By Gideon Rachman
When last week I saw a White House spokesman say that Israel’s bombing of a UN school was “totally indefensible”, I briefly thought that I had witnessed something new. Surely the Americans had never before been that strong in condemning Israel? But a colleague with a longer memory reminded me that Israel’s siege of west Beirut in 1982 had provoked President Ronald Reagan (yes, Reagan) to telephone Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, and accuse him of perpetrating a “holocaust”. There is nothing new about Israeli military action killing hundreds of civilians. There is also nothing new about the international outcry it provokes.
The call this weekend by bishops of the Church of England for the UK to grant asylum to the Christians driven out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by the jihadi fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, seems instinctively right. As the Right Reverend David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, observed: “this is, in part, our mess”.
“We have created the space in which Isis have moved in and have expelled Christians from northern Iraq and would like to expel them from the whole of that country,” he told the BBC. Read more
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.
The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.
Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.
But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.
As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own): Read more
Ebola: what risk does the virus pose to Africa and the wider world?
Parts of Western Africa are gripped by the Ebola virus, with more than 670 dead in the current outbreak. Gideon Rachman is joined by Clive Cookson, science editor, and Javier Blas, Africa editor, to discuss how serious a threat the virus poses to the region and to the wider world, and what the international community can do to thwart its progress.
• Squeezed between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, civilian casualties in east Ukraine continue to mount, diminishing the chances of postwar reconciliation.
• Meanwhile in Russia, President Vladimir Putin is feeling the chill from the struggle for Ukraine as he attempts to appease both business tycoons and nationalists.
• The Guardian’s Shaun Walker tracked down the feared rebel leader Igor Bezler- thought to be behind the MH17 crash and regarded as something of a loose cannon, even by other rebels. The encounter ended with Mr Bezler threatening to execute the interviewer.
• Europe is bankrolling Al Qaeda by paying ransoms. An investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125m in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66m was paid just last year. Read more
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has just cemented his reputation as the problem child of the European Union with a speech in which he argued that “liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive”. All EU countries are meant to subscribe to a set of values that could broadly be described as liberal and democratic. But Mr Orban suggested that the Hungarian government is now looking elsewhere for inspiration – citing China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore as potential role models. Read more
The consensus, such as it is, on the eurozone crisis was neatly summed up on Monday by Hugo Dixon, author and editor at large of Reuters News: “The euro crisis is sleeping, not dead.”
What about the crisis in Greece? Over the past four to five years Europe, supported by the International Monetary Fund, has invested more time, effort and money in Greece than in any other struggling eurozone state. The aim is to reform a country so inefficiently governed, so riddled with corruption and so burdened with debt that it seemed, for certain spells in 2011 and 2012, to pose a threat to the eurozone’s survival.
So it seems reasonable to ask: if this time, effort and money have not changed Greece for the better, what has it all been for? Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Back in 1992 I was watching from the balcony of Madison Square Garden as Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic party nomination for the presidency. On stage with him was his wife, Hillary, and their young daughter, Chelsea. The music that blared from the loudspeakers as the Clintons took their bow was Fleetwood Mac singing “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”. It was a quintessentially American message – optimistic and forward-looking.
Part of the wreckage of MH17 that broke up over eastern Ukraine
After three fatal airline disasters in a week, coming just months after the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370, aviation safety is under more scrutiny than at any time since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.
Not surprisingly, there has been a marked increase in chatter on social media in the last few days about fear of flying. But short of not getting on an aircraft, is there anything nervous flyers should know or do before getting onboard? Read more