Tag: Global affairs

Iran Flood Kills At Least 70, Leaves Thousands Stranded

Sanders Jett-Folk | @sjettfolk

Heavy rains across much of Iran have caused widespread flooding, which has killed at least 70 people. Thousands of others have had to evacuate from their homes.

Continue reading “Iran Flood Kills At Least 70, Leaves Thousands Stranded”

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SaS and Richard Sulík Are Closest to Freedom in Slovakia

Atilla Sulker | United States

Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jozef Martiniak at the 2018 Mises University. Dr. Martiniak came to Auburn all the way from Slovakia and had many great stories to tell about his experience growing up in a Cold War era Czechoslovakia. My conversations with Dr. Martiniak not only revealed an interesting story from the perspective of someone who experienced socialism firsthand but also sparked my interest in the politics of Slovakia. He mentioned that there was a libertarian-oriented party in Slovakia. So, I endeavored to examine the movement in Slovakia, analyzing its scope, significance, and authenticity.

The SaS Party and Richard Sulík

 

The main vessel of Slovak libertarianism nowadays is the political party “Freedom and Solidarity” (SaS). Economist Richard Sulík, the man behind the Slovakian flat tax, founded the party in 2009. In February of that year, the party collected the 10,000 required signatures for its establishment. Sulík became the first chairman.

According to their website, the party claims to run on a platform free of the typical populist propaganda loaded with catchy slogans. They also claim that experts in various fields, rather than ideologues, run the party.

This idea of “experts” or “elitists” running the party is reminiscent of the system which the founders of the United States government hoped to maintain. It was a system in which the people would only directly elect a small percentage of state officials. This gradual shift from elitism to a system more centered around direct election helped lead to the growth of the state. This phenomenon has led to the rise of “mass scale pork barrel politics” such as the socialization of healthcare.

The party is also centered around offering specific solutions on how to allocate the budget. On the contrary, they oppose putting out “unrealistic promises”. It also asserts that the armed forces must have clear objectives. This sort of reform effort, though, puts too much trust in the state. Governments are inherently very tough to reform.

Libertarian Similarities

Though SaS never explicitly claims to be anchored in the chief tenets of libertarianism, it puts heavy emphasis on free will and individualism. The party draws a connection between individual freedom and happiness. From this, the party asserts that it opposes economic intervention. The party emphasizes a more consequentialist argument regarding the effects of freedom on the collective population.

One interesting thing I learned through my conversations with Dr. Martiniak was that the “passion” present in many libertarians in America was not present in Slovakia. Rather, SaS libertarianism is more “contra the state” instead of a truly moral, Rothbardian form.

SaS lists the promotion of “basic solidarity” as one of its key tenets in Article II of its charter. This sort of concept is manifested in the “euro-realist” stance of the party. The party sees the European Union as an idea with great potential, but also one that demands significant reform. The party also asserts, however, that it seeks to curb the EU’s bureaucracy and regulations.

Party Shortcomings

Its perception of the EU, though, is flawed. SaS believes that the EU should exist for its promotion of free trade and free movement. However, in regards to this, a classic Bob Murphy argument comes into play.

In his article, “But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?”, Murphy comes to the conclusion that if a small-government society can sustain itself peacefully, these same people should be able to live together peacefully without a government. In the same way, if member countries of the EU really want free trade and movement, why would there be the need for a political union such as the EU? Even if countries were to reform the EU, it would gradually centralize power over time. The Iron Law of Oligarchy strongly suggests this.

In an article by The Telegraph, Louise Armitstead describes the sentiment of Richard Sulík. Sulík often receives criticism for being a nationalist, but Armitstead articulates that he is rather “the hero of all discontented Europeans”. This certainly demonstrates the growing resentment in Europe for the government. It underscores the borderless nature of freedom, its universal application. It is not something that remains within a single country, but rather, it spreads. Of course, it has nothing to do with nationalism.

An Imperfect Match

In my humble opinion, the efforts of SaS do not effectively line up with libertarianism. Sure, the party is pro-market, anti-centralization, and pro-civil liberties. At the same time, however, due to the fact that it is not grounded in property rights and the NAP, its attempts blur.

