Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 23, 2024


Friday, January 26, 2024

8:00 A.M.—12:00 P.M.

Oscar Grant Plaza

14th and Broadway

Oakland, Oakland CA


On Friday, January 26, a pivotal moment unfolds in Oakland, CA, as a federal court hears a lawsuit against President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin. Palestinian plaintiffs charge them with complicity in Israel’s genocide. This urgent case demands our attention! 📣 UPDATE: PACK THE COURT! The hearing kicks off at 9:00 A.M., so arrive by 8:00 A.M. to secure your spot. 

Following the proceedings, join us for a rally at 12:00 PM outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse (14th and Clay St., Oakland). 🗓️ Friday, January 26, 2024 🕗 8:00 A.M.–12:00 P.M. 








Israeli tank overlooking the devastation of Gaza from the Israeli border.

Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of January 23, 2024the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 25,105,* 62,681wounded, and more than 393 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 more than 6,115.

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on January 12. Some rights groups put the death toll number higher than 32,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.




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!


Thousands at stadium sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone," and wave Palestinian flags in Scotland.

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!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733



Leonard Peltier Update - Not One More Year


Coleman 1 has gone on permanent lockdown.

The inmates are supposed to be allowed out two hours a day. I have not heard from Leonard since the 18th. 

The last time I talked to Leonard, he asked where his supporters were. He asked me if anyone cared about these lockdowns.

Leonard lives in a filthy, cold cell 22 to 24 hours a day. He has not seen a dentist in ten years. I asked him, “On a scale of 1 to 10, is your pain level at 13?” He said, “Something like that.” Leonard is a relentless truth-teller. He does not like it when I say things that do not make sense mathematically. 

That is why Leonard remains imprisoned. He will not lie. He will not beg, grovel, or denounce his beliefs. 

Please raise your voice. Ask your representatives why they have abdicated their responsibility to oversee the Bureau of Prisons and ensure they adhere to Constitutional law.

Uhuru, The African People’s Socialist Party, has stepped up for Leonard. NOT ONE MORE YEAR.


Fight for Free Speech – YouTube:



Leonard should not have spent a day in prison. Click “LEARN” on our website to find out what really happened on that reservation: 


A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 
Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

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 

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

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)




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) Hospitals Are Squeezed as Israel Expands Fighting in Southern Gaza

By Hiba Yazbek and Adam Rasgon reporting from Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2024


A Palestinian woman next to her daughter at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Credit...Mohammed Dahman/Associated Press

Fighting intensified in southern Gaza on Monday, with medical personnel reporting heavy exchanges of gunfire and a surge of Israeli tanks and troops into areas around hospitals.


The Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Gazan health ministry said many people had been killed and wounded in the city of Khan Younis on Monday, without providing specific counts. Nahed Abu Taaema, the director of surgery at Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in southern Gaza, told Al Jazeera in a televised interview that it had received 100 wounded people and 50 bodies.


Naseem Hasan, an ambulance officer at Nasser, said in an interview that tanks were about 100 meters south of the hospital and “can target anyone.” He said one ambulance carrying a person who had been shot in the head was not able to reach Nasser this morning and had to go to a hospital in Rafah — a journey that took three hours.


In a statement, the Red Crescent said the presence of Israeli troops near Al-Amal Hospital, which it operates, meant that its ambulances could not reach the injured in Khan Younis. It said that anyone attempting to move around the area was coming under fire.


“Khan Younis is very dangerous now,” Nebal Farsakh, a spokeswoman for the Red Crescent, said in an interview. “The whole district of Khan Younis is essentially besieged.”


As Israel has wound down its operations in northern Gaza, it has pushed ahead with its invasion of Khan Younis, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter in schools, hospitals and tent cities.


Israeli officials have said the campaign in the city — which they describe as a Hamas stronghold — was targeting the group’s leadership, and they have accused Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian infrastructure to hide its operations. But civilians, many of whom have relocated several times since the start of the war, have been left with no refuge.


Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, reported on Monday that several people had been killed and wounded at a school in Al-Mawasi, west of Khan Younis, after an Israeli strike. The report could not be independently verified. The school was sheltering displaced people who went there after the Israeli military told them that Al-Mawasi, a seaside area, was a safe zone.


Ms. Farsakh said that Red Crescent crews had been receiving calls from people who were wounded across Khan Younis, including at the school in Al-Mawasi, and that the crews were unable to respond “because they are being targeted.”


The Israeli military didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israeli forces in southern Gaza were acting with great precision and would be “expanding” their operations in Khan Younis.


“The plumes of smoke from the tanks, artillery and planes belonging to the Air Force will continue to cover the Gaza Strip’s skies until we achieve our goals, chief among them toppling Hamas and returning the hostages to their homes,” he said in a statement.


The Gaza health ministry said on Monday that Israeli strikes had killed 190 people and wounded 340 others in the enclave over the previous 24 hours. It did not specify how many of the casualties were in Khan Younis.


The ministry said on Sunday that more than 25,000 people had been killed since Israel began its bombardment of the strip after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on its territory, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people.


Ameera Harouda contributed reporting from Doha, Qatar, Abu Bakr Bashir from London, and Johnatan Reiss in Tel Aviv.



2) An awkward meeting in Brussels highlights differences between Europe and Israel over the war.

By Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk reporting from Brussels, Jan. 22, 2024


"Mr. Katz surprised the room of 27 E.U. foreign ministers by screening a video of a proposal — first raised several years ago — to create an artificial island off Gaza as a logistics base to inspect cargo and passengers arriving by sea into the territory...Mr. Katz, the officials said, did not propose that Palestinians be moved to this island to live, but he also didn’t offer much context on why exactly he was screening it, nor did he elaborate on how it plays into the urgent discussions among Israel and its allies over how to manage Gaza after the war is over." Link to Island video: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6apf052p5kiym5o/Island_En_HD.wmv?dl=0

Above: screenshot from video updated on June 20, 2017, of Israel’s proposed artificial island to help control Gaza’s population from the sea. It’s to be built 2.8 miles off the coast of Gaza, and would be 2.5 miles long, 1.25 miles wide, encompassing 1300 acres. The connecting road is designed to be quickly detached, making it virtually impossible to escape.

European Union foreign ministers pressed Israel’s top diplomat on Monday to ease civilian suffering in Gaza and move toward supporting the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in a closed-door meeting that highlighted the governments’ differences over the war.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has been pushing back against international allies, doubling down in recent days on his opposition to a two-state solution. He is also facing growing anger at home over the government’s failure to secure the release of the hostages and frustration over its handling of the war.


The Monday meeting at E.U. headquarters in Brussels largely reinforced the disconnect over the war in Gaza, where more than 25,000 people have been killed, according to health officials there. Rather than garner international support, Israel’s foreign minister, Yisrael Katz, left European officials confused about Israeli plans for the enclave.


Mr. Katz surprised the room of 27 E.U. foreign ministers by screening a video of a proposal — first raised several years ago — to create an artificial island off Gaza as a logistics base to inspect cargo and passengers arriving by sea into the territory, according to six European diplomats and officials familiar with the meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press on the discussions.


Mr. Katz, the officials said, did not propose that Palestinians be moved to this island to live, but he also didn’t offer much context on why exactly he was screening it, nor did he elaborate on how it plays into the urgent discussions among Israel and its allies over how to manage Gaza after the war is over.


The video was shown as early as 2017, when Mr. Katz was transport and intelligence minister. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue, told The New York Times after the meeting on Monday that Mr. Katz’s proposal was not government policy.


The Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, who met separately with the E.U. ministers after Mr. Katz, seized on the video.


“We do not need any island. Not a natural one, not an artificial one. We will remain in our homeland. The land of Palestine is ours, it belongs to us, and we will remain in it,” he told reporters, emphasizing that he would advocate for Palestinian statehood and a cease-fire.


“We will not accept anything less than a cease-fire,” he added. “We will not accept anything short of a clear rejection of statements by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the two-state solution and that he will work on preventing it.”


