The Impossible Promise of Building A New Palestinian City

Almost ten years ago, we were living in Jerusalem, where Jamie was working on a postdoc at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, continuing his PhD research into the role of weapons in civil conflicts, and Sarah was working as a freelance journalist. That’s when we first heard about Rawabi, the first new Palestinian city built in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the founding of Israel in 1948. Then, it was little more than a big idea still under development. On a drive through the West Bank one morning, on our way to research a story we were writing together about the expansion of the settlements that bordered Jerusalem, we saw only heavy machinery on a hilltop dotted with Palestinian flags. Now, the city boasts condo buildings and public squares, with sand-coloured structures rising out of the rocky scrub.

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The Walrus, April 8, 2024

Canada’s War Crimes Investigation May Not Deter Russia, But It Matters To Ukrainians

In June 2022, United States Attorney General Merrick Garland travelled to Ukraine to call for the prosecution of Russian war crimes. “The United States is sending an unmistakable message” to those who have committed atrocities, he said. “There is no place to hide.” There’s only one problem: American hands are tied when it comes to the international prosecution of war crimes. That’s because it opted out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to objections over the court’s jurisdiction that allows it, under certain conditions, to pursue people outside their own state borders.

Co-authored with Kiran Banerjee

Published in The Conversation, September 18, 2023

How Peacekeeping Accidentally Fuels Africa’s Coups

On July 26, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani detained Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, and installed himself as the head of the so-called National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, a military junta. Less than a week later, on July 30, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued the junta an ultimatum: Return the former president to power within one week or face the threat of additional sanctions and military force. The region has experienced a wave of coups in recent years, and ECOWAS is rightly concerned about their spread.

Co-authored with Nathan Allen

Published in Foreign Policy, August 30, 2023

Vaccines will Shape the New Geopolitical Order

The pandemic has vastly exacerbated the global north-south divide, with wealthy Western states moving steadily toward herd immunity while a majority of Africa, Asia, and Latin America wait for vaccines to trickle down. Only a small number of countries produce their own coronavirus vaccines, but the rest of the world depends on them for their immunizations. This raises the spectre of a new geopolitical arrangement—one in which patron-client relationships are determined by the asymmetry in vaccine supply versus demand. . .

Co-authored with Simon Frankel Pratt

Published in Foreign Policy, April 29, 2021

Signs of the Covenant

From death notices to cantorial recitals, protests to rabbinic rulings, the pashkevil —a paper bulletin or poster—has been a signature form of communication in Jewish ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, communities for centuries. Like the group’s distinctive mode of dress, the pashkevil originated in medieval Europe. Its name can be traced to Pasquino, a Hellenistic-style statue outside Rome’s Palazzo Braschi that was among the first “talking statues”—so called because its plinth was used as a bulletin board for anonymous messages. Observant Jews took up the practice, which spread to the shtetls of Eastern Europe and eventually to neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Jerusalem, where the blocky lettering and dramatic biblical metaphors now stand out starkly. This pashkevil, posted by Israel’s Ministry of Health in March 2020, urges compliance with COVID-19 regulations in a community that has struggled to keep the virus under control. “Stop the epidemic!” reads one line, above calls to stay home, wash hands, and maintain a two-meter distance from others. . .

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in Harper’s, February, 2021

Canada Can’t Rely On Other Countries To Make Our Vaccines

With the encouraging news from Pfizer and Moderna about the development of effective vaccine candidates, and the electoral victory of Joe Biden, Canadians have reason to be cautiously optimistic. The world seems ready to come together and move forward from the ravages of COVID-19. However, the geopolitics of vaccine sourcing and production will likely present significant challenges, and in our current position we are vulnerable to coercion, even from our allies.. . .

Co-authored with Simon Frankel Pratt

Published in The Globe and Mail, November 21, 2020

Will an Israeli Energy Boom Make the EU more Pro-Israel?

