The World Today for December 21, 2023

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Peace, Please


Hundreds of people recently joined Jewish groups in eight cities throughout the US to call for a ceasefire in Israel’s attacks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The demonstrations occurred as the United Nations also demanded a pause to the fighting, reported Reuters.

These moves were emblematic of the sentiment worldwide, even in Israel and among those abroad who normally would staunchly support Israel, that Israeli leaders needed to start thinking about their endgame in Gaza, and what comes after.

Since Hamas, which is in charge of Gaza, attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 240 hostages, Palestinian authorities say that Israeli attacks have killed almost 20,000 in the tiny, densely populated territory abutting southern Israel, the Egyptian border and the Mediterranean Sea, CBS News reported.

In the days after Hamas’ attack, moderate and left-wing Israelis who want better relations with the Palestinians remained quiet as the horror of Hamas’ terror became clear, wrote Time magazine. The son of Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, whom Hamas murdered on Oct. 7, even described his country’s peace movement as “orphaned” in the wake of the horror, added the Washington Post.

Many peace activists expressed anger that right-wing political parties who support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were foolish enough to think Hamas could act responsibly, the Times of Israel reported, alluding to how Netanyahu had allowed Hamas to control the Gaza Strip in exchange for what seemed like peace and quiet in recent years. Other activists were shocked that Hamas could massacre Israelis in cold blood after this temporary peace reigned between the two countries.

Now, as the destruction in Gaza continues in the months following the Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli peace movement is beginning to coalesce again. Some movement leaders, for example, are strengthening their ties with Palestinian women, knowing these links might help sow peace more firmly in the future.

“Both of us feel the sorrow of the other, because we are on the same side,” Yael Braudo-Bahat, an attorney and co-director of Women Wage Peace, told the BBC in an interview. “We are mothers. We are women. We want a better future for everyone here in this region.”

Many of these Israeli human rights activists believe Israel had a right to defend itself – but said that Israeli forces were acting indiscriminately in the Gaza Strip. Some who spoke to CNN asked to be only identified with pseudonyms, however, because they feared retribution from Israeli officials and others who have been intolerant of anti-war rhetoric.

But as they maintain, it has to end sooner or later. And they want to determine what comes after.


A Door Half-Closed


The European Union reached a “historic” migration deal Wednesday that will overhaul the way it handles those seeking to migrate to the bloc, a move that ends years of political deadlock among EU countries while also seeking to curb the rising popularity of far-right parties, Politico reported.

Under the agreement, frontline countries in southern Europe will implement stricter asylum procedures at their non-EU border points and will have more power to remove rejected asylum seekers. Countries inland will have the option to accept a specific number of migrants or pay into a joint EU fund.

The full details of the deal have not been released, and officials said it is still preliminary. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament and the European Council.

Still, observers said the proposal marks a shift to the right after years of unsuccessful attempts to find a consensus on regulations addressing the concerns of both border countries handling asylum seekers, and countries further inland worried about the influx of migrants moving from one EU nation to another.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola explained that the deal was “not a perfect package,” but hailed it as historic. Other EU officials and national leaders welcomed it with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen describing it as “an effective European response to this European challenge.”

However, a number of human rights organizations warned that the deal could negatively impact migrants and asylum seekers reaching European borders. They cautioned that the agreement would allow countries to arbitrarily detain children, remove migrants to so-called “safe third countries,” and increase “racial profiling.”

In 2015, the bloc faced its biggest challenge when more than a million refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere arrived in the EU.

With the increasing influx of migrants into the EU over the past two years, there has been a parallel rise in the sway of far-right parties and other political groups opposing migration, according to the New York Times.

Metsola denied that the migration deal was influenced by the far-right, but had earlier claimed that the agreement would be crucial to fend off those groups in elections.

The agreement comes six months ahead of the European Parliament election, with polls indicating a surge in support for far-right, anti-immigration parties in nations such as Germany and the Netherlands.

Only on Tuesday, France’s parliament passed a controversial immigration bill lengthening residency requirements for migrant workers to access benefits, tightening migration quotas limiting the ability of immigrants’ children to become French, and easing the deportation of illegal migrants.

