Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 28, 2022


Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal march down JFK Blvd. past the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and City Hall, in Philadelphia, Friday, December 16, 2022.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing 

December 16, 2022


In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.

However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.

Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.

“I do not want to do this again,” she said.




Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.

The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital  and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.

Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.

At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )

Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”

More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at 
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.





Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!

Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical care
A campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.

Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: 
Please be as generous as you can.


Prostate cancer can be cured if discovered and treated before it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the prostate. But once it spreads it becomes incurable and fatal.

Rashid's prostate cancer was discovered over a year ago and diagnosed by biopsy months ago, before it had spread or any symptoms had developed. However, he has now developed symptoms that indicate it likely has metastasized, which would not have happened if he had begun receiving treatment earlier. Denied care and delayed hospital appointments continue, which can only be intended to cause spreading and worsening symptoms.

I just received word from Rashid through another prisoner where he is, that he was transported on October 25, 2022 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital, which is a state hospital where Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) officials also work. MCV appears to have a nefarious relationship with the VDOC in denying prisoners needed treatment. Upon arrival to the hospital he was told the appointment had been rescheduled, which has now become a pattern.

The appointment was for a full body PET scan to determine if and to what degree his cancer has metastasized. When he met with a radiologist on October 4, 2022, after 3 prior re-schedulings, there was concern that his cancer may have spread because of symptoms he's begun developing. This is his fourth rescheduled hospital appointment which has delayed appointments for weeks to months, preventing him from receiving care.

Because of delayed testing and denied care Rashid has developed symptoms that continue to worsen, which include internal bleeding and pain. The passage of time without care is worsening his condition and making the likelihood of death from the spread of his cancer more certain.





Sign the petition:


If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.

UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".

Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.

The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense." 

The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.

The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.



Dear friends, 

Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)

Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus 

• a petition you can sign

• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom

• a Donate button to support his campaign

• a link to our campaign website. 

Please take a moment and help. 

Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.

Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar: 


Here is the Facebook link:


Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:


Write to Governor Newsom’s office:




Ruchell’s Website: 



Charlie Hinton


No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Laws are created to be followed

by the poor.

Laws are made by the rich

to bring some order to exploitation.

The poor are the only law abiders in history.

When the poor make laws

the rich will be no more.


—Roque Dalton Presente!

(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper

A film by Kenneth A. Carlson 

Teaser is now streaming at:



Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022



“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com


Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”


That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.


Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.


For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.


The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Lost in Candyland

By Megan K. Stack, Dec. 22, 2022

Ms. Stack is a contributing Opinion writer. 


Zak Arctander for The New York Times

Christmas is upon us. Candy season is about to reach its peak. It won’t end, though; it never ends.


Valentine hearts already nudge against the dwindling supply of Santas in the candy aisle, and Easter isn’t far behind. Here in the suburbs, the ancient agrarian moons of plant, harvest, store, survive have been supplanted by Target’s merchandise and marketing flows. My family is awash in this dubious bounty. Since returning from overseas assignments to America, with two elementary-school-age children, we’ve been wading year-round in sweets and treats, almost none of which we bought or even wanted.


Because I have happy memories of being a chocolate-smeared U.S. kid and because I started raising my kids in Asia before bringing them back to the United States, I can testify that American childhood has become hopelessly, almost unrecognizably glutted with candy. The pandemic, it seems, supercharged a national confectionery addiction, handing an unmitigated triumph to corn syrup peddlers who brag that American candy sales have reached an all-time high.


The 2022 report of the National Confectioners Association says the quiet part out loud, boastfully chalking up record-breaking sales to the “incredible permissibility” fostered by “the strong connection between emotional well-being and confectionery.”


Indeed. My kids are surrounded by so many sweets, it presents a parenting conundrum: how to let them enjoy treats (because I’m not a monster) but prevent them from eating even half the candy they are given (because that would be insane) without shaming them or fetishizing candy as a forbidden fruit.


Somewhere along the way, between the Sisyphean pantry purges and tiresome negotiations, I’ve started to see a quieter and more sorrowful story in our national predilection for sweets.


It’s no surprise that children love candy. They are watchers and apprentices, drawn to bright and flimsy trifles, bits of the world they can touch and taste. They are also growing, often ravenous, hankering for a tingle of sweet.


The adult role, though, is more ambiguous. I often hear grumbling and lamentations from other parents, always tinged with resignation. As if candy simply existed in circulation, like air or water or money, and there were nothing we can do about its omnipresence, which, of course, we ourselves are creating.


Which bitterness are we trying to sweeten? What groundswell of despair are we seeking to contain?


All over the world, all through history, there has been the dichotomy of sweet and sour and folklore in which a child’s want for sweet stands as a metaphor for adult desire. A Russian friend told me about midwives who placed sugar between laboring women’s legs to tempt the babies out. This perhaps apocryphal anecdote sent me nearly to the ground laughing, hysterical with the image of an infant prowling from the womb like a fox from its den. But this is what we do — sugar to cut pain, sugar to shorten hardship, sugar to coax our children forth into a difficult world. But always mixed with danger: The gingerbread house in the woods is a trap.


If America’s candy culture is a symptom, then we adults must be the disease — frightened for the future, harried by daily cares, snatching up a cheap simulacrum of happiness that’s already melting once it hits the tongue.


Maybe this looks bad to me because, coming home after many years gone, I’m frequently taken aback by the indifference our culture shows to children. Americans lash out with stinging judgment against parents who fail to “control their kids,” as if a spirit-crushing harshness were the main criteria for raising a child.


My family lives in an American suburb of relative wealth and red-hot ambition. Long before our eldest son reached an age of double digits, I’d gotten many earfuls of unsolicited strategy about sports, college and scholarships. After moving here, the boys started coming home with anxious questions about whether we’ve saved for their education and what they should do to get into college.


I spent my own childhood reading novels in the grass or rambling in the woods, worries shushed by bygone parental mantras: “Don’t worry.” Or “Just do your best.” And especially “It’ll all work out,” often accompanied by a dismissive wave or a sigh of cigarette smoke. That was the general philosophy of my upbringing. Some things would go well, and others wouldn’t, and I should be strong and keep faith that, one way or the other, something good would emerge from the process. It’s just life.


These blandishments, today, sound close to negligence. There is, instead, a lot of talk about therapy and anxiety and pharmaceuticals. We load kids down with dire climate warnings and apocalyptic visions. We push them to compete fiercely and express shock and confusion as childhood rates of depression and suicide keep climbing. Then we cheer things up by giving them enough candy to ruin their health forever.


My kids and their classmates are the lucky ones. (Knock wood.) American children regularly die by gunshot, although there is no war going on. American children — especially if they are not white — regularly get prosecuted as adults in violation of international human rights convention. Hundreds of American children sleep in adult jails or prisons every night.


Some American men are so eager to exploit children sexually that federal law enforcement acknowledges that it simply does not have the resources to investigate child pornography at scale.


Meanwhile, Halloween has bloated from a single, thrilling evening of spooky-sweet revelry into a monthlong worship of sugar. It was still a warmish September when we first hung plastic skeletons from our car trunk and drove to a packed church parking lot for the season’s first Trunk or Treat. That kicked off weeks of tailgates, school parties, neighborhood parties and the town parade, each of which sent the kids home with enough candy to fill a pillowcase. In between there were birthday parties, class rewards and countless spare lollipops and chocolate bars from bowls that materialized everywhere from the doctor’s office to the Sunday school classroom.


By this time of the year, candy has overtaken our house like some particularly vigorous mildew. We have tried to control the invasion — donating bulging sacks to the local firehouse and shrugging off cries of protest as we tossed load after load into the trash — but goody bags and forgotten sweets stashes are still, somehow, tucked away all over the house.


And more every day! Christmas candy is already arriving by mail. Homemade cookies and my cousin’s trademark fruitcake arrive in ribbons. These homemade goodies would be gladly received in an environment of moderation, but under the circumstances, I greet each package with the woozy bewilderment of a drowning person offered a glass of water.


For example, our 9-year-old just came home from a night of sports and crafts at the community center with a jumbo box of sugar-encrusted sour watermelon candy, most of which he’d eaten. “I won bingo,” he crowed. I wasn’t surprised, because our other son won the raffle at the same event a few weeks earlier, netting a massive platter of thickly iced sugar cookies.


