The Global Affairs team share some of the most important weekly headlines that you may otherwise have missed.
A note from the editor
What a week it has been, especially for those of us in the UK!
Following pressure for Braverman to resign (see last week’s OX1) Rishi Sunak has called a reshuffle of his cabinet with an old, brexit-battered David Cameron rearing his one-nation head as Foreign Fecretary, in what can be described as one of the most interesting political comebacks in recent years.
To the joy of the Chinese panda lover community we have seen the loveable black and white bears return from the US to China. Our sympathies are with those parents who bought a pricey ticket to the Smithsonian Zoo only for their child to start sobbing upon discovery of an empty enclosure.
The great drama of Elon Musk’s purchase of ‘Twitter’ (now called ‘X’) continues as the billionaire owner finds new, increasingly controversial, ways to shoot himself in the foot.
We also have some updates on the Israel-Gaza conflict with reports on Israels borrowing and the unfortunate evacuation of the al-Shifa hospital.
This week’s closing remarks prove to be especially poignant. The Global Affairs editorial team joins Eleanor Luxton in her call for more people to physically go Outside OX1 by going on a hike.
Its £2 for a day ticket on the bus, £3.50 for a mid hike meal deal. What are you waiting for?
The evacuation of the al-Shifa hospital
Hundreds of people are recorded to have left the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza this Saturday. The evacuation follows claims by a joint UN team led by WHO that the site of the hospital was a ‘death zone’ with records of gunfire, shelling and a mass grave. Whether or not the evacuation was a decision of the hospital or prompted by Israel remains in contention.
In a message on X the IDF spokesperson denied any order for the hospitals evacuation “It should be emphasized that at no point did the IDF ask to evacuate patients or medical teams and even suggested that whenever there is a request to coordinate a medical evacuation, we will work to facilitate it and transfer the patients to other hospitals.”
However Mohammed Zaquat, the director general of hospitals in Gaza told the newspaper Al-Jazeera ‘‘I categorically deny these false allegations… I am telling you, we were forced to leave by gunpoint.” The director general claims that people were forced to evacuate via the unusual southern al-Rashid street route in single file whilst holding white handkerchiefs. Furthermore he claims that there was no coordination of any alternative means of transport in the way of ambulances or other vehicles for injured patients. A doctor at the hospital made the further claim to Al-Jazeera that patients and staff were told to leave within the hour at 9am.
In a response to the evacuation the Palestinian authority released the statement ‘‘The evacuation of al-Shifa deepens the humanitarian and environmental catastrophe Gaza faces.’’, it went on to claim that Israels actions in ordering the evacuation represented an attempt of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’.
While the circumstances of the evacuation continue to remain in contention, what cannot be debated is that 300 critically ill patients and 35 premature babies remain within the hospital with little access to medical amenities or powered incubators. The IDF spokesperson did state that “Medical teams will remain in the hospital for the benefit of patients who are unwilling or unable to evacuate”. As of current a WHO team are attempting to organise the final evacuation of the hospital.
UK Supreme Court rules Rwanda deportations illegal
The United Kingdom’s highest court has found that Rwanda is not a safe third country for the deportation of asylum seeker applications. Unanimously agreeing with the Court of Appeal that there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers in Rwanda could face refoulement, the Supreme court drew attention to the extrajudicial killings, torture and restrictions on political freedoms in Rwanda.
The UN High Commission for Refugees presented at least 100 allegations of refoulement and stressed the 100 percent rejection rates for people from conflict zones, likely countries of origin of asylum seekers deported from the UK. A joint civil society statement signed by 140 organizations, including Liberty and the Runnymede Trust, had called the plan ‘cruel and immoral’. At least 75 percent of people seeking asylum in the UK are refugees and are officially recognised as in need of protection.
The government’s plan to deport asylum seekers arriving by small boats to Rwanda was a key element of Rishi Sunak’s plan to address migration across the Channel. Though Sunak assures that the British people ‘expect the boats to be stopped’, the policy has cost the UK £140m and has been shown ‘unworkable’ by Labour.