The European Union is striving to find a common voice on the war in Gaza despite divisions among member states. Before the meeting, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the bloc’s top diplomat, drafted an informal policy paper for discussion that strongly backs the establishment of an independent Palestinian state — an idea that is also backed by the Biden administration.


On Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu said on social media: “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control of the entire area west of the Jordan River — and that is irreconcilable with a Palestinian state.”


The creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one was first proposed in 1947 at the time of Israel’s creation, and was rejected by regional Arab governments. In the years since, plans for a two-state solution have been proposed and stymied by both Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Mr. Netanyahu, who even before Oct. 7 opposed the creation of such a state, is particularly adamant that the Palestinians not be rewarded with statehood after Hamas launched its terror attack in October.    


Foreign policy is set by E.U. national governments, and is not an area where the bloc has collective force as it does in trade and economic affairs, and the 27 E.U. member states have often struggled to agree on diplomatic issues including the conflict in the Middle East. But on Monday, even the foreign minister of Germany, seen as Israel’s strongest advocate in the bloc, defended the idea of an independent Palestinian state.


“We are doing everything we can to move toward a two-state solution,” said the German minister, Annalena Baerbock. “There is no alternative that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and dignity.”



3) The U.N. chief calls the scale of killing in Gaza ‘unacceptable,’ as officials say the death toll exceeds 25,000.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Jan. 22, 2024


António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, at a summit in Uganda on Sunday. Credit...Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters

Israel’s military operation in Gaza has led to destruction and killing on a scale that is “utterly unacceptable,” the United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, said on Sunday as the Gazan Health Ministry said the death toll in the territory since the start of the offensive had surpassed 25,000.


Mr. Guterres called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza that would allow aid to reach all those in need, and to facilitate the release of hostages taken during an attack on Israel led by Hamas on Oct. 7, during which the Israeli authorities say around 1,200 people were killed. More than 100 hostages remain in captivity.


In response to the Oct. 7 attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a campaign of airstrikes in Gaza and a ground invasion in a bid to eradicate Hamas. The government also declared a siege of Gaza, which has a population of about 2.2 million people.


Israel’s government says that civilian casualties are a tragedy, but it argues that it bombards residential areas because Hamas hides its forces among the civilian population and has built an extensive network of tunnels, some of them beneath hospitals. It also says that it warns civilians to move to areas away from the fighting.


Almost all of Gaza’s population has been displaced because of Israel’s military campaign, and international groups say the aid that is making it into Gaza is a small fraction of what is necessary to stem the humanitarian crisis that has played out over the last three months.


“This is heartbreaking,” Mr. Guterres said about the loss of life. He was speaking in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, during a summit that aims to increase trade and investment between nations in parts of the world that are less economically developed.


“The Middle East is a tinderbox,” he said. “We must do all we can to prevent conflict igniting across the region.”


Mr. Guterres said the destruction and civilian death toll in Gaza — which includes more than 150 U.N. staff members killed — were more severe than any that had occurred since he assumed his current post in 2017. In comparison, the United Nations says the fighting in Ukraine, which has also caused immense military losses, has killed at least 10,000 civilians since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.


In a further indication of the casualty toll, the British charity Save the Children said this month that Israel’s military operation had killed 10,000 children, and that thousands more were missing and presumed buried under the rubble.


The United Nations and aid groups cite the Gazan health ministry’s casualty toll in their reports, though those numbers have at times been the subject of debate. That is in part because officials in Gaza do not distinguish between civilians and fighters, and because the level of destruction has made it difficult for them to provide an accurate accounting. U.S. and Israeli government officials have sometimes cast doubt on the casualty numbers, though they have not in recent weeks systematically challenged the ministry’s figures.


Palestinian authorities also say that more than 62,000 people have been injured in the war. The head of the United Nations World Health Organization’s operation in Gaza and the West Bank said that many of them are children who have had limbs amputated and will need continued care.



4) U.S. and European officials push for Gaza aid to pass through an Israeli port.

By Vivian Yee, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Adam Rasgon, Jan. 22, 2024


Displaced people line up to receive food cooked in large pots and distributed for free near the tents where the people live.

