U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Tue Mar 05, 2024 4:54 am

“Moral Failure”: Democrats Rep. Khanna & Michigan State Rep. Aiyash Urge Biden to Change Gaza Policy
by Amy Goodman
February 21, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/21/ ... transcript

As the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel’s assault on Gaza approaches 30,000 and the United States vetoes a ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Security Council for the third time, the Biden administration’s support for Israel has come under fierce criticism both around the world and in the U.S. In Michigan, which is a key battleground state and home to one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, a campaign is growing to vote “uncommitted” in next week’s Democratic primary in protest of Biden’s policies backing Israel. “We’re not standing against anyone, but we’re simply reaffirming our stance for humanity and for the basic tenets of human rights,” says Democratic state Representative Abraham Aiyash, Michigan’s highest-ranking Arab and Muslim leader. “The administration needs to change course in foreign policy in the Middle East in order to gain the trust of people who we have lost,” says California Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who says the U.S. must call for an immediate ceasefire and place conditions on aid to Israel.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The United States on Tuesday vetoed a widely supported Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The vote was 13 to 1 in favor of the resolution, with the United Kingdom abstaining. It marked the third time the U.S. has vetoed a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. The vote came a day after the U.S. circulated a rival resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of all Israeli hostages.

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza over the past four-and-a-half months, with thousands more missing and presumed dead under the rubble. Nearly 70,000 people have been wounded. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, while a humanitarian crisis continues to worsen, with a quarter of Palestinians in Gaza facing starvation.

The Biden administration’s support for Israel in its assault on Gaza has come under fierce criticism both around the world and here at home. In Michigan, which is a key battleground state, home to one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, a campaign is growing to vote “uncommitted” in next week’s Democratic primary in protest of President’s Biden’s policies backing Israel.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. Michigan state Representative Abraham Aiyash is the Michigan House majority floor leader, the second-ranking Democrat in the Michigan House. Representative Aiyash was among several Arab and Muslim leaders who met with Biden officials in Dearborn last week, after refusing to meet with Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodríguez. He’s also joined more than 40 other Michigan elected officials in pledging to cast a vote for “uncommitted” in Michigan’s February 27th primary. He’s joining us from Detroit. Joining us from Washington, D.C., on his way to Michigan, is Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna. He’s the deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is going to Michigan tomorrow to meet with Muslim and Arab American leaders in the state.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Abraham Aiyash, let’s begin with you. What are you demanding — as the Michigan House majority floor leader, what are you demanding of the Biden administration? You don’t usually take such stands against your own party, but right now the Democratic Party is really dealing with enormous pressure at this point. Can you talk about what you want to see happen?

REP. ABRAHAM AIYASH: Look, I think our demands are simple. We just don’t want our government, our country to support, to aid, to abet any operation that kills innocent men, women and children. It is not a radical idea for us to suggest that the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world should not be funding what we see as a genocide, that we have seen nearly 30,000 dead Palestinians at the hands of the U.S.-funded Israeli missiles and bombs, and we want our leadership to not engage in that type of moral failure and that degenerative act that does not dignify the humanity of the Palestinian people. So, you know, more than anything, we’re not standing against anyone, but we’re simply reaffirming our stance for humanity and for the basic tenets of human rights, which says it is not a crazy concept that we should not be supporting any effort that is killing any innocent person in the world, especially to the magnitude that we’ve seen in Gaza, where more people have died in this conflict than any war since World War II, which is just a devastating toll.

And we’re hoping to exercise our right. We’re going to use the ballot box on February 27th to show that we are going to not support any effort that is supporting a genocide and that we’re going to stand firm and, hopefully, allow this administration to change course before the November election.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask Congressman Ro Khanna, who’s with us, as well — you’ve said that, for example, that President Trump is too dangerous to not support President — I mean, former President Trump is too dangerous to not support President Biden. Your response to those Democrats who cannot in good conscience vote for President Biden, at least in this primary?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, first of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Representative Aiyash, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in Michigan. I do believe the administration needs to change course in foreign policy in the Middle East in order to gain the trust of people who we have lost. You can’t just meet with the Muslim American or Arab American community and then veto in the United Nations a resolution calling for a ceasefire and, by the way, an unconditional release of the hostages. This is the third time we have vetoed that. It is hurting our moral standing. It is hurting our commitment to human rights. And it is not giving confidence to people that you’re hearing them and changing course.

So, my hope is, in my meetings with Representative Aiyash and others, that we can come up with a strategy that helps change course in the Middle East so we get a permanent ceasefire, so we have a release of the hostages, so we get aid into Gaza, and we have more peace and justice in the region.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Representative Aiyash, I wanted to ask you about the meeting you had with Biden officials earlier this month in Dearborn. What did you get out of those talks?

REP. ABRAHAM AIYASH: We were firm in reiterating our points. We want to see an immediate, permanent ceasefire. We want to see humanitarian aid delivered to the people of Gaza through entities like UNRWA. And we want to see restrictions and conditions on the aid that is sent to Israel. You know, it is unfathomable that we just send a blank check with no conditions to a country that has violated human rights, that has violated international law over and over and over again.

And we reminded the administration that, one, they showed up 124 days into this conflict. They visited a state that happens to be the swing state. So, we are not seeing the level of support. We’re not seeing the level of concern that our communities have demonstrated for months. And we reiterated those messages once again.

And unfortunately, just four days after that meeting, we saw the Netanyahu regime did one of the worst attacks on the Rafah region, and the United States still did not put the type of pressure on that regime to stop these heinous acts.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Congressmember Khanna: Do you think the Biden administration made a mistake in vetoing yet another ceasefire resolution? And I want to go a little further. Right after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations issued that veto, President Biden was in Los Angeles at a fundraiser. He was attending a high-dollar fundraiser with the media mogul Haim Saban, well-known Democratic, pro-Israel billionaire. The dinner — the meeting was at, what, $3,300, to cost as much as $250,000. I’m looking at a piece now in Common Dreams. Your thoughts on this and on President Biden continually saying he’s putting enormous pressure privately on Netanyahu, yet their private acts continue to be against the kind of ceasefire that was put forward and vetoed at the United Nations?

REP. RO KHANNA: It was a mistake to veto the United Nations resolution. At the very least, we could have abstained. I mean, you have 15 countries on that Security Council. Thirteen of them are voting for a resolution for a permanent ceasefire and the release of all hostages, which is the sentiment not just in the world, it’s the sentiment about the majority of American people. And we are the lone “no” vote in the global community. It is hurting America’s standing in the world, especially an administration that is committed to multilateralism and rebuilding international institutions. What does this say about the credibility of the U.N. if we aren’t going to participate in those institutions?

The other issue is that I appreciate that there has been some movement in the administration because of many of us in Congress who have called for a permanent ceasefire, who have called for the humanitarian aid to Gaza. There has been movement in recognizing the value and dignity of Palestinian lives and the humanitarian concerns. But now we need action. There needs to be clear consequences to Netanyahu and his very far right-wing government. I mean, people in his government are way to the right of Donald Trump, and that is important to understand, people like Ben-Gvir. It needs to be clear to Bibi: He can’t go into Rafah. Our secretary of defense doesn’t want it. Our president doesn’t want it. Who is he to defy the United States of America and then expect us to continue to provide military aid to do that? So we need to be very, very clear of the consequences, and that is not what has happened so far.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Representative Aiyash, I wanted to ask you —— in December, you embarked on a hunger strike and joined a demonstration outside the White House to call for a ceasefire. Why is this issue so deeply personal to you?

REP. ABRAHAM AIYASH: Look, my chief of staff [inaudible] — her two aunts were one of the victims of the Nakba. And I remember her telling me the story where her father and his two sisters walked across the Jordan Valley, only for the two aunts to pass away from dehydration. You know, there is a real pain and a real history behind the dehumanization of the Palestinian people.

And we’ve seen people all across this country stand up and say our country should not be looking by while all these innocent men, women and children are suffering at the hands of a right-wing regime that, Congressman Khanna mentioned, that we are funding. You know, if you look at the facts, a majority of Americans — 80% of Democrats support a ceasefire. Over 60% of Americans support a ceasefire. Yet we see a majority of Congress and this White House just seem to ignore the will of the American people. You know, that is just a uniquely un-American concept, when you have folks for months who have protested, folks for months who have stood up and said, “We demand that our country lead with moral conviction and say that no innocent man, woman and child should be murdered at the hands of U.S. weaponry,” and our leaders just seem to ignore it.

And I’m grateful for leaders like Congressman Khanna, who has stood firmly in supporting human rights, who stood firmly in saying that Palestinians deserve just as much dignity as the Ukrainians, as the Israelis, as anyone in this world. But to see our leaders continue to ignore the will of the American people is extremely disheartening. And, you know, that is why this issue is so important for so many people across this country, because it is a reminder that we are going to continue to fight for our democracy and continue to fight for democratic values and ideals, and it is through things like voting “uncommitted” and continuing to organize and protest for peace all across the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Khanna, you said there needs to be consequences to affect Israeli policy. Do you think that the U.S. should cut off military aid to Israel, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, for what they’re doing in Gaza right now? And if you can talk about the big meeting you’re going to have tomorrow evening with Rashida Tlaib, the “Take Back Our Power” campaign, Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of the U.S. Congress?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, I voted “no” on the blank check, $17 million of unrestricted money to Israel, just a week or two ago. And I certainly don’t think we should be giving them more of the precision missiles, which would go to attack people in Rafah. I don’t see how we can bypass Congress, which has been happening, to provide offensive military weapons to undertake strikes that our own government is saying should not happen.

Let me just say this: I’m really looking forward, first, to meeting people like Representative Aiyash and other Arab American, Muslim American leaders. He is not just a representative. He is the leader in the Michigan House. He’s going to be a future governor, a future senator, a future member of Congress. And this is the point. The coalition of the modern Democratic Party is not the coalition of 1972. It is a coalition that includes young people, progressives, Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, young folks. The AME Black church has come out for a ceasefire. And we better wake up to that fact, because the future of the Democratic Party is going to demand justice for two states, a Palestinian state living side by side with the Israeli state, and is going to demand concrete actions for a ceasefire and recognizing the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis. The conversation with Rashida Tlaib is one about electricity and power and justice on that, though I’m sure other topics will come up at that town hall.


Colonialism, Occupation & Apartheid: African Countries See “Shared Experiences” with Palestinians
by Amy Goodman
February 21, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/21/ ... transcript

Leaders at this year’s African Union summit have condemned Israel’s assault on Gaza and called for its immediate end. Kenyan writer and political analyst Nanjala Nyabola explains the long history of African solidarity with Palestine, continuing with today’s efforts to end the destruction of Gaza. African countries “see really an identical experience between Palestinian occupation and what they have endured under colonization,” says Nyabola. “It’s a question of history. It’s a question of solidarity. It’s a question of shared experiences of all of these systemic types of violence.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Leaders at this year’s African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have condemned Israel’s assault on Gaza and called for its immediate end. The chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, on Saturday said Israel’s offensive was the, quote, “most flagrant” violation of international humanitarian law, and accused Israel of having, quote, “exterminated” Gaza’s residents. Meanwhile, Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros and the outgoing chairperson of the African Union, praised the case brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice, where the court ruled there’s a plausible case that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. During last year’s AU Summit, an Israeli delegate was removed from the plenary hall amidst a disagreement over Israel’s observer status at the African Union.

For more, we’re joined by Nanjala Nyabola, a writer and political analyst from Kenya, joining us from London.

Thank you so much for being with us, Nanjala. If you can start off on Gaza, this meeting this past weekend in Ethiopia, where you even had Lula, the president of Brazil, coming to address the group and saying that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, whereupon Israel’s prime minister said that Lula is persona non grata in Israel? But talk about the significance of the meeting on Gaza, and then we’ll move on to other issues.

NANJALA NYABOLA: Sure. Thank you for having me, Amy.

I think it’s important to understand that the African Union, as a bloc, has been a consistent supporter of Palestinian rights since 1972, and arguably since 1948. Many of African nations see similarities between, and they see really an identical experience between, Palestinian occupation and what they have endured under colonization, and so there’s a lot of empathy there, and there’s a lot of resonance there.

It’s important, though, to distinguish the position of the African Union from the position of individual member states. So, while the union itself has been consistent and has always held the line that Palestinian independence was an integral part of the African Union’s foundational documents and foundational position in international relations, various African nations — because there is no impetus from the African Union for there to be always a single position within each country, various African nations do have different relationships with both Israel and Palestine. So, for example, while every single country in Africa except one recognizes the state of Palestine, the recognition of the state of Israel has varied. There was a time after that 1972 war where African nations wholesale declared that they would not recognize the state of Israel, but that has changed considerably.

Similarly, in relation to the African Union itself, Palestine has had — the Palestinian territories have had observer status at the African Union since 2013. And so, you mentioned how the Israeli representative to the African Union was asked to leave the meeting of the African Union in 2022. This is really because there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about whether or not the African Union, as a body, should recognize Israel as an observer. Observers do not get to vote, obviously, on various issues that are before the African Union, but they do get to participate in meetings, and they do get to contribute to conversations in some ways. And so it is an important thing to be an observer at the African Union, and Israel has made significant diplomat inroads in this regard. But the position of the African Union as a — which is the head of states — the meeting of the heads of states, is the most senior decision-making entity within the African Union, as opposed to the commission, which oversees the day-to-day running of the organization. The position of the African Union heads of states has always been that Israel did not have that observer status. And this was the back-and-forth that the commission had taken an action that the union itself had not endorsed. And this is why the Israeli representative was asked to leave.

This remains a position of contention. And the increase of the violence in Gaza has only made it clear that the African Union is going to remain with the historical position, which is recognition of the Palestinian territories and a demand that there’s adherence to international law on the issue of Palestine, and that includes the occupation, predates October 7th, goes all the way back to every single U.N. resolution that has been passed on the issue to date. That’s the official African Union position. And what we’ve seen in this last week is a reinforcement of that position, a reification of that position.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nanjala Nyabola, you’ve spoken in the past about Namibia, which, before Palestine, was the last country where international law on occupation was tested. South Africa occupied Namibia until 1994. What were the lessons here? And how did they shape the knowledge of the terrain of occupation and its impact on people being occupied?

NANJALA NYABOLA: Well, it’s really been one of the most interesting developments in international relations in relation to Gaza, is that we are finally seeing this recollection of the fact that African connection with Palestine is not a new thing, and there’s been a long history of solidarity and support for liberation movements, particularly the ANC in South Africa and SWAPO in Namibia.

So, as you mentioned, Namibia was an occupied territory, was occupied by the apartheid government of South Africa until 1994. And SWAPO and the ANC both worked together to end that occupation, but also collaborated with the Palestinian Liberation Authority, Palestinian Liberation Organization, to try and coordinate, whether it was a political support at the international level, which was a crucial element of ending that, but also through the trusteeship mechanism — Namibia was under the U.N. trusteeship commission — through the trusteeship mechanism, trying to find ways of negotiating independence for Namibia and protecting Namibia from further South African incursion.

The South African apartheid government’s relationship with its neighbors was always fraught. There were frequent bombing campaigns that happened in Botswana. There was fighting in Mozambique and in Namibia. And so there was always this tension between the apartheid government and governments in the region. And so, Palestine, in that regard, becomes a natural ally, because that experience of occupation is very similar.

And so, when we saw at the ICJ this week the Palestinian submission to the ICJ, there was this recollection of the fact that SWAPO and ANC have always been allies of Palestinian liberation. And what we’re seeing with this Palestinian reinforcement of international law is not a new occurrence. It’s something that South Africa and Namibia both learned keenly through the process of fighting for independence and the end of apartheid. And they would like to see it replicated in the way the Palestinian issue is handled at the international level. And that is, once again, this is what — stick to the letter of the law, because this law exists for a reason, and this law came through for Namibia. Can it provide the same protection for Palestinian people?

AMY GOODMAN: Very interesting that at the International Court of Justice yesterday, in this six-day hearing that’s taking place, where more than a quarter of the U.N.'s countries — it's the largest gathering ever — will be speaking against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Namibia spoke. Of course, South Africa, which has brought this other case around the genocide case against Israel. And also you have the U.S. vetoing the U.N. Security Council resolution yesterday for a ceasefire, that was brought by Algeria, a country that was occupied by France by more than a century. Nanjala, if you could address that, and then move on to the DRC and the issues raised there around the warring that’s going on in eastern Congo, and particularly around Rwanda’s role with the M23?

NANJALA NYABOLA: So, one of the important things to remember is that diplomatically, at the international level, African countries are the most cohesive voting bloc, certainly at the United Nations, but in other international forums. And this is because, again, as I mentioned, the African Union mechanisms for deliberation are actually incredibly strong. When there is an African line on an issue, there’s a lot of negotiation that precedes that. But countries tend to vote by the line, and there tends to be very much a consistent diplomatic front. And this is one reason why Israel, for example, has tried very hard to make inroads with the diplomatic community in Africa, because on all of the votes that have come down the General Assembly that have consistently criticized Israel, even on the Security Council, anything that’s managed to get through that has criticized Israel, African countries have consistently voted in favor of these resolutions. And so, there is actually this bigger issue of numbers. You know, we tend to think about power and international relations in terms of military strength and in terms of financial strength. But what Africa has at the international level is just sheer numbers. We’re talking about 54 countries that have a very interconnected view of history and tend to work together and cooperate together and bring those numbers together for all of these international votes.

And so, Algeria is a big country on the continent, even though it might not seem that way externally. But Algeria has been one of the most consistent defenders of Palestinian liberation on the continent, came out very strongly against Israeli diplomatic presence at the AU, came out very strongly in favor of Palestinian independence and supporting the Palestinian liberation organizations. And so it’s not a surprise to see that Algeria at the Security Council would take this very strong position, because it is very consistent with Algerian diplomatic history. And as you said, it is because Algeria has endured several decades of French occupation, that culminated in one of the most violent wars of independence that we’ve really ever seen globally. And, you know, France is still in the process of trying to make reparations for this, because, for Algerians, it remains a very sore spot in history, and it remains to be a very fraught question between Franco-Algerian relationships.

So I’m not surprised to see Algeria bring this resolution forward, just like, you know, as you’ve probably heard from American analysts, you know, it was not a surprise, the U.N. vote, even though it was a disappointment that the U.S. voted in the way that it did. And I think we’re going to expect to see a lot more coordinated action being led by nations like Algeria, South Africa. All of these countries that have historically supported Palestinian liberation in Africa will continue to toe this line, because it is not just a question of — it’s a question of history, it’s a question of solidarity, it’s a question of shared experiences of all of these systemic types of violence.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nanjala, we only have less than a minute left, but I wanted to ask you about all of the heightened anti-colonial sentiment that has swept across central Africa, in the Sahel region, with numerous coups in the region in recent years. How has this affected the dynamics at the AU?

NANJALA NYABOLA: It’s definitely complicated things. And there’s probably three things that I would point out. One is that this is not happening in a vacuum. We are also feeling the secondary effects of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. The Sahel region has historically attracted a great deal of attention because it has been the crossroads of trade between Africa and Europe, but it’s also been, in contemporary history, the main pathway through which migrants, from as far afield as Bangladesh, but also from the continent, cross the Mediterranean to get into southern Europe. So, in terms of international diplomacy, it’s attracted a great deal of attention from Europe. There’s a great deal of financing for migration management. There’s a great deal of financing for ending wars that have happened in the region.

At the same time, you have this young generation. Remember that Africa is the youngest continent in the world. You have this young generation. Many of these coup leaders are incredibly young.

AMY GOODMAN: Nanjala, we’re going to have to wrap there, but we’re going to continue and post online at democracynow.org. Nanjala Nyabola, speaking to us from London. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Tue Mar 05, 2024 5:00 am

As 2-Month-Old Starves to Death in Gaza, Mosab Abu Toha Says His Own Family Is Eating Animal Feed
by Amy Goodman
February 26, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/26/ ... transcript

A famine is unfolding in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have resorted to consuming animal feed amid soaring prices and dwindling supplies of food. The United Nations has already begun reporting deaths from starvation and malnutrition, while aid agencies have been forced to pause deliveries. “Israel is not allowing food into the northern part of Gaza so people would regret not having left,” says Palestinian writer Mosab Abu Toha, who fled Gaza for Cairo in November and has been attempting since then to secure safe passage for his extended family members, including his sister-in-law who has just given birth. He writes about his experiences in a New Yorker piece, “My Family’s Daily Struggle to Find Food in Gaza.” Abu Toha urges international actors to take action and end Israel’s siege of Gaza. “They are killing us every day,” he says. “Where is the mind of the people in the world? How could you let this happen?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We begin today’s show with Israel’s war on Gaza, where a famine is unfolding. The United Nations said today the great majority of some 400,000 Gazans who are at risk of starving are, quote, “actually in famine,” not just at risk of famine. The U.N. World Food Programme says the flow of aid into Gaza from Egypt and the distribution of food that does get through has slowed in the past two weeks.

This comes as the Shehab news agency reports a 2-month-old Palestinian boy named Mahmoud Fattouh died from starvation Friday in northern Gaza, just days after the United Nations warned of an explosion in child deaths due to the lack of food and water.

This is a displaced Palestinian mother sheltering at a school in the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza.

PALESTINIAN MOTHER: [translated] My son is 1 year old. He’s asking for bread, for baby bottle milk. He’s going after me everywhere, asking for a bottle. What would I feed him? There is no milk. There is no bread. There is nothing. There is no food. What will I feed him?

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, in central Gaza, there are two young siblings from Gaza City who are now living in a tent camp near Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. They describe being forced to eat animal feed.

SERAJ SHEHADA: [translated] When we were in Gaza City, we used to eat nothing. We would eat every two days.

SAAD SHEHADA: [translated] My mother, brother and aunts were martyred. We are the only ones left, my father and my two brothers. Due to hunger and poverty, we secretly came to Deir al-Balah. We did not tell our father. After we came here, our grandmother called and started shouting at us. … We used to eat bird food. It was bitter. We did not want to eat it. We used to do so forcibly. We used to have a small loaf every two days. We did not like it, as it was bitter. … We did not have clean water. We used to drink saltwater, and we got sick. We did not have water to wash nor clothes to wear. Where could we have gotten those? We came here.

AMY GOODMAN: The boys are 11 and 9 years old.

This comes as U.N. chief António Guterres warned Monday against a full-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah, where well over a million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge, saying it would deliver, quote, “the final nail in the coffin,” unquote, for aid programs in Gaza, where humanitarian assistance remains, quote, “completely insufficient.”

For more, we go to Cairo, Egypt, where we’re joined by Mosab Abu Toha, a Palestinian poet, teacher, author and founder of the Edward Said Library in Gaza. His new piece for The New Yorker magazine is headlined, “My Family’s Daily Struggle to Find Food in Gaza.” In it, he writes about a message that his brother Hamza posted on social media earlier this month, which included a picture of what he was eating that day: in his words, quote, “a ragged brown morsel, seared black on one side and flecked with grainy bits.” He translates his brother’s Arabic caption, quote, “This is the wondrous thing we call 'bread' — a mixture of rabbit, donkey, and pigeon feed. There is nothing good about it except that it fills our bellies. It is impossible to stuff it with other foods, or even break it except by biting down hard with one’s teeth.”

Mosab Abu Toha, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you can start by responding to what you heard — you got out of Gaza with your children — when you heard that a 2-month-old boy starved to death on Friday in Gaza?

MOSAB ABU TOHA: Well, in fact, this is very scary, because most of the population in Gaza are children. And all my cousins and most of my nephews and nieces are younger than 10. So, none of them would survive if they didn’t have any good food or clean water for days.

