Smoke and fire from an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, July 29, 2014 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

In the wake of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Israel remains in the spotlight for the civilian casualties and widescale destruction of civilian areas caused by its attacks on Gaza. Like most democracies whose air wars kill large numbers of civilians, Israel claims the moral high ground. Though acknowledging that the harm caused to civilians was regrettable, Israel argues that its armed forces took all feasible precautions to avoid it, while taking care to aim their strikes at Hamas military targets. By contrast, according to Israel, Hamas was targeting Israeli civilians directly and intentionally. But this […]

Belarusian police detain journalist and activist Roman Protasevich, center, in Minsk, Belarus, March 26, 2017 (AP photo by Sergei Grits).

When a Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet forced a Ryanair flight filled with civilians to divert from its Athens-to-Vilnius route and land in Minsk on Sunday so that the regime could arrest one of its leading critics, it justifiably triggered international outrage. It was, indeed, a brazen violation of international norms. But this new transgression by the Belarusian dictator, President Alexander Lukashenko, was not an isolated event. It was part of an increasingly common practice by repressive regimes across the globe, one so common that it now has a name: transnational repression. Lukashenko personally ordered the military aircraft to scramble into […]

European Council President Charles Michel speaks at the conclusion of an EU-China summit, in video conference format, at the European Council in Brussels, June 22, 2020 (Pool photo by Yves Herman via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to freeze a massive investment deal with China that had taken seven years to negotiate. The Guardian reported that the resolution suspended “any consideration of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), as well as any discussion on ratification” […]

A man sends brain-computer interface commands to a robotic computer during Science Conference at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Feb. 17, 2011 (AP photo by Jose Luis Magan).

Technology has blurred all sorts of boundaries we used to take for granted—between work and leisure, between being alone and being with others, between private and public spaces. One boundary we still generally treat as sacrosanct, though, is the one around our own minds, which allows us to think for ourselves and to keep those thoughts private, whether they are rebellious, impolite or simply irrelevant. After all, the power to make up our own minds is an essential part of what makes us individuals. Technology may now be challenging this mental independence, too, and some of its applications could threaten […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address to Parliament, in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 11, 2021 (pool photo by Esa Alexander via AP).

Cyril Ramaphosa’s rise to the South African presidency in 2018 generated considerable optimism that his leadership would bring a more enlightened approach to policy, both domestic and foreign. His talk of a “new dawn” and his calls for a return to the values of Nelson Mandela represented an implicit repudiation of his two immediate predecessors, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. In the case of the latter, Ramaphosa also promised an end to the rampant corruption and state capture that characterized Zuma’s decade in office. Human rights organizations viewed Ramaphosa’s presidency as an opportunity for a policy reset, and they encouraged […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, sits with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio at the start of a G-7 foreign ministers meeting in London, May 4, 2021 (pool photo by Ben Stansall via AP).

The travails of the rules-based international system have set off a vigorous debate within U.S. foreign policy circles over the most promising institutional foundations for world order in the 21st century. The Washington establishment is united in its repudiation of Donald Trump’s “America First” orientation. But it remains divided on what form of U.S. internationalism is best suited to a historical moment defined by two powerful, countervailing trends: the rise of transnational challenges that can only be resolved through collective action and the resurgence of geopolitical competition that hinders international cooperation. The four distinct models of multilateralism currently vying for […]

An Israeli artillery unit fires shells toward targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli-Gaza border, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

After 11 days of rocket fire and air strikes, a tenuous cease-fire has brought to a close, at least for now, the latest outbreak of violence between the Israeli government and the armed group Hamas in Gaza. As in previous rounds of fighting between them, narratives about which side was to blame and whether either or both were committing war crimes were rampant in media coverage, social media debates and commentary on the conflict. These narratives included a number of misconceptions about or mischaracterizations of the nature of the conflict as well as of belligerents’ obligations under international law more […]

Demonstrators at a Stop Asian Hate rally in Chicago, March 20, 2021 (AP photo by Nam Y. Huh).

