Israel’s enemy within

🤵‍♂️Husband hurling | 🪐 Space smells | 👋 “Rigid” Ron

In the headlines

Storm Isha has brought 99mph gusts and heavy rain to parts of the UK, disrupting travel and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and northern England were officially put on “tornado watch” last night, with some areas seeing their strongest winds for 20 years. Ron DeSantis has dropped out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsed Donald Trump ahead of tomorrow’s Republican primary in New Hampshire. The Florida governor’s decision leaves Nikki Haley as Trump’s last remaining challenger for the party’s nomination. The oldest surviving piece of tartan has been “brought back to life”, says The Guardian. Experts recreated the 500-year-old cloth, which was discovered in a peat bog in the Highlands four decades ago, using carbon dating and dye analysis.

Alan Richardson/House of Edgar/V&A/PA


Netanyahu: trying to destroy Israeli democracy? Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP/Getty

Israel’s enemy within

Though many countries go through crises and revolutions, says Eva Illouz in Der Freitag, few experience the kind of existential threat that Israel is facing, “on multiple fronts”, right now. The first is the “immediate military threat” from foreign enemies like Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, which are well armed, well organised and have “genocidal intentions”. The second is “no less frightening”: a large contingent of “power-hungry Jewish messianists”, some of whom have made it into Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, who want to expel all Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories, and “impose a Jewish supremacist regime”. This group has already tried to push through judicial reforms that would have effectively given the Israeli PM unfettered power. And they’ll try again. “They intend to destroy Israeli democracy.”

Other countries can survive the rule of populist leaders like Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. But neither Hungary, the US nor Brazil “has the level of strategic vulnerability that Israel does”. For Israel, democracy is not a “moral or political luxury”. It is a matter of security. No other country has so many enemies “who want it wiped off the face of the earth”; no other country contains so many contradictory groups and conflicting political goals. Without democracy and without a solution to the continuing occupation of Palestinian territories, “Israel will be viewed as a rogue and racist state and shunned by the world”. It will become an economic backwater; its brightest talent will leave and its military capacity will dwindle. Without democracy, “Israel will not survive”.


The winners of the latest Travel Photographer of the Year competition have been announced, with featured images including trees reflected in Lake Shirakawa in Japan; Iceland’s Skaftafellsjökull glacier; a tiny yellow goby fish sheltering in a glass bottle; and a young schoolgirl peering through a door in Pakistan. The Slovenian architect AndreJa Ravnak won the top prize for her photos of rolling fields. To see the rest, click the image above.

Inside politics

Ron DeSantis, who dropped out of the US presidential race yesterday, was simply “too online, too ideologically rigid, and at times just too weird” to be in with a chance, says Sohrab Ahmari in The New Statesman. Though ordinary Republican voters might “grumble about woke”, DeSantis was obsessed with it, tying everything, including the Ukraine war, back to things like “gender ideology”. This might have made him “alluring” to right-wing pundits, but your average “Evangelical Grandma in Iowa” knows little about internet culture wars. And his populism was “decidedly skin-deep”, with none of the pro-working class, pro-manufacturing themes that Donald Trump has deployed to such great effect.

Love etc

Last week, locals gathered at Japan’s Matsunoyama Onsen hot spring resort to keep up a centuries-old tradition: hurling newlywed men down a snowy hill, into the arms of their wives below. The annual event, which also includes young couples smearing snow and ash on one another’s faces for good health, is meant to strengthen the bonds of marriage.


Birbalsingh: standing up for secularism. Dan Kitwood/Getty

The “explosion of religious fervour” in our schools

I haven’t had the conversation with my six-year-old daughter yet, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times, “but I know that it is coming”. Every day we pass hundreds of sweet little girls in white matching hijabs. What am I supposed to say? That “some people think that women shouldn’t be seen”? And that they’re wearing these coverings “even though their holy book doesn’t require it”? It’s a “boiling outrage” that girls as young as my daughter are being forced to wear them, but it’s typical of the “explosion of religious fervour” in London’s schools. Witness what happened at Katherine Birbalsingh’s Michaela Community School in Wembley. Muslim pupils made other Muslim pupils wear headscarves, and warned others not to sing in the school choir because it is “haram” (forbidden). They were “bad Muslims” if they didn’t pray. Imagine if Christian schoolchildren did this. “The Archbishop of Canterbury would provide a personal apology on television.”

What’s ridiculous is that praying five times a day, which is what sparked the controversy at Michaela, is not always considered “obligatory under Islam”, says Janice Turner in The Times, “particularly for children”. Schools in Turkey and Pakistan don’t generally break to pray, unless they are religious madrassas. Michaela is an explicitly secular school, yet half the pupils are Muslim, which implies parents quite rightly choose “results over religion”. And in a 2020 poll, 63% of British Muslims said they were concerned about extremism in their communities. So it’s absolutely right that Birbalsingh and her staff should fight to keep their school secular. And it’s disgraceful that the British left has remained silent. All they are doing is empowering “Islam’s far right” – the same ideologues who deny Afghan girls any education or demand Iranian women are beaten for exposing their hair. A majority of British Muslims embrace tolerant secularism over theocracy. “For their sake Michaela cannot lose.”

Tomorrow’s world

About 85% of wind turbine parts can be recycled, says Bloomberg, particularly the valuable “metals and minerals”. But the disposal of their fibreglass blades is more challenging, so canny start-ups across the globe are finding alternative uses for them. They include a maze-like playground in the Netherlands; a pedestrian bridge in Ireland; a swooping Danish bike shelter; and arched park benches in America.


“George, can you smell that?” Gravity (2013)

Although you can’t smell anything in space – it’s an airless vacuum, so you’d die if you tried – astronauts still report some unusual odours, says On returning to the lunar lander after walking on the moon, members of the Apollo missions reported smelling gunpowder, while cosmonauts on the International Space Station have apparently caught a whiff of burnt steak. Some boffins have also pointed out that we know the smell of certain molecules on earth, and reasoned that, based on what we know they’re made of, there’s a comet that stinks of rotting eggs and parts of our galaxy that smell of beer.


Snapshot answer

It’s a tie the King has taken to wearing, as a little joke to himself, says Melanie Reid in The Times. The pattern is a Tyrannosaurus rex, or T.Rex, which sounds rather like the monarch’s first initial and title, C.Rex. This is one of the many tidbits in Robert Hardman’s new book, Charles III: New King, New Court, the Inside Story. Others include the revelation that the late Queen was furious with Harry and Meghan for calling their second child Lilibet, the sovereign’s family nickname; and that before Camilla became a royal her family called her “Lorraine”, a play on the French for “the Queen”: la reine. “She always saw the funny side of that,” said a friend, “even if Prince Charles did not.”


“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
Fran Lebowitz

That’s it. You’re done.