Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 13, 2023


Free Abortion on Demand! No Forced Sterilization!

Counter Demonstration against the Walk for Life:

Saturday, January 21st at 11:00 am

We'll gather at the Philip Burton Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Avenue to rally, then march to Civic Center where the Walk for Life West Coast will hold their rally.

The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice is still fighting for bodily autonomy for all, in spite of the overturn of Roe v Wade. The misogynists and racists are emboldened and are working to ban the abortion pill and contraceptives, roll back queer rights and strip protection of Native American and trans children.

Here in San Francisco, Reproductive Justice SF is organizing a rally and counter-protest against the Walk for Life West Coast. And we need you! 

It is only weeks away and we will be rallying for reproductive justice to show everyone that we are a pro-abortion city. We need you to join us for a united action that includes everyone who is deeply concerned about the far right's agenda. We especially need people to support the tasks of organizing this united effort! Contact us at reprojustice.sf@gmail.com with questions and to volunteer.

Spread the word by sharing the flyer linked here, and via social media on Instagram and Facebook .

Join our upcoming planning meetings:

Thursdays: 1/5 and 1/19 at 6:30 pm

Via Zoom: https://bit.ly/reprosfcoalition 

Together we can insist that the right wing will not continue their reign of terror unopposed.


Look for future National Mobilization events on the anniversary of Roe V Wade at https://reprojusticenow.org.


What we call for:

* Restore & expand Roe v. Wade; safe, legal abortion on demand without apology

* Repeal the Hyde Amendment

* Overturn state barriers to reproductive choices

* Stop forced sterilization

* No to caged kids, forced assimilation, & child welfare abuses

* End medical & environmental racism; for universal healthcare

* Defend queer & trans families

* Guarantee medically sound sex education & affordable childcare

* Sexual self-determination for people with disabilities

* Uphold social progress with expanded voting rights & strong unions


#AbortTheCourt            #MyDecisionAlone        #UnjustLawsWillBeBroken



Our mailing address is: 

Reproductive Justice - San Francisco

747 Polk Street

San Francisco, CA 94109




February 24-25 :: International Days of Action in Solidarity with Ukraine

On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, activists throughout the world will be mobilizing for protests and education events in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle to liberate their country. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) will be organizing actions and events. 

Connect with us!

Solidarity with Ukraine!

Ukraine Solidarity Network Mission Statement 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) reaches out to unions, communities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds to build moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s criminal invasion and their struggle for an independent, egalitarian, and democratic country. 

The war against Ukraine is a horrible and destructive disaster in the human suffering and economic devastation it has already caused, not only for Ukraine and its people but also in its impact on global hunger and energy supplies, on the world environmental crisis, and on the lives of ordinary Russian people who are sacrificed for Putin’s war. The war also carries the risk of escalation to a direct confrontation among military great powers, with unthinkable possible consequences. 

It is urgent to end this war as soon as possible. This can only be achieved through the success of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense, indeed a war for its survival as a nation. Calling for “peace” in the abstract is meaningless in these circumstances. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) supports Ukraine’s war of resistance, its right to determine the means and objectives of its own struggle—and we support its right to obtain the weapons it needs from any available source. We are united in our support for Ukraine’s people, their military and civilian defense against aggression, and for the reconstruction of the country in the interests of the majority of its population. We stand in opposition to all domination by powerful nations and states, including by the United States and its allies, over smaller ones, and oppressed peoples. 

We uphold the following principles and goals: 

1.     We strive for a world free of global power domination at the expense of smaller nations. We oppose war and authoritarianism no matter which state it comes from and support the right of self-determination and self-defense for any oppressed nation.

2.     We support Ukraine’s victory against the Russian invasion, and its right to reparations to meet the costs of reconstruction after the colossal destruction it is suffering. 

3.     The reconstruction of Ukraine also demands the cancellation of its debts to international financial institutions. Aid to Ukraine must come without strings attached, above all without crushing debt burdens. 

4.     We recognize the suffering that this war imposes on people in Russia, most intensely on the ethnic and religious minority sectors of the Russian Federation which are disproportionately impacted by forced military conscription. We salute the brave Russian antiwar forces speaking out and demonstrating in the face of severe repression, and we are encouraged by the popular resistance to the draft of soldiers to become cannon fodder for Putin’s unjust war of aggression. 

5.     We seek to build connections to progressive organizations and movements in Ukraine and with the labor movement, which represents the biggest part of Ukrainian civil society, and to link Ukrainian civic organizations, marginalized communities and trade unions with counterpart organizations in the United States. We support Ukrainian struggles for ensuring just and fair labor rights for its population, especially during the war, as there are no military reasons to implement laws that threaten the social rights of Ukrainians, including those who are fighting in the front lines.


Click here to read the complete list of USN Endorsements: 



Please sign below to add your endorsement:




Spring Action Week:  April 15 - 22, 2023
Holloman AFB, Southern New Mexico

Co-sponsored by CODEPINK & Ban Killer Drones

Mark your calendars & Join Us! 

Come for all or part of the week!



Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live! 


SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell




Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)


Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 


"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."


Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons. 


YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell


YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814


Email Governor Newsom




Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:


Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. 

He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence.  Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.


Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012


Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).


·      Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!

·      Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

·      Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc



Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696


Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.



of Detroit Shakur Squad


The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022.  Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting




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.



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) In Power With Netanyahu, Ultra-Orthodox Parties Chart Israel’s Future

Bolstered by growth in numbers and political influence, ultra-Orthodox parties are pushing for greater autonomy, with potentially far-reaching implications for the country.

By Isabel Kershner, Jan. 9, 2023


Mr. Netanyahu has also agreed to create special budgets for public transportation in Haredi areas and to pass a law anchoring Torah study as a national value, akin to compulsory military service.
Mr. Netanyahu has also agreed to create special budgets for public transportation in Haredi areas and to pass a law anchoring Torah study as a national value, akin to compulsory military service. Credit...Corinna Kern for The New York Times

JERUSALEM — To preserve his new government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is making significant concessions to far-right political parties on Palestinian issues, judicial independence and police powers, but also less noticed moves on behalf of another key member of his coalition: parties that represent the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox public.


Members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community have long enjoyed benefits unavailable to many other Israeli citizens: exemption from army service for Torah students, government stipends for those choosing full-time religious study over work and separate schools that receive state funds even though their curriculums barely teach government-mandated subjects.