Yesterday, I got a video from my brother Hamza showing that my mother and my in-law were digging through the rubble looking for some food, but all they could find were some books that were in my home. So, people are returning to their bombed houses, which is not a safe place to search for food, looking for some food that they used to have in their houses. And the news about the death of some children is really scary, because, as I mentioned, most of the people in Gaza are children.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk more about your brother’s family and what he’s facing right now, and how you’re dealing with this, with your boys and your wife in Cairo.

MOSAB ABU TOHA: Well, one startling thing is that my 8-year-old boy, whenever we sit to eat or whenever we get a phone call or whenever we try to call our family in Gaza, the first thing my son asks is, “Does my family in Gaza have food? Are they eating?” So, he doesn’t think about anything that has to do with the war itself. He doesn’t say that, “Are they in a safe place? Is there no bombing anymore, God willing?” No, he asks about food, because he knows what it means to have little food when we were living in Gaza, before we left in December. So, every time he hears us talking to our family in Gaza, he would ask, “Does my grandfather have food? Does my grandmother?” Then he starts to mention his cousins’ names. “Is Mustafa, is he eating? Is Nahida eating?” So he starts to mention them by name.

And for me, I feel really, really depressed whenever I go out in the street and find food. So, two days ago, I went and I bought two loaves of bread for about less than a dollar. If I’m taking this, these two loaves of bread, to Gaza right now, I would make a fortune. I would sell them for about maybe $50 — I’m serious — because one — so, yeah, this is very recent news. One sack of bread, which weighs 25 kilograms, is sold for $1,500, because there is no wheat flour. This is yesterday. And now I think the government in Gaza — though there is no government, but some people who worked with the government — are threatening people who are selling these things for very, very staggering prices.

AMY GOODMAN: Has your sister-in-law given birth yet?

MOSAB ABU TOHA: Yes, she gave birth to a boy. His name is Ali. And now the boy is 10 days old. And my brother could find something like a gift for his wife. He could find a few pieces of beef and a few grains of rice for $100. So, this wouldn’t even be enough for his wife, who gave birth just 10 days ago. So, although it’s a very expensive thing, he could find these things after a week of search.

AMY GOODMAN: The last time UNRWA was able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza was January 23rd. Since then, together with other U.N. agencies — this is a tweet from Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA. He said, “The last time we have warned against” — it says, “Since then, together with other UN agencies, we have warned against looming famine, appealed for regular humanitarian access, stated that famine can be averted if more food convoys are allowed into northern Gaza on a regular basis. Our calls to send food aid have been denied & have fallen on deaf ears. This is a man made disaster. The world committed to never let famine happen again. Famine can still be avoided, through genuine political will to grant access & protection to meaningful assistance. The days to come will once again test our common humanity and values.” Again, a post on social media by Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, coming as the World Food Programme has also paused its aid delivery to northern Gaza, and, of course, UNRWA under siege. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long tried to get rid of the U.N. agency. And now nearly 20 countries have defunded it, including the country that gave UNRWA the most money, the United States. Mosab Abu Toha, your response?

MOSAB ABU TOHA: Well, I would like the whole world to listen to this. Now Israel is not allowing food into the northern part of Gaza so people would regret not having left it, as Israel was encouraging people to — or, ordering people to leave. And now people are thinking, “OK, if we leave the northern part of Gaza, would it be safe to be in the south?” So, because the first few days and few weeks Israel was telling people and ordering people, “OK, you are safe now. You can take the Salah al-Din Street or the C Street and go to the south, because this would be a safe place for you,” and many, many people left, including me. And I was kidnapped on the way. But many people left, and now they are crowded in Rafah in tents. I have one brother who’s a bodybuilder and weightlifter. He’s a champion. He was a champion in Gaza. And he wrote me yesterday. He said, “Brother, I haven’t left my tent for a week. I’m depressed. I’m about to die.” So, he’s in Rafah, and he’s depressed. And he thinks that he’s going to die very soon. This is one thing.

And the other thing: How many food trucks have been halted from getting into Israel? How many weapons trucks, how many weapon, arms shipments were halted from getting into Israel? Why could Israel stop food trucks from getting in to civilians, when we know that most of these civilians are children, while all the people in the world could not stop the shipping of weapons, destructive weapons, into Israel? I’m not talking here about stopping food trucks from going into Israel, but I’m talking here about weapons. I mean, where is the mind of the people in the world? How could you allow this to happen? You are funding Israel with more weapons and more food, of course. But you are not — we are not asking people to allow weapon trucks into Gaza. I mean, we are not asking for this, because we don’t want this to continue. What we are asking for is that people in Gaza have food and have medicine. And we need to lift the siege on Gaza, because this siege, which has now intensified, did not start today. Gaza has been under siege since 2007. And now we are in the bleakest stages of this siege. Gaza is not only now under siege, but it’s under genocide. So, this is very scary. And I hope the world will not continue to watch and just show us that they are helpless in the face of Israel. And if you can’t get food into Gaza, can you please stop the shipping of weapons into Israel? Because they are killing us every day.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the International Court of Justice, which has just concluded its six-day hearing on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. This is Ralph Wilde, a representative of the League of Arab States.

RALPH WILDE: The occupation must end. Israel must renounce its claim to sovereignty over the Palestinian territory. All settlers must be removed immediately. This is required to end the illegality, to discharge the positive obligation to enable immediate Palestinian self-administration, and because Israel lacks any legal entitlement to exercise authority.

Second, in the absence of the occupation ending, necessarily, everything Israel does in the Palestinian territory lacks a valid international legal basis and is, therefore, subject to the Namibia exception, invalid, not only those things violating the law regulating the conduct of the occupation. Those norms entitle and require Israel to do certain things. But this doesn’t alter the more fundamental position from the law on the use of force and self-determination that Israel lacks any valid authority to do anything. And whatever it does is illegal, even if complying with or pursuant to the conduct regulatory rules.

I will close by quoting Palestinian academic and poet Refaat Alareer from his final poem, posted 36 days before he was killed by Israel in Gaza on the 6th of December, 2023. “If I must die, you must live to tell my story.”

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ralph Wilde, a representative of the League of Arab States, quoting the late Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer. Mosab Abu Toha, you were a close friend of Refaat. Can you respond to what he said?

MOSAB ABU TOHA: Well, I’m still wondering how Israel could be still a member of the United Nations when we know that it is occupying Palestinian land. I mean, this is, I think, one condition through which Israel joined the United Nations, I think, in the early 1950s, was to stand by, you know, the borders that were set after the partition plan. But now Israel occupies more than 90% of the Palestinian land.

I think what Refaat is asking is how the world is — you know, is unable to control a state that they continue to fund. I mean, they can’t control it, but they continue to fund it. And they continue to cut the funds to the United Nations organization that is trying to support the Palestinian people, not during this genocide, but UNRWA has been supporting people, and I was educated in their schools, and I went to their clinics and got medications for free. And now they are cutting their funding during the most critical time of our lives in Gaza, and also in other parts of the world. So, this really drives me insane, because the world is pretending to be unable to do anything, but they do the opposite: They continue to fund Israel. They send it weapons. They send Israel more fruit and more vegetables and more wheat flour and more gas, but they say, “OK, we can’t stop Israel from killing the children.” And, I mean, I hope that someone — someone — someone would come to explain this to me one time.

And also, one last point before I end with my answer, is that: How many officials from the world came to Gaza to meet with the real people there? If they are saying that Gaza is all Hamas, can you please come to Gaza and meet my mother, my brother, my sibling, Ali, who is now 10 days old? Can you come and meet them and listen to them, what they’re asking for? But it was easy for them to go to Israel and meet with the monsters there who are waging the war and who are inciting to kill more and more people. But they never came to Gaza. I think there is one reason for that: because Gaza does not have an airport. So it was easy for them to fly and land in the land of Israel, because they have an airport. But maybe one reason they couldn’t come to Gaza is that Gaza does not have an airport. I mean, I could try to understand that.

AMY GOODMAN: Mosab Abu Toha, we want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian poet, author, teacher, founder of the Edward Said Library in Gaza. We will link to your new piece in The New Yorker magazine, headlined “My Family’s Daily Struggle to Find Food in Gaza.” His award-winning book is titled Things You Mays Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza.


Gaza Ceasefire Could Save 75,000 from Death: Report from London School of Hygiene & Johns Hopkins
by Amy Goodman
February 26, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/26/ ... transcript

A new report on Gaza’s escalating health crisis projects that due to the extent of destruction wrought upon the region’s infrastructure since October, thousands of Palestinians will continue to die from disease, malnutrition, dehydration and starvation, regardless of whether Israel continues to pursue its military assault. “In case of an escalation, we’d see around 85,000 deaths,” warns Zeina Jamaluddine, a nutritionist and epidemiologist who is one of the lead authors of “Crisis in Gaza: Scenario-Based Health Impact Projections” from the London School of Hygiene and Johns Hopkins University. Jamaluddine also says it is not too late to stop the bulk of these forecasted deaths, should a ceasefire be immediately put into place and aid deliveries resumed. “In case of a ceasefire now, we would be saving around 75,000 lives.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to damning new projections about the health crisis unfolding in Gaza. In a minute, we’ll be joined by one of the lead authors of a joint report from the London School of Hygiene and Johns Hopkins University which found, quote, “even in the best-case ceasefire scenario, thousands of excess deaths would continue to occur, mainly due to the time it would take to improve water, sanitation and shelter conditions, reduce malnutrition, and restore functioning healthcare services in Gaza,” unquote.

In an interview with CNN last week, the regional emergency director of the World Health Organization, Dr. Richard Brennan, was asked about the report’s projections.

DR. RICHARD BRENNAN: This study is absolutely striking. I don’t know how many wake-up calls we need to alert us to the dire, absolutely dire, and desperate situation on the ground. We have already lost 29,000 people from traumatic injuries. We already have over 70,000 others that have survived injuries, with some terrible injuries. I was in Gaza last week. You can’t imagine the deformities, the limb losses of young children, young adolescents, young adults, who are going to be left with these disabilities for years to come. We don’t know how many people have died because they didn’t get access to their blood pressure medicines or their diabetic treatment and so on. But we know — we suspect that thousands more have died unnecessarily because of lack of access to healthcare.

And now you have these two reputable institutions. I know the two study leaders. No one is better placed to do these kind of estimates than these two institutions. And now we’re saying if things continue, if we see this escalation, if we see this military operation into Rafah, we’re going to be looking at an extra 80-odd thousand deaths in six months’ time. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the World Health Organization’s regional emergency director, Dr. Richard Brennan.

For more, we’re joined in London by Zeina Jamaluddine. She’s a nutritionist, an epidemiologist, one of the lead authors of this new joint report from the London School of Hygiene and Johns Hopkins titled “Crisis in Gaza: Scenario-Based Health Impact Projections.” She’s a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Zeina, welcome to Democracy Now! Thanks so much for joining us. Just lay out your findings.


So, as that was just mentioned, in fact, we have attempted to actually project what would be the excess mortality in different scenarios in Gaza. In fact, we know that there is the direct effect of the war, but, however, we also wanted to understand what is the indirect effect of the war on infectious diseases, for example, mortality, from COVID-19, increased excess mortality from maternal and newborn healthcare because they’re not able to access health services, increased mortality due to the chronic diseases for specifically Type 1 diabetic patients, people with chronic kidney diseases, and how much excess mortality would happen due to this. We also modeled the impact of acute malnutrition, which is what was just mentioned right now in terms of how much wasting or thin children would increase as an underlying factor to all of this excess death.

So, with this attempt, we actually find that in case of a ceasefire, around 6,000 to 11,000 lives would actually be dead, and would have an excess death in the case of a ceasefire of around 11,000 deaths. In case of an escalation, we’d see around 85,000 deaths, which is currently what’s happening in Rafah, in the next six months. But also, what’s important to point out is, in case of a ceasefire now, we would be saving around 75,000 lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to this latest news of the 2-month-old baby boy, the Palestinian child, who died on Friday of starvation?

ZEINA JAMALUDDINE: Yes, of course. So, basically, before the war, we know that in terms of wasting, which means the thin children, the prevalence or the level in Gaza was around 3%. The majority of the population in Gaza was heavily reliant on food assistance. This was 77% of the population relied on assistance coming in. With the current food trucks being very limited coming into Gaza, we actually modeled the decrease in the food availability currently in Gaza, the decrease in agricultural land available in Gaza, but also the decrease in the food trucks coming into Gaza, to actually understand what is the caloric intake that is happening currently, to understand the increase in malnutrition or wasting.

What we project, in fact, is that, to date, we see a prevalence of around 12% of children under 5 that are wasting. We would also project that in next few months, in the case of an escalation, this would reach to 26%, which is classified as catastrophic. In the next six months, the prevalence would reach 50%. So, basically, responding to what you’re saying, we’re actually currently starting to see the critical phase of acute malnutrition being portrayed.

AMY GOODMAN: What would solve this, Zeina?

ZEINA JAMALUDDINE: A ceasefire, first of all. A significant increase in food access, whether it’s also through airdrops and through, basically, allowing all the food trucks and also medical aid to come in, without any restrictions.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about how casualties are prefaced, especially in the Western media. Your piece for The Lancet in November is titled “Excess mortality in Gaza: Oct 7-26, 2023.” So many news media in the West preface casualty figures by saying, quote, “According to the Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas,” which has led so many to question the veracity of the figures. What did you find?

ZEINA JAMALUDDINE: So, when the Ministry of Health has released the first listing of people who were killed during October, we, as epidemiologists, took this data and actually analyzed to understand what is happening in terms of duplication and the accuracy of the data. We have analyzed it as London School separately, but also Hopkins University has analyzed it. And we both find that there is no reason to actually doubt the accuracy of this data. There’s another aspect of it all to say that in previous war, the Ministry of Health data has been validated, basically, from different independent sources. At the same time, this is the same system that the Ministry of Health has used previously for COVID-19 reporting or other mortality estimation and reporting. So, it’s important to note that this didn’t start at the beginning of the war of reporting mortality, and so they relied on this system. But we did assess the accuracy, and we find no reason to doubt these data sets or the numbers reported by the Ministry of Health.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Zeina Jamaluddine, we want to thank you so much for being with us, nutritionist and epidemiologist, one of the lead authors of the new joint report from the London School of Hygiene and Johns Hopkins titled “Crisis in Gaza: Scenario-Based Health Impact Projections.” She’s a research fellow at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We’ll link to that report.


U.S. Anti-Terrorism Laws Are “Anti-Palestinian at the Core,” Chill First Amendment
by Amy Goodman
February 26, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/26/ ... transcript

As Israel continues to massacre Palestinians in Gaza with U.S. military and political support, Palestinians in the United States are increasingly being targeted by anti-terrorism laws in an attempt to silence their pro-Palestine activism. “Anti-Palestinian animus is one of the most enduring areas of bipartisan appeal in Washington,” says Darryl Li, an anthropologist and lawyer teaching at the University of Chicago. Li shares the history of U.S. anti-terrorism law, which dates back to the 1990s and the Anti-Defamation League-supported passage of a law banning “material support” to U.S.-designated “terror” groups. “The very foundations of terrorism law in the United States, at key moments of their development, were crafted with the agenda of opposing or crushing Palestinian liberation in mind,” he says. We also speak with Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal, an organization that provides legal assistance to people who have been targeted by and face prosecution under these laws, which not only have a “huge chilling effect on people, on First Amendment rights,” but that also provide “cover for this genocide.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We look now at how Palestinians are being increasingly targeted by U.S. anti-terrorism laws amidst ongoing efforts to conflate pro-Palestinian activism with so-called terrorism. The Anti-Defamation League, the ADL, has called on university presidents to investigate Students for Justice in Palestine, known as SJP, chapters for, quote, “material support for terrorism.” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has even compared SJP to the Hitler Youth.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. And the SJP and these kids who are pushing it are like the Hitler Youth. Sorry, I know people don’t like it when I say that, but it’s true. And what Shai said before is spot-on.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, several American universities have suspended or banned Students for Justice in Palestine. In an interview in January with CNN’s Dana Bash, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed, without evidence, some protesters demanding a ceasefire in Gaza are connected to Russia, and urged the FBI to investigate them.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message. Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake: This is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It’s about Putin’s message. I think some of these — some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia. And I say that having looked at this for a long time now, as you know.

DANA BASH: You think some of these protests are Russian plants?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I wouldn’t say they’re plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.

AMY GOODMAN: She later would say, when people were protesting in San Francisco, “Go back to China.”

For more, we’re joined by two guests who have been following all of this closely. Darryl Li is an anthropologist and lawyer teaching at University of Chicago. He’s the author of the new briefing paper, “Anti-Palestinian at the Core: The Origins and Growing Dangers of U.S. Antiterrorism Law,” jointly published with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal. And we’re joined by Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Darryl Li, let’s start with you. Talk about what you found.

DARRYL LI: Good morning, Amy. It’s good to be with you.

Well, I think many viewers of Democracy Now! are probably familiar with the way that Palestinians have been slandered and stereotyped as terrorists for a long time. What this report does is it reaches back and connects the dots of a longer history, going back almost 50 years, showing how the very foundations of terrorism law in the United States, at key moments of their development, were crafted with the agenda of opposing or crushing Palestinian liberation in mind.

The first time the word “terrorism” even shows up in federal law is in a 1969 statute, and it’s, unfortunately, very relevant today. This statute restricts U.S. aid to UNRWA, the U.N. body that provides humanitarian aid to refugees, and it uses the word “terrorism” essentially as a synonym for Palestinian resistance. And one of the chief sponsors of this legislation, Congressman Leonard Farbstein from New York, made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives where he peddled the stereotype of UNRWA schools and Palestinian refugee camps, essentially, as hotbeds of terrorism that are brainwashing the sort of next generation of terrorists. So, in light of today’s campaigns to defund UNRWA and to deprive Palestinians of humanitarian aid, we can see that this is part of a much, much longer campaign that extends in many different directions.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who is pushing these laws and what their agenda is, Darryl Li?

DARRYL LI: Yes. One of the other key aspects of the story is the role of organizations like the Anti-Defamation League in pushing for this legislation over time. And again, this is relevant for one of the clips that you just played, the clip of Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, accusing student activists, SJP of terrorism support — of being terrorism supporters. There’s a bit of a coming-full-circle moment here, because the ADL was actually one of the organizations that lobbied very heavily for the passage of this law that criminalizes so-called material support to terrorist organizations. The material support statute is actually the most commonly used charge in federal terrorism cases. And the reason why it’s prosecutors’ favorite tool is because it is incredibly broad. It criminalizes ordinary activity that would usually be covered and protected by the First Amendment. So it’s a very, very convenient weapon. And it was passed in the 1990s as the result of a long-running campaign by the ADL and other groups to essentially crack down on Palestinian community organizing and Palestinian solidarity organizing in the United States.

And what they did, actually, was they exploited the outrage following the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. Now, many people will recall, of course, that the people who carried out that bombing were U.S. citizens, essentially right-wing white nationalist militia members. But the law that was passed as a result of the Oklahoma City bombing included — it was mostly a sort of get-tough-on-crime, crack-down-on-immigration bill that included the material support law that was proposed by the ADL as part of a larger package of measures that were all about, essentially, targeting Palestinian liberation movements.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Dima Khalidi, head of Palestine Legal, let’s be clear: It’s not only Students for Justice in Palestine that have been banned on some campuses, but also Jewish Voice for Peace.

DIMA KHALIDI: That’s right, Amy. We’ve seen over the last several months multiple efforts to shut down student activism. And that is a direct result of efforts by groups like the ADL, but also by statements by President Biden himself that have said that he will — he is mobilizing federal law enforcement to surveil campus activism. And these threats of surveillance, that Pelosi herself made, as well, are serious, and they reflect what we are saying in this report is a fundamentally anti-Palestinian agenda.

When the U.S. government, instead of stopping military aid to Israel to stop this genocide, is stopping funding for UNRWA, that is a lifeline for Gazans, this is the result of decades of anti-Palestinian rhetoric that has allowed these laws to develop, and that is, ultimately, in this moment when people are mobilizing to stop this genocide, a cover for the genocide. It is a justification for the dehumanization of Palestinians and their allies, to tar them with criminal or discriminatory intent. And that’s the intention of this report, is to really expose this anti-Palestinian agenda that is driving efforts to really expand these laws to target First Amendment activity that is trying to mobilize people for justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Palestine Legal has received multiple reports of the FBI harassing Palestine advocates for their social media posts. Can you describe some examples, Dima?

DIMA KHALIDI: Well, we and other legal organizations that are supporting people who are facing increasing repression are getting multiple reports of people being visited by the FBI, often because of social media posts that they make, because of their activism on the streets. And people have even been visited by ICE, immigration enforcement agencies. And this is a direct result, again, of this rhetoric, of this increase in surveillance resources to law enforcement agencies. And as we know from the post-9/11 era, the impact on our communities is enormous. It has a huge chilling effect on people, on First Amendment rights. But it also is a signal of an erosion of a whole host of constitutional rights when law enforcement is mobilized in this way, as we saw in the 1960s with COINTELPRO, as we saw in the post-9/11 era.

So, this is just the beginning, we think, of what is a massive mobilization of state resources against this movement. And this is why we’re publishing this report now, to really encourage lawmakers to protect First Amendment rights, to roll back these laws, which are only shielding Israel from accountability and scrutiny and undermining fundamental First Amendment rights for everybody.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the anti-Palestinian bills that are in front of Congress, one of them that would possibly radically expand deportations of Palestinians at this time, Dima?

DIMA KHALIDI: Yeah, we’re seeing legislatures around the country, not just Congress, but state legislatures, threatening, presenting bills that are trying to justify an erosion of constitutional rights and First Amendment rights by noting terrorism, supposed terrorism, threats, right? And certainly after October 7th, we saw an increase in these kinds of bills — one that wanted to deport all Palestinians. And we see this rhetoric from our elected officials, as well.

So, we are very clear that the reason that this is allowed to happen is because this anti-Palestinian sentiment has been cemented not only into U.S. law, but into the minds of people. And that’s why these kinds of bills are proposed with hardly anyone blinking an eye, while Palestinians are being obliterated in Gaza as we speak. So, this is a very concerning moment and one where we must all stand up and recognize that our laws have been built and are being used and exploited to further Israel’s own agenda and, you know, the United States’ complicity in what Israel is doing right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Darryl Li, can you talk about what most surprised you, in this last minute we have, in doing the research for this report?

DARRYL LI: Yes, well, I think one of the surprising episodes is the one that I referred to earlier about the way that the material support law was passed after the Oklahoma City bombing. Essentially, what happened was that the Clinton administration proposed a sort of general anti-terrorism law that included the things that the ADL wanted, that essentially targeted Palestinians, but also included things that you would like expect, like expanded law enforcement authority, regulation of firearms and explosives, and so on. And the House-led — sorry, the Republican-led House of Representatives essentially gutted that bill and replaced it with all the provisions that they wanted. And immediately, the Democrats and the ADL pushed back, lobbied very hard, and the parts of the original bill, only the ones that pertained to so-called international terrorism, that were essentially targeting Palestinians, were put back into the bill. So it’s a really sobering example of how anti-Palestinian animus is one of the most enduring areas of bipartisan appeal in Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. We’re going to link to your report. Darryl Li, lawyer, associate professor of anthropology and social sciences at the University of Chicago, and Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal. The new briefing paper is “Anti-Palestinian at the Core: The Origins and Growing Dangers of U.S. Antiterrorism Law.”
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Ralph Nader at 90 on the “Genocidal War” in Gaza & Why Congress Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction
by Amy Goodman
February 27, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/27/ ... transcript

On his 90th birthday, the legendary consumer advocate, corporate critic and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader joins Democracy Now! for an in-depth conversation about U.S. democracy and why “Congress is a weapon of mass destruction.” He says lawmakers have shredded the country’s social safety net, refused to rein in the U.S. war machine, allowed white-collar crime to go unpunished, failed to enforce tax fairness and more. “All of these are very unpopular with the American people,” Nader says. He also discusses the 2024 presidential race and encourages people to “vote their conscience” and “find some way out of this two-party duopoly gulag.” Nader, who publishes the monthly print-only newspaper the Capitol Hill Citizen, was recently profiled in The Washington Post for his ongoing advocacy.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Yes, we spend the rest of the hour with Ralph Nader, the four-time presidential candidate who ran on the Green Party, independent, Reform Party and Democratic tickets. He’s a longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic. And today is his 90th birthday.

