Tuesday 31 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 31/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

The road of war: Israeli forces along the Israel-Gaza border

Image: Alamy

Affairs / Yossi Mekelberg

Ground rules

In the immediate aftermath of the 7 October attack, which triggered the latest bout of violence in Gaza, Israel concentrated on regrouping. It had to ensure that no Hamas fighters remained on its territory. It then embarked on a campaign of intense aerial bombardment. This caused tremendous destruction across Gaza’s tiny territory, leading to thousands of civilian deaths and innumerable casualties. The bombardment also allowed Israel time to mobilise its reserve forces for a ground assault. But here lies several serious dilemmas.

First, there’s the issue of the Israeli hostages and whether Tel Aviv should negotiate a deal for their release before further intensifying the invasion. Second, the cost in human lives for both Gazan civilians and Israeli soldiers in such a war must be considered. Urban warfare against an enemy burrowed into underground tunnels is bloody and bound to impact upon international support for Israel. It also risks heightening tensions across the wider Middle East. The more casualties there are in Gaza, the greater the international pressure for a ceasefire.

While Israel’s actions so far suggest that it intends to ramp up its ground offensive, this would be unwise. Even if its army can inflict a huge amount of damage on the military capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that is unlikely to eliminate the groups as an ideological force. Without an appealing political solution when the war ends, any military victory will remain short-lived.

Yossi Mekelberg is an associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House. For the latest updates on the ongoing conflict, tune in to Monocle Radio. And for more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.



Open-door policy

In a significant policy shift, Kenya has announced that it will end visa requirements for travellers from other African nations by the end of the year. Kenya’s president, William Ruto, unveiled the scheme during his keynote address at an international conference on biodiversity, ecosystems and tropical forests in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo. “It is time we realise… that having visa restrictions among ourselves is working against us,” he said. “When people cannot travel, businesspeople cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel – we all become net losers.”

The landmark decision aligns with the broader vision of the African Union, which hopes to establish visa-free travel across the entire continent. Progress towards this goal has so far been sluggish, with only Seychelles, The Gambia and Benin currently offering it. Kenya’s new policy could act as a catalyst for similar announcements as African nations increasingly seek to forge stronger bonds and promote interconnectedness.

Speaking terms: Macron at the Cité Internationale de la Langue Française

Image: Getty Images


Minding his language

Calling all Francophiles and philologists. Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the Cité Internationale de la Langue Française (International City of French Language) yesterday in a 16th-century castle in Aisne that once belonged to François I of France. When the institution opens to the public tomorrow, visitors will find exhibitions, a library that generates personalised reading recommendations, spelling tests and a café, spread out across the Château de Villers-Cotterêts’ 15 rooms and gardens.

Though Macron has faced some criticism for this major cultural project (the renovation of the château alone cost about €211m), his belief in the importance of celebrating the French language is not unfounded. Once the lingua franca of diplomacy and science, English has since taken on the mantle at a global level; meanwhile, Mali dropped French as an official language over the summer because of its colonial associations. With more than 250 million daily French speakers across the world in countries from Senegal to Switzerland, the language of love deserves a little affection.


Ageless architecture

A daycare centre for the elderly in Chiba prefecture has won Japan’s prestigious Good Design Grand Award. Selected from a longlist of 1,548 Good Design Award winners, Yamazaki Kentaro Design Workshop’s “Long House with an Engawa” (a traditional Japanese porch) offers an unconventional service that welcomes people of all ages. The judges, chaired by architect Hiroshi Naito, commended the facility for its inclusivity. “The elderly are not only supported but they watch over the children too,” they said. “Everyone helps each other. It reminds us of old times.” They also praised the project’s long, covered engawa for its function and beauty.

Only connect: the prize-winning daycare centre in Chiba

Image: Naoomi Kurozumi

Outside in: spaces that are open to nature

Image: Naoomi Kurozumi

Clean lines and a sense of tranquillity

Image: Naoomi Kurozumi

“The elderly need a place where they can live with dignity,” said Hidetoshi Ishii, president of nursing-home company All for One, which commissioned the centre. “We believe that their happiness often comes from daily communication with children and people of different generations.” This winning facility demonstrates how thoughtful architecture can bring a caring community closer together.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Lisa Murkowski

Pole position

Speaking to Monocle Radio’s The Foreign Desk from the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, Alaska’s senior US senator Lisa Murkowski made the case for her country’s increased military presence in the Arctic. This came against the backdrop of a growing threat from Russia and served to highlight Alaska’s strategic importance, which she believes is underappreciated.

Image: Senator Office

Because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, do you think that Nato needs to strengthen its position in the Arctic?
Our coverage is very limited and we have effectively no naval presence in Alaska. It is something that we have pressed the navy to review. When I think about our Arctic capabilities, we have to look to our first line of defence – and that’s in Alaska.

Would you be concerned if Russia took the growing military presence in the Arctic as an increase in tensions?
We want to keep the Arctic a low-stress, low-tension neighbourhood. But Russia is doing far more to invest in its defence capabilities in this region at a time when it is looking for every bit of funding to advance its war against Ukraine. We should all be concerned about the growing partnership between Russia and China in the Arctic.

Do you have a sense that the Biden administration is starting to take this situation more seriously?
I have been pounding all administrations to recognise that the US is an Arctic nation. But in fairness, part of it is that it’s geopolitical tension that brings attention. When a place is quiet, nobody pays any attention to it or sends resources.

For the full interview with Lisa Murkowski and other delegates at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, tune in to Saturday’s special episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Ana Ros, Showerings Cider and more

Monocle’s Gaia Lutz sits down with renowned Slovenian chef Ana Ros in Lisbon. Also in the programme: Petri Burtsoff is in Finland to find out why mushroom foraging is becoming ever more popular in both home and restaurant cooking. Plus: Andrew Mueller speaks to Laura Suorsa of the Oulu 2026 Arctic Food Lab at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík and Monica Lillis ventures to southwest England to try a new luxury cider brand, Showerings.


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