Those benefits have fueled resentment among large segments of the more secular public, and Israeli leaders have declared for years that their intention was to draw more of the ultra-Orthodox, known as Haredim, into the work force and society.


But the string of promises by Mr. Netanyahu in recent weeks as he pulled together the country’s most right-wing and religiously conservative government ever suggest that Haredi leaders are pushing hard to cement the community’s special status, with broad-ranging implications for Israeli society and the economy.


Mr. Netanyahu has promised ultra-Orthodox leaders a new, separate city for Haredim where the Haredi lifestyle would guide planning. He has agreed to increase funding for Haredi seminary students and provide access to government jobs without university degrees. And he has pledged a wide range of government handouts for the Haredi school system.


“It’s very clear that the Haredi leadership that sewed up these agreements is going for strengthening the Haredi autonomy and not integration,” said Prof. Yedidia Stern, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, an independent research center.


The departing finance minister, Avigdor Liberman, a staunch critic of the Haredi parties, said the cost of all of the additional promised funding for Haredi causes would come to an estimated 20 billion shekels (about $5.7 billion) a year and constituted “an attempt to collapse the Israeli economy.”


The promises to the Haredim are a part of a range of changes that the Netanyahu-led coalition is trying to enact, including judicial overhauls that would allow Parliament to strike down Supreme Court decisions and give politicians more influence over the appointment of judges. The coalition has the numbers in Parliament to push through the measures, which it plans to soon introduce as legislation, as long as the various parties stay united, but they could also face challenges in the courts.


The new coalition government has also promised an uncompromising approach to the Palestinians, with some senior officials ultimately supporting the annexation by Israel of the occupied West Bank, territory that the Palestinians see as part of a future state for them, as well as an acceleration in Jewish settlement construction there.


In one of his first acts as Israel’s minister of national security, the ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir last week visited a volatile Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims, defying threats of violent repercussions and eliciting a furious reaction from Arab leaders and international condemnations.


Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, was ousted from office 18 months ago and replaced by a tenuous coalition of anti-Netanyahu forces from the right and left, but excluding the Haredi and far-right parties. After that coalition collapsed, Israel’s fifth election in under four years brought Mr. Netanyahu and his far-right and ultra-Orthodox bloc back to power, together winning a majority of 64 seats in the 120-seat Parliament.


Ultra-Orthodox parties won the most parliamentary seats in years in the November elections, reflecting the fast growth of this largely insular community and making them linchpins of Mr. Netanyahu’s government.


To ensure the loyalty of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Mr. Netanyahu also agreed to create special budgets for public transportation in Haredi areas and to pass a law anchoring Torah study as a national value, akin to compulsory military service. Another contentious law is to be introduced to formalize the longstanding arrangement granting exemption from the draft to Torah students, further undermining the once-hallowed principle of universal conscription.


Haredi society is not homogeneous, and some more modern Haredim join the army, seek a secular higher education to equip them for the labor market and even work in high-tech.


Most Haredi women have jobs, albeit often low-paying ones. But only about half of ultra-Orthodox men go to work. Critics say that the promise to increase stipends for Torah students will act as a disincentive for them to join the labor force.


Haredi children now make up a quarter of all Jewish children in the school system and a fifth of all pupils in the country, Jewish and Arab. Most Haredi boys focus on religious studies and learn little or no math, English or science.


“When the Haredim were a small group, that was OK,” Professor Stern said. “Now it’s impossible. To allow this to go on despite the large numbers of Haredim means the country won’t be able to function.”


In order to increase at least one area of employment for Haredim — their representation in public authorities and corporations — a university degree will no longer be a criterion for some, mostly unspecified jobs. (One of the few examples cited was for art therapists, who are much in demand but in short supply in the ultra-Orthodox community.)


Diplomas like those given out to graduates of post-high school religious seminaries for women will be considered as equivalent to a university degree, as will five years of work experience. At present, the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox high school graduates do not meet the minimum university entry requirements.


Torah study will be formally recognized as higher education, and yeshiva students will get the same 50 percent discount on public transportation as university students.


Haredi politicians have long promoted a conservative social agenda that rejects the idea of civil or same-sex marriage, and opposes gay rights, as well as work and the provision of public transportation on the Sabbath. And their political involvement has alienated many Jews abroad who practice less stringent forms of Judaism.


The new concessions agreed to by Mr. Netanyahu — including proposals to restrict the Law of Return, which currently grants refuge and automatic citizenship to foreign Jews, their spouses and descendants who have at least one Jewish grandparent — are already straining Israel’s ties with many in the Jewish diaspora.


More than half of the country’s Haredim live in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv, or in ultra-Orthodox suburbs of those cities, according to the annual statistical survey of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, and poverty rates are higher than among the general population.


Haredim make up some 13 percent of the population, but Haredi families have an average of seven children, more than double the number of the average Israeli family. If current trends continue, almost one in four Israelis, and about one in three Israeli Jews, are projected to be Haredi by 2050.


Another significant pledge by Mr. Netanyahu to the Haredi parties would allow rabbinical courts to arbitrate in civil matters if both sides in a dispute agree, meaning that some work disputes, for example, could be settled according to ancient religious law.


Secular Israelis have been alarmed by other Haredi demands they view as further encroachment in the public sphere, including demands for more gender-segregated beaches to comply with modesty rules.


Yitzhak Pindrus, a senior representative of the United Torah Judaism alliance, made up of two Haredi parties, sought to play down the concerns, saying that nothing had changed in the Haredi mind-set.


“Our demands are the same since 1977,” he said in an interview. “We are really old-fashioned — 2,500 years old. We don’t change our demands as a result of elections.”


“If 3 percent of the beaches were enough, we now need more if we are 20 percent of the population,” he said, referring to a practice of setting aside gender-segregated areas of beaches for Haredim. “The idea is to get closer to 6 percent,” he said, insisting that the point was not more autonomy, but to cater to the community’s larger numbers.


The separatist approach of the Haredi politicians has become a matter of debate within the Haredi community itself.


The coalition agreements for the new government “lay the foundations for the two-state solution: the state of Israel and the state of the Shtetl,” wrote Eliyahu Berkovits, a Haredi research assistant at the Israel Democracy Institute, in a recent article, using the Yiddish word for the traditional Jewish villages of Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.


The “Haredi enclave” has grown much larger, he wrote, and “is set to go one step further and become an autonomous state.”