Ralph Nader is the author of many books, including his latest, The Rebellious CEO and Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, and, of course, his 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, which focused, in part, on the safety flaws of General Motors’ Chevrolet Corvair. He then won a major settlement against General Motors for spying on him and trying to discredit him, and used the lawsuit’s proceeds to start the Center for Study of Responsive Law. Ralph Nader is the son of Lebanese immigrants, has also published The Ralph Nader and Family Cookbook.

He’s the founder of the monthly print-only newspaper the Capitol Hill Citizen, where his front-page article in the February/March issue is headlined “Collectively Congress is a weapon of mass destruction.”

Ralph, welcome back to Democracy Now! And happy 90th birthday!

RALPH NADER: Well, thank you very much, Amy. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s great to have you with us. Why don’t we start off with that very provocative headline on the front page of your newspaper, “Congress is a weapon of mass destruction”? Explain.

RALPH NADER: With multiple warheads. This is a very important article, because the reverse of what I’m going to point out is an opportunity for people to take back control of their Congress. All of these destructions are very unpopular with the American people, including left-right support for changing the scene on Capitol Hill.

So, the first destruction is democracy itself. Congress has put itself up for sale or rent and opposes electoral reform. It is excluding civic groups from public hearings. It doesn’t even print public hearings and reports anymore. That is very unpopular with the American people and could be reversed.

The second is, as a weapon of mass destruction, literally, the destruction of millions of lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, elsewhere. The empire itself is a weapon of illegal, unconstitutional mass destruction, which is continuing to this day in those invaded countries that didn’t threaten us.

Third is, the Congress is destroying Medicare and Medicaid, turning more and more over to health insurance companies. They’re corporatizing Medicare and Medicaid, with deceptive ads, single payer to the winds. And we’re seeing over half of the Medicare beneficiaries have been lured into Medicare Advantage, which we call “Medicare Disadvantage,” which is just the usual exploitive giant health insurance policies, denying benefits, narrow networks, all kinds of other abuses.

The Congress has destroyed progressive taxation. It’s a grotesque tax full of loopholes, avoidances, in return for campaign cash, and something that even Warren Buffett has spoken about strongly. So, they’ve destroyed that, and also destroyed the consequence, which is public budgets that can protect people and engage in public services.

Congress has also destroyed corporate crime law enforcement, not just with the more recent disaster, letting Boeing and Boeing executives off without criminal prosecution. But just imagine: We have a corporate crime wave in this country. I mean, it’s unbelievable — billing fraud, pollution violations, workplace violations. And they haven’t had comprehensive hearings. They just had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, just a pro forma hearing, described in the Capitol Hill Citizen. There are — 250,000 Americans a year die from, quote, “preventable problems,” unquote, in hospitals, according to a peer-reviewed Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study. And they’re just doing nothing and collecting money from all these corporate PACs.

And then, of course, on child poverty, just they didn’t extend the child tax extension, rather, the tax benefit, which had cut, up to January 2022, child poverty by 40%. And they didn’t do that.

And, by the way, I do make an important distinction, Amy and Juan. That’s why use the word “collectively,” Congress is a weapon of mass destruction, because there are some good people in Congress, but, as a body, it is definitely a weapon of mass destruction. Imagine millions of people being taken off Medicaid as we speak, 45 million Americans experiencing food insecurity — another euphemism for hunger — and the Congress is about to send $14 billion, the genocide tax, for more weapons to Israel to slaughter more Gazan families. I mean, we’re talking felonious performance here of the first order.

And then, the last list — it is a long list, but I’ll end with this. Congress is destroying the commons — that is, the huge property owned by the people, the public lands, onshore, offshore, the public airwaves, a lot of the internet. All this belongs to the people. But they have turned control over it to the corporations — the media corporations, the oil, gas, timber industry, etc.

Now, all of these —


RALPH NADER: — are very unpopular with the American people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ralph, I wanted to —

RALPH NADER: A left-right organization of Congress could turn all this around with less than 1% of the people organized as a Congress watch group in congressional districts.

All of this is discussed, and more, in Capitol Hill Citizen, a print-only publication that we’re putting out. To get your copy, just go to CapitolHillCitizen.com. And you can get extra copies for your libraries or your discussion group. And for a donation of $5 or more, you will be mailed first class, quickly, the new issue of the Capitol Hill Citizen, 40 pages stocked with vibrant, readable print.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I want to —

RALPH NADER: And we want all people —


AMY GOODMAN: Juan, why would you think that you could get a word in edgewise on Ralph’s 90th birthday? But we’re just going to —

RALPH NADER: I just want one more sentence, one more key sentence. The whole idea of the Capitol Hill Citizen is not just to inform people with nonofficial journalism that they don’t read about, in article after article, like the need to repeal the Insurrection Act, that Trump could use to turn the Armed Forces against the people in this country — it should be repealed. There’s an article on that by Bruce Fein in the Capitol Hill Citizen. It’s to get more people —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ralph — Ralph, I wanted to ask you anyway —

RALPH NADER: — to become Capitol Hill citizens.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ralph, if I can, I wanted to ask you anyway — we’re in the midst of a presidential election year. These kinds of issues, you raised when you ran for president. Bernie Sanders raised them when he ran. But we’re facing now the Michigan primary coming up and the rest of the election season. In Michigan, some people are pushing for an “uncommitted” vote to send a message to Biden about Gaza. What do you think about that strategy? And also, as you’re looking at this presidential race, what would you urge progressives to do?

RALPH NADER: I urge all people to vote their conscience. I don’t believe in tactical voting inside a two-party duopoly that basically allows very little choice. On foreign military policy, what difference is there between the Republican and Democrat? On Wall Street, what difference is there? There’s better rhetoric. The Democrats are better with the social safety net, no doubt about that, with Medicare and other safety net programs. But is that enough?

So, I think, as you say, Juan, people have got to find some way out of this two-party duopoly gulag. They’re trapped with these choices. And one way is to do the “uncommitted” during the primary in Michigan, and I hope it spreads around the country. But also, you know, there are only a few swing states here, so the majority of the American people in red and blue states can vote for a third party. They can vote for the Green Party, which has a marvelous agenda that the Democratic Party should have picked up on long ago. So, people should vote their conscience. I believe that very strongly. That’s what Eugene Debs used to recommend, the great labor leader, in the early 20th century.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back in time with me and Juan, because we’re also celebrating our 28th anniversary with Democracy Now!, when we took you, Ralph, as a presidential candidate, onto the floor of the Republican convention. This was in Philadelphia. We were broadcasting from the Independent Media Center. May have been the first time in U.S. history a candidate for president held an impromptu, but well attended, press briefing on the convention floor of another party. We had asked Ralph to come to the convention and provide commentary and analysis as the voice of an outsider who’s been excluded from the political process in many ways. Let’s go back to 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED 1: What do you hope to accomplish by being here?

RALPH NADER: Well, I want to observe the thing in action. It’s hard to believe when you see it reported. You have to see it to believe it. I mean, this is the most spectacular display of political cash-register politics with corporate fat cats in the history of the country. And it’s always good to see the state of the art shamelessly paraded on national TV.

UNIDENTIFIED 2: What’s your message to the delegates here?

RALPH NADER: My message is to go home and rethink what they’re doing to the country when they sell politics to corporate fat cats in return for political favors. And that’s what I say to the Democrats, as well. Our democracy is being hijacked by large commercial interests against the interests of everyday people. And we’ve got to have political reform in this country. I’m very sorry to see John McCain, who had millions of supporters standing for political reform, morph himself into George W. Bush today.

UNIDENTIFIED 2: Sir, in some states you’re drawing 7 or 8%. Do you think — would you be the spoiler if this race is close?

RALPH NADER: You can’t spoil a political system that’s spoiled to the core. We need a new political reform movement in this country, and it’s not going to come from the Democratic or Republican parties.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Ralph Nader in the summer of 2000 in Philadelphia on the floor of the Republican convention. Everyone, the journalists migrated — he basically held a news conference there. We brought him on to present commentary. Ralph, you ran for president four times. Your thoughts on what you call the duopoly? And at this point, when people are talking about this election, which could ultimately be between Biden and Trump, calling it the most important presidential election perhaps in history, what are your comments on that?

RALPH NADER: Well, what you did in 2000, Democracy Now!, has never been done before or since. You basically got me inside the Republican convention to provide some sort of counterpoint and alternative to the mass media that was there. I was as astonished as anybody. And it didn’t take long for me to be escorted out of the convention center, but you got the job done.

And what is the job? The job is to give more voices and choices on the electoral ballot to the American people. This is crazy, what’s going on. The gap between the Democrats and Republicans has narrowed tremendously from the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Republican Party, say, in the 1930s. The Democrats have rhetoric on environmental issues, labor issues, but they don’t really use their muscle in Congress. And they should have long ago landslided the Republican Party, which is the worst ever in history on so many issues, that have been reported by you and others.

So, what do people do? First of all, they have to organize Congress Watch lobbies back home between elections, so that elections become more meaningful, so that people start seeing that on the table is corporate crime enforcement, the end of corporate welfare, the establishment of arms control treaties and a Department of Peace, that Dennis Kucinich is supporting. He’s now running for Congress again from Ohio. There are so many areas that were put on an effort in 2020 which we called WinningAmerica.net — people can go and see it — showing that so many of the major concerns of the American people — it doesn’t matter whether they label themselves conservative or liberal when they are trying to feed their families, when they’re trying to get through the day where they live, work and raise their families. Ideology of divide and rule doesn’t quite work with them. But we tried to do that with WinningAmerica.net. We put the whole range of progressive policies, that have huge majoritarian support. That’s the hidden story. There’s a lot of left-right support for a living wage, for universal health insurance, for cracking down on corporate crime, for changing the whole ridiculous tax system.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph — Ralph, Juan wants to get one more question in before the end of the show. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah. Ralph, I wanted to ask you about Israel’s war on Gaza. You had a recent column headlined “What the Mass Media Needs to Cover Re: Israel/Gaza Conflict.” Could you lay out — we only have about a couple of minutes. If you could lay out your key points?

RALPH NADER: Well, the key points is that — and this is not very often recognized — is there are five federal laws that the U.S. and Israel are violating by unconditional and unconstitutional support of this illegal, genocidal war in Gaza: the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Leahy law protecting human rights, and the Genocide Convention Implementation Act. And I think we have to bring the focus back home. We’re the archenabler of this massive slaughter in Gaza, which seems to have no end, and there’s over 100,000 people and children dead so far, and many, many more dying by the hour. There’s a huge undercount of the fatality toll.

So, I urge people to listen to Democracy Now!'s in-person interviews with these doctors. And I just read, Amy, the article you and Denis Moynihan wrote about the, on site, in the hospitals, being blown apart, witnesses by the doctors, who have come back to the United States and Canada. We've got to get the support for the senators who have already — five senators have called for direct aid, bypassing Israel, direct U.S. humanitarian aid with international organizations in Gaza right now —

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, we’re going to have to leave it there.

RALPH NADER: — for food, medicine and water.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much. I hate to cut you off on your 90th birthday, but what else is new? Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, former presidential candidate, happy 90th birthday! Founder of the print-only monthly newspaper Capitol Hill Citizen. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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“Uncommitted”: Over 100,000 Cast Protest Vote Against Biden’s Gaza Policy in Michigan Primary
by Amy Goodman
February 28, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/28/ ... transcript

President Joe Biden won the Michigan Democratic primary on Tuesday, but over 100,000 voters cast their ballots for “uncommitted” in an organized campaign protesting U.S. support for Israel’s assault on Gaza. The major battleground state is home to one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, but the movement to vote “uncommitted” is now expected to spread to other states, including Minnesota and Washington. “I’ve rarely seen such an organic and authentic movement come together,” says former Democratic congressmember from Michigan Andy Levin. “We really need actual change in policy, and I think we sent that message strongly last night.” President of the Arab American Institute James Zogby says that Democratic voters need a reason to come out to the polls. “We gave them a reason with 'uncommitted.' Joe Biden’s got to give them a reason in November,” says Zogby. “There is genocide unfolding. People want it to end. The president either is going to have to act decisively to end it, or it’s going to have an impact in November.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Michigan, where President Joe Biden won the Democratic primary Tuesday but faced a significant backlash over his support for Israel’s assault on Gaza. Biden won about 81% of the vote, but over 100,000 voters, or more than 13%, cast their ballots for “uncommitted.”

In recent weeks, the group Listen to Michigan urged Democrats to vote “uncommitted” to pressure Biden to call on Israel to end its assault on Gaza. Organizers of the campaign had said they were hoping for 10,000 “uncommitted” votes, pointing to Donald Trump’s win of less than 11,000 votes in 2016, to show the significance of that number. Tuesday’s vote shows they got 10 times that amount.

Michigan is the first major battleground state in the general election to hold its primary. It’s also home to one of the largest Arab American populations in the country. Top White House officials visited Michigan earlier this month to meet with Arab and Muslim leaders after a number of them refused to meet with Biden’s campaign manager.

The movement to vote “uncommitted” will likely spread to other states. Organizers of the movement are holding a call with supporters in Minnesota, which will vote next week, and Washington state, which holds its primary March 12th.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. His new opinion piece for Pakistan Today is titled “Why the USA Continues to Fail the Arab World.” He’s joining us from Utica, New York. We’re also joined by former Democratic Congressmember from Michigan Andy Levin. He’s joining us from Southfield, Michigan.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! You’re a former congressmember, Andy Levin. You’re also a former synagogue president. Talk about this “uncommitted” campaign. For every six votes President Biden got yesterday in the primary, “uncommitted” got one. Talk about the organizing effort and what message that you hope that those who supported “uncommitted,” like yourself, sent to President Biden.

ANDY LEVIN: Well, good morning, Amy and everyone. I don’t have much of a voice left, so sorry about that.

It was really an incredible thing, Amy. You know, I’ve been organizing for peace for 40 years, and I’ve rarely seen such an organic and authentic movement come together in, as you say, just three weeks. And we got over 100,000 people to vote “uncommitted.” This was something that grew up out of the Arab American and larger Muslim communities in Michigan, but it had great power among progressives, among Jewish people, Christians, Muslims, people of other faiths, people of no faith. College campuses were aflame about this.

And the idea was that Michigan has this “uncommitted” box on our ballot, because, remember, this is a presidential primary, and some other states do the same thing. You’re voting to send delegates to a convention, so you could vote to send delegates “uncommitted.” And, in fact, we won so many votes, I believe we will send at least one delegate from two congressional districts: the 6th District, represented by Debbie Dingell, and the 12th District, represented by Rashida Tlaib.

I think the significance of this, Amy, is that the president’s people, and maybe the president himself, there’s a danger that they see this as sort of like a political problem: “We need to send surrogates. We need better messaging. People just need to realize what a disaster Trump would be, which, of course, we can never let him get near the White House again. So they’ll come around all of this.” No. This is war. This is the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people, leveling whole neighborhoods, most of the Gaza Strip. We don’t just want you to use a better message.

The message from us to the president yesterday was: You must change course. You must change course for the sake of your political reelection and because it’s the right and necessary thing to do from every point of view, including U.S. national security interests, for God’s sake. The message to the president is: Stop treating what Bibi Netanyahu says as the boundary of the possible. You’ve got to move towards an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to this carnage, free all the hostages, free political prisoners among the Palestinians, including leading longtime prisoners who — if you don’t like Hamas, free Marwan Barghouti, who’s been in prison for so long, whom many Palestinians might support to change the situation there. So, we really need actual change in policy, and I think we sent that message strongly last night.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Andy Levin, I wanted to ask you — I was particularly struck by the turnout. The Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said this was a record turnout on Tuesday for a presidential primary. Compared to, for instance, South Carolina, where only 4% of Democrats voted in the primary, here we had over, it looks like, 50%? Could you explain this issue of turnout, as well?

ANDY LEVIN: Well, one thing is that there were more — quite a greater number of Republicans voting, or people voting in the Republican primary than the Democratic primary. That’s also something that’s not great for President Biden. But there was some sense of a contest on that side, right? Even though we all know that Nikki Haley was going to trail by a wide margin.

But it is remarkable, Juan. Think about it. We have an incumbent Democratic president running for reelection. We all know he’s going to be the nominee. Most Democrats feel like maybe he’s done a really great job in other areas. Personally, I was really proud to serve with him in the 117th Congress. I’m proud of the Investing in America agenda that we passed, having some, at least a semblance of, industrial policy in America for the first time in many decades, and on and on. But what’s remarkable is that this 100,000-plus people who voted “uncommitted,” almost all of them, Juan, wouldn’t have showed up but for this. They’re mad at the president. They would have stayed home.

And our message was: Wait a minute. That would be a disaster if you stayed home. He won’t get the message. He won’t understand. Come out and express your rage. Shake your fist at the president and say, “Look,” for most of them, “I voted for you in 2020. I’m really mad at you right now, and I have to tell you.” So, that, I think, juiced turnout.

And look at East Lansing, where Michigan State University is. Look at Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is. It’s not just Dearborn and Hamtramck, with our incredible, beautiful concentration of Arab American and other Muslim voters. It’s also young people across the state and progressives across the state who said, “We’re your base. We want to win in November. In order to win, we want peace now.”

AMY GOODMAN: Andy Levin, the last time we talked to you, you were a congressmember. You were running for reelection. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had invested millions in Democratic primaries to defeat progressives who supported Palestine. You were one of those they were trying to defeat. You’re a self-described Zionist who supports a two-state solution. But earlier, before that primary, a former president of AIPAC described you as “arguably the most corrosive member of Congress to the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Can you talk about what happened to you then? You lost that election. But do you see your point of view being embraced much both in Michigan and around the country in a way that AIPAC never imagined?

ANDY LEVIN: I do, Amy. I mean, basically, they spent millions of dollars of dark money. They raised a huge amount of so-called hard money for my opponent in that primary, who basically toed the AIPAC line completely. And now they say they’re going to spend $100 million in 2022, and evidently they’ve already raised $44 million to take out progressives in Democratic primaries. And much of their money is coming from Republican billionaires, who don’t have any place in a Democratic primary. And shame on us, as Democrats, if we continue to allow Democratic candidates to take Republican money in Democratic primaries.

But here’s the situation. This avalanche of mostly dark money coming to try to interfere with Democratic primaries is running into a tsunami of upset by Democratic base voters who say, “The Jewish people deserve self-determination. What about the Palestinian people? And, in fact, there is no peace and security for the Jewish people in the Holy Land unless and until we realize the political and human rights of the Palestinian people. And we have to love each other. We have to support each other. We have to find a way to live together.” And, yes, this is a huge rebuke to that point of view that we must support the Israeli government no matter what they do.

I mean, why are we letting Bibi Netanyahu set the boundary of the possible? This man has never been for a just peace for one day in his life. He has actively opposed Palestinian self-determination his whole career. Like some other people we know, he’s fighting to stay in office so that he doesn’t go to jail. I mean, come on. You can support the people of Israel and the people of Palestine without supporting these horrible policies and this horrible war.

I mean, you know, think of the average — I think of myself, Amy, 40 years ago, when I was a college student. And if I read what The New York Times reported, for example, that the U.S. was supplying 2,000-pound bombs to Israel, and the IDF was dropping them not just on densely populated areas but on places where they had told the Palestinians to flee, and then, at the end of the article, “By the way, we’ve sent 5,000 more of one type of 2,000-pound bombs to Israel since October,” that Andy Levin 40 years ago is not unlike college students and other young people all around Michigan’s campuses and working people, saying, “Whoa! This is unacceptable.” And we showed the president that we don’t accept it yesterday.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I’d to bring in James Zogby to the conversation, get your reaction to the vote in Michigan, and also whether you think that this “uncommitted” movement could spread across the country, especially now as we head into Super Tuesday on March 5th.

JAMES ZOGBY: Well, look, number one, I want to thank Andy Levin for his leadership. He made an enormous difference here, and we’re so pleased to be partnering, as we were, in this campaign.

Secondly, I think, message sent. A hundred-plus thousand “uncommitted” votes, much larger than anyone anticipated, makes a point: President Biden, you ignore this vote at your risk.

And thirdly, I think, there, frankly, is not a need to go any further. And I think that it’s very clear. We can extrapolate from the rest of the states what the turnout would be in November if we ignore this issue and continue to ignore this issue, not only, as the congressman said, with the Arab American vote, but with young voters, Black voters. We’ve done polling. My brother John has done polling on this among American voters, not just Arab American voters. The impact that the Gaza war is having on voters under 29, the impact it’s having on Black, Latino and Asian voters, who are core to the Democratic coalition, is very clear.

We just wanted to make a point in Michigan. It was the place to make the point. But, frankly, it can also be read in Virginia. It can be read in Georgia. It can be read in Pennsylvania. You ignore this war, and you continue to offer nothing but anodyne, “Well, we’re really with you, and we feel bad, too, and we’re paying attention and working every day,” that does not cut it at this point. There is genocide unfolding. People want it to end. The president either is going to have to act decisively to end it, or it’s going to have an impact in November.

And as the congressman said it, as the organizers of this movement have been very clear, this is not the abandon Biden movement. This is the, for God’s sake, shape up or you might lose in November Biden movement. And the fact is, is that the president has to listen and change. It’s going to be too late for some. The fact that 30,000 have already died, that famine is on the way, that genocide has continued is going to mean a lot of people are going to say, “I can’t do this. I just can’t do it.” But if there’s to be any effort at all made to bring some voters back, something dramatic has to happen and change from the White House to say, “Let’s give him another shot.”

But, frankly, right now we’re having trouble finding that message. And I think Michigan sends a very strong signal, that doesn’t have to be repeated anywhere else. Look, when I saw the Emerson College poll out the day before this vote, I said, “Message sent.” They had 11%. We got a little — you know, we did a little better than that. They said youth vote was voting “uncommitted.” We did that. We showed that. In college towns across the state, we won. “Uncommitted” won in Dearborn. It beat Joe Biden. “Uncommitted” won in Hamtramck. It beat Joe Biden. Those are the two concentrations of Arab American voters. The president needs to pay attention. And I hope he does. And, you know, I hope he does in a way that is decisive and clear and actually turns the corner.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, James Zogby, of course, in Michigan, the participation of elected officials like Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and other local Michigan officials did have an impact on that vote. Do you see other Democratic Party officials in other states following that lead?

JAMES ZOGBY: Well, look, we’ve already seen city councils in 70 cities do this. And that number is growing. There is, not just among Arab American, like — you know, we saw a lot of that in Michigan. We also saw Black officials. We saw progressive Jewish officials. And as important as Rashida was, Andy Levin was an important message sender here that this is a broader movement for justice. And let’s not forget that. City councilwoman in Detroit came out just a couple of days before the vote, saying, “I am with 'uncommitted.'” That’s important, having Black elected officials, Arab American elected officials, progressive Jewish elected officials saying, “We want this to end, and we want President Biden to make a difference.” That’s important.