This is why it is so important that any attempt at libertarianism be grounded in these axioms. Otherwise, the message strays from being genuine. SaS embodies the more “pragmatic libertarianism” present in those such as Gary Johnson, rather than genuine Misesian or Rothbardian aesthetic.

Originally published on Mises.org


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Russia Isn’t Why Trump Won, Get Over It

By Glenn Verasco | Thailand

As the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory has, via lack of evidence, all but withered away, it is time to set the record straight on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. What many dramatically refer to as an attack on our democracy or even an act of war was actually closer to a non-event that U.S. foreign policy is to blame for. Instead of fear, anger, or hostility, we should react to Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election with empathy, pity, and national self-reflection.

Unfortunate Diplomatic Circumstances

In an ideal world, the Kremlin and the U.S. federal government would be mutually respectful allies, In this reality, American and Russian people would engage in commerce with each other freely. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which both governments’ choices have inculcated Americans and Russians with different languages, cultures, values, and fears. Because of this, it may be impossible for the US and Russia to ever eliminate hostilities wholesale and create a live-and-let-live type of atmosphere.

Even so, a Washingtonian/Jeffersonian foreign policy is our best and safest bet. Instead of getting caught up in entangling alliances, we should seek to make the best of an imperfect world. To do so, we must accept countries for what they are, imperfect. Thus, we should allow people of both countries to seek roads to happiness and prosperity when they see fit.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson summed up what I believe to be the core of good foreign policy in each’s farewell and inaugural addresses respectively:

“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” -George Washington

“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” -Thomas Jefferson

What Will This New Direction Look Like?

Instead of sanctioning Russia and allowing NATO to usurp our national interests, we should knock down any roadblocks in our trade routes that we have the power to. If Russia reciprocates, great. If they don’t, our liberal policies will serve to the betterment of all anyway. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I empathize with the heart of neoconservative foreign policy. The way I see it, it refuses to stand idly by as major human rights violations occur. Admittedly, there is virtue in universal recognition of the individualist philosophy that our forefathers preached, and in seeking to approach foreign affairs this way.

One problem, however, with this foreign policy is that it can create a hammer-without-a-nail mindset. Though simple from the outside, many foreign conflicts are complicated internal disputes that the U.S. has no business in. Histories external to America, when avenged in real time, do not reveal their depth to our media agencies. Here again, President Washington provides wisdom:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

Reasonable Mistrust

Despite my awareness of the complexity of history and geopolitics (which is another way of saying my awareness of my infinite ignorance) as well as my strong non-interventionist leanings, I am still sympathetic to the notion that the U.S. must treat Russia with an exceptionally strong level of distrust. I can even rationalize our military blockading what was once the epicenter of the Soviet Union. The map I have created below shows Russia, the United States, and the countries/regions surrounding Russia that at least 5,000 US troops occupy from a top-down point of view:

Russia Blockade

Whether you support the Neoconservative tendency towards caution or the Libertarian preference for sovereignty, such an immense military presence around Russia is going to have consequences. These may include, but are not limited to, intimidating military exercisesexpansion of territory via brute force, increased centralized control over the flow of information internally, and a greater focus on collecting intelligence from adversaries. It should be no surprise that the Russian government engages in all of these defensive practices.

Is U.S. Intimidation Working?

The counter to this claim could be that the consequences of the U.S. and its NATO allies easing up would be even worse. One might say that the only reason Russia has been so meek in its hostilities is due to the current robust military presence.

This is a chicken or the egg dilemma that I cannot solve, but, for the sake of argument, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the neocons and concede that western military might in some form is needed to keep Russia at bay. Accordingly, we must accept the consequences of this choice, one of which is Russian intelligence agencies seeking information and causing disruptions, i.e. their involvement in the 2016 US election.

The Myth of Trump and Russia

From what I understand, the extent of Russia’s “meddling” in the 2016 US election does not amount to much. Based on the latest indictments brought by the Mueller investigation, Russian military intelligence operatives may have tried to hack the DNC’s server to expose information about Hillary Clinton. Previous indictments allege that Russians may have purchased Facebook ads aimed at sowing discord within the American public (not simply backing Donald Trump for president, as many lazy and/or biased media outlets continue to assert).

