Saturday, March 16, 2024

Idiot of the week

NPR story.  From yesterday's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

It's on Doo-Doo DeSantis (here for text version):

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign against ideas he considers "woke" has run into some roadblocks.

A court settlement this week blunted his Parental Rights in Education Act, a law that critics call Don't Say Gay. And earlier this month, a federal court blocked another key measure that DeSantis introduced in 2021 and called the Stop WOKE Act. It marked the beginning of DeSantis' efforts to reshape how Floridians view and teach issues involving race and gender identity.

The Stop WOKE Act banned instruction in schools or mandatory training in workplaces that suggest a person is privileged or oppressed because of their race, sex or national origin. Other bills and regulations soon followed, targeting programs to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. For decades, DEI programs as they're known have worked to promote fair treatment of underrepresented groups.

DeSantis believes DEI programs that focus on issues such as race and sexual orientation are unconstitutional and discriminatory. "They call it equity," he said when introducing the Stop WOKE Act. "Just understand, when you hear equity used, that is just an ability for people to smuggle in their ideology."

Politically, the Stop WOKE Act, which was later renamed the Individual Freedom Act was a winner for DeSantis. It helped mobilize conservatives in Florida, helping him win reelection in 2022 by a wide margin. Legally though, it ran into problems.

A federal judge said by restricting people's speech, the law was "positively dystopian." Last year, an appeals court ruled it couldn't apply to colleges and universities. That same court recently ruled it couldn't be enforced against businesses, either. "The court resoundingly rejected the STOP Woke Act as applied to employers and said it was in plain violation of the First Amendment," says attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal of Protect Democracy, who represented the businesses that filed the lawsuit.

DeSantis' administration says it disagrees with the decision and is considering an appeal. But Agarwal notes that four federal judges, including two appointed by former President Donald Trump, have now blocked the law. "I would hope that resounding rejection will have some weight with the state in them thinking about whether they want to pursue it further," she says. 

Other courts also have ruled against a number of DeSantis' conservative initiatives. A federal judge temporarily blocked a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Another judge put a law on hold that would punish businesses that allow children into drag shows. Courts have struck down congressional maps and voter registration restrictions championed by DeSantis.

Doo-Doo DeSantis is stupid and clearly he's the choice for Idiot of the week.  But let's not forget that his stupidity is a heavy lift and he can't do it alone -- he depends on, for example, Jonathan Turley to get back there and lick all the smeared fecal matter on his butt off.  Fortunately, nothing makes Swirley Turley happier than a popp smeared bo-bo that he can clean all by himself.   Get to close while Jonathan has his tongue lapping at Doo-Doo's cheeks and Jonathan won't just growl, he's start biting the air to ward you away.

Speaking of idiots, Ted Cruz.  Chronically moronic.  He's a senator out of Texas.  Colin Allred won the Democratic Party primary.  Allred seems like a strong candidate and, right now, looks like he could defeat Ted.   So the war on porn that Texas is currently having couldn't happen at a worse time for Ted since it's reminding everyone of what a perv old man Ted is.  INDY 100 reports:


Ted Cruz has been mocked online following the banning of PornHub in Texas, with people remembering one of the politician’s famous gaffes from back in 2017.

The Republican was caught out in September 2017 with his official social media account accidentally liking pornography on Twitter.

At the time, Cruz said that an aide was responsible for the “like” which was given to a clip from @SexuallPosts.

The clip showed two women and a man having sex and was shown briefly on the page. Cruz said that a number of aides had access to the account and one had accidentally interacted with the pornographic post.

Ted that doesn't seem very fundamentalist of you.  Could, like Lauren Boebert, you lose some votes over our hypocrisy? 

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 15, 2024.  Arun Gupta has a major piece debunking the October 7th rape myths, another massacre of Palestinians attempting to get food, Senator Chuck Schumer makes a needed call, and much more.

Let's start with Arun Gupta who has an article COUNTERPUNCH published this morning:

Following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks that resulted in at least 1,163 deaths, rumors began circulating that Israeli women were experiencing horrific mass rape and sexual violence. Months later, a position paper by Physicians for Human Rights Israel and a New York Times investigation convinced many observers that Hamas used rape as a weapon of war. But an investigation by YES! examining both reports, other media investigations, hundreds of news articles, interviews with Israeli sources, and photo and video evidence reveals a shocking conclusion: There is no evidence mass rape occurred.

The New YorkerNew York TimesAssociated Press, and The Nation treat PHRI’s paper as the gold standard for proof of Hamas’ rape and sexual violence. But the paper is shockingly thin. It lacks original reporting and is based on media reports that are dubious at best with no corroboration—no forensic evidence, no survivor testimony, no video evidence.

During a two-hour-long interview that was heated at times, Hadas Ziv, director of ethics and policy at Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), acknowledged numerous problems with the position paper she co-authored, “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence As a Weapon of War During the October 7, 2023 Hamas Attacks.

Ziv admitted credibility problems with sources and that she did not review all available evidence. She was “unaware” numerous sources had fabricated atrocity stories about Oct. 7. Ziv said, “Yeah, that’s a problem,” about a soldier she quotes whose claim of rape was changed by the government. She quoted volunteers from Zaka, a scandal-plagued organization that collected human remains after Oct. 7, but Ziv did not realize Zaka openly talks of inventing stories. When discussing claims that women’s sexual organs were deliberately mutilated, Ziv conceded, “OK, if there’s alternative explanations you can’t say that.”

While admitting “I did not know all the stories that you speak about that discredit those witnesses,” Ziv also lashed out: “I feel like I’m a rape victim that’s being interrogated.” YES! responded, “Not every interview is a friendly interview.”

Further, the PHRI paper is riddled with errors small and large. Names are misspelled, quotes don’t match links, and an individual is misidentified. Ziv was unaware that the Israeli government alleges it has forensic evidence of rape, which it has not produced publicly. Most egregious, Ziv didn’t realize her paper counted one alleged gang rape as two separate incidents.

My apologies.  I didn't know about the article until COUNTERPUNCH published it.  YES! published it on March 5th.  We don't highlight YES!  That's for good reason that goes back decades and had to do with an employee (looking at the site, this employee -- that a British MP warned me about -- hasn't been involved with the outlet in at least four years).  We've noted Arun many times over the years and I have no problem noting him.  I also have no problem linking to this YES! interview Sonali Kohlhatkar did with Arun.  I would embed it here if I could find it on YOUTUBE.  I have no problem with Sonali.  And I might not have a problem now with YES!   I would recommend that you listen to the interview.  And if I had heard it last week, Ava and I would have referenced it in our piece for THIRD ("Media: When It Doesn't Add Up").

Starvation remains the playbook for the Israeli government as the assault on Gaza continues.  And in the news this morning is another attack, from Thursday, on civilians trying to receive aid.

Gaza officials said the attack occurred as a crowd gathered to receive aid from a truck at the Kuwait roundabout, a key interchange used by humanitarian convoys carrying food into northern Gaza. More than 150 people were wounded, they added.

The latest incident came hours after eight people were killed in an airstrike on an aid distribution centre at al-Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, health officials said.

At least 21 Palestinians have been killed after Israeli forces opened fire on thousands of people waiting for aid in Gaza City in the same area that was targeted hours earlier, government officials said.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza described the late Thursday attack as a “new, premeditated massacre” and said more than 150 people were wounded.

t was the latest in a string of assaults on people desperately in need of food and other essential supplies as Israel continues to obstruct and severely control the entry of aid into the enclave.

Earlier on Thursday, at the same food distribution point at the Kuwait Roundabout, Israeli forces had shot dead at least six Palestinians, as the death toll has risen to more than 400 people in such attacks.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces had used helicopters, tanks and drones to target thousands of people waiting on food trucks.

