Today, January 14, 1:00 P.M.
Oscar Grant Plaza
14th and Broadway
We are all Palestinian
Listen and view this beautiful, powerful, song by Mistahi Corkill on YouTube at:
Here is my new song and music video, We are all Palestinian, linked below. If you find it inspiring, please feel free to share with others. All the best!
We are all Palestinian
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
For More Information:
Production of Labor Video Project
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!
FREE HIM NOW!
Write to Mumia at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733
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.
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
Updates From Kevin Cooper
A Never-ending Constitutional Violation
A summary of the current status of Kevin Cooper’s case by the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee
On October 26, 2023, the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP wrote a rebuttal in response to the Special Counsel's January 13, 2023 report upholding the conviction of their client Kevin Cooper. A focus of the rebuttal was that all law enforcement files were not turned over to the Special Counsel during their investigation, despite a request for them to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.
On October 29, 2023, Law Professors Lara Bazelon and Charlie Nelson Keever, who run the six member panel that reviews wrongful convictions for the San Francisco County District Attorney's office, published an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle calling the "Innocence Investigation” done by the Special Counsel in the Cooper case a “Sham Investigation” largely because Cooper has unsuccessfully fought for years to obtain the police and prosecutor files in his case. This is a Brady claim, named for the U.S. Supreme court’s 1963 case establishing the Constitutional rule that defendants are entitled to any information in police and prosecutor's possession that could weaken the state's case or point to innocence. Brady violations are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Special Counsel's report faults Cooper for not offering up evidence of his own despite the fact that the best evidence to prove or disprove Brady violations or other misconduct claims are in those files that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office will not turn over to the Special Counsel or to Cooper's attorneys.
On December 14, 2023, the president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Mary Smith, sent Governor Gavin Newsom a three page letter on behalf of the ABA stating in part that Mr.Cooper's counsel objected to the state's failure to provide Special Counsel all documents in their possession relating to Mr.Cooper's conviction, and that concerns about missing information are not new. For nearly 40 years Mr.Cooper's attorneys have sought this same information from the state.
On December 19, 2023, Bob Egelko, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about the ABA letter to the Governor that the prosecutors apparently withheld evidence from the Governor's legal team in the Cooper case.
These are just a few recent examples concerning the ongoing failure of the San Bernardino County District Attorney to turn over to Cooper's attorney's the files that have been requested, even though under the law and especially the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney of San Bernardino county is required to turn over to the defendant any and all material and or exculpatory evidence that they have in their files. Apparently, they must have something in their files because they refuse to turn them over to anyone.
The last time Cooper's attorney's received files from the state, in 2004, it wasn't from the D.A. but a Deputy Attorney General named Holly Wilkens in Judge Huff's courtroom. Cooper's attorneys discovered a never before revealed police report showing that a shirt was discovered that had blood on it and was connected to the murders for which Cooper was convicted, and that the shirt had disappeared. It had never been tested for blood. It was never turned over to Cooper's trial attorney, and no one knows where it is or what happened to it. Cooper's attorneys located the woman who found that shirt on the side of the road and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. She was called to Judge Huff's court to testify about finding and reporting that shirt to law enforcement. That shirt was the second shirt found that had blood on it that was not the victims’ blood. This was in 2004, 19 years after Cooper's conviction.
It appears that this ongoing constitutional violation that everyone—from the Special Counsel to the Governor's legal team to the Governor himself—seems to know about, but won't do anything about, is acceptable in order to uphold Cooper's conviction.
But this type of thing is supposed to be unacceptable in the United States of America where the Constitution is supposed to stand for something other than a piece of paper with writing on it. How can a Governor, his legal team, people who support and believe in him ignore a United States citizen’s Constitutional Rights being violated for 40 years in order to uphold a conviction?
This silence is betrayal of the Constitution. This permission and complicity by the Governor and his team is against everything that he and they claim to stand for as progressive politicians. They have accepted the Special Counsel's report even though the Special Counsel did not receive the files from the district attorney that may not only prove that Cooper is innocent, but that he was indeed framed by the Sheriff’s Department; and that evidence was purposely destroyed and tampered with, that certain witnesses were tampered with, or ignored if they had information that would have helped Cooper at trial, that evidence that the missing shirt was withheld from Cooper's trial attorney, and so much more.
Is the Governor going to get away with turning a blind eye to this injustice under his watch?
Are progressive people going to stay silent and turn their eyes blind in order to hopefully get him to end the death penalty for some while using Cooper as a sacrificial lamb?
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
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974
Call California Governor Newsom:
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)
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:
Sign the petition:
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
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) Murder on the U.S./Israel Express
By Bonnie Weinstein, Jan. 12, 2024
We may never know the total number of deaths in Gaza because it will take going through all the rubble created by Israeli bombs trying to match body parts to living families through DNA testing, and some of the dead have no living families left. This horrendous and unconscionable death and destruction was made possible by U.S. bombs provided to Israel with our tax dollars. It has become impossible to keep track of the dead in Gaza.
This is a massacre, a genocide—an immeasurable crime against humanity that dwarfs the horrific Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
Gaza will never be the same. The entire infrastructure has been destroyed—homes, schools, hospitals, power plants, water filtration stations, bakeries—all blown to bits with bodies still buried under the rubble.
An entire generation of Palestinian children and their families—those who have survived—will have to bear the burden of the terror and destruction they have experienced at the hands of the Israel and the U.S. for the rest of their lives.
In the meantime, Israel will continue its war with the full support of the U.S. until the Palestinian and Israeli working class together—with the support of workers across the world—demand an end to apartheid, an end to the separate Jewish state—and establish a free, democratic, and secular Palestine with equal rights for all.
This is the only solution to ending this continuous Israeli bloodbath against Palestinians that has been going on since before 1948.
Israel is an apartheid government
According to Amnesty International:
“The Palestinian experience of being denied a home is at the heart of Israel’s apartheid system…. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, successive governments have created and maintained a system of laws, policies, and practices designed to oppress and dominate Palestinians.
According to Human Rights Watch:
“About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. ...Israel is the sole governing power; in the remainder, it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-rule. Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas…these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
The U.S. media coverup of Israeli-Zionist racism and apartheid
The U.S. media consistently uses subtle language to reinforce the Israeli portrayal of Palestinians as less than human—reinforcing Netanyahu’s 2019 statement that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them.”
In two separate articles on the same day in the New York Times, different language was used to describe Israeli and Palestinian hostages. Israeli hostages were referred to as women and children while Palestinian hostages were referred to as women and minors or teenagers, just as 12-year-old Tamer Rice was referred to as a young Black man after being shot to death November 22, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio, by 26-year-old white police officer, Timothy Loehmann, within seconds after his arrival on the scene.