On hacking, I am not convinced that the Russians are responsible. As the race in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was extremely divisive and contentious, it would be unsurprising to find out that various pro-Bernie members of the DNC with access to various servers decided to leak damaging documents about Clinton and her campaign. The motivation makes sense, and so do the logistics. It would have been far easier to get inside and download files at close proximity than from Russia.

An Expert Opinion

Patrick Lawrence, in a summary of a memo released by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes in The Nation:

“On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

“These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

“What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need, were it a hack.”

This forensic evidence, combined with Occam’s Razor, makes it difficult for me to accept the accusation of Russian hacking at all, no matter how many US intelligence agencies say otherwise. I am not saying that the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is likely to be true, but I find it equally as persuasive as the Russian hacking theory.

Accusation Without Proper Evidence

The indictments of the Russian operatives accused of hacking the DNC server will not result in extradition or trial, so the accusations will never be tested in a court of law. And some of the most fundamental pillars of reason, liberty, and the Bill of Rights dictate that we cannot accept claims ad verecundiam. In fact, it is assertions from those in power, like the FBI and NSA, we must cast the most doubt upon.

The indicted Russians are not guilty until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It would be nice to have a civil libertarian organization like the ACLU actively reminding us of these things, but identity politics and Trump hatred have resulted in many such groups losing their way.

Beyond all this, the documents released by Wikileaks provided the public with more truthful information, which is most certainly a positive development for the democratic process. For those who purport to care about an informed public determining their destinies via the vote, it would be quite hypocritical to claim otherwise.

Hypocrisy at Home

Even if it were irrefutably the Russians who hacked the DNC server, the US has no moral high ground when it comes to intervening in foreign elections (or intervening militarily for that matter). The map below highlights the nations that have faced election interference from the US since the end of WWII (a total of at least 80 instances):

Bringing these facts to light in the current climate can result in accusations of treason as Senator Rand Paul has been subjected to. While this is to be expected when it comes to warmongering neoconservatives, hearing it from self-described liberals has a chilling effect. This sort of with-us-or-against-us, pseudo-patriotism is far more reminiscent of nazism than the enforcement of immigration law is.

Did Russia Have Any Significance?

To once again be extremely generous to the opposition, let’s accept three premises:

1) That the U.S. must take extreme measures to contain Russia

2) That Russia directly hacked the DNC server at least partially as a means of promoting Trump’s campaign

3) That the U.S. does not have to practice what it preaches in terms of respecting the right to self-determination of foreign peoples

Even with all of this accepted as fact, there continues to be zero proof that Russian “meddling” changed anyone’s vote. And there are monstrous hurdles one must overcome to prove the positive claim that Russia successfully influenced the 2016 election.

The first is that the amount of money Russia allegedly spent on influencing the election is a drop in a bucket at the bottom of a massive sea of campaign financing and media coverage. Unbiased America illustrates the incredible disparity between Russian spending and non-Russia spending. The foreign nation accounts for about 0.1% of the total money spent on the election.

And even without juxtaposing the amounts spent to influence the election, there is no scientific proof that campaign contact or advertisements can persuade voters in the first place. In a study published by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2017, researchers concluded that “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates’ choices in general elections is zero.” In other words, if you are looking to alter someone’s vote, it is going to take more than slogans, attack ads, and memes to do so.

How did Trump Really Win?

I imagine that the way to get voters on your side is to stump for policies they prefer and to create some kind of unified identity. Trump ran on making America great again, draining the swamp, defeating the establishment, protectionist economic policy, restricting immigration, non-interventionism, and lowering taxes without lowering welfare spending. I imagine this formula is what put him over the top, not these crude supposedly Russian-made memes:

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To sum up, any genuine hysteria over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election is misguided. There is no reason to believe Russia affected the US election in any way of their own volition, nor that they broke any laws. Freedom of speech is a human right, not one reserved for everyone except those who have some distant connection to the Russian government. Human nature and far greater influences impeded any attempts to impact the election. And Russian meddling in U.S. affairs is a small price to pay for containing them (or, rather, bullying and threatening them).

