Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 31, 2023




"The Rock" on top of Bernal Hill overlooking downtown San Francisco re-painted October 26, 2023, after pro-Israeli Zionist's destroyed it. 

Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of December 31, 2023the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 21,507,* 55,915 wounded, and more than 316 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.  The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) and the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission released a new tally of Palestinians detained by "Israel", revealing that the number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has risen to 4,695.

*This figure is the latest confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health as of December 29. Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has been unable to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 30,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

More than 8,000 are still missing, buried under the rubble. 




Labor for Palestine

Thousands of labor representatives marched Saturday, December 16, in Oakland, California. —Photo by Leon Kunstenaar

Video of December 16th Labor rally for Palestine.


Bay Area Unions and Workers Rally and March For Palestine In Oakland


Over 1,000 trade unionists from around Northern California rallied and marched in Oakland to oppose the genocide in Gaza. It was announced during the rally that despite bureaucratic obstacles SEIU 1021 which has over 50,000 members had endorsed the rally and resolution. Unions formally endorsed included AFSCME 3299, OEA, UESF, SEIU 1021, ILWU Local 10, Inlandboatmen’s Union SF Region-ILWU, UNITE HERE Local 2, IFPTE Local 21, SF Public Defenders (workers, not union or unit),  Stanford Graduate Workers, Trader Joes United (Rockridge), IWW Bay Area, IWW 460-650 - Ecology Center 

National or statewide unions or units (with Bay Area members) that have called for a ceasefire: UAW (international), UAW Local 2865 (statewide), UAW Local 2320, APWU, Starbucks Workers United, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, CIR/SEIU (national) SEIU-USWW (statewide), Staff Union of CIR/SEIU (unit of CWA local 1032).

The rally was sponsored by Bay Area Labor For Palestine and there was also another Labor For Palestine Rally in New York.

For More Information:


Production of Labor Video Project







Stand With Palestinian Workers: Cease the Genocide Now—Stop Arming Israel!

Labor for Palestine Petition

“We need you to take immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade.” —An Urgent Call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel (October 16, 2023)

 The undersigned U.S. workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists join labor around the world in condemning the Israeli siege on Gaza that has killed or maimed thousands of Palestinians—many of them children—and stand with Palestinians’ “right to exist, resist, return, and self-determination.”

 The latest Israeli attacks reflect more than a century of ongoing Zionist settler-colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, racism, genocide, and apartheid—including Israel’s establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 2.3 million people in Gaza are refugees from other parts of historic Palestine.

Israel’s crimes are only possible because of more than $3.8 billion a year (or $10-plus million per day) in bipartisan U.S. military aid that gives Israel the guns, bullets, tanks, ships, jet fighters, missiles, helicopters, white phosphorus, and other weapons to kill and maim the Palestinian people. This is the same system of racist state violence that, through shared surveillance technology and police exchange programs, brutalizes Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and working-class people in the United States and around the world.

In response, we demand an immediate end to the genocide, and embrace the recent urgent call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel:

1.     To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel. To refuse to transport weapons to Israel. 

2.     To pass motions in their trade union to this effect. 

3.     To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution. 

4.     Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the U.S., funding to it.

We further reaffirm the call on labor bodies to respect previous Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity by adopting this statement, and/or the model resolution below to divest from Israel Bonds, sever all ties with the Israel’s racist labor federation, the Histadrut, and its US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee, and respect the Palestinian picket line for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). 

Please sign and forward widely!

To endorse the following statement as a trade unionist, please click here:


To endorse as other, please click here:


 Initial Signers on behalf of Labor for Palestine

(Organizational affiliations listed for identification only)

Suzanne Adely, Labor for Palestine, US Palestinian Community Network, Arab Workers Resource Center; Food Chain Workers Alliance (staff); President, National Lawyers Guild; Monadel Herzallah, Arab American Union Members Council; Ruth Jennison, Department Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA; Co-Chair, Labor Standing Committee River Valley DSA; Delegate to Western Mass Area Labor Federation; Lara Kiswani, Executive Director, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC); Block the Boat; Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Jews for Palestinian Right of Return; Corinna Mullin, PSC-CUNY International Committee; CUNY for Palestine; Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired.)

The list of signers will be updated periodically.



The Labor for Palestine model resolution can be found at:




Jewish Doctor Speaks Out on Israel and Palestine

Dr. Gabor Maté, Hungarian-Canadian physician and author describes his own life experience and expresses his view on the situation in Israel and Palestine.

“I’m personally a Holocaust survivor as an infant, I barely survived. My grandparents were killed in Auschwitz and most of my extended family were killed. I became a Zionist; this dream of the Jewish people resurrected in their historical homeland and the barbed wire of Auschwitz being replaced by the boundaries of a Jewish state with a powerful army…and then I found out that it wasn’t exactly like that, that in order to make this Jewish dream a reality we had to visit a nightmare on the local population.

“There’s no way you could have ever created a Jewish state without oppressing and expelling the local population. Jewish Israeli historians have shown without a doubt that the expulsion of Palestinians was persistent, pervasive, cruel, murderous and with deliberate intent—that’s what’s called the ‘Nakba’ in Arabic; the ‘disaster’ or the ‘catastrophe.’ There’s a law that you cannot deny the Holocaust, but in Israel you’re not allowed to mention the Nakba, even though it’s at the very basis of the foundation of Israel.

“I visited the Occupied Territories (West Bank) during the first intifada. I cried every day for two weeks at what I saw; the brutality of the occupation, the petty harassment, the murderousness of it, the cutting down of Palestinian olive groves, the denial of water rights, the humiliations...and this went on, and now it’s much worse than it was then.

“It’s the longest ethnic cleansing operation in the 20th and 21st century. I could land in Tel Aviv tomorrow and demand citizenship but my Palestinian friend in Vancouver, who was born in Jerusalem, can’t even visit!

“So, then you have these miserable people packed into this, horrible…people call it an ‘outdoor prison,’ which is what it is. You don’t have to support Hamas policies to stand up for Palestinian rights, that’s a complete falsity. You think the worst thing you can say about Hamas, multiply it by a thousand times, and it still will not meet the Israeli repression and killing and dispossession of Palestinians.

“And ‘anybody who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite’ is simply an egregious attempt to intimidate good non-Jews who are willing to stand up for what is true.”

—Independent Catholic News, October 16, 2023






the French word

for rabies


la rage -

rage or outrage



the French have a saying -

a man who wants to get rid of his dog

accuses it of spreading rabies


the people of Gaza

treated as inhuman animals

worse than dogs

are charged

with terrorism


come to think of it

what an honor !


world war two's resistance

against nazi extermination

was designated

as terrorism

by the Axis allies


what an honor !



was monitored

as a terrorist

by the CIA


What an honor !



peacefully meditating

near Israeli-funded cop city

was executed

in cold blood

on suspicion

of domestic terrorism 


What an honor !


in the spirit of Mandela

in the spirit of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising

in the spirit of Tortuguita

in the spirit of Attica

may the anti colonial outrage

of the People of Palestine

contaminate us all -

the only epidemic

worth dying for


 (c) Julia Wright. October 17 2023. All Rights Reserved To The family of Wadea Al- Fayoume.



The ongoing Zionist theft of Palestinian land from 1946 to now.

77 years of brutal oppression must end!

End all U.S. aid to Israel now!

For a democratic, secular Palestine!



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Poetic Petition to Genocide Joe Before He Eats His Turkey 

By Julia Wright


Mr Genocide Joe

you have helped broker

a Thanksgiving truce

in Gaza

where your zionist partners

in war crimes

say they will stop

slaughtering "human animals"

for four days



Mr Genocide Joe

closer to home

you have your own hostages

taken in the cointelpro wars

who still languish

in cages

treated worse than animals




as you pardon

two turkeys

in the White House today

as you get ready to eat your military turkey

and have it too

it would at last be time

to unchain

at least two of your own "human animals" -

Mumia Abu-Jamal


Leonard Peltier


(c) Julia Wright. November 25, 2023. All Rights Reserved to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier’s Letter Delivered to Supporters on September 12, 2023, in Front of the Whitehouse


Dear friends, relatives, supporters, loved ones:


Seventy-nine years old. Mother Earth has taken us on another journey around Grandfather Sun.  Babies have taken their first breath. People have lived, loved, and died. Seeds have been planted and sent their roots deep below red earth and their breath to the Stars and our Ancestors.


I am still here.


Time has twisted one more year out of me. A year that has been a moment.  A year that has been a lifetime. For almost five decades I’ve existed in a cage of concrete and steel.  With the “good time” calculations of the system, I’ve actually served over 60 years.


Year after year, I have encouraged you to live as spirit warriors. Even while in here, I can envision what is real and far beyond these walls.  I’ve seen a reawakening of an ancient Native pride that does my heart good.


I may leave this place in a box. That is a cold truth. But I have put my heart and soul into making our world a better place and there is a lot of work left to do – I would like to get out and do it with you.


I know that the spirit warriors coming up behind me have the heart and soul to fight racism and oppression, and to fight the greed that is poisoning our lands, waters, and people. 


We are still here.


Remember who you are, even if they come for your land, your water, your family. We are children of Mother Earth and we owe her and her other children our care.


I long to turn my face to the sky. In this cage, I am denied that simple pleasure. I am in prison, but in my mind, I remain as I was born: a free Native spirit.


That is what allows me to laugh, keeps me laughing. These walls cannot contain my laughter – or my hope.


I know there are those who stand with me, who work around the clock for my freedom. I have been blessed to have such friends.


We are still here and you give me hope. 


I hope to breathe free air before I die. Hope is a hard thing to hold, but no one is strong enough to take it from me. 


I love you. I hope for you. I pray for you. 


And prayer is more than a cry to the Creator that runs through your head.  Prayer is an action.


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse



Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.