And so, yeah, I think this is going to have a sort of an effect across the country. And we don’t need to do it in other states. We just don’t, because the message is very clear. Number one, you know in Michigan there’s no way to create an electoral map that you win in November. But, number two, we can extrapolate what happens in Michigan and say, “Hmm, it’s going to happen in Virginia. It’s going to happen in Georgia. You’re going to lose youth vote, Black vote, Arab American vote. And you don’t win Pennsylvania if that’s the case.”

So, I think, you know, I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and I know that these voter groups have to have a reason to turn out. I think what was important about this — and, Congressman, I thank you and others for it — was that you gave people a reason to turn out. These “uncommitted” voters would not have turned out, and they would not turn out again in November, if they didn’t have a reason to turn out. We gave them a reason with “uncommitted.” Joe Biden’s got to give them a reason in November.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk, Jim Zogby, about the other states. Talk about Minnesota and other states who are now, apparently, adopting this “uncommitted” vote. But in Michigan, what’s different — right? — is it’s actually printed on the ballot. And I think you can also add — I mean, most people didn’t — they talked about Dean Phillips, but Marianne Williamson, who suspended her campaign, came in third, and she was the one Democrat for a ceasefire. So you could probably add her votes to the “uncommitted” votes.

JAMES ZOGBY: [inaudible], for example, the Arab community said, “Let’s back Marianne Williamson, even though she dropped out,” because she’s on the ballot and there is no other option. Look, let me say, I’m not going to discourage anybody from trying to do it in other states. I just — like I said, I don’t think you need to. And I would rather have energy focused on city council resolutions and getting people to sign on to ceasefire resolutions across the board.

There is a — I did the Palestine statehood resolutions in 1988 with Jesse Jackson. We passed them in 11 states. We got to the national convention, had the first-ever debate from the podium on a minority plank. After that, everybody continued doing it, but without Jesse in the mix, we never had the momentum to carry it through.

We had a number of ideal things come together in Michigan: a huge concentration of Arab Americans, the support of elected officials, local elected officials, mayors, state reps, etc., city council people. We also had Congressman Levin, who was great on college campuses in terms of mobilizing and bringing people forward, and a great collection of organizers and a budget to make it happen. We’re not going to have that in Minnesota. We’re not going to have that in other states. And so, I don’t want to see people set up for failure. And so, I think you take what happened in Michigan, you extrapolate it to your state, you send the message to President Biden: “It happened here. It can happen elsewhere.” There’s no need to try to replicate what can’t be automatically replicated, given the ideal composition of forces in Michigan that made this happen.

And so, I, frankly, think — I don’t know what’s going to happen in other states, but I don’t want to take a defeat in Minnesota, because it’s not even on the damn ballot, and say, “Oh, look, it’s” — and give the other side a crowing rights. They’re going to try whatever they can do to crow and say we really didn’t — “They didn’t accomplish anything, because 81% still voted for Joe Biden.” Well, of course 81 voted for Joe Biden. But that’s not going to mean November, because in the Emerson poll, Joe Biden is losing by two points. Eleven percent “uncommitted,” and Joe Biden loses by two points, hmm, does that — DMFI, Democratic Majority for Israel, don’t you get what that means? That means that you need that 11% to come to your side in order to put you over the top. We can say that in every state without having to go through this whole process, especially when it’s not even on the ballot and you can’t really get the same outcome you get in Michigan.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with Andy Levin. You come from a political dynasty. Your uncle was the late senator who headed the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, I’m sure a close friend of President Biden; your father a congressman, as well, Sandy Levin. What do you think they would say at this point about this movement, about this demand and grassroots organizing?

ANDY LEVIN: Well, Amy, Uncle Carl passed away, as you know, several years ago. My dad is 92 and going strong. And he is really proud of what I’m doing. He, you know, was involved in helping Soviet Jews flee to Israel. You know, he supported U.S. policy for a two-state solution forever. But I think he understands that there is no way now, after 54 years of occupation and things going in the wrong direction, there’s no way forward unless the president of the United States steps up and leads much more strongly as a peacemaker.

And, look, I’m going to end on a hopeful note. Joe Biden, with this long history of chairing the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate — and, you know, he says he’s known all the Israeli leaders, all the Palestinian leaders. You’ve got to step up, Mr. President, and now end this carnage and lead a diplomatic effort, not a military effort, to end this conflict. It can be done. You’ve got to step up and do it, both because it’s the right thing to do and because your politics depend on it. As Jim Zogby said, the other states are fine. Michigan is a must-win state. Minnesota isn’t, you know, for example. He’s going to win Minnesota anyway, I think. But you’ve got to win Michigan to put the Electoral College math together. And I think it’s just going to be hard to do unless you change course. So let’s get going.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, clearly, President Biden is hearing people. When he was with Seth Meyers the other night, the late-night comic, in an ice cream store, as he was licking his mint chip ice cream, a reporter asked a question about a ceasefire, and he said, yes, he thinks it’s going to happen on Monday. That surprised both Israel and Hamas. We’ll see what happens. But it was on the eve of the Michigan primary that he said that. Andy Levin, I want to thank you for being with us, former Democratic congressmember from Michigan, and James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

When we come back, we look at the death of Aaron Bushnell, the active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force who set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest U.S. support for the war in Gaza. Stay with us.


The Life & Death of Aaron Bushnell: U.S. Airman Self-Immolates Protesting U.S. Support for Israel in Gaza
by Amy Goodman
February 28, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/28/ ... transcript

In an act that has captured the attention of the world, Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force, set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington Sunday to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza and U.S. support for the military campaign. Bushnell, who live-streamed the action, said, “I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” before lighting himself on fire and repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” as he was engulfed in the flames. He was pronounced dead in the hospital later that day. Democracy Now! speaks with Bushnell’s friend and conscientious objector Levi Pierpont, who says his friend’s death was not a suicide but was about using his life to send a message for justice. “We have to honor the message that he left,” says Pierpont, who says Bushnell died “to get people’s attention about the genocide that’s happening in Palestine.” Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army colonel and former diplomat, lays out the history of self-immolation to protest war and how Bushnell’s act could impact U.S. policy for the war on Gaza. “It was an act of courage, an act of bravery, to call attention to U.S. policies,” says Wright, who offers support to Pierpont and other veterans advocating for peace live on air.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, with Juan González in Chicago.

A warning to our audience: This segment contains graphic images and descriptions.

On the morning of February 25th, Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force, posted on Facebook a link to the video live-streaming service Twitch with a caption that read, quote, “Many of us like to ask ourselves, 'What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?' The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now,” he wrote.

Aaron Bushnell then sent a copy of his will, that he had prepared days before, to a friend. In it, he gave his cat to his neighbor to be cared for. A few hours later, shortly before 1 p.m. local time, Aaron Bushnell walked towards the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., wearing his Air Force uniform. He began the live stream on his phone and spoke as he approached the embassy gates.

AARON BUSHNELL: I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force, and I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.

AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Bushnell then placed his phone on ground, stood in front of the Israeli Embassy gate and doused himself in a liquid, before setting himself on fire. He shouted “Free Palestine!” several times as he was consumed by the flames. Those were his last words.

An officer who arrived on the scene can be seen brandishing a gun and pointing it at Aaron Bushnell as he burns alive and collapses to the ground. Another officer sprays him with a fire extinguisher. As the first officer continues to point his gun at Aaron, the second officer yells, quote, “I don’t need guns. I need a fire extinguisher.”

Aaron Bushnell was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead several hours later. His extreme act of protest against Israel’s assault on Gaza made headlines around the world. Vigils have been held in his honor in Washington, D.C., here in New York, in San Antonio, Texas, in Portland and elsewhere.

Ali Abunimah, the founder of The Electronic Intifada, wrote on social media, quote, “Aaron Bushnell gave his life so that America would hear his message: End the genocide. He kept calling 'Free Palestine' through intense, horrifying pain. He gave his life so people in Gaza might live. There’s no greater love than that. I feel sadness and awe for this human being,” Ali wrote.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. Ann Wright is a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a colonel and a former U.S. diplomat. In March of 2003, she resigned. She has since worked with the antiwar groups CodePink and Veterans for Peace. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience. Her new essay for Common Dreams is headlined “Why Would Anyone Kill Themselves to Stop a War? On Aaron Bushnell and Others.” She’s joining us from Hawaii. She resigned in 2003 over the War in Iraq. And joining us from Southfield, Michigan, is Levi Pierpont, who was a friend of Aaron Bushnell. They met at basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in May 2020. Levi went on to become a conscientious objector.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! This is a very difficult segment to do. Levi, we want to begin with you. You were a friend of Aaron. Tell us about him, and then tell us when you learned what had happened. Tell us about how you met, your decision to become a conscientious objector — he stayed in the military — and what you then understand took place this weekend.

LEVI PIERPONT: Yes. So, I met Aaron Bushnell in basic training. And from the first day that I met him, I could tell that he was just a really sweet person. I could tell very quickly that he had a strong sense of justice. We became friends. And whenever people in basic training would talk about me or would talk about him, we would stick up for each other. And he always stuck up for me.

And I did end up getting out as a conscientious objector. And we spoke throughout that process. And at the time that I began to make headway with the process and it began to near its end — I got out in July of 2023 — he felt like he was already close enough to his own end date that he decided not to take the same path. And I understood that, because the conscientious objector process can take over a year. And so, I knew that he was still in.

And then he went to do SkillBridge at Ohio, and that’s when I met him in Toledo on January 5th. And that was the first time I had seen him since basic training. And it was, unfortunately, the last time I saw him. And, of course, you know, the other day, I heard what had happened. So, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And our deepest condolences to you, by the way, Levi. When you heard, did you first hear that a man had self-immolated, and then hear that it was Aaron?

LEVI PIERPONT: Yes. So, I had just seen the headlines. I don’t think I even clicked one and read anything yet. And yeah, Monday, Monday, a friend of mine reached out to me, and she knew that I had been a conscientious objector, knew that I had been in the Air Force, and knew that just the story in general might be difficult for me. She had no idea that I knew him. And she was the one who ultimately texted me his name. And I just immediately broke down and called her, and I said, “That was my friend. I went to basic training with him.” And she comforted me. And I just thought about all the conversations we had. I went back to the last text message I got from him. And I just — I just weeped.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Levi, in those conversations, did you get a sense of why Aaron initially decided to join the military and how his views evolved about the U.S. military?

LEVI PIERPONT: Yes. I know when we first talked, we shared similar goals and interests in the military. We wanted to sort of get out of our bubble, to explore the United States, to explore the world, to meet people from other backgrounds. And so, I remember when we both found out where we were stationed, it was kind of ironic. I found out I’d be stationed in Minot Air Force Base, and he found out he was going to be going back to Lackland, where we went to basic training. And so we both felt like maybe we were going to explore a little bit less than we thought, but we were ready for our careers.

And I know that over the years, both of us shifted, of course, in our beliefs regarding war, largely because of what we saw in the military, largely because of the things that we learned because we were a part of it. And I know that he and I both were encouraged by people on YouTube that were writing video essays about social justice movements in the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring in Ann Wright to the conversation. This issue of self-immolation, we’ve already had two now in protest of the war in Gaza. But you noted that during the Vietnam War, as many as five Americans self-immolated themselves in protest against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. I’m wondering if you could talk about that? You wrote about that recently for Common Dreams.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. It’s a sad situation, for sure. I mean, our hearts go out to Aaron’s family and Aaron’s friends.

And the same back in — you know, 60 years ago almost now, in 1965, as the U.S. War on Vietnam was starting up, first we had an 82-year-old Quaker woman, Alice Herz, committed suicide by self-immolation, and then followed about six months later by another Quaker, Norman Morrison, from Baltimore, who went to the Pentagon and set himself on fire, little knowing the place that he had picked at the Pentagon was right below where Secretary of Defense McNamara had his office. And apparently, his self-immolation had a strong effect on McNamara, although he didn’t stop the war initially, but it did have an effect on him personally and on his family. And then followed by a young man in San — or, first in New York at the U.N. Plaza. So, yes, there were five people that burned themselves to death over a political decision of the United States to go to war.

And so, now we have — you know, 60 years later, we have two people in less than three months who have done the same, I would say, courageous act of taking their own lives to bring the attention of the American public and the world to what the United States is complicit in, which is the Israeli genocide and U.S. genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to go through a few more of those examples in history, that sent shockwaves through multiple conflicts. You had Thich Quang Duc, a monk who drew attention to the treatment of Vietnamese Buddhists by the government; and then Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, who sparked the Arab Spring when he set himself on fire — this was before Egypt, and that sparked the uprising in Tunisia; Malachi Ritscher, a musician who called for an end to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A pro-Palestine protester also self-immolated outside the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta in December, but we don’t know her name. It hardly got any attention.

And there’s been a whole debate in the media right now, those who talk about it as — don’t even want to talk. I mean, I think as it started, papers like The New York Times didn’t even say he said, “Free Palestine,” and other outlets, as well. But then, as time went on, they did talk about what happened. But the whole issue of going into a debate about mental illness and not wanting to encourage something like this versus you hear someone like Ali Abunimah talking about Aaron’s incredible bravery, your thoughts?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, it is incredibly brave. And a person — well, there’s no evidence at all that Aaron had any sort of mental illness. He was a very conscientious person who saw what the U.S. was doing in his position in the U.S. military. And one might say, you know, he’s not the first person to have committed suicide over what the United States has been doing. If you look, 22 veterans a day commit suicide over what they’ve done in the U.S. military. So, this is — what Aaron did was very, very courageous. I can’t imagine taking that step. It was an act of courage, an act of bravery, to call attention to U.S. policies.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Levi Pierpont, I wanted to ask you — you grew up as an evangelical Christian. Aaron Bushnell attended Catholic religious services while at basic training. How do you think his religious views informed his beliefs and, ultimately, his action?

LEVI PIERPONT: I think, ultimately, by the time that he did what he did, he didn’t identify with any particular religion. But I know that for me, even though I’m more agnostic than I grew up, my evangelical roots still influence me. They influence my sense of justice. And they told me since I was a young child that you have to stand up for what you believe in. And I can imagine that it was the same way for Aaron. And so, even though I don’t believe that he still believed in the Catholic faith by the time that he died, I know that that upbringing had a profound impact on him, and I’m sure that it influenced his sense of justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Levi Pierpont, Aaron was living in San Antonio, where Lackland base is. He was doing a lot of mutual aid work with people who were unsheltered there, very well known in those encampments. What do you want us to remember him by, as you think about him in these last few days, what you’re talking about in the vigils and with your friends?

LEVI PIERPONT: I want people to remember that his death is not in vain, that he died to spotlight this message. I don’t want anybody else to die this way. If he had asked me about this, I would have begged him not to. I would have done anything I could to stop him. But, obviously, we can’t get him back. And we have to honor the message that he left. I would have told him that this wasn’t necessary to get the message out. I would have told him that there were other ways. But seeing the way that the media responds now, now that this has happened, it’s hard not to feel like he was right, that this was exactly what was necessary to get people’s attention about the genocide that’s happening in Palestine. And so, I just — I want people to remember his message.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ann Wright, your sense of how the movement here in this country to stop this genocidal war in Gaza has been building, and what Aaron Bushnell’s sacrifice may contribute to that?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, it’s a huge, huge movement. And the Biden administration must recognize it, as your previous guests said. I mean, the voters are telling them a message. This is a massive, massive movement of youth, of people of all religions, that are saying, by any religious teachings, this killing is wrong. It has to end.

And I would say to Levi, you know, we have Veterans for Peace, and we have About Face, veterans organizations that would like to offer you support, because this is tough, really tough. But it’s for the people of Gaza, the people of Palestine, that we do this, to stop these horrible, horrible policies that our country has right now. The killing of innocent people for the United States and for Israel, it has to end. And ceasefire now.

AMY GOODMAN: Ann, I understand there is a Gaza flotilla being organized. We only have 30 seconds. Can you explain what that is?

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. We need to take action. I mean, right now there’s lots of talk. There are trucks that are stalled all over northern Egypt. And our Gaza flotilla movement, we are going to be doing something soon. And we will let you all know — pardon me — as soon as we get the plans for challenging again the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you know, Levi, as we have just 10-15 seconds, would Aaron have described this as suicide?

LEVI PIERPONT: No, absolutely not.


LEVI PIERPONT: It was — he didn’t have thoughts of suicide. He had thoughts of justice. That’s what this was about. It wasn’t about his life. It was about using his life to send a message.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both so much for being with us. Levi Pierpont, dear friend of Aaron Bushnell, he, Levi, is a conscientious objector. And Ann Wright, 20-year U.S. Army vet. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for joining us.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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Senator Jeff Merkley: U.S. “Complicit in Starvation and Humanitarian Catastrophe” in Gaza
by Amy Goodman
February 29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/29/ ... transcript

As over 100 Palestinians are killed by Israeli forces while gathering for food aid in Gaza City, we speak to Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who in November became the second of only five U.S. senators to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. In January, he traveled to the Rafah border crossing in Egypt to witness the system of humanitarian aid deliveries, which he described on the Senate floor as a “complicated, bizarre inspection process.” Merkley is now calling for the U.S. to bypass Israel in order to directly send aid to Gaza. Because of the United States’ relationship to Israel — “more closely tied than any situation in the world” — Merkley says, “It’s the United States that has leverage to address this situation, and the world expects us to take the lead.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Scores of Palestinians were killed and 760 injured early Thursday after Israeli troops opened fire on a large crowd waiting for deliveries of food in Gaza City. At the time of this broadcast, the death toll stands at 104, with the number expected to rise, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which said the attack, quote, “constituted a new phase in the genocide.”

Hundreds of Palestinians had gathered on a major street where aid trucks carrying flour were due to arrive, when Israeli forces opened fire from tanks and drones. The wounded have been taken to four hospitals in the area, all of which are largely nonfunctioning, with no electricity or medical supplies.

The death toll in Gaza has now crossed 30,000, according to the Health Ministry, with thousands more missing and presumed dead. Over 70,000 have been wounded.

Among the worst-affected areas in Gaza is the north, where aid has barely been delivered in months. One official with the World Health Organization told Reuters that any aid deliveries that do come through are mobbed by desperate people who are visibly starving with sunken eyes. On Wednesday, top U.N. officials told the Security Council over half a million people in Gaza are on the cusp of starvation, while virtually the entire population of 2.3 million people is in desperate need of food.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we’re joined by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. In November, he became only the second senator to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. In January, Senator Merkley traveled to the Rafah border crossing in Egypt to witness the system of humanitarian aid deliveries. Senator Merkley is co-author of the new book Filibustered!: How to Fix the Broken Senate and Save America.

Before we speak to the senator, let’s turn to a clip of his address on the Senator floor in early February about the humanitarian truck inspections at the Rafah border crossing.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Israel has set up a very complicated system to inspect the trucks beforehand. They had such an inspection system before October 7th, and they were able to inspect and allow 500 trucks a day to enter. But they’ve set up a convoluted system now that Senator Van Hollen and I witnessed at Rafah crossing, where truck drivers, after loading up their supplies, often wait up to a week to get permission to pass into Gaza — a week.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Senator, welcome to Democracy Now!

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Well, thank you so much. Very good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: You are the second senator to call for a ceasefire, this after last week — though you called for it before — the U.S. once again vetoed a ceasefire resolution at the United Nations. We just had reports today that you heard about Israeli troops opening fire, through tanks, guns, drones, on people desperate for aid, killing more than a hundred, perhaps wounding more than 700. Can you talk about the situation right now and what you feel needs to happen?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Well, the situation is a cascade of catastrophes. It is lack of food, it’s lack of clean water, it’s lack of shelter, it’s lack of power, it’s lack of communications — all while bombs and artillery shells keep falling. The seasoned humanitarian aid workers that I met with at Rafah gate and in Egypt and in Jordan said they have been in the worst conflict zones in the world, places like the frontline of Ukraine, places like Yemen and Somalia, and that nothing compares to the combination of tragedies that are simultaneously occurring in Gaza. The humanitarian situation is horrific.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Senator Merkley, despite what you say, of course, there are still only five senators who are calling for a ceasefire. What’s your message to them?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: My message is that we have to look with open eyes, because — because that’s what we do with every humanitarian situation around the world, whether it’s in Burma, whether it’s with people being enslaved in China or the way China is treating Tibetans. In this case, it happens to be occurring in the context of our work with an ally, with Israel. But that means we can’t just look away and pretend it’s not happening. We have to recognize we, the United States, are so closely tied, more closely tied than any situation in the world, because of our military aid to Israel, our resupply of bombs and artillery shells during the war, our very close consultation and intelligence sharings. For all these reasons, it’s the United States that has leverage to address this situation, and the world expects us to take the lead and to act in a much more bold and aggressive way than we have been doing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what about your position on military aid, quite apart from a ceasefire? Have there been calls for the suspension of military aid, given the situation on the ground?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Yes. I voted against the emergency supplemental, because it included additional offensive aid, as opposed to — well, it includes defensive, as well, which I can support, but the idea that we’re voting to resupply these types of arms that have been used in indiscriminate bombing by Israel in Gaza, contributing and creating to this humanitarian debacle, I had to oppose that. And it’s complicated, because it’s tied in the same bill with aid to Ukraine, which I and others strongly support. But we need to have a Senate where we can actually put up amendments, be able to debate pieces of the legislation, which we were unable to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Merkley, the Michigan primary just happened. We see there this “uncontested” [sic] vote. For every six people who voted for Biden, for every six Democrats, one person voted for “uncontested” [sic] — over 100,000 people in Michigan, the battleground state — meaning “uncommitted.” And this was clearly a vote for a ceasefire and for President Biden to change his position on embracing Israel, on providing weapons for Israel, on perhaps saying that he’s being harsh behind the scenes but continuing to embrace Israel publicly and when it comes to issues like military aid. Do you think that President Biden is perhaps putting his own reelection in jeopardy for the stance he’s taken on Israel, whether it’s the Arab American community in this country responding, the African American community — a thousand pastors just wrote him a letter — youth vote in this country? And have you had conversations with him?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Well, I have not had conversations directly with President Biden, but I have with many of his advisers. And the situation is such, they are conscious of, certainly, how this is reverberating in a political context. But, certainly, Palestinian Americans are profoundly disturbed. It’s hard to find any Palestinian American who has not lost members of their extended family in Gaza or is deeply disturbed through their friends and extended associations of the impact.

And we have a population that has thought about the issues of social justice in focused ways over the last few years, in the #MeToo movement, in the Black Lives Matter movement. And what they are seeing is a connection, identification with folks in Palestine that are in Gaza, who are the weaker party in this and who are civilians who are dying through this type of warfare and being injured on a massive scale. And it’s profoundly disturbing. It should be profoundly disturbing to every American, but it is certainly affecting how younger folks, who have grown up with a social consciousness, are seeing this and pondering the election to come. It is a significant electoral issue.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Senator Merkley, just to go back to your visit to Rafah last month, if you could explain what exactly the situation is on the crossing, along the crossing, and why so many trucks are being turned away? There are lines and lines of them on the Egyptian side of the border. And when you were there, you said that in a warehouse in Rafah filled with material — you saw this warehouse — that had been rejected in inspection, the warehouse included things like oxygen cylinders, gas-powered generators, tents, and medical kits used in delivering babies. What explanation has been given for why these things are being turned away?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Well, Israel has had great reluctance about providing aid into Gaza, and yet they control all the entry points into Gaza, so they are the critical factor. And so, they set up a system that’s full of challenges. So, truck drivers have to wait for permission to go to the inspection location, which is in Israel. So they drive them from — they may be waiting quite a while in Egypt, waiting for permission to do that, get to that inspection point, and may be told, “Well, there is an item on your truck that we can’t allow.” For example, one issue we heard about was scalpels in birthing kits. Well, they have a sharp edge, so this is being rejected. Or perhaps it’s an oxygen tank for a hospital, but that metal could be used as a missile launcher. Or this is a power generator needed also for a hospital, but it could be used by Hamas to put air into a tunnel. So these things get rejected, even after they have often been cleared in advance. And if a single item is rejected off the truck, the entire truck is rejected.