Food being distributed to people in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Saturday. Credit...Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

American, British and European officials are pressuring Israel to let aid for Gaza transit through the Israeli port of Ashdod to help alleviate a metastasizing humanitarian crisis, according to six U.S. and European officials.


Israel’s military responded to the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by invading and declaring a siege on Gaza, which was already under a yearslong blockade. It has since allowed limited amounts of aid into the enclave through two border points, one in Israel and the other in Egypt, but those deliveries have been bogged down by inspections and logistical snarls.


Humanitarian workers say vastly more aid is needed to meaningfully help Gaza’s 2.2 million residents amid dire shortages of food, water and supplies.


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pressed Israeli officials about allowing Gaza aid through the port of Ashdod when he was in Tel Aviv earlier this month, according to one U.S. official. That official and the others interviewed about the new aid proposal spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.


Under the new proposed agreement, aid would be shipped from Cyprus — an Israeli ally — to Ashdod, three of the officials said. From Ashdod, it would then be transported to Kerem Shalom, the Israeli border crossing through which aid has been allowed into Gaza, a European official said.


The ultimate goal, an American and a European official said, is to establish a workable alternative to delivering aid via Egypt in a way that satisfies Israel’s demand for security checks. Israeli officials have demanded stringent inspections on all supplies entering Gaza so as to weed out anything that could benefit Hamas.


A small step came on Friday, when the White House said that Israel would permit flour for Gaza to be shipped through Ashdod amid efforts to find “options for more direct maritime delivery of assistance.”


“We need these shipments to continue and for this port to remain open for aid,” Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on the social media platform X after the White House announcement about the flour shipments.


The Israeli government has not formally announced the decision to let flour shipments through Ashdod, and the prime minister’s office declined to comment. But the Israeli security cabinet quietly agreed to the plan on Friday, according to an Israeli official briefed on the deliberations.


Ashdod sits about 16 miles north of Gaza on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Israel has been reluctant to open Ashdod for assistance destined for Gaza amid concerns that having more aid delivered through Israeli soil could prompt public backlash at a time when Israeli hostages are still being held in the enclave, according to a senior Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.


(For most of the war, aid has been delivered to Egypt before being inspected by Israel close to its border with Egypt, barely touching Israeli territory before being sent to Gaza. In December, some trucks from Jordan started going through Kerem Shalom.)


Gaza urgently needs the help. The United Nations has warned that risk of famine is growing, clean water is scarce and diseases are spreading. Amid Israeli airstrikes and intense fighting, Gaza’s hospitals have struggled to deal with a seemingly constant stream of wounded people and grossly inadequate medical supplies.


Aaron Boxerman and Edward Wong contributed reporting.



5) What Is ‘Settler Colonialism’?

A look at the academic roots of the idea, which has stirred fierce debate when applied to Israel.

By Jennifer Schuessler, Jan. 22, 2024


At a rally, protesters hold Palestinian flags and a sign saying “End Settler Colonialism Now.”

Pro-Palestinian activists at a rally in Washington in November. Credit...Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

In the intense war of words over the Israel-Gaza war, a particular phrase has popped up repeatedly. At protests, on fliers and in some mainstream publications, it is common to see Israel described — or more likely, assailed — as a “settler-colonial” state.


The concept of settler colonialism originates in academia, where its use has surged over the past two decades, whether in case studies of particular places or sweeping master narratives that purport to explain everything since Columbus. It has also been widely taken up on the activist left, invoked in discussions of gentrification, environmental degradation, financial capitalism and other subjects.


The term “settler colonialism” may combine two words that are very familiar. But in combination, the term can land as a moral slander — or worse.


Those who call Israel a settler-colonial enterprise see a country formed by waves of Jewish arrivals who pushed Arab inhabitants out to create an exclusive ethnostate. To others, that is a gross distortion that redefines refugees as oppressors and ignores the long history of the Jewish diaspora’s attachment to its ancestral land — as well as the continuous existence of a Jewish community whose ancestors never left.