Video at:


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




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

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



Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974



Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)



Letter from Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

November 6, 2023

      I’m back at Red Onion. I have no lines of communication. They have me in the B-3 torture cellblock again where there is no access to a kiosk and they’re withholding my tablet anyway. Even if I had it, it’s no use with no kiosk to sync it to and send/receive messages.

      This was a hit. Came from DOC HQ in response folks complaining about my being thrown in solitary at Sussex and the planted knife thing. Kyle Rosch was in on it. The warden and AW here said he’s having me sent back out of state. In any case I don’t want be in this racist trap.

      They cut all my outstanding medical referrals to send here cuz there’s no major medical facility in this remote region. I was pending referral to the cardiac clinic at MCV hospital (Medical College of Virginia), which is on the other side of the state. Also was pending referral to urology there. They were supposed to do testing for congestive heart failure and kidney problems related to my legs, feet, and ankles chronic swelling, and other undiagnosed issues: chronic cough, fluid weight gain, sweats, fatigue, chest pain. They just cut these referrals all of which I have copies of from my medical files.

      They’ve been removing documents from my file too. Like the order I had for oversize handcuffs—which I was gassed the morning I was transferred here for asking the transferring pigs to honor. They took the order out of my file to try to cover their asses. I and others have copies of that too. At this point things are hectic. I’m back in old form now. I was somewhat in hiatus, trying to get the medical care I needed and not provoking them to avoid the bs while that was going on. But the bs has found me once again : ). I need all possible help here. At a level a bit more intense than in the past cuz I need that diagnostic care they cut the referrals for and it’s not available in this remote area. They’d have to send me back to Sussex or another prison near MCU in the VDOC’s Central or Eastern Region. I’m in the most remote corner of the Western Region. My health is not good! And they’re using the medical quack staff here to rubber stamp blocking my referrals.

      Although that lawyer may have given you a message from me, she is not helping me in any way. So no-one should assume because a lawyer surfaced that she is working on anything to aid me. Just have to emphasize that cuz past experience has shown that folks will take a lawyer’s seeming presence as grounds to believe that means some substantial help is here and their help is not needed. Again, I need all possible help here….My health depends on this call for help in a more immediate sense than the cancer situation. I’m having breathing and mobility problems, possibly cardiac related.


      All power to the people!



We need to contact these Virginia Department of Corrections personnel to protest:: 


VADOC~ Central Administration; USPS—P.O. Box 26963; Richmond, VA 23261

David  Robinson Phone : 804-887-8078, Email~david.robinson@vadoc.virginia.gov

Virginia DOC ~ Director, Chadwick S Dotson, Phone~ (804) 674-3081 Email~Chadwick.Dotson@.vadoc.virginia.gov


Virginia Department of Corrections Interstate Compact Liaison

Kyle Rosch, Phone: 804-887-8404, Email: kyle.rosch@vadoc.virginia.gov


VADOC ~Central Administration

Rose L. Durbin, Phone~804-887-7921Email~Rose.Durbin@vadoc.virgina.gov


Red Onion~ Warden, Richard E White, USPS—10800 H. Jack Rose Hwy., Pound, VA 24279

Phone: (276) 796-3536;(or 7510)  Email~ rick.white@vadoc.virginia.gov


Red Onion State Prison, Assistant Warden

Shannon Fuller Phone: 276-796-7510  Email: shannon.fuller@VADOC.virginia.gov


Write to Rashid: 

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson #1007485 

Red Onion State Prison

10800 H. Jack Rose Hwy

Pound, VA 24279




The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Sign the petition:




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



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: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

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


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) How the Russian Government Silences Wartime Dissent

By Anton Troianovski, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Oleg Matsnev, Alina Lobzina, Valerie Hopkins and Aaron Krolik, Dec. 29, 2023


Marina Tsurmast at her flat in Novosibirsk, Russia. Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Just days after invading Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a censorship law that made it illegal to “discredit” the army. The legislation was so sweeping that even his spokesman acknowledged it was easy to cross the line into prohibited speech. In the first 18 months of the war, the law scooped up a vast array of ordinary Russians — schoolteachers, pensioners, groundskeepers, a carwash owner — for punishment.


The law has led to more than 6,500 cases of people being arrested or fined, more than 350 a month on average, according to a New York Times analysis of Russian court records through last August. That’s a small percentage of Russia’s population of 146 million, but The Times analyzed the details of every case, revealing the extraordinary reach and invasiveness of the Kremlin’s crackdown; anyone questioning the war or revealing sympathy with Ukraine — even in a private conversation — is now liable to prosecution in Russia.


No gesture, apparently, is too small. Judges have ruled that simply wearing blue and yellow clothing — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — or painting one’s fingernails blue and yellow can be punished. And there are few safe havens as people increasingly inform on their fellow citizens. In dozens of cases, people were prosecuted after someone reported them for comments they made on the train, in a cafe or in a liquor store.


The censorship law has enabled Mr. Putin to perpetuate a nearly two-year invasion that has killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians, with minimal resistance from those at home who oppose it. While most Russians tell pollsters they support the war, close to 20 percent say they don’t.


In the past, the government would make examples of a few individuals, some prominent; now it is practicing widespread censorship. This year, with antiwar speech in public largely eliminated, the records show that authorities remained intent on stamping out criticism expressed online and in private. More than 3,000 cases involved social media or messaging platforms popular in Russia.


“A large number of totally unknown, nameless, nonpublic people, who simply wrote something or said something somewhere, are getting hit,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.


To better understand the extent of this censorship, we spent months analyzing a database of every available public record of prosecutions under the new law provided by OVD-Info, a Russian human rights and legal aid group.


First-time offenders are typically handed a fine of 30,000 rubles — around $300 at the current exchange rate, about half the average monthly salary in Russia — while repeat offenders can receive prison time. Known as article 20.3.3, the law has become the most widely used tool in Russia’s wartime crackdown, and it is the focus of our analysis; another law punishes spreading “false information” about the Russian army with up to 15 years in prison.


Experts say the wartime censorship is transforming Russian society and setting the stage for even more widespread repression in the future, as the authorities automate their monitoring of the internet and encourage people to denounce each other online. Mr. Putin set the tone last year when he referred to opponents of the war as “scum and traitors” to be cleansed from society.


In response to the crackdown, many Russians have begun to self-censor. Demyan Bespokoyev, a private school tutor who was prosecuted for writing an antiwar message on his coat, described the process this way: “The prison forms inside your head.”


Silencing Protest


In the first months of the war, the documents show, Russia was focused on stamping out dissent in public spaces.


Russia’s crackdowns on free speech used to garner global headlines. Now they are noticed less and less. One reason is the sheer scale: On each of the 530 days of the war for which we have near-complete data, an average of 13 cases were heard in court involving people opposing the war — and that’s just under the discreditation law. The indignities of the crackdown, and the long arm of the Russia law, is being lost in the numbers.


In villages and far-flung regions, in schools and hospitals, in chat groups and local news outlets, and in a prison and on a military base, people were accused of speaking out against the war.


The analysis challenges the notion that opposition sentiment in Russia is concentrated among the elite in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities. The documents show that two-thirds of the cases were heard in courts located in cities and towns with a population of less than a million.


In the small town of Iglino in western Russia, a retired train driver named Zaynulla Gadzhiyev, now 76, predicted on his social media page: “Nothing will save Russia now from collapse.”


Mr. Bespokoyev, 22, the private school tutor, walked through a St. Petersburg subway station wearing the overcoat his grandfather wore in World War II, on which Mr. Bespokoyev had written: “I’m hurting and afraid. I don’t want war.”


In Novosibirsk in Siberia, Marina Tsurmast, a local journalist, scrawled “Bucha” in red on a piece of paper and pasted it over an exhibition stand celebrating the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Police officers detained her on the spot.


In dry legalese, the court documents recount the Russian state’s case against these statements and protests.


The judge in the case of Ms. Tsurmast, the journalist, ruled that she had “distorted the true goals” of Mr. Putin’s war. A St. Petersburg judge ruled that Mr. Bespokoyev, the tutor, had undermined “the authority, image and trust in the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” And Mr. Gadzhiyev, the retired train driver, was cited for “undermining trust in the decisions of the state authorities of the Russian Federation on the conduct of the special military operation.”


All three were fined 30,000 rubles, about $500 at the time. In those first three months of the war, the data shows that at least 1,662 other Russians faced prosecution for antiwar speech.


Other critics, some of them prominent opposition figures, have received much harsher sentences under other more punitive laws, like the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who received a 25-year term on treason charges after criticizing the war. A pacifist artist, Aleksandra Y. Skochilenko, 33, was sentenced in November to seven years in a penal colony for placing price tags with small antiwar messages in a supermarket.


But for the thousands convicted of discrediting the army, the fines are a small part of the trouble they face. Interviews with 10 of them show that convictions bring social opprobrium and complications in finding work, spurring some people to leave Russia altogether.


The law has seeped into the fabric of Russia’s society, adding to the dread of anyone opposing the war. Ms. Tsurmast, the journalist in Novosibirsk, says her anxiety level rises when she notices car headlights outside her apartment window or hears a sound at a late hour.


“I had these attacks of paranoia,” she said in a phone interview, adding that she still felt it sometimes. “The elevator at night — is it coming for me?”


Reaching Into Private Life


The number of cases grew amid the outcry over Mr. Putin’s draft in September 2022. The crackdown reached increasingly into people’s personal lives.


On the morning of Sept. 25, 2022, police officers burst into the Moscow apartment of Daria Ivanova, 29, and, she said, carried her out by her arms and legs before she had time to put on her shoes. Surveillance cameras had identified her and a friend, the police told her, as being the ones who put up prank posters to protest Mr. Putin’s mobilization: “To order a coffin, go to the nearest draft office.”


