her home region of Swat Valley, as well as around the world, to achieve academic success. Though many in Pakistan have praised her for her bravery and dedication, during and preceding her visit, some Pakistanis criticized her on social media. Responding to their criticism, Malala said in an interview with Pakistan’s The News English newspaper: “What I want is for people to support my purpose of education and think about the daughters of Pakistan who need an education. Don’t think about me. I don’t want any favor or I don’t want everyone to accept me. All I care about is that they accept education as an issue.”China
By: Alex Voisine
In response to the announcement of $3 billion in tariffs levied against China last week by the United States, China fired back this week with its own tariffs against U.S. imports, potentially sparking a trade war that could hurt both countries’ economies. China specifically targeted imports of fruit, pork and steel pipes, three industries that comprise a significant portion of China’s imports from the United States. Donald Trump has threatened up to $50 billion dollars of tariffs specifically against Chinese products, to which China responded Tuesday with a warning that it “will certainly take countermeasures of the same proportion and of the same scale, same intensity.”
Economists have said that Beijing would likely target soybean and Boeing imports if the U.S. were to launch stiffer tariffs. Soybeans and aircraft manufactures produced by Boeing are two of the largest import industries in China. There are also concerns from the tech sector in the United States about China’s potential targeting of Apple and Intel, two companies that do a significant amount of business in China. Though high tariffs to the tune of $50 billion are unlikely according to many international trade economists, Donald Trump’s frequent verbal attacks against China for “stealing jobs”, currency manipulation, and intellectual property theft continue to complicate U.S.-China trade relations.
By Rachel Elliott
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was ordered to stand trial last week for charges of corruption and influence-peddling. It is alleged that Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, used his power to illegally acquire information from an appeals court judge about an inquiry into the president’s 2007 election funding. In exchange, Sarkozy offered the judge a distinguished position in Monaco. Sarkozy could face up to ten years in prison for corruption and five years for influence-peddling, if he is found guilty. Sarkozy’s lawyer and the appellate judge will also face charges.
The order comes only one week after a formal investigation against Sarkozy was opened, looking into the potential illegal campaign funding the president received from the Libyan government of Muammar el-Qaddafi. The charges claim that Sarkozy received 50 million euros for his 2007 run for president. This amount doubles the legal campaign funding limit, which was 21 million euros that year. The two cases are separate, but the influence-peddling accusations arose out of wiretapping used by authorities to investigate Libya’s influence in his campaign. Sarkozy’s representatives have denied the claims against him.
By Alice Hakvaag
On Tuesday Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to cancel a UN deal concerning the relocation of African migrants. 30,000 African migrants, mainly from Sudan, currently reside illegally in Israel, with a majority of them living around the city of Tel Aviv. Under the deal, 16,000 of these migrants would be relocated to a few European countries as well as Canada. A previous plan incentivized migrants to leave by offering them a lump-sum of money as well as a free plane ticket to leave Israel and go to any country they desired. If they turned down the offer, forced expulsion was a part of the deal. This plan was highly criticized domestically and internationally, with the UN saying it violated international law.
The UN deal that Netanyahu cancelled would have been implemented over five years, and Israel would give “temporary residence” status to all migrants still in the country during the transition. Prime Minister Netanyahu had previously agreed to the deal, but a day after reversed his decision upon speaking to residents in Tel Aviv. He also cited Rwanda’s decision to pull out of the deal. Pressure to turn down the deal was also coming from anti-migrant groups, as well as Israeli politicians. Canada will still be taking almost 2,000 migrants, as part of an independent agreement with Israel. The UN says the decision was disappointing, and hoped Netanyahu would “consider the matter further.