More broadly, critics say that the embrace of the term reflects a dangerously simplistic view of history — a kind of “moral derangement,” as Adam Kirsch, an editor at The Wall Street Journal, wrote recently, which justifies violence and rests on “the permanent division of the world into innocent people and guilty people.”


But for many scholars, settler colonialism is a serious and useful analytic concept. For them, it is meant not to condemn or delegitimize, but to illuminate similarities and differences across a wide range of societies, past and present.


“I believe there is purchase to the term,” said Caroline Elkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at Harvard and a co-editor of the 2005 collection “Settler Colonialism in the 20th Century.” “From a strictly empirical perspective, there are colonies — and in some cases, nations today — that were founded on the premise of sending settlers to different locations in the world.”


But amid today’s fierce polemics, even scholarly discussion of the term is fraught. “We have all become very cautious about how we use it,” Elkins said, “out of fear that we’ll be misunderstood.”


‘A Structure, Not an Event’


Historians have identified many forms of colonialism. Some involve trade or natural resource extraction managed from afar. Others involve systematic exploitation of a local labor force, with the profits sent back to the imperial center.


While uses differ, settler colonialism generally refers to a form of colonialism in which the existing inhabitants of a territory are displaced by settlers who claim land and establish a permanent society where their privileged status is enshrined in law.


The concept emerged out of postcolonial studies, which arose in the 1960s and ’70s as a way of understanding colonialism from the point of view of the formerly colonized across the world. Among the key thinkers was the Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon, whose classic 1961 book “The Wretched of the Earth” argued that colonized people were justified in using violence to throw off their oppressors.


Fanon, who wrote in French, did not use the term “settler colonialism.” But his ideas are echoed in today’s conversations, said Adam Shatz, the author of “The Rebel’s Clinic,” a new biography of Fanon published this week.


But Fanon’s ideas, he said, have also been distorted, particularly by those who have emphasized his justification of violence. For Fanon, he said, decolonization did not involve a simple act of violent “cleansing,” but a social transformation that would reorder the relations between colonizer and colonized.


“It does not necessarily mean that the solution to a situation of colonial injustice is for the colonizers to simply pack up their bags and leave,” he said.


Many scholars trace the current sense of “settler colonialism,” and its exploding influence in academic circles, to Patrick Wolfe, a British-born Australian scholar and the author of the 1998 book “Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology.”


In a tribute to Wolfe after his death in 2016, the scholar Lorenzo Veracini wrote that Wolfe said he had included the phrase in the title at the last minute, at the urging of his publisher. (It occurs infrequently in the book itself.)


“Like the British, who had supposedly set up an empire without really wanting to,” Veracini wrote, “this committed anti-imperialist scholar kick-started a scholarly field in a fit of absent-mindedness.”


Wolfe’s densely theoretical book, which focused on Australia, where white settlers styled themselves as arriving in “empty land,” included two much-quoted phrases. “Settler invasion,” Wolfe wrote, “is a structure, not an event.” That is, it is not a historical episode that ends, but a set of relationships embedded in the legal and political order. And it rests, he wrote, on “the logic of elimination.”


“It’s ‘a winner take all,’ a zero-sum game,” Wolfe told an interviewer at Stanford in 2012, “whereby outsiders come to a country, and seek to take it away from the people who already live there, remove them, replace them and displace them, and take over the country, and make it their own.”


The term gained ground across various disciplines, sometimes shorn of its harder-edged absolutes, like the idea that it always involves an effort to eliminate existing populations. In 20th-century instances, those populations often remained a majority, albeit a dominated one.


The essays in “Settler Colonialism in the 20th Century,” the 2005 collection edited by Elkins and Susan Pedersen, looked at examples including various European settlement projects in Southern Africa, French colonization of Algeria, Japanese expansion in Korea and Manchuria in the 1930s, Nazi plans to resettle ethnic Germans in occupied Poland, and Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1882 and 1914.


That book did not discuss the United States. But the concept also has deep roots in Native American studies, while also being in some tension with it.