Thursday's bloodshed drew comparisons to the February 29 attack in which Israeli forces opened fire on crowds of starving Gazans trying to get their hands on bags of flour. The attack was later dubbed the "flour massacre."

The Israeli military claimed that most of the deaths were caused by a stampede, but testimony from witnesses and hospital officials as well as bullets found at the scene refuted that narrative.

"Our governments did nothing to hold Israel accountable last time it attacked desperate hungry people seeking aid in Gaza," said Rohan Talbot, director of advocacy and campaigns at Medical Aid for Palestinians. "So why wouldn't it do the exact same thing again?"

Prior to Thursday's attack—described as "another flour massacre"—Gaza authorities estimated that Israeli forces had killed at least 400 people waiting for humanitarian aid deliveries. Between mid-January and the end of February, the United Nations documented at least 14 instances of Israeli forces opening fire on crowds gathered to receive humanitarian aid. 

On the topic of aid, THE GUARDIAN notes this morning, "The first aid vessel heading to the besieged Gaza Strip via a new maritime corridor was visible on Friday off the coast of the war-ravaged territory, an AFP journalist said."  Dalya al-Masri (NBC NEWS) adds, "The ship == called Open Arms and run by a Spanish charity of the same name -- carries around 200 metric tons of supplies including flour, rice and water, from Larnaca port in Cyprus. Video footage from the AFP news agency showed the ship visible off the shore of the Gaza Strip on Friday morning London time."  ALJAZEERA explains, "The aid ship departed from Cyprus on Tuesday, towing a barge containing about 200 tonnes of flour, rice and protein."  Also on aid, Australia has announced that it will be restoring its funding to UNRWA -- the UN aid organization targeted with smears by the Israeli government as part of the plan to starve Gaza.  Mona Farag (THE NATIONAL) notes, "Ireland pledged €20 million in additional support for the relief agency last week."  Staying on Ireland for a moment more, THE GUARDIAN reports:

Protests have been held in Dublin and Belfast urging US president Joe Biden to demand a permanent ceasefire in the Middle East, reports the Press Association (PA).

The Amnesty International demonstrations took place to coincide with Irish premier Leo Varadkar’s meeting with Biden at the White House as part of the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit on Friday.

Activists from Amnesty gathered at US diplomatic offices in Dublin and Belfast on Friday morning holding banners that read: “President Biden, listen to your Irish roots and demand a permanent ceasefire.”

Another story developing since yesterday's snapshot, US Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for elections in Israel.  

ALJAZEERA terms Chuck's call "a political earthquake."  Liz Goodwin and THE WASHINGTON POST describe the speech as "scathing." Yesterday afternoon, CNN) reported:

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday criticized Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, calling for new elections in a speech on the Senate floor on the Israel-Hamas war.

“As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7. The world has changed, radically, since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past,” said Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in America.

“Five months into this conflict, it is clear that Israelis need to take stock of the situation and ask: must we change course?” he continued. “At this critical juncture, I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government.”

The humanitarian crisis impacting Palestinian civilians in Gaza has grown increasingly dire as Israel’s war against Hamas continues, a situation that has increased pressure on Democratic party officials, including President Joe Biden, to take a harder line against Israel. Congressional aid to Israel has stalled after the Senate passed a package with aid for Israel and Ukraine that has not been taken up in the House.     

This morning, CNN offers, "The Senate floor speech was also an unmistakable sign of increasing frustration among top Democrats about Netanyahu’s conduct of the war in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas terror attacks that killed 1,200 people and his unwillingness to listen to US advice. It also reflects political realities in the United States."  

Americans were already outraged and the outrage continues to grow.  Michael Collins and Sudiksha Kochi (USA TODAY) report:

Americans are growing more sympathetic to Palestinians and want President Joe Biden to do more to improve humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip as death, hunger and disease spread through the region after five months of the Israel-Hamas war.

Nearly half of American voters (45%) believe Biden should pressure Israel to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, an exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll shows.

“What is going on there is deplorable,” said Jana Pender, 67, a retired casino housekeeping worker from Detroit. “Children are dying.”

While young voters have long agreed that Biden should do whatever it takes to ensure a cease-fire, the poll shows a growing consensus even among older Americans that Biden needs to do more.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The death toll in Gaza has topped 31,300. At least five people were killed on Wednesday when Israel bombed an UNRWA aid distribution center in Rafah — one of the U.N. agency’s last remaining aid sites in Gaza. The head of UNRWA called the attack a, quote, “blatant disregard to international humanitarian law.”

This comes as much of Gaza is on the brink of famine as Israel continues to limit the amount of aid allowed into the besieged territory. At least 27 Palestinians have died of starvation, including 23 children.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera is reporting six Palestinians were killed in Gaza City when Israeli forces opened fire again on crowds waiting for food aid. Over 80 people were injured.

In other news from Gaza, Politico reports the Biden administration has privately told Israel that the U.S. would support Israel attacking Rafah as long as it did not carry out a large-scale invasion.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we begin today’s show looking at how the U.S. media is covering Israel’s assault on Gaza with the acclaimed TV broadcaster Mehdi Hasan. In January, he announced he was leaving MSNBC after his shows were canceled. Mehdi was one of the most prominent Muslim voices on American television. In October, the news outlet Semafor reported MSNBC had reduced the roles of Hasan and two other Muslim broadcasters on the network, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi, following the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel. Then, in November, MSNBC announced it was canceling Hasan’s show shortly after he conducted this interview with Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is an excerpt.

MEHDI HASAN: You say Hamas’s numbers — I should point out, just pull up on the screen, in the last two major Gaza conflicts, 2009 and 2014, the Israeli military’s death tolls matched Hamas’s Health Ministry death tolls, so — and the U.N., human rights groups all agree that those numbers are credible. But look, your wider point is true.

MARK REGEV: Can I challenge that?

MEHDI HASAN: We shouldn’t —

MARK REGEV: Will you allow me —

MEHDI HASAN: We shouldn’t —

MARK REGEV: — to challenge that, please? Can I just challenge that?

MEHDI HASAN: Briefly, if you can.

MARK REGEV: I’d like to challenge that.


MARK REGEV: I’ll try to be as brief as you are, sir. Those numbers are provided by Hamas. There’s no independent verification. And secondly, more importantly, you have no idea how many of them are Hamas terrorists, combatants, and how many are civilians. Hamas would have you believe that they’re all civilians, that they’re all children.

And here we have to say something that isn’t said enough. Hamas, until now, we’re destroying their military machine, and with that, we’re eroding their control. But up until now, they’ve been in control of the Gaza Strip. And as a result, they control all the images coming out of Gaza. Have you seen one picture of a single dead Hamas terrorist in the fighting in Gaza? Not one.

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, but I have —

MARK REGEV: Is that by accident, or is that — 

MEHDI HASAN: But I have, Mark —

MARK REGEV: — because Hamas can control — Hamas can control the information coming out of Gaza?

MEHDI HASAN: Mark, but you asked me a question, and you said you would be brief. I haven’t. You’re right. But I have seen lots of children with my own lying eyes being pulled from the rubble. So —

MARK REGEV: Now, because they’re the pictures Hamas wants you to see. Exactly my point, Mehdi.

MEHDI HASAN: And also because they’re dead, Mark. Also —

MARK REGEV: They’re the pictures Hamas wants — no.

MEHDI HASAN: But they’re also people your government has killed. You accept that, right? You’ve killed children? Or do you deny that?

MARK REGEV: No, I do not. I do not. I do not. First of all, you don’t know how those people died, those children.


AMY GOODMAN: “Oh wow,” Mehdi Hasan responded, interviewing Netanyahu adviser Mark Regev on MSNBC. Soon after, MSNBC announced that he was losing his shows. Since leaving the network, Mehdi Hasan has launched a new digital media company named Zeteo.