The following morning, my husband took both kids off to lay wreaths on veterans’ graves with the Scouts. They came tripping back rosy-cheeked and exhilarated. “There was a bar!” the youngest announced.




“Not an alcohol bar,” the eldest jumped in. “There was hot chocolate and, like, 10 different kinds of cookies.”


“Oh,” I said.


“And marshmallows and candy canes.”




But the weekend debauchery still wasn’t done. Hours later, I picked up one of the kids from a friend’s house, where he’d watched the World Cup final. “Wasn’t that game amazing?” I enthused, backing out of the driveway.


“We didn’t watch all of it,” he admitted. “We were eating candy.”




“Do you know who Bob Ross is?”


“Uh, yeah?”


“He makes this candy that’s, like, the paint is like sugar, and you dip the paintbrush in and then eat it.”


These moments spin me out in various unhappy directions. I haven’t mentioned this yet, because it’s somewhat controversial, but the childhood obesity rate in the United States sits at just under 20 percent. Given the risks of diabetes and heart problems and asthma, I’d prefer my children not become obese.


But that’s not my only — or even my main — health concern. What really bothers me is adopting overindulgence as a lifestyle.


I know how this works. I, too, crave little rushes. When I was a child, it was candy. I especially loved a sneaky piece — pilfered from an elderly relative’s porcelain dish or bought with scraped-together change on a surreptitious bike ride to the store. Something I wasn’t supposed to have. The ritual of it. The secret.


Later I smoked cigarettes with the same vaguely illicit thrill.


I don’t smoke anymore, but I still savor a glass of wine and go to bed every night already looking forward to the rush of that first cup of coffee in the morning. But if I multiply our children’s candy consumption into an analogous quantity of some adult vice, it doesn’t look good.


And what do I tell them — I, who stumbles along in a state of temptation, wanting a cigarette for 20 years, buying them candy and throwing it away in illogical spasms of indulgence and restraint?


And maybe, in the end, this is the silent, instinctive wisdom behind the madness of candy. Our children will always be forced to walk a line between their appetites and their higher mind.


From the very start, this exhausting dynamic: We will surround you with the thing you crave. Leave it alone.



2) A Rush of Far-Right Initiatives by Israel’s New Government Raises Concerns

Benjamin Netanyahu needed the support of far-right factions to return to the prime minister’s office. Now they want to curb the powers of the judiciary, giving rise to fears about an erosion of democracy.

By Isabel Kershner, Dec. 22, 2022


Clash between Palestinians and the Israeli army in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Clash between Palestinians and the Israeli army in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. Credit...Zain Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — As Israel’s prime minister designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, prepares to swear in his new hard-line government and return to office, his deals to cement the support of far-right coalition partners are raising widespread concerns about the country’s future as a liberal democracy.


The emerging coalition will be the most hard-right and religious administration in Israel’s history, made up of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party and another five far-right and ultra-Orthodox factions. Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, who was ousted 18 months ago, is on trial for corruption and has grown ever more dependent on these hard-line allies because the more liberal parties refuse to sit in a government led by a premier under criminal indictment.


That dependency, critics say, has weakened him in the coalition negotiations, forcing him to go along with at least some of the demands for far-reaching changes that would limit the powers of the judiciary and curb the independence of the police.


Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line allies need him just as much as he needs them; they, too, have no alternative path to power. But their fundamental lack of trust in Mr. Netanyahu, who has a record of breaking promises to coalition partners, led them to insist on a rush of legislation to anchor their new roles and authorities in law, with potentially damaging consequences for the democratic system.


“What we see in the legislation preceding the formation of the government is a change in the rules of the game of Israeli democracy,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The outgoing prime minister, Yair Lapid, a centrist, described the incoming government on Thursday as “dangerous, extremist, irresponsible.”


“It will end badly,” he said, calling it “a clearance sale of Israel’s future.”


The legislative rush and drafts of coalition agreements include proposals that would allow Parliament to override Supreme Court decisions and would give more weight to politicians in the selection of judges.


Legal amendments would greatly expand the powers of the incoming minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police. Mr. Ben-Gvir is the leader of the ultranationalist Jewish Power party and the main advocate of the bill, which would give him the authority to set policy for the police, something critics say will allow him to politicize the force’s operations.


He was convicted in the past on charges of inciting racism and of support for a terrorist group, and ran in the election on a bullish ticket of fighting organized crime and increasing governance, particularly in areas heavily populated by members of Israel’s Arab minority.


Another amendment will allow Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, to serve as a second minister in the hallowed Ministry of Defense. Mr. Smotrich, whose party ultimately seeks to annex the occupied West Bank, has been promised authority over the agencies dealing with Jewish settlements and Palestinian and Israeli civilian life in the occupied West Bank, in consultation with the prime minister.


A third change will allow Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, to serve as a minister despite a recent conviction and a suspended prison sentence for tax fraud. That amendment, analysts say, could end up applying to Mr. Netanyahu should he ultimately be convicted or reach a plea deal including a suspended sentence.


Mr. Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing and says the cases against him will collapse in court.


Still, experts say, the proposed changes outlined in the coalition agreements are still in flux.


“Constitutional political changes are being carried out in record speed, even before the government has been established,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research center. “This demonstrates the fragility of our democracy.”


But Mr. Plesner emphasized that such practices were not unprecedented in Israel and that there were still many possible outcomes.


“There is a discrepancy,” he said, “between the ideas and initiatives and declarations of politicians before elections, and what is actually happening in the negotiating room and being manifested in coalition agreements and government policy.”


Mr. Netanyahu, who has already pushed Israel further to the right during his 15 years in power, will now be the main force of moderation in his government compared with his more hard-line partners. Though he is known for his aggressive campaign tactics, Mr. Netanyahu has generally protected the democratic system during his long tenure.


He has rejected the warnings about damage to Israeli democracy as fear-mongering by those who lost the election and has pledged to act in the interest of all Israel’s citizens.


“We were elected to lead in our way, the way of the national right and the way of the liberal right,” he said in a recent speech to Parliament, “and that’s what we will do.”


The most immediate concerns revolve around the law expanding the powers of Mr. Ben-Gvir, the national security minister. It has passed its first reading in Parliament but is still pending final approval.


In the past, the minister overseeing the police would set policy priorities in consultation with the commissioner of police, but would not interfere in operational matters or have any influence over investigations.


The proposed legislation subordinates the police to the minister’s authority, leading legal officials and experts to fear a politicization of the force. And it grants the minister the right to set priorities and time frames for investigations in a departure from past practices.


“The Israel Police will be run under a threatening and belligerent man who lacks responsibility and experience, who wishes to turn it into a political agency,” and to turn the police commissioner into a “puppet,” the outgoing minister of public security, Omer Bar-Lev, told Parliament this week.


Mr. Ben-Gvir argues that the police should be subordinate to a minister’s policy in the same way that the military carries out the government’s policy. But critics say that unlike the military, which fights Israel’s enemies, the mission of the police is to deal with Israeli citizens — including corrupt politicians.


Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian-Israeli lawmaker, told the committee discussing the bill that the incoming minister’s goals were “ideological” and “racist” and would end up creating a “political police.”


Human rights activists say they are worried that the legislation giving Mr. Ben-Gvir broader control over the police could be used to suppress protests.


Noa Sattath, the executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said her organization petitioned the parliamentary committee discussing the bill to exclude protests from Mr. Ben-Gvir’s areas of authority, as did the committee’s own legal adviser. But Mr. Ben-Gvir rejected that recommendation.


“Clearly the minister wants to have authority over the way the police deal with protests,” said Ms. Sattath, who described the bill as endangering one of the foundations of the Israeli democratic system.


In the face of mounting criticism, Mr. Ben-Gvir told the parliamentary committee on Thursday that he would postpone the discussions and voting on the most contentious parts of the bill until after the inauguration of the government.


Also of concern are the proposals to change the way the judiciary operates.


If implemented, they will dramatically curb the powers of the Supreme Court, which has long been seen by liberal Israelis and analysts as one of the country’s most important institutions safeguarding against the erosion of liberal democratic values. Because Israel has only one house of Parliament and no formal constitution, the judiciary plays a critical role in protecting minority rights and offsetting rule by the parliamentary majority.