Ms. Ivanova says she was beaten while in custody for 11 hours. Still in Moscow, she now takes a dim view of her job prospects. A friend told her that, given her conviction, “you’ll never be approved by the security service” at the state company where the friend worked.


The episode highlights the Kremlin’s reach in trying to catch the war’s opponents: It has deployed the police, electronic surveillance and fellow citizens against them.


In smaller towns, the residents do the surveillance themselves. Anton Redikultsev, now 48, was an art teacher in the town of Kalga near the Chinese border — population: 2,545. This past June, a deputy district prosecutor filed charges against him, citing as evidence five social media posts, including links to antiwar songs and a picture of a child’s drawing with the words: “No need for bombs!” He was fined 30,000 rubles. On Sept. 1, the first day of school, he was fired.


Mr. Redikultsev, who is also a competitive powerlifter and goes by the nickname “Lifter,” said the conviction had turned him into an outcast. People who always greeted him on the street now turn away, he said. “People like to overstate, make up details and exaggerate.”


But Mr. Redikultsev insists he has no regrets. Keeping quiet, he said, “seems comparable to a sort of dishonor — to silent agreement.” In court, he said, he asked the prosecutor how he was supposed to exercise his right to express his opinion, which the Russian Constitution technically still guarantees.


“He didn’t respond,” Mr. Redikultsev recalled.


Policing the Internet


By this year, with public protest all but gone because of the crackdown, the internet was left as the main vehicle for dissent.


In June, Russia’s Constitutional Court upheld the censorship law in the face of a challenge from OVD-Info, the legal aid group. People’s “negative assessment” of the Russian military could adversely affect its performance, the court said, presenting a national security risk. But the court left it up to individual judges to decide what exactly qualified as illegal speech — a remarkable acknowledgment of the law’s arbitrariness that the Kremlin has embraced.


Asked in a November interview to explain the difference between justified criticism of the war and “discreditation,” Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, said it was hard to determine. “Where’s the line? I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s very thin.”


In Moscow courtrooms, the cases have become routine. Last month, a prosecutor in a navy blue uniform quietly read out the sections of the administrative code that the 60-year-old defendant, Sergei Platonov, stood accused of violating. Addressing Russian soldiers on social media, he had written, “You are going to kill other children in order to feed your own.”


Mr. Platonov, dressed in white and without a lawyer, said nothing. Within 20 minutes, the judge returned with the guilty verdict and ordered him to pay 30,000 rubles. In an interview afterward, he referred to the officers who investigated him as the “Russian Gestapo” and said he would try to avoid paying: “The money will go into the budget, toward the war. And I very much don’t want this.”


For the moment, lawyers say, the volume of prosecutions is held in check by the large amount of paperwork that every case requires; as a result, many instances of antiwar speech still go unpunished. But experts fear that as prosecutions become ever more routine and as the authorities focus on policing online speech, they could develop automated ways to launch investigations and to file cases.


“There certainly is that fear, given the reports that instruments for automatization are being developed,” Polina Kurakina, an OVD-Info lawyer, said.


Russia’s Pacific Coast region of Primorye, for example, launched an anonymous Telegram service last month allowing people to inform on anyone who, among other things, “promotes evil.” And a leak last year from Russia's internet regulator showed it was developing automated systems to scan social media and news websites for politically sensitive content.


In many ways, though, the Kremlin’s campaign of repression has already achieved the desired result. Some of those prosecuted have fled the country, while others have squelched any impulse to protest the war.


Mr. Kolesnikov, the political scholar, who is based in Moscow, sees the law as an indicator of Russia’s descent into an even more controlling, totalitarian system, with anyone anywhere speaking against the Kremlin becoming vulnerable to prosecution.


And yet, some people still protest. In October, a judge ordered Anna Sliva, 18, to pay a 50,000 ruble fine — about $500 at the exchange rate then — for holding up a sign at a Moscow memorial to the Soviet gulag labor camps: “Stop killing and imprisoning civilians.” In an interview, Ms. Sliva said that her action would give her an answer if she were to have children who asked her: “Mom, what did you do when the war came?”


About the data

The New York Times analyzed 6,771 cases tried under Mr. Putin’s new censorship law, article 20.3.3 of the administrative offenses code. The cases range from when Mr. Putin signed the law on March 4, 2022, to the end of August 2023. They are a subset of a larger dataset of more than 9,000 cases provided by OVD-Info, a Russian human rights and legal aid group. Cases without detailed accounts of what happened were excluded from the analysis, as were cases we identified as appeals. A small number of cases may have appeared more than once in the database because multiple records were created for them in the court system, oftentimes to correct an error in the previous record. Individuals in the illustrated crowds are placed based on the dates when hearings were held. Highlighted cases in the illustrations are placed within a month of the hearing for legibility. Their descriptions are based on court documents.

To tally the cases in categories of cases — such as the number of defendants alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol — we searched the database for cases with related keywords and manually checked the results. The numbers of cases tallied in each category may be an undercount.

An unsupervised machine learning algorithm classified whether each incident happened online, based on patterns of language in court documents. A representative subset of these results was then manually checked to confirm the approximate number of online and offline cases.



2) Deadly Strike Hits Southern Gaza Area Where Many Are Sheltering

By Anushka Patil, Dec. 29, 2023


A small child dressed in blue and white and covered in dirt is held on his side. Several medical workers are gathered around him.

A wounded child in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday. Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An airstrike on Thursday hit an area of southern Gaza where Israel has ordered civilians to seek shelter from its military offensive, according to a nearby hospital, which said that at least 18 people were killed and dozens of others injured.


The hospital, the Kuwait Specialty Hospital, said the strike hit a house in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost area, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled following Israeli military orders to move south.


The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions about the strike, and the circumstances could not be independently verified.


The strike came as Israeli forces intensified their offensive in southern Gaza against Hamas, the armed group that controls the territory.


On Friday, the Israeli military said that it had carried out a series of attacks over the past day in Khan Younis, the biggest city in the south, using airstrikes, sniper fire and tank rounds, and that “dozens of terrorists” had been killed. It also said that ground troops were fighting in an area of southern Gaza known as Khuza’a, near the Israeli border, describing it as a staging ground for Hamas’s raid on Nir Oz, a kibbutz that was one of many southern Israeli communities that the militant group targeted during the deadly Oct. 7 attacks. Israel’s accounts of its military operations could not be independently verified.


About 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, and those sheltering near the Kuwait hospital have hardly anywhere farther south to go. The hospital is less than a mile from Gaza’s border with Egypt, which Egypt is determined to keep closed.


The city’s border crossing with Egypt is also the main entry point for aid into the territory. Israel has continued bombing areas it has told people to move to.


After Thursday’s strike, many who arrived at the Kuwait hospital had serious injuries, including head wounds and severed limbs, the hospital’s director, Dr. Suhaib Al Hams, said in a video on social media.


News photos from the scene of the strike showed people pulling young children from the rubble. In one, a girl in colorful pajamas appeared limp as she was carried away.


Photographs from the hospital showed several medics treating a young boy covered in dust and blood; at his feet, on the same stretcher, lay the girl in the colorful pajamas.


An Al Jazeera correspondent who saw the strike and visited the hospital in the immediate aftermath, Tareq Abu Azzoum, reported that it had destroyed a residential building.


Nesreen Joudeh, who has been sheltering with 29 members of her extended family in a two-bedroom apartment in Rafah, told The New York Times over text messages that strikes on Thursday night “were very intense, loud and close. We are all terrified.”


Airstrikes hit near the apartment and the blasts smashed the windows, she said. The apartment was already freezing cold for Ms. Joudeh, 38, and her family, who have been sleeping on the floor with no winter clothes or blankets.


If Israeli ground forces move into Rafah, she said, they wouldn’t know where to go.


“It is supposed to be safe, but no place is safe in Gaza,” she said.


Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.



3) The U.N. says Israeli forces fired on an aid convoy in central Gaza.

By Raja Abdulrahim Reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 29, 2023


Trucks, one flying a blue United Nations flag, are lined up on a road, with men in orange high-visibility vests alongside.

An aid convoy waiting to head toward northern Gaza last month. Credit...Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israeli forces shot at a United Nations convoy of armored vehicles in central Gaza on Thursday evening as it was returning from delivering aid in the northern part of the territory, U.N. officials said.


No one in the convoy was injured, the officials said, but the episode highlighted the severe challenges facing humanitarian efforts to help Palestinians struggling to survive amid Israel’s nearly 12-week bombardment of the enclave.


“Israeli soldiers fired at an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated by the Israeli Army,” Thomas White, the Gaza director for UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees, wrote on social media. He said that one vehicle in the convoy had been damaged, adding: “Aid workers should never be a target.”


The Israeli military did not immediately comment when asked about the episode.


The convoy, whose vehicles were marked with U.N. insignia, was returning from delivering aid, including flour. It was south of Gaza City when it came under fire, Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for UNRWA, said in an interview. Before setting out to deliver the aid, the convoy had coordinated its plans with the Israeli military and notified it of the routes it would take, she added.


Ms. Touma said that the Israeli military had told the convoy to take a different route, which it did. “They rerouted and then the shooting happened,” she said.


Aid workers and deliveries have come under fire before during Israel’s nearly 12-week military offensive in Gaza.


UNRWA says that 142 of its employees have been killed, among the more than 20,000 Palestinians that the Gazan Health Ministry says have been killed in the Israeli air and ground offensive. Israel began striking Gaza on Oct. 7 after Hamas, the armed group which controls Gaza, carried out an attack in southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.


Most UNRWA staff members have been forced to flee their homes, and the severe restrictions on aid and fuel entering the territory, as well as road closures ordered by the Israeli military and extensive damage from its bombardment, have vastly limited the agency’s ability to work. The situation has remained dire despite the passage last week of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow more aid to reach Gazan civilians and that demanded “safe and unhindered humanitarian access.” The resolution stopped short of calling for a cease-fire.