The More Chilling Issue

What should be of far greater concern to all Americans are reactions to the Trump-Russia narrative by individuals, the media, and especially the US government. Sanctions against Russia will harm the Russian people and strengthen its government. Already suffering from a lackluster economy, sanctions will further thin out their opportunities. On a global scale, sanctions and other barriers to trade create an invisible domino effect that hits sectors of economic activity around the world too. Growing economic anxiety and economic hostility from NATO combined with a global media that paint Trump as Russia’s lapdog will inevitably guide the Russian people deeper into the protecting arms of Vladimir Putin.

Many members of the public and in Congress have called for increased regulation of the internet and social media as a way to prevent Russia from “meddling” in future elections, a dangerous undermining of free speech and expression no American should tolerate.

Instead of making peace and harmony with Russia more difficult, we should accept the minor consequences of containing Russia or leave NATO and let Russia be. The men who fought off a bullying foreign nation to found the United States of America would have preferred the latter option.

***

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This Could Be Worse Than the Cold War

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

With growing tensions in the world, falling economic markets, militaries expanding, a rise of the number of refugees, instability in the Middle East, European and EU frustrations, the US’ interventionist foreign policy, Russia’s unpredictable expansionist attitude, and now the bittering of US-Russia relations, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the world is entering a new Cold War. I will provide evidence for and against the idea that the US and Russia are entering such a predicament. It is my position that we are neither in a new Cold War nor the same Cold War, rather we are headed into the direction of an all-out world conflict.

The anxiety between Russia and the US have expedited since the Russian Federation annexed Crimea invading Ukraine in 2014. Already, there were accusations by the US prior to this invasion that Russia had been committing acts of cyber attacks around the world, which former US President Obama had addressed. Once Russia marched into Ukraine, the world was aware of the unpredictability of Russian President Putin and his expansionist foreign policy. Many scholars and writers have been maintaining a careful eye on the intensifying circumstances and have duly noted the evidence of US and Russian aggression.

As stated by US political scientist, Robert Legvold, the possible second Cold War began during the Ukraine crisis of 2013. While Andrew Kuchins, an American political scientist and Kremlinologist, believes the term of a “Cold War” is unsuited for the current conflict. Yet, Kuchins also believes it may actually be more dangerous than the first Cold War. From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the US that first upended previous norms of communication and peace, when in 2002, former President George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was a Cold War treaty limiting possible nuclear warfare. Due to the lessening of treaties and agreements, it is perpetually leading US-Russia relations to an impasse. According to John Sawers, a former MI6 chief, believes the world is entering an era that was possibly more dangerous than the Cold War, as we do not have a focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington.

According to Dr. Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto, “The Cold War was an orderly competition; there were rules to the game. Now the rules aren’t there, and there is a lot more unpredictability. Russia is no longer a superpower, so in that way, it may not be worse,” Braun said. “Before, the countries had different and competing ideologies, and they wanted to expand those across the world, so there was also constant tension and a threat of nuclear war.” So, “In that sense, no, this is not the Cold War. But we should not dismiss it.”

In early April 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that relations between the two nations have never been worse than they are today. “The situation is worse compared to the classical Cold War since some sort of rules were in force at that time and some decency was in place.” On the other hand, according to Ivan Kurilla, a historian at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia, “If you look for similarities with what is happening, it is not the Cold War that can explain events but Russia’s first revolutionary regime which regularly assassinated opponents abroad.” He went on to say that Russia’s President, Vladimir V. Putin, had no interest in spreading a new ideology and fomenting world revolution, unlike the early Bolsheviks, but that Russia under Mr. Putin had “become a revolutionary regime in terms of international relations.”

However, contradictory to Kurilla, in March of 2018, a former Russian spy was poisoned while in the UK, as apparently it was an attempted murder and the immediate accusations were pointing to Russia as the culprit. Russia fervently denied all allegations to the incident. Nevertheless, the international response was a devastating blow to Russian relations with not only the UK, but also the US, and the West in general. Immediate action was taken, President Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States that very month, adding to a growing cascade of similar actions taken by Western allies. Poland, Italy, Denmark, France, and Germany were among 14 EU member nations announcing plans to expel Russians from their respective countries in solidarity with Britain, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats after the poisoning. Canada also said it would expel 4. In addition, Poland and Germany stated that they, too, would expel some Russian diplomats.