The coalition partners are keen to see these judicial changes, not least to ensure that the Supreme Court cannot overturn the hasty legislation now making its way through Parliament.


“In the coming weeks we will have to face the most significant threats Israeli democracy has seen in recent decades,” Mr. Plesner said at a recent conference at his institute on the implications of the judicial changes proposed by members of the incoming coalition.


“The issues on the agenda concern the nature of the state and the basic rights of each and every one of us.”


Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem.



3) The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills

Labels of Plan B One-Step had previously said, without scientific evidence, that the pill might block fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb.

By Pam Belluck, Dec. 23, 2022


A close up view of a pharmacy shelf with three slots for packages of Plan B One-Step for sale. The two slots on the left and right side are lined with the purple-and-pink packages, with a middle slot empty.

A common morning-after pill, approved in 1999 and now sold as Plan B One-Step, does not block a fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the uterus — a claim that abortion opponents have used to erroneously call it an abortion pill. Credit...Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday significantly changed the information that will be in every box of the most widely used emergency contraceptive pills to make clear that they do not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. The agency explained in an accompanying document that the products cannot be described as abortion pills.


Up to now, packages of the brand-name pill, Plan B One-Step, as well as generic versions of it have said that the pill might work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb — language that scientific evidence did not support. That wording led some abortion opponents and politicians who equate a fertilized egg with a person to say that taking the morning-after pill could be the equivalent of having an abortion or even committing murder.


The F.D.A. revised the leaflets inserted in packages of pills to say that the medication “works before release of an egg from the ovary,” meaning that it acts before fertilization, not after. The package insert also says the pill “will not work if you’re already pregnant, and will not affect an existing pregnancy.”


In a question-and-answer document posted on the F.D.A.’s website, the agency explicitly addressed the abortion issue. In answer to the question, “Is Plan B One-Step able to cause an abortion?” the agency writes: “No.” It added: “Plan B One-Step prevents pregnancy by acting on ovulation, which occurs well before implantation. Evidence does not support that the drug affects implantation or maintenance of pregnancy after implantation, therefore, it does not terminate a pregnancy.”


Since the Supreme Court overturned the ruling that ensured the national right to abortion, advocates of abortion rights have warned that some conservative states may outlaw or restrict morning-after pills on the erroneous grounds that they might cause abortions. Advocates and reproductive health providers have also worried that people who are misinformed about how the pills work may decline to use an effective tool to prevent unwanted pregnancies.


For at least a decade, the pills have figured in political debates about abortion. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney called emergency contraceptives “abortive pills,” and two other Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, made similar statements.


Some conservative states allow pharmacists or pharmacies to refuse to carry Plan B, which was approved in 1999 and is available without a prescription. And a recent study found that more than 60 percent of about 1,400 people surveyed believed that morning-after pills work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.


But scientific evidence has never shown that Plan B affects a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus. The F.D.A. acknowledged as much 10 years ago, after a 2012 investigation by The New York Times, when a spokeswoman for the agency said that “the emerging data on Plan B suggest that it does not inhibit implantation.”


As a result of The Times’s reporting, MedlinePlus, a website run by the National Institutes of Health, deleted passages suggesting emergency contraceptives could disrupt implantation. Other health and medical websites made similar changes. In 2013, European health authorities revised the label of Norlevo, a pill that is identical to Plan B, to say that it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.”


The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.


The company did not conduct any new studies for its application, submitting already existing research, a spokeswoman said.


“As the label was written previously, it was causing more confusion, and was incorrect according to the scientific research,” the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said. “Our goal was to clarify misinformation,” she said, adding that “the events of 2022 reignited the urgency.”


Students for Life of America, which earlier this year posted an Instagram video with a caption saying “Plan B can cause an abortion. It’s right there on the box,” said in an email on Friday that it rejected the F.D.A.’s new language on the science of the pills.


“For years we’ve been saying that the packaging indicated abortions could take place,” the organization said. “Their answer is to just change the box.”


Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.


Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.


According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.


Dr. Giovannina Anthony, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Women’s Health and Family Care Clinic in Jackson, Wyo., said that because of claims by anti-abortion groups some patients have been confused about whether the pills can cause an abortion, and her staff will now be able to use the F.D.A.’s new interpretation of the scientific evidence to reassure them.


Dr. Anthony, whose state is among those trying to restrict access to abortion, said the F.D.A.’s new guidance “is critical for women who have had unprotected sex and live in geographic areas where abortion is either inaccessible, banned or impossible to obtain. It should encourage more women to use Plan B as an effort to decrease the unplanned pregnancy rate.”


As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.


Experts said implantation was likely placed on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation. But in any case, scientists said that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, morning-after pills do not have time to affect the uterine lining.


By 2007, evidence was accumulating that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In 2009 to 2010, during discussions about making Plan B available over the counter for all ages, Teva also asked that implantation be deleted from the label.



4) Merry Christmas! We’re All Being Murdered by Capitalism.

Here at The Intercept, we are committed to ruining the holidays.

Jon Schwarz, Elise Swain, December 24, 2022


KING OF PRUSSIA, PA - DECEMBER 11: Santa Claus opens a candy cane while waiting for the next photos with shoppers at the King of Prussia Mall on December 11, 2022 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The country's largest retail shopping space, the King of Prussia Mall, a 2.7 million square feet shopping destination with more than 400 stores, is owned by Simon Property Group. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

A depressed looking Santa Claus working in a shopping mall opens a candy cane while waiting for photos with shoppers in King of Prussia, Pa., on Dec. 11, 2022. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

HERE AT THE INTERCEPT, our internal motto is “More Bad News for You, the Bad News Consumer.” We also sometimes refer to ourselves as “Your Daily Death March of Sorrow.”


That’s why, as you celebrate the holidays with your family, snuggling your loved ones close and putting out the cookies for Santa Claus, it’s on brand for us to remind you that capitalism is killing us all. 


So let’s get going. (If you’re not ready to dive in immediately, you can limber up by reading our previous yuletide bummer, “Merry Christmas! Remember the Children Who Live in Fear of Our Killer Drones.”)



Ho Ho Ho for Capitalism


Instead of the good news of Jesus, let’s start with the good news of capitalism. Even Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, not known as capitalism’s biggest fans, acknowledged it in “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848:


The bourgeoisie … has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.


The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce 100 years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. What earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?


The writer William Greider takes the same perspective in “Secrets of the Temple,” his gigantic tome about the Federal Reserve. Capitalism, he contends, was “a Faustian bargain. People surrendered control over their own lives and accepted a smaller role for themselves as cogs in the vast and complicated economic machinery, in exchange for mere material goods.” Nevertheless, you have to admit that “the devil certainly kept his half of the bargain.”


Take a look around where you’re sitting now and consider the huge quantities of crap just in your eyesight that you’ve accumulated, all thanks to capitalism. One of us (Jon) can see his iPad, which helps him understand the amount of grease his thumbs apparently exude. There’s his smoke detector, which is beeping in a vain plea to get him to replace its battery. And there’s the huge bag of chipotle powder that he bought in a burst of misguided enthusiasm in 2018, still four-fifths full. The other one of us (Elise) is sitting in fast-fashion polyurethane pants, made in Vietnam, that are already ruined and will eventually end up in the Great Pacific Trash Vortex. She’ll be spending her Christmas alone, traveling Italy, contributing to the tourist economy of a deeply neofascist government which hates journalists by buying large amounts of burrata, Aperol spritz, and whatever readily available substances she finds from the global market to numb the pain of living in such a society.


OK, those are the good parts of capitalism. Now let’s move on to the ones that risk the obliteration of Homo sapiens.


Covid-19 and Its Sequels


Our response to Covid-19 should make us dubious about our chances if we go up against something even deadlier. Only 5.5 billion people have gotten even one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, leaving billions more to host a constantly proliferating assortment of mutations. Already vaccines and therapeutics are less effective against new variants. 


With some bad rolls of the dice, we could be back to the world of March 2020, or worse. This scenario is increasingly likely considering climate change and globalization. Another accurate point in “The Communist Manifesto” is that “the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”


Sure, we could have decided to vaccinate everyone. Last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated this would cost $50 billion, or 0.05 percent of the world’s annual gross domestic product. But we didn’t do it for very good reason: This would have hurt the “intellectual” “property” — and hence the profits — of Moderna and Pfizer.