In an interview, Mr. Berkovits said that Haredi politicians still acted as if they were representing a small minority that needed to protect its own interests. “The Haredi community has to understand that we are bigger,” he said, “and we are responsible for the future of Israel.”


He said he was proud of his community and praised its “amazing values.” But, he added, “it’s easier to do what you have done for past 20 years than to rethink the whole thing.”


While the numbers of modern, working Haredim are increasing, so are the hard-core and extremist factions. In recent weeks, extremists in Jerusalem vandalized an optical store because it used pictures of women wearing spectacles in its advertising and rioted over the arrest of a Haredi suspected of setting fire to a cellphone store, critically wounding a mother of 11 who was hit by a burning dumpster.


The Haredi approach over the years was one of “exile mentality,” said Israel Cohen, a political commentator for Kol Berama, a Haredi radio station, and was about remaining apart rather than trying to influence general society.


A “Haredi-Israeli culture” has now grown up, he said, and “Haredim want Israel to be more Jewish.” He added: “You’d think a Haredi becoming more Israeli would become more liberal. But no, it’s the opposite. They want Israel to become more Haredi.”



2) R.J. Reynolds Pivots to New Cigarette Pitches as Flavor Ban Takes Effect

Now that California’s tobacco prohibitions are in place, some Camel and Newport items are billed as newly “fresh” or “crisp” non-menthol versions.

By Christina Jewett and Emily Baumgaertner, Jan. 11, 2023

"To public health authorities, the potential reduction in smoking rates from a menthol ban could extend the length and quality of millions of lives. To R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies, the loss of sales from menthol cigarettes could be financially damaging."


A line of cigarette packages on a shelf in a store includes varieties of Parliaments, Newports and Marlboros, colored in green, blue and red.

In California, R.J. Reynolds has begun marketing what it says is a new, non-menthol Newport cigarette. Antismoking advocates criticized the campaign as an attempt to circumvent the state’s ban on flavored tobacco products. Credit...Aaron Wojack for The New York Times

R.J. Reynolds has wasted no time since California’s ban on flavored tobacco went into effect in late December. “California, We’ve Got You Covered,” the company declared in bold letters on a flier mailed to its cigarette customers.


The law prohibits flavors, odors or “tastes” in tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. But antismoking experts argue that R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel and Newport brands, is trying to circumvent the ban by luring smokers with a suite of what it says are new non-menthol versions offering “a taste that satisfies the senses” and “a new fresh twist.”


The campaign is viewed by critics as a provocation of California authorities who are supposed to enforce the ban, which includes a provision outlawing packaging or claims that suggest a product has a flavor. The Food and Drug Administration also is moving forward with a national plan to take menthol cigarettes off the market.


To public health authorities, the potential reduction in smoking rates from a menthol ban could extend the length and quality of millions of lives. To R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies, the loss of sales from menthol cigarettes could be financially damaging.


Luis Pinto, the vice president of communications at R.J. Reynolds, said in an email that the “products introduced in California meet and comply with all applicable regulatory requirements.” He added that the new cigarettes “are not subject to the recently enacted ban because they do not have a distinguishable taste or aroma other than tobacco.”


But while not all tobacco-control experts are certain that the new products violate the California law, they do agree that the Reynolds marketing campaign reflects decades-long efforts by tobacco companies to protest and flout government regulations.


Dr. Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford Medicine who provided the ads to The New York Times, called the new marketing “outrageous.”


“The thing that surprises me is there’s no camouflage,” said Dr. Jackler, who received the mailers along with staff members of Stanford’s program on tobacco advertising. “They’re saying, ‘This is our menthol replacement. And by the way — wink, wink — it is not really menthol.’”


The tobacco flavor ban in California initially took shape as a law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. Reynolds and others gathered signatures to let voters decide through a referendum on the issue. In November, 63 percent of voters approved the ban.


In mid-December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law, rejecting a request by Reynolds. The company had cited “substantial financial losses” as a likely outcome of the ban, given that menthol cigarettes make up one-third of the cigarette market. The company had also noted that if the ban were to take effect, its customers “may never pledge the same brand loyalty.”


The company had already sought to have the Supreme Court hear a separate appeal to the Los Angeles County flavor ban, which was passed in 2019.


Bans on flavored tobacco products have been imposed in Massachusetts and dozens of cities and counties. Several states and numerous local authorities have outlawed flavored e-cigarettes. The California law also applies to vaping products.


The California Department of Public Health said that it provided outreach to tobacco retailers on the law but that “enforcement is left to the local jurisdictions.” The Reynolds marketing campaign was earlier reported on the L.A. Taco news site.


Menthol has been a major target for those who want to reduce smoking, since it infuses a cool, minty sensation that often appeals to young smokers and masks the harshness of tobacco. Studies have shown that the products have been marketed heavily to Black people.


Carol McGruder, the co-chairwoman of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and a supporter of the state law, said the new ads did not surprise her.


“It’s racist, predatory marketing,” Ms. McGruder said. She added that public health officials were constantly having to react to the tobacco companies’ tactics, “as they try to stay alive — using addicted, lifelong customers.”


Fliers for the new products were mailed to Reynolds’s customers who had sought coupons. They include ads for “new” Camel and Newport varieties with “bold, lasting flavor.” The company’s records of ingredients show that the Camel Crisp and the Newport EXP versions contain a synthetic cooling agent referred to as WS-3, according to Sven Jordt, a Duke University researcher who has written about the compound in e-cigarettes.


Dr. Jordt said that the chemical had a cooling effect but not a minty odor or flavor, and that the health effects of the additive were unknown. While other countries have banned flavored tobacco or menthol, he said, only Germany and Belgium have prohibited this particular additive.


Mr. Pinto, of Reynolds, said the cigarettes with the cooling agent “are not subject to the recently enacted ban because they do not have a distinguishable taste or aroma other than tobacco.”


A spokesman for Altria, which sells Marlboro cigarettes, said the company had stopped selling menthol cigarettes in California and was in compliance with the new law.


Worldwide, tobacco companies have discovered loopholes to bans on menthol or flavored tobacco, studies show. In Canada, flavor cards and additive drops have been used to supplement unflavored products. In Denmark, smokers now have access to menthol sprays, capsules and tubes.


Drafters of the California law had the international experience in mind, by outlawing flavor accessories and any claims that promote a flavored product. To Dr. Pamela Ling, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco, the message is clear.


“If you squint at the ads, you’re going to see this as a flavorful product, whether it says it or not,” Dr. Ling said. “The colors, the packaging, the associations that your brain makes with the look and feel — that overrides the text that says this is not menthol.”