Mehdi, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. I want to start with that interview you did with Regev. After, you lost your two shows, soon after. Do you think that’s the reason those shows were canceled? Interviews like that?

MEHDI HASAN: You would have to ask MSNBC, Amy. And, Amy and Nermeen, thank you for having me on. It’s great to be back here after a few years away. Look, the advantage of not being at MSNBC anymore is I get to come on shows like this and talk to you all. You should get someone from MSNBC on and ask them why they canceled the shows, because I can’t answer that question. I wish I knew. But there we go.

The shows were canceled at the end of November. I quit at the beginning of January, because I wanted to have a platform of my own. I couldn’t really spend 2024, one of the most important news years of our lives — genocide in Gaza, fascism at the door here in America with elections — couldn’t really spend that being a guest anchor and a political analyst, which is what I was offered at MSNBC while I was staying there. I wanted to leave. I wanted to get my voice back. And that’s why I launched my own media company, as you mentioned, called Zeteo, which we’ve done a soft launch on and we’re going to launch properly next month. But I’m excited about all the opportunities ahead, the opportunity to do more interviews like the one I did with Mark Regev.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Mehdi, could you explain Zeteo? First of all, what does it mean? And what is the gap in the U.S. media landscape that you hope to fill? You’ve been extremely critical of the U.S. media’s coverage of Gaza, saying, quite correctly, that the coverage has not been as consistent or clear as the last time we saw an invasion of this kind, though far less brutal, which was the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, on Zeteo, it’s an ancient Greek word, going back to Socrates and Plato, which means to seek out, to search, to inquire for the truth. And at a time when we live in a, some would say, post-truth society — or people on the right are attempting to turn it into a post-truth society — I thought that was an important endeavor to embark upon as a journalist, to go back to our roots.

In terms of why I launch it and the media space, look, there is a gap in the market, first of all, on the left for a company like this one. Not many progressives have pulled off a for-profit, subscription-based business, media business. We’ve seen it on the right, Nermeen, with, you know, Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire and Bari Weiss’s The Free Press, and even Tucker Carlson has launched his own subscription-based platform since leaving Fox. And on the progressive space, we haven’t really done it. Now, of course, there are wonderful shows like Democracy Now! which are doing important, invaluable journalism on subjects like Gaza, on subjects like the climate. But across the media industry as a whole, sadly, in the U.S., the massive gap is there are not enough — I don’t know how to put it — bluntly, truth tellers, people who are willing to say — and when I say “truth tellers,” I don’t just mean, you know, truth in a conventional sense of saying what is true and what is false; I’m saying the language in which we talk about what is happening in the world today.

Too many of my colleagues in the media, unfortunately, hide behind lazy euphemisms, a both-sides journalism, the idea that you can’t say Donald Trump is racist because you don’t know what’s in his heart; you can’t say the Republican Party is going full fascist, even as they proclaim that they don’t believe in democracy as we conventionally understand it; we can’t say there’s a genocide in Gaza, even though the International Court of Justice says such a thing is plausible. You know, we run away from very blunt terms which help us understand world. And I want to treat American consumers of news, global consumers of news — it’s a global news organization which I’m founding — with some respect. Stop patronizing them. Tell them what is happening in the world, in a blunt way.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Mehdi, talk about this. I mean, in your criticism of the U.S. media’s coverage, in particular, of Israel’s assault on Gaza — I mean, of course, you have condemned what happened, the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7th. You’ve also situated the attack in a broader historical frame, and you’ve received criticism for doing that. And in response, you’ve said, “Context is not causation,” and “Context is not justification.” So, could you explain why you think context, history, is so important, and the way in which this question is kind of elided in U.S. media coverage, not just of the Gaza crisis, but especially so now?

MEHDI HASAN: So, I did an interview with Piers Morgan this week. And if you watch Piers Morgan’s shows, he always asks his pro-Palestinian guests or anyone criticizing Israel, you know, “Condemn what happened on October 7th.” It’s all about October the 7th. And what happened on October 7th was barbarism. It was a tragedy. It was a terror attack. Civilians were killed. War crimes were carried out. Hostages were taken. And we should condemn it. Of course we should, as human beings, if nothing else.

But the world did not begin on October the 7th. The idea that the entire Middle East conflict, Israel-Palestine, the occupation, apartheid, can be reduced to October 7th is madness. And it’s not just me saying that. You talk to, you know, leading Israeli peace campaigners, even some leading Israeli generals, people like Shlomo Brom, who talk about having to understand the root causes of a people under occupation fighting for freedom. And it’s absurd to me that in our media industry people should try and run away from context. My former colleagues Ali Velshi and Ayman Mohyeldin, who Amy mentioned in the introduction, they were on air on October the 7th as news was coming in of the attacks, and they provided context, because they’re two anchors who really understand that part of the world. Ayman Mohyeldin is perhaps the only U.S. anchor who’s ever lived in Gaza. And they came under attack online from certain pro-Israel people for providing context. This idea that we should be embarrassed or ashamed or apologetic as journalists for providing context on one of the biggest stories in the world is madness. You cannot understand what is happening in the world unless we, unless you and I, unless journalists, broadcasters, are explaining to our viewers and our listeners and our readers why things are happening, where forces are coming from, why people are behaving the way they do. And I know America is a country of amnesiacs, but we cannot keep acting as if the world just began yesterday.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about a piece in The Intercept — you also used to report for The Intercept — the headline, “In Internal Meeting, Christiane Amanpour Confronts CNN Brass About 'Double Standards' on Israel Coverage.” It’s a really interesting piece. They were confronting the executives, and “One issue that came up,” says The Intercept, “repeatedly is CNN’s longtime process for routing almost all coverage relating to Israel and Palestine through the network’s Jerusalem bureau. As The Intercept reported in January, the protocol — which has existed for years but was expanded and rebranded as SecondEyes last summer — slows down reporting on Gaza and filters news about the war through journalists in Jerusalem who operate under the shadow of Israel’s military censor.” And then it quotes Christiane Amanpour, identified in a recording of that meeting. She said, “You’ve heard from me, you’ve heard my, you know, real distress with SecondEyes — changing copy, double standards, and all the rest,” Amanpour said. The significance of this and what we see, Mehdi? You know, I’m not talking Fox right now. On MSNBC — 


AMY GOODMAN: — and on CNN, you rarely see Palestinians interviewed in extended discussions.

MEHDI HASAN: So, I think there’s a few issues there, Amy. Number one, first of all, we should recognize that Christiane Amanpour has done some very excellent coverage of Gaza for CNN in this conflict. She’s had some very powerful interviews and very important guests on. So, credit to Christiane during this conflict. Number two —

AMY GOODMAN: International —

MEHDI HASAN: — I think U.S. media organizations — 

AMY GOODMAN: — I just wanted to say, particularly on CNN International, which is often not seen —

MEHDI HASAN: Very good point.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — on CNN domestic.

MEHDI HASAN: Very good — very good point, Amy. Touché.

The second point, I would say, is U.S. media organizations, as a whole, are engaging in journalistic malpractice by not informing viewers, listeners, readers that a lot of their coverage out of Israel and the Occupied Territories is coming under the shadow of an Israeli military censor. How many Americans understand or even know about the Israeli military censor, about how much information is controlled? We barely understand that Western journalists are kept out of Gaza, or if when they go in, they’re embedded with Israeli military forces and limited to what they can say and do. So I think we should talk about that in a country which kind of prides itself on the First Amendment and free speech and a free press. We should understand the way in which information comes out of the Occupied Territories, in particular from Gaza.

And the third point, I would say, is, yeah, Palestinian voices not being on American television or in American print is one of the biggest problems when it comes to our coverage of this conflict. When we talk about why the media is structurally biased towards one party in this conflict, the more powerful party, the occupier, we have to remember that this is one of the reasons. Why are Palestinians dehumanized in our media? This is one of the reasons. We don’t let people speak. That’s what leads to dehumanization. That’s what leads to bias.