“It’s very difficult to deliver assistance and humanitarian relief during a war zone when there is active conflict,” Ms. Touma said.


On Nov. 18, a Doctors Without Borders convoy attempting to evacuate people sheltering in a hospital came under fire in Gaza City, killing two people, the group said. It blamed Israel for what it said was a deliberate attack against vehicles emblazoned with the group’s logo.


Two days later, the group’s facilities in Gaza City came under attack when shots were fired while its employees were sheltering inside, the group said. Doctors Without Borders asked the Israeli authorities for a formal explanation and called for an independent investigation. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


On Nov. 7, a medical convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross came under fire in Gaza City, lightly wounding a driver and damaging two trucks, the aid group said. It did not say who was to blame for the attack.


UNRWA says that up to 1.9 million people — more than 85 percent of Gaza’s population — have been displaced from their homes, and that nearly 1.4 million are sheltering in facilities operated by the agency.


As it struggles to deliver aid, agency officials say that desperate Gazans facing acute hunger are stopping U.N. aid trucks, taking food off them and devouring it on the spot.


“The very little supplies that continue to be allowed into Gaza have led to very high levels of desperation among the communities,” Ms. Touma said. “So it’s no surprise that people are coming to aid trucks and taking food and in many cases they are eating it then and there.”



4) Gazans face an endless trek for safety as the evacuation orders keep coming.

By Raja Abdulrahim and Ameera Harouda, Dec. 29, 2023


Two people, wounded and bloodied, on the ground.

Palestinians seeking help after an Israeli strike in central Gaza on Thursday. Credit...Mohammed Asad/Associated Press

When Samir Hassan and his surviving family members fled their home in the town of Mughraqa in the central Gaza Strip weeks ago, they did so under intense Israeli airstrikes, which killed a number of family members, including an uncle, and severely injured his brother.


They settled in a tent in the nearby Nuseirat area, where tens of thousands of Palestinians forced by Israel’s air and ground offensive had also fled and were finding what shelter they could in overcrowded schools, ramshackle tents or even out in the streets.


Now Mr. Hassan’s family has been warned they must move again.


The Israeli military this week ordered more than 150,000 people to leave parts of central Gaza. “The area you are in is considered an area of deadly fighting,” warned leaflets that were dropped over homes, shelters and encampments.


“God willing this will be the last time we are displaced,” said Mr. Hassan, 22, a taxi driver. The family lost everything the first time it fled, he said.


Israel’s war on Hamas has forced many of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians to repeatedly flee for their lives as airstrikes bombard their towns and cities and Israeli forces advance their ground invasion.


The area now under threat, roughly nine square kilometers, has six shelters housing about 61,000 displaced people, mostly from northern Gaza, according to the United Nations. That is in addition to the 90,000 original residents of the area.


In its latest evacuation orders, Israel instructed people to move immediately to shelters that, the U.N. says, can barely hold the several hundred thousand people already there.


Some 1.9 million people in Gaza, or nearly 85 percent of the population, are estimated to be displaced, according to the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians.


“Forced to move again,” the agency said on Thursday. “Evacuation order by Israeli authorities of middle Gaza causes ongoing forced displacement. Over 150,000 people — young children, women carrying babies, people with disabilities & the elderly — have nowhere to go.”


The only remaining hope for Gazans, the agency said, is a cease-fire.


Israel’s evacuation orders — which the United Nations has said risk forced displacement, which is a war crime — have at times been contradictory and confusing. And even when Gazans make the wrenching decision to uproot their families yet again, they are forced to make impossible choices, with no safe places to go.


The Israeli bombardment and the siege of Gaza have decimated large parts of the Palestinian enclave and its infrastructure, leaving millions hungry and exposed to the elements and creating a public health disaster in the making.


Israel has said it is addressing the humanitarian concerns, including those voiced by the United States. A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, said on social media that in an effort to help Gazans understand the evacuation directives, they had published maps divided into grids “in order to preserve your security and safety.”


But Israel has routinely used 2,000-pound bombs — one of the biggest and most destructive supplied by the United States — in densely populated areas in southern Gaza where civilians were told to move for safety, according to an analysis of the visual evidence by The New York Times.


At the Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, a mother of five said that she and 20 members of her extended family had arrived there the previous day. It is the fourth time the family, including a 10-month-old baby, have been forced to flee since the war began.


“They threatened the entire block around us, even the new camp, even the market street — all of it they threatened,” she said. “They dropped leaflets ordering us to leave within three days. So we had to come here.”


Living in a thin tent in the winter cold has made all her children sick, she said. Now they are living on the cold pavement outside the hospital.


“We don’t have mattresses,” she said. “We only have blankets. Either we cover ourselves with them, or we sleep on them.”



5) Israeli military admits fault in two Dec. 24 strikes.

By Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 29, 2023


An overhead image of destroyed buildings.

Dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli airstrikes on Al Maghazi, a neighborhood in central Gaza. Credit...Shadi Tabatibi/Reuters

The Israeli military acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that it had carried out two airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip on Dec. 24, which according to health officials in the enclave killed dozens of civilians.


It was a rare admission of fault regarding a specific event during a war that has so far claimed more than 20,000 lives in the enclave, the majority of them women and children, according to the Gazan health ministry. The Israeli military said in a statement that it  “regrets the harm to uninvolved individuals, and is working to draw lessons from the incident.”


Referring to strikes in Al Maghazi, a neighborhood in central Gaza, the military said in the statement that as part of its operations in the area, Israeli fighter jets had struck two targets adjacent to where “Hamas operatives” were located.


Despite steps that were taken to mitigate harm to civilians in the area, the military said, “A preliminary investigation revealed that additional buildings near the targets were also hit during the strikes, which likely caused unintended harm to additional uninvolved civilians.”


An unidentified military official told Kan News, Israel’s public broadcaster, on Thursday that an improper choice of weaponry was to blame for the extensive damage and high civilian death toll, adding that the type of munition used did not match the nature of the attack.


A military fact-finding committee will further investigate the event, the military said in its statement.


Khalil Deqran, the spokesman for a hospital in nearby Deir al Balah, told the broadcast network Al Araby on the night of the attack that the hospital had received more than 70 bodies from strikes in Al Maghazi and Al Bureij, another neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip, and that the dead included many women, children and older people.


Al Maghazi was created in 1949 as one of eight camps in Gaza established to house Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the wars surrounding Israel’s creation. The camps have generally been built up over time to become tightly packed neighborhoods.


Al Maghazi is densely packed, with a prewar population of 33,255 people in 0.6 square kilometers, or 0.2 square miles, according to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and operates the camps.


Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.



6) Israel’s ‘Third Phase” is a Redoubling of Genocide

By Paul Larudee, Dec. 29, 2023

VIA Email


Less than a month ago, I wrote that Israel’s strategy is genocide. Now Israel apparently recognizes that it is losing the ground war to Hamas and allied groups in the Palestinian resistance. Israel is casualty-averse, and it is taking a lot more casualties in Gaza than it can accept. In fact, Israel refuses to disclose more than a fraction of its casualties, and their strict military censorship won’t let others disclose such information, either.


The resistance, on the other hand, is showing the same brilliant preparations for a prolonged battle that it showed on October 7, 2023, in overcoming Israel’s vaunted military technology, strategy and capability. The Internet is full of Go-Pro videos filmed by impeccably trained and apparently fearless resistance fighters, blasting Israeli troops and equipment even in the north of Gaza, which Israel supposedly leveled to the ground and from which it drove out most of the population. Israel wants to blow up the tunnels, too, but the resistance welcomes the attempt, trying to lure them into the traps set for them.


The Israeli public, in the meantime, is impatient with the lack of progress – in freeing the captives/hostages, in winning the ground war, and with both the lack of transparency and the unaccustomed sacrifices. In the last month, the flight abroad by Israelis has doubled from 250,000 to more than 500,000. Prime Minister Netanyahu is the most unpopular person in Israel, and crowds of his constituency are confronting him at public events to make any deal that brings the captives/hostages home.


He's trying to make a deal, but his hand is weak, and the Hamas government is driving a hard bargain, saying that they won’t even negotiate unless and until all fighting stops. Netanyahu can’t do that. If he tries, he will lose his uncompromising and racist partners in the governing coalition, and if he is no longer Prime Minister, he will be subject to prosecution and imprisonment for corruption. Hamas knows how to put him in a corner.


As a result, Israel is planning to withdrew most of its ground troops from Gaza, a tacit admission that Hamas forces have won the ground battle. Israeli media describe this as the beginning of the “third phase”, which will include a buffer zone on the border of the Gaza Strip, and (what else?) more intensive bombing than ever before.


The third phase of what? Surely not a war. Israel is abandoning the only fighting that resembles a war, i.e. combat. The Israeli leadership has said that it wants to eliminate Hamas, but their “third phase” strategy seems to disengage from Hamas, and eliminate instead the entire Palestinian population - women, children and all. The correct name for this is genocide.


Nevertheless, this is clearly Israel’s strategy. Is it achievable? With enough US bombs, rockets and other airborne munitions supplied by the U.S., why not? It’s not as if unarmed civilians are capable of fighting back against such an onslaught from the air. So yes, with the complicity and underwriting of the US, they are realistically capable of committing a thorough genocide.


In fact, beyond a certain point, Israel doesn’t need bombs and missiles except to hasten the end of more than 2 million lives. The buffer zone alone can be the killer, by denying food, water, shelter, medical supplies and services, as well as everything else necessary to sustain life. Israel has already informed Egypt and other countries that it intends to re-occupy the “Philadelphi corridor,” a strip of land several hundred meters wide and fourteen kilometers long, that Israel bulldozed through the city of Rafah and to the Mediterranean along the border of Egypt in 2003-4, destroying thousands of homes in the process and killing American nonviolent resistor Rachel Corrie, who was trying to block them. Among other interdictions, the buffer zone will presumably also be used to stop communication with the outside world, as well, by jamming and other measures, so that the scenes of living skeletons and their faint cries for help will be blocked from the eyes of the world until the job is done, perhaps before spring, perhaps sooner.