On March 16, a 21-year-old white man allegedly went on a violent rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area, fatally shooting eight people—six of them Asian women. Law enforcement officials and some news outlets initially said the motive was “uncertain,” but the Asian American community in Georgia immediately recognized the vicious crime as part of a disturbing spike in violence against people of Asian heritage across the country. Prosecutors confirmed as much when they announced earlier this month that they would bring hate crime charges against the suspected shooter. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April, one-third […]

Joe Biden arrives to participate in a town hall during the 2020 presidential election campaign, Philadelphia, Oct. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At a virtual panel discussion last week, Thomas Carothers, an expert on democratization at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed to a global trend that he said should inform democracy assistance programs going forward: the “equalization of the political terrain.” “The old idea that there’s a set of countries called ‘established democracies’ that largely have solved their democratic problems and are working on the details, and then a set of countries, ‘new or struggling democracies,’ that are grappling with fundamental challenges—that old division is gone,” Carothers explained at the event, hosted by the Parliamentary Centre, a think tank in […]

The UAE’s de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Zayed, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 22, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

A chorus of condemnation has risen in recent months from Western capitals in response to China’s persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. The United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Canada have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, and U.S. President Joe Biden has maintained his predecessor’s stance that Beijing is committing “genocide” in Xinjiang—a position that the Canadian and British Parliaments also back. Yet, governments of Muslim-majority countries have so far largely refrained from criticizing China over its actions in Xinjiang. Why? There are justifiable fears that their relations with Beijing would suffer if they condemned […]

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in her office in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 1, 2008 (AP photo by Arash Ashourinia).

In 1985, my parents were taken to court in Tehran by a tenant who was trying to stop them from selling a property he was renting from them at the time. My parents were surprised to learn about the lawsuit. After all, they had given the tenant several months to vacate. He had no legitimate legal argument. On the day of the hearing, when it was the tenant’s turn to present his case, he pointed at my parents and shrilly declared that they were communists. For a moment, the room fell silent. Then my parents’ lawyer calmly closed his legal […]

A protester waves the Palestinian flag during clashes with the Israeli forces at the Hawara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, May 14, 2021 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Framing the latest outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hamas is a distressing new reality for Palestinians: a great many power brokers in the region have lost any serious interest in their rights. In fact, the downgrading of Arab interest in Palestinian rights reflects a wider […]

A protest rally to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 28, 2021 (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

Since February 2019, when President Jovenel Moise was implicated in the largest corruption scandal Haiti has ever known, the country has been mired in a violent crisis with political, economic and constitutional dimensions. Instead of heeding protesters’ demands to step down or addressing the allegations against him, Moise formed alliances with armed gangs that continue to terrorize the population and quash anti-government demonstrations. Moise, who has been ruling by decree since July 2018 due to his inability to form a government, has also eviscerated the independent institutions that could hold him and his allies accountable. He is clinging to power […]

Health workers tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation cube in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Nearly two dozen women came forward this week to accuse aid workers of sexual exploitation and assault during the international response to the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that began in 2018, even as evidence has emerged that World […]

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, May 11, 2021 (AP photo by Hatem Moussa).

Israeli forces and Palestinian militant factions in the Gaza Strip have been engaged in their heaviest exchange of fire this week since the 2014 Gaza War. A heavy barrage of Israeli airstrikes has killed at least 83 people thus far in Gaza, including 17 children, while authorities in Israel have reported seven fatalities due to Palestinian rocket attacks. Among them was a 6-year-old child. Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations are all working to broker a cease-fire, but there is no indication yet of an end to the violence, with potentially far-reaching implications across the region. The conflict follows weeks […]

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, is reflected in glass as he leaves at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

As soon as the global magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic started to become evident in the early part of last year, the obvious corollary became inescapable: COVID-19 would have far-reaching political impact around the world. One of the places where the political ramifications of the crisis—or, more precisely, the consequences of its mismanagement by authorities—are becoming more pronounced is Central Europe, a region that in recent years has drifted steadily in an authoritarian, illiberal direction. While a steady erosion of democratic practices has been on display across much of the globe over the past 15 years, the pattern in Central […]

Soldiers stand outside a polling station in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

The unmarked white vans, known locally as “drones,” stop at marketplaces and on busy street corners across Uganda. A mix of uniformed and plainclothes security officers shove terrified captives into the vehicles and drive them to undisclosed locations. Many are never seen again. The pages of the Daily Monitor, an independent Ugandan newspaper, are awash with stories of families searching desperately for their missing loved ones. Their crime: supporting opposition candidate Bobi Wine in the country’s January presidential election. From his origins in a ghetto in the capital, Kampala, the popstar-turned-politician—whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi—rose to challenge long-ruling President […]

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