Ned Blackhawk’s book “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History,” which won last year’s National Book Award for nonfiction, refers frequently to settler colonialism. But Blackhawk, a professor of history at Yale, has also expressed reservations about the concept’s “totalizing features.”


“As an idea that emphasizes ‘Indigenous elimination’ as one of its central features, it often minimizes the agency, adaptation and resurgence of Native American communities,” Blackhawk said in an interview with Mother Jones last year.


From the Margins


Since 2005, the term “settler colonialism” has continued to spread in scholarly circles, migrating into political science, literary studies, musicology and many other fields.


Aziz Rana, a political scientist and professor of law at Boston College Law School, is the author of the 2010 book “The Two Faces of American Freedom,” which argues that settler colonialism lies behind both the nation’s enduring racial hierarchies and the emancipatory possibilities of its political tradition.


When he was in graduate school in the early 2000s, Rana said, the concept was used by some scholars of empire. But it remained “really at the edge” of fields like American history and American political science.


That changed, Rana said, as scholars of the United States began to embrace new thinking about race, slavery and Native Americans, and as the Iraq war and its aftermath forced a rethinking of the traditional consensus that the United States was not an empire.


At the same time, the term migrated out of the academy and was embraced by the activist left, where it became useful for drawing connections across a broad range of issues.


“Movement activists have very consciously sought solidarities across efforts to confront anti-Black racism, Native American dispossession and immigrant mistreatment,” Rana said. “The concept has been a powerful way of showing the links across these experiences.”


But seeing settler colonialism as inherently connected with “whiteness,” some scholars argue, is simplistic.


In a recent essay in the online magazine Aeon, Lachlan McNamee, author of the new book “Settling for Less: Why States Colonize and Why They Stop,” argues that settler colonialism is not just a “historical Western evil,” perpetrated by white nations against Black and brown people.


McNamee, a political scientist, cites Japan’s invasion in the 1930s of northeastern China (where it used the promise of free land to lure 270,000 Japanese settlers to the newly created state of Manchukuo, or Manchuria), as well as Indonesia’s resettlement of 300,000 farmers in West Papua in the 1970s and ’80s, following Indigenous uprisings. (Scholars have also cited the example of Liberia, which was colonized after the U.S. Civil War by emancipated African Americans, who became the dominant elite.)


Online maps depicting settler colonialism today “almost exclusively depict areas settled by Europeans,” McNamee writes. “Colonized peoples in the Global South have experienced a double erasure: first by settlers and second by settler colonial studies.”


Israel: An Outlier?


Nowhere is the idea of settler colonialism more charged than in discussions of Israel, whether it is used to describe Israel’s current settlements in the West Bank or the processes that led to the founding of the Jewish state itself in 1948.


A version of the argument appeared as early as 1967, in the French Marxist scholar Maxime Rodinson’s book “Israel: Fait Colonial?” (It was published in English in 1973 as “Israel: A Colonial-Settler State?”)


More recently, Rashid Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian American historian at Columbia University, drew on it in his best-selling 2020 book “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017.”


The concept, he said in an interview, was present in Palestinian writing of the 1920s and ’30s, even if non-Arabic-speaking scholars were not reading it. He said it also reflected the self-conception of early Zionists, who primarily came from Eastern Europe.


“This was a movement that saw itself as operating as a colonial project” under the sponsorship of the British, who controlled Palestine from 1918 to 1948, Khalidi said. “They made no bones about it until World War II. They called themselves settlers. They described their process as colonization.”


But to many Jews, connecting Israel with settler colonialism is anathema given the Jewish people’s historical connection with the land. The notion also gets mixed reactions among Israel’s left-leaning “New Historians,” who have challenged the country’s traditional nationalist narratives.


In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Avi Shlaim, the author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World,” said that “Palestinians have had the misfortune to be at the receiving end of both Zionist settler colonialism and Western imperialism, first British and then American.”


But in an email, Tom Segev, whose books include “One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate,” said that “colonialism is irrelevant to the Zionist experience.”


Zionists were motivated primarily by “a historical vision for their future identity in what they considered their ancient homeland” rather than an “imperial strategic or economic vision or a desire to dominate the local population.”