We understand it at home when it comes to, for example, Black voices. In recent years, media organizations have tried to take steps to improve diversity on air, when it comes to on-air talent, when it comes to on-air guests, when it comes to balancing panels. We get that we need underrepresented communities to be able to speak. But when it comes to foreign conflicts, we still don’t seem to have made that calculation.

There was a study done a few years ago of op-eds in The New York Times and The Washington Post on the subject of Israel-Palestine from 1970 to, I think it was, 2000-and-something, and it was like 2% of all op-eds in the Times and 1% in the Post were written by Palestinians, which is a shocking statistic. We deny these people a voice, and then we wonder why people don’t sympathize with their plight or don’t — aren’t, you know, marching in the street — well, they are marching in the streets — but in bigger numbers. Why America is OK and kind of, you know, blind to the fact that we are complicit in a genocide of these people? Because we don’t hear from these people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Mehdi, I mean, explain why that’s especially relevant in this instance, because journalists have not been permitted access to Gaza, so there is no reporting going on on the ground that’s being shown here. I mean, dozens and dozens of journalists have signed a letter asking Israel and Egypt to allow journalists access into Gaza. So, if you could talk about that, why it’s especially important to hear from Palestinian voices here?

MEHDI HASAN: Well, for a start, Nermeen, much of the imagery we see on our screens here or in our newspapers are sanitized images. We don’t see the full level of the destruction. And when we try and understand, well, why are young people — why is there such a generational gap when it comes to the polling on Gaza, on ceasefire, why are young people so much more antiwar than their elder peers, part of the reason is that young people are on TikTok or Instagram and seeing a much less sanitized version of this war, of Israel’s bombardment. They are seeing babies being pulled from the rubble, limbs missing. They are seeing hospitals being — you know, hospitals carrying out procedures without anesthetic. They are seeing just absolute brutality, the kind of stuff that U.N. humanitarian chiefs are saying we haven’t seen in this world for 50 years.

And that’s the problem, right? If we’re sanitizing the coverage, Americans aren’t being told, really, aren’t being informed, are, again, missing context on what is happening on the ground. And, of course, Israel, by keeping Western journalists out, makes it even easier for those images to be blocked, and therefore you have Palestinian — brave Palestinian journalists on the ground trying to film, trying to document their own genocide, streaming it to our phones. And we’ve seen over a hundred of them killed over the last five months. That is not an accident. That is not a coincidence. Israel wants to stamp out independent voices, stamp out any kind of coverage of its own genocidal behavior.

And therefore, again, you’re able to have a debate in this country where the political debate is completely disconnected to the public debate, and the public debate is completely misinformed. I’m amazed, Nermeen, when you look at the polling, that there’s a majority in favor of a ceasefire, that half of all Democrats say this is a genocide. Americans are saying that to pollsters despite not even getting the full picture. Can you imagine what those numbers would look like if they actually saw what was happening on the ground?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to go to what is unfolding right now in Gaza. You said in a recent interview that in the past Israel was, quote, “mowing the lawn,” but now the Netanyahu government’s intention is to erase the population of Gaza. So let’s go to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about the invasion of Rafah, saying it would go ahead and would last weeks, not months. He was speaking to Politico on Sunday.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We’re not going to leave them. You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7th doesn’t happen again, never happens again. And to do that, we have to complete the destruction of the Hamas terrorist army. … We’re very close to victory. It’s close at hand. We’ve destroyed three-quarters of Hamas fighting terrorist battalions, and we’re close to finishing the last part in Rafah, and we’re not going to give it up. … Once we begin the intense action of eradicating the Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, it’s a matter of weeks and not months.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Mehdi, your response to what Netanyahu said and what the Israelis have proposed as a safe place for Gazans to go — namely, humanitarian islands?

MEHDI HASAN: So, number one, when you hear Netanyahu speak, Nermeen, doesn’t it remind you of George Bush in kind of 2002, 2003? It’s very — you know, invoking 9/11 to justify every atrocity, claiming that you’re trying to protect the country, when you, yourself, your idiocy and your incompetency, is what led to the attacks. You know, George Bush was unable to prevent 9/11, and then used 9/11 to justify every atrocity, even though his incompetence helped allow 9/11 to happen. And I feel the same way: Netanyahu allowed the worst terror attack, the worst massacre in Israel to happen on his watch. Many of his own, you know, generals, many of his own people blame him for this. And so, it’s rich to hear him saying, “My aim is to stop this from happening again.” Well, you couldn’t stop it from happening the first time, and now you’re killing innocent Palestinians under the pretense that this is national security.

Number two, again George Bush-like, claiming that the war is nearly done, mission is nearly accomplished, that’s nonsense. No serious observer believes that Hamas is finished or that Israel has won some total victory. A member of Netanyahu’s own war cabinet said recently, “Anyone who says you can absolutely defeat Hamas is telling tall tales, is lying.” That was a colleague of Netanyahu’s, in government, who said that.

And number three, the red line on Rafah that Biden suppposedly set down and that Netanyahu is now mocking, saying, “My own red line is to do the opposite,” what on Earth is Joe Biden doing in allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to humiliate him in this way with this invasion of Rafah, even after he said he opposes it? I mean, it’s one thing to leak stuff —


MEHDI HASAN: — over a few months —

AMY GOODMAN: — let’s go to Biden speaking on MSNBC. He’s being interviewed by your former colleague Jonathan Capehart, as he was being questioned about Benjamin Netanyahu and saying he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas. But he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken. He’s hurting — in my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel by making the rest of the world — it’s contrary to what Israel stands for. And I think it’s a big mistake. So I want to see a ceasefire.

AMY GOODMAN: And he talked about a, well, kind of a red line. If you can address what Biden is saying and what he proposed in the State of the Union, this pier, to get more aid in, and also the dropping — the airdropping of food, which recently killed five Palestinians because it crushed them to death, and the humanitarian groups, United Nations saying these airdrops, the pier come nowhere near being able to provide the aid that’s needed, at the same time, and the reason they’re doing all of this, is because Israel is using U.S. bombs and artillery to attack the Palestinians and these aid trucks?

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, it’s just so bizarre, the idea that you could drop bombs, on the one hand, and then drop aid, on the other, and you’re paying for both, and then your aid ends up killing people, too. It’s like some kind of dark Onion headline. It’s just beyond parody. It’s beyond belief.

And as for the pier, as you say, it does not come anywhere near to adequately addressing the needs of the Palestinian people, in terms of the sheer scale of the suffering, half a million people on the brink of famine, over a million people displaced. Four out of five of the hungriest people in the world, according to the World Food Programme, are in Gaza right now. The idea that this pier would, A, address the scale of the suffering, and, B, in time — I mean, it’s going to take time to do this. What happens to the Palestinians who literally starve to death, including children, while this pier is being built? Finally, I would say, there’s reporting in the Israeli press, Amy, that I’ve seen that suggests that the pier idea comes from Netanyahu, that the Israeli government are totally fine with this pier, because it allows them still to control land and air access into Gaza, which is what they’ve always controlled and which in this war they’ve monopolized.