So the downside here is our unending Covid nightmare. The upside is we now have 10 vaccine billionaires! We’d like to believe they’re spending this Christmas Eve together, downing negroni sbagliatos somewhere on the Amalfi coast, toasting the freedom that is capitalism. (If you violate their vaccine patents, the government will crush you like a bug.)


Capitalism also means the proliferation of weapons with no purpose — not that they ever, really, have a purpose. One key reason the U.S. advocated the expansion of NATO was that it would open up new markets for American arms dealers. A little-known but significant figure named Bruce Jackson cofounded an NGO called the Committee to Expand NATO in 1996 — all the while serving as vice president for strategy and planning at Lockheed Martin. He was also co-chair of the finance committee for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Jackson was still at Lockheed in 2002, the year he became chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.


This had led to many merry Christmases, indeed. With dividends reinvested, Lockheed’s stock is up over 1,600 percent since the liberation of Iraq commenced on March 19, 2003, It’s up 25 percent just since Russia’s attack on Ukraine last February. Jackson currently owns a chateau and vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France.


Moreover, it’s a fervently held belief at the top of American society that they are doing good by doing well. George W. Bush once told Argentina’s president that “all of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by wars.” Way to say the quiet part out loud, again and again.


And it’s not just conventional arms that are profitable. Building nuclear weapons systems is also quite lucrative. With these kinds of financial incentives in place, it’s incredible that human civilization still exists. 


But of course, we could go at any moment. The U.S. military is likely to secure $858 billion for its budget next year. At $150,000 apiece, this is enough to fire 57 million Hellfire missiles at Santa’s sleigh as he speeds in terror across the winter sky.


Global Warming, Plus Bigger Problems


This is the one problem of capitalism where we’d really like to beg the Gods — Christian/Jewish/Muslim, Hindu, Norse, Mesopotamian, miscellaneous — for a Christmas miracle. The Earth, as we know it, is fucked. We’re currently at 417 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, up from 280 ppm pre-capitalism. And that’s still not enough to satiate the shrieking, sucking mouth of the market. 


Russia sees the melting Arctic and has decided this is a wonderful opportunity to extract the region’s hitherto inaccessible oil. Burning this will melt the Arctic further, making more oil available, in a virtuous circle of suicide. While making false promises in the fight against the climate crisis, America took the lead in crude oil production last year. Right behind us are the world’s other oil producers, from the despots of Saudi Arabia to the bland democracy of Canada. It’s like a “Murder on the Orient Express”-style mystery, where humanity is killed by every passenger. 


It’s getting pretty close to night-night time for ocean life, most of the insects on Earth, half of the birds, too. Oh, and a third of the trees. When this will take out people is hard to predict, just as you never know which piece you have to remove to cause everything to collapse in a game of Jenga.


If you find this distressing, consider the more distressing fact that even if we develop massive amounts of green energy and stop global warming, capitalism will still probably destroy a livable biosphere.


The Terrifying Politics of Wanting, Wanting, Wanting


You probably don’t fantasize about how to decorate your mansion on Mars. This is because owning a Mars mansion has never seemed like a possibility in your life. But what if you were constantly bombarded with ads showing Matthew McConaughey in his luxurious nine-bedroom Mars home, living it up with all the Powerball winners who also live on the fourth planet from the sun?


While we Americans have spent our entire lives marinating in advertising tempting us with luscious products to consume, the truth is that humans do not have strong inherent desires for material goods. Let’s imagine humans in a world devoid of induced craving: We would probably work enough to have food to eat, live off the land, and spend the rest of the time futzing around (aka leisure).


How, then, could capitalists get people to work hard at extremely unpleasant jobs? For a long time, the answer was simple: slavery. But then, in the 19th century, slavery was driven to extinction in the Western hemisphere. During this time, there was surprisingly frank planning among capitalists about this aspect of human nature. Given this problem, how could they motivate people to do the same awful work enriching others without the threat of force? They decided one important tactic should be to “create wants.”


As a member of the British Parliament put it in 1833:


They [people formerly enslaved by the British Empire] must be gradually taught to desire those objects which could be attained by human labour. There was a regular progress from the possession of necessaries to the desire of luxuries; and what once were luxuries, gradually came, among all classes and conditions of men, to be necessaries. … This was the sort of education to which they ought to be subject.


A United Fruit staffer made the same point in the 1920s about Central Americans:


The mozos or working people have laboured only when forced to and that was not often, for the land would give them what little they needed. … The desire for goods, it may be remarked, is something that has to be cultivated. … Our advertising is slowly having the same effect as in the United States … All of this is having its effect in awakening desires.


By now capitalism has truly perfected the creation of wants. They’re as much a part of those of us in rich countries as our arms or legs. We will resist anyone telling us we should give up these wants, as much as we’d resist someone trying to cut off our limbs. 


This is surely a part of the recent rightward lurch in politics in the U.S. and elsewhere. Progressive politics necessarily makes the case that there’s more to life than the money in your individual bank account. It’s inevitable that many people will experience this as psychological violence and respond in kind, or with real violence. 


Stay tuned to find out how this dynamic will interact with all the capitalistic crises heading our way. 


Now Dasher, Now Prancer, Now Insoluble Dilemma 


Traditionally this is the part of the article where we describe the uplifting solution to the aforementioned problem. Here’s what we’ve got for you:




[faint sound of coughing]



The literary critic Fredric Jameson has famously said, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Capitalism isn’t just outside of us, it’s inside too. It’s grown in us like an aggressive tumor, twining around our organs until it’s hard to know where it stops and we begin. It’s killing us, but cutting it out might kill us too.


So, uh, Merry Christmas. No need to thank us for this atrocious conclusion. Here at The Intercept, we don’t need thanks for getting up every day and doing our job. But that Jameson quote reminds us that a big bottle of Jameson whiskey can be ordered online for $56.92 (if you’ve got the money).



5) Who Do the Cops Protect? 82-Year-Old Alabama Woman Arrested for Overdue Trash Bill

Neighbors expressed outrage at local Alabama police for arresting an 82-year-old Black woman for not paying her trash collection bill. The police chief, mayor, and local court system continue to say it was justified.

By Daniel Werst, December 25, 2022


The local government of Valley, Alabama, sent two cops to the home of Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman living alone, to arrest her for failing to pay $77.80 worth of garbage collection fees.

On November 27, the local government of Valley, Alabama caused a scandal by sending two cops to the home of Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman living alone, to arrest her for failing to pay $77.80 worth of garbage collection fees. Locals and online commenters slammed the Valley Police Department (VPD), and the story was picked up by the Washington Post and NBC. The police actually cuffed Menefield’s hands, but in front of her body “in recognition of a lower threat.” One cop had the temerity to whisper, “Don’t cry, Ms. Martha,” while arresting her. Menefield was placed in a station cell, and was bailed out soon after.


VPD chief Mike Reynolds tried to nip public criticism in the bud with a statement asserting municipal code enforcement officials repeatedly tried to contact Menefield about outstanding bills, before leaving a card on her front door summoning her to a court hearing. He said Menefield was chronically late paying her trash bill over the last fifteen years, implying that the arrest was justified because the court had issued an arrest warrant for failure to appear.


Bourgeois media provided some sense of the tragicomedy of arresting a person of such advanced age for such a trivial “crime” quoting neighbors criticizing the city and expressing appreciation for Menefield. But the bourgeois press won’t touch the idea that this inappropriate arrest is one reflection of whether or not police really “protect and serve” the general population.


Menefield asked why the city did not just halt her trash service rather than arrest her. Basic services like trash pickup ought to be free, especially for elderly and working class people. The city government stole one day of this woman’s limited final years on earth to subject her to Kafkaesque harassment. However, one local reporter saw garbage workers collect Menefield’s trash after the arrest, either out of solidarity or because the city wanted to limit negative publicity.


Menefield grew up under Jim Crow. Her parents worked as a house painter and a cook, which a local station bizarrely described as a “middle class” background. In the USA, everyone except Jeff Bezos and unhoused people are supposed to be “middle class” for political reasons, but this is a description of being working class. For most of her adult life Menefield was a care worker for elderly people and children. Mainstream news coverage did not ask why she may have struggled to pay $78 in service bills. They did not discuss inflation and other factors threatening people’s ability to pay living expenses. Menefield also had her water service shut off, and had occasionally had to go to neighbors for help.