This year, production will begin in one of the largest natural gas finds of the last decade, the aptly named Leviathan gas field. Located deep off the coast of the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, Leviathan is estimated to hold over 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to fulfill Israeli power-generation needs for the next 40 years while still leaving ample supply for export. Leviathan could prove to be a game-changer for Israel’s relations with the rest of the world—and how foreign governments view the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. . .

Co-authored with Mieczysław P. Boduszyński

Published in Foreign Policy, August 6, 2019

Emboldened Netanyahu free to pursue annexation

With his recent electoral victory, Benjamin Netanyahu is now poised to become Israel’s longest serving prime minister. Having held the job for the last decade, Netanyahu has become a symbol of stability in an otherwise turbulent region. Despite the continuity in government, however, Netanyahu is now likely to pursue a major policy departure. He is set to reverse fifty years of Israeli strategy, becoming the first prime minister to propose annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move that would have lasting implications for Israeli democracy and any future peace process with the Palestinians . . .

Published in Policy Options, May 2019

It’s anarchy in the streets of Toronto for cyclists

A staggering 93 cyclists and pedestrians have been killed on Toronto streets over the past two years. As daily cyclists, we are concerned for our safety and that of all commuters. As political scientists, we see a systemic problem – a city government that is unable (or unwilling) to fulfill its most basic duty to protect its citizens, and the dangerous behaviour that results  . . .

Co-Authored with Craig Smith

Published in Now Magazine, August 2018

The Handyman from Hell

In July 2013, Sarah Treleaven and her partner, Jamie Levin, started looking for someone who could make some basic repairs to their house in Toronto: the gutters were old and rusty and had to be fixed, and the exterior trim needed to be patched and painted. They thought the project would amount to a few days’ work. When Jamie began soliciting quotes from a few contractors, a friend, Simone, said that she’d had a good experience with a tradesman who had recently done work on her home. The search was over . . .

Co-Authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The Walrus, August 2017

Why isn’t there more Jewish food in Israel?

It was mid-May in Tel Aviv and the afternoon heat was rising. Sitting in Eva’s, a small un-air conditioned restaurant, eating chicken soup with kreplach (small dumplings filled with ground meat), sweat formed quickly behind the knees. Eva’s has been located on this dumpy stretch of Allenby Street for 48 years. The menu is classic Ashkenazi – or Eastern European Jewish – food, and the glass display case is full of prepared potato latkes (pancakes) and fried cauliflower. The matzoh balls (soup dumplings) here are ‘sinkers’, in the common parlance. That means that they’re dense and bready, sitting in the bottom of the bowl of chicken soup. (‘Swimmers’ are lighter and spongier, and they float on the surface. The difference is a question of both skill and personal preference.) . . .

Co-Authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in BBC, June 2017

The Surprising Thing Bibi Whispers in Trump’s Ear

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel recently held their first face-to-face meeting in Washington. After years of combative relati between Israel and the Obama administration, the two leaders demonstrated the casual repartee of old friends. “Bibi and I have known each other a long time,” Trump said. “A smart man, a great negotiator, and I think we are going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.” In turn, Netanyahu joked about the “art of the deal” and noted that there are no matters in which he and the president “did not see eye to eye).”

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The Forward, February 2017

House Hunter’s Transnational

For Israelis willing to move to the West Bank, houses are now for sale in a hillside development in the expanding settlement of Eli. The Israeli government, which has occupied the West Bank for fifty years, considers the area disputed territory, though most countries, including the United States, view the settlements there—228 of them—to be a violation of international law. The first Jewish Israelis who moved to the West Bank after the Six-Day War were few in number and went mainly to reinforce Israel’s borders against neighboring states. Later, they came with religious and ideological motivations. In 1974, the founding of Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), a messianic movement, brought settlers who established new Jewish outposts. The first Israelis arrived in Eli ten years later, naming the town after a biblical high priest. Gush Emunim is now defunct, but the group’s development arm, Amana, continues to build around Eli. The construction of Eli Terraces Phase B adds close to 150 people to the town’s population of nearly 4,000. . .