The idea that the United States of America, the world’s only superpower, cannot tell its ally, “You know what? We’re going to put aid into Gaza because we want to, and you’re not going to stop us, especially since we’re the ones arming you,” is bizarre. It’s something I think Biden will never be able to get past or live down. It’s a stain on his record, on America’s conscience. The idea that we’re arming a country that’s engaged in a “plausible genocide,” to quote the ICJ, is bad enough. That we can’t even get our own aid in, while they’re bombing with our bombs, is just madness. And by the way, it’s also illegal. Under U.S. law, you cannot provide weaponry to a country which is blocking U.S. aid. And by the way, it’s not me saying they’re blocking U.S. aid. U.S. government officials have said, “Yes, the Israeli government blocked us from sending flour in,” for example.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Mehdi, let’s go to the regional response to this assault on Gaza that’s been unfolding with the kind of violence and tens of thousands of deaths of Palestinians, as we’ve reported. Now, what has — how has the Arab and Muslim world responded to what’s going on? Egypt, of course, has repeatedly said that it does not want displaced Palestinians crossing its border. The most powerful Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, if you can talk about how they’ve responded? And then the Axis — the so-called Axis of Resistance —  Houthis, Hezbollah, etc. — how they have been trying to disrupt this war, or at least make the backers of Israel pay a price for it?

MEHDI HASAN: So, I hear people saying, “Oh, we’re disappointed in the response from the Arab countries.” The problem with the word “disappointment” is it implies you had any expectations to begin with. I certainly didn’t. Arab countries have never had the Palestinians’ backs. The Arab — quote-unquote, “Arab street” has always been very pro-Palestinian. But the autocratic, the despotic, the dictatorial rulers of much of the Arab world have never really had the interests of the Palestinian people at their heart, going back right to 1948, when, you know, Arab countries attacked Israel to push it into the sea, but, actually, as we know from historians like Avi Shlaim, were not doing that at all, and that some of them, like Jordan, had done deals with Israel behind the scenes. So, look, Arab countries have never really prioritized the Palestinian people or their needs or their freedom. And so, when you see some of these statements that come out of the Arab world at times like this, you know, you have to take them with a shovel of salt, not just a grain.

Also, I would point out the hypocrisy here on all sides in the region. You have countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which were involved in a brutal assault on Yemen for many years, carried out very similar acts to Israel in Gaza in terms of blockades, starvation, malnourishment of the Yemeni children, in terms of bombing of refugee camps and hospitals and kids and school buses. That all happened in Yemen. Arab countries did that, let’s just be clear about that, things that they criticize Israel for doing now. And, of course, Iran, which sets itself up as a champion of the Palestinan people, when Bashar al-Assad was killing many of his own people, including Palestinian refugees, in places like the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, Iran and Russia, by the way, were both perfectly happy to help arm and support Assad as he did that. So, you know, spare me some of the grandiose statements from Middle East countries, from Arab nations to Iran, on all of it. There’s a lot of hypocrisy to go around.

Very few countries in the world, especially in that region, actually have Palestinian interests at heart. If they did, we would have a very different geopolitical scene. There is reporting, Nermeen, that a lot of these governments, like Saudi Arabia, privately are telling Israel, “Finish the job. Get rid of them. We don’t like Hamas, either. Get rid of them,” and that Saudis actually want to do a deal with Israel once this war is over, just as they were on course to do, apparently, according to the Biden administration. We know that other Arab countries already signed the, quote-unquote, “Abraham Accords” with Israel on Trump’s watch.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the number of dead Palestinian journalists and also the new U.N. investigation that just accused Israel of breaking international law over the killing of the Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah in southern Lebanon. On October 13th, an Israeli tank opened fire on him and a group of other journalists. He had just set up a live stream on the border in southern Lebanon, so that all his colleagues at Reuters and others saw him blown up. The report stating, quote, “The firing at civilians, in this instance clearly identifiable journalists, constitutes a violation of … international law.” And it’s not just Issam in southern Lebanon. Well over a hundred Palestinian journalists in Gaza have died. We’ve never seen anything like the concentration of numbers of journalists killed in any other conflict or conflicts combined recently. Can you talk about the lack of outrage of other major news organizations and what Israel is doing here? Do you think they’re being directly targeted, one after another, wearing those well-known “press” flak jackets? It looks like we just lost audio to Mehdi Hasan.

MEHDI HASAN: Amy, I can — I can hear you, Amy, very faintly.


MEHDI HASAN: I’m going to answer your question, if you can still hear me.

AMY GOODMAN: Great. We can hear you perfectly.

MEHDI HASAN: So, you’re very faint to me. So, while I speak, if someone want to fix the volume in my ear. Let me answer your question about journalists.

It is an absolute tragedy and a scandal, what has happened to journalists in Gaza, that we have seen so many deaths in Gaza. And the real scandal, Amy, is that Western media, a lot of my colleagues here in the U.S. media, have not sounded the alarm, have not called out Israel for what it’s done. It’s outrageous that so many of our fellow colleagues can be killed in Gaza while reporting, while at home, losing family members, and yet there’s not a huge global outcry. When Wael al-Dahdouh, who we just saw on the screen, from Al Jazeera, loses his immediate family members and carries on reporting for Al Jazeera Arabic, why is he not on every front page in the world? Why is he not a hero? Why is he not sitting down with Oprah Winfrey? I feel like, you know, when Evan Gershkovich from The Wall Street Journal is wrongly imprisoned in Russia, we all campaign for Evan to be released. When Ukrainian journalists are killed, we all speak out and are angry about it. But when Palestinian journalists are killed on a level we’ve never seen before, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, where is the outcry here in the West over the killing of them? We claim to care about a free press. We claim to oppose countries that crack down on a free press, on journalism. We say journalism is not a crime. But then I don’t hear the outrage from my colleagues here at this barbarism in Gaza, where journalists are being killed in record numbers.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 161 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  NBC NEWS notes, "The death toll in Gaza since Oct. 7 has surpassed 31,000 , according to the enclave's Health Ministry, which says more than 73,000 have been injured. The Israeli military said at least 247 soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."   

The following sites updated:

  • Friday, March 15, 2024

    Creepy Republicans

    James Bickerton (NEWSWEEK) reports on the wild and crazy John Fetterman:

    A pro-Democrat political action committee (PAC) has withdrawn its support for Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman, citing his vocal backing of Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

    [. . .]

    The No Dem Left Behind PAC wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday: "We deeply regret supporting Senator John Fetterman he betrayed all of us."

    After another X user disagreed and claimed No Dem Left Behind was being "dramatic," the group replied: "35,000 dead is dramatic?" This appears to be a reference to the 31,000 Palestinians reported to have died in Gaza since October 7.

    According to its website, No Dem Left Behind was founded by Hassan Martini with the aim of "amplifying the voices of rural Democrats across the country."

    Fetterman really is disgusting as is Junior Kennedy.  Tiny nads Bobby Junior is trying to get press coverage.  He's a desperate and bra-less starlet.  He says Aaron Rodgers, the crackpot quarterback, might be his running mate.  Martha McHardy (INDEPENDENT) reports:

    Now, a bombshell new CNN report has claimed that Mr Rodgers also allegedly pushed a conspiracy theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was not real.

    During the 2013 Kentucky Derby, he allegedly told CNN journalist Pamela Brown, who co-authored the new report, that the shooting was a government inside job and that the media was intentionally ignoring this.

    He also asked Ms Brown if she thought it was off that there were men in black in the woods by the school, falsely claiming those men were government operatives, according to the report.

    CNN also cited a second anonymous source that Mr Rodgers also allegedly shared his conspiracy with.

    This source said that Mr Rodgers claimed several years ago that “Sandy Hook never happened”.

    “All those children never existed. They were all actors,” he allegedly said.

    The Sandy Hook shooting is the deadliest shooting at an elementary school in US history, with 20 first graders and six educators killed in the massacre.

    He's disgusting.  Why doesn't the NFL kick him out?

     In other news, South Dakota's weird governor.  SECULAR TALK has a segment on weirdo's latest nonsense.

    New development since then.   Jack Dura and Josh Funk (INDEPENDENT) report:

    Democratic legislator on Wednesday called for an inquiry into South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's trip to Texas for dental work and a promotional video in which she praises the doctors for giving her "a smile I can be proud of and confident in.”
    State Sen. Reynold Nesiba said he initially found the nearly five-minute video to be simply odd. Later he considered other questions and asked the Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Government Operations & Audit Committee to put the matter on the panel's next meeting agenda in July for discussion and questions.

