Readings: Week of October 16, 2016

The first reading delves into what’s colloquially known as ‘secret law,’ which are essentially laws and procedures that allow the government to bypass traditional checks and balances to expand its jurisdiction in order to protect national security interests. These procedures, signed off by the Executive branch of government, are not open to scrutiny because they are shrouded in secrecy, which sets a dangerous precedent signaling to future administrations that accountability plays no role in creating and enacting laws. This piece argues for more accountability through mechanisms such as inter-agency decisions as to what should be made secret, the creation of more specific standards for secrecy, limitations on length of secrecy, and Congressional public oversight. The two readings right after it talk about these ‘secret laws’ in practice; the first one is about the CIA’s torture program, and the second is about secretive military campaigns in Somalia.

There couldn’t have been a more timelier moment for their publication, considering that President Obama will be leaving office soon, and it will be up to his successor to inherit the responsibility of addressing (or redressing) the precedents that the Obama administration has standardized.

The next two readings focus on two Muslim-majority countries that have found themselves — tragically — at the center of foreign policy discussions. The first is about the campaign to retake the ISIS-occupied Iraqi city of Mosul, which was taken by ISIS in the summer of 2014 and has remained under its control since then. The piece discusses the local implications of the battle, which parties are involved, and the benefits and harms of different approaches to the battle. It’s a starter for anyone seeking to closely follow what will be one of the most decisive — and difficult — battles against ISIS.

The reading right after it is about Aleppo and the perpetual atrocities that it continues to endure. The criminal silence and indifference that humanity has collectively displayed in the face of our century’s worst humanitarian disaster is damning; so damning that the consequences of our inaction (or, arguably, or counter-intuitive action)  will be felt for the next half-century. It is a moralistic piece that interrogates our very sense of shared humanity, asking us to be true to it, and demanding of us to do better. To that effect, it asks a discomforting rhetorical question explaining perhaps why the world has done nothing: Is it because the people of Aleppo are Muslim?

The piece right after it is just as important, as it highlights the parties primarily responsible for an overwhelming majority of not only the atrocities in Aleppo, but of the Syrian Civil War as a whole. It then proposes policy initiatives that the United States and the international community can — or rather, must — take to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The last piece is written by someone who survived the siege on Sarajevo, and it is written against the backdrop of the siege happening today in Aleppo. This piece goes in-depth as to what factors in Sarajevo (like local and foreign journalists highlighting what was taking place) mobilized the international community to act.

The next two readings are about Israel and Palestine. The first one is a short read on the recent UNESCO resolution relating to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, a holy site revered by all three Abrahamic faiths (the holiest in Judaism and third holiest in Islam). The original resolution referred to the site exclusively by its Muslim name, leading many to read it as a rejection of any Jewish connection it has, despite the fact that it made a general affirmation of the site’s importance to all three Abrahamic faiths. The article speaks about the resolution itself, which was intended as a political resolution and not a religious one, and discusses how despite the politics, the historical context and religious sensitivities of the site demand precise language. It argues that there is too much at stake for there to be anything but precise, inclusive naming of the site, because for whatever little pragmatic stability exists there, anything other than a precise naming can be read as a “final allocation” of the site and result in further conflict.

The second piece is a bit more uplifting: It talks about Israeli and Palestinian women from all spectra coming together and marching for peace and justice, all the way up to the Prime Minister’s house. At the culmination of the march was a rally with speeches from women on both sides, who spoke of a shared future based on mutual association, understanding, solidarity, empathy, and hope.

This piece is about a group of Muslim women in India who’ve taken on the role of Islamic judges as a means of empowering themselves. Female judges thrived in Islamic antiquity but modern-day patriarchal norms have resulted in a monopolization of knowledge and its production as a realm exclusive to men.

These two pieces discuss masculinity in the backdrop of a Trump campaign and the fragility of the male ego.

A sociological explanation as to how Trump and the GOP as a whole are losing whatever hold they had of white college graduates.

A well-written article by Bret Stephens which reminds American conservative Jews about the history of right-wing antisemitism and how it has begun to resurface thanks to Donald Trump

An important reading on the psychology of victim-blaming and the culture surrounding it.

An opinion piece written by a disabled man making the case for why he and others with disabilities are more than just their disabilities and that they should not be boxed into this one category.

An uplifting piece about a synagogue that asks its congregation to remember that they too were once refugees during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

An explanation as to how liberals and progressives from the South and the Midwest have all slowly moved into eastern coastal states and clustered into environments with like-minded people, thereby imperiling the swing-state status of their former residential states and leaving large swaths of the country as conservative strongholds.

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