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in Harper’s Magazine, January 2017

For Colombia’s peace process disarmament was a sticking point. Here’s why

After four years of negotiations, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a cease-fire agreement June 23. The historic deal, signed months behind schedule and six months after a self-imposed deadline lapsed, puts the Colombian peace process back on track and an end to Latin America’s longest running civil conflict within close reach. . .

Published in the Washington Post Monkey Cage, June 2016.

רוצים שלום עםה מורדים? אז בלי שלום לנשק

לעשותשלוםבלילהגידשלוםלנשק: בשנת 1992, בפארקצ’פולטפק, שכייתחמדהבמכסיקו סיטי, נחתם, בתיווכושלהאו”ם, הסכםשלוםביןממשלת אלסלבדור לביןקבוצתהמורדים “חזית פרבונדומארטילשחרור לאומי” (FMLN). “הסכמיצ’פולטפק”, כפישהםנודעיםהיום, לארקששמו קץלמלחמתאזרחיםשנמשכהיותרמעשור, אלאגםהובילולעידןחדשבניסיונותלפתרון סכסוכים.

Published in Yediot Aharonot, September 2015

Is Israel Fighting a ‘Just War’ in Gaza — and What About Hamas?

Israel’s current war with Hamas has claimed yet another casualty: As the violence between the Israeli army and Hamas militants has increased, the quality of discourse surrounding the conflict has suffered precipitously. While the conflict has generated unprecedented media attention both in print and online, commentary ranges from largely the vitriolic to the confused and confusing. Most online observers made up their minds long ago and now simply talk past one another. As of this writing, the hashtags #GazaUnderAttack and #IsraelUnderFire have generated millions of parochial tweets, which tend to lay the blame squarely on the other side, and for whom little sympathy is granted.

Published in The Forward, July 2014

New tactics new risks Abbas’s threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority

This past week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and hand responsibility for the administration of Palestinian lands back to Israel unless peace talks begin yielding results. Though the news was quickly overshadowed by the announcement of Hamas-PLO reconciliation, Abbas’s threat ought to be taken seriously. Even if Abbas can deliver on the promise of Palestinian unity, the PA will remain a weak institution lacking in legitimacy until it achieves statehood. As the prospects for statehood diminish, Abbas will have little continued interest in maintaining peace, order, and stability, and will look for new and increasingly risky tactics—like dissolving the PA—with which to confront Israel. If pushed to these measures, the region will be even less stable and peace even less likely.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 2014

Helter Seltzer

This image was created by a Palestinian-American activist as a parody of an advertisement for SodaStream, a kitchen appliance made by an Israeli company. The SodaStream allows users to carbonate their own tap water and, with the addition of syrup, transform it into flavored soda. The device, which retails in the United States for $79.95 and up, is marketed as a thrifty and environmentally friendly alternative to the purchase of name-brand soft drinks. Between 2009 and 2012, SodaStream’s sales in the Americas grew from $14 million to $158 million; the company’s current market value is estimated at $1.2 billion. With this increase in popularity has come the attention of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), a loosely affiliated movement that urges consumers worldwide to shun Israeli goods and services until the country “complies with international law and Palestinian rights” by ending its occupation, establishing full equality for Palestinians in Israel, and offering the right of return to Palestinians abroad. The movement’s messaging has gained traction in Western Europe, where SodaStream’s sales reached $204 million in 2012, and anti-SodaStream campaigns are now active in twenty North American cities. Partly in response to pressure from BDS, SodaStream has intensified efforts to promote itself as a socially conscious employer and a force for reconciliation in the West Bank.

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in Harper’s Magazine, September 2013

Sammy Yatim shooting puts police accountability front and centre

Nearly four years ago I was assaulted by the police and, along with my 65-year-old father, illegally detained in front of my house on a usually quiet residential street in downtown Toronto as my neighbours stood watching. We had broken no laws. It was an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thankfully, I suffered no lasting physical injuries, nor did my father, though I was profoundly shaken by the incident.

