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The Hall of Names, bearing names and pictures of Jewish Holocaust victims, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem

The politics of memorization are never straightforward. All the more so when it comes to one of the most horrific events of the 20th century. Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is one of the country’s sacred sites. It’s also ground zero for a burning controversy over how the state uses the event to reconcile its behaviour. The nomination of a far-right political figure to lead Yad Vashem has rekindled this debate. It’s not the first time the memorial and its purpose has been weaponised.

Yad Vashem sits on an idyllic hillside just outside Jerusalem. The primary exhibition meanders through dimly lit and confined spaces filled with artefacts describing the Nazi genocide of six million Jews. The experience is claustrophobic and unsettling. Finally, at the end, the walls of the museums spread open, leaving visitors on an expansive deck overlooking the rolling hills of Jerusalem. …


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When Pfizer and BioNTech announced their Covid-19 vaccine’s promising results this week, airline shares around the world soared. But that may have been premature; it will take more than a vaccine to rescue the industry. The pandemic laid bare the structural problems of airlines, and it’s apparent the crisis is deeper than the collapse in passenger numbers.

Energy-efficient airplanes and cuts to inflight service aren’t going to be enough. The industry needs a deep rethink and radical pivot. It’s often noted (albeit not entirely correctly) that the Chinese character for “crisis” is an amalgam of “danger” and “opportunity.” To be sure, there’s danger all around this crisis, but airlines may not like the opportunity. …


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It’s been an exhausting year. With the US presidential election almost behind us, we all need a break from the news cycle and associated doom scrolling. Several months ago, I fell down a self-help rabbit hole, which I’m surprised to say changed my life. The transition is surprising because I’ve long held a dim view and deep skepticism of the self-help industry.

This view has become especially acute since I moved to Cape Town. In one of the world’s most unequal cities, the self-help industry is big business for the privileged. There are more yoga studios here than I can count. …


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Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, there was great concern over how the disease would affect Africa. Overcrowded and under-resourced healthcare networks across the continent, coupled with a high prevalence of other infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV, were seen as a potential timebomb. Six months later, the most dire health warnings have proven to be incorrect.

Things are bad (and likely worse than official numbers imply) but they aren’t as devastating as initially feared. The real challenges are economic, many African countries are reeling from a devastating Covid-related economic fallout that demands action.

High Transmission, Low Mortality

As the world marked the one-millionth reported Covid-related death in September, Africa’s total was just over 35,000. That’s 3.5 percent for 17 percent of the world’s population. Is this accurate? It’s hard to say. Take East Africa, for example. While Kenya and Uganda moved quickly to implement lockdowns and social distancing, Tanzania’s president encouraged people to attend churches and mosques because he said Covid-19 was the work of the devil and prayer could defeat the virus. …


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Given the amount of collective insecurity among journalists, the inward focus common in media outlets is understandable. But what shape does this navel gazing take in a country like South Africa? A free press is critical for any functioning democracy but all the more so in a young country like South Africa.

The South African press is robust enough to investigate (and attempt to hold accountable) those in power. But it doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The sector has been considerably weakened by shrinking revenues, leading to the downsizing and juniorization of newsrooms across the country. On the whole, South Africa has been slow to adapt its business models to new economic realities. …


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The Covid-19 pandemic starkly illustrates the state of health care in the Middle East, from the good to the truly wretched. The condition of local health systems has, in turn, offered opportunities to outside powers to boost their influence in the region. And no country in the Middle East offers better opportunity — in terms of size and geo-strategic importance — than Iraq. It is being seized upon.

The pandemic hit Iraq’s already fragile health system like a freight train. After decades of conflict, corruption and mismanagement, the Iraqi health system was on the brink of collapse even before the pandemic. …


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Lethabo Hanong, a member of the We See You collective

Desperate to find security amid the rising tide of violence against queer people in Cape Town, a group of activists decided to try something new last month. The black queer collective ‘We See You’ pooled their resources to rent a luxury mansion listed on Airbnb in the exclusive Camps Bay neighborhood. Since their stay officially ended in late September, they haven’t left.

The collective is staging an occupation to protest Cape Town’s spatial inequalities and violence against queer individuals and communities across South Africa, especially those who identify as transgender. …


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The UAE-Bahrain-Israel peace accord is a positive development. This is not because it signifies a new era of peace in the region, but because the betrayal by the Arab world will force the Palestinians to rediscover their own struggle and forge ahead with national unity. The Arab world’s facade of genuine support for the Palestinian cause and the equitable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a major hurdle to Palestinian mobilization against Israel’s domination for decades. It has been used by the out-of-touch Palestinian leadership to continue its commitment to the Oslo framework, which Israel uses to entrench its stranglehold over Palestinian life. …


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Two swimmers crossing from Robben Island to Cape Town, South Africa

Year after year, endurance events continue to gain popularity. For a subset of humans, the search to find and push beyond perceived limits is an exhilarating draw. That’s obviously matched with the physical benefits of exercise. But for me, it’s the mental benefits that are particularly pronounced. Whether it’s running ultramarathons like South Africa’s iconic Comrades Marathon, climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan, or surfing some of the best waves around the world, finding that edge makes me feel alive and, ironically, in control. It was a running joke that climbing big walls was good training for working as a journalist in the Middle East, especially during the Arab Spring. …


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At this stage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it doesn’t seem probable that Israelis can save themselves or equitably end the conflict on their own. At nearly every junction over the last 60 years, Israel has chosen to deepen its stranglehold over Palestinian life and land. Instead of using the Oslo peace process to disentangle itself from the Palestinians, Israel has steadily ramped up settlement activity and entrenched its complex matrix of control over the entire land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

This unavoidable reality hasn’t stopped Israel’s influential liberal supporters from passionately fighting for a two-state solution to the conflict. Faced with an existential challenge to their understanding of Israel, the gatekeepers of liberal Zionism are beginning to see the writing on the wall. …

About

Joseph Dana

/// Writer ///

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