Advertisements and packaging that so vividly suggest a flavor put a clear onus on California officials to respond to Reynolds, said Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.


“This is Reynolds basically challenging California to say, ‘I don’t think you’re serious,’” Mr. Myers said. If the state fails to take decisive action, he added, “the industry once again will escape.”


The products being marketed as “new” also appear to challenge the authority of the F.D.A., according to Micah Berman, an associate professor of public health and law at Ohio State University. Under the Tobacco Control Act, products introduced after 2007 must be cleared by the agency, in part to keep tobacco companies from innovating to heighten the appeal of their products.


“I think this is something the F.D.A. should go back and take a look at,” Mr. Berman said.


Whether the products were cleared — and if they are “new,” as advertised — is difficult for F.D.A. officials to immediately determine. That’s because a 2016 legal defeat for the agency allows cigarette companies to change a product’s name without informing the F.D.A. To find out which cigarette is in a particular package, the agency typically investigates or inspects records in a manufacturing facility, said Mitch Zeller, the former director of the F.D.A.’s tobacco division.


The agency cleared one Camel product with an “alternative menthol” flavor capsule in 2021. Reynolds declined to give The Times the authorization records for the California non-menthol cigarettes.


Abigail Capobianco, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A., said that the agency closely monitored compliance with federal tobacco laws and regulations, and that it took corrective action when violations had occurred. But she declined to comment on the new products in California. The agency said it was finalizing its menthol rule and would “not allow entities to subvert the intent” of the product standard.


California’s approach to the products will be an important bellwether of how a national menthol ban might play out, Dr. Ling said.


Reynolds is “testing it out,” Dr. Ling said. “If they’re successful in pulling this off in California, they’ll be totally prepared to circumvent a federal ban everywhere else.”


Adam Liptak contributed reporting.



3) Amazon loses bid to overturn historic union win on Staten Island warehouse

By Alina Selyukh and Giulia Heyward, January 11, 2023















Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls speaks at a New York rally on September 5, 2022. The company had fired Smalls from its Staten Island warehouse after he helped lead a pandemic-era walkout.

Amazon should recognize its first unionized warehouse in the U.S., a federal labor official has ruled, rejecting the company's bid to unravel a breakthrough union win on Staten Island.


On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board's Region 28 regional director, Cornele Overstreet, dismissed Amazon's allegations that labor-board officers and union organizers improperly influenced the union vote. In the spring of last year, the upstart Amazon Labor Union won the right to represent some 8,000 workers at the massive New York warehouse.


Wednesday's decision requires Amazon to begin bargaining "in good faith" with the union. However, the company is expected to appeal the ruling before the full labor board in Washington, D.C., which it can request by Jan. 25. Labor experts say members of the board are likely to side with their regional colleagues in confirming the union's win. The case could make its way into courts.


"I think that's going to take a long time to play out," Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said at a conference in September, claiming "disturbing irregularities" in the vote.


At stake is the future of labor organizing at Amazon, where unions have struggled for a foothold as the company's web of warehouses has ballooned, making it the U.S.'s second-largest private employer after Walmart.


Workers are divided. Now, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minn., are pushing for an election on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union, which is run by former and current Amazon workers.


But some 400 workers at a warehouse near Albany, N.Y., voted 406-206 against unionization in October. Earlier last year, Amazon workers at a second, and smaller, Staten Island warehouse voted 618 to 380 against joining the ALU. And unionization efforts at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama have thus far been unsuccessful.


On Staten Island, Amazon Labor Union won the first union election by more than 500 votes in April 2022. Shortly afterward, Amazon challenged the result.


The company alleged that union organizers coerced and misled warehouse workers, and that Brooklyn-based labor officials overseeing the election acted in favor of the union. In September, the NLRB attorney who presided over weeks of hearings on the case recommended that Amazon's objections be rejected in their entirety.


Editor's note: Amazon is among NPR's recent financial supporters.



4) Why Must We Go About Our Lives With an Eye on the Nearest Exit?

By Jamelle Bouie, Jan. 13, 2023


A row of rifles sit in front of an American flag.

Mark Peterson for The New York Times

Two years ago, in Atlanta, 22-year-old Rico Marley was arrested in a Publix supermarket. He was wearing body armor and carrying six loaded weapons, including a semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. Prosecutors, as my newsroom colleague Richard Fausset reports in a recent story, charged Marley with 11 felonies, including “six counts of possession of a weapon ‘during commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies.’”


The charges didn’t stick. They were dropped the next year, although Marley was soon booked again in a separate incident, in May 2022, on lesser counts of reckless conduct. The reason Marley was released from jail initially, though, was that he hadn’t actually committed a felony. And in fact, as of 2022, under a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, any Georgian eligible or licensed to carry a weapon and not otherwise prohibited from owning one is permitted to carry both handguns and long guns either concealed or in the open.


As Fausset notes in his piece, this whole episode speaks to “a uniquely American quandary: In states with permissive gun laws, the police and prosecutors have limited tools at their disposal when a heavily armed individual’s mere presence in a public space sows fear or even panic.”


To this I want to add a related point and make an argument: Permissive gun laws and ubiquitous open carry are more than a challenge to law enforcement; they’re a challenge to the very possibility of an open, democratic society.


There is a saying, borrowed from the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein and popular among supporters of an unlimited right to own and carry firearms, that an “armed society is a polite society.” The proliferation of weapons, in other words, brings social peace. Or if not peace, then a certain amount of deference and respect between individuals who know that either one could use lethal force against the other.


Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this belief is right. That firearms work to tame rather than inflame the passions. That, the evidence of our eyes and ears notwithstanding, guns do more to resolve disputes than escalate them.


But even if that were true, which it manifestly isn’t, peace is not the absence of conflict. And social peace in a democratic society cannot simply be a perpetual standoff among armed individuals. The reason is that democracy rests on a measure of trust and respect among citizens, what the philosopher Danielle Allen calls “political friendship.”


“Political friendship,” Allen writes in “Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education,” “is not mainly (or not only) a sentiment of fellow feeling for other citizens.” It is, instead, a way of “acting in respect to them.”


“A polity will never reach a point where all its citizens have intimate friendships with each other, nor would we want it to,” she continues. “The best one can hope for, and all one should desire, is that political friendship can help citizens to resist the disintegration of trust and achieve a community where trust is a renewable resource.”