And so, this is why the process is so complicated and difficult. Partly it’s rooted in an authentic desire to avoid dual-use items that will help Hamas, and partly it’s rooted in a reluctance to provide aid directly from Israel into Gaza. And yet the U.S. has depended upon that as a way to provide humanitarian aid, and it’s been so grossly inadequate. So, every single day, we see the growing collapse of the medical system. We see women who are having C-sections without anesthesia. We see children having their limbs amputated without anesthesia. We see basic supplies of medicine for people who are suffering from high blood pressure, or they’re suffering from diabetic circumstances, or they have infections, and they don’t have antibiotics. This is unacceptable.

It’s why I’ve been calling for the U.S. to bypass Israel and do direct deliveries of aid. We have the ability to get airlift of every medicine needed to those remaining few hospitals that are functioning. We have the ability to get aid onshore with our huge sealift and airlift capability and then have it distributed by humanitarian organizations. We are complicit now in the starvation and humanitarian catastrophe because of our close relationship, and this has to end. We have to act directly.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you call it a genocide, Senator Merkley?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: I have not used the word “genocide.” I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an international humanitarian or a legal organization. But let’s just describe that these circumstances, being deliberately inflicted upon the people, and the displacement, have many of the characteristics of the worst situations around the world that we have condemned previously.


Israel Kills 104 Palestinians Waiting for Food Aid as U.N. Expert Accuses Israel of Starving Gaza
by Amy Goodman
February 29, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/2/29/ ... transcript

In Gaza City, at least 104 Palestinian refugees were killed Thursday when Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd waiting for food aid. “This isn’t the first time people have been shot at by Israeli forces while people have been trying to access food,” says the U.N.'s special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, who accuses Israel of the war crime of intentional starvation. This comes as reports grow of Palestinians resorting to animal feed and cactus leaves for sustenance and as experts warn of imminent agricultural collapse. “Every single person in Gaza is hungry,” says Fakhri, who emphasizes that famine in the modern context is a human-made catastrophe. “At this point I'm running out of words to be able to describe the horror of what’s happening and how vile the actions have been by Israel against the Palestinian civilians.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza are coming under fire from Israeli forces in Gaza as acute hunger and severe malnutrition are spreading. In the latest attack earlier today, over a hundred Palestinians were killed and more than 700 wounded in Gaza City when they came under fire from Israeli tanks and drones.

Over half a million people in Gaza are on the cusp of starvation, while virtually the entire population of 2.3 million people is in desperate need of food as a result of the continued Israeli bombardment, ground attacks and ongoing siege. According to the United Nations, the amount of aid reaching the Palestinian territory dropped by 50% in February compared to the previous month.

This is Ramesh Rajasingham, coordination director of the U.N.’s humanitarian office, speaking at the Security Council on Wednesday.

RAMESH RAJASINGHAM: In December, it was projected that the entire population of 2.2 million people in Gaza would face high levels of acute food insecurity by February 2024 — the highest share of people facing this level of food insecurity ever recorded worldwide. And here we are at the end of February with at least 576,000 people in Gaza, one-quarter of the population, one step away from famine.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, says Israel is intentionally starving Palestinians and should be held accountable for war crimes. Michael Fakhri joins us now from Eugene, Oregon. He’s a professor of law at the University of Oregon.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Michael Fakhri. Why don’t you lay out what you understand is happening? And what is international law around the right to food?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yes. Thank you, Amy.

Every single person in Gaza is hungry right now. A quarter of the population, so that’s a half a million people, are starving. And famine is imminent. We’ve never seen an entire population, 2.2 million people, made to go hungry this quickly and this completely. And people’s health is rapidly declining. What’s really concerning now is we’re starting to hear reports of children dying from dehydration, malnutrition and starvation. We’ve never seen children pushed into malnutrition so quickly. In the almost five months of war, there have been more children, more journalists, more medical personnel, more U.N. staff killed more than anywhere else in the world in any conflict.

In early October, when this war began, myself, amongst other independent U.N. human rights experts, immediately called for a warning of a risk of genocide, asking that there be an immediate ceasefire to prevent genocide. Unfortunately, what’s happened is the war has gotten worse. Israel’s attacks against civilians has continued and expanded. And I think it’s safe to say this is a genocide. And now we’re in the situation where we’re seeing starvation, and we’re seeing the denial of humanitarian aid and the destruction of the food system itself in Gaza.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Michael, if you could respond to the news from earlier today, authorities in Gaza saying Israeli forces committed a massacre in Gaza City, killing at least 104 Palestinians as they waited for food aid? Gaza’s Health Ministry says over 760 people were wounded, in what Hamas called an unprecedented war crime. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd, who had gathered around humanitarian aid trucks. So, if you could respond to that and, you know, what that means in terms of the very little food aid getting in and people trying to get it and then this is what happens?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yes. This isn’t — so, unfortunately, this isn’t the first time people have been shot at by Israeli forces while trying to get access to aid. So, this most recent story has been the most tragic in terms of the number of dead and the number of wounded, but there have been repeated reports of Israeli forces shooting at Palestinian civilians who are waiting to receive aid. We’ve also heard reports of Israel bombarding convoys of aid trucks, even after those routes are coordinated with Israeli forces. So Israeli forces know where those convoys are, and, nevertheless, they are shooting at them.

Moreover, there’s been planned convoys that have been attempted to be sent to northern Gaza, and the last convoy that was sent that Israel allowed to reach northern Gaza was January 23rd. So, not only is Israel shooting at people getting aid, bombarding trucks en route, they’re denying convoys from reaching the north. And they’re making it very difficult for trucks to cross the borders, as we heard from Senator Merkley, whether it’s through Rafah crossing, the border with Egypt, or where most aid is coming through is the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is through Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Fakhri, you’re really explaining a dire situation. I mean, looking on film at people in Gaza, the sunken eyes, how skinny their bodies are, we have reports — Al Jazeera was just doing a report from one of the hospitals in northern Gaza. It was Kamal Adwan Hospital, where they said infants are in the hospital. They no longer have parents. Usually at the hospital there’s a can of milk for every infant. Here, there isn’t a can for the entire ward. What does it mean to be the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food? What kind of power do you have? What kind of reports do you do?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yeah. I mean, at this point I’m running out of words to be able to describe the horror of what’s happening and how vile the actions have been by Israel against the Palestinian civilians. My job is to be — I’m an independent expert. I’m given authority by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. This is a volunteer position. My job is to be the eyes, ears, and sometimes good conscience, for the U.N. system on all matters regarding hunger, malnutrition and famine, from a human rights perspective.

So, what I do is I present reports to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly. I decide what’s on the agenda when I present to them. I decide what is the right-to-food agenda when presenting to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. So, my most recent report, when I go to the Human Rights Council next week, will be on the role of small-scale fishers. And what I will be doing now, between now and then the General Assembly in October, is my next report will be on starvation, with an emphasis on Gaza, because, unfortunately, we’re seeing a rise in conflict all over the world — conflict is the main source of hunger in the world — and also, for that report, to create a record of what’s going on in Gaza, because we’re seeing starvation, and we’re at the brink of famine.

And what’s the thing to remember about starvation and famine, it’s always, always human-made. It’s always the result of political choices. Never has there been a famine in modern history that was not because people with power made very specific choices and chose and decided to punish civilians. And what we’re seeing in Gaza is no different than that historical record.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Fakhri, could you talk about the International Court of Justice ordering provisional measures? And what’s come of that? To what extent did Israel comply with those provisional measures?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yeah. On January 26th, the International Court of Justice stated in its provisional measures — and here I’m going to quote verbatim — that the state of “Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” What the court also did is it considered the “catastrophic humanitarian situation” — these are their words — in the Gaza Strip is, quote, “at a serious risk of deteriorating.” That’s the International Court of Justice in late January.

What happened instead, Israel did not comply with the court. In fact, it tried to undermine the court’s authority. And what they did, in fact, is they’ve been restricting and denying the delivery of humanitarian aid to people in Gaza. And around that same time, in late January, Israel denied there was even a humanitarian crisis or starvation. And so, what we saw, instead of compliance with the International Court of Justice, is a reduction of humanitarian aid by 50%. And so, to put it in perspective, before the war began, approximately 500 trucks used to enter Gaza a day. Now, if we’re lucky, the average is about a hundred, but that’s an average amount.

The other thing to remember, even before all of this happened, is Israel had a lot of control over the entry of food into Gaza through a 17-year blockade. Because the question we have to ask: How was Israel able to make 2.2 million people go so hungry so quickly and completely? They were already keeping people on the brink of hunger through the 17-year blockade, making it very difficult for fishers to access the sea. And 50% of people in Gaza before the war were already food insecure. Eighty percent relied on humanitarian aid.

So, it’s so clear that not only is Israel not complying with the International Court of Justice, but I would add now that Israel is using humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip. So, not only is it breaching international law and the order of the International Court of Justice, it’s clear now — because what we saw on Tuesday — this is February 27th, this Tuesday — Israel and Hamas began negotiating for a potential 40-day truce. And it’s important to note what has Israel offered in the negotiations. They’ve offered humanitarian relief to Palestinians in Gaza. So, what Israel is offering for — they want concessions from Hamas. They’re offering things like a commitment to bring in 500 trucks per day of humanitarian aid. Israel is potentially committing to providing 200,000 tents and 60,000 caravans. And they’re offering to rehabilitate hospitals and bakeries and to allow for the necessary equipment to enter. This is the bare minimum. What they’re offering as a political negotiation is the basic bare minimum as a legal obligation in terms of international humanitarian law, as a legal obligation to comply with the International Court of Justice, as a legal obligation to meet human rights law. But again, this is the bare minimum. And they’ve been withholding this. They’ve been withholding this. And now that we see the negotiations for a truce, we see how Israel is using it as a bargaining chip to offer something, as if it’s a political choice and not a legal and, I would add, a moral obligation.

AMY GOODMAN: Is Israel committing a war crime, Michael Fakhri?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly, they are committing war crimes. But let me add, a war crime — what’s interesting about war crimes is we can only hold individuals accountable for war crimes. This is something, I think, more existential. This is why we are saying — “we” being the dozens of independent U.N. human rights experts — are saying this is genocide. This is why the International Court of Justice is saying there’s a plausible case for genocide, from their perspective. What we mean by saying this is genocide means that Palestinian people, the people, are being targeted simply because they are Palestinian, simply because of who they are. This is what makes it genocide.

What’s important about framing it genocide is, of course, the remedy that is available. Genocide means the state of Israel itself is culpable, because, to go back to starvation, this is a systemic denial of humanitarian aid. This is a political choice to use the denial of humanitarian aid and starving of people as a political bargaining chip. This means that the entire state of Israel is culpable. But that also means that the remedy is not just throw this individual or that individual in jail maybe at some — a few years in the future. What the remedy is for genocide is fully recognizing the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination. This is why it’s important to understand this as a genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s move from Gaza to the West Bank. Can you talk about the attacks on farmers on the West Bank? What is happening on the ground? Who is responsible, Michael Fakhri?

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yeah. So, what’s also interesting is that when this particular war started in Gaza, immediately we saw an escalation of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and specifically against Palestinian farmers, and we saw increased violence by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the West Bank.

And so, what’s happened now is that the harvest season for olives has passed, and farmers were not able to harvest olives. This has several implications. So, there’s a record number of violence we’re seeing in the West Bank, more than ever in recent times. And attacking the olive trees and olive harvest is not just about olives, which are important for nutrition and for food and for making sure that the land remains fruitful in the future. The olive tree is central to Palestinian identity. It reflects and is a core aspect of the Palestinian people’s relationship to the land, to traditions, to their ancestors and to the future. And so, to attack and undermine and eliminate some olive trees is, again, attack against the Palestinian people at their core.

So, what we’re seeing — again, this is why we’re so concerned that it’s not — this is not just about the war in Gaza. This is escalated violence against Palestinian people. And you can track this when you follow food, when you follow the agriculture, when you look at fishers in Gaza, and if I might turn also to how the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has been threatened by the lack of funding. So, because of unfounded claims by Israel, claiming that — at first they said 12, and now the number is down to nine employees, out of 30,000 employees, major donors to UNRWA have decided to end funding. This includes the United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, amongst many others — this punishes all Palestinian refugees across the board, not just in Gaza, but in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but also in Lebanon, in Syria and Jordan. So, time and time again, what we are seeing is this increased rate of violence against all Palestinian people simply because of who they are.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Fakhri, let’s just end with the global hunger crisis, which the World Food Programme has noted is of unprecedented proportions. In just two years, the number of people facing or at risk of acute food insecurity increased from 135 million before the pandemic to 345 million now.

MICHAEL FAKHRI: Yes. So, before the pandemic, we were already seeing a rise in the rates of hunger and malnutrition. This started in 2015. When the pandemic started in 2020, it immediately triggered a hunger crisis in the whole world, so rich countries, poor countries alike. All of a sudden, there was a spike in hunger. Now, when the pandemic then formally ended, what happened is the hunger crisis actually got worse. The reason is because there were temporary measures and social programs that were put in place during the pandemic to deal with the health crisis. This is things like universal school meals for children, sometimes throughout the whole year, not just the academic year; direct cash payments to people; supporting local food markets, local farmers markets. These programs were put in place as temporary measures to deal with the pandemic and the food crisis in the pandemic.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds.

MICHAEL FAKHRI: So, what needs to be done is to turn those temporary programs into permanent programs; otherwise, this global food crisis is only going to get worse.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Fakhri is the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food and a professor of law at the University of Oregon.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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The Intercept: New York Times Exposé Lacks Evidence to Claim Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence Oct. 7
by Amy Goodman
March 2, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/3/1/n ... transcript

We speak with Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim of The Intercept about their exposé of a major New York Times piece into alleged mass rapes committed by Hamas militants on October 7 that raises serious questions about the accuracy of the story. The Times article was headlined “'Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7,” and its release in late December helped the Israeli government to justify the ongoing war on Gaza and to paint pro-Palestine supporters abroad as not caring about sexual violence. One of the reporters of the Times piece, Israeli freelancer Anat Schwartz, is being investigated by the Times for her social media activity, which included dehumanizing language and endorsements of violence against Palestinians in Gaza. ”The New York Times has grave, grave mischaracterizations, sins of omission, reliance on people who have no forensic or criminology credentials to be asserting that there was a systematic rape campaign put in place here,” says Scahill, who criticizes the newspaper for not issuing any corrections for their flawed reporting. We also hear from Ryan Grim about how the flawed Times article touched off “extremely intense debate” inside the newsroom. “They’re used to external criticism, but the amount of internal criticism they’re getting has them on the back foot,” he says.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The New York Times is reportedly conducting an internal investigation to identify the source behind leaked information about its coverage of Israel and Gaza. According to Vanity Fair, the internal investigation follows a report in The Intercept about the Times shelving an episode of its podcast The Daily over doubts regarding the accuracy of a highly controversial blockbuster New York Times article published at the end of December alleging Hamas members committed widespread sexual violence, weaponized it, on October 7th. Vanity Fair reports that in recent weeks management of The New York Times have questioned at least two dozen staffers, including producers of The Daily, the podcast, in an attempt to understand how internal details about the podcast’s editorial process got out.

Democracy Now! asked The New York Times about the internal investigation. The paper’s international editor, Phil Pan, said in a statement, quote, “We aren’t going to comment on internal matters. I can tell you that the work of our newsroom requires trust and collaboration, and we expect all of our colleagues to adhere to these values,” end-quote.

The New York Times article at the center of the controversy was published December 28th. It was headlined “'Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.” In it, the Times reported they had found evidence of systematic sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas and that their two-month investigation, quote, “uncovered painful new details, establishing that the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7,” unquote.

However, not long after the highly publicized article was published, major discrepancies began to emerge, including public comments from the family of a major subject of the article, contradictory claims from a key witness, and criticisms over a lack of solid evidence in the overall investigation. Then news emerged last week that one of the three authors of The New York Times piece, named Anat Schwartz, had liked multiple posts on social media advocating for violence against Palestinians, including one that called for turning Gaza into a slaughterhouse. Anat Schwartz is an Israeli filmmaker who had no prior reporting experience before she was assigned by the Times to work on the major investigation along with her relative Adam Sella and veteran Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman.

On Wednesday, The Intercept published another in-depth investigation that further questions the Times article and the reporting process behind it. It’s headlined “'Between the Hammer and the Anvil': The Story Behind the New York Times October 7 Exposé,” and the two Intercept reporters who wrote it join us today. Jeremy Scahill is a senior reporter and correspondent at The Intercept. He’s joining us from Germany. And Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s bureau chief in Washington, D.C., where he joins us from.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jeremy, let’s begin with you. Can you lay out first the significance of the New York Times article that’s at the center of the controversy, and then talk about your latest piece, that looks into how it all came about?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Amy, in early December, you had the death toll skyrocketing in Gaza. You had a number of nations, including those that are allies with Israel, starting to speak out about the death toll among women, children, the elderly. And part of a pattern of what we’ve seen throughout the course of these five months of scorched-earth attacks against Gaza is that whenever Israel perceives itself to be losing the narrative war or when it needs to remind the public of its perception that Israel is the only victim in this story, they unload a new round of attacks against a variety of individuals or organizations that are working in Gaza or living in Gaza, human beings. We saw that with the attacks against UNRWA. We saw that with the attacks against Al-Shifa and other hospitals.

And in early December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government really began an intense propaganda campaign to convince the world that Hamas had engaged in a systematic campaign of rape aimed at Jewish women and girls. And then they launched this fake criticism of feminist organizations, saying that they had all systematically failed to stand up and denounce this systematic rape regime that had been intentionally implemented by Hamas in the October 7th attacks. And on the day that Netanyahu made his most prominent statement about this, President Biden was at a fundraising event in Boston, and he issued — he made a statement at his speech that echoed what Netanyahu said, and said the world, you know, can’t turn away and ignore this.

Well, what was happening at that very moment was that The New York Times, with one of its most prominent international correspondents, Jeffrey Gettleman, he had recently hit the ground in Israel, and he was working — Gettleman enlisted the help of two individuals that were going to work with him there. And Gettleman had proposed three lines of investigation, and one of them was the issue of sexual violence. And the two individuals that Gettleman was working with, one of them is a very young person who’s only recently gotten into journalism, Adam Sella, and he had mostly been like a food journalist and has a background in looking at agricultural issues, etc. He had started to write some freelance pieces that were dipping into the waters of politics and the conflict, but a quite inexperienced reporter. And then, the other was someone with no reporting experience outside of making some documentary films, and that is Anat Schwartz. It’s unclear how Anat Schwartz, in particular, got involved with this project.

And as you mentioned, she had, early on in the Israeli attacks against Gaza, liked a tweet that actually was cited by the International Court of Justice as a potentially — a statement of potential genocidal incitement. She also liked the tweet from the Israeli government promoting the debunked allegation that 40 babies had been beheaded on October 7th, which is entirely false, as well as another tweet that said, “We must just refer to Hamas as ISIS.”

And so, they start off on this investigation, and our understanding from sources is that the overwhelming majority of the interviews and reporting that was being done on the ground was being handled by Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella.

And we discovered a podcast interview with Anat Schwartz in Hebrew that she gave, where she — it’s a shocking podcast in how much detail she offers about the process that they used when they were reporting it. And just to put it in a nutshell, she describes how the first thing that she did was start to call around to what she describes as all of the Israeli hospitals that have facilities that are called Room 4 facilities. These would be the intake places where people who have been victims of sexual crimes, including assault and rape, etc., where they would be examined or their cases would be referred. And she said that not a single one of them reported that they had any reports of sexual assault or rape on October 7th.

She then started calling around to a rape crisis hotline and describes how she had this, what she described as an intense conversation with the manager of the rape crisis hotline in that part of Israel, where she was dumbfounded when he was saying he didn’t have any calls reporting sexual assault or rape. And she’s saying, “How is this possible?”

And then she starts talking — she goes to a holistic therapeutic center that was established at a former high-end retreat center outside of Tel Aviv, where mostly people from the Nova rave, where there were attacks and where a couple of hundred people were killed — it was a place where people could do alternative medicine and yoga, relaxation therapy — I mean, people who were highly traumatized. And she goes there, and her characterization was that she sensed what she called a “conspiracy of silence” among the therapists, because none of them were telling her, “Yes, we’re treating people who were raped or had experienced sexual assault.”

And so, when she went through all the official channels, the places where you would reach out to see, if you’re exploring if there’s a pattern here, what then happened is she starts to look at who’s been interviewed about alleged rapes during the October 7th attacks, and ends up then going and reinterviewing a handful of people who already had made assertions that they witnessed rapes. And some of these people had told varying versions of their stories — which in and of itself does not necessarily mean that they didn’t witness something. I mean, these are people that were in the midst of an incredibly violent episode. But more central to that is that some of the people that The New York Times relied on to assert that there was a systematic, intentional campaign of rape weaponized by Hamas were people that have no forensic credentials, no crime scene credentials. These were people that are not legally permitted in Israel to determine rape, that they relied on these individuals to make this claim that there was a systematic rape regime implemented.

And some of those people, Amy, have well-documented track records of promoting very incendiary narratives about atrocities that occurred on October 7th that were flagrantly false. Just two examples. One of the most prominent or ubiquitous figures that has emerged in Israel’s narrative that Hamas committed systematic rape is an architect from New Jersey named Shari Mendes, who is living in Israel now and is a member of the Israeli Defense Forces rabbinical unit. And she was deployed to prepare women’s bodies for burial in the bases where Hamas attacked military facilities. And she’s been quoted widely saying that they saw widespread evidence of rape and that she personally saw it. She described broken pelvises, not just among, you know, soldiers, but among grandmothers and children. But Shari Mendes also was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that a pregnant woman had a fetus cut out of her body and that the fetus was beheaded and then the mother was beheaded. This is entirely false. We’ve gone through all of the official records that Israel has put out on people who died that day. There was no pregnant woman killed that day. That’s been thoroughly debunked. She also relied on Yossi Landau, a senior official at Zaka. Zaka has been — it’s an ultra-Orthodox private rescue organization. It’s been exposed by Haaretz, the newspaper in Israel, as one of the leading promoters of false information and also that they contaminated the crime scenes by moving evidence around that actual professionals could have done. They also had promoted the beheaded babies stories, etc.

So, The New York Times, they can’t find anyone who works in the rape crisis centers, at the hospitals, among therapists, that are coming forward and saying, “Yeah, we saw this,” or “We have documentation of this,” so they go to people who already were known to have promoted false information, and then they start relying on their testimony to paint this tapestry, this notion that there was a systematic rape regime. And in the New York Times article, they do not ever disclose that their key witnesses have serious credibility problems. So, this is, at a minimum, we are looking at a New York Times piece that failed to inform its readers about severe credibility issues among some of its premier “witnesses,” quote-unquote, that it put forward in this story.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to part of a podcast interview that Anat Schwartz did on January 3rd, produced by Israel’s Channel 12. It was conducted in Hebrew. Here, Anat talks about the difficulties and pressures in reporting the story.

