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Global Pulse: Israel is treading a fine line after worst violence in Gaza since 2014 war

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The United States on Saturday blocked an inquiry in the United Nations Security Council into Israel’s actions on Friday, when it responded to peaceful protests by Palestinians. Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians and injured more than 1,000 protesters. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s unsurprising electoral victory could face some trouble when it comes to consolidating further political control in Egypt. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping’s meeting heralds a new act in the diplomatic drama surrounding North Korea. Also, Winnie Mandela died at 81.

“Courting catastrophe”

In an editorial headlined “Israel courts catastrophe in Gaza protests”, the New York Times editorial board calls for a closer look into Israel’s behaviour. “Israel has a right to defend itself and maintain civil order, but it also has an obligation to respect peaceful protests and not use live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators. Israel’s response appears to have been excessive, as human rights groups have asserted.”

Israel’s official response is that it acted judiciously to protect its people and stop Hamas, and that no one actually crossed the fence between Gaza and Israel. “Competing videos told competing stories,” the New York Times notes. “The Israeli version appeared to show a Hamas fighter shooting at Israeli forces while other Palestinians were seen hurling stones, tossing Molotov cocktails and rolling burning tires at the fence. Palestinian videos on social media appeared to show unarmed protesters being shot by Israelis.”

The protests were the start of a six-week campaign called the Great Return March. It was supposed to be a peaceful sit-in to raise awareness about Gaza and the Palestinian peoples’ dispossession.

“Instead of easing tensions and resolving the political questions at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Trump has exacerbated the situation, most recently by unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in exchange for nothing, and declaring his intention to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv. For decades, the international community, including the United States, has said Jerusalem’s fate should be decided in Israeli-Palestinians negotiations.”

“Palestinian leaders have also failed their people. Hamas leaders who run Gaza have waged war against Israel, exploiting their people in the process. Their rival, the Palestinian Authority, has been feckless at pursuing peace with Israel and last year imposed its own punitive measures on Gaza, including cutting salaries, in a bid to end Hamas’s control.”

“Unless someone steps up to end Gaza’s humanitarian disaster, ensure Israel and the Palestinians act with restraint during the protests and set a credible peace process in motion, both sides could face a new catastrophe,” the editorial board writes.

A spearhead of the anti-apartheid movement

“Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of famed anti-apartheid leader and later South African president Nelson Mandela — and an anti-apartheid icon in her own right— was a complex figure. In the end, what she came to represent for the liberation movement to which she dedicated her life was its unvarnished and even more uncomfortable truths,” writes Kevin Bloom for CNN. Winnie Mandela passed away at the age of 81.

In later years, however, her reputation took a hit: both politically and socially. Yet, she persisted in her politics.

“In 2008, it was revealed that senior members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had ordered the country’s chief prosecutor not to put apartheid-era security policemen on the stand. Why? Because these men knew— and could publicly divulge — the darkest secrets of the ANC, secrets in which the likes of Madikizela-Mandela might be intimately involved.”

“In any war, of course, atrocities are committed by both sides. But Madikizela-Mandela, who was hounded and harassed by the apartheid police for three decades, would remain unrepentant about this reality to the end,” writes Bloom.

In Alice Walker’s poem, “Winnie Mandela: We Love You,” she refers to her heroine as “Lucy”, Bloom writes.

“This, she explained, was the name given by paleoanthropologists to the fossilized skeleton of the most ancient, recognizably human figure ever found — “a female being who lived on the African continent some three million years ago.”

Egypt’s elections don’t signal a democratic transition

“It would be a significant stretch to call Egypt’s recent election competitive. There were only two candidates on the ballot: current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and one of Sisi’s supporters. It would also be difficult to describe the environment in Egypt in the run up to the polls as free and fair, when several candidates dropped out of the race, citing the closed environment. Two of them were actually detained by the authorities,” writes H.A. Hellyer in The Atlantic. It would, therefore, be moot to consider the election as part of a democratic transition in the country. Instead, it “may be more fruitful to look to what comes next instead.”

Hellyer looks at Sisi’s nsecond term as an extension of his first. “As things stand now, Sisi would seem to have sufficient support from Egypt’s business elite, along with a substantial proportion of the networks of former President Hosni Mubarak. The opposition to Sisi beyond the state apparatus is also too weak to oppose such a move.”

“Yet, Sisi shouldn’t be too comfortable. The low voter turnout, despite his vigorous attempts to mobilize voters, suggested a significant level of public apathy. That should concern Cairo. In the medium to long term, such apathy can disrupt a healthy political system. Dissent exists in any political environment—but for it to be absorbed, it requires channels of political expression. If those avenues don’t exist, the consequences can be far more uncontrollable,” writes Hellyer.

When it comes to the international arena, should external partners of Cairo encourage a better environment? “It’s an important question, but no state expressed such interest in encouraging such things in Sisi’s first term, and it’s doubtful that will change in his second,” answers Hellyer. “It’s doubtful that will change in his second term, unless there are significant changes domestically in Egypt.”

North Korea: A diplomatic drama

In the South China Morning Post, Cary Huang writes that the leaders of China and North Korea have reset the terms of Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un, and have reaffirmed China’s role as a key player in North Korea. Kim could now also be a global player, Huang writes.

“Diplomacy is a drama where all the actors have parts to play. Lately, all of a sudden, we have seen all of today’s major actors in global diplomacy scrambling to move to centre stage in a flurry of dramatic manoeuvres,” he writes. “Just a few weeks ago, the world was overwhelmed with fears of a potential nuclear war, as Kim and Trump traded threats, each claiming the availability of a “nuclear button” at their desks. Now summit diplomacy has replaced all the combative warmongering rhetoric.”

“Pyongyang needs Beijing’s support, even as it seeks direct negotiations with Washington. The Kim-Xi summit apparently showcased improved ties between the communist allies, which might be a bargaining chip for Kim in his encounter with Trump.”

“The history of failed negotiations with Pyongyang makes many observers sceptical of any significant progress in the upcoming summits. But whatever the result, Kim will be the biggest winner in his diplomatic debut, as the events have placed him, leader of the world’s most isolated and impoverished nation, on centre stage along with the world leaders Trump and Xi, performing this historic four-way diplomatic drama.”

“If the summits succeed, Kim might also become a peacemaker overnight, following his completion of his nuclear programme, in defiance of a seemingly united world,” writes Huang.



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