This, or something very like it, appears to be the plan. It assumes that, eventually, the resistance fighters in their underground fortress will also disappear, to be seen never again, along with their Israeli captives. Never again. How ironic that the Zionist Movement, claiming to represent all Jews, should seek to commit the greatest genocide of our time, with unlimited means provided by the country most able to prevent it.


Paul Larudee is a retired academic and current administrator of a nonprofit human rights and humanitarian aid organization.



7) Israeli military strikes hit Gaza areas filled with displaced civilians.

By Raja Abdulrahim, Dec. 30, 2023


Carrying a wounded girl past a destroyed building in central Gaza on Saturday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israeli airstrikes and artillery pounded central and southern Gaza again on Saturday as the military pushed its ground offensive deeper into the enclave, striking areas where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians have congregated in an effort to seek safety from the onslaught across the territory, according to Palestinian media.


Unverified video footage from local journalists in the southern city of Rafah, where large numbers of displaced people have fled, showed the immediate aftermath of strikes on residential homes. In chaotic scenes in narrow crowded streets, people carried the injured out from the rubble, wrapped in blankets. Other wounded were ferried by hand, as several men struggled to quickly carry a man’s limp body.


The strikes on the southernmost tip of Gaza underscored what Palestinian residents and United Nations officials have long said: Israel’s war has left nowhere safe to shelter in the small, impoverished territory that has been plunged into a humanitarian catastrophe over the 12-week war.


More than 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since the beginning of the war, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which reported on Saturday that 165 people had been killed in Israeli airstrikes and artillery attacks in the previous 24 hours.


Israeli airstrikes also hit parts of central Gaza that were under Israeli evacuation orders issued this week. More than 150,000 people are affected by those orders, according to the U.N., though it was unclear how many have fled. The strikes forced some families who have already been uprooted numerous times into yet more difficult decisions about whether to move again.


A strike on the home of a journalist in the central Gaza town of Nuseirat killed him and a number of his family members and injured several others, according to Palestinian media.


Dozens of Palestinian journalists have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Israel launched its war on the territory after an attack by Hamas, the armed group which controls Gaza. The Hamas attack killed about 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.



8) South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in a U.N. court.

By Traci Carl, Dec. 30, 2023


Cyril Ramaphosa in front of microphones and against a back drop with the letters ANC.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, the racist system of segregation that governed South Africans for nearly 50 years before it ended in 1994. Credit...Roberta Ciuccio/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

South Africa accused Israel of genocide on Friday in the International Court of Justice and asked the U.N. court to order a halt to fighting in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying that Israel was trying to “destroy Palestinians in Gaza.”


Israel’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim as “lacking a factual and a legal basis” and described the filing as a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the Court.” Israel has often said it is at war with Hamas, not the civilians of Gaza.


South Africa has been one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. In early November, it recalled all of its diplomats from Israel over that country’s treatment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.


Allegations of war crimes by both Israel and by Palestinian militant groups in territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are already under investigation at the International Criminal Court, which is independent of the U.N. But the impact of that investigation is unclear because Israel is not a member nation of the I.C.C. and does not recognize its jurisdiction.


Israel is, however, a signatory of the Genocide Convention, along with South Africa, which paved the way for the case at the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court.


South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, the racist system of segregation that governed South Africans for nearly 50 years before it ended in 1994.


In recalling South Africa’s diplomats from Israel, Mr. Ramaphosa, a former anti-apartheid activist, said the world had “sat helplessly and watched as intensifying airstrikes on Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed schools, health facilities, ambulances and civilian infrastructure and supposedly safe roads traveling to the south of Gaza.”


More than 20,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza since the war began on Oct. 7, according to Gazan health authorities. A Hamas-led attack on Israel that day left an estimated 1,200 people dead, Israeli officials say.


In its statement on Friday, the Israeli government said it has tried to limit the impact of the war on civilians, and accused South Africa of cooperating with Hamas, “a terrorist organization that is calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”


The World Court, based in The Hague, is tasked with settling legal disputes between member nations.



9) How a Russian Barrage Evaded Ukraine’s Defenses to Wreak Deadly Chaos

In one of the war’s largest bombardments, 35 missiles slipped through Ukraine’s air cover on Friday, killing dozens. Ukraine responded with shelling on the Russian region of Belgorod, killing at least 14.

By Constant Méheut, Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 30, 2023


A fiery trail streaks over a city.

A missile exploding over the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Friday. Credit...Gleb Garanich/Reuters

For months, Ukraine’s use of powerful Western-supplied air-defense systems to repel Russian missile attacks has provided its citizens with some reassurance that a protective shield was effectively in place over big cities such as the capital, Kyiv.


On Friday, that shield partly cracked.


In one of the biggest air assaults of the war, Russia launched so many missiles that the Ukrainian defenses seem to have been overloaded. Faced with a complex barrage of different airborne weapons, the Ukrainian Air Force said it had shot down only 87 of the 122 missiles fired by Moscow, about 70 percent of the total, with all hypersonic missiles and many ballistic missiles evading interception.


Serhii Kuzan, chairman of the research group Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation, was blunt. “It overwhelmed Ukrainian air defenses,” he said.


To be sure, air defenses are imperfect and the magnitude of the barrage played an important part in the number of missiles to slip through. But the bombardment also showed how Russia has learned the best ways to evade Ukraine’s air defenses and hit the country hard, military experts and Ukrainian officials said.


For months, Russia had stockpiled vast quantities of high-precision missiles and launched wave after wave of drones, in what appeared to be a campaign to probe Ukrainian defenses.


The attack on Friday “was very cleverly constructed,” Mr. Kuzan said. “Russia attacked with drones and ballistic and hypersonic missiles, combining them in different waves and launching them from different locations.”


In an apparent response to Russia’s strikes, Ukraine on Saturday targeted the city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, in an air assault with missiles and rockets that Russian authorities said killed at least 14 people and injured more than 100 others — one of the deadliest attacks against a Russian city since the beginning of the war.


In Ukraine in recent months, most missiles fired by Russia at Kyiv have been intercepted before residents even realized what was coming at them. For Ukrainian citizens away from the front line, the death and destruction wrought on Friday in cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Dnipro were painful reminders of the war’s enduring threat.


Friday’s strikes killed at least 39 people, wounded about 160 others and hit critical industrial and military infrastructure as well as civilian buildings like hospitals and schools. They also raised concerns about Ukraine’s ability to withstand similar attacks in the future, as a protracted war leaves Kyiv short of critical weapons, including antiaircraft missiles, while Moscow expands its arsenal.


“It is obvious that with the stocks of missiles that the aggressor state has, they can and will continue such attacks,” Rustem Umerov, Ukraine’s defense minister, said in a social media post on Friday.


After the attack, Ukrainian officials renewed their calls on Western allies to accelerate the delivery of air-defense weapons to Kyiv. But political infighting, notably in Washington but also increasingly in Europe, has left doubts hanging over additional aid to Ukraine, including a critical $50 billion security package that Congress has repeatedly refused to pass.


During Russia’s intense air bombardment of Ukraine last winter, missiles slammed relatively easily into military and civilian infrastructure, getting past what were, at the time, meager air defenses. Many of those strikes targeted the power grid, plunging Ukrainians into cold and darkness.


In response, Ukraine’s Western allies started providing Kyiv with powerful air-defense weapons, including Patriot surface-to-air batteries, probably the most advance ground-based system available. A first Patriot battery was received around April.


Ukraine’s defenses soon improved.


In May, Ukraine managed to intercept about 83 percent of Russian missiles, according to data released by the Ukrainian Air Force. On one day, when Russia launched 51 missiles, 48 were shot down, the military said. Data compiled by Rochan Consulting, an analysis group based in Poland, showed that the high interception rate largely continued through December.


In response, Russia seems to have begun trying out different combinations of air weapons and attack routes to figure out how best to penetrate those defenses.


As part of those efforts, the Ukrainian military said, Russia has used cheap Shahed attack drones to test defenses. A month ago, Russia launched about 75 drones in an overnight assault, a “record number” at the time, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.


Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said on national television this fall that the use of drones “allows the enemy to draw conclusions about the forces and means in a particular region and take this information into account when planning future attacks.”


An analysis of the trajectories of Russian air attacks, compiled by Texty, a Ukrainian publication specializing in data journalism, showed that Russian drones were often flown along a major highway in southern Ukraine — presumably because their noise blended with the sound of traffic, making them less detectable — and that they were often launched from Crimea. Sometimes, drones and missiles were fired from locations far apart, but aimed at the same target, the analysis found.


Ukrainian officials have also warned that they believe Russia has stockpiled missiles for a sustained, large-scale campaign this winter. By early November, Russia had accumulated more than 800 high-precision missiles, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency.


On Friday, Russia appeared to have put those months of preparation into practice.


Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top commander, said on social media that the assault began with three dozen Shahed drones launched from the north and southeast in the early hours of Friday. Then, bomber jets began firing cruise missiles around 5 a.m., followed by ballistic missiles an hour later. Finally, at 6:30 a.m., Russian fighter planes launched five hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, one of the most sophisticated weapons in Russia’s arsenal.


“We saw a large number of missiles,” Mr. Ihnat, the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman, said on Friday. “The screen was red, the monitors. They were scattered all over Ukraine, flying to bypass routes. Some missiles were flying in circles before hitting their targets.”


Ukraine managed to intercept only the first wave of cruise missiles, fired around 5 a.m. The other missiles crashed into warehouses, weapons factories and residential buildings, burying people under the rubble.


