The Global Affairs team share some of the most important weekly headlines that you may otherwise have missed.
A note from the editor
Yesterday I sat in the Bodleian Library, specifically the upper reading room. It’s often a quiet space. The atmosphere, thick with the frantic typing of overworked DPhil students, is exclusively broken by the sinful steps of a pilgrim of piss attempting the arduous journey to the ceramic shrine. Yet as I sat there, glaring at 6th century poems, that sacred silence was broken.
Outside a demonstration took place in support of a ceasefire in Gaza. My readings of the borderline erotic letters of an Italian poet to a nun became interspersed with outside shouts of ‘ceasefire now’. The politics of the 6th and 21st century suddenly found themselves in a war for my attention.
Whether you like it or not, global politics are inescapable. It was only last month that the sanitised sandstone walls of the Rad Cam were thrown; kicking, screaming… Orange, into the centre of the fossil fuel debate (1).
Neither can we brush this off as a new phenomenon. The fences of the Rad Cam are often a collage of placards and posters on various international issues. If they remain empty its usually a sign of a slow news day. To claim you’re in the ‘Oxford Bubble’ would be to ignore the piercing holes.
It becoming increasingly clear that to understand what’s going on inside Oxford, you have to look outside. Hopefully this week’s column proves to be a worthy starting point!
Rising Casualties and International Repercussions: Another Week of Unyielding Conflict
This week in Gaza, the Jabalia refugee camp was targeted twice by Israeli forces on October 31st. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 50 Palestinians, 150 wounded, and left over a hundred trapped under the rubble, with the majority of the casualties reported to be women and children (1).
Jordan has witnessed unprecedented demonstrations against Israel and the U.S., fueled by outrage over the crisis in Gaza. King Abdullah II has warned that the region is on the verge of descending into chaos. On November 1st, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel, stating that the ambassador would only return once Israel ceased its assault on Gaza (2).
Several other countries took action to express their dissatisfaction with Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. Bolivia decided to cut ties with Israel on 31 October, citing “crimes against humanity.” Similarly, Chile recalled its ambassador to Israel on 1 November, condemning the “unacceptable” violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza. Colombia joined in by recalling its ambassador to Israel on 31 October, protesting against the “massacre of Palestinian people” (3. Lastly, Honduras recalled its ambassador to Israel on Friday, the 3rd of November, highlighting the violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza (4).
Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, made his first speech since the Israel-Hamas conflict began, warning of a broader Middle East conflict if the Gaza assault wasn’t halted (5). Hezbollah has been engaging with Israeli forces at the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since 8th October, with over 55 of its fighters killed. However, he also emphasised in his speech that the Hamas attack on the 7th of October was “100 per cent Palestinian” (6).
As the week comes to an end, there is no end in sight. Israeli soldiers have entered northern Gaza and encircled Gaza City, leading to the expectation of more casualties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel to discuss the situation and emphasise the importance of Israel allowing a ‘humanitarian pause’ (8).
An Outcry for Clean Drinking Water on the Gaza Strip
There is an urgent need for clean water on the Gaza Strip as people get extremely ill from drinking contaminated water.
There is a different battle that arises as Palestinians on the Gaza Strip struggle to come across clean water. People stand in line waiting to fill up jugs of dirty water, only to become ill from what they digest. Yet, they have no choice but to drink the water that is available to them.
Since November 3rd the pipes that ran from Israel to Gaza stopped working, and currently only 2 out of 3 are functioning, according to the UN. The pipes that travel through the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis are leaking. This leaves the Palestinians on the strip in desperate need of clean water.
Emma Basher, a teacher, took to X (Twitter) to tell others about how sick her children have been since drinking the filthy water. According to The Guardian Basher explained that her children have been experiencing abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and she assumed this was due to the change in weather and sleeping on the floor. However, their sicknesses were from the contaminated water they drank daily, and waited hours in line to receive.
Basher said, “We’ve been drinking this water for 15 days and fighting to get it.”
According to the UN only 5% of Gaza’s water needs are being taken care of. Due to distressing times, people from the southern territory are trying to obtain water from desalination plants, but they’re only functioning at 40%. Others have been accessing water from wells, but the salt content is relatively high. The alternatives for acquiring water are not ideal, but without vital options, people really don’t have a choice.
As the scarcity of water continues to get worse, Palestinians on the strip are running into issues on how to divide the water between family members. Also, having a shortage of clean water can make it difficult for women to breastfeed their babies. Abeer al-Bayad has four children, and her youngest is 8 weeks old. Her baby cries a lot because her son Hassan is hungry, but she isn’t producing enough breast milk to feed him, according to The Washington Post.
“I am drinking 250 milliliters (8 ounces), a small bottle of water [a day],” al-Bayad said. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that nursing moms drink 64 to 96 ounces (1.9 to 2.8 liters) of water a day,” said The Washington Post.
With lack of drinkable water, the people on the strip are vulnerable to catching a multitude of waterborne diseases. Some being: cholera, typhoid and dysentery. If cleaner water is not made available to them soon, people will continue to get sicker and eventually die from these illnesses.
According to The LA Times most people don’t have access to clean water because it’s infected with sewage. Some school children’s breakfast will consist of flavored water and a hint of salt.