ANAT SCHWARTZ: [translated] Maybe the standard that we have to meet may not be realistic. Maybe it won’t be this complete big story that is told from beginning to end and is complex and has details and nuances and characters. And maybe we are aiming too high. Then there was the U.N. woman and the silence, and there was a lot of preoccupation with it. So, I said, “We’re missing momentum.” Maybe the U.N. isn’t addressing sexual assault because no outlet will come out with a declaration about what happened there, and that it will no longer be interesting. And at some point, after one of the rewrites, we said, “OK, that’s it.” And then I already informed all the people in the Israeli police who are waiting to see what was going on. What? Was The New York Times not believing there were sexual assaults here? And I’m also in this place. I’m also an Israeli, but I also work for The New York Times. So, all the time, I’m like in this place between the hammer and the anvil.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Anat Schwartz, speaking on a podcast on January 3rd. She said she felt “between the hammer and the anvil,” which, Jeremy, you choose as the title of your piece. Talk about the significance of that and, again, the relationship between Anat Schwartz and other reporter, the young reporter, Adam Sella.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, another part of this story is that one of the main victims that was featured in this is referred to as “the woman in the black dress.” Gal Abdush is her name. And, in fact, her family members are the individuals in the feature photo on the piece. And another thing that we’ve learned from Israeli researchers who published this is that when Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella went to a woman that had taken photographs of Gal Abdush that day, they told this photographer that it was her duty under Israeli hasbara to cooperate with The New York Times and let them have all of her photos. And ”hasbara” is the term for public diplomacy, but what it really is is the notion that Israel should engage in externally focused propaganda in order to win over international audiences, primarily Western, the United States and powerful countries, to Israel’s point of view. So, she is using this term, going and trying to encourage someone to cooperate with The New York Times, not because The New York Times is, you know, the most important news organization in the world, but because it’s their duty under Israeli hasbara. So, when she talks about being caught between the hammer and the anvil, what she’s saying is she’s caught between her duty to be honest and a journalist and her duty to serve the agenda of the Israeli state.

And her partner in this, Adam Sella, is the nephew of Anat Schwartz’s partner, and they’re not married. In fact, Amy, The New York Times, they requested a correction from us, because we had initially said that it was her nephew, which I think in the context of America and other countries you would say. If you’re somebody’s longtime life partner, you would say, “Oh, yeah, this is my nephew.” OK, they’re not blood relatives, and they emphasize that she’s not married. Fine, we corrected that.

My question is: Where are the corrections in The New York Times piece? The New York Times has grave, grave mischaracterizations, sins of omission, reliance on people who have no forensic or criminology credentials to be asserting that there was a systematic rape campaign put in place here. And to publish this article at a moment when Israel was intensifying, after that brief pause where captives were exchanged — intensifying its genocidal attack against the people of Gaza, this played a very, very significant role. And the more we learn about this, the more we discover that the reporting tactics that The New York Times used are certainly not up to the standards that the newspaper claims to be promoting. They will not issue any corrections on what has already been documented to be very problematic sins of commission and omission in this piece.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this conversation. We’re talking to Jeremy Scahill, senior reporter at The Intercept. Next up, he’ll be joined by Ryan Grim, who is the Washington bureau chief of The Intercept, and we want to talk to Ryan about what’s happening in The New York Times now in response to this story, and the leak investigation that’s going on, and why a podcast based on their story, their own podcast, The Daily, didn’t air. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “I’m from Here” by Amal Markus. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We’re speaking with Intercept reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim about their exposé into The New York Times article that was published at the end of December. They published another one in January.

We asked The New York Times for a response to your article, and the international editor, Phil Pan, responded, quote, “Ms. Schwartz was part of a rigorous reporting and editing process. She made valuable contributions and we saw no evidence of bias in her work. We remain confident in the accuracy of our reporting and stand by the team’s investigation. But as we have said, her 'likes' of offensive and opinionated social media posts, predating her work with us, are unacceptable,” end-quote.

Ryan, if you can respond to this and talk about what’s going on internally in the Times, and also talk about this leak investigation that’s going on within the paper of record?

RYAN GRIM: [inaudible] by her own admission, in that podcast interview she had, significant violence, because there are two ways to think about what happened on October 7th. The first way is that it was a day of extraordinary mayhem and violence. The Israeli defenses melted away. Not only did you have several thousand Hamas fighters stream across the fence, but you also had hundreds of civilians, some associated with gangs, come across. And in that context, the idea that there would be no sexual assault is not taken seriously by pretty much anybody who understands kind of war and violence. That’s one way to think about October 7th.

The other way to think about it is that Hamas intentionally and systematically designed a kind of strategy of weaponizing rape and sexual violence. That was what Anat Schwartz and The New York Times kind of believed going into the investigation. And oftentimes as journalists, we have something that we think we’re going to be able to prove, we report it out, and then we can’t quite get it. Like, it just — we just don’t land the story. But what the Times did is they wrote the story anyway.

But that gets you then to The Daily episode. So, this article comes out at the very end of December. As The New York Times always does, its landmark pieces get turned into episodes of their flagship podcast, The Daily. But immediately after the story came out, it started coming under criticism, because, as Jeremy pointed out, a lot of the named subjects of the story have enormous credibility problems. And so this starts getting pointed out. Inside the Times, the producers of The Daily have their own kind of fact-checking process where they go over the stories. And the original script that was produced for that first episode had to be discarded, because the producers there couldn’t stand behind it, so they redrafted a second script, which had a lot of caveats and was closer to the first version that I laid out just now, which is an interesting podcast episode, and it’s something worth exploring. But if they had aired that, it would have raised questions about why they were walking away from the certainty of the original piece.

So, we reported on the kind of machinations inside The New York Times about this, the controversy, the disputes that were going on. And since then, as Vanity Fair reported, The New York Times has — rather than reviewing the kind of journalism that went into this, they are launching a leak investigation to try to figure out who’s talking to us.

AMY GOODMAN: In February, one of the reporters behind The New York Times investigation, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jeffrey Gettleman, spoke at a conference on conflict-related sexual violence hosted by Columbia University. He talked about the piece.

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN: I did some stories about hostages. And pretty soon, I mean, maybe, I don’t know, within the first few days of this attack, we were hearing reports of rape and mutilations of women. We heard it right away. And I don’t — maybe people in this room remember those videos of the female soldiers being taken away and the body of that one woman, Shani Louk, in the back of a pickup truck half-naked. Right away, it just — it just — there was obviously crimes against women that happened.

So, because, sadly, I have some experience doing this, I began looking to see what we could find out. And I worked with two other colleagues, and we interviewed almost 200 people over the course of two months. And what we found, I don’t want to even use the word “evidence,” because evidence is almost like a legal term that suggests you’re trying to prove an allegation or prove a case in court. That’s not my role. We all have our roles, and my role is to document.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to get a response to what he is saying there. He’s talking, by the way, to Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Meta, Facebook. Jeremy Scahill, if you can talk about what he sees his role as a reporter?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, this is an astonishing comment from Jeffrey Gettleman. I mean, what is he talking about, that it’s not the job of journalists to uncover evidence? If you’re going to have a headline that — by the way, let me just say this. The “Screams Without Words” headline comes from a source named Raz Cohen, who was at the Nova music festival, and he claims to have witnessed a rape of a woman that he said was — and he’s a special forces, Israeli special forces, veteran, and he has been very adamant that the people who he saw committing this crime were not Hamas, that they were ordinary people. And he has said that in numerous interviews. But to have, then — and he’s the one who said it was like “screams without words.” They’re using a headline from a person whose testimony undermines the thesis of their blockbuster story. So, just to put that on the table.

But for Gettleman to say that it’s not the job of journalists to produce evidence, when you’re going to say, in the middle of a war, where civilians are being starved and killed in an operation that is under review now by the International Court of Justice for genocide — if you’re going to then make an allegation that Hamas implemented a systematic rape campaign, and you say it’s not your job to produce evidence, then what is the job of a journalist in a situation like this? Because, honestly, if you really read their piece carefully, much of it is innuendo. Much of it is based on sources who have either credibility issues or lack professional credentials to weigh in on these matters. This is a grave, grave situation. This is one of the most important pieces of journalism that has been produced during this war, and one of the most consequential. And for the lead reporter, who himself has won the Pulitzer and is an experienced war correspondent, to say that it’s not the job of The New York Times to present evidence in an article asserting that Hamas systematically raped women, it’s astonishing. It’s astonishing.

AMY GOODMAN: And also, the prestigious Gorge Polk Award for Foreign Reporting this year was awarded to the staff of The New York Times, the citation reading, in part, quote “for unsurpassed coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas. Times reporters used firsthand accounts to demonstrate how brutal and well planned the Hamas attack was,” end-quote. And this article in question that we’re talking about, “'Screams Without Words,'” was apparently part of the package submitted by The New York Times that won the award. Ryan Grim, if you can talk about that and the dissent within the Times itself?

RYAN GRIM: Before I answer that, I did want to add one thing to what Jeremy was saying. It is remarkable that Sheryl Sandberg was on that panel with Jeffrey Gettleman, because on December 4th — and Jeremy talked about how this campaign was rolled out — on December 4th, Sheryl Sandberg and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations hosted an event at the U.N. that launched the campaign against these feminist organizations for not standing up and condemning, you know, Hamas’s systematic use of rape. The next day, it was Bibi Netanyahu and then Biden who piled on that campaign. That same day, on December 4th, Sheryl Sandberg penned an op-ed in CNN. She also gave interviews or was quoted in The New York Times on that same day in an article by Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella. So, they were all working together on December 4th to launch this campaign.

The December 4th article in The New York Times had a much softer headline. It said, you know, “What Do We Know About the Use of Sexual Violence” or “About Sexual Violence on October 7th?” And people can go back and read that story. They reported at the time that Israel had enormous amounts of forensic evidence that they were going through that would establish all of the claims that they were making. On December 8th or 9th, they very quietly corrected that story to say, “Correction: Israel does not have forensic evidence to back up these claims. It is relying on eyewitness testimony.” Anat Schwartz had previously reported in the Times that they had, quote, “tens of thousands of eyewitnesses” that they were going to bring forward to make these claims. So, they front-loaded this campaign with these major claims that there was forensic evidence and thousands of witnesses. Then their final article comes out at the end of the month, and, to a casual reader, you would come away from reading it, saying, “Well, they proved it. They made their case. This barbaric terrorist organization did use rape systematically against Israeli women.” And that was used to justify the continuation of the war on Gaza.

But then, as you said, when The Daily tried to look closer at the article, they realized they couldn’t actually stand up the claims that were being made in it. And so, inside the Times, you have this extremely intense debate going on. And I think leaders at the Times have been surprised. They’re used to external criticism, but the amount of internal criticism they’re getting has them on the back foot.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Jeremy, we just have 30 seconds, but even the use of the term “terrorist” within The New York Times and the stepping back of one of the leading editorial directors?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of — there’s a lot of concern right now, particularly among reporters who do work on an international level, that there has been a politicization of this war internally within the newsroom that is impacting the coverage. And I think it’s pretty clear. You can see that in some of the journalism. And now The New York Times — The New York Times has —

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

JEREMY SCAHILL: — has ended up walking back the major claim that they made, and now they’re saying hedge words: It may have occurred. That’s one of the most significant things we uncovered here.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim, they are the co-authors of the piece, “'Between the Hammer and the Anvil.'”
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

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"Between the Hammer and the Anvil": The Story Behind the New York Times October 7 Exposé
Graffiti marking the surprise attack by Hamas militants on a music festival and at kibbutzim near the border with Gaza, on Oct. 13, 2023, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images
by Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Grim, Daniel Boguslaw
The Intercept
February 28 2024, 11:04 p.m.
https://theintercept.com/2024/02/28/new ... october-7/

ANAT SCHWARTZ HAD a problem. The Israeli filmmaker and former air force intelligence official had been assigned by the New York Times to work with her partner’s nephew Adam Sella and veteran Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman on an investigation into sexual violence by Hamas on October 7 that could reshape the way the world understood Israel’s ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. By November, global opposition was mounting against Israel’s military campaign, which had already killed thousands of children, women, and the elderly. On her social media feed, which the Times has since said it is reviewing, Schwartz liked a tweet saying that Israel needed to “turn the strip into a slaughterhouse.”

“Violate any norm, on the way to victory,” read the post. “Those in front of us are human animals who do not hesitate to violate minimal rules.”

The New York Times, however, does have rules and norms. Schwartz had no prior reporting experience. Her reporting partner Gettleman explained the basics to her, Schwartz said in a podcast interview on January 3, produced by Israel’s Channel 12 and conducted in Hebrew.

Gettleman, she said, was concerned they “get at least two sources for every detail we put into the article, cross-check information. Do we have forensic evidence? Do we have visual evidence? Apart from telling our reader ‘this happened,’ what can we say? Can we tell what happened to whom?”

Schwartz said she was initially reluctant to take the assignment because she did not want to look at visual images of potential assaults and because she lacked the expertise to conduct such an investigation.

“Victims of sexual assault are women who have experienced something, and then to come and sit in front of such a woman — who am I anyway?” she said. “I have no qualifications.”

Nonetheless, she began working with Gettleman on the story, she explained in the podcast interview. Gettleman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is an international correspondent, and when he is sent to a bureau, he works with news assistants and freelancers on stories. In this case, several newsroom sources familiar with the process said, Schwartz and Sella did the vast majority of the ground reporting, while Gettleman focused on the framing and writing.

The resulting report, published in late December, was headlined “‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.” It was a bombshell and galvanized the Israeli war effort at a time when even some of Israel’s allies were expressing concern over its large-scale killing of civilians in Gaza. Inside the newsroom, the article was met with praise from editorial leaders but skepticism from other Times journalists. The paper’s flagship podcast “The Daily” attempted to turn the article into an episode, but it didn’t manage to get through a fact check, as The Intercept previously reported. (In a statement received after publication, a Times spokesperson said, “No Daily episode was killed due to fact checking failures.”)

The fear among Times staffers who have been critical of the paper’s Gaza coverage is that Schwartz will become a scapegoat for what is a much deeper failure. She may harbor animosity toward Palestinians, lack the experience with investigative journalism, and feel conflicting pressures between being a supporter of Israel’s war effort and a Times reporter, but Schwartz did not commission herself and Sella to report one of the most consequential stories of the war. Senior leadership at the New York Times did.

Schwartz said as much in an interview with Israeli Army Radio on December 31. “The New York Times said, ‘Let’s do an investigation into sexual violence’ — it was more a case of them having to convince me,” she said. Her host cut her off: “It was a proposal of The New York Times, the entire thing?”

“Unequivocally. Unequivocally. Obviously. Of course,” she said. “The paper stood behind us 200 percent and gave us the time, the investment, the resources to go in-depth with this investigation as much as needed.”

Shortly after the war broke out, some editors and reporters complained that Times standards barred them from referring to Hamas as “terrorists.” The rationale from the standards department, run for 14 years by Philip Corbett, had long been that Hamas was the de facto administrator of a specific territory, rather than a stateless terror group. Deliberately killing civilians, went the argument, was not enough to label a group terrorists, as that label could apply quite broadly.

Corbett, after October 7, defended the policy in the face of pressure, newsroom sources said, but he lost. On October 19, an email went out on behalf of Executive Editor Joe Kahn saying that Corbett had asked to step back from his position. “After 14 years as the embodiment of Times standards, Phil Corbett has told us he’d like to step back a bit and let someone else take the leading role in this crucial effort,” Times leadership explained. Three newsroom sources said the move was tied to the pressure he was under to soften coverage in Israel’s favor. One of the social media posts that Schwartz liked, triggering the Times review, made the case that, for Israeli propaganda purposes, Hamas should be likened at all times to the Islamic State. A Times spokesperson told The Intercept, “Your understanding about Phil Corbett is flatly untrue.” In a statement received after publication, “Phil had asked to change roles before Joe Kahn even became executive editor in June 2022. And it had absolutely nothing to do with a dispute over coverage.”

Since the revelations regarding Schwartz’s recent social media activity, her byline has not appeared in the paper and she has not attended editorial meetings. The paper said that a review into her social media “likes” is ongoing. “Those ‘likes’’ are unacceptable violations of our company policy,” said a Times spokesperson.

The bigger scandal may be the reporting itself, the process that allowed it into print, and the life-altering impact the reporting had for thousands of Palestinians whose deaths were justified by the alleged systematic sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas the paper claimed to have exposed.

Another frustrated Times reporter who has also worked as an editor there said, “A lot of focus will understandably, rightfully, be directed at Schwartz but this is most clearly poor editorial decision making that undermines all the other great work being tirelessly done across the paper — both related and completely unrelated to the war — that manages to challenge our readers and meet our standards.”

“A lot of focus will understandably, rightfully, be directed at Schwartz but this is most clearly poor editorial decision.”

The Channel 12 podcast interview with Schwartz, which The Intercept translated from Hebrew, opens a window into the reporting process on the controversial story and suggests that The New York Times’s mission was to bolster a predetermined narrative.

In a response to The Intercept’s questions about Schwartz’s podcast interview, a spokesperson for the New York Times walked back the blockbuster article’s framing that evidence shows Hamas had weaponized sexual violence to a softer claim that “there may have been systematic use of sexual assault.”

Times International editor Phil Pan said in a statement that he stands by the work. “Ms. Schwartz was part of a rigorous reporting and editing process,” he said. “She made valuable contributions and we saw no evidence of bias in her work. We remain confident in the accuracy of our reporting and stand by the team’s investigation. But as we have said, her ‘likes’ of offensive and opinionated social media posts, predating her work with us, are unacceptable.”

After this story was published, Schwartz, who did not respond to a request for comment, tweeted to thank the Times for “standing behind the important stories we have published.” She added, “The recent attacks against me will not deter me from continuing my work.” Addressing her social media activity, Schwartz said, “I understand why people who do not know me were offended by the inadvertent ‘like’ I pressed on 10/7 and I apologize for that.” At least three of her “likes” have been the subject of public scrutiny.

In the podcast interview, Schwartz details her extensive efforts to get confirmation from Israeli hospitals, rape crisis centers, trauma recovery facilities, and sex assault hotlines in Israel, as well as her inability to get a single confirmation from any of them. “She was told there had been no complaints made of sexual assaults,” the Times spokesperson acknowledged after The Intercept brought the Channel 12 podcast episode to the paper’s attention. “This however was just the very first step of her research. She then describes the unfolding of evidence, testimonies, and eventual evidence that there may have been systematic use of sexual assault,” the spokesperson asserted. “She details her research steps and emphasizes the Times’s strict standards to corroborate evidence, and meetings with reporters and editors to discuss probing questions and think critically about the story.”

The question has never been whether individual acts of sexual assault may have occurred on October 7. Rape is not uncommon in war, and there were also several hundred civilians who poured into Israel from Gaza that day in a “second wave,” contributing to and participating in the mayhem and violence. The central issue is whether the New York Times presented solid evidence to support its claim that there were newly reported details “establishing that the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7” — a claim stated in the headline that Hamas deliberately deployed sexual violence as a weapon of war.

SCHWARTZ BEGAN HER work on the violence of October 7 where one would expect, by calling around to the designated “Room 4” facilities in 11 Israeli hospitals that examine and treat potential victims of sexual violence, including rape. “First thing I called them all, and they told me, ‘No, no complaint of sexual assault was received,’” she recalled in the podcast interview. “I had a lot of interviews which didn’t lead anywhere. Like, I would go to all kinds of psychiatric hospitals, sit in front of the staff, all of them are fully committed to the mission and no one had met a victim of sexual assault.”

The next step was to call the manager of the sexual assault hotline in Israel’s south, which proved equally fruitless. The manager told her they had no reports of sexual violence. She described the call as a “crazy in-depth conversation” where she pressed for specific cases. “Did anyone call you? Did you hear anything?” she recalled asking. “How could it be that you didn’t?”

As Schwartz began her own efforts to find evidence of sexual assault, the first specific allegations of rape began to emerge. A person identified in anonymous media interviews as a paramedic from the Israeli Air Force medical unit 669 claimed he saw evidence that two teenage girls at Kibbutz Nahal Oz had been raped and murdered in their bedroom. The man made other outrageous claims, however, that called his report into question. He claimed another rescuer “pulled out of the garbage” a baby who’d been stabbed multiple times. He also said he had seen “Arabic sentences that were written on entrances to houses … with the blood of the people that were living in the houses.” No such messages exist, and the story of the baby in the trash can has been debunked. The bigger problem was that no two girls at the kibbutz fit the source’s description. In future interviews, he changed the location to Kibbutz Be’eri. But no victims killed there matched the description either, as Mondoweiss reported.

After seeing these interviews, Schwartz started calling people at Kibbutz Be’eri and other kibbutzim that were targeted on October 7 in an effort to track down the story. “Nothing. There was nothing,” she said. “No one saw or heard anything.” She then reached the unit 669 paramedic who relayed to Schwartz the same story he had told other media outlets, which she says convinced her there was a systematic nature to the sexual violence. “I say, ‘OK, so it happened, one person saw it happen in Be’eri, so it can’t be just one person, because it’s two girls. It’s sisters. It’s in the room. Something about it is systematic, something about it feels to me that it’s not random,” Schwartz concluded on the podcast.

American Media Keep Citing Zaka — Though Its October 7 Atrocity Stories Are Discredited in Israel
Schwartz said she then began a series of extensive conversations with Israeli officials from Zaka, a private ultra-Orthodox rescue organization that has been documented to have mishandled evidence and spread multiple false stories about the events of October 7, including debunked allegations of Hamas operatives beheading babies and cutting the fetus from a pregnant woman’s body. Its workers are not trained forensic scientists or crime scene experts. “When we go into a house, we use our imagination,” said Yossi Landau, a senior Zaka official, describing the group’s work at the October 7 attack sites. “The bodies were telling us what happened, that’s what happened.” Landau is featured in the Times report, though no mention is made of his well-documented track record of disseminating sensational stories of atrocities that were later proven false. Schwartz said that in her initial interviews, Zaka members did not make any specific allegations of rape, but described the general condition of bodies they said they saw. “They told me, ‘Yes, we saw naked women,’ or ‘We saw a woman without underwear.’ Both naked without underwear, and tied with zip ties. And sometimes not zip ties, sometimes a rope or a string of a hoodie.”

Schwartz continued to look for evidence at various sites of attack and found no witnesses to corroborate stories of rape. “And so I searched a lot in the kibbutzim, and apart from this testimony of [the Israeli military paramedic] and additionally, here and there, Zaka people — the stories, like, didn’t emerge from there,” she said.

As she continued to work the phones with rescue officials, Schwartz then saw interviews that international news channels began airing with Shari Mendes, an American architect who serves in a rabbinical unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Mendes, who was deployed to a morgue to prepare bodies for burial after the October 7 attacks, claimed to have seen voluminous evidence of sexual assaults.

“We saw evidence of rape,” Mendes stated in one interview. “Pelvises were broken, and it probably takes a lot to break a pelvis … and this was also among grandmothers down to small children. This is not just something we saw on the internet, we saw these bodies with our own eyes.” Mendes has been a ubiquitous figure in the Israeli government and major media narratives on sexual violence on October 7, despite the fact that she has no medical or forensic credentials to legally determine rape. She had also spoken about other violence on October 7, telling the Daily Mail in October, “A baby was cut out of a pregnant woman and beheaded and then the mother was beheaded.” No pregnant woman died that day, according to the official Israeli list of those killed in the attacks, and the independent research collective October 7 Fact Check said Mendes’s story was false.

“I kept wondering all the time, whether if I just hear about rape and see rape and think about it, whether that’s just because I’m leading toward that.”
After Schwartz saw interviews with Mendes, she was further convinced that the systematic rape narrative was true. “I’m like — wow, what is this?” she recalled. “And it feels to me like it’s starting to approach a plurality, even if you don’t know which numbers to put on it yet.”

At the same time, Schwartz said that she felt conflicted at times, wondering if she was becoming convinced of the truth of the overarching story precisely because she was looking for evidence to support the claim. “I kept wondering all the time, whether if I just hear about rape and see rape and think about it, whether that’s just because I’m leading toward that,” she said. She pushed those doubts aside. By the time Schwartz interviewed Mendes, the IDF reservist’s story had ricocheted around the world and been conclusively debunked: No baby was cut from a mother and beheaded. Yet Schwartz and the New York Times would go on to rely on Mendes’s testimony, as well as those of other witnesses with track records of making unreliable claims and lacking forensic credentials. No mention was made of questions about Mendes’s credibility.