The attack suggested that “the Shaheds that preceded the missiles may have distracted Ukrainian air defenses or otherwise enabled the strike,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said in an assessment.


Another possible reason some missiles evaded Ukrainian air defenses was the munitions’ use of decoys. Unverified videos posted to social media showed what appeared to be a Russian cruise missile ejecting flares, a type of decoy commonly used by combat aircraft to confuse air defenses.


Mr. Kuzan, of the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation, said Russia’s attack on Friday showed that Ukraine still did not have enough equipment to repel large, coordinated barrages.


By contrast, Mr. Kuzan warned, Russia “has enough resources to do several more attacks like this one,” adding that, in his opinion, Moscow was “already preparing for the next one.”


Daria Mitiuk contributed reporting from Kyiv, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv.



10) At These Schools, Arab and Jewish Students Share Their Feelings, With Each Other

At a time when support for peace is at a low, conversations at Israel’s Hand in Hand schools about the Oct. 7 attack and the war in Gaza sound different than they do elsewhere.

By Talya Minsberg, Dec. 31, 2023

Talya Minsberg visited Hand in Hand schools in Jerusalem and in Haifa, speaking with dozens of teachers, students and parents.


A female teacher stands among several boys in a classroom, all with arms raised.

Haya Saleh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, with students this month at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem. She teaches a class on tolerance and empathy with a Jewish Israeli teacher. Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

In a classroom decorated with Hebrew and Arabic letters, a group of third graders — their eyes closed, their hands placed facing up on their laps — took a deep breath in unison.


“And exhale,” a teacher told them.


The students, a mix of Jews and Arabs, attend Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem, one of six such bilingual institutions in Israel dedicated to the proposition that Israelis and Palestinians can learn and live together in peace. On a recent day this month, soon after a temporary cease-fire in Gaza collapsed and the prospect for peace seemed more distant than ever, the students were meditating.


If regional peace seemed momentarily unobtainable, at least they could try for inner calm.


Schools across Israel, most of them divided along lines of religion and language, are struggling with how to help students cope emotionally during the deadliest conflict in a generation. At Hand in Hand schools, where every class has two teachers — a Hebrew speaker and an Arabic speaker — the conversation about the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war unfolding in Gaza sounds markedly different than in other schools.


“We might have different languages, religions and cultures, but we choose to be here together,” Haya Saleh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the third graders’ Arabic-speaking teacher, said to her students.


As suspicions between Israelis and Palestinians are at an all-time high and support for a peace deal is at its lowest point in decades, the faculty and families who make up the Hand in Hand schools are doing the difficult work of trying to overcome those differences. And they believe they have created a model of honoring one another’s traumas, experiences and histories that can be replicated across the region.


No one at the schools is far from the war. Some Arab students have family members who have been killed in Gaza. And some Jewish students have relatives who were killed or kidnapped on Oct. 7, or who are currently serving in the military.


If peace seems possible within the schools’ walls, elsewhere in Israel it is a different story. Support for peace negotiations has fallen significantly, according to a November poll by Tel Aviv University. The poll also found that the share of Israelis in favor of a two-state solution had fallen below one-third of respondents, down from only a month prior.


That has only strengthened the resolve of the schools’ leaders. “It’s possible to be together, it’s preferable to be together, and it’s also the right thing to do,” said Gezeel Jarroush Absawy, the principal of the Hand in Hand elementary school in Haifa.


To that end, the schools emphasize processing individual and generational trauma. They present history through the lenses of both Israelis and Palestinians, and foster relationships between Arabs and Jews in childhood in the hope that they can extend into adulthood.


“We need to be friends with each other and not fight,” one student at the Jerusalem school said in Arabic. “We can live in peace,” said another in Hebrew. “Even older people and children can accept each other so we can be safe,” said another Arabic-speaking student.


The schools’ approach differs sharply from that of many schools in Israel, where a far-right government is pushing a nationalist curriculum. And it is particularly different from that in the Hamas-controlled schools that operated before the war in Gaza, where by law all classrooms were segregated by gender, girls were required to wear religious dress and textbooks did not recognize the state of Israel.


At the Hand in Hand school in Haifa, teachers recently asked students to illustrate an answer to the question: “How am I feeling at this moment?” Their responses decorated the walls.


One student drew rockets being shot from either side of the page with the words, “No no no no!” sketched in Hebrew bubble letters in the sky. Another student drew two people holding hands, wide smiles etched across their faces. A third, simply wrote, “I’m OK.”


Parents have taken part in exercises modeled on those happening in their children’s classrooms. In October, a group of parents in Haifa began meeting regularly to talk. The sessions are often moderated by two parents: Merav Ben-Nun, a Jewish Israeli, and Mouna Karkabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel.


“We can’t stay apart and stay in our comfort zones,” Ms. Ben-Nun said in a conversation with six parents of elementary students.


“We always say it’s like making your kids vegetarians, but then you are having steak,” she explained. “If you’re bringing your kids into this very different educational system, you as a parent have to prove that you’re also there.”


Like their children’s teachers, the parents worried about what would happen to their fragile community in the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7. When Arab and Jewish parents sat down together for the first time after the attack, Ms. Ben-Nun and Ms. Karkabi asked everyone to share why they had chosen to attend the session. “We came to listen,” they recalled parents saying one after another.


The parents said they were exhausted, devastated, anxious and angry. But they also expressed a shared vision of the future, in which Israelis and Palestinians would be real partners.


“The complexity is still there, and I expect it to be there,” Ms. Karkabi said. “We don’t always agree with each other, but we hear each other.”


But everything at Hand in Hand is not meditation and deep conversation. Blink and it is an ordinary school. Students fumble with their backpacks, do gymnastics at recess and race to class at the song that marks the next period.


“It’s a very happy school. It’s not always, ‘We’re Jews and Arabs!’” Ms. Salim said with a laugh. “We’re a school.”


On his drive to school one morning, Ben Vick, a Jewish fourth grader from Jerusalem, said he knew his school was unique and called the setup “cool.”


Along the way, Ben’s father drove them past apartment buildings with Israeli flags displayed outside, and another with a sign that read, “Give Peace A Chance.” Ben, 9, talked cogently about his anxiety about the war, and how his favorite subject recently switched from science to art.


“My best friend is Arab,” he said as he looked out the car’s window. “It feels fun, a religious Jew being friends with an Arab.”


The boys like going to the library together and playing soccer. But, Ben added, things are also stressful.


“It’s kind of hard to believe that there’s literally people getting killed right now,” he said as his father pulled up to the front of the school. “And here, it’s just like, chill. Another normal day.”


Arriving at school, Ben grabbed his bag and hopped out of the car. The boy’s father gave him a kiss goodbye on the head, and Ben ran into the school — hoping to find his best friend.

Three boys walk arm-in-arm on the school grounds, casting a striking shadow of three figures in unity.

Students walking together between classes this month at the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem. Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times



11) U.S. Helicopters Sink 3 Houthi Boats in Red Sea, Pentagon Says

Iranian-backed Houthi gunmen from Yemen had fired on American helicopters responding to an attack on a commercial ship, U.S. Central Command reported.

By Vivek Shankar, Dec. 31, 2023

“The clash occurred after a commercial container ship was attacked by Houthi fighters in small boats and issued a distress call, prompting U.S. Navy helicopters to respond, the American military said. ‘In the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats fired upon the U.S. helicopters with crew-served weapons and small arms,’ Central Command said in a statement on social media. ‘The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews.’”


A man stands on the deck of a ship holding binoculars. An aircraft carrier is seen in the distance.

Looking out at the U.S.S. Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf in November. Helicopters from the aircraft carrier came under fire from the Houthis on Sunday. Credit...US Navy, via Associated Press

American military helicopters came under fire from Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in the Red Sea on Sunday morning and shot back, sinking three Houthi boats and killing those aboard, U.S. Central Command said.


The episode was a significant escalation in the Houthis’ attacks in the Red Sea, where they have launched dozens of missile and drone assaults against commercial ships in response to Israel’s war against another Iran-backed group, Hamas. It was the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began that the Yemen-based Houthis have been known to directly target U.S. forces, which have been deployed to the region to protect vessels transiting a crucial waterway for global shipping.


The clash occurred after a commercial container ship was attacked by Houthi fighters in small boats and issued a distress call, prompting U.S. Navy helicopters to respond, the American military said.


“In the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats fired upon the U.S. helicopters with crew-served weapons and small arms,” Central Command said in a statement on social media. “The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews.”


In recent months, American forces have launched retaliatory attacks in Syria and Iraq against Iran-backed militias that have targeted U.S. troops, and the Pentagon has acknowledged that militants were killed in at least one of those strikes. But the U.S. military has not struck directly at the Houthis in Yemen, where they control a large swath of the country’s north, wary of an escalation that could cause the war in Gaza to further inflame the Middle East.


In early December, the destroyer U.S.S. Carney shot down three drones during a sustained Houthi attack on commercial ships in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said. One of the drones was headed in the direction of the Carney, though it was not clear at the time if the destroyer was the intended target.


The incident on Sunday involved a container ship operated by the shipping giant Maersk, which was transiting the southern Red Sea when it came under attack by Houthis, according to statements by Central Command and by Maersk.


The container ship, the Maersk Hangzhou, reported that it had been struck by a missile at about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, when it was about 55 nautical miles southwest of Hudaydah, Yemen. The crew “observed a flash on the deck,” Maersk said in an emailed statement.


Two American vessels responded to the ship’s distress call, and one of them, the U.S.S. Gravely, a destroyer, “shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the ships,” Central Command said on social media.


No injuries were reported, and Maersk said that its vessel had continued traveling north.


Then, on Sunday morning, four small boats piloted by Houthis attacked the Maersk ship, getting to within about 20 yards of the vessel, and they attempted to board it, Central Command said in its subsequent statement. It said that security officers had opened fire from the container vessel, which issued another distress call, and that U.S. helicopters from the Gravely and the U.S.S. Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, flew to the scene, where they came under fire from the Houthis.


