The firestorm that greeted newly elected Congresswoman (D-MN) Ilhan Omar’s tweets about the Israel lobby’s clout in Congress reveals as much about her critics as it does about the rising tide of progressive politicians who no longer show deference to establishment prohibitions on criticizing Israel. Having lost the moral argument about Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, Omar’s critics pounced on the allegedly antisemitic tone of her comments rather than address her criticism of the US’s one-sided support for Israel. We asked several commentators to reflect on this largely manufactured controversy and what it tells us about the current limits of debate about Israel in the US today.
While mass arrests and arbitrary detentions are nothing new to Egypt, the escalation and widening pattern of arrests over the past year indicate that the authoritarian mindset of the Egyptian regime has significantly changed. Egypt under President Sisi has succeeded in reestablishing authoritarianism in a manner that is far more brutal—and far-reaching—than that of the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Once contested, albeit controlled, battlegrounds for politics are being decimated.
Protests in Iran’s holy city of Qom reveal that social fragmentation in Iran runs so deep that even within a community as intimately related to religious learning and the state as Qom, the divisions and boundaries go beyond easy distinctions between regime and opposition, hardliner and reformer or secular and pious. The uneven nature of Iranian society, which is being exacerbated by international sanctions and ever-expanding modes of privatization and deregulation, has worked its way into all sectors of a society that is at once cognizant of this condition and also still divided.
The end of 2018 witnessed potentially promising peace talks in Geneva between the Polisario Front liberation movement of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco in an effort to kickstart the stalled peace process for the nearly 45-year conflict over this North African territory. Nevertheless, the forces protecting the status quo, and thus Morocco’s ongoing colonization of Western Sahara, remain durable, and it is unclear whether this new round of talks will presage a broader resolution to one of the oft-forgotten conflicts of our times.