British Tourist Is Fatally Stabbed on Train in Jerusalem

This article explains a tragedy that happened in Jerusalem earlier today. A young student visiting from Britain was stabbed multiple times by a Palestinian man with a history of mental illness while the two were on a commuter train. She later died in the hospital. As this weekend is a large religious holiday for almost everyone in Jerusalem– Jewish Passover, Christian Good Friday, and the regular Friday prayers of Islam– the city was on high alert. Furthermore, this is the second stabbing attack this month, as well as last in a long line of violent acts since late March. This occurrence was rare in that a tourist was the target.

While this article is not on a global level like many others on the blog, I thought that it was relevant to class conversation about pathos in politics and the media’s role in our perspective. This attack was immediately lumped together with Palestinian terrorist movements within the city, even though the man was clearly not in his right mind, and the girl was a tourist and not the usual target for the attacks. (Practically half of the article in JPost recounts attacks in Jerusalem that are unrelated to this story.) Because the man was Palestinian, he had to be a part of a larger group of terrorists against the state of Israel, so the state had to use the story as validation to advance its military power within the city.  I’m not saying that this attack wasn’t significant, or sad, or a cautionary example of what it’s like in and around the Old City; I’m merely saying that it was significant in a different way than being told. The story doesn’t always have to be Palestinians against Israelis. The narrative doesn’t always have to be us versus them.


Battle for ‘Ayn Al-Hilweh Subsided For Now

Over the past week and a half in the Lebanese city of Sidon, the refugee shanty town ‘Ayn al-Hilweh has witnessed intense firefights between a radical Islamist splinter group of al-Fatah led by Bilal Badr, and an alliance of al-Fatah’s remaining members and other Palestinian militias. Lebanon’s army has a presence in the city but due to agreements with Palestinian leaders, it refrains from entering the camp. Outside the camp, it reports that it has intensified politicaAl-Fatah and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has called on Bilal and his followers to peacefully surrender but so far temporary ceasefires have been the only result. On Sunday the fighting intensified so much that a nearby hospital full of wounded from the fight evacuated all staff and patients and the local highway shut down.

Such infighting among Palestinians comes as no surprise, given the harsh measures used by Abbas and al-Fatah to maintain power over a constituency increasingly frustrated with corruption and inefficacy manifested throughout the Palestinian Authority. Refugee camps throughout Lebanon, such as ‘Ayn al-Hilweh, face additional challenges from the deluge of Syrian refugees fleeing that conflict. Experts estimate the camp’s population has grown from 70,000 to nearly 120,000 since the Syrian war.

Erdogan asks for ‘Yes’ vote in charter referendum

Turkey is gearing up for a referendum vote on Sunday. Erdogan created this referendum that, with a yes vote, would further consolidate executive power. Erdogan has already caught the attention of many states with how consolidated executive power has already become, and this referendum would put Turkey dangerously close to an Authoritarian government. As of right now, both sides of the referendum have claimed to be leading the polls and nearing victory. The referendum vote is unique in that Turkish citizens around the world are being allowed to vote with mail-in ballots. As of this morning, over a million votes have already arrived by mail in Turkey.

Erdogan is pushing for this referendum under the auspices of fighting terrorism. It sounds very similar to the Roman practice of conferring absolute power to one man in times of war to streamline policy-making and state decisions. One disconcerting thought on that historical tie is that more often than not, those Roman leaders given absolute power kept it for longer than they should have. A influx of power could very well have such a consequence in Turkey. Erdogan has a hard policy on both foreign affairs in Europe and on domestic affairs, especially in Kurdish regions. His saving grace would be the rising Islamic movement in Turkey that approves of his Islamic infusion in the government.


What about Syrian citizens?

The U.S. strike against Syria last week was in direct retaliation to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people at the beginning of last week. This is not the first time Syria has violated international law (established in the Chemical Weapons Convention) to commit war crimes against its own people and until now, no foreign power has directly stood up to President Bashar al Assad.