“Despair isn’t even the right word to describe what’s going on here because things are getting worse and worse,” said Omar Ghraieb, 31, a journalist and digital media manager living in Gaza. “We wake up to a world of struggles each day,” he told The LA Times.
Therefore, if people on the Gaza Strip don’t receive cleaner water soon, casualties won’t only stem from bombs and missiles.
China mourns sidelined ex-Premier whilst dissent for current leadership grows
China’s once influential statesman, Li Keqiang, has died at the age of 68, just months after his resignation from the post.
Before being sidelined by Xi Jinping, Li, a highly educated economist with a reformist view, was once considered to become the leader of China. Li’s authority as the premier, a role traditionally designated for the top economic policy maker, was undermined by Xi’s centralization of power. Since Xi’s ascent to leadership, economic policies have increasingly been determined by the Communist Party’s collective leadership, rather than the premier.
Tributes have been pouring in from the Chinese public, along with a silent dissent towards Xi Jinping’s leadership. To many Chinese people dissatisfied with Xi’s authoritarian leadership, Li’s pragmatic and non-ideological economic policies was seen as a hope for China to become more embracing of market reform and change.
Mourners have posted comments showing respect on the Chinese social media Weibo, but reports indicate that some of such comments have been deleted or censored. Access to comments and contents varies in different platforms, but messages of dissent towards the current leadership, along with the muted reporting of Li’s death on Chinese state coverage illustrates the contrast between the people and the party.
As China struggles through an economic slowdown, many have symbolized Li’s death as a sign of dissent towards Xi.
BBC, Chinese Grieve popular ex-premier Li Keqiang in quite show of dissent
Former Trump Official jailed for involvement in Capitol Riot
On Friday, former marine Frederico Guillermo Klein was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison for his involvement in the storming of the Capitol on 6th January 2021. Klein had worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and in 2017 after Trump took office, he was hired at the State Department as a South America specialist. Klein resigned from this position on 19th January 2021, a day before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
Prosecutors described Klein as one of the first wave of rioters to storm the Capitol via a tunnel on 6th January 2021 and in court documents the FBI said that Klein had “violently shoved a riot shield that apparently had been taken from an officer, towards the officers trying to stop the mob from gaining access to the building”. He then used this shield to prevent the doors from closing.
US District Judge Trevor McFadden told Klein in court that his actions had been “shocking and egregious”. Former US Capitol Police Sgt Aquilino Gonell confirmed to the court how Klein had attacked him with this riot shield, and asked Klein how he could be involved in such an attack having taken “the same oath as I did” which involves protecting the Constitution.
Environment – UK Government taken to court over inadequate climate action
Lottie Tellyn | A taster from the Environment sections upcoming edition of their column ‘The Green Piece’
Friends of Earth, ClientEarth, and Good Law project (with individual claimants) are set to be heard at a High Court hearing over the government’s revised net zero strategy.
The hearing will be ‘rolled up’, meaning that all three individual cases will be heard at together, but the court is expected to allow each claimant to argue their case in full.
The organisations are taking the government to court on the basis of the revised net zero strategy falling short of the Climate Change Act 2008’s requirements. The Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CDBP) is the strategy which they claim is falling short, as the country’s economy-wide decarbonisation plan.
Even the governments own advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), have said it is not doing enough.
This is believed to be the first case of its kind to challenge UK climate adaptation plans, also arguing that the plans breach human rights.
Closing remarks – ‘Did you go to the fireworks last night?’
“Did you go to the fireworks last night?”. This is undoubtedly the most-asked question today, in Oxford and beyond, but it obscures the sheer joy of fireworks displays – the multi-sensory, multicultural, great leveller of all events.
You’ve come to watch the fireworks, they’re the main event after all, but the smells and sounds are just as important. As you barge onto a waterlogged field, the stage of the best Bonfire Night gatherings, you’re bombarded with an intense combination of chip fat, hot alcohol, and blueberry muffin vapes. Weaving your way through the crowds, avoiding plumes of weed smoke, a local DJ blares through loudspeakers like a deity blinding the crowd with floodlights and 2010s pop bangers. A parallel light show is created by scores of kids, adorned with comically large ear defenders and flashing rainbow swords. You’re secretly jealous.
As you become part of a sea of brown Air Force 1’s and sodden Uggs, you’re participating in a ritual. Watching thousands of pounds worth of pyrotechnics scream into the sky, exploding with perfect precision to Bastille’s “Pompeii”, you’re joining a global community who celebrate Lunar New Year, Diwali, Fourth of July and, funnily enough, Bastille Day, with similar displays. Light is a symbol of new moons, fresh hope, freedom and, in the UK, overpriced dodgems and sweaty hotdogs.
So, fireworks are democracy. They happen outside presidential palaces and Uncle Kevin’s garden shed alike. They are enjoyed by (almost) everyone, at every intersection of society. 5th November is the one time of year when we collectively ignore the risks of allowing toddlers with spluttering fire sticks to write their names in the air. Fireworks aren’t without their critics, but companies like Skyburst have pledged to make the industry more eco, and the law is likely to change to stamp out anti-social behaviour around Guy Fawkes’ night.
Fireworks are glorious, ephemeral, and always leave you wanting more. We go all out to commemorate the biggest celebrations in our lives with truckloads of gunpowder, and there’s something quite beautiful about that. With the exception of those American gender reveal parties which spark wildfires, that is.
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