Published in The Toronto Star, July 2013

The Masada Complex

In 1927, poet Yitzhak Lamdan wrote Masada, a poem glorifying the heroism and self-reliance of the early Zionist movement. The poem helped transform the remote hilltop fortress, largely forgotten since the writings of the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, into an enduring symbol of the young State of Israel. Lamdan’s most famous line, “never again shall Masada fall,” became a rallying cry for a generation of Israeli soldiers who repeated these words in countless inauguration ceremonies.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, January 2012

Could E1 be the trigger that sparks a new round of violence?

A good number of pundits have recently heralded the demise of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The culprit, they argue, is Netanyahu’s proposed settlement expansion in the area unceremoniously dubbed E1. While there seems to be consensus on a terminal prognosis for a Palestinian state, few have investigated what this will mean for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, which will inevitably degrade. . .

Co-authored with Craig Smith

Published in +972, December, 2012

Bubbling Up Across Holy Land

Beer is almost as old as recorded history. The ancient Egyptians drank it, as did the Mesopotamians. Hammurabi’s code even regulated how it was made and where it was consumed. And though wine was the drink of choice of the ancient Israelites, modern Israelis have increasingly quenched their thirst with beer. . .

Co-Authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The Forward, September 2012

Quebec: Still a distinct society but not in the way you think

The history of Quebec has often been defined in opposition to the rest of Canada. From the consolidation of Upper and Lower Canada to the Quiet Revolution to the patriation of the constitution and the drafting of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Quebec has been seen as a reluctant partner in the project of Canadian Confederation. Quebecers have long sought for themselves a separate status as a “distinct society” through special linguistic rights and constitutional provisions.

Co-Authored with Joelle Dumouchel

Published in The Toronto Star, August 2012

Hummus Ville

In 1996, Martin Indyk, the United States ambassador to Israel, faced a political quandary. It was the eve of the 3,000-year anniversary of Jerusalem, and the U.S. could not be seen participating in celebrations that recognized the contested city as the unified capital of Israel. And so Indyk went to the nearby Arab town of Abu Gosh in order to avoid controversy – only to find himself in the middle of a lesser-known, much-tastier conflict. . .

Co-authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The National Post, April 2012

Israel’s economy will pay heavy price for Iron Dome

Since March 9, more than 300 rockets, mortars and missiles have been fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, a response to the killing of Zohair al-Qaisi, secretary-general of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee, who the army said was planning a major terrorist attack on Israel. But unlike during the decade of attacks that preceded these hostilities, in which 8,000 rockets induced terror and resulted in 31 fatalities in southern Israel, a sense of euphoria has instead prevailed among many Israelis. The reason? Seventy-eight percent of the rockets threatening population centers were successfully intercepted by the new Iron Dome air defense system, with no Israeli fatalities, according to a report in this paper. . .

Published in Haaretz, March 2012

Good Books

A few blocks from the Old City of Jerusalem, arguably the most contested ground on earth, stands the American Colony Hotel, where foreign nationals mingle in the jasmine-scented gardens, drinking competently mixed manhattans. Many will find their way to the legendary hotel’s English-language bookshop. At the back of the narrow, vaulted room, the bookseller sits at his desk, pencil in mouth, going through sale inventory. . .

Co-Authored with Sarah Treleaven

Published in The Walrus, October 2012

Finally, workers of the world unite

Borochov Street ends one block shy of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, where earlier this month police dismantled a tent city that had been occupied by social-justice activists. The goals of the protesters were as diverse as the people who came out each week to support them. From 30-somethings decrying the cost of housing, to stroller-pushing parents demanding better child care, to Facebook members complaining about a recent rise in the price of cottage cheese ! the protesters voiced a common economic theme. Though the protest leaders have promised that their efforts have only begun, and the tents still stand in other cities, a summer of nationwide protests has largely come to an end.

Published in Haaretz, October 2011