    “I just thought it was a very strange video about how much she enjoyed having her teeth done at that particular place,” said Nesiba, a member of the audit committee.

    Nesiba said he wonders whether Noem used a state airplane or public funds for the Texas trip and whether the governor paid for the dental procedure or if it was discounted because of her video.

    Noem's office did not respond to questions Wednesday about the promotional video posted Monday night to her personal account on X in which she praised the dentists and staff at Smile Texas, a cosmetic dental practice in the Houston area.

    Zoe Richards (NBC NEWS) adds that the strange governor is now being sued:

    The lawsuit, filed by the consumer advocacy group Travelers United in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that Noem "advertised a product or service without disclosing that she has a financial relationship with that company" after she posted a video to social media Tuesday regarding dental services she received.

    [. . .]

    The lawsuit accuses Noem of "deceptive advertising practices," which the group says violated consumer protection laws in Washington, D.C. It also cites Federal Trade Commission guidelines on including language to distinguish social media posts as advertisements.

    Noem "seems to have taken up work as a social media influencer," the group wrote in the filing, arguing that the video post is intended to promote medical tourism and advertise services to D.C. residents.

    “Companies, like Smile Texas, pay influencers, like Kristi Noem, to promote their product or service to her followers,” the filing, submitted by Lauren Wolfe, an attorney for Travelers United, said.

    “There is no disclosure that this is an advertisement or that she received any free or discounted medical procedures in exchange for this social media advertisement,” the document added.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Thursday, March 14, 2024.  Starvation and famine continue in Gaza, a child takes their own life in the US because of a climate of hate, and much more.

    There is nothing good about the assault on Gaza.  It's still surprising, however, just how rotten everything about the assault is.   Maryam Qarehgozlou (PRESS TV) observes, "Beyond the colossal human toll of the deadly war, an environmental catastrophe is also unfolding across the blockaded territory, triggered by indiscriminate bombings and a crippling siege for more than five months."  The Israeli government is consuming a huge amount of fossil fuels to assault Gaza.  Nina Lakhani (GUARDIAN) reports

    Israeli jets and tanks bombarding Palestinians are being fueled by some of the world’s most profitable fossil fuel companies – and US tax-payers, according to research.

    Israel relies on crude oil and refined products from overseas to run its large fleet of fighter jets, tanks and other military vehicles.

    The research, which was commissioned by the non-profit Oil Change International and shared exclusively with the Guardian, examines this fuel supply chain, which since the current conflict in Gaza began appears to have relied heavily on fossil fuels from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil, Gabon and the US. The analysis by Data Desk, a UK-based tech consultancy firm investigating the fossil fuel industry, suggests the major oil companies facilitating the fuel supplies include BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies.

    The analysis suggests that Israel has received three US tankers of JP8 jet guel in the form of military aid since October 2023. One left the US before the current assault on Gaza began, departing from the Bill Greehey refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, on 22 September.

    Vessels delivering oil and fuel recently appear to have been turning off their automatic identification system (AIS) signal before reaching Israel, possibly for security reasons.

    The other two departed after the conflict was underway: one appears to have departed on 6 December 2023, when more than 16,000 Palestinians had already been killed. The third left Texas on 9 February 2024 – two weeks after the International Court of Justice’s interim ruling that Israel could plausibly be committing genocide against 2.3m Palestinians in occupied Gaza. A satellite image appears to show the tanker at Israel’s Ashkelon terminal on 6 March, when the Palestinian death toll had risen to 30,000.

    Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has continued since the ICJ ordered the Israeli government to prevent any genocidal act. The ICJ ruling has legal implications for countries and corporations, which must ensure they are not complicit in genocidal acts.

    Last week, EURO NEWS noted:

    The United Nations is investigating the environmental impact of the war in Gaza, which has caused a catastrophic spike in land, soil and water pollution.

    It is hard to know where to begin, since the conflict has no end in sight. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by relentless Israeli strikes since 7 October, when Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 Israelis and took 250 people hostage.

    [. . .]

    In recent days, devastating reports have emerged of malnourished and dehydrated babies dying in the Northern Gaza Strip. “These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable,” Adele Khodr, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a statement on 3 March.

    Environmental concerns pale beside such suffering. But they are also inseparable from the unfolding humanitarian disaster. Water pollution from the bombardments, for example, means a dearth in safe drinking water and a rise in water-borne diseases.

    On Monday, a number of US senators objected to US President Joe Biden supplying the government of Israel with military equipment when the Israeli government has continued to block aid to Gaza.  This is a press release on the letter from Senator Mazie Hirono's office:

    WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to enforce federal law by requiring Netanyahu’s government to stop restricting humanitarian aid access to Gaza or forfeit U.S. military aid to Israel.

    In the letter, the senators make clear that Netanyahu’s interference in U.S. humanitarian operations in Gaza violates Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, also known as the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act. The law states: “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”

    “According to public reporting and your own statements, the Netanyahu government is in violation of this law,” wrote the senators. “Given this reality, we urge you to make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences, as specified under existing U.S. law.”

    “The United States should not provide military assistance to any country that interferes with U.S. humanitarian assistance,” the senators continued. “Federal law is clear, and, given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza, and the repeated refusal of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address U.S. concerns on this issue, immediate action is necessary to secure a change in policy by his government.”

    The full text of the letter is available here and below.

    President Biden,

    The severe humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza is nearly unprecedented in modern history.

    As Vice President Harris said on March 3rd, “We have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed, women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care, and children dying from malnutrition and dehydration.”

    Your Administration has repeatedly stated, and the United Nations and numerous aid organizations have confirmed, that Israel’s restrictions on humanitarian access, both at the border and within Gaza, are one of the primary causes of this humanitarian catastrophe.

    The Netanyahu government’s interference with humanitarian operations has prevented U.S.- financed aid from reaching its intended recipients in a safe and timely manner.

    In recent weeks, humanitarian access has seriously deteriorated. That reality was underscored by your decision last week, which we support, to begin air dropping supplies to desperate civilians in north Gaza.

    The Netanyahu government’s interference in U.S. humanitarian operations violates the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act — Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 USC 2378-1). The law is clear: “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”

    According to public reporting and your own statements, the Netanyahu government is in violation of this law. Given this reality, we urge you to make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences, as specified under existing U.S. law.

    People are starving. As you have said, “We’re going to insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need. No excuses. Because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough.”

    The United States should not provide military assistance to any country that interferes with U.S. humanitarian assistance. We note that the language of the statute does not preclude U.S. assistance for missile defense, such as the Iron Dome, or other defensive systems provided to Israel pursuant to the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act.

    Federal law is clear, and, given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza, and the repeated refusal of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address U.S. concerns on this issue, immediate action is necessary to secure a change in policy by his government.



    And it's not just that group of US senators calling for accountability.  Brett Wilkins (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

      More than two dozen human rights groups on Tuesday implored U.S. President Joe Biden "urgently comply" with domestic law by suspending arms sales to Israel and pressuring its far-right government to end its genocidal policy of blocking aid to starving Palestinians in Gaza.

    In a joint letter to Biden, the 25 organizations asserted that his administration's "unconditional arms transfers and other security assistance" to Israel apparently "violate Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act (22 U.S.C. § 2378-1), which prohibits the United States from providing security assistance or arms sales to any country when the president is made aware that the government 'prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.'"

    "U.S. weapons, security assistance, and blanket political support have contributed to an unparalleled humanitarian crisis and possible war crimes in Gaza," the groups wrote. "We demand that you urgently comply with U.S. law, end U.S. support for catastrophic human suffering in Gaza, and use your leverage to protect civilians and ensure the impartial provision of humanitarian assistance."

