Sanctions against Israel: A campaign that is gathering weight

ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians.

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Repression in Egypt: The same old blanket

SIX months ago sceptics warned the army-backed government against a blanket clampdown on dissent, whether peaceful or not. Instead, the re-emboldened security services have increasingly been hammering the whole gamut of opposition, from secular reformers to every type of Islamist.

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Yemen’s conference: No proper end

ON JANUARY 21st, the very day Yemen’s vaunted “conference of national dialogue” completed its ten months of work, assassins struck at two of its most prominent participants. Ahmed Sharaf el-Din, a lawyer for a movement representing the Houthis, a disaffected northern group, was shot dead on his way to the conference.

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Rural decline in Iran: Nothing idyllic

IN A village orchard on the fringe of the Lut desert in south-eastern Iran, Shah Banu Esma Ilani (literally, the Queen of Esma Ilan) plucks pistachios from a huge tree and puts them in a pouch in her tunic. A qanat, a trench that occasionally brings water from aquifers beneath mountains hundreds of miles away, cuts across her land but is bone-dry. Her little village is nearly empty of people

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South Africa after Mandela: A question of leadership

AS THE days passed and the news sunk in that Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president, had died peacefully at his home in Houghton, a pleasant suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa reacted at first with sadness but quickly shifted to celebrating an extraordinary life.

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