WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–47

Kumar Govindan
11 min readNov 25, 2023

About: the world this week, 19 November to 25 November 2023; Hostage release; Two fiery far-right Politicians win in Argentina and The Netherlands; Tunnel rescue; and World Cup Cricket.

Everywhere

The Hostage Release Deal

Israel’s Operation Iron Swords fights-on, and this week Israel began unravelling the tunnels beneath the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Video footage showed hostages being dragged into hideouts inside the Hospital, and it’s become a talking point that the United Nations and the Hospital Authorities knew all along that the Hostages were being held in the Hospital. And that there are certain portions of the Hospital that are strictly no-entry zones, with guns and ammunition being stored in them, and a command centre of the terrorist Hamas. But the onus is on Israel to prove it.

Israel on its part, arrested the Director of the Al-Shifa hospital and some Hospital Officials for interrogation and being complicit in allowing Hamas an ‘underground run’ of the Hospital.

During the week, Israel and the terrorist Hamas closed in on a deal to free hostages taken by the latter in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and a temporary truce in the Gaza war. The State of Qatar brokered the deal.

The deal will see the release of 50 women and children hostages held captive in Gaza by Hamas. In exchange, Israel will release 150 Palestine women and children held in Israeli prisons. Most of the Palestinian prisoners listed as eligible for release are male teenagers aged between 16 and 18 and a handful as young as 14, about 33 are women. The names published by Israel also lists the charges under which the prisoners are being held. Throwing stones and ‘harming regional security’ are among the most common, but others include support for illegal terror organisations, illegal weapons charges, incitement, and at least two accusations of attempted murder. Israel is currently holding about 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security offences, according to Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

The deal includes a complete ceasefire on the ground for four days, with Israel allowed to fly sorties over Northern Gaza for 18 hours a day. The deal also provides for between 100 and 300 trucks of food and medical aid, as well as fuel, to enter Gaza.

The first hostage release is scheduled for Friday morning. The truce will begin at 7 am., local time, with an initial group of 13 civilian hostages set to be released around 4 pm. They will be handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross and escorted by Israeli soldiers.

As soon as they are out, Israel will release 39 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. If all goes well, this process will be repeated over three more days, until 50 hostages are released in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, and a substantial increase in aid and fuel for Gaza.

With Hamas and Israel having ‘absolutely no trust between them’ and not seeing eye-to-eye on anything at all, the deal was forged and hammered-in by experienced negotiators in Doha, Qatar.

Late on Friday, the truce held and hostages consisting of 13 Israelis, 10 Thai nationals and 1 Filipino were released in Egypt. And Israel released 39 Palestinian hostages on its part.

Making Argentina Great Again?

Argentina has a new President-elect and a very different one: swashbuckling in fact, with untamed hair that refuses the comb.

He is Javier Milei, a volatile far-right libertarian Politician, an Economist, an Author, who comes fully loaded with radical ideas such as, vowing to ‘exterminate’ inflation; using ‘a chainsaw’ to slash government spending; ‘blowing-up’ the Central Bank; and re-introducing the US dollar as Argentina’s official currency.

Javier Milei, often compared to America’s Donald Trump, secured 55.69% of the vote. Of course, Donald Trump was quick on the draw, congratulating him and saying he would ‘Make Argentina Great Again!’

Milei’s victory sends a clear message: Argentines wanted change, and he was the candidate most likely to deliver. His rise to the top was swift, and he was relatively unknown before winning the primaries back in August this year. But his brash manner, radical campaign proposals, as well as his unruly hairstyle, got the voters to notice him.

In a country mired in economic crisis, where annual inflation is now over 140% and two in five Argentines living in poverty, a drastic new approach to fixing problems is perhaps a clever move. Many Presidents before Milei have tried, and failed, to improve the situation, so there was nothing to lose. The challenge will be how Milei navigates a country in crisis, away from campaign promises, and deals with the reality of trying to improve the situation for millions of Argentines, not making it worse.

Milei is the son of a passenger transport businessman and a homemaker, and his childhood years were marked by a tense relationship with his father. The only family member with whom he has a close relationship is his sister, Karina Milei, who ran his campaign. He calls her ‘the Boss’, and has repeatedly characterised her as the architect of his rise to power.

When Javier Milei was growing up, kids called him ‘The Madman’ because of his energetic outbursts. At the age of 18, Milei, who was then a soccer player, gave up the sport to pursue a career in Economics. He became famous for debates where he would hurl insults at his rivals along with his ‘Madman’ energy.