    The International Rescue Committee notes, "Over half a million Palestinians are suffering from severe malnutrition, and children are dying of starvation. Right now the IRC and its partners are working to deliver urgently needed emergency food, medical supplies and other crucial humanitarian aid to displaced families."  THE GUARDIAN notes:

    A senior official at the European Commission has said there are already pockets of famine happening in Gaza.

    Reuters reports Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, told the media that famine could spread to the whole of the region.

    This morning, ALJAZEERA reports:

    Israeli forces have shot dead at least six Palestinians and wounded 83 in Gaza City as they were waiting for food and humanitarian supplies at the Kuwait Roundabout, an area where large groups of people gather for arriving aid trucks.

    The attack on Thursday took place hours after at least five people were killed by an Israeli air strike on a food distribution centre in Rafah, southern Gaza, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is the main humanitarian agency in Gaza.

    There has been an uptick in fatal assaults by Israeli troops on crowds of starving civilians lining up for aid in recent weeks. On Monday night, Israeli forces killed 11 people waiting for food aid at the same roundabout.

    Netanyahu's attack on UNRWA has been non-stop.  Yesterday, the agency released a statement noting the attacks that have taken place:

    At least one UNRWA staff member was killed and another 22 were injured  when Israeli Forces hit a food distribution centre in the eastern part of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

    “Today’s attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centres in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine. Every day, we share the coordinates of all our facilities across the Gaza Strip with parties to the conflict. The Israeli Army received the coordinates including of this facility yesterday,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. 

    Since the war began five months ago, UNRWA has recorded an unprecedented number of violations against its staff and facilities that surpass any other conflict around the world.   

    ·      At least 165 UNRWA team members killed including while in the line of duty;

    ·      More than 150 UNRWA facilities were hit, some totally destroyed, among them many schools;

    ·      More than 400 people killed while seeking shelter under the UN flag;

    ·      Tunnels have reportedly been found under UNRWA facilities and installations used for military activities;

    ·      UNRWA staff have reportedly been mistreated and humiliated while in Israeli detention centres.

    “The United Nations, its personnel, premises and assets must be protected at all times. Since this war began, attacks against UN facilities, convoys and personnel have become commonplace in blatant disregard to international humanitarian law. I am calling once again for an independent inquiry into these violations and the need for accountability,” added Lazzarini.   

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

    Civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander has a new piece in The Nation. It’s headlined “Only Revolutionary Love Can Save Us Now.” Michelle Alexander begins, “This moment feels different. Something new is in the air. Of course, everything is always changing. Impermanence is the way of life. Philosophers, theologians, and poets have reminded us for centuries that the only constant is change.”

    Michelle Alexander joins us now for more, the best-selling author of the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

    It’s great to have you back with us, Michelle. If you can —

    MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m always happy to be here.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to see you. If you can talk about what gives you hope right now, even as you write about what’s happening in Gaza, as you talk about what’s happening with issues of police brutality and mass incarceration through the United States? Talk about movements and your references to Dr. King.

    MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, what gives me hope right now is that, despite everything, revolutionary love is bursting and blossoming in all kinds of places and spaces. Years of relentless and patient organizing and deep learning about each other’s histories and struggles have led to a moment when Black activists are showing up at protests organized by Jewish students who are raising their voices in solidarity with Palestinians who are suffering occupation and annihilation in Gaza. And, you know, this is due to connections that have been made over the course of years between liberation struggles on the streets of Ferguson and those occurring in Palestine. And these small acts of revolutionary love are leading to movements, are building movements that just might help us change everything.

    And, you know, we see this in communities everywhere, where people are connecting dots between climate change and racial and gender injustice. We see it in the movement to stop Cop City in Atlanta. We see it in movements for clean water and food. And we see that people are making connections between liberation struggles here at home and those occurring around the world, as well as connections between the violence of policing and incarceration and the violence of militarism and the relentless assault on Gaza.

    So, you know, people are turning towards really promising forms of movement building, incredible acts of courage in this moment, speaking unpopular truths. And that gives me hope, even in a time when there is so much reason for fear and anxiety, that can be paralyzing.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Michelle, but you also raised in your article that all of this is happening right now in the midst of a presidential election here in the United States. And what do you see as the impact of the policy of the Biden administration in terms of — especially in terms of Gaza and the genocide there, and what the impact may be on the result of our election?

    MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, you know, tens of thousands of people have been killed in Gaza in just a few months with our bombs — you know, mass murder funded by our government, aided and abetted by our military, paid for, in large part, by our tax dollars. And while we have been told by our government that we are not witnessing genocide, you know, I and millions of people around the world have watched. You know, as videos have traveled around the globe, we’ve watched, you know, as mothers have pulled body parts of their dead children out of rubble, as people have had their limbs amputated, sawed off, without anesthesia because the hospitals have been destroyed and there’s no medicine, including pain medication, to be found. We’ve watched as people facing starvation have been shot at by Israeli soldiers as they approach vehicles carrying aid.

    And so, you know, the Biden administration seems to be surprised that people who are not Palestinian care as deeply as we do. And I think if the Democratic Party and the Biden administration is serious about winning this next election, they must not only insist upon a ceasefire, but end the aid for the military support and the bombs, and must invest and ensure that the people who are starving and who are suffering there get the aid that they need to survive. We must end the occupation of Palestine and commit to the thriving of all of the people who have been subjected to relentless war and occupation for decades now. And so, yeah, I do think it’s an important issue in this election year.

    And, you know, as I point out in the piece, that there are many, many things that are weighing on the minds and the hearts of the American people right now. It is the mass killing in Gaza, you know, more than 10,000 children, and the destruction of hospitals, schools, churches, mosques, universities, museums and nearly all the basic infrastructure. It is the memories of the killings that occurred on October 7th, memories that many continue to carry along with deep grief and fear. But there’s also, you know, fears of the threats to our democracy, to the very ideas of diversity and inclusion. And there’s the threat of climate change. You know, 2023 was the hottest year on record, and it seems we may have already passed a critical tipping point, and yet the five biggest oil companies last year raked in record profits, nearly $200 billion in profits, more than the economic output of most countries. And, you know, if all that wasn’t enough, we keep learning more and more that AI just might destroy humanity.

    And, you know, I find that people often ask me, as I speak about issues related to climate change and the war in Gaza and the threats related to the rise in technology: What does any of this have to do with mass incarceration or police violence, the issues and causes that have been most pressing and most important to me for much of my life? And what I always say is that these issues have everything to do with mass incarceration. These are existential crises that we face because we have persisted in treating people and all of creation as exploitable and disposable, unworthy of our care and concern. We are lost in the delusion that we can solve problems or do justice or achieve peace and security simply by locking people up, throwing away the key, destroying their lives and families, getting rid of them, declaring wars on them, wars on drugs, wars on crime, wars on Gaza. And that’s why I keep returning again and again to the speech that Martin Luther King gave near the end of his life, the speech where he condemned the Vietnam War and was immediately canceled. That’s what my piece in The Nation is ultimately about.

    AMY GOODMAN: Michelle, we want to end with and get your final comment on Dr. King’s speech that he gave at New York’s Riverside Church opposing the War in Vietnam a year to the day before he was assassinated. This is Dr. King speaking about why he opposed the War in Vietnam.

    REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” And they ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home. And I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. King, after which, you point out in the piece, Michelle, that he was canceled, from the major papers, The New York Times to The Washington Post, attacked for his opposition to war.

    MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Yes, that’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s difficult to overstate the political risk that he was taking in that moment. Our nation had been at war with Vietnam for two years. Ten thousand American troops had already been killed. And the war had enthusiastic bipartisan support within the political establishment. Anyone who dared to criticize the war were often labeled communist and subjected to vicious forms of retaliation and backlash. Many of his friends and his allies told him not to speak out against the war, saying he’d jeopardize the very fragile and brand-new gains of the civil rights movement.