The city spent much more than $78 of residents’ tax money on two cops, jail, court time, paperwork, and public relations to harass Menefield. Bullying an 82-year-old working class woman with late bills puts the lie to the police propaganda that cops are meant to protect us from violence. Marxism understands that the capitalist state is a hypocritical, inevitably abusive machine. Its forms of “legality” serve the very rich, even as they profit from climate change, force people to work twelve hour shifts, and cause preventable deaths from inadequate healthcare. The state elevates officials, including cops, into a position of superiority, unaccountability, and contempt towards working people, particularly those who are oppressed on the basis of race, gender, and other dividing lines.


No reasonable person would ever have consented to arrest Martha Menefield. A logical society would easily organize a little cooperation to help a retiree with a trivial household problem. The cops and the courts are put together in a way that goes outside basic social expectations. Their job is not to serve and protect anyone but the ruling class.


A receptionist at the county court told the Washington Post that since Menefield’s arrest, “There have been a million people offering to pay her bill,” yet the local government will not accept the payment until Menefield appears as a defendant at a January hearing. Mayor Leonard Riley came out in defense of the arrest and attacked Menefield, saying that she ran a lucrative tax preparation business from her home without a license, received a pandemic PPP government loan, and “should be able to pay [her] garbage bill.”


This shameful use of police power is not an exception. The police are intended to maintain and regulate capitalism: it is common for them to micromanage people’s lives, and even commit violence against the elderly. Cops in Arizona arrested a 78-year-old woman this year for giving free hot meals to homeless people in a public park. Alabama police arrested two women aged 61 and 85 for feeding stray cats. In recent years, police have also cracked the skull of a 75-year-old Black Lives Matter protester in New York state, broken the arm of a mentally disabled 75-year-old woman in Colorado, and shot a 61-year-old man dead in his wheelchair in Arizona.


Black Lives Matter. The dignity of people who have worked their entire lives matters. The police have no right to exist — in Valley, Alabama or anywhere.



6) No Child Left Behind, Unless We Don’t Feel Like Dealing With It

By Bryce Covert, Dec. 27, 2022

Ms. Covert is a journalist who focuses on the economy, with an emphasis on policies that affect workers and families. 


A red lunch tray covers a boy’s face.

Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times; photographs by Andersen Ross and farakos/Getty Images

The 117th Congress has finished its work, with little to offer American children. Lawmakers were unable to muster a deal to combine an extension of last year’s expanded child tax credit with tax breaks for businesses. No one even seemed to remember that up until this summer, the nation had given all children free meals at school.


The emergency created by the pandemic proved that we could stave off child hunger and deprivation if the government acted. Those two programs ensured that even during one of the most acute economic disruptions, children had enough to eat. But we could have ended child hunger before the crisis even began.


Long before anyone had heard of Covid, Lynnea Hawkins relied on free school meals for her son. He lived in northern Maine with his father, who often didn’t have enough money, and there were times when her son called to tell her, “Mom, there’s no food in the house,” she told me when I interviewed her for Early Learning Nation. Knowing he would at least get breakfast and lunch at school at no cost “took a little of the stress off.”


But it was a burden on her son, who had to hand the paperwork proving that his family qualified to his teacher in front of all of his classmates. Being on free school lunch was “another thing for them to torment him with,” Ms. Hawkins said. That stigma melted away after Congress passed legislation in early 2020 allowing the Department of Agriculture to issue waivers giving schools the ability to give free meals to all students, regardless of income. Suddenly, for two years, nearly all children in America could get free school breakfast and lunch, no matter their family’s income.


Congress twice extended those waivers on a bipartisan basis. But then in June, at the behest of Senator Rand Paul and Republican colleagues of his who believed they were no longer necessary, Congress opted to terminate them at the end of the summer, sending the country’s schoolchildren back into classrooms without universal access to free meals.


The rescission of this program coincided with another congressional failure. In 2021 nearly every Democrat and no Republicans voted through a revamping and expansion of the existing child tax credit — which meant more families qualified and they received more money. It also arrived monthly rather than once yearly at tax time. The extra money allowed parents to buy more food, and more were able to keep their children fed. But it expired at the end of last year, and lawmakers have been unable to revive it.


The result of Congress’s actions, or lack thereof, is predictable but tragic: American children, living in one of the wealthiest nations in human history, are going hungry.


Eleni Towns, an associate director at No Kid Hungry, has talked to hundreds of school district leaders, nutrition program directors and school nutrition staff members over the past year about the impact of universal free meals. The most important result they highlighted for her was that children finally received meals who didn’t qualify before the pandemic because their families made too much money — families that couldn’t afford to pay the reduced fee “but also aren’t having adequate meals every single day,” she said.


A family of three must earn less than $29,940 to enroll, and if it earns more than $42,606, it can’t get reduced-price meals, either, and will face the full cost. “The eligibility for free school meals is too low, and it leaves many families who need access to free school meals out,” Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school and out-of-school time programs at the Food Research & Action Center, told me. Before the pandemic, more than 20 percent of families with children who were food insecure didn’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals.


Including these children in school meals “has been huge and meaningful,” Ms. Towns said. In a survey of 62 large school districts, 95 percent said universal free meals had reduced student hunger. “One of the easiest things to do is to feed any child who asks for a meal,” Ms. FitzSimons said. “It reduces paperwork and administration and ensures kids are getting access to meals.”


“We’ve had this strange test case within the context of the pandemic,” Ms. Towns said. “We’ve shown that it works.”


Now with the universal program gone, parents are back to applying for free or reduced-price meals, and many struggle with the paperwork, forget, refuse because of the stigma or simply don’t know they have to apply, especially if their children started school when the requirement was waived. Soon after school started, Ms. Towns was already hearing from districts that were seeing enrollment drop.


Schools are also now back in the business of adjudicating which families qualify for free meals and which ones have to pay reduced or full price. Doing outreach to parents and working through all of that paperwork consumes significant resources. Some families also can’t afford to or forget to pay what they owe, racking up school lunch debts that weigh on districts and can deny their children meals. In late September, Ms. FitzSimons said, her organization had already started hearing that the debt was piling up.


The loss of free meals hit the same year that the expanded child tax credit disappeared. Under 2021’s expanded version, qualifying families received $300 a month for children under age 6 and $250 a month for older ones, and the credit was made fully refundable so that low-income families with little to no earnings also got it. While the money was used for many things, food was consistently the top category.


The ensuing impact on hunger was profound. As soon as the first payments went out, food insufficiency for adults with children in their households dropped 3 percentage points. There was no similar change for those without children who didn’t get the money. The payments reduced food insufficiency for families with children by 19 percent. Monthly child poverty was reduced by 30 percent.


But those payments ended a year ago. The child poverty rate shot up immediately between December 2021 and January 2022, rising 41 percent and reaching the highest rate since the end of 2020. Food hardship for families with children rose by as much as 12.5 percent.


Despite millions of people losing their employment and income in the pandemic, food insecurity managed to stay steady in 2020 and 2021. Food hardship for families with children actually fell last year. “When we have investments in the right programs at the right time, we can cut down, and we can end child hunger,” Ms. Towns said. “Right now, unfortunately, we’re taking away all of those benefits that have proven to work.”


The value of preventing children from starving should be clear in and of itself. But there’s plenty of research proving that it’s one of the best investments we can make. School meals have been shown to improve students’ school attendance rates, their behavior and their academic achievement. Kids who don’t get adequate meals are more likely to get stomachaches and headaches, interrupting their learning. Giving families more money when their children are young, along the lines of the expanded child tax credit, has been linked to everything from fewer infant deaths to higher graduation rates to more employment and higher incomes later in life.


Congressional lawmakers were unable to craft a deal to reinstate the expanded child tax credit before the end of the year, leaving to go home for the holidays without offering hungry children relief. It should be a top bipartisan priority when they convene next year. Bipartisan action can be hard to muster, but there are some Republican legislators who support a bigger credit. America’s children are waiting.