President Emmanuel Macron faced uproar and government-level resignations from within his own party for what is seen as an “ideological victory” for the far-right, embodied by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, Deutsche Welle reported.

Quashing Debate


India’s parliament suspended a record number of opposition lawmakers this week, prompting criticism against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it seeks to pass a controversial criminal reform bill, CNN reported.

Earlier this week, speakers in both houses of parliament suspended 141 opposition lawmakers – 95 from the lower house and 46 from the upper chamber – for disrupting the legislature with protests.

The suspended legislators had demanded a debate about a major security breach in parliament last week after two men stormed the chamber, chanting slogans and releasing colored gas.

They described the suspensions as a “complete purge,” adding that it occurred “so that draconian bills are passed without meaningful debate.”

The suspensions came as lawmakers were about to debate a set of bills, including one that would overhaul the country’s criminal justice system.

On Wednesday, the lower house approved by vocal votes three bills related to the criminal justice reform, despite a majority of opposition lawmakers not being present, Bloomberg noted.

The changes are aimed at replacing the current colonial-era legislation and will revamp definitions of certain felonies. It will also increase punishment for other crimes, such as terrorism, mob violence, and crimes against the nation’s security and sovereignty.

At the same time, parliament has two other draft laws on the agenda, including a telecommunication bill that critics allege will infringe on the privacy rights of citizens by giving the government power to intercept electronic communications.

Most of the suspended lawmakers are from the INDIA alliance, a coalition of opposition parties seeking to defeat Modi and his BJP in next year’s elections.

Critics have accused the BJP of stifling opposition and undermining democracy in parliament, allegations the party consistently denies.

Dr. Death


A French court sentenced a Rwandan doctor to 23 years in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the latest case against perpetrators of the massacre that killed more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the African country, Sky News reported.

The Paris court found Sosthene Munyemana guilty of charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and helping prepare a genocide.

Prosecutors accused Munyemana of taking part in local committees and meetings that organized round-ups of Tutsi civilians, adding that he “couldn’t ignore” that they were going to be killed.

The former gynecologist, a friend of the then-head of the interim government, Jean Kambanda, co-signed “a motion of support” for the administration that supervised the genocide.

He was also accused of detaining dozens of Tutsis in the office of a local administration that was “under his authority at the time,” as well as giving official instructions to local militias and residents “leading to the round-up of the Tutsis.”

Munyemana admitted that he participated in the night patrols to track Tutsis, but denied any wrongdoing. He claimed that he joined the patrols to protect the local population.

He had moved to France months after the genocide ended in July 1994, where he lived and worked until he recently retired. Members of the Rwandan community in France later identified Munyemana and lodged complaints against him.

Rwanda has accused France of “enabling” the genocide, but relations between both nations have improved in recent years as Paris has increased efforts to apprehend and prosecute individuals accused of perpetrating the killings.


A Viking’s Tooth

A new archaeological study on Viking teeth showed that tooth decay was a prevalent problem in the Middle Ages, Cosmos Magazine reported.

Researchers from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg studied nearly 3,300 Viking teeth found at the oldest known ruins of a Christian church and cemetery located near the south-central town of Skara.

Out of the 171 individuals studied, nearly half of them had no dental decay, while 49 percent had some form of decay. Four percent of individuals had an infection.

What piqued the researchers’ interest, however, was evidence of tooth filing: One male had filed his teeth, a practice that was unknown among Vikings until now – although some scholars speculate it was a marker of identity.

The findings provide a “unique understanding of life and death in this early Christian Viking community and indicated that it was common to suffer from dental caries (cavities), tooth loss, infections of dental origin and tooth pain,” the team writes in their paper.

The study also showed that the average age of death was 35 years old, adding that the diet of the medieval community most likely included beef, fish, bread and various vegetables, such as leeks and mushrooms.

The ancient population also most likely drank beer and mead.

The authors suggested that oral hygiene measures – except for toothpicking – were probably non-existent.

While humanity has significantly advanced in dental care, the rates of tooth decay in today’s societies appear broadly similar, although the causes might differ.

The World Health Organization says nearly half of the world’s population suffers from dental caries, with the rise in sugar consumption believed to be the main cause of the problem.

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