We don’t have to like one another to govern together, but we should try to see and speak to one another as equals, so that we can debate, deliberate and disagree as members of a shared political community.


Guns, when carried as totems through public space, make this impossible. Whether they are carted to a restaurant or a grocery store, a park or a library, they send a clear message: that a disagreement might turn deadly, and that I, the gun wielder, do not respect you enough to refrain from the threat of lethal violence. This is especially true when guns are used to confront and intimidate protesters, as happened again and again during the racial justice protests and demonstrations of 2020 and 2021, according to Everytown, a gun safety organization.


The mere fact of armed counter-demonstrators brandishing guns at people they oppose is why legal scholars like Timothy Zick of the William & Mary Law School have warned that in our age of extremely permissive gun laws, the Second Amendment to the Constitution threatens to overwhelm and overtake the First. “The visible presence of firearms increases the risk of violence and death when exercising one’s First Amendment rights,” Zick and Diana Palmer, a part-time lecturer at Northeastern University, write in The Atlantic. “The increased risk of violence from open carry is enough to have a meaningful ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ willingness to participate in political protests.”


A chilling effect on citizens’ willingness to participate in political protests is also a chilling effect on citizens’ ability to trust one another. And in the absence of trust, democracy is a hard game to play. When distrust “pervades democratic relations,” Allen writes, “it paralyzes democracy; it means that citizens no longer think it sensible, or feel secure enough, to place their fates in the hands of democratic strangers. Citizens’ distrust not of government but of each other leads the way to democratic disintegration.”


If, as Allen argues, “Democratic trust depends on public displays of an egalitarian, well-intentioned spirit,” then we are at a severe disadvantage, living as we do in a country where public space for so many people is saturated with guns, tools for — and symbols of — violence and domination.


Late last year, in Decatur, Ga., a man took his car to an auto repair shop. One of its employees, a mechanic, stepped into the car to test it. The man started shooting. He believed, mistakenly, that the mechanic was trying to steal his car; the mechanic was killed. A week later, in Washington, D.C., a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by a man who believed he was tampering with cars on the street. And a few days after that, in Newport News, Va., a 6-year-old brought a gun to his elementary school, where he shot and injured his teacher.


If an armed society is a polite society, it’s because an armed society is a fearful society, where we train our children in “lockdown drills” to evade shooters and go about our lives with an eye on the nearest exit. Democracy might be able to survive in that kind of society, but it will never thrive there.



5) I Am Michelle Go’s Father. I Am Marking Her Death Where She Lived.

By Justin Go, Jan. 15, 2023

Mr. Go is the father of Michelle Alyssa Go and resides in California.


A photograph shows Justin Go wearing a suit and looking at the camera while standing in New York City. His wife, Marjorie, is shown partially in the foreground. Both have somber expressions.

Justin and Marjorie Go. Credit...Gia Sergovich for The New York Times

It has been exactly one year since the death of our daughter, Michelle Alyssa Go. On Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at around 9:30 a.m., Martial Simon viciously shoved Michelle in front of an oncoming subway train at the Times Square station. She was 40 years old.


We now return to Manhattan to pay our respects to our daughter in the city she came to love.


This sad event continues to reverberate. A month after Michelle’s death, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans to help homeless New Yorkers living in subways. And in the past month, Mr. Adams has expanded these plans.


My family and I must return to New York City to deal with legal, estate and criminal issues related to Michelle’s death, despite the sad memories that the city now evokes. Our grief has been lessened by having met and become friends with the many New Yorkers who knew Michelle.


New York is the place where Michelle built her professional life, made so many friends and, most of all, enjoyed her life. It is because of her that on a regular basis, we as a family travel from our home in California to the city she called home. We hope that the city does not become a place we can only associate with her death. We pray that one day we will again see the New York that nurtured the love that Michelle had for life.


Only now, 365 days later, can I express what Michelle meant to us and how her death continues to affect us. Michelle is not the first daughter that I have lost. My wife and I lost our second daughter, when she was an infant, to crib death, her life cut short before we even knew her. Together they represent a hole in our lives that can never be filled. My wife, my son and I mourn their passing every day.


Michelle was born in 1981, the year that Ed Koch was re-elected mayor of New York after winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Michelle was a precocious child, much loved by others and filled with love for all those around her. She had a passion for life, respect for others, dignity and self-respect. Above all, she held faith and hope in the goodness of others. She was then, and remains now, a wondrous child to us.


Michelle spent a third of her life in New York City, studying at the N.Y.U. Stern School of Business and then flourishing at Citibank, Barclays and Deloitte. As a senior manager at Deloitte and selfless volunteer with the New York Junior League, she worked with people from all walks of life, from company leaders to the homeless. The Michelle we knew was dedicated to service, a savior rather than someone who needed to be saved.


Our family was shocked and traumatized to see how quickly news of Michelle’s death spread, but we were overcome by how others saw her and knew her only by her death. The Michelle we knew was a high school cheerleader, always smiling and up for adventure; she was the very definition of being alive. Michelle should be remembered for how she lived, not for how she died.


Michelle’s death was a call to action for many, including those who see the crime Martial Simon committed as an example of ongoing anti-Asian hate. The grief from our loss engulfs the indignities of past discrimination we have encountered. We do not have all the answers, and we may never know whether her death was motivated by racial animus. Legally, this may not matter, given that her attacker has been found mentally unfit to stand trial. But the uncertainty over Martial Simon’s mental state and the necessary but prolonged legal process only heighten our pain. As her parents, we know that no family should ever lose a child in this way nor suffer the endless anger, grief, despair and now numbness that we have felt and continue to feel one year later.


It has been sad and physically exhausting to constantly hear and see the never ending strident voices spewing hatred over social media. Like so many others, I am shocked that I, too, have become desensitized to endless pictures of violence and murder in the daily news.


Worse, I now have experienced seeing my daughter, my family and myself in the news. My Michelle was emblazoned on a Times Square electronic billboard for the world to see at a rally on Jan. 18, 2022. Our family holiday photo is in newspapers and on the television newscasts. Our lives have been changed forever.


I once thought that hatred and murder were maladies that affected only other people. Now my family are those other people. Murder has stained our family history.


If Michelle had died of Covid or cancer, my family and I would have still been overcome with grief. But we could possibly come to terms with, somehow understand and perhaps eventually accept that kind of loss.


But knowing that Michelle was murdered by being shoved in front of an oncoming train is unacceptable. That is not a fitting ending for a woman who shared the best of herself with others.