Reinstating universal free school meals is not on Congress’s radar. But states are taking up the fight. Lawmakers in California and Maine made universal free school meals permanent, and in November voters passed a ballot measure doing the same in Colorado. Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont extended them for a year. When Congress is ready to listen, these states will help make the case that all children deserve free meals at school.


Ms. Hawkins, the mother in Maine, is among the lucky few. She has neighbors who have incomes that would have put them just dollars above the free meal limit. Thanks to their state lawmakers, they can still count on no-cost school meals for all of their children. But she knows what it’s like to go hungry and to feel the stress of not having enough food to feed her son.


“I can’t imagine who would think it’s OK to take food away from kids,” she said.



7) In Record Numbers, an Unexpected Migrant Group Is Fleeing to the U.S.

Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled their country in recent years, escaping poverty and repression under an increasingly authoritarian government.

By Alfonso Flores Bermúdez and Frances Robles, Dec. 27, 2022


A group of people boarding a bus in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, to begin their journey to the United States.

A group of people boarding a bus in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, to begin their journey to the United States. Credit...Inti Ocón for The New York Times

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Twice a week at a gas station on the western edge of Nicaragua’s capital, local residents gather, carrying the telltale signs of people on the move: loaded backpacks, clothes and toiletries stuffed in plastic bags and heavy jackets in preparation for a chilly journey far from the stifling heat.


Nurses, doctors, students, children, farmers and many other Nicaraguans say teary goodbyes as they await private charter buses for the first leg of an 1,800-mile journey. Final destination: the United States.


For generations, Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, saw only a trickle of its people migrate northward. But soaring inflation, declining wages and the erosion of democracy under an increasingly authoritarian government have drastically shifted the calculus.


Now, for the first time in Nicaragua’s history, the small nation of 6.5 million is a major contributor to the mass of people trekking to the U.S. southern border, having been displaced by violence, repression and poverty.


While attention has focused this year on the record numbers of Venezuelans and Cubans pouring into the United States, this less-noted but remarkable surge of Nicaraguans is also adding to the migration crisis in a big way, sending money back to their families and, inadvertently, providing an economic lifeline to a government under sanctions from the United States.


More than 180,000 Nicaraguans crossed into the United States this year through the end of November — about 60 times as many as those who entered during the same period two years earlier, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.


Tatiana González Chacón, 23, a baker, left the Bluefields region in the eastern part of Nicaragua for Phoenix last month, because her father, the leader of an opposition party that saw its charter revoked, was accused of terrorism and had to flee to Costa Rica.


Nicaragua used to be “an enviable country, a place people wanted to go,” she said. “Now it’s a place where its own people want to get out. When you cross that river into the United States, it’s like you breathe a different air.”


Earlier this month, at a bus stop in Managua, the capital, a mother of three who asked not to be named was making the journey. The trip cost her $2,000, and she was still indebted to a smuggler for a previous failed attempt to reach the United States. Four brothers who recently inherited a farm for which the costs of seeds and fertilizers have quadrupled also boarded a bus heading north.


This year, for the first time, the number of arrests of undocumented migrants along the U.S. southern border exceeded two million in a single year.


The Biden administration expects arrivals to spike even more should the U.S. Supreme Court decide to lift a public health measure known as Title 42 that permits migrants arriving at the border to be turned back. (Nicaraguans have been largely exempt from Title 42, because the country will not allow deportation flights and Mexico has refused to accept them.)


Last month alone, more than 34,000 Nicaraguans turned themselves in to U.S. immigration authorities — five years ago, the figure for the entire year was just over 1,000.


During the country’s civil war in the 1980s, about 200,000 Nicaraguans left — over the entire decade.


Another significant influx of Nicaraguans has also crossed into Costa Rica and, combined with those heading north, has resulted in about 10 percent of Nicaragua’s population leaving in the past four years, underscoring the widespread lack of faith in President Daniel Ortega’s government.


For decades, migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were the dominant groups arriving at the U.S. border. Nicaragua’s government leaders often boasted that without the powerful gangs that terrorized surrounding countries, Nicaraguans felt relatively safe and did not need to flee.


The dynamic started shifting in 2018. Mr. Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary who led the nation during its civil war in the 1980s, won the presidency in 2006 after changes were made to the Constitution to allow candidates to win without an absolute majority of votes.


Since then, he has been re-elected three times, including last year, in a vote that much of the international community and many rights groups deemed a sham because of anti-democratic moves by Mr. Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is his vice president.


The ruling couple has made institutional changes and reached deals with opponents that have allowed them to control the Supreme Court, the electoral commission and the National Assembly. They have bought television stations and made them more sympathetic to the government, while taking their critics off the air.


In 2018, protests erupted over changes to social security rules that would have required workers to pay more and retirees to receive less. But the demonstrations expanded to mass anti-government uprisings across the country that lasted months and led to several hundred deaths.


The government response was brutal. Furious over roadblocks that protesters had erected throughout Nicaragua, the government jailed opposition leaders and shut down political parties and civil society groups. Many political activists and journalists fled.


The exodus slowed during the pandemic but resumed again last year after Mr. Ortega stepped up his crackdown, closing research institutes, shuttering human rights organizations and arresting not just his political opponents but also their families on trumped-up charges, including of plotting a coup.


Before last year’s election, Mr. Ortega jailed seven presidential candidates and barred several opposition parties from participating. President Biden blasted the election as “neither free nor fair, and most certainly not democratic.”


A spokeswoman for the Nicaraguan government did not return several messages seeking comment.


“You eliminate the media, eliminate political parties, eliminate universities. Why do you think people are leaving?” said Manuel Orozco, a Nicaraguan analyst at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research institute.


Elvira Cuadra, a Nicaraguan sociologist, fled to Costa Rica four years ago after the government raided her political science institute and revoked its legal status.


“These are really not the usual economic migrants,” she said. “This is forced displacement.”


Since 2018, 154,000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum in Costa Rica, where the government recently announced changes to its asylum policies to curb their arrivals. Refugees must now apply for asylum within a month of arriving in the country, will no longer receive an expedited work permit and cannot leave Costa Rica while their applications are pending.


At the current rate, it will take Costa Rica 10 years to resolve all of the asylum claims, said Marlen Luna, the director general of Costa Rica’s immigration authority.


“This Nicaraguan immigration is historic,” she said. “This problem does not have a short-term solution. It is not a wave. It is not fad. This is permanent.”


Many Nicaraguans are also leaving because of increased economic hardship under Mr. Ortega’s rule.


Although the International Monetary Fund’s figures show about 25 percent of Nicaraguans live in poverty, analysts say the actual rate is likely far higher as some two-thirds of the nation live on about $120 a month.


“The only way you can find a job where you can earn an amount that’s not very good but a bit more comfortable is if you are allied with the government,” said Víctor Hernández, 29, who left the city of León in October and is living in Nashville doing odd jobs. “I bought a small plot of land five years ago to build a house, and I haven’t been able to buy a single brick.”


Mr. Hernández worked in Nicaragua as a restaurant manager before becoming unemployed for a year. He finally found a new restaurant job making $250 a month, but it was not enough to support his two children, even though his wife also worked. He decided to leave his family behind, with the hopes of returning in a few years.


“The situation in Nicaragua is too ugly,” Mr. Hernández said.


The money that people like Mr. Hernández are sending home is helping to sustain Mr. Ortega’s government, which is under U.S. sanctions targeting people and businesses associated with the government. Nicaraguans sent $3 billion home in 2022, Mr. Orozco said, making remittances 17 percent of the country’s tax revenue.


“It’s a paradox,” said Alberto Cortés, a professor at the University of Costa Rica. “They have differences with the regime, and so by leaving they help maintain the regime. The government is fine with the departures of all these people.”


In a speech in October, Mr. Ortega laid the blame for the spike in migration on the U.S. government.


“It’s the country that has applied the most sanctions and therefore the most damage and more crisis, and then there they are complaining” about immigrants, Mr. Ortega said.


Across Nicaragua, however, Mr. Ortega’s criticisms of the United States mean little as people lose faith that the grim political and economic picture will improve anytime soon.


Hazel Martínez Hernández, 21, and her brother Julmer, 19, saw their father start looking much older than his 51 years as he rented a plot of land to grow produce and worked as a security guard. They wanted something better for themselves. The family took months to borrow $8,000 to pay a smuggler for the siblings’ trip from Santa Rosa, a border town near Honduras.