The following quotes use different language when describing Israelis and Palestinians in the New York Times:”
“…the release of hostages from Gaza, nearly all of them women and children, in exchange for the discharge of Palestinian women and minors from Israeli prisons…”
And in a different article:
“Anwar and his cousin, Mourad Atta, 17, are among the 180 Palestinian teenagers and women freed from Israeli prisons in recent days, the largest such release of prisoners and detainees in more than a decade. Their freedom is part of a deal in which the Palestinians were traded for 81 hostages, many of them children, captured during the Hamas-led terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7.”
Racism and apartheid are an essential part of capitalist rule across the globe—in Israeli-occupied Palestine and here in the USA.
Being anti-apartheid is not antisemitic
Calling for the end of Israel as a separate Jewish state and opposing Zionism, which upholds the separate Jewish state, is not antisemitism. The Zionist state of Israel not only brutally occupies Palestinian territory but enforces laws that deem Arabs and Palestinians second-class citizens—and, to the extreme—less than human. It is not antisemitic to oppose apartheid.
Governments that have separate laws and rights that allow people of one religion, race, sex, or class to legally oppress people of another religion, race, sex, or class is an apartheid government—and it’s an international crime against freedom, equal rights, and democracy.
All Israeli territory—established by the forcible removal of the indigenous Arab population in 1948—including the Occupied West Bank and Gaza—is Israeli military occupied territory.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF)—funded by U.S. tax dollars from the U.S. working class—enforces the separate laws designed to oppress and subjugate Palestinians.
The Israeli army, by law, has the right to incarcerate Palestinians indefinitely without being charged. Any Israeli settler has the right to confiscate the land that Palestinian families have lived on for generations.
If a Palestinian family tries to resist the takeover of their land by an Israeli settler, the IDF will be called to assist the Israeli settler. Palestinians do not have the legal right to own land in the Occupied Territories.
In Israel, the legal system for Jewish citizens is enforced by the Israeli judicial system—including the right to legal counsel, the courts, and police protection. Jewish Israelis certainly cannot be held indefinitely without charge and are not judged, jailed, and condemned by Israel’s military courts. They can also own land—if they can afford it.
How the Israeli “military courts” run by the Israeli Defense Force works.
In a December 2, 2023, New York Times daily update-article by Elena Shao, Karen Zraick, Anushka Patil and Gaya Gupta, titled, “Here is a breakdown of the 240 Palestinians Israel released during the pause in fighting,” they describe how IDF “justice” works:
“Israel detained all of the people on the list [the Palestinian prisoners who were released] for what it said were offenses related to Israel’s security, from throwing stones to more serious accusations like supporting terrorism and attempted murder. More than half of the cases were being prosecuted in Israeli military courts, which try Palestinians in the occupied West Bank but not Israeli settlers who live there. Nearly all Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are convicted, and those accused of security offenses can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. …There were 107 teenagers under 18, including three girls. Another 66 teenagers were 18 years old. The oldest person released was a 64-year-old woman.”
Opposing a separate Jewish apartheid state that systematically oppresses Palestinian people because of their religion and race is not antisemitic, it’s anti-apartheid.
Hatred of Jewish people because of their religion is antisemitism and must not be tolerated anywhere—just as racism, sexism and classicism must not be tolerated.
Capitalism champions all forms of oppression and divisions among workers
Capitalism itself is an apartheid, racist, sexist and classist system of oppression by the wealthy elite over the masses of working people—we who create the wealth in the world. And the U.S. is the most militarily powerful, and at the top of that list worldwide.
Laws that govern all capitalist countries are designed and enforced by the capitalist class to oppress the masses by whatever means available to them including war, economic instability, and racism.
Corporations and the wealthy have the resources to hire banks of lawyers to protect their economic interests. They pay into capitalist campaign funds (they routinely donate to all capitalist candidates to ensure all candidates’ allegiances are to them.)
They make the laws that allow corporations to raise prices any time they want while also raising interest rates on credit cards and bank loans. They raise prices on the necessities of life—food, housing, education, and healthcare that workers need to survive.
With their great wealth, the capitalist class controls the police, the courts, and the military.
They rule through the threat of nuclear annihilation at the press of a button. U.S. capitalism, especially, thrives on social injustice pitting workers of all colors, religious beliefs, gender, and sexual preference against each other.
Under capitalism, the only rights workers have is the right to vote for one wealthy capitalist candidate over another. We do not even have the right to a job—that is always up to the capitalist class. Any rights workers do have, have been won by long, hard struggles of workers against capitalist exploitation.
A free and democratic society with equal rights for all is a necessity if we are to survive.
The fight for social justice everywhere must be the cause of a united, worldwide movement of the working class organizing and acting in our own collective defense against capitalist rule—the rule of a tiny elite over the masses of humanity by the threat of death and the destruction of the entire planet.
Fighting against the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestine must become the rallying cry of organized labor in every country.
A united party of the working class worldwide organizing against capitalist aggression, expropriation and domination of Palestine and the world is the only power strong enough to finally end capitalism’s rampage against the world’s working class.
In a December 1, 2023, article in Common Dreams by Jake Johnson, titled, “UAW Becomes Largest U.S. Union to Back Gaza Cease-Fire:”
“Fresh off historic contract victories, the United Auto Workers on December 1, 2023, became the largest U.S. union to endorse a cease-fire in Gaza as Israel resumed its bombardment of the Palestinian territory following a weeklong pause. … Dozens of unions have signed onto a petition launched by the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, which demands the release of all hostages, an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza, and a cease-fire that sets the stage for ‘negotiations for an enduring peace.’”
This new resistance against Israel’s relentless killing and destruction in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank is a step forward for labor in the U.S. But it is far short of what is needed to put an end to capitalism’s relentless war on humanity for profit’s sake, which is what this war against Palestine is all about. It’s about who controls the Middle East, its oil, resources, and people.
The U.S. will stop at nothing to maintain their nuclear domination in the Middle East and in the world. That is why they are giving billions to Israel to drive the Palestinians from their homeland and commit genocide against them if they don’t get out of their way.
A democratic, secular world with equal rights for all
A united working class has the power to make the fundamental changes in the world that could bring an end to war. Workers are coming to the realization that capitalism and its relentless pursuit of increasing rates of profits cannot continue without more war, poverty, and oppression everywhere.
Labor’s next step is to work within our communities and our organizations to stop capitalism’s descent back into barbarism leading to the increased threat of nuclear annihilation.
It is capitalism’s pursuit of profits that fuels war and oppression. That is their modus operandi to keep masses of workers from realizing our real power—unity and solidarity in the struggle against capitalism and for socialism. If not, capitalism will continue to profit from war while we workers die, whether we are the targets of their bombs, or their cannon fodder. And the rich will get richer.
A party of, by and for the working class is the only viable solution.