The ruling delivers a further blow to Sunak, who had already many headlines this week for sacking Home Secretary Suella Braverman, chief advocate of the Rwanda deportations, after the cabinet reshuffle. Braverman commented that the judgment was ‘no surprise’ and called for government measures to ‘block off’ the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a press conference at Downing Street, Sunak vowed that the government would introduce emergency legislation to show that Rwanda is safe and negotiations of a new treaty are ongoing.
Sunak shuffles towards the centre right
It’s reshuffle time. This week, the prime minister crossed the rubicon, expelling the final hangover of the Boris and Truss eras in a much anticipated reshuffle that saw Suella Braverman ousted from cabinet.
For the first time since 2016, the Tory right has found itself in the political wilderness. Sunak may have shored up his position in his own cabinet. Nonetheless, he has incensed his backbenches.
Sunak stands accused of abandoning the Red Wall in favour of the traditional Tory heartland. Meanwhile, the shock reintroduction of David Cameron into the political fray may succeed in courting moderate voters away from the Lib Dems, but it does undermine Sunak’s short-lived “change candidate” campaign.
Now, Sunak must ask himself, what next?
Major corporations pull advertising from X amid Musk antisemitism
Major US firms including Apple, Disney and IBM have paused advertising on X (formerly known as Twitter) amid a deluge of antisemitism on the site, which included X’s CEO Elon Musk amplifying an antisemitic trope.
On Wednesday Musk responded “You have said the actual truth” to a post by user @breakingbaht which read: “Jewish communities [sic] have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
Following this the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League – a US-based organisation that researches and campaigns against antisemitism – wrote that “at a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and surging around the world, it is indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories.”
This boycott arrives at a period of rife antisemitism on X, with pressure group Media Matters identifying adverts bought by high-profile firms sandwiched between posts containing quotations from Hitler, praise for Nazis and Holocaust denial.
Musk has since denied that his post was antisemitic and is threatening to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters as soon as courts open on Monday, saying the group had “misrepresented the real user experience of X” in order to “undermine freedom of speech and mislead advertisers”.
Israel Borrows Big Bucks to Fund War Chest
Israel has raised over $6bn in the last few weeks in order to fund its war effort, but its effective interest rate has risen to 6.5%.
Normally, when governments borrow money they create bonds, which are a form of IOU, promising to pay the owner of the bond a fixed amount of money at some fixed date in the future. Governments can then auction these bonds off to the highest bidder, usually in a public process. This time around Israel has reportedly used Goldman Sachs and Bank of America to arrange private placements where bonds are offered to select investors instead of being made publicly available.
This approach may be a sign that investors are uneasy with lending to Israel or that the Israeli Government doesn’t want to draw attention to its borrowing spree.
Israel is usually required to pay only slightly above the rate of interest that the US government pays, but recent deals suggest that investors have started demanding an extra premium since the war began.
The cost of buying insurance against the prospect of Israel defaulting on its debt has also risen sharply, with many concerned at the impact of the war on future prospects for economic growth and the health of government finances.
The more money Israel attempts to raise, the higher the interest rate it will likely have to pay and the higher the chance of a default. It may, therefore, become increasingly difficult for Israel to fund its war effort using money from international investors.
Hope for panda-lovers in the U.S. rises amid Xi and Biden summit
The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, has sent off three giant pandas back to China, ending a historic fifty-year panda program.
Giant pandas became a key feature of modern Chinese diplomacy when the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao Zedong, gifted President Nixon two giant pandas during the president’s monumental visit to China in 1972. As a return, Nixon provided two musk oxen to China as a symbol of friendship.
A decade later, Deng Xiaoping, the former paramount leader of CCP, established a lease plan of giant pandas to be presented to various countries. The nations in charge of the leased pandas are obligated to pay a fee of over one million US dollars per year to China, and any cubs born from the pandas automatically become the property of China.