The family had to come up with another $10,000 in ransom when the siblings were kidnapped in Mexico.


Ms. Hernández, a college graduate, and her brother, once a farmer, now rent an apartment in California and are not working.


“We’ve seen those people who have left send money to build houses, and some returned and opened businesses, bought land and improved their lives,” said their sister, Jahoska, whose partner left last year and sends her money.


“So they want to do the same,” she added.



8) Markets and Technology Won’t Solve Climate Crisis. We Must End Capitalism.

Eve Ottenberg interviews John Bellamy Foster

—Truthout, December 26, 2022


Environmental activists attend Fire Drill Fridays to call attention to the growing climate crisis and demand that President Biden declare a climate emergency at a rally in Freedom Plaza, on December 2, 2022, in Washington, D.C.


Climate change — caused primarily by capitalism’s incessant burning of fossil fuels — is happening faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted, causing freak weather events and mass displacement worldwide. From floods submerging one third of Pakistan to temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (100°F) in the Siberian Arctic, evidence abounds that rich countries better cut off their fossil fuel dependence fast. Among those rich countries, argues John Bellamy Foster in his new book, Capitalism in the Anthropocene, the United States is the epicenter. The U.S. military alone boasts a carbon footprint larger than that of many countries.


But as many have observed, for many people it’s easier to envision the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Foster’s book tells us that we have a choice: “ruin or revolution.” The reason for the necessity of revolution is that tinkering won’t solve our problems. Technocratic fixes won’t save the Earth as a place fit for human habitation. The problem, as he told me in the interview that follows, is systemic: capitalist accumulation, its endless growth and its phenomenal waste.


Eve Ottenberg: The common conception is that the main environmental crisis is the climate catastrophe, but your book mentions that three planetary boundaries out of nine have already been crossed. Can you elaborate?


John Bellamy Foster: Developing the concept of the Anthropocene, scientists didn’t base it simply on climate change, but on nine planetary boundaries, climate change being one, then the destruction of the ozone layer, loss of genetic diversity (including species extinction), ocean acidification, the disruption of biogeochemical (nitrogen and phosphorus) cycles, loss of groundcover/forests, loss of fresh water, chemical pollution and the release of novel entities, and atmospheric aerosol loading. These boundaries are defined in terms of the Holocene, the geological epoch which goes back 11,700 years and in which civilization developed. The Earth System environment was very conducive to the development of civilization and prosperity for human beings.


In conceiving of the planetary boundaries, scientists codified various changes with respect to each boundary that signal moving away from the Holocene and into global ecological crisis. So far, we’ve crossed the boundaries for climate change, species extinction and biogeochemical (or phosphorous and nitrogen) cycles. And we’re in the process of crossing others. The chemical pollution boundary may have been crossed. Crossing each boundary constitutes a global ecological crisis that threatens the planet as a place of habitation not only for human beings but also for innumerable other species. The problem is that a lot of these things are irreversible. For example, we could end up killing off 30 to 50 percent of all species this century. Well, that’s irreversible.


Eve Ottenberg: You argue that the more elite, technocratic and capitalist elements are in the driver’s seat in the U.S. climate movement. Can you explain?


John Bellamy Foster: We live in a capitalist society — students sometimes think the system is democracy, I say no, the system is capitalism. And the system, like any other, wants to perpetuate itself. Capital is geared to accumulation and growth, it’s a class-based system of economic accumulation, and in all of these problems, crossing the planetary boundaries, there’s one common denominator, and that’s capitalism, capital accumulation, the growth process. And the powers that be, the ruling elements of our society, the billionaires, the ruling class, the capitalist class, the power elite that embraces those who are part of the political system — they don’t want to change the system, it’s their system and they want to keep it going, even though we know that it’s the accumulation of capital that’s destroying the Earth System as a place of human habitability.


So, the vested interests pretend that we can solve the problems with technology or with the market, because they say the market is inherently efficient. The difficulty there is that, as every economist would admit, climate change is the biggest market failure in history and you can’t really solve a problem with the same system that created it, not a problem this big. And of course, those in power don’t want to talk about changing the actual social relations, or how we produce, or even how we consume. They want to keep the system going the way it is.


Since the market can’t solve it, the powers that be say technology will solve it. And everybody believes in technology. But technology can’t break the laws of physics, and we’ve got a system here of exponential economic growth based on capital accumulation that’s simply destructive to the planet. If you have a 3 percent rate of growth, in 100 years, you’ll have a world economy 16 times bigger than the present, in 200 years 250 times bigger than the present, in 300 years 4000 times, and so forth. But we’re already reaching the limits of how we can live on the planet. We have to reorganize, do things differently. There are no existing technologies themselves that can solve the planetary emergency we now face, which requires a change in social relations.


Eve Ottenberg: Could you elaborate on the waste-based accumulation that characterizes U.S. monopoly capitalism and what that means for the global economic budget?


John Bellamy Foster: This comes out of economic theory. In the 19th century we produced things that were used and needed, use values. Now under monopoly capitalism, it is a demand-constrained system, because corporations have so much productive capacity, they can’t utilize it, particularly at the prices they set, because they set high monopoly prices. So, there’s always an underutilization of productive capacity. Twenty-five or even 30 percent excess capacity is not unusual, say for the U.S. economy. And in this system, it then becomes oddly rational to produce a lot of junk and a lot of marketing to sell the junk. So, we spend trillions on marketing every year in the U.S. economy, trying to get people to purchase things they neither want nor need. That’s what marketing does. The Marxist economist Paul Baran once encapsulated this irrational situation by saying that we now live in a society in which we neither want what we need nor need what we want.


In our society we produce an enormous amount of material goods that are unnecessary, destructive even, and that are inefficient because they’re designed for a throw-away society, a throw-away economy, so that you go back and buy more. And we deemphasize everything to do with the quality of life, so we try to convince people that if they want love or community, they can get it by buying a Dr. Pepper. But we can actually improve the quality of life by producing differently, by focusing on needs, focusing on genuine efficiency and so on.


Eve Ottenberg: Some are advocating for “Green Keynesianism.” Can you explain what that is?


John Bellamy Foster: In Keynesianism the economic problem is one of effective demand. It’s geared towards getting people employed to increase demand. Green Keynesianism attempts to merge ecology and the economy, saying we can solve the ecological problem by creating lots of green jobs. We’ll create green things, green jobs and expand the economy that way, instead of expanding the economy based on anti-ecological things. The problem is that it still wants to expand the economy, still wants to increase consumption, still wants to increase the scale of everything, and that isn’t realistic in physical, scientific or ecological terms. So, it promises a progressive approach to the environmental problem that will appeal to workers, but in some ways, it’s lying about the nature of the problem.


Eve Ottenberg: Will an environmental proletariat arise in the Global South?


John Bellamy Foster: I often think in terms of Engels’s “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” one of the great works on the Industrial Revolution, written in 1845. It was all about the epidemiological problems faced by the working class, the disease, the pollution, the bad food. But we tend to think of the proletariat or working class in terms of economic factors, simply in terms of factories. But the times when the proletariat or working class has been most radical is when faced with not simply the degradation or exploitation in the workplace, but also the destruction of their environment, including, of course, the urban environment. We’ve separated the economy and the environment in our society, and I think they’re becoming less separated. People are being forced into a more materialist view in which the environment and the economy are both material aspects of our reality that are interrelated.


This is being forced on people in the Global South even faster than here. So in Pakistan, where 30 percent of the land was flooded this year, 33 million people were affected, you can believe that people are now involved in material struggles that are just as environmental as they are economic. Think about being deprived of food — is that an environmental or an economic problem? People will think more in terms of environmental struggles as an essential part of their material reality and as their position as workers. You can see this happening all over the world. This really is a hope for change.


Eve Ottenberg: Could China be the global leader in promoting ecological civilization in the Anthropocene?


John Bellamy Foster: We can hope so. They actually have a plan to peak their carbon emissions by 2030. Initially it involves expanding carbon emissions and then a rapid downshift. I don’t know if this is going to happen. But the fact that it’s a very serious effort is important. They’re already the leader in solar in the world, in alternative technologies, in reforestation. They’ve done more recently to reduce pollution than any other country. But there are a lot of struggles in that society, there are massive environmental movements in China and I’m on their side. But without China going toward ecological civilization, as they call it, it’s difficult to see how the world’s going to get out of this mess, because they are such a large part of the world population and production. So, we have to be on the side of that effort.