The millions of people in New York City may not agree on everything, but we can agree that New York City should be safe for those who call it home. Michelle did not live with fear of being attacked. She took the subway to work; she was not reckless about her surroundings. If Michelle were still here, she would urge us to come together to build a safer community. This is not about politics; this is about caring for each other and humanity.


We must take action to ensure that no family ever again loses a child to unprovoked violence, whether in New York City or elsewhere. We must try to balance the tensions between protecting the freedoms we cherish and upholding the responsibilities that we have as members of our communities and, indeed, our civilized society. Whatever freedoms we give to people, possessing such personal rights does not mean we can abandon people like Martial Simon to our subway systems. We cannot assume that emergency medical workers will be able to handle these neglected souls or that ordinary individuals will be able to deal with the threats posed.


Real change comes with meaningful preventive measures. This requires, among other things, adequate and continued funding for housing, treatment and other programs. We need to begin working on those solutions now, urgently, together as a community. We need to have true resolve and continued commitment so that we can honor the spirit of Michelle’s life.



6) Will the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Be Built on Confiscated Palestinian Land?

By Rashid Khalidi, Jan. 15, 2023

Dr. Khalidi is a professor of modern Middle Eastern history at Columbia.

A group of four people in coats and jeans walk pass a vacant lot of grasses and trees under a gray sky.

The lot in Jerusalem that is a candidate for a new U.S. Embassy. Credit...Ofir Berman for The New York Times

The Biden administration is doubling down on its predecessor’s reckless decision to recognize Israel’s claims to Jerusalem as its capital, a break with nearly 70 years of policy. The State Department is advancing plans to erect an embassy building in Jerusalem partly on land stolen by Israel shortly after its establishment from Palestinian refugees, including American citizens.


In 2017, the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. Since then, the embassy has been housed in the neighborhood of Arnona, in what had been the consulate building. In November, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee published detailed blueprints provided by U.S. officials in 2021 for a diplomatic compound on a tract once known as the Allenby Barracks.


The majority of the Allenby Barracks site is owned by Palestinians, including parts of it by my family, whose roots in Jerusalem go back more than 1,000 years. My ancestors and many other Jerusalem families rented this land to Britain at the tail end of its rule over Palestine.


While State Department officials have not confirmed these plans publicly, they have stated that the new embassy will be in Jerusalem — which the Biden administration has affirmed is recognized by Washington as Israel’s capital. “The United States has not yet made a decision on which site to pursue,” a spokesperson told The Intercept. “A number of factors, including the history of the sites, will be part of our site selection process.”


Yet the plans submitted for the new embassy and made public by Israeli authorities clearly indicate that the project on the Allenby Barracks site is moving ahead.


Our title to this land is clear. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, recently unearthed the rental contracts from Israeli state archives, which document how Britain signed lease agreements to rent this site from our family and others through 1948. But after Israel’s founding, the government took over that property and for several years the border police used it as a station. Since then, it has sat vacant.


This year is the 75th since the nakba, meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. The nakba refers to the imposition of Israel’s rule in 1948 over more than three-quarters of Palestine against the wishes of the majority-Palestinian inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of whom it drove out of their homes or forced to flee.


Instead of permitting these Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as called for by international law and United Nations resolutions supported by the United States, Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages, and confiscated from Palestinians whatever property it deemed useful.


The legal device through which Israel seized Palestinian land and property is its 1950 Absentee Property Law. Israel used this law to expropriate from Palestinian owners the land which the United States now is considering for its embassy. The State Department has known for more than 20 years about our unassailable claims to this site.


I know because I was one of the Palestinian property owners who provided the secretary of state at the time, Madeleine Albright, with extensive documentation in 1999 showing that at least 70 percent of this land is owned by Palestinian refugees, including tens of American citizen heirs.


In November, Adalah and the Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the American ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, demanding the immediate cancellation of this plan. Adalah and the center requested a meeting with them to share our concerns, but they haven’t yet responded. The State Department has said that it is considering two sites, that its final decision is pending and that it always exercises “due diligence” in acquiring properties. In fact, official Israeli transcripts of exchanges between U.S. and Israeli officials suggest that the plan is to use the Allenby Barracks site for the embassy and another site, which is near the current embassy that sits on the 1949 Armistice Lines, for other diplomatic needs.


Yet this is not just about one tract of land. Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to power in Israel, heading the most overtly racist right-wing government in the country’s history. It includes ministers such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who openly espouse Jewish supremacy and have voiced support for the expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from Israel.


Building a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, on this site or any other, constitutes a legal and moral offense. It would solidify Israel’s exclusivist claims to the city, whose permanent status is one that the United States itself and the international community agree remains to be determined. It would essentially greenlight Israel’s relentless eviction of Palestinians from their homes and properties in Jerusalem, entrenching Israel’s apartheid-like policies in the city, and further isolating East Jerusalem from other Palestinian areas in the West Bank.


The Biden administration is now calibrating its policies toward the new Israeli government, including what, if any, consequences will ensue when Israel accelerates its crackdown on Palestinian rights and the expansion of illegal settlements, as Mr. Netanyahu and his allies have pledged.


To be clear, U.S. opposition to Israel’s settlement enterprise and expropriation of Palestinian land has never been more than rhetorical. For decades, Washington has bemoaned Israel’s behavior while remaining complicit in its colonization by providing the country with more than $3 billion in military aid every year, much of which is used to oppress Palestinians.


Nonetheless, the Biden administration should reject building on seized land, showing that the United States won’t tolerate, let alone be complicit in, the theft of any more Palestinian property, in Jerusalem or anywhere else. Failure to do so will only embolden Mr. Netanyahu’s dangerously extremist new government, and further undermine already severely strained U.S. credibility in the region.



7) The Kind of Revolution That Martin Luther King Jr. Envisioned

By Esau McCaulley, Jan. 15, 2023

Opinion Writer 


An illustration of Martin Luther King Jr. at the pulpit delivering a sermon. A man in the congregation stands up, listening to his message.

Avery Williamson

In 1968, four days before he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last Sunday sermon at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It was entitled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” and although King doesn’t say the word “woke,” he uses the concept as it was understood by many Black folks then, well before the term was co-opted by the political right to refer to any left-leaning policy that it wanted to condemn.


The sermon is an opportunity to encounter the real King, who is too often obfuscated by politicians who use his legacy to support their own agendas. They contend that King was “colorblind,” when in fact his policy aims were unapologetically color-conscious.