A democratically organized and structured party of the working class in opposition to all capitalist parties must be formed—and it will take the united leadership and rank-and-file of daring labor organizations like the UAW to take the lead and break with the Democratic and Republican parties—because they are parties of the capitalist class.
Labor en masse must finally acknowledge that the capitalist class—with its finger on the button—is the enemy of all life on the planet.
Workers need to form a party of our own that represents our interests—to build a world democratically controlled by the majority, based upon social and economic equality and justice. The world’s working class has the power of our numbers and our labor to make war obsolete and make democratic cooperation our modus operandi. It’s called socialism.
2) U.S. Strikes Against Houthis in Yemen for Second Day, as Conflict Escalates
The military fired at a target in response to rising attacks on Red Sea shipping, which the Houthis linked to the war between Israel and Hamas.
By Vivian Nereim, Helene Cooper and Thomas Fuller, Published Jan. 12, 2024, Updated Jan. 13, 2024
A protest in Sana, Yemen, on Friday against the operation to safeguard Red Sea shipping with U.S. and British airstrikes on Houthi military sites. Credit...Yahya Arhab/EPA, via Shutterstock
The United States carried out another strike against the Houthi militia in Yemen, the U.S. Central Command said on Friday night, bombing a radar facility as part of an effort to further degrade the Iran-backed group’s ability to attack ships transiting the Red Sea.
It was the second straight day that the U.S. military fired on a Houthi target, after an American-led barrage of military strikes early Friday local time that was aimed at securing critical shipping routes between Europe and Asia. The strikes come amid fears of a wider escalation of the conflict in the Middle East.
The strike, carried out at 3:45 a.m. Saturday local time by the U.S.S. Carney using Tomahawk missiles, was “a follow-on action on a specific military target,” the Central Command said in a statement posted on social media. A Pentagon official said on Friday night that the strike was meant to further the job begun by the widespread coordinated air and naval assault on a number of Houthi targets in Yemen the night before.
Houthi forces in Yemen vowed earlier on Friday to retaliate for the previous strikes, which involved missiles and warplanes launched by the United States and Britain, and came in response to intensifying attacks on commercial vessels and warships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthi militia, which has said it was acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of the U.S. military’s Joint Staff, told reporters on a conference call before the new strike that the Pentagon was more than ready for a response from the Houthis.
“I would expect that they will attempt some sort of retaliation,” said General Sims, adding that doing so would be a mistake. “We simply are not going to be messed with here.”
A military spokesman for the Houthis, Yahya Saree, said in a social media post on Friday that the U.S.-led strikes would “not go unanswered and unpunished.” He said the earlier strikes had killed at least five members of the Houthi forces, an armed group that controls northern Yemen, including the capital, Sana.
The response on Friday from the Houthis, however, was a single anti-ship missile lobbed harmlessly into the Red Sea, far from any passing vessel, General Sims said.
John Kirby, a White House spokesman, said on Friday that the strikes, ordered by President Biden, had not been intended to ignite a wider regional war.
“We’re not interested in a war with Yemen — we’re not interested in a conflict of any kind,” he said. “In fact, everything the president has been doing has been trying to prevent any escalation of conflict, including the strikes last night.”
Mr. Kirby said that everything that the United States hit was a “valid, legitimate military target.”
American and British forces on Friday fired more than 150 missiles and bombs at several dozen targets in Yemen, chosen specifically to damage the Houthis’ ability to imperil shipping — weapons storage areas, radars and missile and drone launch sites — U.S. officials said. The strikes marked the first Western assault after repeated warnings by the United States and its allies that the Houthis and Iran must halt the attacks at sea or face consequences, only to see them increase.
More than 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea, causing weeks of delays, American officials say. On Tuesday, American and British warships intercepted one of the largest barrages of Houthi drone and missile strikes yet, an assault that U.S. and other Western military officials said was the last straw.
Where U.S. and Allies Attacked the Houthis in Yemen
Airstrikes were carried out against targets linked to the Houthi militia, including airports, military bases and weapon storage areas.
Military analysts earlier on Friday were still assessing the results of the first barrage, but General Sims said the strikes had achieved their objective of damaging the Houthis’ ability to launch the kind of complex drone and missile attack they conducted on Tuesday.
U.S. and British forces hit more than 60 targets in 16 locations with more than 100 precision-guided munitions in the first wave of strikes, General Sims and other officials said. About 30 to 60 minutes later, a second wave hit dozens more targets in 12 additional locations with more than 50 weapons, they said.
Casualties were probably minimal because of the hour and the remote locations of many of the targets, General Sims said. He sidestepped questions about whether the Houthis had been able to move people and equipment out of harm’s way beforehand because of widespread news reports that the strikes were imminent.
The consequences of the tensions in the Red Sea have spread far beyond the Middle East. A number of commercial ships headed for the Suez Canal changed course after the American-led strikes. The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, a trade association, said shipping companies had been advised by the U.S.-led coalition to avoid the Bab al Mendab, the narrow strait at the mouth of the Red Sea, for “several days.”
The Suez Canal, which handles more than 20,000 ships a year, providing billions of dollars in transit fees for Egypt, has seen traffic slashed as hundreds of ships have diverted their journeys to avoid the canal and the Red Sea, taking the much longer route around the southern tip of Africa, adding from one to three weeks.
Mr. Biden, in confirming the initial attacks on Thursday night — Friday morning in Yemen — said 2,000 ships had been forced to divert since mid-November.
In the three months since the Houthis began attacking commercial ships, the price of shipping a standard 40-foot container between China and Northern Europe more than doubled to $4,000 from $1,500, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research organization.
The president called the first strikes a “clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes.”
British warplanes took part in the earlier strikes, and Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands provided logistics, intelligence and other support, according to U.S. officials.
The attacks prompted large protests in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, and even some American allies in the Arab world said they worried that the attacks would not deter the Houthis and could further inflame a region seething over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Oman, a U.S. ally that has mediated talks with the Houthis, criticized the first strikes and expressed its “deep concern.”
Saudi Arabia, which is wary of upending a fragile cease-fire in Yemen between the Houthis and the internationally recognized, Saudi-backed government, said it was following the situation in the Red Sea with “extreme concern.” After spending years and billions of dollars on Yemen’s civil war, the Saudis have sought to pull back from the conflict.
“The kingdom confirms the importance of protecting the security and stability of the Red Sea region,” the Saudi government said in a statement, adding a call for “self-restraint and avoiding escalation.”
Russia requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the U.S.-led strikes, according to a diplomat from France, which holds the rotating council presidency this month. The session was scheduled for Friday afternoon. On Wednesday, the Council adopted a resolution that condemned Houthi attacks in the Red Sea but did not authorize any action in response.
