Foreign Policy

Shining a light on Israel's military detention abuses

At 2 am on April 5, eight heavily armed Israeli soldiers burst into the home of Mohammad Khaleq, a 14-year-old New Orleans honors student on a family visit to Silwad in the West Bank. Jolting Mohammad and his family awake, the soldiers arrested the youth, tied his hands, and threw him roughly onto the floor of a jeep. Later, Mohammad reports, the soldiers beat him and pushed him down, damaging his orthodontic braces on a rock.

He was shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed and held for 12 hours in Ofra, an Israeli settlement, before being transported to a police station. Two hours of incommunicado interrogation later, the boy admitted to charges of throwing rocks at Israeli cars. He says he confessed after Israeli interrogators promised him that was the only way to see his father. Mohammad was eventually released after serving 14 days and paying a fine of about $800.

His case fits a pattern chillingly familiar to many Palestinian youngsters, and one that is increasingly condemned.


Peace Corps volunteers extend malaria efforts across Africa

This week marked World Malaria Day and the second anniversary of a remarkable effort to engage 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers across Africa in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease that kills 600,000 people a year, typically the most vulnerable among us—children under age five in Africa.
The Peace Corps Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative was launched in partnership with the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a multi-agency program led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The effort combines the grassroots focus of Peace Corps volunteers in villages and towns in 23 African nations, with promotion of the inexpensive, but effective, tools of malaria control: insecticide-treated bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests, and malaria medicines made with artemisinin, a plant extract long used in Chinese herbal medicine to cure children or adults with the disease.


Educating Syria's children

Qah, Syria – The young girl stood in the middle of the classroom, with visitors and fellow students gathered around. Speaking softly and steadily – but still with tears in her eyes – she told us how she had fled her home in outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. She lost several family members (including her father and a brother) during the rebels’ advance on the city and the government’s relentless bombardment.

Forced to flee for her life, she now lives in an impromptu camp for displaced people near the Syrian town of Qah, twenty kilometers south of the Turkish border. She shares an overcrowded tent with her brother and his family.


Work in Kenya is far from over

Late Monday night, the Senate passed a resolution congratulating Kenyans on a peaceful election, further highlighting what staff from the U.S. Institute of Peace have cited as a success for violence prevention.

But while Kenya’s predominantly peaceful poll is a testament to the many Kenyans working to prevent violence – as well as to those in the U.S. and international community who’ve worked to stand with them – the resolution also notes the many threats to durable stability that lie ahead. As Kenyans advocating for peace and reform affirm that their work is far from over, the need to gather lessons learned from violence prevention efforts so far and think critically about U.S.-Kenya policy moving forward is as important now as ever.


Armenia-Azerbaijan region needs a high-level US envoy

WASHINGTON -- This week, Elmar Mammadyarov became the first Azerbaijani Foreign Minister to visit Israel and Palestine. This trip, described as “historic” by the Israeli President Shimon Peres, underscored our many shared experiences and concern. My nation also suffered from war just as we were restoring our independence in 1991. Close to a million Azerbaijani civilians lost their homes and became refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) during the war with Armenia, centered on the Nagorno—Karabakh region in Azerbaijan.


Bangladeshi style democracy demands closer western examination

When policy makers in Washington consider U.S.-Bangladesh relations, they may find it easiest to focus on business opportunities or trade issues. After all, the United States is the largest export destination for ready-made garments from Bangladesh, and as the 7th most populous nation on earth, Bangladesh represents a huge potential market for U.S. companies looking abroad.

From my vantage point, however, as someone who has worked on issues ranging from shipping to human rights in Bangladesh, it seems that Washington, the international community and media are, to the degree they think about it at all, too easily accepting of the version of events put forth by the current Awami League government in this still emerging democracy.


Hagel, Syria and side-stepping the law

Remember last year, when Congress passed a law that the Pentagon must cut ties with Rososboronexport, the Russian state-owned arms exporter at the heart of Bashar al Assad’s atrocities in Syria?  The Department of Defense was supposed to spend the last twelve months identifying alternatives to its contract with Rosoboronexport, so that the United States wouldn’t be dependent on an enabler of mass atrocities. Well, apparently the Pentagon forgot too, because so far they haven’t done anything to prepare the United States to cut off its ties.
As a refresher, Congress passed a provision, authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), in  the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prohibited the use of DOD funds for any contract, memorandum of understanding, cooperative agreement, grant, loan or loan guarantee to Rosoboronexport.


Free trade versus food democracy

There has been a quiet revolution going around the world, as communities and nations retake control of their food systems. In the U.S., more people are taking a look at processed foods at the supermarket and opting instead for healthier choices, grown locally with fewer pesticides. People in Cambodia have taken a hard look at what’s happening to their climate, soil and seeds, and figured out a new, low-cost way to produce rice, increasing production and putting farmers in charge. Brazilians are favoring local farmers growing sustainable foods for school lunch programs, lowering hunger rates dramatically as a result.


No peace dividend? Not so fast

The Obama administration’s budget included a promissory note. It will take them a few more weeks to tell us what they plan to spend next year on the Afghan War. Their intention to bring that war to an end, though, is clear.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his Harvard colleague Linda Bilmes are predicting that this will produce “little in the way of a peace dividend for the U.S. economy once the fighting stops.” They base this bleak assessment on the kinds of meticulous calculations that anchored their 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War: on the huge sums we will and must be spending to care for wounded veterans, for example, and the money squandered when war support functions were massively and unnecessarily shifted to private contractors.


Settlement contruction is obstacle to peace, economic development in Middle East

President Obama came, saw, and commented. Any conquering was done by Israel. Notwithstanding President Obama’s visit, Israel’s illegal settlement activity will continue. The president lost that battle in his first term and nothing has changed in his second.

We are far beyond the point of words, even sweet ones from President Obama about justice for the Palestinians. Thousands of words filled the Oslo Accords, but they did not head off Israeli intransigence, endless delay, and absurd protestations that the Palestinian leadership did not accept the feeble peace offers extended. Soaring rhetoric from President Obama asking Israelis to put themselves in our shoes is no substitute for the urgent need to press Israel to stop expansion of illegal settlements, abide by international law, end the occupation, and respect equal rights.