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Playing De-Fence, Democratic Discord, Social Savvy


Israel Begins Construction on Massive New Barrier Surrounding Gaza

Travis Fedschun, Fox News, February 6th, 2019

Recap:

Israel will construct an "above-ground barrier" on its border with the Gaza Strip to keep terrorists from infiltrating its territory.

The Context:

  • Israel's Defense Ministry said the steel barrier will be 20 feet high and complement a subterranean wall aimed at thwarting Hamas tunnels dug underground. The new barrier will run for 40 miles, cost $833 million and be completed by the end of 2019.

  • The fence is similar to one built along the Israeli-Egyptian border, which cut the number of African migrants trespassing into Israel from 14,669 in 2010 to 14 in 2016. Israel also built a fence along its West Bank border following the second Intifada which stopped a wave of suicide bombings originating from Palestinian neighborhoods.

  • For almost a year Palestinians have gathered weekly along the Gaza border to protest Israel’s existence, seeking to return to villages and towns in Israel that their families fled or were expelled from during Israel’s War of Independence [1]. Rockets are routinely fired from Gaza toward southern Israel, and Palestinians have turned to kites and balloons outfitted with incendiary devices as its latest weapon of choice.

  • Gaza has been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007 [2]. The blockade has contributed to Gaza’s weak economy as well as an unemployment rate of 44%.

Conversation Points:

  • Does the timing of the fence’s construction have anything to do with Israel's general elections set for early April?

  • Why should a country build a barrier along its borders?

  • Why shouldn’t a country build a barrier along its borders?

  • How will Israel’s Gaza fence contribute to the US conversation about its proposed wall along the American-Mexican border?

Prominent Democrats Form Pro-Israel Group to Counter Skepticism on the Left

Jonathan Martin, New York Times, January 28th, 2019

Recap:

With polls showing that liberals and younger voters are increasingly less sympathetic to Israel, several veteran Democrats launched Democratic Majority for Israel to support candidates in 2020 who stand with the country. “Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way,” said Mark Mellman, the group’s president.

The Context:

  • While the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats are strong supporters of Israel, the party’s pro-Israel wing has been jolted by the election of high-profile freshmen who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the country.

  • Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from Michigan accused Israel advocates in Congress of dual loyalties [3] while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has referred to the conflict as the “occupation of Palestine.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comment equating Israel to Iran drew fire from Mellman who replied, “Israel is a democracy where the rights of minorities are protected” whereas “Iran is identified by both Democratic and Republican administrations as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism [4].”

  • The Simon Wiesenthal Center implored House speaker Nancy Pelosi to respond to the “extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements “comments made by Tlaib and Omar [5].

  • This week the Senate passed legislation that would allow state and local governments to bar contractors from advocating for sanctions and a boycott of Israel.

Conversation Points:

  • Are the freshmen lawmakers’ views a sign of shifting party interests?

  • Why has US support for Israel historically been bipartisan?

  • What constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel and what crosses the line into anti-Semitism?

Israelis Are World’s Top Users of Social Media, Survey Finds

Times of Israel, February 6th, 2019

Recap:

According to a Pew survey, Israelis are the world leaders in social media use and second in smartphone ownership.

The Context:

  • Younger and higher income adults are more likely to own phones and use social media in both advanced and emerging economies, but the age and economic gaps are greater in less developed countries. Gender does not play a significant role in using the technology, except in India, where men are much more likely to own smartphones. India has the lowest rate of smartphone ownership at 24%.

  • Israel edged out South Korea in social media usage by 1% however South Korea boasts the highest rate of smartphone ownership at 95%.

  • Over 5 billion people in the world own mobile devices. The report is based on a survey of 30,133 people in 27 countries, conducted in mid 2018 [6].

Conversation Points:

  • Is leading the world in social media usage positive or negative?

  • Is leading the world in mobile phone ownership usage positive or negative?

Notes:

  1. Israel Begins Construction Of New Gaza Barrier, Al Jazeera, February 3rd, 2019

  2. Hamas's Haniya Visits Egypt For Talks On Israel Truce: Reports, Al Jazeera, February 3rd, 2019

  3. Tlaib Starts Term In Congress Accusing Israel Advocates Of 'Dual Loyalty', Michael Wilner, Jerusalem Post, January 7, 2019

  4. New Muslim Congresswoman Omar Says Us Should ‘Call Out’ Israel Like It Does Iran, Eric Cortellessa, Times Of Israel, February 1st, 2019

  5. Wiesenthal Center Slams Muslim Lawmakers For Anti-Semitic, Anti-Israel Remarks, Times Of Israel, January 19th, 2019

  6. Global Survey Ranks Israel Second Highest In Smartphone, I24news, February 5th, 2019


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