Russia consistently adheres to the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin declared that it would assess the damage to its diplomat corps overseas and that Russia would respond with expulsions of Western diplomats. The Russian Parliament added with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic war tactics. Russia, Chepa said, “Will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”

An additional blow to Russia’s reputation and credibility, adding fuel to the tumultuous fire building between Russia and the US, twelve Russians have been indicted for supposedly hacking the Democratic Party’s servers and emails while also jeopardizing voter information in the US. For years, Russia has been accused of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism, and this has been one of the most significant of those accusations. Although after Trump met with Putin and they discussed the circumstances and situation of the hacking, Putin denied the allegations, and for now Trump has accepted his answer. Nevertheless, the trial against the twelve will carry on.

Although the evidence for a current Cold War is piling up, there are some key differences between the former Cold War and the escalating tensions currently straining US and Russian relations. One of those factor differences is that the Cold War consisted of the two world leading powers with significantly more polarity than the current state of being. The bipolar split between the US and former USSR was not only caused by the nuclear arms race but also in philosophical ideology as each felt their universal values were superior. The US was pressing for global Liberal Capitalism, while the USSR was pushing for Marxism-Leninism type Communism. True Capitalism focuses on the natural rights of the individual with a government protecting the negative rights of that individual. While the Marxism-Leninism form of Communism, on the other hand, attempts a top-level down approach of positive rights theory, claiming that elites can scientifically approach society for complete control with the greatest equal outcome for all.

With the arms race, innate philosophical differences, and both the USSR and the US expanding militarily while assisting other like-minded countries, the Cold War led to creating global bipolarity with proxy wars and spillover into other countries, and plenty of political blowback to boot. Although the current status of the world military climate is building into separate countries adhering to ideologies of nationalism, we do not see as great of a number of countries joining in opposition of one another based on ideological claims. The monster of Communism is not as overtly displayed in the world today. Rather, we are seeing hybrids of Communism in the form of Democratic Socialism and mixed economies utilizing both Capitalistic individualism and free trade, with Communistic welfare, regulations, and control. These ideologies are creating more conflict and polarization within countries rather than States in direct opposition and conflict. So, these are signs of contentions and escalating tensions, but not the same as the Cold War between the US and USSR.

Overall, the world is seeing a rise in expansionism and nationalism, while also conflicts are arising between countries. This does not mean that we are in a new Cold War or even a continuation of the first. Rather, this is evidence of escalating global conflict more likened to that of an actual World War than a Cold War. To prevent such a terrifying occurrence as WWIII, communication needs to be restored between countries, and expansionism needs to cease in order to not press other countries towards retaliation. Many fear the possibility of a political power vacuum if global control is voluntarily ended by the US; but, equally, the building of confrontational militaries and contentious communication will surely push for resentment and all-out war. Let us pursue communication, trade, and peace, with treaties and agreements, and see where that takes us instead.


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Abandoned Independence: The True Story of a Young Girl in Gaza

By Joseph Brown | United States

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES (BLOOD/GORE) BELOW

It’s that time of year again.

The taste of sulfur from a barrage of fireworks collides with the familiar smell of barbecue as the nation commemorates the ol’ red white and blue. For many Americans, the 4th of July is seen as a way to celebrate the capstone of American accomplishment, and any elementary school kid could tell you that the United States of America gained its freedom against all odds by forcing colonial British forces from its land.

Who has time for royal weddings when you have Monday Night Football anyway?

The classic tale of a determined ragtag band of rebels defeating the most powerful military force in the world has influenced thousands across the globe. It has inspired subsequent revolutions, formed modern American culture, and of course, created the masterful cinematic universe of Star Wars (Let’s not talk about the last one).

The memory of early American revolutionaries is alive and well in American society, but their legacy might have died with the founding fathers. Let’s take a gander at what life would have been like for a family in colonial America:

Amanda is a young woman living in the coastal city of Boston during the height of the American Revolutionary War. Though previously privileged enough to receive post-secondary education, Amanda was forced to abandon her studies and her talents after the conflict between Imperial and Rebel forces escalated. With hostile forces occupying a portion of her hometown, and the infamous British fleet blockading Boston’s ports, life in the besieged city has slowly begun to fade. Rations are running low, and the community is forced to face the possibility of starving,  while wandering a few blocks in the wrong direction could lead to a fate even worse than death.