In an incident in the year 2018, Milei called a journalist ‘a donkey’ and a local court ordered a psychological examination after he refused to apologise for exerting ‘gender violence’.

During his repeated television appearances, Milei didn’t just talk about Economics and Politics: he also delved into his personal life and once presented himself as an expert in tantric sex, openly discussing how he had repeatedly participated in group sex.

Milei hates wokeism, hates socialism, hates the media, hates excessive government spending, hates the political elite… and loves his country.

Javier Milei comes across as a snake-oil salesman who is promising to stare down inflation with drastic libertarian measures. Members of his party have already said they expect the drastic policies will result in massive protests.

The Netherlands

Quick on the heels of Argentina’s swing to the right, the Netherlands followed with its version of a ‘Dutch Trump’ — America’s Donald Trump, flowing hair ‘et al’, is indeed on an aggressive expansionist mode. And the Windmills are spinning.

This week’s General Election results in Netherlands shocked Europe and the world. Dutch voters have thrown their support behind the party of a far-right icon, Geert Wilders,60 years old, causing one of the biggest political upsets in Dutch politics since World War II, and one that is bound to send shockwaves through Europe. The Elections were held on 22 November 2023, for the 150 seated House of Representatives.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), has claimed victory. He is often called the ‘Dutch Trump’ because of his bouffant platinum blonde hair, his firebrand rhetoric, his far-right leanings, and his anti-Islam stance.

With nearly all votes counted, preliminary results saw Wilders take 37 seats with 23.6% of the vote in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, more than double the 17 he won in the previous election. A jubilant Wilders said on the win, “I had to pinch my arm.” The GreenLeft Labour Party alliance (GL/PvdA) led by former EU commissioner Frans Timmermans finished second with 25 seats, 15.5% of the vote, and the liberal-conservative Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by the outgoing Justice Minister got 24 seats.

While Wilders’ PVV has come out on top at the polls, he will need the support of ‘many others’ to reach the magic number of 76 to govern the country. And he is wasting no time to stitch-together a coalition. He called on other Dutch parties to work together to form a government stressing that his PVV can no longer be ignored.

In politics since 1988, Wilders founded the PVV — the third-largest party in the Netherlands in 2004, placing anti-Islam policies at the heart of his party. He was initially a member of the VVD, which he later left owing to the party’s mild stance on Islam and immigration. He attributes his profound disregard for Islam to the time he spent in a kibbutz in Israel and also the assassination of the radical anti-Islam film-maker Theo Van Gogh, in 2004.

Wilders was born in 1963 in Southern Venlo, close to the German border, in a Catholic family, and has two brothers and a sister. His mother is half-Indonesian.

While he is known for his hardline politics, Wilders is also known for his pets. His two cats, Snoetje and Pluisje, have their own account on X with nearly 23,000 followers.

The focus of Wilders’ PVV is all things anti-Muslim. His manifesto says, ‘The Netherlands is not an Islamic country. No Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques.’ He proposes banning the headscarf in government buildings. On immigration, he has maintains a sharp anti-immigrant tone. ‘Asylum-seekers feast on delightful free cruise-ship buffets while Dutch families have to cut back on groceries,’ his party’s manifesto reads. And he has proposed immigration measures such as restoring Dutch border control, detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, returning Syrian asylum-seekers and re-introducing work permits for intra-EU workers. On foreign policy, the PVV proposes a ‘Dutch first’ approach that includes closing its representation in Palestine’s Ramallah and strengthening ties to Israel, including moving its Embassy to Jerusalem.

A ‘binding referendum’ on a ‘Nexit’ — the Netherlands leaving the European Union — is also in the manifesto, along with an immediate halt to development aid. Wilders is an outspoken Eurosceptic. He has also demanded the Netherlands stop sending arms to Ukraine.

Geert Wilders has often courted controversy for his opinions and even been convicted for his stance. In the year 2017, he called some Moroccans ‘scum’. “There is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe,” he had said. “If you want to regain your country, make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands again, then you can only vote for one party.” He was convicted in a hate speech trial over his promise to reduce the number of Moroccans in the country. His remarks and stance have made him a victim of death threats, and he has been living under round-the-clock protection for years.

In 2009, the British Government had refused to let him visit the country, saying that he posed a threat to ‘community harmony and therefore public security.’ He had been invited to Britain by a member of the House of Lords, to show his 15-minute film ‘Fitna’, which criticises the Quran as a ‘fascist book’.