    And he said, you know, those people, those voices didn’t understand the depth of his moral commitment, but they also had no real understanding of the nature of the world in which they lived. And he said basic morality demands that we speak for the weak, the voiceless, the victims of our own nation, especially the children, including those our nation calls enemy, for they are no less our brothers and sisters. He condemned the moral bankruptcy of a nation that doesn’t hesitate to invest in bombs and warfare around the world but can’t ever seem to find the dollars to eradicate poverty at home.

    But, for me, you know, what makes King’s speech essential in this moment is that he was arguing in that speech that if we, as a nation, do not awaken from our collective delusions, we are doomed. You know, he said we must rapidly shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. You know, he said when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, you know, the giant triplet of racism, extreme materialism and militarism will never be conquered. You know, if we fail to make this turn, if we fail to awaken, we are doomed. And he was right. Whether we’re talking about climate change, AI, mass deportation, mass incarceration, the wars in Gaza or the wars on drugs, he’s right, that if we don’t turn away from the corrupting forces of capitalism, militarism and racism, and embrace a truly revolutionary love for all people and all creation, we are doomed. Towards the end of that speech at Riverside, he said there is such a thing as being too late. You know, he said over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words “too late.”

    And yet his message wasn’t a hopeless one. He was calling us to embrace a revolutionary movement, one that was grounded in an ethic of love. Just as bell hooks once said, you know, as long as we refuse to embrace love in our struggles for liberation, we will not be able to create a culture of conversion where there’s a mass turning away from an ethic of domination. And that, ultimately, is what revolutionary love is all about and why I believe it is the only thing that can save us now.

    AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Alexander, thank you so much for joining us, civil rights advocate — 


    AMY GOODMAN: — author of the best-selling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. We’ll link to your piece in The Nation, headlined “Only Revolutionary Love Can Save Us Now.”

    Gaza remains under assault. Day 160 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE GUARDIAN notes "the total death toll since Israel launched its military offensive in the Gaza Strip [is] 31,341. Additionally, 73,134 people have been wounded." Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

    And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."   

    In other news . . . 

    Florida’s school teachers will be allowed to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity — under the condition the topics are not a part of formal classroom instruction. The clarification came as part of a lawsuit settlement reached by Florida’s education officials and a group of LGBTQ+ rights advocates and families. Opponents of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law had argued the measure’s vague language sparked fear and confusion among educators and students, who were unsure if even sharing personal details about their lives, such as drawing a picture of their same-sex parents for a school project, would be a violation of the law.

    This was never, ever about helping children.  It was about hate merchants spreading their hate.  And we see across the country the effects of that.  Nex Benedict was one of the children targeted with this hate.  Marcia has been covering Nex's case at her site and, in last night's "Ryan Walters is responsible for the death of Nex Benedict," rightly calls out hate merchant Ryan Walters who seems to think the initial autopsy finding that a child took their own life because of the abuse that they were experiencing is somehow vindicating him.  It's no vindication, it is an indictment. 

    The tragic death of high school sophomore Nex Benedict last month cast a spotlight on the relentless bullying LGBTQ students face in schools nationwide, and on the records of Oklahoma’s elected leaders in targeting transgender students, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters.

    Walters told ABC News, “we’re not going to lie to students. And we’re not going to push a gender ideology.” Walters’ repeated false claims about “gender ideology” and “only two genders” conflict with the history of Two Spirit people in his own state, which have long recognized and honored multiple genders. Walters’ comments also crucially fail to acknowledge Nex Benedict’s Choctaw heritage and the impact of Walters’ rhetoric and policies on Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming (2STGNC+) students like Nex.

    Walters’ comments and policies attempting to ignore the existence and history of 2STGNC+ people in his state are consistent with his record of attempts to eliminate inclusive books. More than 350 organizations including GLAAD have called on state legislative leaders to remove Walters and investigate the unsafe climate in Oklahoma schools for 2STGNC+ students.

    GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said Walters “dangerously and recklessly prioritized escalating attacks against LGBTQ, indigenous, and vulnerable youth, promoting lies, spreading disinformation, and pushing broad scale discriminatory policies that do nothing to improve education, [with] rhetoric and policies to erase the culture and history of entire communities of Oklahomans … in alignment with national anti-LGBTQ groups like Moms for Liberty and extremists on social media.”

    At last month’s Board of Education meeting, the first since the news of Nex’s death, business owner and Vice Mayor of The Village, a suburb of Oklahoma City, Sean Cummings addressed Walters’ anti-LGBTQ record. Walters’ actions include appointing Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik to the state Library Media Review Committee in January, despite a history of anti-LGBTQ posts that have reportedly preceded more than 30 threats of violence against schools in Oklahoma and nationwide, as well as libraries and childrens’ hospitals. Raichik does not live in Oklahoma, does not have children in Oklahoma schools, and has no proven background in education.

    “You and your rhetoric and your inability to do anything as a board here are partially responsible for emboldening bullies to jump a [student] in the bathroom,” Cummings told Walters. “You have actual blood on your hands.”


    e are learning more about the death of Nex Benedict, a non-binary high school student who died on February 8, the day after they were beaten in the school bathroom in Owasso, Oklahoma. We are also learning about ourselves, as Oklahomans, as we deal with the tragedy. But we are not alone. This bitter attack is a case study in the cruelty being spread across the nation by right-wing extremists. 

    Vigils were held across the nation in honor of Nex, who has a Choctaw heritage. The diverse crowd I witnessed at the Oklahoma City vigil was so large that I could barely hear the speakers. We still don’t fully know everything about Nex’s death, but it is clear that it must be viewed within the context of vicious attacks on LGBTQ+ youth by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and Governor Kevin Stitt as well as the fifty-plus Republican legislative bills attacking LBGTQ+ rights across the country.

    Since he was elected in 2019, Governor Stitt has signed laws that restrict access to public school bathrooms; ban health care for transgender people under eighteen; ban transgender girls and women from school sports; and prohibit Oklahomans from obtaining nonbinary gender markers on official documents. He also signed, as the LGTBQ+ rights group GLAAD reported, “an executive order that defunds diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and programs in state agencies, including public colleges.”

    Walters has a similar record: He has depicted transgender students as a threat in schools, and approved a permanent rule change that requires schools to get state approval before altering gender markers in a student’s records. Walters has advocated for book bans and described LGBTQ+-themed books as “pornographic material.” He also appointed Chaya Raichik, the founder of anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok, to the education department’s Library Media Advisory Committee.

    Incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in schools have risen sharply in the U.S. in recent years, more than quadrupling in K–12 schools in states where Republican lawmakers have enacted legislation targeting the community.

    The alarming finding comes from report published in the Washington Post this week based on an analysis of FBI data. The Post found that the nationwide average number of reported anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in schools, including those on college campuses, rose from 108 between 2015–2019 to 232 between 2021–2022, more than doubling. In states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ+ laws, the average tripled.

    Even more troubling, in the 28 states where Republicans have passed laws restricting access to gender-affirming care for minors, bans on trans people accessing bathrooms and participating in sports, and “Don’t Say Gay” laws, reported incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes on K­–12 campuses more than quadrupled.

    The hate merchants were never, ever concerned about children. If the events unfolding across the country have not made that clear, let's note blood-on-his-hands Ryan Walters statement he issued in response to the finding that Nex committed suicide:

    The loss of our student in Owasso is tragic for the family, the community, and our state. The LGBTQ groups pushing a false narrative are one of the biggest threats to our democracy and I remain, more than ever, committed to never backing down from a woke mob.


    A child is dead, a child from a school he oversees and the child is dead because of his actions.  Instead of taking accountability, promising to learn from this, he stays confined and imprisoned by his delusions.  He's a hate merchant.

    The following sites updated: