A Weekly Roundup of Politics: Israel, Jeffrey Epstein, and Hong Kong Protests

08.16.2019 Arts & Culture
Ann Lewis
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Israel Rejects Congresswomen 

After urging from President Trump, Israel has announced that it will not welcome two US Congresswomen during a planned trip to the country this week. Representative Ilhan Omar (D, MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D, MI) have both been “uninvited” to Israel and will have their visa applications denied. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for reelection after being unable to form a coalition government, is likely capitulating to far-right Israeli conservatives. This move is seen as placating Trump’s desires to further divide the American people. 

Both members of the Congressional freshman “squad,” the Congresswomen have been vocal about supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions) movement against Israel for its continued encroachment and destruction of Palestinian sovereignty. Many are seeing Israel’s refusal of the Congresswomen as a step down the slippery slope of forcing the support of Israel to become a partisan issue. 

As the US’s most reliable ally in the Middle East, Netanyahu is creating a dangerous precedent by not allowing sitting US Congresspeople into the nation. This chaos all stems from a recently passed law that refuses entry to anyone supporting a boycott of Israel — which puts on international display the nation’s inability to tolerate criticism.

In an unusual move, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) issued a statement on Twitter: “We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.” 

Jeffrey Epstein’s Autopsy

Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell last week after reports of suicide. While Trump and Fox News fanned the conspiracy theory fires of homicide, his death does, in fact, look suspicious: dozens of women have accused him of sex crimes, he was arrested for a second time last month in New Jersey after his private plane landed at Teterboro airport, and he was placed on suicide watch after an apparent suicide attempt on July 23rd, only to be abruptly taken off it six days later while at the Manhattan Correctional Center (MCC) in downtown Manhattan. 

Autopsy reports surfaced on Thursday indicating a broken hyoid bone in Epstein’s neck. The hyoid bone is near the Adam’s apple and can break when older people hang themselves but is more commonly broken when someone is strangled.

Epstein was 66 years old when he died and in decent physical shape. This news has further fueled speculation that Epstein was murdered. Those tasked with bi-hourly welfare checks of Epstein have been put on administrative leave after they were found to have falsified records that they checked in on him. Over 50% of the staff at MCC were on overtime the day of his death and reports of untrained employees taking the place of correctional officers is beginning to show the significant mismanagement of the country’s prison systems. 

Regardless of who ended his life, the real tragedy is that his victims will never see him face justice for his ghastly crimes of rape and the sex trafficking of minors.

While the criminal prosecution of Epstein ended with his death, several civil cases are currently pending. These cases will likely liquidate his assets to compensate victims. 

Hong Kong Protests Intensify

Hong Kong protests intensified this week after protesters shut down the Hong Kong airport for two consecutive days. Protestors spent time appealing to tourists and people arriving into the airport from various locations, as well as disrupting immigration and departure areas. Protesters used luggage carts as barricades while responding to tear gas fired by police as all flights were canceled on Monday and Tuesday due to the disruption. Wednesday also saw some canceled flights.

The people of Hong Kong are protesting possible extradition to mainland China after it was expected to be brought to a vote by the Hong Kong government. They are also calling for the China-appointed chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, to step down and are demanding democratic elections to replace her.  

In mainland China, the state-run media is selling the Hong Kong protests as a CIA-fueled rebellion and instigating support of the Chinese people. Reports share that many mainland Chinese people believe this is an additional plot by the US government to destabilize the nation after Trump’s continued trade war on China. Trump has offered his unsolicited help to Chinese leader Xi Jinping regarding the protests, while he simultaneously ignores the fact that Hong Kong is an autonomous region that has its own laws and leaders. Meanwhile, the Chinese army has been conducting extensive military exercises in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. 

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.

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