The U.S. military did not indicate how it knew that the crew members of the three boats it sank had died. The fourth boat fled the area, Central Command said, adding that no U.S. personnel were harmed and no equipment was damaged in the episode.


The clash came just days after Maersk said that it was resuming voyages through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. For about a week before that announcement, the company’s ships had been avoiding the area because of safety concerns.


On Sunday, Maersk said in an emailed statement that it would pause “all transits through the area for the next 48 hours” as it investigates the attack and assesses security in the waterway. The crew of the Maersk Hangzhou, which was traveling from Singapore to Port Suez, was safe, the company said.


The attack was the 23rd by the Houthis in about six weeks, according to the United States. The incidents have prompted some companies to avoid the Red Sea, rerouting their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, pushing up shipping rates even as the longer voyages increase delays.


There was no immediate statement on the incident from the Houthis. A Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, recently said that the group would continue its attacks “until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”


The United States announced this month that it had set up a naval task force to try to ensure safe passage for commercial ships in the Red Sea. The members of the security initiative, called Operation Prosperity Guardian, include Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.



12) Netanyahu Vows ‘Absolute Victory’ Over Hamas

By Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem, Dec.31, 2023


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, center, in Tel Aviv on Sunday. Credit...Pool photo by Abir Sultan

Rebuffing growing international pressure to stop the fighting in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel vowed on Saturday to continue until “absolute victory.”


The goal requires more time, he said at a televised prime-time news conference. Echoing the words of his military chief of staff, he added, “The war will last for many more months.”


Mr. Netanyahu appeared alone, without members of his war cabinet, and sought to reassure Israelis that he was determined to complete the stated mission of eliminating Hamas and freeing the remaining hostages being held in Gaza.


As casualties in Gaza continue to rise, Israel has come under increasing international pressure to cease the hostilities. Its closest ally, the United States, has been urging Israel to scale back its military operations and move to a more precise campaign that would exact fewer civilian casualties and ease the humanitarian crisis in Hamas-run Gaza.


About 20,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed in the war prompted by a Hamas-led assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Gaza health ministry. About 1,200 people were killed in the surprise attack, Israeli officials say, and of the about 240 people abducted to Gaza, 129 remain there.


After days of escalating clashes along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and its boundary with Syria, Mr. Netanyahu warned Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia acting in solidarity with Hamas, that if it broadened its attacks against Israel, it and Iran would “absorb blows that it has not dreamed of.”


Mr. Netanyahu said he appreciated the support of the Biden administration, reflected in its decision on Friday to fast-track additional supplies of weaponry to Israel.


The prime minister added that everywhere he goes in Israel, “I hear the same words: ‘Continue — don’t stop.’ ”



13) ZAKA is not a trustworthy source for allegations of sexual violence on October 7

ZAKA is one of the leading organizations alleging Hamas atrocities on October 7. But the organization’s volunteers have systematically given false testimonies, and continue repeating them to journalists on behalf of the Israeli government.



Volunteers from ZAKA in Kibbutz BE’ERI, October 12, 2023. (Photo: AVI Ohayon/Israel National Photo Collection)

Many of the reports in Israeli and international media networks — including CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, and many others — that accuse Palestinians of committing systematic wide-scale gender-based violence against Israeli women on October 7, 2023, rely on testimonies by Israeli ZAKA volunteers.


ZAKA is a non-governmental religious Haredi organization specializing in collecting dead bodies and body parts from sites of “unnatural” deaths and transporting them to morgues according to strict Jewish religious laws. 


The organization was founded in the late 1990s by Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. Meshi-Zahav was previously the leader of “Keshet,” an ultra-Orthodox Jewish terrorist group that targeted forensic pathologists and used explosives against shops selling “secular newspapers.” Meshi-Zahav led ZAKA until 2021, when he attempted suicide after shocking revelations of dozens of rape and sexual assault cases committed by him. Since its inception, the organization — described as a “militia” by the highly esteemed Israeli journalist Yigal Sarna — has been subject to incessant criticism, investigations, and demands to dismantle it.



The testimonies provided by ZAKA’s members — all men, most of whom are volunteers — on sexual violence on October 7 are based on their interpretation of what they claim to have seen on bodies they collected after the attack. Not only do these men lack the professional qualifications to make such assessments (they are not medical experts), but their testimonies also lack details: no age, no location, and no time. Details and/or evidence have not even been given to journalists who have asked to see them while reporting on these testimonies. This means that it is impossible to either confirm or debunk them. 


In other words, the organization’s testimonies hold no value unless one blindly trusts what its men say.


Since October 7, ZAKA has been playing a key role in Israel’s orchestrated propaganda campaign, spreading fake news and vague information in the service of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. Looking closely into ZAKA reveals that the organization and its volunteers lack credibility. In fact, a significant part of their testimonies has been proven to be fabrications.


“We need to buy time, which we also buy by turning to world leaders and to public opinion. You have an important role in influencing public opinion…[ZAKA testimonies] give us the maneuvering room.“

—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ZAKA teams.


For those familiar with the organization, this is consistent with the organization’s questionable reputation. The organization has a troubled and problematic history that further undermines its legitimacy and credibility, from involvement in massive cases of sexual violence and silencing victims to financial corruption and the exploitation of tragic deaths to enhance its media appearance and grow its financial resources.


ZAKA’s reputation for spreading fake news has been known since its early years of activity. As the Israeli Army Radio correspondent in Jerusalem stated back in 2002, “ZAKA sends everything: what happened, what they think happened, and what didn’t happen as well. We verify everything, but they fulfill our need to know as quickly as possible…in the past, they sent numerous pieces of news that turned out to be lies.” 


Vital role in government propaganda


On November 12, 2023, the Israeli website Ynet published a report about how ZAKA was recruited to join Israel’s hasbara campaigns on the events of October 7, and conducted interviews with dozens of foreign journalists coordinated through the Government Press Office. Hasbara is the Israeli term for “public diplomacy” or government propaganda campaigns.


The director of the GPO, Nitzan Hein, stated, “It is difficult to imagine the Israeli hasbara with foreign correspondents without the remarkable, valuable, and effective role of ZAKA’s men. Their activity is extremely important in hasbara.”


ZAKA also closely collaborates with the National Hasbara Headquarters in the Prime Minister’s office. One of the employees in the headquarters told Ynet how the state “worked on cementing the narrative that Hamas equals ISIS and enhancing the state’s legitimacy for a very forceful response…ZAKA’s men’s testimonies have shocked and exposed, in front of the correspondents, the kind of human monsters we are dealing with.”


On November 23, 2023, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the organization’s teams. The meeting revolved around their role in Israeli propaganda. The Prime Minister heard from the volunteers “about their public diplomacy activity in Israel and the world” and urged them to intensify their efforts, as they are important for legitimizing and extending the timeframe of the war: 


“But we need to buy time, which we also buy by turning to world leaders and to public opinion. You have an important role in influencing public opinion, which also influences leaders. We are in a war; it will continue. The war is not only to take care of the 1,400 people…but also to give us the maneuvering room.”

“Non-governmental” organization


ZAKA utilizes its official designation as a “non-governmental” body to present itself as credible, and it is this supposedly independent status and ostensible lack of politicization that gives it particular legitimacy — by the organization’s own admission. For instance, one spokesperson for ZAKA told Ynet, “Being a voluntary organization without a political agenda leads to openness and more receptiveness…our testimonies are fully accepted as if they are dealing with an international humanitarian volunteer or a doctor.” 


In practice, the status of ZAKA is more complex in terms of both function and legal status. This complexity makes disseminating fake news effective while allowing them to evade responsibility. 


ZAKA is technically a non-governmental organization, but it enjoys significant governmental funding, working in full coordination with security and rescue forces. Indeed, ZAKA is recognized by the state as the only entity responsible for dealing with dead bodies in “unnatural” deaths.


In terms of political agenda, ZAKA is open about operating from and being guided by Zionist ideological objectives.


According to Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, ZAKA is also “acting as an arm for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” and “Ideologically, we are a nationalist organization seeking to integrate the Haredi public within Zionism.”


In 2015, the Israel Medicine Association issued guidelines regarding “mass casualty incidents” and how to prioritize the order of medical attention according to the injury severity following objective medical standards. In response, ZAKA’s “operation unit commander” stated that “he puts aside medical consideration and decisions are made on who deserves treatment based on whether they are Jewish.” This policy was dictated by the religious ruling by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who said during the discussion: “If it’s clear he is an Arab, don’t save him.” 


A fake medical image and a track record of false testimonies


ZAKA’s men deceivingly draw on a false image of medical credibility, which is designed to make their testimonies trustworthy.


However, the organization’s volunteers lack any medical or healthcare qualifications, and its members are not qualified to infer or confirm any medical or forensic assessment of the bodies. ZAKA men are solely trained to recover and collect dead bodies according to strict religious laws, to ensure the dignity of the deceased, and to prepare bodies for burial.


Most of the so-called witnesses who were interviewed by media work in industry and commerce. Furthermore, as an orthodox Haredi organization, it has a radical religious position against autopsies and forensic procedures. In fact, it is within the organization’s official mandate to work to prevent autopsies, and the organization takes legal action to prevent having to comply with the state’s requests for forensic autopsies.


This murky position between governmental and non-governmental, medical and non-medical, facilitates ZAKA’s ability to lie without bearing responsibility. 


In early December, when an investigation by Haaretz uncovered several lies propagated by the organization’s men since October 7, ZAKA’s official response was: “ZAKA volunteers are not medical experts and do not have the professional means to identify the deceased, ascertain their age, or declare the manner in which they were killed…due to the difficult condition of the bodies, it’s possible that volunteers misinterpreted what they saw.” 


