🌍 Inside The Middle East — June 17

London Anti-Semitism Hits Record High, New Israel-Hamas Violence, Saudi Executions, Israel New PM, Ethiopia Arab League Nile Dam, Turkey Sea Snot

Hello folks! It’s that time of the week again where we dissect the most important news from the most important region.

Today we’ll be in Israel and Palestine, who exchanged airstrikes and incendiary balloons, as Israel swore in its new prime minister; Saudi Arabia who executed a man for charges while a minor; Ethiopia who continues to reject Egypt and Sudan’s calls for a deal over a controversial new dam; London where incidents of antisemitism reached record levels; and Turkey whose pervasive sea snot poses serious problems to its marine life.

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Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s edition…

  1. Gaza Airstrikes: Shapefiles of building damage within the Gaza Strip and occupied Palestinian Territory, from the UN

  2. Hamas Rockets: Archive of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, by the Jewish Virtual Library

  3. Executions: Number of global executions in 2020, from Amnesty International

  4. Dams You: Global dam and reservoir datasets, from Global Dam Watch

  5. Antisemitism: Overview of antisemitism incidents in the EU, from the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights

Israel Has a New Prime Minister

We start this week in Israel who swore in far-right leader Naftali Bennett as its new prime minister, ending the 12-year reign of Benjamin Netanyahu. The new government will now form a power-sharing agreement, with Bennett — Netanyahu’s former chief of staff — serving as PM for two years after which centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid will take over for the next two years.

The new administration breaks yet another political deadlock, which included four general elections in less than two years. Published coalition agreements suggest it’ll focus on economic and social issues, though Bennett has been open that he fully supports occupation of Palestinian territories. For Netanyahu, Israel’s youngest and longest serving PM over two terms, the focus turns to his ongoing corruption trial, which was adjourned for three weeks as new evidence that could further implicate Netanyahu has emerged.

Israel-Hamas Truce Hangs in Balance 

We stay in Israel who launched airstrikes into Gaza after Hamas militants sent incendiary balloons into Israel. The balloons reportedly caused 20 fires in open fields in communities near the border, to which Israel’s military struck armed compounds in Gaza City and Khan Younis. The exchanges break an 11-day truce and follow a march through East Jerusalem by Jewish ultra-nationalists, including a stop at Damascus Gate.

The renewed tension poses as the first big test for Israel’s new government, which for the first time includes an Arab-based party. Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List, said the march was an “unbridled provocation” and should have been stopped. And Yair Lapid, currently serving as Israel’s foreign minister, said the marchers who shouted “Death to Arabs’’ were a “disgrace to the people of Israel’’. Last month’s conflict led to the deaths of at least 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Friend of the podcast Hadas Gold 👇

Last Time on Inside The Middle East…

🌍 Inside The Middle East — June 10

🌍 Inside The Middle East — June 3

🌍 Inside The Middle East — May 27

🌍 Israel-Palestine Violence Explained— May 13

Saudi Arabia Executes Man Over Teen Protests 

We visit Saudi Arabia where a man was executed for offences he committed aged 17, despite assurances by the Kingdom that it abolished the death penalty for minors and would apply a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was charged in 2015 for allegedly forming a terror cell and trying to carry out an armed revolt. But human rights groups have disputed the fairness of his trial, with Amnesty International and Reprieve claiming Darwish withdrew his confession as it was made after he was tortured.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly carried out 26 executions so far this year, one less than the whole of 2020, according to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights. Last year saw an 85 percent decline in the number of executions committed by the Saudis, who ranked fifth most in the world, according to Amnesty International.

Ethiopia Dismisses Arab League Over Nile Dam

We move to Ethiopia next, who rejected “in its entirety’’ an Arab League resolution calling on the UN to discuss Ethiopia’s plans to fill a large dam being built on the Blue Nile. Egypt and Sudan both rely heavily on the river for fresh water, with the former drawing as much as 90 percent and could cost thousands of jobs. Ethiopia refutes accusations it’s unwilling compromise and negotiate in good faith. All sides were close to reaching a U.S.-brokered deal last year, but Ethiopia exited talks accusing the Trump administration of siding with Egypt.

With the project largely complete, Ethiopia hopes to boost economic development and power generation within its own borders. The dam is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, and will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric power generator and the world’s seventh-largest

London Anti-Semitism Reaches Record High

Moving onto a new report released by the British-Jewish charity Community Security Trust, who said cases of anti-semitism in London reached record highs last month. Almost all of the 201 reported incidents were linked to last month’s violence in Israel and Gaza, and eclipsed the previous record of 179 in July 2014 when the two foes were again involved in conflict.

Among the most widely-reported incidents involved a convoy of cars driving through North London neighbourhoods with traditionally large Jewish populations. A man in one of the cars can be heard shouting misogynistic and antisemitic abuse from a megaphone. 

According to CST, about two thirds of the UK’s 300,000 Jewish people live in London. The CST’s David Rich said people “take out their feelings about the conflict with racist abuse on British Jews … this abuse has nothing to do with Israel, it's just racism directed towards Jewish people who are picked out on the streets, on the internet, because they are Jewish.”

Turkey Collects Crap Ton of ‘Sea Snot’

We finish today in Turkey, where a total of 2,684 cubic metres of ‘sea snot’ was collected from the Sea of Marmara in the past week. The mucilage is an “overgrowth of microscopic algae called phytoplankton and is caused by rising seawater temperatures due to global warming, stagnant water and pollution,” according to Al Jazeera. The Sea of Marmara borders Istanbul and five other provinces that are home to factories and industrial centers.

This latest outbreak is believed to be the largest in history. Experts blame pollution from household waste, the Black Sea and Danube River, and unusually high water temperatures caused by climate change. Researchers found that the snot can cover corals up to 100 feet deep. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed untreated sewage dumped into the water and has ordered and investigation.

See you tomorrow for Picks of the Week! 👋