HOW SCHWARTZ LANDED in such an extraordinary position at a crucial moment in the war is not entirely clear. Prior to joining the Times as a stringer last fall, Sella was a freelance journalist covering stories on issues ranging from “food, photography, and culture to peace efforts, economics, and the occupation,” according to his LinkedIn profile. Sella’s first collaboration with Gettleman, published on October 14, was a look at the trauma experienced by students at a university in southern Israel. For Schwartz, her first byline landed on November 14.

“Israeli police officials shared more evidence on Tuesday of atrocities committed during the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks, saying they had collected testimonies from more than a thousand witnesses and survivors about sexual violence and other abuses,” Schwartz reported. The story went on to quote Israel’s police chief, Kobi Shabtai, explaining a litany of evidence of gruesome killings and sexual assaults on October 7.

“This is the most extensive investigation the State of Israel has ever known,” Shabtai said in the Schwartz article, promising ample evidence would soon be provided.

When the Times later produced its definitive “Screams Without Words” investigation, however, Schwartz and her partners reported that, contrary to Shabtai’s claim, forensic evidence of sexual violence was non-existent. Without acknowledging the past statements by Shabtai in the Times, the paper reported that quick funerals in accordance with Jewish tradition meant evidence was not preserved. Experts told the Times that sexual violence in wars often leaves “limited forensic evidence.”

On the podcast, Schwartz said her next step was to go to a new holistic therapy facility established to address the trauma of October 7 victims, particularly those who endured the carnage at the Nova music festival. Opened a week after the attacks, the facility began welcoming hundreds of survivors where they could seek counseling, do yoga, and receive alternative medicine, as well as acupuncture, sound healing, and reflexology treatments. They called it Merhav Marpe, or Healing Space.

In multiple visits to Merhav Marpe, Schwartz again said in the podcast interview that she found no direct evidence of rapes or sexual violence. She expressed frustration with the therapists and counselors at the facility, saying they engaged in “a conspiracy of silence.” “Everyone, even those who heard these kinds of things from people, they felt very committed to their patients, or even just to people who assisted their patients, not to reveal things,” she said.

In the end, Schwartz came away with only innuendo and general statements from the therapists about how people process trauma, including sexual violence and rape. She said potential victims might be ashamed to speak out, experiencing survivors’ guilt, or were still in shock. “Perhaps also because Israeli society is conservative, there was some inclination to keep silent about this issue of sexual abuse,” Schwartz speculated. “On top of this, there is probably the added dimension of the religious-national aspect, that this was done by a terrorist, by someone from Hamas,” she added. “There were lots and lots of layers that made it so that they didn’t speak.”

According to the published Times article, “Two therapists said they were working with a woman who was gang raped at the rave and was in no condition to talk to investigators or reporters.”

Schwartz said she had focused on the kibbutzim because she had initially determined it was unlikely sexual assaults had occurred at the Nova music festival. “I was very skeptical that it happened at the area of the party, because everyone I spoke to among the survivors told me about a chase, a race, like, about moving from place to place,” she recalled. “How would they [have had the time] to mess with a woman, like — it is impossible. Either you hide, or you — or you die. Also it’s public, the Nova … such an open space.”

SCHWARTZ WATCHED INTERVIEWS given to international media outlets by Raz Cohen, who attended the Nova festival. A veteran of Israel’s special forces, Cohen did multiple interviews about a rape he claimed to have witnessed. A few days after the attacks, he told PBS NewsHour that he had witnessed multiple rapes. “The terrorists, people from Gaza, raped girls. And after they raped them, they killed them, murdered them with knives, or the opposite, killed — and after they raped, they — they did that,” he said. At an appearance on CNN on January 4, he described seeing one rape and said the assailants were “five guys — five civilians from Gaza, normal guys, not soldiers, not Nukhba,” referring to Hamas’s elite commando force. “It was regular people from Gaza with normal clothes.”

In Cohen’s interview with Schwartz for the Times:

He said he then saw five men, wearing civilian clothes, all carrying knives and one carrying a hammer, dragging a woman across the ground. She was young, naked and screaming.

‘They all gather around her,’ Mr. Cohen said. ‘She’s standing up. They start raping her. I saw the men standing in a half circle around her. One penetrates her. She screams. I still remember her voice, screams without words.”

“Then one of them raises a knife,” he said, “and they just slaughtered her.”

It was this interview that gave the Times its title: “‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.” That Cohen had described alleged assailants as not being members of Hamas undermines the headline, but it remains unchanged. The Times did not address Cohen’s earlier claims that he witnessed multiple rapes.

Schwartz said in the podcast interview that, since the Times insisted on at least two sources, she asked Cohen to give her the contact information of the other people he was hiding with in the bush, so she could corroborate his story of the rape. She recalled, “Raz hides. In the bush next to him lies his friend Shoam. They get to this bush. There are two other people on the other side looking to the other direction, and another, fifth, person. Five people in the same bush. Only Raz sees all the things he sees, everyone else is looking in a different direction.”

Despite saying on the podcast that only Cohen witnessed the event and the others were looking in different directions, in the Times story Shoam Gueta is presented as a corroborating witness to the rape: “He said he saw at least four men step out of the van and attack the woman, who ended up ‘between their legs.’ He said that they were ‘talking, giggling and shouting,’ and that one of them stabbed her with a knife repeatedly, ‘literally butchering her.’” Gueta did not mention witnessing a rape in an interview he did with NBC News on October 8, a day after the attack, but he did describe seeing a woman murdered with a knife. “We saw terrorists killing people, burning cars, shouting everywhere,” Gueta told NBC. “If you just say something, if you make any noise, you’ll be murdered.” Gueta subsequently deployed to Gaza with the IDF and has posted many videos on TikTok of himself rummaging through Palestinian homes. Cohen and Gueta did not respond to requests for comment.

The independent site October 7 Fact Check, Mondoweiss, and journalists Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada and Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone have flagged numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in the stories told in the Times report, including the account of Cohen, who had initially said “he chose not to look, but he could hear them laughing constantly.”

Under pressure internally to defend the veracity of the story, the Times reassigned Gettleman, Schwartz, and Sella to effectively re-report the story, resulting in an article published on January 29. Cohen declined to speak to them, they reported: “Asked this month why he had not mentioned rape at first, Mr. Cohen cited the stress of his experience, and said in a text message that he had not realized then that he was one of the few surviving witnesses. He declined to be interviewed again, saying he was working to recover from the trauma he suffered.”

In addition to Cohen’s testimony, Schwartz said on the Channel 12 podcast that she also watched video of an interrogation of a Palestinian prisoner taken by the IDF whom she said described “girls” being dragged by Palestinian attackers into the woods near the Nova festival. She was also moved, she said, by a clip of an interview she watched in November at a press conference hosted by Israeli officials, the one that became the focus of her first Times article.

An accountant named Sapir described a lurid scene of rape and mutilation, and Schwartz said she became fully convinced there was a systematic program of sexual violence by Hamas. “Her testimony is crazy, and hair-raising, and huge, and barbaric,” Schwartz said. “And it’s not just rape — it’s rape, and amputation, and … and I realize it’s a bigger story than I imagined, [with] many locations, and then the picture starts to emerge, What is going on here?”

The Times report states they interviewed Sapir for two hours at a cafe in southern Israel, and she described witnessing multiple rapes, including an incident where one attacker rapes a woman as another cuts off her breast with a box cutter.

At the press conference in November, Israeli authorities said they were collecting and examining forensic materials that would confirm Sapir’s specifically detailed accounts. “Police say they are still gathering evidence (DNA etc) from rape victims in addition to eyewitnesses to build the strongest case possible,” said a correspondent who covered the press event. Such a scene would produce significant amounts of physical evidence, yet Israeli officials have, to date, been unable to provide it. “I have circumstantial evidence, but in the end, it’s my duty to find supporting evidence for her story and discover the victims’ identities,” said Superintendent Adi Edri, the Israeli official leading the investigation into sexual violence on October 7, a week after the Times report went online. “At this stage, I have no specific bodies.”

In the Channel 12 podcast, Schwartz is asked if firsthand testimonies of women who survived rape on October 7 exist. “I can’t really speak about this, but the vast majority of women who have been sexually assaulted on October 7 were shot immediately after, and that’s [where] the big numbers [are],” she replied. “The majority are corpses. Some women managed to escape and survive.” She added, “I do know that there is a very significant element of dissociation when it comes to sexual assault. So a lot of times they don’t remember. They don’t remember everything. They remember fragments of the events, and they can’t always describe how they ended up on the road and [how they were] rescued.”

In early December, Israeli officials launched an intensive public campaign, accusing the international community and specifically feminist leaders of standing silent in the face of the widespread, systemic sexual violence of Hamas’s October 7 attack. The PR effort was rolled out at the United Nations on December 4, with an event hosted by the Israeli ambassador and the former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg. The feminist organizations targeted by the pro-Israel figures were caught flat-footed, as charges of sexual violence had not yet circulated widely.

Sandberg was also quoted attacking women’s rights organizations in a December 4 New York Times article, headlined “What We Know About Sexual Violence During the Oct. 7 Attacks on Israel” and whose publication coincided with the launch of the PR campaign at the U.N. The article, also reported by Gettleman, Schwartz, and Sella, relied on claims made by Israeli officials and acknowledged the Times had not yet been able to corroborate the allegations. A revealing correction was subsequently appended to the story: “An earlier version of this article misstated the kind of evidence Israeli police have gathered in investigating accusations of sexual violence committed on Oct. 7 in the attack by Hamas against Israel. The police are relying mainly on witness testimony, not on autopsies or forensic evidence.”

Israel promised it had extraordinary amounts of eyewitness testimony. “Investigators have gathered ‘tens of thousands’ of testimonies of sexual violence committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to the Israeli police, including at the site of a music festival that was attacked,” Schwartz, Gettleman, and Stella reported on December 4. Those testimonies never materialized.

“I’m also an Israeli, but I also work for New York Times. So all the time I’m like in this place between the hammer and the anvil.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hammered on the theme in a December 5 speech in Tel Aviv. “I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?” The same day, President Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said, “The world can’t just look away — what’s going on. It’s on all of us — the government, international organizations, civil society, individual citizens — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation — without equivocation, without exception.”

The two-month-long Times investigation was still being edited and revised, Schwartz said in the podcast, when she started to feel concerned about the timing. “So I said, ‘We’re missing momentum. Maybe the U.N. isn’t addressing sexual assault because no [media outlet] will come out with a declaration about what happened there.’” If the Times story doesn’t publish soon, she said, “it may no longer be interesting.” Schwartz said the delay was explained to her internally as, “We don’t want to make people sad before Christmas.”

She also said that Israeli police sources were pressuring her to move quickly to publish. She said they asked her, “What, does the New York Times not believe there were sexual assaults here?” Schwartz felt like she was in the middle.

“I’m also in this place, I’m also an Israeli, but I also work for New York Times,” she said. “So all the time I’m like in this place between the hammer and the anvil.”

THE DECEMBER 28 article “Screams Without Words” opened with the story of Gal Abdush, described by the Times as “the woman in the black dress.” Video of her charred body appeared to show her bottomless. “Israeli police officials said they believed that Ms. Abdush was raped,” the Times reported. The article labeled Abdush “a symbol of the horrors visited upon Israeli women and girls during the October 7 attacks.” The Times report mentions WhatsApp messages from Abdush and her husband to their family, but doesn’t mention that some family members believe that the crucial messages make the Israeli officials’ claims implausible. As Mondoweiss later reported, Abdush texted the family at 6:51 a.m., saying they were in trouble at the border. At 7:00, her husband messaged to say she’d been killed. Her family said the charring came from a grenade.

“It doesn’t make any sense,”said Abdush’s sister, that in a short timespan “they raped her, slaughtered her, and burned her?” Speaking about the rape allegation, her brother-in-law said: “The media invented it.”

Another relative suggested the family was pressured, under false pretenses, to speak with the reporters. Abdush’s sister wrote on Instagram that the Times reporters “mentioned they want to write a report in memory of Gal, and that’s it. If we knew that the title would be about rape and butchery, we’d never accept that.” In its follow-up story, the Times sought to discredit her initial comment, quoting Abdush’s sister as saying she “had been ‘confused about what happened’ and was trying to ‘protect my sister.’”

The woman who filmed Abdush on October 7 told the Israeli site YNet that Schwartz and Sella had pressured her into giving the paper access to her photos and videos for the purposes of serving Israeli propaganda. “They called me again and again and explained how important it is to Israeli hasbara,” she recalled, using the term for public diplomacy, which in practice refers to Israeli propaganda efforts directed at international audiences.

At every turn, when the New York Times reporters ran into obstacles confirming tips, they turned to anonymous Israeli officials or witnesses who’d already been interviewed repeatedly in the press. Months after setting off on their assignment, the reporters found themselves exactly where they had begun, relying overwhelmingly on the word of Israeli officials, soldiers, and Zaka workers to substantiate their claim that more than 30 bodies of women and girls were discovered with signs of sexual abuse. On the Channel 12 podcast, Schwartz said the last remaining piece she needed for the story was a solid number from the Israeli authorities about any possible survivors of sexual violence. “We have four and we can stand behind that number,” she said she was told by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. No details were provided. The Times story ultimately reported there were “at least three women and one man who were sexually assaulted and survived.”

When the story was finally published on December 28 Schwartz described the flood of emotions and reactions online and in Israel. “First of all, in the paper, we gave it a very, very prominent place, which is, apropos all my fears — there is no greater show of confidence than being put on the front page,” she said. “In Israel, the reactions are amazing. Here I think I was given closure, seeing that all the media treat the article and treat it as something of [a] thank you for putting a number on it. Thank you for saying there were many cases, that it was a pattern. Thank you for giving it a title which suggests that maybe there is some organizing logic behind it, that this is not some isolated act of some person acting on his own initiative.”

Times staffers who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisal described the “Screams Without Words” article as the product of the same mistakes that led to the disastrous editor’s note and retraction on Rukmini Callimachi’s podcast “Caliphate” and print series on the Islamic State group. Kahn, the current executive editor, was widely known as a promoter and protector of Callimachi. The reporting, which the Times determined in an internal review was not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by top editors and fell short of the paper’s standards on ensuring accuracy, had been a finalist for a 2019 Pulitzer Prize. That honor, along with other prestigious awards, was rescinded in the wake of the scandal.

Margaret Sullivan, the last public editor for the New York Times to serve a full term before the paper discarded the position in 2017, said that she hopes such an investigation will be launched into the “Screams Without Words” story. “I sometimes joke ‘it’s another good day not to be the New York Times public editor’ but the organization could *really* use one right now to investigate on behalf of the readers,” she wrote.

At some story meetings, Schwartz said on the Channel 12 podcast, editors with Middle East expertise were there to offer probing questions. “We had a weekly meeting, and you bring out the status of your work on your project,” she said. “And Times writers and editors who are concerned with Middle Eastern affairs coming from all kinds of places in the world, they ask you questions that challenge you, and it’s excellent that they do that, because you yourself, all the time, like — you don’t believe yourself for a moment.”

Those questions were challenging to answer, she said: “One of the questions you get asked — and it’s the hardest ones to not be able to answer — if this has happened in so many places, how can it be that there is no forensic evidence? How can it be that there is no documentation? How can it be that there are no records? A report? An Excel spreadsheet? You are telling me about Shari [Mendes]? That’s someone who saw with her own eyes, and is now speaking to you — is there no [written] report to make what she’s saying authoritative?”

The host interjected. “And you went at that stage to those official Israeli authorities, and asked that they give you — something, anything. And how did they respond?”

“‘There is nothing,’” Schwartz said she was told. “‘There was no collection of evidence from the scene.’”

But broadly, she said, the editors were fully behind the project. “There was no skepticism on their part, ever,” she claimed. “It still doesn’t mean I had [the story], because I didn’t have a ‘second source’ for many things.”

A Times spokesperson pointed to this portion of the interview as evidence of the paper’s rigorous process: “We have reviewed the wider transcript and it’s clear you’re persisting in taking quotes out of context. In the portion of the interview you refer to, Anat describes being encouraged by editors to corroborate evidence and sources before we’d publish the investigation. Later, she discusses regular meetings with editors where they would ask ‘hard’ and ‘challenging’ questions, and the time it took to undertake the second and third stages of sourcing. This is all part of a rigorous reporting process and one which we continue to stand behind.”

In her interview with the Channel 12 podcast, Schwartz said she began working with Gettleman soon after October 7. “My job was to help him. He had all kinds of thoughts about things, about articles he wanted to do,” she recalled. “On the first day, there were already three things on [his] lineup, and then I saw that at number three was ‘Sexual Violence.’” Schwartz said that in the initial aftermath of the October 7 attacks, there was not much focus on sexual assaults, but by the time she began working for Gettleman, rumors began spreading that such acts had taken place, most of it based on the commentary of Zaka workers and IDF officials and soldiers.

After the article was published, Gettleman was invited to speak on a panel about sexual violence at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His efforts were lauded by the panel and its host, Sandberg, the former Facebook executive. Instead of doubling down on reporting that helped win the New York Times a prestigious Polk Award, Gettleman dismissed the need for reporters to provide “evidence.”

“What we found — I don’t want to even use the word ‘evidence,’ because evidence is almost like a legal term that suggests you’re trying to prove an allegation or prove a case in court,” Gettleman told Sandberg. “That’s not my role. We all have our roles. And my role is to document, is to present information, is to give people a voice. And we found information along the entire chain of violence, so of sexual violence.”

Gettleman said his mission was to move people. “It’s really difficult to get this information and then to shape it,” he said. “That’s our job as journalists: to get the information and to share the story in a way that makes people care. Not just to inform, but to move people. And that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time.”

One Times reporter said colleagues are wondering what a balanced approach might look like: “I am waiting to see if the paper will report in depth, deploying the same kind of resources and means, on the United Nations’ report that documented the horrors committed against Palestinian women.”

Update: February 29, 2024
This story has been updated to include comments tweeted after publication by Anat Schwartz. This story has also been updated to include a statement from the Times, received after publication, that standards editor Phil Corbett planned to leave as of June 2022 and regarding an episode of “The Daily” that never aired.

Correction: February 29, 2024
This story has been corrected to remove an errant reference to unnamed experts in a New York Times article; the Times named one expert. A reference to guests at a Times editorial meeting, made due to a translation error, has been removed; the attendees were editors. This story has been corrected to reflect that Adam Sella is the nephew of Anat Schwartz’s partner, not Schwartz.


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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Tue Mar 05, 2024 5:25 am

Report from Rafah: U.S. Airdrops Food to Gaza While Arming Israel to Drop Bombs
by Amy Goodman
March 4, 2024
https://www.democracynow.org/2024/3/4/g ... transcript

The death toll from Israel’s assault on Gaza has surpassed 30,000 as health officials say at least 16 Palestinian children have died in recent days from starvation and dehydration. UNICEF is warning the number of child deaths will likely “rapidly increase” unless the war ends. As Palestinians desperately seek aid being withheld by Israel, officials have accused Israeli forces of attacking crowds gathered to retrieve the little humanitarian supplies entering the besieged territory. Live from Rafah, Gaza-based journalist Akram al-Satarri shares his brother’s account of surviving an Israeli attack while attempting to secure food for his kids. “It looks like the objective is to continue the starvation of the people of Gaza and to kill them when they dare to think that they can secure something to feed their children,” says al-Satarri, who reports that U.S. airdrops of aid are doing little to relieve the suffering of millions in Gaza while U.S. military aid supports Israeli attacks. “In one hand, they are providing people with food, and in the other hand, they are providing people with death.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Gaza, where Palestinian health officials say at least 16 children have died in recent days from starvation and dehydration as Israel’s assault continues. UNICEF warns the number of child deaths will likely “rapidly increase” unless the war ends.

Palestinians in Rafah searched Sunday under the rubble of a family home hit by an Israeli airstrike the night before that killed as many as 14 people, including a father and twin babies born in the last few months.

PALESTINIAN WOMAN: [translated] We want the United States to get away from us. We don’t want anything from them. We don’t want anything from the United States. They are lying and conspiring against us. God is my suffice and the best deputy.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in the United States, Vice President Kamala Harris Sunday called for a ceasefire in Gaza. She made the comments in a speech in Selma, Alabama, marking the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire, for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table. This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in. This would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom and self-determination. Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Harris spoke three days after the United States blocked a U.N. Security Council statement condemning Israel after Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians seeking aid in Gaza City, in a massacre that left at least 118 people dead. On Sunday, officials in Gaza accused Israeli forces of killing and wounding dozens more aid seekers who had gathered at the Kuwaiti roundabout in Gaza City. Facing growing international criticism, President Biden Friday announced the United States would begin airdropping food aid into Gaza.

Negotiations for a temporary ceasefire faced another setback Sunday when Israel boycotted talks in Cairo after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Hamas of failing to provide a list of all living Israeli hostages.

Meanwhile, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz is in the U.S. for what’s being described as an unauthorized trip to hold talks with Vice President Harris, Tony Blinken and other top officials. Gantz is seen as a rival to Netanyahu, who reportedly lashed out at Gantz for making the trip without his approval.

All of this comes as the official death toll in Gaza has topped 30,500.

For more, we go to Rafah for an update from Akram al-Satarri, the Gaza-based journalist.

Akram, your brother was at the aid convoy when Israeli soldiers opened fire. What did he explain to you happened, what’s being now called the flour massacre, for the flour that people were coming to get to make bread?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Good morning, Amy.

Yes, indeed, my brother was one of the people who were targeted by the Israeli tanks and artillery fire in that area of al-Rashid Street, particularly al-Nabulsi roundabout, when they were trying to seek food for their children. To start with, it is the very personal story of my brother in mind, who was in direct contact with me, seeking to secure any help whatsoever for his children. He was taking that unsafe trip towards al-Nabulsi roundabout. He was waiting there. He was waiting from 3:00 in the afternoon. He was hoping that he would get at least some wheat flour for his children, because they have not eaten bread for around 25 days or even more than 25 days. He saw many people there coming from the Gaza north, as well, in the hope that they can secure some food for their children.

All of a sudden, the bombardment started — not the bombardment; rather, the tanks’ gunfire started. And, of course, the tanks are using 1.5-millimeter caliber guns, and those guns are very lethal. They can split a person into two halves. The fire started. The tanks never stopped shooting at them. And the observation that was — the observation that was made by the people who were there, including my brother, that the number of the tanks that were present in that particular time was [inaudible], in the sense that in the last few days they knew tanks were like there, but not in the large number that was in that particular day. The fire started. The fire never stopped. People were shot. People were falling on the ground. People were running. And some of the wounded people were grabbing the legs of the other people, asking them to save and help them. The ones even whose legs were pulled were shot, as well, and were killed. So, people were crawling. My brother told me that he was crawling for around 1.5 kilometers, from this al-Nabulsi roundabout up to al-Shalihat roundabout, which is an area that is around 1 kilometer or 1.2 kilometers far away from the area that they were in. The firing never stopped.