Analysts who study the Houthis said that the American-led airstrikes could play into the group’s agenda and might be unlikely to stop the group’s attacks.
“This was not a miscalculation by the Houthis,” said Hannah Porter, a senior research officer at ARK Group, a British company that works in international development. “This was the goal. They hope to see an expanded regional war, and they are eager to be on the front lines of that war.”
Within hours of the first wave of strikes, a senior Houthi official, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, said that the United States and Britain would soon realize that they had engaged in “the biggest folly in their history.”
The war in Gaza has catapulted the Houthis, whose ideology has long included hostility toward the United States and Israel, to unlikely prominence. Part of the group’s slogan is “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews.” Their attacks in the Red Sea and their support for the Palestinian cause have gained them popularity in the Arab world.
The group, which espouses a religious ideology inspired by a sect of Shiite Islam, has honed its military capabilities through years of civil war. In 2014, it took over Sana and repelled a Saudi-led coalition intended to oust it, deepening one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises while leaving the Houthis in power in northern Yemen. There, they have created an impoverished proto-state that they rule with an iron fist.
“They calculate that there aren’t many valuable targets that the U.S. and U.K. can strike, as the country is already in ruins,” said Abdullah Baabood, an Omani senior nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. “Therefore, they will not hesitate to keep testing the situation and escalating the conflict.”
The strikes could also help the Houthis with domestic politics, said Ibrahim Jalal, a Yemeni nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based research group. Direct confrontation with the West provides “another ‘foreign enemy’ pretext to distract the public from their failing rebel governance that does not deliver services,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Yemen have died from fighting, hunger and disease since a Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign in 2015, supported with American weapons and military assistance.
Aid groups and Yemeni analysts have warned that the new strikes, combined with the escalation in the Red Sea, could worsen the economic crisis in Yemen, increasing fuel and food costs and deepening hunger.
3) U.N. Warns Gaza Is Heading for Famine as Specter of Wider War Looms
Officials of the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen threatened to respond to American-led airstrikes over the past two days.
By Declan Walsh and Raja Abdulrahim, Jan. 13, 2024
Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Raja Abdulrahim from Jerusalem.
Palestinians preparing graves next to the border with Egypt, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday. Credit...Haitham Imad/EPA, via Shutterstock
The twin specters of a widening regional war and intensified suffering of civilians loomed over the Middle East on Saturday, as the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen threatened to respond to American airstrikes, and a day after a senior U.N. official warned of a “horrific” humanitarian crisis in Gaza that he said was hurtling toward famine.
An American missile strike, launched from a warship in the Red Sea, hit a radar station outside the Yemeni capital, Sana, early Saturday. The solitary strike came about 24 hours after a much wider barrage of U.S.-led strikes against nearly 30 sites in northern and western Yemen that were intended to deter Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Houthi officials tried to brush off the latest assault, saying it would have little impact on their ability to continue those attacks. Their stated goal is to punish Israel for blocking humanitarian aid into Gaza — though Yemeni analysts say the crisis also presents the Houthis with a welcome distraction from rising criticism at home.
The greater risk is likely borne by ordinary Yemenis, whose impoverished nation has been crushed by years of civil war, and who now face a high-stakes confrontation that imperils a fragile 20-month truce.
Some 21 million Yemenis, or two-thirds of the population, rely on aid to survive, in what the United Nations has called one of the world’s worst humanitarian calamities — a dubious distinction now shared by Gaza.
In northern Gaza, where a crippling three-month Israeli siege has hit hardest, corpses are left in the road and starving residents stop aid trucks “in search of anything they can get to survive,” Martin Griffiths, the top U.N. aid official, told the United Nations Security Council on Friday. Saying that the risk of famine in Gaza was “growing by the day,” he blamed Israel for repeated delays and denials of permission to humanitarian convoys bringing aid to the area.
Since Jan. 1, just three of 21 planned convoys intended for northern Gaza, carrying food, medicine and other essential supplies, have received Israeli permission to enter the area, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday. More supplies have been distributed in southern Gaza, near the two border crossings that are open during limited hours, but aid workers say vastly more than that is needed to meaningfully help Gazan civilians.
Qatar is mediating talks over a proposal for Israel to allow more medicines into Gaza in exchange for prescription medicines being sent to Israeli hostages held by Hamas, officials have said.
Famine experts say the proportion of Gaza residents at risk of famine is greater than anywhere since a United Nations-affiliated body began measuring extreme hunger 20 years ago. Scholars say it has been generations since the world has seen food deprivation on such a scale in war.
The arrival of bitterly cold winter weather has exacerbated the struggle to survive, Mr. Griffiths said. Much of Gaza’s population has jammed into overcrowded, deteriorating shelters in the south, with limited access to clean water and where aid workers warn that disease is spreading fast.
In response to questions, Israel’s government on Friday denied it was obstructing aid, saying its permission was contingent on the security situation, the security of its troops and its efforts to prevent supplies from “falling into the hands” of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza. Israel launched its assault on Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which Israeli officials say at least 1,200 people were killed and another 240 were taken back to Gaza as hostages.
Since then, Israeli attacks, often using American-supplied bombs, have killed more than 23,000 people in Gaza, according to the Gaza health authorities. At least 1.9 million people, or 85 percent of the population, have been forced from their homes, according to the U.N.
Despite growing global criticism, and calls from the Biden administration to take greater care, the pace of Israeli strikes has not relented.
The Israeli bombardment is intensifying even in areas where Palestinians had been ordered to flee for their own safety, Mr. Griffiths said.
One strike on Friday on a home in Rafah, near the southernmost tip of Gaza, killed 10 people including several children, Palestinian media reported. At least 700,000 Palestinians have fled to the area around Rafah, along the border with Egypt, hoping for safety. Even there it is elusive.
“There is no safe place in Gaza,” Mr. Griffiths said. “Dignified human life is a near impossibility.”
Large protests calling for an end to the Israeli assault on Gaza, tied to the 100th day of the war, were expected across the globe on Saturday in cities including London, Dublin, Washington, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
In Israel, though, the focus was on the 136 hostages believed to still be held in Gaza. Families and supporters of the people taken captive on Oct. 7 planned to hold an overnight vigil in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Among the hostages are about a dozen people in their 70s and 80s and a 1-year-old baby. Frustrated relatives have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to free them.
Like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis have been supported, funded and armed by Iran for many years. American officials say Iran provided the intelligence used by the Houthis to target ships 28 times in the Red Sea since mid-November, causing more than 2,000 other ships to divert onto a much longer route around Africa.
The Houthi response so far to the American and British airstrikes on Friday, which were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, has been minimal: a single missile that dropped into the Red Sea about 500 yards from a passing ship on Friday. The maritime security firm Ambrey identified the ship as a Panama-flagged tanker carrying Russian oil — an apparent mistake, as Russia, an ally of Iran, had denounced the American-led strikes against the Houthis.
