Middle East Roundup: Israel’s bitter domestic dispute reaches crescendo

Deadly heatwaves are scorching the region and Sudan’s war surpasses 100 days – here’s the Middle East this week.

Protesters block Ayalon Highway during a demonstration following a parliament vote on a contested bill that limits Supreme Court powers to void some government decisions, in Tel Aviv, Israel
Protesters block Ayalon Highway during a demonstration following a parliament vote on a contested bill that limits Supreme Court powers [Corinna Kern/Reuters]

Israel passed a divisive bill that has seen protests rock the country for the last seven months. Deadly heatwaves are scorching the region with some of the highest temperatures in the world. And a grim milestone, as Sudan’s war surpasses 100 days. Here’s the Middle East this week:

Israel’s judicial hoopla

Every Saturday, for seven months straight, the streets of Israeli cities have been teeming with angry people sounding off against a controversial piece of legislation. The bill passed this week and while protesters have vowed to continue fighting it, all sides are taking pause until a hearing for an appeal against the law takes place in September.

The protester’s resolve to fight it went right up until the vote was held: a tent city was erected outside the Israeli Knesset the day before the vote, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog calling the situation an “emergency” as last-ditch talks took place.

But why has the judicial overhaul gotten many factions of Israeli society – from doctors, to banks, to army reservists – in disarray? Critics say the changes, which will limit the Supreme Court’s powers, are a power grab that will push Israel towards autocracy, even while Netanyahu says they are necessary to reign in the court.

But is there more? The Israeli leader has been accused of using the legislation to try to circumvent his own legal problems.

What next, then, after the passing of the law the White House called unfortunate? The opposition has filed several petitions against the new law, and popular unrest, labour strikes and a mutiny on the part of some in the military will likely continue.

And while Israelis fear an erosion of democracy, for Palestinians, the new bill only adds to their fears: experts say the changes will make it easier for the Israeli government to pursue policies that serve its “far-right” agenda.

From Algeria to Syria, heatwaves scorch the region

Temperatures are soaring worldwide, reaching scorching levels, with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) far from spared.  Temperatures in some parts of the MENA region in the last few weeks were the highest in the world, with several countries breaking records.

Wildfires are raging across the region, authorities are having to issue advisory warnings, and many places are facing power cuts.

In Algeria, wildfires killed dozens and forced hundreds to flee their homes as thousands of firefighters were deployed to contain them. Temperatures hit a scorching 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) in parts of the North African country.

In neighbouring Tunisia, Black refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan African countries are being forced to endure unbearable heat, living rough in the cities and desert.  “We cannot endure this,” said Kelly, one of the dozens sleeping outside the IOM building in the capital of Tunis. Meanwhile, farmers in the country are barely making ends meet as heatwaves and droughts are making growing crops difficult.

More than 100 days of Sudan’s war

The Sudan conflict reached a grisly milestone this week as 100 days passed from when it first erupted on April 15. There have been numerous diplomatic efforts to curb the violence but peace is nowhere in sight.

The Sudanese army and its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are both vying for victory as they battle to survive – a victory each side believes it can achieve without having to engage in meaningful negotiations, analysts say.

Meanwhile, Darfur remains among the deadliest theatres of the war, with the RSF and Arab militias accused of sparing no one, killing lawyers, human rights monitors, doctors and non-Arab tribal leaders.

Feel-good news of the week

Ramy Essam photographed by Patrick Fore
Ramy Essam photographed by Patrick Fore

While exiled Egyptian artist Ramy Essam’s new album Metgharabiin (Outsiders) is about rage, nostalgia, longing and sorrow, he’s of the belief that art has the power to disrupt dictatorships.

And that’s despite his rise to fame in 2011 at the outset of the Egyptian revolution for creating one of the uprising’s most well-known songs – but now he is stateless, with the revolution he fought for arguably dead, and his own co-writers for that earlier album imprisoned.

“The only thing that matters is the documentation of the era in a form of political art,” he told Al Jazeera.


Quote of the Week

“If I go back to [that moment] a million times, I will go out to the streets again. That will never take away from the hardships and struggles, but no, no regrets.” | – exiled Egyptian artist Ramy Essam, on joining the Egyptian revolution.

Source: Al Jazeera