And to him, it looked like that was preplanned and that the massacre that was planned, according to the description of my brother and any other people, was intentional. And the firing never stopped 'til that very large number of people were killed. And a very large number of people also was injured. Some of them are dying every day. And this specific incident was replicated the day after this massacre took place and the day, three days or even four days after that. So it looks like this is a policy that is followed by the Israeli occupation army, and it looks like the objective is to continue the starvation of the people of Gaza and to kill them when they dare to think that they can secure something to feed their children. So they were killed when they're trying to get the wheat flour. They were killed while they were seeking life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Israeli military says it started a preliminary review and that Israeli forces did not attack the convoy, but that most of the fatalities were caused by a stampede. At the same time, the director of the Al-Awda Hospital told the United Nations some 80% of the wounded brought into the hospital had been shot. If you could respond further, Akram?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, according to the preliminary diagnoses of the hospital and of the people who were there, most of the people who were there were suffering from upper body parts injuries, which is indicative of the gun that was used, of the fire that was used against them. Some were hit also by shrapnel because of the — by artillery fire that was hit at them.

Of course, if I were Israel or if I were the occupation, I would tell the world that I have already started a preliminary investigation, and they might also [inaudible] came from us, and shoot the Palestinians, who were not using any arms and who were seeking to feed their children. That’s typical. That’s normal. This is the Israeli habit. They will say — because they targeted the Baptist Hospital, and they also said that was not them, that was an Islamic Jihad rocket, missile, that hit the people and killed around 600 people. That’s normal.

But the issue now, if the international community is failing to compel Israel to conduct a scrutiny into the things that happened, I think the international community failed before and is still failing to stop the ongoing atrocities and is helping somehow. When they are condoning the ongoing bombardment, they are failing to do justice for the people of Palestine, and they are failing to observe the international humanitarian law coordinates — the international humanitarian law dictates, that asks the government to take whatever precautions are needed to protect the civilian population, civilian population that is living in Gaza, extremely difficult conditions [inaudible] food [inaudible]. They were not [inaudible] in a fire exchange. They were seeking food for their families and for their children and for themselves, and they ended up being killed.

So, Israel will deny. And I wouldn’t be surprised also if Israel said that they were killed by other Palestinians. That is a scenario, I think, that is extremely acceptable for Israel. And Israel allies would buy anything from Israel. So, no need. The ones who were killed are just Palestinians, Palestinians who were treated as second-grade humans, who are still besieged, who are still starving, who are still killed, who are still displaced for around second or six or seven or eight times, and who are expecting more of the misery and the death and displacement.

So, the international community is failing, and I don’t think the Palestinians trust any statements made by the Israeli army about any preliminary investigation, because there were many preliminary investigations to be done, but they were never done, and there was many justice that is expected to be done for the Palestinians but was not done.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram, if you can comment on the United States working with the Jordanian Air Force, dropping 38,000 ready-to-eat meals, largely on the beach in Gaza? If you can respond to — we just played clips of mass protest, that there was protest around the world, but one person in Washington, D.C., commented on the fact that while the U.S. is providing, is dropping this food, they should stop providing Israel with the bombs they drop on Palestinians.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: The clear analysis of this situation when it comes to the cause-and-effect relationship between Israel and the misery that the Palestinians have been living, the United States and the misery that Palestinians have been living, three C-103 planes were dropping food on the Palestinians, while countless number of F-16s, F-15s, F-22s and F-35s, also with the most advanced technology and with the ammunition that are provided by the United States to the Israel — so, in one hand, they are providing people with food, and in the other hand, they are providing people with death, taking their lives.

I think the United States should be reconsidering its position when it comes to providing Israel with killing ammunitions and thinking that they are providing people in Gaza with around 35,000 or 36,000 meals that are ready to eat. The Palestinians might not be able to eat them. And some of the airdropped assistance that was dropped in Gaza went to the sea. And one of the people that I was talking to, he was joking and mocking the whole situation we are living in. He was saying the fish is very grateful for the American administration because they dropped the food that was sent to Gaza to the fish in the Gaza Sea. And I think a president that is dropping the aid for the Ukrainians while the Gaza is the target is, in a way — needs to reconsider everything about that, and they need to make sure that they provide unhindered access through the recognized crossings of Gaza for the people who are displaced, in the Gaza south and in the Gaza north. So, somehow, it’s — Palestinians find it ridiculous. Palestinians find it a way that needs to be reviewed and changed.

AMY GOODMAN: What word are you getting of ceasefire negotiations? And also, what is happening on the ground where you are, in Rafah, right now? Al Jazeera reporting at least 11 were killed, 50 wounded, after an Israeli air attack on a tent housing displaced people next to an entrance to a hospital in Rafah city, not far from where you are standing.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, the negotiations are still underway. It looks like Israel has some demands to make. Some of them were not agreed upon in the past, but now they are coming up with them. Palestinians don’t have high expectations when it comes to the negotiation.

Palestinians are extremely busy now trying to survive because of the expansion of the ground operation. In Khan Younis area, they have already targeted — the Israeli occupation targeted Hamad City area and also the al-Qarara area, which is an expansion of the ground operation that has been already starting in Khan Younis for the last — have been already rolling in Khan Younis for the last three months. The Israeli occupation forces targeted a tent by a hospital in the Rafah west area, and they also targeted a home. The number of people who were killed in Rafah for the last 24 hours is more than 50 people in different incidents taking place in different parts of Rafah.

So, the misery is continuous, and the bombardment is continuous. And the number of Palestinians who are killed because of that and the number of people who are displaced because of that is increasing, I would say, by the second, not by the minute.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has the negotiating team boycotting the negotiations now in — the ceasefire negotiations in Cairo, because he says Hamas has refused, as part of the deal, to provide the list of living hostages. Your thoughts on this and where these negotiations stand?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: As a matter of fact, that — I’ve been following the news about this from the Israeli media sources and from the Palestinian media sources, as well. That specific request was not made by the Israeli security forces, security agencies in the past. Now Netanyahu is inventing something new for the sake of just continuing the delay.

It looks like this delay is taking place for some purely political reasons where Netanyahu is interested in prolonging the war. They have disputes. They have issues. One of the top leaders is now in the U.S.A. Netanyahu is busy calling Blinken and calling other people, telling them that it is an unauthorized trip. It looks like there is something that is internally happening in the Israeli political arena that Netanyahu wants to stop and prevent from happening. And that’s why everything that he wants to do eventually reflects on the Palestinians, now more killing, more displacement, now refusing the request to provide some names — now asking to provide some names.

So, I think we will see a great deal of procrastination like the one that we have been seeing for the past few months. Netanyahu is interested in his personal safety when it comes to his political career, political life, and I think that’s why even the Israeli security forces, that are not being able to end this military confrontation with the Palestinian factions in Gaza, are now trying to, through the political means, to come to, I would say, honorable end for this, but they are failing to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Benny Gantz being in Washington now to meet with today Kamala Harris, Tony Blinken — she’ll be meeting with — and other officials. I wanted to, finally, ask you about the issue of famine, about the number of children who are dying of hunger and dehydration, and how the Palestinians are dealing with this at this point.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, according to the statistics that were released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, around 1 million Palestinians have developed some diseases of any kind, be them some diseases that have to do with the digestive system, with the respiratory system, with the upper respiratory system, which is indicative of the quality of life, where quality of life has reached in Gaza, and what is the situation of the public health. When you don’t have water desalination plants, when you destroy the water purification systems, when you destroy the solar panels that are on top of the houses of the people, when you destroy the heavy vehicles that are used by the municipalities to remove the waste, when you are destroying everything that has to do with the life of the Palestinians, this result is normal and is projected, and it will continue to deteriorate.

Now, with the children, 18 children have died in northern Gaza. More children are dying in southern Gaza. People cannot get decent food for their children. When people are drinking the water, the water is polluted, and it causes them some serious public health issues. And now the children are the most vulnerable people within the community. We have 1 million child in Gaza, 1 million child that do not have appropriate shelter, do not have appropriate feeding systems. They don’t have appropriate water systems, and they end up consuming water that is polluted, food that is polluted. They end up exposed. The twins that were killed yesterday, they were just twins. They were children. They were killed with their father. So they were deprived from the right to live, and they are still deprived from the right to access decent water, shelter and food supplies. So this is the situation in Gaza as it is. It is an ongoing suffering because of the fact that the Israeli occupation denied them the right to be treated as humans. This is the whole issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram al-Satarri, we want to thank you so much for being with us, a Gaza-based journalist, speaking to us today from Rafah. Please be safe.
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Wed Mar 06, 2024 1:43 am

Audio: The DESPERATE Calls From Hostages Before Israeli Troops Killed Them
by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian
Young Turks
Mar 5, 2024

Alon Shamriz and Yotam Haim can be heard crying out for help days before IDF soldiers killed them. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss on The Young Turks.


new audio from a December IDF operation
in the Gaza Strip captured Israeli
hostages literally begging for help just
days before Israeli forces had mistook
them uh for Hamas Fighters and
tragically and fatally shot them now in
the recording that was released by
Israel's con news on Sunday 26-year-old
Alan samri shamri uh and 28-year-old
yotam Heim uh who being held hostage by
Hamas along with a 22-year-old by the
name of uh Samir Talala uh can be heard
shouting in an attempt to alert the IDF
soldiers to their presence so this story
is just so tragic and now we have you
know some audio as a result of a k9 uh
that the IDF was using the K9 had a
GoPro attached to it and uh they speak
in Hebrew but we'll tell you what
they're yelling out after you hear uh
this recording
so the words the men are shouting in
between the gunfire uh reads as follows
uh so We're translating here and it
might not be perfect but they're saying
Help uh we are by the stairs under the
stairs under the stairs please help
hostages and then they say their names
help so they identified themselves and
they're hoping that the IDF soldiers
will come in and help them but the IDF
soldiers were under the impression that
they were really Hamas militants uh
seeking to trick them and they as a
result uh did not end up saving them
they actually did the opposite the most
damning part of this whole incident is
that soldiers had heard shouting of help
and hostages in Hebrew from the building
but they believed it was an attempt by
Hamas to lure them into an ambush
according to an IDF probe they found
signs left by hostages trying to get
soldiers attention also dismissed as
part of a ploy now they heard the
hostages cries with their own ears they
didn't help and the recording was picked
up by a GoPro camera mounted on a dog
from the military's canine unit this is
super tragic as well uh the dog was then
sent um into Gaza at the Gaza City
building during the gun battle the dog
was killed uh allegedly by Hamas
terrorists and the camera was recovered
days later which is why we have this
audio now but by then IDF troops had
already killed uh the three escaped
hostages which is also an incredible
part of the story they were able to
escape their captors and uh they
unfortunately didn't make it out alive
even after being able to do that um so
let's take a look at the uh individuals
who lost their lives as a result of the
IDF um mistaking them as threats and uh
back in December days after the young
men were killed sham R's father a shamri
Spoke out saying the following quote the
IDF abandoned my son on October 7th and
the IDF murdered my son on December 14th
that's what happened it's just really
heartbreaking that's of course an
Israeli citizen saying that um so uh two
interesting parts of the story number
one uh Israel right now is at minus one
hostages recovered by the
IDF they have recovered three and killed
four through their military operations
through their military operations and
those are only the four we know of
because a lot more might have died
through the bombings the massive
indiscriminate bombing they did of
buildings that might have contained
hostages so but as far as we know they
have rescued negative one hostages that
is unbelievable for the and to this day
all the Israeli Defenders say they're
main goal is to they have to keep going
they have to keep killing more
Palestinians because they're trying so
hard to rescue hostages are they cuz it
certainly doesn't look like it I don't
think they trying to rescue hostages at
all it looks a lot more like they're
trying to indiscriminately kill anyone
inside Gaza so now they haven't killed
everyone yes they can congratulations
Israeli supporters they haven't used a
nuke yet to kill every single person
they literally brag about that these
days that's a talking point for them
well we could have killed them all we
didn't kill all every single one of them
congratulations wow you sound really
humanitarian that's how they believe
their debunking allegations of genocide
because their argument is well if we
wanted to do a genocide by just wiping
them all out in one Fell Swoop we could
do that by the way again I've used this
example a hundred times but literally
what the Turks said about the Armenians
they said well we didn't kill the ones
uh on the west side of turkey and in
Istanbul and in the big cities we just
killed the ones in the East see it's not
a genocide that is just wrong
understanding of the word genocide
Holocaust is when you try to kill every
single person in that race okay or
ethnicity or religion genocide is when
you target a group specifically and kill
an enormous number of innocent civilians
and usually has telltale signs like
ethnic cleansing moving people from One
Direction to another uh denying them
food indiscriminate killing of civilians
this is a textbook genocide what's
happening in Gaza right now so and and
what drives me crazy about it and why we
cover it so much is because it's
happening right now and there's nothing
that we're that America is doing about
it other than funding it and making it
more POS and defending it yeah I want to
elaborate it drives me nuts I want to
elaborate on that a little bit more
because I've been noticing this weird
and it might be Bots because it's a
similar Point that's being made over and
over again and it doesn't make any sense
to me so supporters of Joe Biden are
increasingly frustrated by voters
typically Democratic voters who see his
handling of the war in Gaza as so
inhumane that they just can't get
themselves to cast a ballot for him
right and it's not just arab-americans
although arab-americans have been the
most vocal certainly in States like
Michigan so Trump support I'm sorry
Biden supporters foran slip there uh are
arguing well I don't understand there
are far more civilians dying in Ukraine
because of what's happening with Russia
or far more civilians have already died
in Ukraine first of all I haven't fact
checked that but that's what they're
claiming but guys the reason why there
is a moral issue with Israel versus
what's happening in Ukraine is we're not
supporting Putin right like we're not
supporting Putin's Invasion into Ukraine
or the slaughter of civilians in Ukraine
we're doing the opposite right the US
government is helping Ukraine defend
itself against Putin and his illegal
Invasion into their sovereign country
when you look at the Israel Gaza War
it's totally flipped where right now the
side that's carrying out the mass
civilian deaths or killings is the side
that we're funding and supporting and
just today John Kirby had a press
conference and was asked okay well it's
very clear that Israel is continuing the
blockade of humanitarian Aid into the
Gaza Strip and so as a result has the
Biden White House maybe reconsider the
military aid that they want to provide
to Israel and Kirby's like no no we
haven't reconsidered they need defend
themselves now never mind they have the
Iron Dome they have um defense
capabilities and Military capabilities
that Palestinians could only dream of
but you know that's the argument they uh
need the weapons and so no matter what
Israel does even if they're breaking
International laws even if they're
committing war crimes they're our Ally
and we are going to prevent them U
present them with the weapons that they
want so a couple things here um just a a
un controversial unacceptable question
and I'll leave it there so are the
Palestinians allowed to defend
themselves no apparently not or are do
they just sit there and get murdered and
but if they ever fight back it's
terrorism okay I hear you on that and
I've accepted that many times so isn't
it terrorism when Israel kills 25 30
times more civilians no no they're
angels angels when we murder Palestinian
civilians that's because we're the good
guys and had a right to defend ourselves
nonsense total garbage when you kill 25
times the number of people that Hamas
killed you're not defending yourself
anymore you're just murdering people so
you can say ah no how do you like it we
crushed you and we're going to occupy
you for the rest of your goddamn lives
oh wow you guys seem like real
humanitarians show me when you're going
to end the occupation you Liars everyone
in the right-wing government of Israel
is a bunch of fascist lying religious
zealots okay did I just call them
fascist yes you're goddamn right I did
when you killed this number of civilians
and you do it on purpose and you openly
and brazenly talk about how you're going
to move them out of Gaza how you're
going to take Gaza how you're going to
just crush the spirit the soul to
humanity and the lives of these people
that is exactly what fascists do anyway
now to the casualties by the way I just
looked it up to wow this is a big number
it really is and a little over 2 years
in 25 months
10,582 civilians have been killed in
Ukraine in under 5 months 20% of the
time Israel has killed over 30,000 Jesus
so three times as much I know I know IDF
will say no seven of those were Hamas we
got I think I think I think maybe we got
a couple of Hamas Fighters I mean bombs
bombs bombs buildings schools hospitals
everything we just destroyed entire Gaza
I think we got a couple of Hamas guys
yeah yeah yeah yeah so you did three
times as bad as the Russians when they
invaded Ukraine and and and you did it
in five months as opposed to 25 months
so look you see somebody defending
Israel online on Twitter especially
there's an enormous chance that it's a
IDF troll or bot okay yeah there's some
real people but like 90% of them all
repeat the same talking points we've
seen this movie a thousand times last
thing most important story about the
hostage is is it shows you what the
rules of engagement are in Gaza for the
IDF that is what Military Officers tell
their soldiers hey how do you handle a
situation uh if someone's coming up to
you what do you do do are Etc right and
obviously what they've told them is
don't even look for half a second if
they are males let alone the females let
alone the children right and now you
know tens of thousands of women and
children have been killed but if you see
a male don't look twice shoot kill
murder murder murder murder murder oh no
it was Israelis ah their lives matter
when we killed uh 10 20 100 200 times
2,000 times as many Palestinians no one
even cared Palestinian men who cares
they're all terrorists oh no oh no it
was an Israeli their lives are a billion
times more valuable than Palestinians oh
no if it was Palestinians they would
probably would have celebrated that
night you think they wouldn't have
partied that night if it was
Palestinians so don't tell me that your
Rules of Engagement are to protect
civilians that's a joke it's a horrific
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Re: U.S. Backing Has Given Israel License to Kill & Maim

Postby admin » Thu Mar 28, 2024 11:13 pm

Jordan’s government struggles to contain unrest as Gaza protests grow
by Sarah Dadouch
The Washington Post
March 28, 2024 at 8:51 a.m. EDT

[ib]Thousands of Jordanians continue protests near Israeli embassy in Amman[/b]
Associated Press
Mar 27, 2024 #israelhamaswar #israel #jordan

Jordanian security forces dispersed angry demonstrators who again tried to reach the Israeli embassy in Amman on Tuesday evening and during the early hours of Wednesday. Several thousand demonstrators flocked to more than one location close to the embassy for the third day in a row, for an event that activists call the siege of the embassy, in response to the Israeli war on Gaza. #jordan #israel #israelhamaswar

Abu Obaida Posters Near Israeli Embassy, Pro-Palestine Protesters Attacked | Jordan Erupts For Gaza
Hindustan Times
Mar 27, 2024 #occupiedwestbank #alaqsaflood #israelhamaswar

Jordanian anti-riot police beat and arrested dozens of demonstrators trying to march towards the heavily guarded Israeli embassy in the capital Amman, witnesses and residents said on Wednesday. More than two thousand protesters gathered late on Tuesday, the third day of demonstrations which have been marred with clashes, after baton wielding police pushed back hundreds of angry crowds seeking to storm the embassy compound. Many demonstrators chanted slogans in support of the militant Islamist Hamas. Watch.

Jordanian security forces clashed with protesters trying to reach the Israeli embassy in Amman on March 25. (Video: AP)

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Jordanian capital Tuesday for a third straight night to call for an end to Israel’s war in Gaza, clashing with baton-carrying riot police before tear gas rained down on them.

On Wednesday night, demonstrators were back on the streets. “Open the borders,” they chanted.

Though there have been regular protests in Amman throughout the nearly six-month war, the government has largely managed to contain the situation by aligning itself with public sentiment — harshly criticizing Israel’s conduct of the war and championing the Palestinian cause. But the scenes this week appeared more spontaneous, the crowds larger and the anger more raw, sending shock waves through the country’s powerful security establishment.

“Jordan is in an unenviable position,” said Saud al-Sharafat, a former brigadier general in the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate and founder of the Sharafat ِCenter for the Study of Globalization and Terrorism. The grinding conflict in Gaza, and the soaring Palestinian death toll, are testing the state’s “ability to maintain the tempo that exists now, so that [things] do not get out of control.”

The Kingdom of Jordan occupies a unique position in the Middle East. It is a close and longtime ally of the United States, receiving more than $1 billion annually in economic and military aid. In 1994, Jordan signed a peace treaty with neighboring Israel. But the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war — known to Arabs as the “nakba,” or catastrophe — forever altered the country’s demographics.

Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship. Analysts estimate that half of the population is of Palestinian descent. For many in the country, geographically and emotionally, the war in Gaza feels very close.

Jordanian authorities — who typically show little tolerance for public demonstrations — have sanctioned weekly protests after Friday prayers.

“It seems, over time, government institutions learned their lessons and started giving space [for people] to relieve tension,” Sharafat said.

Demonstrators carry banners and flags as a flare burns during a protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza, outside al-Kalouti Mosque near the Israeli Embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday. (Alaa Al-Sukhn/Reuters)

Yet the government has also tried to contain the unrest, forbidding any crowding near, or storming of, the border zone with Israel. Several attempts by protesters in early October to reach the country’s border with the West Bank were thwarted by riot police.

That same month, Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said protesters assaulted and injured public security personnel, threw molotov cocktails and damaged public and private property.

Jordanian lawyers representing detainees told Human Rights Watch this month that hundreds of people have likely been arrested for their involvement in protests or online Palestinian advocacy.

“Jordanian authorities are trampling the right to free expression and assembly in an effort to tamp down Gaza-related activism,” said Lama Fakih, the group’s Middle East director.

The government’s public advocacy for war-battered Gaza has also helped keep a lid on public anger.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was one of the first Arab officials to say that Israel’s war in Gaza met the “legal definition of genocide,” an accusation Israel called “outrageous.” In November, he announced the cancellation of a controversial economic pact with Israel, under which Jordan would have provided energy to its neighbor in exchange for water.

Such regional projects “will not proceed” while the war continues, he told Al Jazeera at the time, adding that Jordan was focused entirely on ending Israel’s “retaliatory barbarism” in Gaza.

But there are limits to how far the government is willing to go, having “tied its political and economic vision to close relations with the United States and Israel,” said Jillian Schwedler, a professor at Hunter College and author of a book on protests in Jordan. Those ties, she added, “are not easily untangled.”

After a meeting at the White House last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah was blunt: “We cannot stand by and let this continue,” he said, with President Biden at his side. “We need a lasting cease-fire now. This war must end.”

In the six weeks since, multiple rounds of shuttle diplomacy by American, Arab and Israeli officials have failed to produce even a temporary cease-fire.

A demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza, near the Israeli Embassy in Amman on Wednesday.

As public discontent grows, Jordan’s security establishment is getting jittery. Unemployment was over 22 percent last year; many young men are out of work. There are fears that the Muslim Brotherhood, a long-suppressed opposition group and a Hamas ally, is playing a role in the protests, hoping to garner support ahead of general elections in August.

“We are your men, Sinwar,” some protesters chanted Tuesday night, a reference to Yehiya Sinwar, the Hamas leader who planned the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and remains at large in Gaza.

On Saturday, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry announced that its embassy in Tel Aviv was following up on reports in Israeli media that two armed men were detained near al-Fasayil village in the West Bank, having allegedly crossed the Jordanian border.

The alarm is palpable among decision-makers in the government, Sharafat said. Regularly dispatching riot police is a financial drain on Jordan’s small and struggling economy, he said. And there is the emotional burden on police themselves, he added, many of whom are also Palestinian. After fasting from sunrise to sunset for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, their nights are now spent clashing with protesters.

As the war has worn on, demonstrators have gotten bolder: The cancellation of the water-for-energy deal was followed by growing public demands for annulling Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel. With the Israeli military now threatening an invasion of Rafah, home to some 1.4 million displaced Palestinians, Sharafat said popular pressure will only increase.

“The Jordanian position is currently in crisis … in figuring out how to deal with the next stage, how to deal with the protests,” he said. “The space the government has to maneuver is very tight.”

Schwedler said she expects “more of the same” — “sharp condemnation of Israel, strained formal diplomatic relations for a while, but little change in policy or ties with Israel.”


Israel Vs Palestine | Israeli 'Executions’ at Al-Shifa Hospital | Israel Vs Gaza | N18V | News18
Premiered 5 hours ago #israel #palestine #gaza

The Israeli army reportedly threatened on Saturday to destroy the Al-Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza city, despite the presence of hundreds of people inside, according to a statement from the Gaza government media office.
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