Many countries have been given the lease of giant pandas as a symbol of good relations with China. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia are few of the nations granted the lease.
In the United States, giant pandas have become part of many zoos for over fifty years. However, with the declining bilateral relations of China and the United States, the lease agreements have not been renewed, meaning that many of them have been shipped back to China. Since the Smithsonian National Zoo has returned three pandas, only four pandas in Atlanta have remained in the United States, all of which are scheduled to be sent back in the next few years.
There has been a trend in dwindling numbers of panda leases across the world. Scotland and Australia will be losing a few of its pandas within a few years, as renewal of contacts have not been made.
However, with Xi and Biden’s meeting on Wednesday, wherein the two leaders agreed on resuming military communications and preventing fentanyl from flowing out to the United States, there may be good news to the panda-lovers of the United States.
Xi Jinping surprisingly announced during a dinner after the summit on Wednesday that China is ready to continue sending pandas to the United States. Although there are no specific plans to continue or initiate new leases, Xi referred to the pandas as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.”
Environment – Brazil experiences record high temperatures amid eighth heatwave of the year
Temperatures felt like 58.8C on Tuesday in Rio, marking the beginning of their summer with record highs. This comes after Brazil has experienced its hottest July, August, September, and October on record.
The country’s national meteorological institute, Inmet, warned of risks to health and “even to life” following the sustained high temperatures. Climate scientists and policymakers warn that this highlights levels of social inequality in Brazil, with the poorest members of society being hit the hardest by the high temperatures. Rising costs of electricity bills means that even if people have air conditioning, it can be too expensive to run during these heatwaves.
The record heat made headlines after a fan died at a Taylor Swift concert last week. Ana Clara Benevides Machado, 23, suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of the sweltering heat, having been forbidden from taking water into the show under stadium rules.
The heatwave is due to peak this weekend, with a particularly hot summer lying ahead.
Closing remarks – Hiking is for everyone
I wonder what comes to mind when you think about ‘hiking’? For me, it’s a reminder of my slightly strange childhood addiction to Countryfile, where I would insist upon being sat in front of the TV for 7pm every Sunday night. Healthy, I know. But there was just something comforting and slightly grandfatherly about John Craven, plus maybe it’s in my (Norfolk) blood?
Hiking is often seen as a serious, arguably joyless, pursuit. If you haven’t put the contents of Mountain Warehouse on your Christmas list, you’re apparently not doing it right. Hiking has a whole genre of footwear associated with it. Becoming a hiker seems to be challenging. Do I wait for the grand-master hiker general to give me a masonic handshake? Or can I just… go?
I recently came across the TikTok page for “Muslim Hikers” – a group which organises outdoor adventures for Muslims and champions diversity in the countryside. They’ve taken refugees on hikes, and have raised massive amounts of money for charity. But most importantly, their hikes are low pressure, fun and inclusive – this is a trend I’ve noticed becoming increasingly popular, under the banner of ‘soft girl hikes’.
@softgirlswhohike provides inspiration for solo hikes and encourages groups of women to get together and walk. They provide details about accessible and safe routes, and emphasise the beauty of inner-city green spaces for our mental health. Their tagline: “hiking doesn’t have to be hard”. And it doesn’t have to be pricey either – a £5 train ticket out of Manchester Piccadilly and a sturdy pair of shoes is all it takes.
These hiking groups are, sometimes without realising it, changing the landscape of Britain’s green and pleasant lands. Once the preserve of majority-white farmers or middle-class rural wannabes with white Range Rovers, women and ethnic minorities are feeling more empowered to reclaim these spaces and reap their mental and physical rewards. There’s something beautifully simple about their endeavours, even as they actively challenge our perceptions of who is visible in the countryside. Sorry Mr Craven, you’re gonna have to make way for the new kids on the block.
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