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Today’s Old News

Dec. 8 in History: The US joins the Second World War, the Palestinian intifada is triggered, South America tries to unite and the Lome Convention is updated.

Dec 7, 2019

The Legacy of the American Entry
On Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt motioned Congress to vote on a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. The motion was overwhelmingly passed, and three days later Japan’s allies in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy would respond by declaring war on the United States, cementing its place in the Second World War. It is impossible to measure the vast impact of the legacy of the United States’ entry into the war. But judging by the vast amount of literature that exists simply to hypothesize about the outcome of the world had it never happened, it would suffice to say that the event has become ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist as critical for the formation of the current world order. Though some have suggested that U.S. efforts have been overemphasized when compared to the contributions of other countries in the outcome of WWII, it is impossible to ignore its contributions to major operations such as the Pacific Islands Campaign and the Normandy landings.
The Legacy of a Collision
Ever since its victory in the Six-Day-War in 1967, Israel has occupied both Gaza and the West Bank, enforcing its authority over the native Palestinians through the use of curfews and nighttime raids, arrests and demolitions. Though they were ever present in the region, tensions in Palestine reached a tipping point on Dec. 8, 1987, when hundreds witnessed an Israeli truck crash into a station wagon carrying workers in Jabalya, Gaza. This collision, which killed four and injured up to 10 others, would go on to ignite the first Intifada. Immediately crowds began forming around the strip to protest an end to Israeli occupation, and in turn Israeli forces responded just as quickly with punitive violence that included blindly firing into a crowd of civilians. As the situation escalated, Palestinian opposition became more organized and as protestors began to arrange mass strikes and boycotts, refuse taxation and build barricades to disrupt communications and transportation, Israeli forces began mounting larger scale fatal military oppositions to counter their efforts. Soon the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Palestinian groups would get involved with mobilizing opposition, and whilst many did opt to follow their leadership, others preferred the ideology and practice preferred by a group that was birthed during the Intifada itself: Hamas.
After a long 6 years, the First Intifada was eventually brought to an end in 1993 through negations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian groups, but by then a heavy cost had already been paid by the Palestinian people for 1,283 had been killed, 130,472 had been injured, 481 had been expelled and another 22,088 were held without trial. Though many celebrated the end of the violence, it was clear that there were some who were still deeply unsatisfied with how it was resolved. After Israeli extremists assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had signed the peace accords with Yasser Arafat, his successors Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak all pursued Zionist policies that were fundamentally antithetical to the maintainence of the Oslo Peace Accords, something that ultimately led to the Second Intifada in 2001. Today, as Palestine continues to face Israeli occupation and settler colonialism under the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, the memories of the intifadas remain fresh in the hearts and minds of both the Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The Legacy of a Union
On Dec. 8, 2004, the Third South American Presidential Summit enacted the Declaration on the South American Community of Nations, a document that would become colloquially known as The Cusco Declaration. The document, which was signed by 12 South American countries, sought to establish an integrated union among the South American states based on the model of political, social, economic, infrastructural and environmental cooperation that was enacted by the European Union. Known as UNASOR, the organisation was successful in its early years. In 2008, the organization resolved a border crisis between Colombia and Ecuador. In 2010 the group helped resolve a diplomatic rift between Colombia and Venezuela. And in 2009 and 2012, the group moved to condemn what it considers undemocratic action in Honduras and Paraguay, respectively. However, growing tensions between the member states have quickly led to the organization’s apparent erosion. On Jan. 30, 2017, Ernesto Sampler left the office of Secretary General and when Argentine diplomat Jose Bordon was nominated as his replacement, Venezuela — supported by Bolivia and Suriname — blocked the motion. In August of the same year, six member states formed a new coalition known as the Lima Group aimed at countering the anti-democratic efforts of the Venezuelan government, and a year after this, the states in the group all announced that they would suspend their membership in UNASUR until it became more organized. Following this, the states would begin to petition to leave UNASUR in favor of joining PROSUR, the Forum for the Progress of South America, which its members claim to be non-ideological and far more efficient. Whether it is doomed to eventually collapse or whether it may yet achieve its initial goals, UNASUR will always hold the legacy of being Latin America's first attempt at a union between its states.
The Legacy of Lomé
Since 1975, the economic relationship between Western Europe, Africa, the Carribbean and the Asia-Pacific region has been entirely determined by the Lomé Convention. Continually renewed, the convention is updated regularly in order to enable the guiding principles to adapt with the current socioeconomic nature of the regions involved, and on Dec. 8, 1984, its third iteration was ratified. This time a fundamental change was made to principles, as their focus was officially shifted from economic relations that promoted industry to relations that sought to make countries self sufficient in terms of food and security. Interestingly, despite its supposed purpose as the guiding force behind international economic cooperation, there appears to be a dearth of awareness and a lack of popular literature or journalistic references regarding the convention. There has also been no apparent research into the degree to which participating states conform to it. Though the Lomé Convention may have influenced the world to a drastic degree, there exists no measure for this, and therefore, despite its supposed support by dozens of states, the legacy of the convention, at least for now, remains uncharacterized.
Toby Le is a columnist. Email him at
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