If you thought life couldn’t seem any more bleak than it already is, you’re wrong.

Amanda’s brother was shot in the leg by British soldiers during a protest to lift the blockade, and for the past 64 days, Oliver has existed in a hellish state of unimaginable pain. Rebel forces have commandeered the majority of goods, and the merciless blockade prevents any significant aid from entering the dying city. Amanda and her family have no choice but to sit and watch Oliver writhe in excruciating agony before finally losing consciousness in what is the only remote escape from his pain.

While her brother sleeps, Amanda gathers bits of rubble and driftwood as a means of insulating her home from the bitter Atlantic winds. The war seems impossibly hopeless, and she doubts her brother will survive the winter. Every night, she watches the sun set on the silhouettes of British warships, as they strangle what’s left of her broken city.

Luckily for you and I, we know the ending to Amanda’s story. We know that the Continental Army would eventually manage to defeat British forces, and the rest is history, right?

Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege of such happy endings.

Although the above narrative is a perfectly probable allegory describing life in the midst of a great American conflict, it is modeled completely upon the true experiences of a family on the other side of the world.

You’re familiar with Amanda, but have you met Asmaa?

During her lifetime, Asmaa al-Housh has witnessed unimaginable amounts of destruction and despair, much like our fictional Amanda. The only difference?

Asmaa is from the Gaza Strip.

Formerly an outgoing photographer and active student at her local university, Asmaa was forced to abandon her aspirations after her brother, Omar, was shot in the leg by Israeli security forces while attending recent march protesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. As of May 30th, 2018, Israeli border patrols have killed at least 134 Palestinian protesters and injured 15,000 others during the protests. Among the dead and wounded are men, women, and children. Since 2007, no one has been allowed in or out of Gaza territory, and a merciless land, air, and sea blockade has prevented the transportation of significant medical supplies and basic goods.

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In Gaza, the most brutal wounds are often treated without any pain medicine due to a resource blockade.

 

Asmaa provides full time care for her twin brother, and for the past two months, you can almost always find her at his bedside. With local hospital facilities lacking staff, supplies, room, and tools, emergency services are quickly overwhelmed, and patients who are in need of critical care are often dismissed, or could face lengthy treatment times. Some can’t survive the wait.

The horrendous conditions of healthcare facilities merely reflect the state of being in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the besieged city are lucky to have four hours of electricity a day, and often resort to collecting driftwood or rubble as a means of heating water among the demolished ruins of Gaza neighborhoods. Blackouts are frequent, and uncertainty looms in every corner of human existence. Is the water clean? Where will we get our next meal? Will our house be bombed tonight? Will my son even make it home alive? These are the real questions that residents living in Gaza are forced to ask themselves every day under the Israeli occupation.

Few Palestinians within Gaza ever have the chance to have their voice heard beyond their own neighborhood. When asked what she would tell Americans about her homeland, Asmaa told me that few Americans can comprehend what it’s like to live there.

“Gaza is a prison. I have  dreams to travel…but none of this is possible. I have great hope, but it is not always this way. When I hear my brother scream or see his wounds, I am very tired.”

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Omar lays wounded in a hospital, where even the most essential resources are scarce.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has proven to be one of the most divisive and dynamic disasters of modern history, and continues to be a polarizing political issue, both internationally and within the United States. Yet, amidst the heartbreaking violence and hopeless political upheaval, the victims of the conflict have largely been forgotten, and are seldom represented as anything more than a statistic. Israeli or Palestinian, these are human lives, and this is as much of a human issue than a political one.

So before you crack open a beer, or eat one of those generic Walmart sugar cookies with colored sprinkles, take a moment to recognize that the principles of freedom and self determination aren’t exclusively American. There are thousands of oppressed peoples around the world who will die before they see the fruits of their resistance, and there are children in Gaza who could teach an American a thing or two about “The rocket’s red glare”.


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