Foreign Correspondence, Vol 68
The global democratic recession may finally be near its end
Hello, and happy Friday! It’s not every day I lead this correspondence with good news, but here it goes: Yesterday, the pro-democracy think tank and watchdog Freedom House released its annual study on the state of freedom around the world. While the number of countries in decline continue to outpace those going in the other direction, the margin between the two numbers is now the narrowest it’s ever been: 34 countries saw improvements in political rights and civil liberties, whereas 35 countries lost ground.
Could global democracy soon be on the mend? I wrote about the report’s findings and what the road to recovery looks like (more on that below).
In podcast news: I joined last week’s Oh God, What Now? panel to discuss Britain’s new deal on the Northern Ireland protocol, trading tomatoes for turnips, and more. Tune in via your favorite platform here.
What I’ve written
For more than a decade, Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report has made for pretty grim reading. Since 2006, the report has chronicled a global “democratic recession,” in which the number of countries with diminishing political rights and civil liberties has outpaced those moving in the opposite direction.
But there may now be cause for cautious optimism. Of the 195 countries and 15 territories evaluated, 34 countries saw improvements in political rights and civil liberties, whereas 35 countries lost ground. That represents the narrowest margin recorded between countries that declined and improved since the downward trend began 17 years ago. The report concludes that it signals that “the world’s long freedom recession may be bottoming out.” Keep reading here
‘The arsonists are running the fire station’. Why Israeli settler attacks are growing more frequent
Ukrainian forces are nearly surrounded in Bakhmut. Here’s what to know
What I’ve read
This smart Q&A on the origins of Israel’s democratic crisis (The New Yorker)
We’re nearly seventy-five years old, and we still don’t have anything like a regular law that says all citizens in Israel are equal. That problem goes back to the founding of the state. It’s a problem of preferring to have disproportionate power for a minority of religious Israeli Jews because nobody would consider Arabs as equal political partners.
This scoop on the apparent identity crisis within the Anti-Defamation League, whose CEO has likened Palestinian rights groups to right-wing extremists (Jewish Currents)
Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that even if Greenblatt is drawing some distinction between anti-Zionists and violent white nationalists, he is affirming that “because you don’t support the establishment of a Jewish ethno-religious state at the expense of Palestinians, you are ipso facto responsible for what actual antisemites do and say.” Friedman said this is “intellectually dishonest,” as it’s “predicated on the premise that there exist no legitimate reasons for rejection of Zionism that are unrelated to hatred of Jews, and morally indefensible logic because it cheapens and politicizes the very concept of antisemitism, equating legitimate viewpoints and non-violent protest with groups who are motivated by unabashed hatred of Jewish people.” (For his part, Greenblatt insisted during the meeting that “we will always be principled and not political, despite what the critics say.”)
This powerful film on the world’s most honorable bank robbers (The New York Times)
A wave of armed bank robberies has been sweeping Lebanon amid its economic meltdown. But the heists have followed a highly unusual pattern: The robbers are the banks’ clients, and the money they have been demanding is the contents of their own accounts.
What I’m thinking about
Ramadan is almost here! Which means that the next few correspondences will likely be written without the vital aide of caffeine. Please forgive any typos or snark that may come as a result of this.
And for those inclined to ask, the answer is no. Not even water.
Until next time,