Besides, Segev said, “most Jewish immigrants in Palestine and Israel did not come as Zionists but as refugees.”


For some historians, it is not a yes-or-no question.


“Are Jews ‘indigenous’ or settler colonialists in Palestine?” the scholar Barnett R. Rubin wrote in a recent essay in Boston Review. “They are both.”


“Today’s settlers in the West Bank and the Golan Heights could indeed return — their ‘mother country’ is Israel — but the same is not true of the citizens of Israel as a whole,” he wrote. “They cannot return to the scenes of the Holocaust or to the Arab and Muslim states that expelled them.”


For the United States, the idea of settler colonialism may not carry the same explosive charge. While the phrase is still outside the political mainstream, the idea lies behind the land acknowledgments — which recognize and name the Indigenous inhabitants of places — that have become commonplace across universities and cultural institutions.


To some observers, including some Indigenous critics, those acknowledgments are just toothless moral theater. But Rana, of Boston College, argues that taking the idea of settler colonialism seriously allows for a more honest view of how the United States — not just its territory, but its enduring legal and political structures — was formed.


Still, he cautions against treating settler colonialism as a historical master key.


“This lens doesn’t tell you everything you need to know,” Rana said. “But it allows you to see something that you otherwise would not be able to see.”



6) The Israeli military says 21 soldiers were killed in a single explosion.

By Adam Rasgon, Victoria Kim and Gabby Sobelman, Jan. 23, 2024


An Israeli strike on Khan Younis on Wednesday, as seen from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military suffered its deadliest day of the Gaza ground invasion on Monday, announcing that 24 soldiers had been killed, 21 of them in a single explosion inside the territory near the Israeli border.


The blast occurred after Gazan militants fired toward a tank guarding an Israeli engineering unit that had been setting explosives inside Palestinian buildings with the intention of demolishing them, the Israeli military said at a press briefing on Tuesday. In the firefight, the explosives were detonated, causing the buildings to collapse and killing many of the soldiers inside, the military said.


Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said the 21 soldiers, who were reservists, had been working to remove buildings and other infrastructure near the border between Israel and Gaza so that people could safely return to their homes in southern Israel. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from Israeli communities near the Gaza border since Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.


The deaths come as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles with domestic divisions over how to proceed in the war with Hamas, on top of international pressure over the enormous number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza and concerns about a broader regional war.


As Israeli politicians from the right and left expressed heartbreak over the losses, leading members of the government declared that the war should continue until Hamas is defeated.


Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel had “experienced one of the most difficult days since the start of the war” and that the army was examining the incident.


“We need to learn the necessary lessons and do everything to preserve our soldiers’ lives,” he said in a statement on Tuesday, adding: “We will not stop fighting until complete victory.”


Mr. Netanyahu’s stated goals of the war are eliminating Hamas and securing the release of the hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attacks, although some Israeli military leaders have said the two goals are incompatible in the short term. He faces mounting pressure to make a deal for the hostages’ release, even if that comes at the expense of eradicating the militant group.


President Isaac Herzog of Israel mourned the soldiers in a post on social media, saying news of the deaths had brought “an unbearably difficult morning.”


The military released the names early Tuesday of 10 soldiers, ranging in age from 22 to 37, who died in the explosion. Nine of them were from the same brigade. Earlier, it named three paratroopers who were also killed Monday in Gaza.


Soldiers’ deaths can carry even heavier weight in Israel, a small country where military service is largely mandatory and a rite of passage.


Internationally, Mr. Netanyahu faces criticism over the widespread destruction in Gaza, where health officials say the death toll has surpassed 25,000 — by far the largest loss of life in a regional war with Israel in the past 40 years. Almost the entire population of 2.2 million has been displaced but remains sealed in Gaza, and international aid groups say that disease is rampant and that widespread hunger is nearing starvation levels.


Since Oct. 7, when officials say 1,200 people were killed in Israel, previous days of high death tolls for the Israeli military have included Dec. 9, when nine soldiers were killed, and Dec. 13, when 10 died. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, 15 soldiers were killed in northern Gaza, according to the military.



