I need a break from the health and algorithms posts for a second, to include something about the situation in Palestine. For the last two weeks, the hot war has been on my mind too much. I can’t keep writing about math movies and python tutorials without acknowledging it.
Palestine was in math news last May, when David Mumford won the Wolf Prize (a mathematics prize in honor of the former Cuban ambassador to Israel, Ricardo Wolf). Mumford donated the cash prize to Bir Zeit University, which is a university in Ramallah, and to the Israeli organization Gisha, which advocates for freedom of movement for Palestinians. Among other things, Gisha maintains a list of Palestinian students who cannot attend colleges that they have been accepted to abroad, due to travel restrictions. At the time of Mumford’s gift, there were 710 students in Gaza on the list. Gisha has a policy paper on why letting Gazan students go to school could be good for building civil society.
The time I saw Palestine in math news before that was when there was a short report in the Proceedings of the AMS on The First International Conference on Mathematical Sciences, held at Al Azhar University in Gaza. This was in 2006, and the report said that a bunch of international mathematicians waited for a long time at the border crossing from Egypt, and eventually missed the conference. From the conference announcement:
The main objective of the conference is to get an international scientific gathering at our university. We would devote to overcome the deliberate policy of isolating our people and scientific institutions, and to involve the Palestinian researchers in contact with international researchers in their fields. The conference will focus mainly on the following Mathematical Sciences topics: Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, Theoretical and applied Mechanics, Probability and Statistics, Biometrics, Computer Sciences.
Jon Stewart had a round up of the most recent events and their media coverage on The Daily Show on Monday.
And there is an op-ed in Haaretz today by Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour that makes sense:
It should be clear by now that Hamas’ appeal only grows when Israelis attacks Palestinians. It increased when Israel insisted that occupied territory was merely “disputed,” ignoring its obligations under international law, and tried to dissociate its unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza from the continuing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hamas appealed to circles upon circles of Palestinian youth, who, grieving for friends or relatives killed in clashes with occupation forces, or appalled by iron-fist policies, succumbed to rage or survivors’ guilt. Its appeal increased in the absence of any concrete progress toward peace, indeed, when the peacemaking process seemed endlessly stalled.
Hamas’ appeal spread, finally, when Palestinian economic life seemed futile, or inevitably corrupt – when a fight to the last martyr seemed the only chance at a meaningful life – or death. Give Gazans open borders, relief from grinding poverty, and business opportunities with West Bank and foreign partners and, over time, this will win over Hamas-controlled tunnels and smuggling every time.
And, speaking of the circles of Palestinian youth, here is IHME’s estimate of population curve in Palestine, which I happen to have handy (csv file for 1950-2050):
Today Code Pink will send Barack Obama hundreds of white roses, harkening back to the White Rose Society—a non-violent resistance group from WWII Germany. The White Rose college students and their professor said “We will not be silent” and exposed what they saw and knew was happening around them. Imagine hundreds of white roses filling Obama’s hotel room, reminding him to use his position of leadership and call for a ceasefire. (Click to contribute a rose)