World

Love in a Troubled Land

For Palestinians in Israel, having a family and being a citizen can be mutually exclusive.

This is the first in a two-part series on Israel's policies toward its Palestinian minority.

It’s hard to fall in love and have a family in Israel if you're one of the country's 1.5 million Palestinians.

Thursday Miscellany

Let's start with the Eeyore.

Yesterday I wrote that women don't count—at least, not to the news media. Right after I posted that, I learned that Katha Pollitt wrote about the same recurring problem last year, brilliantly, of course. One of her key points: if you want more women writers, you need more women editors. Do read her piece. It's depressingly relevant and, of course, funny: 

A German History Lesson

Yesterday, the German Parliament relented and agreed to let the Greek debt restructuring go forward, but only the price of crushing austerity for the Greek economy. This is a widespread attitude in Germany, where aid to the Greeks is unpopular.

The other day, Jörg Krämer, chief economist for Commerzbank in Frankfurt, said of the Greeks, “If you live beyond your means, then you can repair your balance sheet only if your consumption goes down.”

But the Germans might take a moment and reflect on their own history.

All the Scary Ladies

An effort to silence women in the military is meant to empower the radically conservative clergy in Israel.

(AP Photos/Oded Ballilty)

The Israeli military has to face a lot of threats. Iran. Hezbollah. Rockets from Gaza. Women soldiers singing.

If that last item seems out of place, it's because you're reading this in America (where, it's true, presidential candidates can portray contraception as a danger to civilization) instead of reading it in Israel. Here in Israel, the threat posed by female vocalists to religious liberty has been a regular topic in debate of military policy in recent months.

Are You Eating Fish Caught By Slaves?

(Flickr/sarahalaskaphotographs)

According to sociologist Kevin Bales, who founded and directs the new abolition group Free the Slaves, an estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world today—more than were ever enslaved at any single time in history. The United Nation's International Labour Organization estimates are a more modest 12.3 million—which is still a shocking number of people forced to labor against their will, unable to walk away, for no compensation. Much of the reporting on this phenomenon has been on women forced to work in the sex trades. But the U.S.

Don't Sterilize Trans Folks

(Flickr/PhotoComiX)

We've talked at length, here, about the fact that for some minority of folks, sex and gender don't line up. Some girls have a boyish swagger and a killer pitching arm. Some boys adore nail polish and glittery princesses. Sometimes—not always—those butch girls and pink boys grow up to be lesbians or gay men. Sometimes—less often, although no one knows the real rate—they insist that the only way they can be comfortable and happy is to change their sex entirely.

Greece's Pieces

The country's eurozone partners finally come to an agreement on a new loan, but it comes at a high cost.

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

After nearly four months of negotiations, near misses, bouts of despair, and growing acrimony, the eurozone finally gave its blessing to Greece’s second bailout. It is a huge 130 billion euro package, accompanied by a debt writedown and strict austerity requirements. In a 13-hour-long meeting yesterday, under intense pressure from Germany and the Netherlands, Greece’s private bondholders were forced to take a larger haircut than originally planned—53.5 percent rather than 50 percent. This, according to the International Monetary Fund, will bring Greece’s debt down to 120.5 percent of GDP by 2020.

Iran Is Not Cuba

In the face-off with the country, the best lesson from the past is that diplomatic compromise doesn't require appeasement.

(AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Scrolling through news, especially news posted in America, I could think that it's time for me to stock up on canned food and check that my family's Israeli government-issue gas masks are working. The news suggests that Israel's air force is sure to attack Iran's nuclear facilities this year, perhaps this spring, possibly sparking a rain of retaliatory missiles from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Syria, despite or because of its current turmoil, might join in.

Olympic Deja Vu?

(Flickr/Dougtone)

Mitt Romney has me counting the days until the Olympics (164 as of Tuesday.)  Since he's not always eager to talk about his largely-moderate record as Massachusetts governor, we've gotten to hear a lot about Mitt's role planning the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. There was that lingering animosity between Romney and Rick Perry, supposedly because Romney didn't give the Boy Scouts enough of a role. Of course, most of it's been about the boring stuff, like how he turned around a potentially disastrous event and made it profitable. But, when he starts talking about it, I mainly just imagine people competing in sports I've usually forgotten exist.

Why Is Greece on Fire?

The Prospect gives you the lowdown on the country's fiscal nightmare.

As violence surged over the weekend in Athens in reaction to a parliamentary vote on a harsh new fiscal-austerity plan, it became readily apparent that Greeks bearing gifts, however suspect, would be a welcome reprieve from the ones hurling homemade petrol bombs at banks and businesses. There have been innumerable showings of popular rage in Greece over the past couple of years, but here’s why this most recent one is important:

Obituary for a Singer

She wasn't as famous as Whitney Houston. Her singing was the kind best appreciated quietly, inside the mind. The shy, Nobel-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska died on February 1, 2012, at the age of 88, having given the world a handful of absolutely perfect sentences in perfect order. Her work makes me think of poet W.H. Auden's famous line that the purpose of poetry is, "by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate."

Greece Bets Once Again on Austerity

The country's parliament approves deep cuts to social services as rioters overrun central Athens.

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, GREECE—After a night of high drama, both inside and outside parliament, the Greek government passed the slew of new austerity measures demanded by its official lenders in return for a second bailout package worth 130 billion euros. The deal slashes the minimum wage by 22 percent, reduces pensions, and will result in public-worker rolls shrinking by 150,000 employees, among other measures. The final count for the controversial package, which was announced after 1 a.m. Monday morning, was 199 in favor and 74 against. Politicians accused each other of national betrayal, and tensions erupted into angry exchanges about a deeply divided country on the verge of desperation. Meanwhile, outside parliament, a vast swathe of downtown Athens was once again left defenseless against violence, with smashing, burning and pillaging until the early hours of the morning. Protests also turned ugly in other parts of Greece, from Salonica to Crete.

Greece's Desperate Measures

A budget agreement reduces the minimum wage and cuts pensions.

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

After days of intense negotiations during which its membership in the eurozone seemed to hang by a thread, Greece finally reached an agreement today on the measures that will accompany the new loan package from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.

What It Feels Like to Be Poor

Katherine Boo chronicles the intimate realities of poverty in an Indian slum.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. By Katherine Boo, Random House, 256 pages, $27.00

The Fall of the House of Assad?

If and when the Syrian regime crumbles, an American administration will have to seize opportunities.

AP Photos

Bashar al-Assad has not yet fallen. I note this only because of the tone of inevitability in some news reports on Syria's civil war. The downfall of Tunisia's Ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi may be no more predictive than a roulette ball falling on red in the last three spins. Arguably, the popular convulsion in the Middle East began not in Tunisia in late 2010 but in Teheran in mid-2009, when the Iranian regime—Assad's patron—crushed a popular revolution and erased the immense hopes it had raised.

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