Category Archives: The Intelligence, Autumn 2017

In Depth: “Not My Zionism”

Israel is losing the support of America’s young, liberal Jews.

By Peter Bjel.

This summer marked two key anniversaries in Israel’s recent history. It has been seventy years since the United Nations voted in favor of partitioning then-Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, a vote rejected by the Palestinians and their allies in the region, ensuring that Israel’s existence would be marked by routine conflict. It has also been fifty years since Israel’s victory in the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, the aftermaths of which still reverberate in Israel, the region, and the broader Jewish world.

For Israel, victory enabled it to affirm itself on the world stage as a reckonable power, fulfilling a crucial vision of the Zionist movement that had long jockeyed for Jewish statehood as the answer to anti-Semitism and the tragic contours of Jewish history. But its territorial gains have turned into a permanent and increasingly lurid occupation that now threatens Israel’s democratic culture and its viability as a Jewish state.

The threats facing the country and its people are real and cannot be neglected, and they at least partly explain why so few Israelis today hold much hope for the peace process or any rapprochement with its Arab citizens and the Palestinian people. “Precisely because we are shrouded in uncertainty, we Israelis insist on believing in ourselves, in our nation-state, and in our future,” writes Ari Shavit in My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, “and yet there is always the fear that one day … my beloved homeland will crumble as enormous Arab masses or mighty Islamic forces overcome its defenses and eradicate its existence.”

The other reality, however, is not an external menace, but one that threatens Israel from within its own borders and due to its own policies, beginning in the aftermath of June 1967—as Shavit personally witnessed as a child:

“Within a few weeks the mighty Arabs were transformed into victims, while the endangered Israelis became conquerors. The Jewish state was now triumphant and proud and drunk with a heady sense of power. As malignant as it is, occupation has become an integral part of the Jewish state’s being … I cannot deny the fact or escape the fact that my nation has become an occupying nation.”

That is where the Middle East peace process remains, bleakly locked in a cycle of conflict. New generations of Israeli and Palestinian civilians have known only mutual hostility. Amid this, a new threat to Israel and its challenges has emerged in the last few years, emanating from …

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U.K. Election Roundup: How Long Can Theresa May Last?

The fractures in the United Kingdom’s political scene have never been so visible—just as it enters its most important negotiations in seventy years.

By Rhea Pankhurst.

The United Kingdom’s unexpected general election on June 8 returned a just as unexpected hung parliament, leaving the incumbent Conservative Party hanging on to power by a thread. Prime Minister Theresa May had called the election six weeks earlier with the express intention of increasing her slim parliamentary majority of 17 in order to obtain a mandate for her premiership and strengthen her hand in the imminent Brexit negotiations with the European Union, despite having pledged not to hold an early election. At the time, the Conservatives had been leading Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the polls by 20 points, but the campaign saw a rapid, unprecedented shift in public opinion, with the Conservatives’ lead collapsing to just 2 points and even their slender majority lost.

With the Brexit negotiations, arguably Britain’s greatest constitutional crisis since World War Two, due to begin just two weeks after the election, the Conservative Party simultaneously scrambled to retain power and descended into civil war. May was largely and openly blamed by her party for the upset. Senior and backbench Conservative Members of Parliament called for May’s resignation and a former Conservative chancellor gleefully referred to her as “a dead woman walking” on breakfast television. Chancellor Philip Hammond, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, de-facto deputy prime minister Damien Green, and other senior ministers have all publicly called for an easing of May’s fiscal austerity program and a national debate on May’s approach to health and education. May ran a presidential-style campaign, largely focusing on herself and marginalizing her party and government. She was widely criticized for her robotic, sound-bite orientated performance and her aversion to interacting directly with members of the public. Her manifesto was developed by her own officials with little input from her cabinet colleagues and offered little deviation from the status quo while pushing a number of deeply unpopular policies—most notably the …

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No End in Sight for Syria

How did we get here, and where can we go?

By Animesh Roul.

The Syrian civil war has so far witnessed genocide, ethnic cleansing, sectarian schisms, and crimes against humanity. According to data available in March 2017, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 10 million people have either fled the country or been displaced. What started in the city of Daara in March 2011—a popular demonstration against the incumbent Bashar al-Assad regime, a subsequent government crackdown, and the military siege of the city—has snowballed into a protracted civil war that has overwhelmed the country with large-scale divisions and destruction. There is no end in sight to this complicated conflict, which has surreptitiously engulfed neighbouring Gulf nations and engaged the great powers of the world. Trump and Putin may be cozying up, but their guns are aimed at each other in Syria.