Geert Wilders, is very popular in the American far-right circuit. In April 2015, he was invited to speak at the Conservative Opportunity Society, a coalition of right-wing politicians in the United States House of Representatives. “There is no moderate Islam. Islam has changed Europe beyond recognition,” Wilders had told the audience. “Our duty is clear: In order to solve the problem, we have to stop mass immigration to the West from Islamic countries.”

In India, Wilders gained prominence last year when extended his support to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s, Nupur Sharma, who had received flak for her derogatory comments on Prophet Muhammad. Wilders had said that Sharma was speaking “nothing but the truth about Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha” and even posted in her defence on X, hailing her as a hero. In one post, he wrote, “Appeasement never works. It will only make things worse. So, my dear friends from India, don’t be intimidated by Islamic countries. Stand up for freedom and be proud and steadfast in defending your politician Nupur Sharma who spoke the truth about Muhammad.”

Tunnel Trap

The 41 workers (updated from 40) trapped in the Silkyara Tunnel on the Yamunotri-Gangotri highway of the Char Dham, in Uttarkhand since 12 November are beginning to see light at the end of their tunnel of suffering.

This week a crucial development in the rescue mission was the successful construction of a 6-inch diameter pipeline through the debris in the collapsed portion of the under-construction tunnel. And in a breakthrough a video was captured using an endoscopic flexi camera sent through a 6-inch pipeline, showing workers in yellow and white helmets receiving food items and speaking to the rescue teams, providing assurance about their well-being. This pipeline facilitated the delivery of food and essential items to the trapped workers, marking a significant progress in the operation.

The rescue operations are being carried out on a war-footing, and it is confirmed that all 41 will be rescued in the next few days. The authorities have kept 41 ambulances, ready at the tunnel site, and facilities are in place to airlift workers in serious condition. The trapped workers will be pulled out on wheeled stretchers one by one through the pipe that is being drilled to reach them. Some of them are expected to crawl out on their own.

World Cup Cricket

This Sunday was pregnant with expectations in every Indian home, that the Indian Cricket Team would win the World Cup given their superb dominating form throughout the tournament — they never lost a match. But then, Australia showed the world how seasoned they were and it appeared that the struggle to stay alive in the tournament provided the strength in their wings for the final flight.

Australia comprehensively defeated India in the World Cup final, first restricting India to a score of 241 in 50 overs — when the famous Indian batting line-up failed to crack the fireworks when it mattered the most.

Australia made a poor start to their batting innings, losing three batsmen for 47 runs inside the first seven overs. And India had the whiff of a win in sight and tails were up! However, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne then built a partnership, adding 192 runs in 36 overs. Australia were within two runs of victory when Travis Head was dismissed by Mohammed Siraj for 137. Glenn Maxwell was the next batsman in, and hit the winning two runs to give Australia a 6-wicket victory.

One of the silent wonders behind the Indian team is Head Coach, Rahul Dravid — The Wall — who brought a calm and authoritative approach to the Indian Team. His influence resulted in India dominating the tournament except for that one bad day in office, in the Finals.

This is Australia’s sixth win — a record that would be hard to beat — and they have lots of lessons to teach India and the others aspiring to hold the World Cup.

Please Yourself

Emmys

The Emmy Awards or Emmys are an extensive range of awards for artistic and technical merit in the American and international Television Industry. A number of annual Emmy Award ceremonies are held throughout the year, and most popular are the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Daytime Emmy Awards.

This week the ceremony called the 51st International Emmy Awards 2023 was held in New York City and awards announced. The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presented the Emmys to television creators and performers from nine countries.

India’s Actor and stand-up comedian Vir Das made it a night to remember, in New York. He was nominated for an International Emmy for the second time for his Netflix special Vir Das: Landing. He was nominated alongside Le Falmbeau, El Encargado and Derry Girls Season-3 in the comedy category. Vir Das won and shared the prize with Derry Girls — Season 3.

Vir Das dives deep into his childhood in India, the perils of outrage and finding his footing in the world of his fourth Netflix stand-up special. Derry Girls — Season 3 is about a group of working-class teenagers coming of age in the 90’s in Northern Ireland.

India’s Amul Brand said it best in its typical special advertisement to mark such occasions, “Our Emmynent Comedian! AMUL wins everyday!” That’s the taste of India.

Vir Das is best known for his stand-up specials and has acted in films such as Delhi Belly, Go Goa Gone, and Shaadi Ke Side Effects.

India’s Ektaa Kapoor was presented the 2023 Directorate Award for her trailblazing career and impact on Indian Television. She is the co-founder of Balaji Telefilms. She received the award from the famous Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate, Dr. Deepak Chopra.

More stories will be landing here in the weeks ahead. Taste the news, with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!