King opened his sermon by recalling the well-known story of Rip Van Winkle, the character in the Washington Irving book of the same name who slept for 20 years. King notes that when Rip went to sleep, King George III reigned, and when he awoke, George Washington had become president. Rip Van Winkle had slept through the revolution.


King believed that too many Americans, especially those in its churches, were also snoozing through a time ripe for transformation. They needed to wake up to the injustice all around them and make demands for change.


What kind of revolution did he envision?


King often focused on the financial impacts of white supremacy and the need for America to make amends for its exploitation of Black labor. In the “awake” sermon, King gave a basic and compelling case for reparations based on the “debt” this country owed its Black citizens. He said:


There are those who still feel that if the Negro is to rise out of poverty, if the Negro is to rise out of slum conditions, if he is to rise out of discrimination and segregation, he must do it all by himself … But they never stop to realize the debt that they owe a people who were kept in slavery 244 years.


In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly, suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And … you don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life.


For King, waking up is not simply understanding that racism is bad; it is acknowledging that racism created generational wealth for white Americans and robbed Black Americans of the same economic boost. The racial wealth gap King highlighted in his sermon not only persists, but, according to some studies, is basically the same as it was in 1968.


In his sermon, King pointed out that at the same time that this country didn’t offer any assistance to Black people, it was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest to whites.


But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every year not to farm.


We tend to focus on King’s impact on the thoughts of individual Americans and think of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a chance for us to disavow racist ideas. One popular quote of King’s is, “I have also decided to stick with love … Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Rejecting hate, then, becomes his entire message, and progress toward King’s dream means more Americans thinking the right things about race.


But having positive thoughts, or, at least claiming to do so, doesn’t cost anything. For African Americans, justice has always been more than affirmations of our worth. Justice encompasses economics and makes demands on the pocketbook. It was precisely King’s analysis of the economics of racism that made him controversial while he was alive.


King believed that African Americans had a particular case for reparations because of slavery, but he also argued that the United States had a moral obligation as a part of an interconnected society to attend to suffering people beyond its borders. He did not draw a distinction between poor Black descendants of slaves and other oppressed people. In the National Cathedral sermon, he said:


We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed hungry tonight … I’ve seen it in Latin America; I’ve seen it in Africa; I’ve seen this poverty in Asia.


While the distortions of a resurgent Christian nationalism give theological cover to valuing American lives over others, including when politicians use migrants for political props, we need to remember King’s global vision. It was rooted in his understanding of a Christian faith that focuses its attention outward toward the hurting. One of the more shocking turns in Christian discourse today has been the ability to turn transnational concern into a reason for suspicion rather than a manifestation of God’s wide-ranging affection.


Instead of asking what country people hailed from to determine their worth, King asked the biblical question, “Who is my neighbor?” And he answered it using the logic of the good Samaritan: My neighbor is the person in need.


In recent years King’s argument has been taken up by others. The historical and practical case for reparations has been laid out by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The state of California has created a task force to address the issue. Just last month, the public theologian Ekemini Uwan made the Christian case for restitution for African and African-descended people at the United Nations office in Geneva, explicitly evoking the Black church’s tradition of economic advocacy. Her claim was that not just countries, but Protestant and Catholic churches, in particular, owe a debt for their role in the slave trade.



8) Thousands in Israel Protest Netanyahu’s Plans to Limit Courts

The right-wing government’s proposals for sweeping judicial reform are viewed by critics as anti-democratic and have galvanized the opposition.

By Isabel Kershner and Ronen Bergman, Jan. 14, 2023


An estimated 80,000 protesters demonstrated against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

An estimated 80,000 protesters demonstrated against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Credit...Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of Israelis on Saturday night protested in Tel Aviv against the new right-wing government’s plans to fundamentally overhaul the judicial system, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to weaken the country’s democratic institutions just weeks after returning to power.


The protest was organized by grass-roots activists and backed by the leaders of Israel’s centrist and left-wing opposition parties. The Israeli news media estimated a turnout of 80,000 people by 8:30 p.m., despite a steady rain, and thousands more joined protests in Jerusalem and Haifa.


The protests were an early indication of the backlash facing the government, the sixth led by Mr. Netanyahu, and a clear illustration of widening political division and polarization in Israel.


Mr. Netanyahu, barely three weeks after his government was sworn in, is seeking to curb the powers of the country’s Supreme Court and has argued that the top court has too much influence.


Critics call the move a power grab that would limit judicial independence and oversight and give politicians the upper hand in appointing judges and government attorneys.


Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and former army chief of staff, who attended the protest in Tel Aviv, said Mr. Netanyahu’s proposals would “crush” the judicial system.


“We won’t let that happen,” he said on Israeli television.


In and around Tel Aviv’s Habima square, many of the protesters carried umbrellas or placards. But others carried Israeli flags, the symbol of the modern Jewish state whose liberal democracy they believe is under threat.


Uri Kinrot, a resident of Beersheba, a city in the southern Negev desert, came to the demonstration in Tel Aviv with his three young children. “I am here of course for myself, but mainly for them,” he said, “to fight so that they can grow up in a democratic country that will give them equality and equal opportunities.”


Mr. Kinrot held a sign that read: “We are the fortress. We will not fall!” He said he was there to stop what he called a “dictatorship” taking over Israel.


Other protesters held placards with sharp messages warning of “fascism,” a “coup d’état” and corruption. Mr. Netanyahu is currently on trial on charges of corruption. One sign read: “We will die before giving up on democracy.”


The governing coalition, led by Mr. Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party, includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties. Widely considered the most right-wing and religiously conservative coalition in Israel’s history, it won a majority of 64 seats in the 120-seat Parliament in the November elections.


The government’s proposed changes include reducing the Supreme Court’s judicial oversight, including stripping it of the ability to strike down legislation that it deems unreasonable. The government also wants to change the way judges are chosen, and turn the legal advisers in government ministries into political appointees who would no longer answer to the attorney general.


The government is working rapidly to push through its reforms even as the Supreme Court is deliberating a petition to cancel the appointment of Aryeh Deri, a convicted felon, as a senior minister on grounds of “unreasonability.” Mr. Deri, a veteran politician and close Netanyahu ally, was recently convicted of tax fraud and, as part of a plea agreement, received a suspended prison sentence.