The civil war has been fought primarily between the Syrian government forces, along with allies, and forces opposing the Assad regime, but there exists a plethora of players whose military allegiances are often more opportunistic than ideological. They include the Assad regime, Kurdish forces, Daesh (Islamic State or ISIS), Jaish al Fateh (a jihadi alliance affiliated with Al-Qaeda), and a conglomeration of moderate rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army, along with regional and global players such as the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.

From the beginning, the United States has remained steadfast in its efforts to counter the Assad regime’s atrocities against civilians and other humanitarian emergencies in the country, especially the use of banned chemical weapons in Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun. Against this, the Assad regime’s request for military and economic support to hold on to power materialised with help from its international allies, Russia and Iran. Russia’s September 2015 intervention in the guise of helping the Syrian regime against ISIS and other militant factions initiated a new dimension to the conflict, which many have seen as part of a new cold war. Indeed, the Syrian crisis witnessed a …

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The Money of the Future

Cryptocurriences are rising in both market share and users.

By Rhea Pankhurst.

Decentralized “cryptocurrencies” like bitcoin and ethereum are growing at a phenomenal rate. From their shadowy origins with cypherpunks, darknet gambling, and drug markets, they are increasingly finding favor in the highest echelons of politics and money. From Goldman Sachs to Vladimir Putin, the world is embracing cryptocurrencies. But what exactly are these cryptic cryptocurrencies? And how disruptive will they prove?

In November 2009, a secretive and now notorious programmer, known only by the handle ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, released Bitcoin (BTC) to the world. Their vision was a peer-to-peer currency, anonymous, and fundamentally beyond the control or regulation of governments and central banks. Instead of a central authority keeping track of who owns how much, bitcoin depends on a distributed, publicly viewable ledger of all transactions and all new coins that have been created—called the blockchain. Each bitcoin, or fraction of a bitcoin, is associated with a unique address, managed by a user’s encrypted ‘wallet’ that needs have no ties to a real-world identity. Transactions are processed and verified by a distributed computing task called ‘mining’ that can be run on any hardware connected to the Internet worldwide. Often run on specialized hardware, mining is computationally expensive, but users are compensated for this cost, as new bitcoins are generated for them as part of the mining process.

The trustless, unregulatable, anonymous nature of bitcoin rapidly attracted the interest of futurists and libertarians, excited by the potentially disruptive implications of the technology in a world still reeling from the 2008 banking crisis. The genesis block, the first coins mined by Satoshi themself, contains a reference to a January 2009 New York Times headline: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

In the eight years since bitcoin was launched, cryptocurrency adoption has exploded. The value per coin has grown from a fraction of a dollar to nearly …

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Europe’s Test

The refugee crisis has challenged the European Union’s position on the moral high ground.

By Daniel Penev.

What terrorism was for politicians and policy makers for the first two decades of the 21st century, migration is poised to be for the next. From Trump’s America to Brexit to the shores of the Mediterranean, the question of migrants and immigrants is emerging as one of the defining debates of our time—one that is straining the ties keeping the European Union together.

“To analyze the problem [of the recent migrant and refugee numbers] is not that difficult, and to also point to solutions isn’t even that difficult,” Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, told Foreign Policy last fall. “The difficulty is to get member states to come together on those solutions. […] The politics and the morality of [the refugee crisis] run in opposite directions.”

Timmermans’ statement aptly captures the conflict between politics and ethics that characterizes policy-making in areas such as migration. It is precisely this conflict, and the E.U.’s inadequate approach to resolving it, that has made the recent flow of asylum seekers and refugees from the Middle East and Africa into one of the greatest tests the E.U. has faced so far. Indeed, what is popularly known as the “refugee crisis” looks more like a political crisis resulting from the defining feature of European integration. Policy-making in the E.U., for all its differences from policy-making by individual countries and international governmental organizations, remains in the hands of states. It is increasingly obvious that in those areas where it has no exclusive power, as in asylum and migration, the E.U. acts more as a coordinator between states than a decision-maker, with limited capacity to ensure the implementation and application of common E.U. standards. That being the case, the E.U.’s actions reflect the European Council’s prioritization of …

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