Still, the impact of the crisis on global trade is already being felt. In a Friday podcast after the Western strikes, Lloyd’s List Intelligence, a shipping data company, said it was seeing an increasing number of container ships diverting to an alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope, which typically adds 10 days and about 3,300 nautical miles to the trip.
Tesla and Volvo said they would be forced to pause production at some car plants in Europe, while Ikea warned that some supplies may run low.
Many Yemen experts were skeptical that this round of U.S. strikes would force the Houthis to back down, and said the group could even be strengthened. Since 2014 the Houthis have endured heavy bombardment by Saudi warplanes armed by the United States, only to emerge as the de facto government in northern Yemen.
A confrontation with the United States strengthens the Houthis’ ties to Iran, plays to popular sympathies with Palestinians and could help to quell dissent, experts say: As a shaky peace has taken root in Yemen in the past 18 months, their economic failures have become more evident, and internal opposition has grown.
The Houthis, for their part, warned that more assaults on Red Sea shipping were coming, as well as a more forceful response to the United States.
“Washington will deeply regret its provocative practices in the Red and Arabian Seas, as will everyone who gets involved with them,” Hezam al-Asad, a member of the Houthi political bureau, said in a phone interview after the latest American strike.
The only way for the United States to stop Houthi attacks on shipping, he said, was “an end to the war in Gaza.”
4) The Things We Disagree On About Gaza
By Nicholas Kristof, Jan. 13, 2024
Gaza City, Credit...Mohammed Hajjar/Associated Press
I’ve been very critical of Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, which appears to have killed a woman or child about once every eight minutes for the past three months. Many of my readers and friends disagree with these columns and are pained by what they see as my unfairness toward Israel.
Too often, opinionated people bypass the most compelling arguments on the other side. Let me instead try to confront head-on the kinds of criticism I’ve received:
Israel was attacked. Children were butchered. Women were raped. So why are you criticizing Israel rather than the Hamas terrorists who started this war?
That’s a fair question. Yes, Hamas started this war with its brutal attack on civilians, and it has been indifferent to Palestinian lives. As someone who has reported regularly from Gaza over the years, I’m aghast at the admiration some American leftists show for an organization as cruel, misogynistic and economically incompetent as Hamas; it’s an echo of the left’s appalling admiration for Mao a half-century ago.
Israel was understandably shattered by what happened on Oct. 7, and I appreciate that trauma and share that sadness. But Hamas’s indifference to human life must never be an excuse for us to become indifferent. It’s too late to save those massacred on Oct. 7, but we can still try to reduce the toll in Gaza this month and this year.
I’m also aware that my tax dollars have helped underwrite the bombings that have ended up killing and maiming children in Gaza — the world’s most dangerous place to be a child, according to UNICEF — and this American complicity creates its own moral responsibility to speak out.
What do you expect Israel, or any country, to do after such a barbaric attack? It’s tragic how many Palestinian civilians have died, but what could Israel possibly do but hit back?
I think it’s a fallacy that the Israeli military has a binary choice: either to level Gaza or to do nothing. I’d like to see Israel dial way back on what is always a continuum.
For example, Israel had dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions and shells by mid-December, while the United States dropped 3,678 munitions in Iraq between 2004 and 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration itself has repeatedly answered the question of what Israel should do. It sent military leaders to Jerusalem to offer advice and it regularly counseled using greater efforts to spare civilians — instead of Israel’s pattern of what President Biden termed “indiscriminate bombing.”
You call for restraint — but what restraint did America show in Hiroshima or in Dresden? Why do you now insist that Israel behave by very different rules?
Yes, I live in a glass house. And, yes, I want Israel to play by different rules. It was revulsion at the horrors of World War II, including those in Hiroshima and Dresden, that helped lead to the 1949 Geneva Conventions creating rules of war to protect civilians from such mass slaughter.
In any case, two academic researchers using satellite imagery have found that at least 68 percent of buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged, which according to The Financial Times is a higher proportion than were damaged in Dresden.
The killing in Gaza is very sad, but we can’t stop halfway. We have to eradicate Hamas and re-establish deterrence. That’s the only path to ensure security for Israel.
Let me push back: Does leveling parts of Gaza truly make Israel more secure? As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has suggested, large-scale killing of civilians can result in a tactical victory but strategic defeat.
Wars have a quite imperfect record of achieving their aims: Going into Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq did not enhance American security, and Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon did not boost Israeli security.
The longer this war goes on, the greater the risk of a conflagration involving Israel and Lebanon, an uprising in the West Bank, a greater crisis in the Red Sea or even a war with Iran. None of that would make Israel or anyone else more secure.
That’s one of my prime concerns about this war: To me, it’s not clear that the enormous bloodshed, public health crisis and risk of famine actually advance security, or that Israel has a workable plan for what follows the fighting.
More than 100 hostages are still held by Hamas, and they may be suffering unimaginable abuse. The war must continue until we get them back.
Negotiation and exchanges have done a much better job liberating hostages than bombardment. So far Israeli troops have killed more hostages than they have freed (one, at the beginning of the war).
If Hamas had organized an attack on America comparable to the one on Oct. 7, Americans wouldn’t be preaching restraint. The United States would be invading Gaza.
Yes, perhaps. Indeed, we did something similar after Sept. 11, 2001, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I write my columns today about the Israeli war in Gaza in the same spirit in which I wrote innumerable columns two decades ago warning against invading Iraq. Sadly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be repeating in Gaza the mistakes America made after Sept. 11. (Except that Israel appears to have killed far more Gazan women and children in three months than were killed in the entire first year of the war in Iraq.)
The attack on Oct. 7 was particularly savage, and no doubt my perspective would be different if I had been on the receiving end. But I believe that in the aftermath of a terror attack, we must guard against the way fear makes us lose our bearings so we despise and demonize the other.
Some Gazans tortured, raped and murdered Israeli citizens on Oct. 7 because they saw the world through a bigoted prism and stereotyped and dehumanized Jews. We should not reciprocate with our own version of collective guilt that leaves vast numbers of Gazan children wrapped in tiny shrouds.
5) Federal Scientists Recommend Easing Restrictions on Marijuana
In newly disclosed documents, federal researchers find that cannabis may have medical uses and is less likely to cause harm than drugs like heroin.
By Christina Jewett and Noah Weiland, Jan. 12, 2024
Trimming a marijuana bud at a dispensary in Massachusetts. Credit...Cindy Schultz for The New York Times
Marijuana is neither as risky nor as prone to abuse as other tightly controlled substances and has potential medical benefits, and therefore should be removed from the nation’s most restrictive category of drugs, federal scientists have concluded.