Many Israelis believe there is room for some carefully calibrated reform. But critics of the government say that such sweeping moves will turn Israel into a democracy in name only. The changes, they argue, will remove the protections the court provides for minorities and will put too much power in the hands of the government.


Israel has no formal constitution and only one house of Parliament, and the judicial plans have galvanized the opposition. The former prime minister and centrist leader of the opposition in Parliament, Yair Lapid, has described the proposed changes as constituting “extreme regime change” that would result in the elimination of Israel’s democracy.


In an extraordinarily forthright speech on Thursday, the president of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Esther Hayut, said Mr. Netanyahu’s plan was designed to “deal a mortal blow to the independence of the judiciary and silence it.”


The new Likud minister of justice, Yariv Levin, excoriated Justice Hayut’s speech in a televised statement, accusing her of having joined activists in their call “to set the streets alight.”


Mr. Netanyahu released a video statement on Friday saying that the Israeli voters had given the government a clear mandate for carrying out judicial reform, and called for calm. The new rules would be made “responsibly and judiciously,” he said, and after reaching understandings through a process of dialogue in Parliament.


The protests on Saturday were also a test for the police.


The minister who oversees the police, the ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, had called for arrests and the use of water cannons against protesters who block roads, even though such operational decisions have always been the purview of senior police commanders on the ground.


Police commanders said they were committed to allowing peaceful protest to take place, and the police were only expected to intervene if protesters endangered the peace or broke the law. At the end of the protest a few hundred demonstrators blocked a main junction in Tel Aviv and tried to reach a major highway. The police contained them without resorting to water cannons.


Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, and Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv. Jonathan Rosen contributed reporting from Jerusalem.



9) If New York Is So Great, Why Isn’t There Anywhere to Pee?

By Theodora Siegel, Jan. 15, 2023

Ms. Siegel runs @got2gonyc, a crowdsourced account of New York City bathrooms.


A close-up of an old New York City subway token but says “GOOD FOR ONE PEE”
Ben Denzer

In the middle of Times Square in July 2021, I sipped the last of my iced coffee and realized I had to go. After being turned away from several businesses, I burst into a McDonald’s and was told the bathroom was for customers only. I paid $3 for a bottle of water and ran up a flight of stairs, only to find the door unlocked. I could have just gone in and used the toilet without having to buy that overpriced water.


I took a video of the McDonald’s and posted it on TikTok under the handle @got2gonyc. I hoped sharing the bathroom location would offer relief to at least one other person. By the next day, my comment section was full of locations of other publicly available bathrooms throughout New York City, in hotels, restaurants and stores. This isn’t surprising. New York City, for decades, has left the provision of bathrooms primarily to private establishments.


The struggle to find an accessible bathroom is a public health issue — one that is a direct product of decades of neglect and failed infrastructure projects. To make sure everyone has a place to go, New York City needs to treat public bathroom access as an infrastructure problem deserving of an immediate, robust response.


New York City has 8.5 million residents but has fewer than 1,200 public restrooms. And that’s not even counting the tourists. You do the math. Where are New Yorkers supposed to go when they have to go?


The cheeky account I built to share information on toilet access with other New Yorkers has evolved into a round-the-clock job. I’m now a graduate student studying opera who runs around the city filming sanitary and accessible restrooms in her spare time. The subway has become my editing studio. I’ve sifted through hundreds upon hundreds of restroom submissions to create a Google Map, available to all, of over a thousand bathrooms across all five boroughs.


I’ve learned that a lack of accessible bathrooms has especially serious consequences for anyone who’s not wealthy, white and cisgender. Earlier this year, one of my videos received this comment: “I’m a big Black guy that does deliveries at night … I don’t even try at this point.” I reached out to followers to share their own bathroom struggles. A 44-year-old resident with I.B.S. had to defecate between two parked cars on a morning commute. A homeless couple were denied a bathroom code despite offering to buy something with their limited funds. A tourist from London witnessed her elderly friend wet herself.


These visceral testimonies altered the trajectory of my account and forced me to see that what might be an occasional nuisance for all New Yorkers is a pressing issue for many. Bathroom access should be a basic human right, but our local government struggles to see it as such. Budget cuts in New York City shuttered public toilets in the 1970s. Citywide attempts to build more restrooms have struggled ever since.


In 1990, a group of unhoused individuals sued the city government and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over bathroom accessibility. The city responded two years later by running a pilot program installing six sidewalk pay toilets from Europe. In the four-month test period, over 40,000 people used them and the government heralded it as a success. However, plans to install over 100 more toilets in all five boroughs floundered in bureaucratic red tape. The city then tore down the six it built.


New York City tried once again under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to build more restrooms, installing the first of 20 self-sanitizing, automatic pay toilets in 2008. Since then, only four more of these toilets have been installed. As for the other 15? They’re stuck idle in a warehouse in Queens.


Constructing new public bathrooms is needlessly lengthy and expensive. Take for example the construction of a Parks Department bathroom, a small building containing several toilets and sinks. The review by at least five government entities can be years long. The City, a local news site, in 2019 calculated that constructing one of these facilities cost on average $3.6 million as bureaucratic delays hiked up contractor costs.


The Covid pandemic only made access worse, when the M.T.A. closed all 69 of the public restrooms in its subway stations. Almost three years later, it just opened up nine subway bathrooms. Nine. At the same time, the M.T.A. is looking into installing pee-smelling devices to detect when someone has urinated in its elevators.


So is it any surprise that New York City is ranked 93rd in the nation when it comes to bathrooms per capita?


Cities abroad are much farther ahead of New York. In Britain, city governments have created “community toilet schemes” that encourage establishments to open their bathrooms to the public, sometimes by paying them. A policy like this could help make the most of the bathrooms that already exist in our city. The Tokyo Toilet Project’s transparent public toilets, made out of opacity-changing “smart glass,” allow people to judge the toilet’s sanitation externally — once the door locks, the glass becomes opaque. Bathrooms like these could combat fears about restrooms’ safety and hygiene.


Last year, I spoke outside of City Hall in support of the so-called Bathroom Bill, which requires the city to identify at least one location in every ZIP code in which a bathroom could be built. On Oct. 27, the bill passed.


While an important step in the right direction, the path from here is going to be long — that one bill, which took months to pass, does not even mandate the city to construct any bathrooms. New York should be the greatest city in the world, and it is time that our bathroom access reflects it. The skyscrapers aren’t what makes New York City special; it’s the public infrastructure that allows the great diversity of people — all of whom have to go to the bathroom somewhere — to build a life here.