Last Week in Foreign Affairs (September 24 - September 30)

Devastation in Palu following the tsunami that struck the island Friday ( source )

Devastation in Palu following the tsunami that struck the island Friday (source)

Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Death Toll Rises to 830

Thirty minutes after a 7.5 earthquake hit the northern edge of Indonesia, a tsunami as high as twenty feet smashed into the city of Palu. Despite the Southeast Asian nation’s extensive investment in tsunami detection technology and resources, the tsunami warning for the city had been lifted by the time the natural disaster slammed into the coast. Officials claimed the closest detection node was over 200 kilometers away and that they had had no ability to see how large the waves were closer to Palu, home to a population of 335,000. The geographical layout of the city  also may have played a role in the extent of the devastation. While the wave heights were not detected above six or seven feet in the open ocean, the location of land masses to either side of the city may have funneled the rushing water to even greater heights. The earthquake furthermore detracted from the tsunami’s deadly potential. Normally tsunamis are formed when shifts occur vertically between plates, rather than the “strike-slip” horizontal motion accompanying this earthquake. The damage and suffering the disaster has caused is of a chilling degree. Authorities estimate the death toll will probably rise above 1,000 people and could potentially cost Indonesia hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Macedonia Battles Fake News in an Effort to Join EU and NATO

Macedonia’s contentious relationship with Greece begins with its name. Greece claims that it is the only country that should be able to lay claim to the title of “Macedonia,” especially considering the region within Greece of the same name was once ruled by Alexander the Great, a distinct claim to fame.  Because of this bitter rivalry, Greece has consistently blocked any attempt by Macedonia to join the European Union since the breakup of Yugoslavia decades ago. Macedonia held a referendum this weekend on potentially changing the country’s name and making amends with its southern neighbor. The ultimate goal, according to the country’s government, is to join the EU and NATO. Russia has openly opposed the appointment of Macedonia to these institutions and has actively attempted to meddle in the country’s affairs. For example, in 2016, Moscow was accused of backing an assassination attempt on the country’s president as well as a subsequent attempted coup that was to occur after the leader’s planned death. Macedonia uncovered social media accounts aiming to spread a “boycott the referendum” message and using fake news reports to feign alleged violence against those who wished to stay out of the EU. While these reports of election meddling from the Kremlin aren’t new, they once again display a disturbing pattern of foreign influence on what could potentially be events of global importance.

Six More Palestinian Protestors Killed at the Border of Gaza and Israel

Six more Palestinian protesters were killed on Friday by Israeli Defense Force personnel, including two children. These deaths signify the deadliest encounter between Palestinians and the IDF since the summer “March of Return” protests that saw the deaths of over 168 protestors, including 23 children, on the fence that divides the two states. The Israeli Army claims that protestors were throwing rocks and smoke bombs at the border guards, who responded with a combination of rubber bullets and live fire. The encounter marks an escalation between the IDF, who insists they are merely following standard operating procedure to disperse large crowds, and the protestors, who demand that Israel cease settlements on claimed Palestinian land. Protestors set up their main encampment about a half a mile from the site of the fence, though many periodically move closer over the course of the day. The IDF has claimed that many of these protesters are employed by Hamas to sow dissent and try to kill IDF soldiers, posing a threat to civilian life in the territory. They claim that they will shoot any armed protestors within 1,000 feet of the border fence and any unarmed protestors within 300 feet. There have been no confirmed Israeli deaths as it relates to these protests.

9 year-old Australian Girl Attacked by Far-Right Politicians for Not Standing for the Anthem

A nine-year-old Australian girl has been labeled a “brat” and has faced calls for expulsion from her school by prominent far-right politicians in the Australian government, including a former Prime Minister. Last month, Harper Nielsen refused to stand and sing the national anthem at a school event because she felt the title and lyrics of the song were disrespectful to Australia's indigenous population. The anthem, “Advance Australia Fair,” was written in 1878 and has long played a role in discussions of racial and ethnic division in the continent. The indigenous population of Australia, thought to have lived on the continent for over 80,000 years, comprises  a mere two percent of the country’s current population. Not only is this demographic minuscule, but it also experiences a lower life expectancy and twice the national infant mortality rate relative to other populations in Australia. Thus, modern day Australia is at loggerheads on how to balance its openness with its more aggressive policies, such as detaining “dangerous” immigrants in centers off of its Pacific coast. Australia’s history and political climate provide context in assessing the responses to Nielsen’s protest. The country’s shadow minister for education claimed her parents were using her as a political pawn. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated Harper should “follow the rules” and that standing for the national anthem displays “kind manners and courtesy.” This debate comes at a politically perilous time for Australia, as an influx of immigrants in recent months propelled a populist wave among its electorate. It seems the national discourse has eroded to the point where acts of defiance from children are seriously shaping the political environment in the country.