The recommendations are contained in a 250-page scientific review provided to Matthew Zorn, a Texas lawyer who sued Health and Human Services officials for its release and published it online on Friday night. An H.H.S. official confirmed the authenticity of the document.
The records shed light for the first time on the thinking of federal health officials who are pondering a momentous change. The agencies involved have not publicly commented on their debates over what amounts to a reconsideration of marijuana at the federal level.
Since 1970, marijuana has been considered a so-called Schedule I drug, a category that also includes heroin. Schedule I drugs have no medical use and a high potential for abuse, and they carry severe criminal penalties under federal trafficking laws.
The documents show that scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration make marijuana a Schedule III drug, alongside the likes of ketamine and testosterone, which are available by prescription.
The review by federal scientists found that even though marijuana is the most frequently abused illicit drug, “it does not produce serious outcomes compared to drugs in Schedules I or II.”
Marijuana abuse does lead to physical dependence, the analysis noted, and some people develop a psychological dependence. “But the likelihood of serious outcomes is low,” the review concluded.
The review also said there is some “scientific support” for therapeutic uses of marijuana, including treatment of anorexia, pain, and nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.
Federal officials cautioned that their analysis was not meant to suggest that they had established the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in a way that would support F.D.A. approval, only that data supported some medical uses of marijuana.
These conclusions apparently led the F.D.A. to break from decades of precedent last August and advise the Drug Enforcement Administration to recategorize marijuana, a move first reported by Bloomberg News.
That recommendation is being considered by the D.E.A., which is expected to formally announce its decision within months. The reclassification will be subject to public comment and debate before it is made final.
The scientific assessment has prompted tensions between career employees at the D.E.A., a famously conservative law enforcement agency, and the researchers and health officials who support reclassification, according to two senior administration officials.
Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, said in an interview this week that his department had stayed in touch with the D.E.A. about marijuana’s status and had “communicated to them our position.”
“We put it all out there for them,” he said. “We continue to offer them any follow up, technical information if they have any questions.”
Advocates for the marijuana industry have hailed a possible rescheduling as highly significant, a powerful way to get marijuana businesses out of the shadows and operating on the same tax footing as other major United States corporations.
Other experts are more circumspect. They note that any long-running study of marijuana that the federal authorities have reviewed may not account for the escalating strength and increasingly frequent use of marijuana, which has been tied to psychiatric problems and chronic vomiting among users in recent years.
For years there was the promise, ultimately unmet, that marijuana could be used to combat opioid abuse or treat mental health problems, said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford health policy professor and a former federal drug policy official.
“As the science has gotten better in the intervening decades, most of the therapeutic claims about cannabis have been debunked,” he said.
“And the evidence that cannabis can in fact be quite harmful has gotten stronger — yet it is now that the federal government has decided to call it a medicine.”
President Biden urged federal officials to “expeditiously” re-examine marijuana classification in October 2022, when he also issued pardons for those charged with marijuana possession under federal law.
Mr. Biden cited the disproportionate rates of arrest and prosecution of people who are Black and Hispanic for marijuana-related crimes, despite similar rates of use among white people. In December, Mr. Biden again issued pardons for people who had been convicted of simple possession and use of marijuana on federal land.
Federal data shows that marijuana is popular: An estimated 52 million people in the United States reported using it at some point in 2021. Fewer people, about 36 million, reported marijuana use in the previous month, trailing alcohol and tobacco use.
“Decriminalization and legalization is as popular as it ever was,” Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, a Democrat, said in an interview last year regarding his state’s early legalization of cannabis.
“None of the horror stories materialized,” he said. “Underage use is down in Colorado. We regulate marijuana like alcohol, effectively. Responsible adults can choose to recreate with alcohol or marijuana in our state as long as they do it in a safe way and don’t drive, don’t show up at work inebriated.”
In 38 states, marijuana is legal for medical use; it’s legal for recreational use in two dozen states and territories. Its pungent scent has become common in many communities, wafting from car windows at intersections in California and hanging over the crowds in Times Square.
Changing the way federal officials regard marijuana has long been a subject of fierce debate.
In 2016, the D.E.A. rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana, citing federal health officials’ stance at the time: “Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.”
Last month, Michael D. Miller, a Justice Department official, defended the D.E.A.’s prerogative in making the final decision on the administration’s position.
“D.E.A. has the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act, after considering the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria and H.H.S.’s scientific and medical evaluation,” he wrote in a letter to Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who has pushed the D.E.A. to reconsider marijuana.
6) Sekou Odinga Has Joined the Ancestors
Baba Sekou Transitioned on January 12, 2024
Janazah on Sunday, January 14, 2024
(we will inform of the time as soon as possible)
Masjid At Taqwa
1188 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Sekou Odinga was a globally recognized Black liberation activist, member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, founding member of both the New York City chapter and the International Section of the Black Panther Party, and former U.S. political prisoner who survived 33 years of state captivity before his release in 2014.
Prosecuted as one of the “Panther 21” in New York City, Odinga was a prominent historical figure, having been featured on Democracy Now! and in numerous documentaries, concerts, mass public events, and major news outlets.
In addition to being featured in the widely circulated social movement texts Can’t Jail the Spirit (2002) and Hauling Up the Morning: Writings & Art by Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War in the U.S. (1990), Odinga published his writing in Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st-Century Revolutions (PM Press, 2017) and Black Power Afterlives: The Enduring Significance of the Black Panther Party (Haymarket Books, 2020).
A survivor of state torture and the FBI’s notorious Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), Sekou Odinga is both celebrated and admired by freedom and justice movements worldwide, exemplifying persistence, courage, and principled adherence to freedom struggle under the most repressive circumstances imaginable.
7) As War Enters 100th Day, Netanyahu Vows to Keep Fighting in Gaza
The prime minister of Israel struck a defiant tone after hearings at The Hague, where Israel has been accused of genocide.
By Isabel Kershner, Reporting from Jerusalem, Jan. 14, 2024
More than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since the war began, according to Gazan health officials. Credit...Fatima Shbair/Associated Press
Israel’s political and military leaders marked 100 days of war against Hamas in Gaza over the weekend by vowing to continue until victory, even as they awaited a decision from the world’s top court on a possible injunction against the Israeli military’s devastating offensive.
About 1,200 people were killed during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault against Israel, a majority of them civilians, according to the Israeli authorities. Israel’s retaliatory war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, a majority of them women and children, according to Gaza health officials.
Warning of a long conflict, the Israeli statements exposed a growing dissonance between the domestic perception of the timing and goals of the war and increasing international impatience in the face of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“We are continuing the war until the end — until total victory, until we achieve all of our goals,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a televised news conference on Saturday night, stating that “eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel” were the goals.
“Nobody will stop us — not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anybody else,” he added with a tone of defiance, referring to the U.N.’s top court, where Israel is being accused by South Africa of committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza.