Their plan to peak in 2030 is really set in stone. They’ve got a very detailed operation going and a lot of Western environmental movements think this is realistic and offers hope, so we just have to see. Our whole situation worldwide is really dangerous and untenable now, but if we’re to get out of this mess, we have to look for where the hope lies, what are the things that seem realistic and that will lead us in the right direction. My hope is based on the movements on the ground, everywhere in the world, including China, that are having an effect. What we know is there’s going to be a struggle over this. Humanity’s going to struggle over this. It’s a question of whether you’re going to join the struggle.



9) As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.

By Yara M. Asi, Dec. 29, 2022

Ms. Asi is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida’s School of Global Health Management and Informatics.

A Palestinian man carrying plastic bags walks over a dirt mound blocking a road.
The closed main entrance to the city of Nablus in the West Bank, Oct. 25, 2022. Credit...Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

This year, during the lead-up to the Israeli elections, I returned to my hometown, Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, to work on a research project and spend time with my family there. I had received a grant to study the impact on Palestinians’ health of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ movement — such as checkpoints, travel permits (including those required for medical care), the separation wall spanning the West Bank and road closures.


My previous work and the existing research done on Palestinian health and well-being gave me a good sense of what I would find: multiple burdens in access to health care and predictably high rates of depression, stress, anxiety and insecurity.


I expected to hear stories of struggle, loss and trauma. And I heard dozens of them, particularly among the young, who feel acute despair.


What I didn’t expect was that my trip would coincide with the deadliest month in the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2006: At least 150 have been killed so far in 2022, including more than two dozen children, almost all as a result of Israeli military violence. Or just how directly I would experience the day-to-day violence that defines the lives of Palestinians.


As talk swirls of even more severe crackdowns on Palestinians from the extreme right-wing coalition created by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is soon to be the prime minister of Israel again — and maybe even of the often predicted third intifada, or uprising — it’s important to stop and take stock of how bad things have already been for Palestinians in the West Bank — especially in 2022.


A few weeks into my trip, Nablus, a city of about 160,000, was blockaded by the Israeli Army in efforts to quell the Lion’s Den, a newly formed Palestinian armed resistance group based there. The city was effectively cut off from the rest of the West Bank — an occupied territory already cut off from the world in many ways — by the Israeli military, a closure that was not lifted until three weeks later. This meant that all vehicles leaving or entering the city were subject to hourslong waits and searches (including, sometimes, searches of Palestinians’ phones and social media accounts) or denied access to leaving or entering the city entirely. This had devastating effects on the city’s economy and blocked access to health care, education and social gatherings, not to mention immeasurable stress and uncertainty among the city’s residents.


The closure of the city at a time of already escalating military and settler violence was an act of violence in and of itself, a part of the collective punishment that is consistently justified on security grounds but operates under the assumption that all Palestinians are potential threats and must be treated as such.


Palestinian youth have never known free movement or life without the constant and violent rule of the Israeli military. This is the context in which the Lion’s Den, which has claimed responsibility for several shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers, has arisen. Israel’s most recent clampdown on the West Bank, including the siege of Nablus, is in large part meant to dissuade popular mobilization around these groups.


The crackdowns meant that all Palestinians had to adjust even the most minute aspects of their lives to avoid settler violence and encounters with the Israeli military, which is stationed all around the West Bank.


During the closure, life for many living in and around Nablus was essentially put on hold as they waited for the Israeli government, an entity that Palestinians have no power to elect and that has no accountability to them, to make the decision to lift the closure and allow life to go back to some semblance of normal. The closure happened during the beginning of the celebrated Palestinian olive harvest season, preventing many families, including mine, from gathering to pick their olives and subjecting those who dared to do so to an even greater risk of attacks from settlers. Everyone I talked to in Nablus said these were the worst conditions they could remember for decades — since the second intifada in the early 2000s, for those old enough to remember it.


As I conducted a series of focus groups with doctors, nurses, patients and medical faculty members and students, it became clear that it was impossible for me to measure the extent of the damage caused by Israel’s lockdown. The unrelenting buzzing sound of Israel’s military surveillance drones, which patrolled Nablus 24/7 for weeks, for example — many people referred to it as a form of psychological torture. How can I measure that? For one focus group, a public health faculty member arrived 90 minutes late, explaining that the road she tried to take to enter the city was blocked by a checkpoint, so she had to go a different way, recounting the experience as casually as someone might describe mistakenly putting on two mismatched socks. What does it say about a population’s psyche when events like these are normalized?


I have long felt a responsibility to convey the reality of the situation for Palestinians not only as a researcher committed to justice and equity but also as someone whose family hails from the West Bank. I was born in Nablus to a woman from a nearby village and a man from a Palestinian town that was enveloped by Israel upon its establishment in 1948. My father taught journalism and political science in Nablus before he moved us to the United States, where I grew up. I’m now a professor myself, because I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’m not a political scientist as my dad was; I’m a scholar of public health. Of course, the two subjects are intertwined in any setting: Health is inherently political. But in Nablus, I was reminded of just how deep that connection is.


That context has remained, for the most part, much the same for the past 50 years, with periods punctuated by slightly more freedom for Palestinians and other periods that featured heavy restriction and violence. I visited family in the West Bank every summer as a child and for most of my adult life. I remember the long, winding checkpoint lines, with hostile Israeli soldiers looking through our documents. I remember the electricity curfews imposed by Israel, leaving us to spend nights using only candles and lanterns. I remember being able to travel to the airport in Tel Aviv but having to switch taxis halfway through the journey to the West Bank because Palestinian taxis weren’t allowed to pick us up. Now I and others of Palestinian descent, regardless of citizenship or country of residence, aren’t even allowed to use that airport without special Israeli permission. Instead, because Israel bombed the last Palestinian airport and won’t allow construction of a new one, we travel in and out of the West Bank through Jordan. (A lucky few have recently been able to fly out of an airport in southern Israel.)


The last night before I was scheduled to leave, Israeli military forces raided the old city of Nablus, killing five Palestinians and injuring at least a dozen more. For me, it was a sleepless night, knowing what was happening just minutes away.


The next day, after many panicked calls with a taxi company, which assured me it could get me out of the city, I left. Unlike Palestinians forced to live under these conditions every day, my time there had an end date. Now I am left to examine and analyze my data.


Yet I recognize that there is no study, no matter how rigorous, that can capture what it feels like for Palestinians living under Israel’s more than half-century military occupation, especially in moments like this.


Perhaps the biggest struggle in my role as a scholar, however, is in making recommendations about what to do. Sure, some extra mental health facilities would help people deal with the trauma. Increased use of telehealth appointments might reduce the need for many Palestinians to travel for care. Targeted health promotion and prevention efforts would improve Palestinian health more broadly, making it less necessary to interact with their broken health system at all. The Palestinian Authority has not been active in making the efforts it could to improve Palestinian health with the limited tools it has, instead enriching the elite and increasing its security budget.


And yet none of these recommendations tackle the core barrier to Palestinian health, well-being and thriving. As a recent report on the mental health of Palestinians noted, “If the disease is political, then the solution also lies in the political: ending the occupation and eradicating the structures of repression and inequality.”


As international governments, media organizations and advocacy groups focus on the outcome of Israel’s recent elections, concerns over increased repression of Palestinians are valid, but they fail to fully recognize what took place just this past year. We need to worry about what’s to come, but we also cannot ignore the violence and heavy mental health strain that has already corroded yet another generation’s well-being and hope for a stable and dignified existence.


The closure of Nablus ended shortly after my return to the U.S., and the almost daily killing of Palestinians has now slowed down, albeit slightly. Palestinians are back to what the rest of the world often calls relative calm but in reality are circumstances that no population can or should accept. Looking only at physical well-being as it relates to the aftermath of shootings in the West Bank or bombing campaigns in the Gaza Strip flattens the experience of living, working, playing, raising children, going to school and trying to build a life in such an environment of uncertainty, trauma and violence. One that has lasted for decades and may easily last decades more.