Among ZAKA’s lies, Haaretz listed a falsehood about the “bodies of twenty children with severed heads,” “piles of burned children,” and a “pregnant woman’s stomach ripped open, and her fetus stabbed.” It is hard to conceive of all these false testimonies as accidental “misinterpretations.”


Simcha Greiniman’s testimonies


In early December 2023, Israeli organizations held a session at the United Nations on the allegations of sexual assault on October 7. One of ZAKA’s men, Simcha Greiniman, spoke and was identified by some media outlets as the organization’s foreign media spokesperson. His testimony was featured in a position paper by Physicians for Human Rights Israel on gender-based violence on October 7. 


A settler from the illegal “Modi’in Illit” settlement on the lands of the Palestinian villages Bil’in, Ni’lin, and Saffa, Greiniman’s main profession is carpentry, but he takes pride in his media performance: “They say I do a good job. When I sit in front of a foreign journalist, even if he is anti-Israel, I can make him cry,” Greiniman told Ynet. 


This was evident in his testimony to the United Nations. His speech was emotionally intense. He delivered it very slowly, interrupted by sips of water, holding back tears, and struggling with speech. However, while the testimony focused on three different alleged cases, he gave zero concrete details that can be confirmed or disproven. 


While it is understandable that he did not mention the victims’ names, he omitted other details that could have been mentioned for credibility, such as their ages, the name of the town where he saw these bodies or the time of finding them. In one case, he couldn’t even discern if the victim was male or female.


One might assume that Greiniman accidentally omitted these details due to his intense emotions. However, this was a premeditated decision: the British news website iNews published an interview where he presented the same testimony. When asked about the name of the kibbutz from which he described one of the scenes, he refused to answer. Any possible reason? 


Previous false testimony exposed


Previously, Greiniman presented a horrifying story about two burnt bodies of children found under the rubble of a house in Kibbutz Be’eri. This story first appeared in a long interview with Greiniman on October 19, 2023, spanning two pages in a local Haredi newspaper. No further details about the incident were mentioned there.


Later, he repeated the story twice, but the story evolved in its details. On November 7, in an interview with the Haredi site “Kikar Shabbat,” he added that the age of the first child was 5 or 6 years old. 


As for the second child, whose age was not specified, he claimed the child was found with a large knife lodged in his face. The next day, former minister Ayelet Shaked posted a video of Greiniman stating that the second child was 3-4 years old.


According to Israeli lists, the closest ages of the deceased children in Be’eri are either 12 years old or 10 months old, and there are no children matching the ages mentioned by Greiniman. 


Furthermore, in the case of Be’eri, several testimonies by survivors have confirmed intense battles, with survivor Yasmin Porat testifying that the 10-month-old infant was killed by a shell from an Israeli tank amid gunfire exchanges. However, in his testimony, Greiniman stated that when he entered Be’eri, he “did not find any signs of fighting whatsoever.”


Baseless data


Several pieces of strange information emerge in ZAKA interviews. For instance, Greiniman reiterated in one of his interviews that “85% of the bodies of women arriving at the morgue were naked.” 


Despite the hundreds of workers at the Shura Military Morgue, this detail has not been repeated anywhere. Some have spoken about the presence of “some” or “many” naked bodies, but no one came close to describing the quantity and proportion as Greiniman did.


Another official from ZAKA, Yossi Landau, claimed that “80% of the bodies showed signs of torture.” In another interview, the same official said, “70% of the bodies were shot from behind.” Later, he said that “80% were shot in the back.” None of the statistics above was ever officially stated or confirmed.


Another baseless claim is Greiniman’s testimony that they found in the pockets of Hamas fighters’ bodies foreign ID cards that prove “the fighters came from different countries.”


Greiniman also claims to have seen a video in which Hamas fighters killed Gazan workers who worked with permits inside Israel. Greiniman assured the interviewer that the fighters “knew they were from Gaza” because “the car plate was Palestinian…and you cannot mistake a person from Gaza. Their appearance is different from Israelis, even from Israeli Arabs, the mentality is different.”


This is another baseless lie. Apart from the racist assessment that “their appearance is different, the mentality is different,” there is no video showing such an incident. Moreover, Gazan workers are not allowed to enter Israel with cars, and Palestinian car plate numbers are generally not permitted in Israel, except in very rare cases of businesspersons and VIP permits.


In the same interview and others, Greiniman asserts that he has photos proving everything he says. He challenges anyone in doubt to come to Israel to personally show them the photos. However, in his interview with the Times of Israel on November 9, 2023, he was asked about the photos and replied: “I don’t have one picture in my phone.” 


Times of Israel reports that Greiniman claims that “some emergency workers did photograph other scenes and sent pictures directly to official authorities.” They, however, add that: “The Times of Israel was not able to obtain images from various government sources.”


Yossi Landau, another source of fake news


The earliest mentions by ZAKA members of rape allegations appeared in the testimonies of Yossi Landau, a central figure in the organization who made multiple international media appearances. His testimony was also endorsed, without any verification of authenticity, by Physicians for Human Rights Israel in their report that accuses Palestinians of using sexual violence as a weapon of war.


Similar to Greiniman, Landau has also been discovered to have disseminated fake news. On December 3, 2023, Haaretz published a report detailing several false testimonies disseminated by Israeli entities, confirming Landau’s personal responsibility for propagating some of these fake stories.


Among Landau’s lies was the myth of “dozens of beheaded children,” a claim that was refuted. Another reported lie was about the piles of children’s bodies burned together, a narrative that he repeated time and again, likening it to the Holocaust.


Landau also claimed, while crying in front of foreign reporters, to have seen “a pregnant woman, her abdomen ripped open, with the fetus outside her womb tied by the umbilical cord, and the fetus itself stabbed with a knife.” This has also proven to be a fabrication. Haaretz refuted any knowledge of a similar known case and interviewed the residents of the kibbutz, who denied the existence of such a case or even of a pregnant woman among their neighbors.


Landau’s lies shouldn’t come as a surprise. In a conversation with foreign journalists, he said, “When we go into a house, we use our imagination. The bodies were telling us stories that happened, that’s what happened.” 


Disturbingly, despite being proven to be a pathological liar, Landau’s testimonies are still cited in PHRI publications and are circulating in major international media networks, including The New York Times‘ latest report on “how Hamas weaponized sexual violence on Oct. 7”.


In the Times article,  Landau claims that ZAKA volunteers are not allowed to take pictures. Other volunteers, such as Haim Otmezgin and Simcha Greiniman, assured reporters that they have photos. The Times report also says that ZAKA volunteers “inadvertently” destroyed evidence. Sources in the Israeli army claimed this happened when ZAKA members changed the body bags to take photos of the bodies in bags bearing their logo.


Haim Otmezgin defending rape victims?


The head of ZAKA’s “special unit,” Haim Otmezgin, testified on November 30 in front of the “Women’s Affairs Committee” in the Israeli Parliament.


The Israeli press widely covered the testimony, which was endorsed by many Israeli women’s organizations. When he posted the video of his testimony in parliament on his Facebook page, he wrote: “The world needs to know in order to support us and enable us to accomplish the task.”


Like other testimonies by ZAKA’s men, his testimony lacked information and repeated false stories (beheaded babies, again). Otmezgin claims to “possess photos” of “a naked woman with a sharp object stuck in her crotch.” Nearly two months into the propaganda campaign, not a single journalist reported seeing these pictures. This isn’t the first time he has claimed to have evidence unseen by anyone else.


Since we are left to believe Otmezign’s words with no evidence to back them up, we must question his credibility.


Otmezgin is a reserve soldier in the Israeli army and the owner of a human resources company. His name appeared in the press earlier this year after his participation in the Israeli rescue team following the earthquake in Turkey. Upon his return, Turkish authorities opened an investigation against him, accusing him of stealing and smuggling from Turkey into Israel an antique manuscript from “the Book of Esther” found under the rubble.


But when it comes to believing Otmezgin, one must consider his connection to ZAKA’s founder, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.


ZAKA leaders and the silencing of rape victims


In 2021, two investigative reports shook Israel. The first appeared in Haaretz newspaper, followed by TV reportage by the investigative news program Uvda. Both presented testimonies from victims of sexual assaults committed by the ZAKA founder over decades against both males and females, including children from the age of 12 and adults. The victims confirmed that those sexual crimes were widely known in Meshi-Zahav’s surroundings, likely also to Otmezgin, who was one of his closest trusted friends and worked alongside him for over 25 years.


Otmezgin publicly defended Meshi-Zahav, even after a series of testimonies emerged: “I recently spoke to him, asked how he’s facing the case, how he spends these days, supported him, and we talked about faith matters. Anyone who knows him knows he cannot harm any person.”


But Haim Otmezgin wasn’t the sole supporter of Meshi-Zahav. The ZAKA leadership, which is still in power, provided full support for him as well. Meshi-Zahav, according to evidence, used the organization’s funds, volunteer cards, and other properties for his criminal acts. In one of the first testimonies that emerged in Haaretz, a woman recounted how Meshi-Zahav threatened her during the rape: “If you utter a word, a ZAKA truck will run you over.” 


Once the police investigation began, investigators announced they planned to interrogate the organization’s leadership on suspicions of silencing victims and concealing evidence. With Meshi-Zahav’s suicide, the file was closed.


In June 2023, Channel 12 revealed that the ZAKA organization, using donation funds, hired a private investigation office to track and gather smearing information about Isaac Weinhaus, an Orthodox Jewish activist working to expose sexual violence in the community. Weinhaus was one of the figures who contributed to breaking the silence surrounding Meshi-Zahav.


The fact that women’s organizations are now endorsing the statements of ZAKA leadership and demanding the world to blindly believe Meshi-Zahav’s defenders when it comes to the events of October 7 is not only absurd and cynical but is indicative of how deep anti-Palestinian racism runs.