The court’s judges heard two days of hearings last week and will now decide whether to call on Israel to adopt provisional measures, such as a stop to fighting, while it assesses the merit of the genocide claim. No date has been set for the announcement of that decision and, in any case, the court has few means of enforcing its rulings.
Mr. Netanyahu also in the same breath invoked Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, whose military actions, purportedly in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, have raised the specter of a broader conflict.
The United States led airstrikes on Thursday and Friday against sites in Yemen controlled by the Houthi militia, in response to more than two dozen Houthi drone and missile attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November. However, the Houthis retained much of their ability to fire missiles and drones, according to U.S. officials.
At the same time, clashes across the Israel-Lebanon border continued over the weekend. An antitank missile launched from Lebanon on Sunday hit a house in northern Israel, killing a man. And Israel’s military said that its fighter jets struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, and that its forces had engaged in a firefight overnight with gunmen who crossed into Israel from Lebanon. Three gunmen were killed and five soldiers were wounded, the military said.
In acknowledging that dismantling Hamas in Gaza will “take time,” Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be as focused on raising domestic morale as countering international criticism of the war.
Addressing doubters who have cast the Israeli government’s goal of destroying Hamas, the militant group that has controlled Gaza for 16 years, as unrealistic, he said, “It is possible, it is necessary, and we will do it.”
As the death toll in Gaza has climbed, international calls for a cease-fire have mounted. Most of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million people is internally displaced and the United Nations has warned that half the population is at risk of starvation.
“The massive death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss, and grief of the last 100 days are staining our shared humanity,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, said in a statement.
In a televised statement on Saturday night, the chief of staff of Israel’s military, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said Israel was engaged in “an unparalleled just war.” He said that military plans had been approved to continue combat and increase pressure on Hamas, which would lead to the dismantling of the group and the return of the hostages who were taken in the Oct 7. assault on Israel.
“These goals are complex to achieve and will take a long time,” he said, urging patience.
Of the 240 people abducted to Gaza on Oct. 7, more than 130 remain in the enclave, according to Israeli officials, although not all are believed to be alive.
A spokesman for Hamas in Beirut, Osama Hamdan, said at a news conference on Saturday that Hamas was providing “care for the civilian prisoners in Gaza,” and that the only danger to their lives was from “Netanyahu and his army.”
In Israel, public concern for the hostages has increased with each passing day.
On Sunday, a workday in Israel, a 100-minute work stoppage in solidarity with the hostages was being observed by universities, many businesses, local councils and public bodies.
Tens of thousands of Israelis also attended a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night in support of the hostages and their families. Scores of demonstrators blocked the main intercity highway, demanding that the government secure the immediate release of the remaining captives.
“We are deeply concerned that our decision makers are not prioritizing the hostages, to get them home alive and not in boxes,” said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagui, 35, an American citizen, was taken hostage on Oct. 7.
Hwaida Saad, Ameera Harouda, and Roni Caryn Rabin contributed reporting.
8) Is Israel Part of What It Means to Be Jewish?
Some progressive Jews are embracing “diasporism” — reimagining their faith as one that blesses their lives in America and elsewhere.
By Marc Tracy, Jan. 14, 2024
Last month, on the first night of Hanukkah, more than 200 people packed an old ballroom on the third floor of a restored synagogue in Brooklyn. A few came fresh off the subway from a protest in Manhattan that was organized by left-wing Jewish groups calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.
They were there to hear from Shaul Magid, 65, whose long, thin white beard and shaved head made him look more like a roadie than a rabbi. A professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth as well as (yes) a rabbi, Mr. Magid was there to spread the message elucidated in a new book, “The Necessity of Exile,” that Jews today outside Israel — 75 percent of whom live in the United States — should embrace diaspora, the state of living outside a homeland, as a permanent and valuable condition.
“If there’s a diasporic reality where Jews have been able to live as Jews, flourish as Jews, not to be oppressed and persecuted — whether they choose to be a Satmar Hasid or Larry David, it doesn’t matter — if they’re allowed to live the Judaism they want, why would that be a tragedy?” he said.
Mr. Magid’s outlook is one of several burgeoning visions for the future of Jewish life that fall under the umbrella of “diasporism.” The idea has been getting a new look since Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel three months ago and Israel’s pulverizing bombing campaign and invasion in Gaza. Those events have forced Jews everywhere to reckon anew with what they think about Israel and the central role it plays in Jewish life — the kind of charged moment when members of spiritual communities can ask themselves what really matters, and sometimes reach radically different conclusions.
Some versions of diasporism are secular, often hearkening back to the un-religious, anti-Zionist Jewish Labor Bund that arose in late 19th-century Eastern Europe — the same time and place where political Zionism was born — to agitate for Jewish rights in the European empires of the day. The Bund’s slogan of “doikayt,” a Yiddish word that roughly means “hereness,” has been adopted by younger left-wing Jews.
“This socialist, secular, liberatory philosophy,” said Molly Crabapple, an artist and writer working on a history of the Bund, “whether it was the Bund or the larger world of Yiddish socialism, is deeply interwoven into our heritage,” and “can provide a moral compass and help people reject exclusionary and violent ideologies.”
Other flavors are religious. The Berkeley professor emeritus Daniel Boyarin has called the Babylonian Talmud — a rulebook for living Jewishly, composed in exile — the true Jewish homeland.
Zionism, at least at its most doctrinaire, insists a Jew can achieve total realization as a Jew only by living in Israel. Shlilat ha-golah, Hebrew for “negation of the exile,” was an early Zionist slogan.
Diasporism, by contrast, holds the inverse: that Jews must embrace marginality and a certain estrangement from Israel the country, and perhaps even Israel the place. “Anybody who cares seriously about being a Jew,” goes an epigraph to Mr. Magid’s book from the late American theologian Eugene Borowitz, “is in Exile and would be in Exile even if that person were in Jerusalem.”
‘Putting One’s Head in the Sand’
In 2024, anti-Zionism is the closest thing organized Judaism has to heresy.
The land of Israel is central to the religion, the foundational narrative of which is about returning from slavery to the Promised Land. Over centuries of exile, Jews have pledged, “Next year in Jerusalem,” and prayed facing that city. Places of pilgrimage dot Israel’s map — many in parts controversially annexed or occupied after war. Synagogues everywhere pay homage to the original, destroyed Temples in Jerusalem, the site of which remains sacred.
Seventy-five years after its founding in May 1948 — and decades following its victory in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, which captivated American Jews (while also initiating the occupation of stateless Palestinians) — the modern state of Israel continues to draw widespread support among Jews throughout the world.
This is true in countries, like France, where antisemitic incidents have led to increases in Jewish emigration to Israel. But it is also true in the United States, where many Jews have achieved historic levels of privilege and security — and Israel has functioned as a common flag, in a sense, for the community to rally around.