But what do the Syrian people think? This article covers this question from a few different viewpoints. First, the fact that an international power has stood up to the brutal dictator is a step in the right direction. But while this is said to be a one time intervention not representing any significant change in our policy about Syria, the Syrian people are still involved in a civil war and their suffering is far from over. Furthermore, if we want to stop the suffering of the Syrian people, are we now planning on allowing additional Syrian refugees? What does the fact that this was a one time statement mean for both the Syrian people and the international response to the crisis in Syria?


ISIL Now Controls Less than 7% of Iraqi Land

Nearly three years ago ISIL had 40% of Iraq under its control. This was especially dangerous because their desired geographical region was a cross-border state with Syria. Once the offensive to take back Fallujah and Mosul began this ended that possibility and now ISIL controls only 7% of Iraq. This 7% is spread out across northern, central, and western Iraq which can be both a negative and positive thing.

As Iraqi, Kurdish, and American troops get closer to expelling ISIL fighters from ISIL controlled areas, the fighting gets more and more intense. ISIL fighters become even more mixed in with the civilians which will continue to result in civilian casualties. US military leaders said that they will stay in Mosul for a while, even after Mosul has been cleared of ISIL fighters. This seems logical but it could be risky, especially if the US military gets caught up in trying to mediate the Shia-Sunni tensions that are present and will most likely escalate.


What do you think the US’ role, post-liberation, should be in Mosul?

Suicide Bombers Terrorize Palm Sunday

Yesterday suicide bombings in two Egyptian chapels turned Palm Sunday into a day of terror. 44 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in the attacks that were carried out in Alexandria and Tanta. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings that mark the worst attack on Egyptian Christians in decades. Pope Francis is set to meet with the leader of the Coptic church, Pope Tawadros the second, in a few weeks. In light of the recent attacks questions as to his security have surfaced. It is especially sad as Pope Francis is making a concentrated effort on strengthening the ties between the Catholic church and Islam, that these attacks occurred only weeks before his visit. President Abdel Fattah el- Sisi declared a three- month state of emergency in response to the attacks. Many Christians supported President Sisi as he replaced Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and promised to protect them. The ability to keep that promise is now being called to question.

It is so sad to see something as beautiful as Palm Sunday get turned into something so terrible. It will also be interesting to see if this three- month state of emergency will indeed end after three months. President Sisi has already made a comment hinting at the possible censorship of the media that is portraying these attacks as his failure to protect his Christian supporters. It is also distressing to notice the lack of press this attack got.  The London attack for example got exponentially more attention despite the fact that almost nine times as many people were killed in these bombings. I think from a Western standpoint it is easy to disregard attacks that happen in unstable regions as opposed to when they occur closer to home. That is a horrible thing. Should the media be held accountable for this mindset?


US Air Strike

I know this happened last night, so no one was going to be able to write on it. I don’t even know where to begin on this. I think that you all know the facts by now. This is going to be an unorthodox post, because I really want your opinions.

Syria used Chemical weapons on Tuesday. On Wednesday Trump threatened to retaliate with force, then Nikki Haley urged the UN to do something, or the US would act alone, and lastly Secretary Tillerson indicated that the US is trying to form a coalition. On Thursday Russia said that the chemical attack didn’t happen, it was a mistake then warned the US to not act. Then on Thursday night, two naval destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base that had launched the chemical attack. Apparently the Russians had been warned to evacuate troops, only 4 were killed (all Syrian soldiers), and the attack was designed to destroy the base and warn Assad to back down. Now Russia, Iran, and Assad are condemning the attack. China is staying neutral. About everyone else is praising the attack, but now starting to wonder what it all means and what is next. Congress wasn’t consulted, Trump acted unilaterally without forming a coalition.

I have so many thoughts and fears. But what do you think? Here are some of the ideas being thrown around right now. Some say this is how WWIII starts, other contend it could turn into a proxy war in which the US fights Russian supplied forces in Syria. Some contend that this is Trump acting unilaterally and is overpowering Congress–may lead to tyranny. Others say, this was the best move possible. Some fear Assad retaliation against Syrian civilians because now the gloves are off. Others fear Assad (and possibly Russian or Iranian) retaliation against US troops. Some say that this is the first step to US boots on the ground. What are your rambling thoughts?