Diasporism, in other words, is a distinctly minority position. It is easily seen as dismissive of the more than 7 million Jews in Israel — more than in any other country, and most of them refugees or their descendants from places from which they understandably fled, like 1930s Europe, or to which they may not be welcome to return, like elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. (Even the satirical diasporism in Philip Roth’s 1993 novel “Operation Shylock” envisions only Jews from Europe going back where they came from.) It can seem a willful blindness to the centuries of persecution and pogroms, culminating in the Holocaust, that convinced most Jews as well as the international community that Israel needed to exist.
“To posit the credibility of an early 20th-century ideology that had some impact on interwar Europe until much of East and Central Europe was obliterated by forces diasporism could never have predicted, while ignoring the reality of millions and millions of people, is an exercise in putting one’s head in the sand,” said Steven J. Zipperstein, a professor of Jewish culture and history at Stanford University.
And for most Jews, Oct. 7, in which Hamas killed or kidnapped nearly 1,500 Israelis, provoked solidarity and viscerally reminded them of Israel’s raison d’être. This is one reason most everyone in the American Jewish establishment, from the Republican Jewish Coalition to social justice-minded Reform rabbis, has steadfastly stood with Israel in the months since.
But some Jews have been repelled by Israel’s military response, which has killed approximately 23,000, according to Gazan officials. Membership in IfNotNow, an American Jewish group critical of Israel, has more than doubled since Oct. 7, according to a spokesman. The weekly newsletter of Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group, went to 43,000 people on Oct. 4, said a spokeswoman, and to 350,000 two months later.
Mr. Magid, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, favors one state for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, but he said in an interview that he also would welcome a negotiated two-state solution. More than its shape, Israel’s centrality to Judaism elsewhere is what he hopes can be adjusted.
“Israel has become the substitute for Jewish identity,” he said. “And we have at least a 2,000-year history — maybe longer, certainly 2,000-year. A robust history. We have to grab ahold of that and basically take it back from those who took it away from us.”
An Abstract Concept
For Mr. Magid, a thriving 21st-century Judaism without Israel at its core must include a return to religion — “always the thing,” he said, “that’s going to keep us together.”
That religion is based around exile, largely arising after the Romans’ destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70. (Ancient Jewish translators described the dispersion forecast in the Torah with the Greek word for “scattering”: diaspora.) Rabbis fashioned substitutes for holy requirements that could no longer be performed: prayers instead of animal sacrifices; arks for Torah scrolls instead of the Temple’s inner sanctum.
“One of the crucial things diaspora does is shape this idea of Judaism as a portable identity, not wedded to land — you can maintain a vibrant Jewish culture and religion, remain a faithful and observant Jew,” said Daniel B. Schwartz, a professor of Jewish history at George Washington University. Even if this Judaism “incorporated a longing for Zion within its liturgy and law,” Mr. Schwartz added, “how messianic was your average Jew in the Middle Ages? Probably not that much.”
But a fully diasporic Judaism — especially in a world in which Jewish exile is, thanks to Israel, no longer voluntary — remains an abstract concept. Mr. Boyarin, the Berkeley professor emeritus and Talmudist, conceives of a diaspora that values its connections to other Jewish communities — including Israel’s, but not privileging it. Mr. Magid in his book examines some Hasidic sects that avoid encouraging emigration to Israel, believing it heretically pre-empts the messianic redemption.
Younger American Jews have their own ideas. Relaunching the left-wing journal Jewish Currents in 2018, then-publisher Jacob Plitman described “an emerging diasporism” that balanced “a critical awareness of Israel” with “a commitment to struggling primarily in the communities in which we live.” The magazine has been forthrightly left-wing, as likely to center the Palestinian as the Jewish perspective.
Simon Schama, a university professor of art history and history at Columbia who has published two volumes of “The Story of the Jews,” rejects diasporism, arguing that longing for the land of Israel is an inescapable aspect of Jewish texts, from poetry of medieval Spain to everyday religious liturgy sung in 2024.
“They would all have been astounded to learn of ‘diasporism’ as somehow the ‘fulfillment,’ as you say their champions put it, of Judaism,” Mr. Schama said in an email of earlier Jews. “And so would most Jews singing of next year in Jerusalem towards the end of every Passover Seder.”
‘The Promised Land’
Diasporism’s limitations emerge starkly when one applies the concept to another people: the Palestinians. The statelessness of the Jewish past, after all, still describes the Palestinian present. The notion that Palestinians ought to accept their lot in the name of a high-minded ideology would strike Jewish diasporists, who tend to favor Palestinian self-determination, as noxious.
“The Jewish refugees from Europe — I think about them stateless, helpless,” said Sayed Kashua, a Palestinian-Israeli writer who now lives in the United States. “This plan of having a state, the modern national state that I’m not a huge fan of, was the only protection. So now it’s the majority of the Palestinians who have replaced the Jewish stateless, defenseless people.”
Citing Hannah Arendt, a Jew born in Germany in 1906, Mr. Kashua argued that talk of human rights by itself was insufficient to protect people. “She writes about how we talk a lot about humanity,” he said, “but when you strip out everything and remain only with humanity, you’re the most vulnerable creature on earth.”
Most likely, diasporism will not triumph among Jewry worldwide or even in the United States. But neither does a return to the monumental stature Zionism enjoyed here after the 1967 war seem inevitable. Instead, a sharp divide is emerging between two increasingly distinct Jewish communities: one in Israel, one not.
If Oct. 7 inspired closer feelings to Israel for some Jews, for others its aftermath left them alienated from nationalism altogether. Confronted in the days after Hamas’s attack with the notion that dying as a Jew in Israel represented a nobler death, the writer John Ganz said in a newsletter post, “When I die, I hope it will be here in New York, the promised land, surrounded by my brothers: all the different peoples of the world.”
Still others yearn for a more moderate diasporism, with the two Jewish communities in productive tension.
Alan Wolfe, a Boston University professor emeritus of history and author of “At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews,” said that last year — as a far-right Israeli government sought to diminish the judiciary’s independence — Jews elsewhere served valuably as connected critics. “The diaspora can provide what Netanyahu and his extreme right ministers can’t,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There’s a great Jewish conscience that has kept the Jew surviving so long being risked by the current political trends in Israel.”
But he criticized non-Israeli Jews who did not understand that diaspora is “as much a mental as a geographic concept” — a status that links disparate people — and so failed to perceive the Hamas attack as an assault on Jews everywhere. It is a lesson, he argued, Israel could help teach them.
“If I could create the ideal world, it would be one in which half the Jews live in Israel and half the Jews don’t, and that’s pretty much what we have,” Mr. Wolfe added. “They need each other — especially now.”