7) More than half a million people in Gaza face ‘catastrophic hunger,’ the United Nations says.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Jan. 23. 2024


Children wait in a line, carrying empty containers.

Children waiting for food at a charity kitchen in Rafah, Gaza, last week. Credit...Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

More than half a million people in Gaza face “catastrophic hunger,” the United Nations said on Tuesday, as Israel’s restrictions on supplies of food, water and fuel to the territory as part of its war against Hamas continue to take a heavy toll.


The United Nations agency that coordinates aid to Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, added that Gaza’s health facilities had been decimated and renewed its appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to facilitate aid deliveries.


A spokeswoman for the agency, Juliette Touma, visited Gaza and appears in a video that the U.N. released on Tuesday showing people lying on floors in overcrowded medical facilities and receiving rudimentary treatment for wounds. The video also shows families lining up for food and living in makeshift dwellings.


“These are not conditions meant for human beings,” Ms. Touma said, adding that the situation was “absolutely desperate.”


The agency said that its ability to deliver aid had been impeded by intense fighting and blackouts of Gaza’s cellphone networks for days at a time, as well as restrictions on its ability to move around the territory and reach hospitals.


“As risk of famine grows,” the United Nations “calls for a critical increase in humanitarian access,” it said in a separate post on X, formerly Twitter.


Palestinian health authorities said in recent days that the number of people killed in Gaza since Israel began its campaign against Hamas had surpassed 25,000. The United Nations said that 70 percent of those who have died, or roughly 17,500 people, have been women and children.


The Israeli government says it is doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties and blames Hamas, which led an attack on Israel on Oct. 7 in which around 1,200 people were killed, for putting civilians at risk.


Israel, which imposed a siege on the territory shortly after it began its campaign, argues that Hamas hides its forces in civilian areas and has military infrastructure and command posts in tunnels beneath hospitals and other public buildings.


The Israeli government has suggested that reports of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza are overblown. “Hamas’s cynical abuse of medical and other humanitarian infrastructure is intended to make it seem like there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip,” Col. Elad Goren, head of the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, said on Monday.


He said Israel had established six field hospitals in Gaza and facilitated the entrance of more than 1,100 trucks carrying over 13,000 tons of medical supplies.


Humanitarian workers say vastly more aid is needed to meaningfully help Gaza’s 2.2 million residents amid dire shortages of food, water and supplies.



8) Israeli forces have encircled the city of Khan Younis, the military says.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ameera Harouda, Jan. 23, 2024


A cloud of black smoke rises over buildings in the distance.

Smoke over the city of Khan Younis, seen from Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israel’s military said on Tuesday that it had encircled the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, part of a push that has resulted in intense fighting and bombardments in an area packed with civilians who have fled their homes in other parts of the territory.


The Israeli military described the area as a “significant stronghold” of Hamas’s Khan Younis brigade and said that it had killed dozens of Hamas fighters over the previous 24 hours. The military’s claims could not be independently verified.


Israeli forces “targeted terrorist cells carrying R.P.G.s near the troops, those launching anti-tank missiles, and terror operatives who had rigged compounds with explosives,” the military said in a statement, referring to rocket-propelled grenade launchers. “Ready-to-launch rockets, military compounds, shafts, and numerous weapons were located during the activity,” the military added.


The fighting has involved heavy exchanges of gunfire and a surge of Israeli tanks and troops into areas around the city’s hospitals. Displaced civilians in the area say they have no safe place to go.


Eman Jawad, who is sheltering in an industrial zone in Khan Younis, said that Israeli forces surrounded her shelter on Sunday night and heavy clashes broke out with Hamas fighters. She said the fighting was so close that several tents housing displaced people went up in flames.


“We are trapped,” Ms. Jawad said in a voice message on Monday. “There are snipers on the streets and we are not allowed to leave the industrial zone.”


Rasha Ahmad, 31, said she was not able to find a safe route to evacuate from Khan Younis to Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost district, on Monday because “Israeli tanks were everywhere.” But despite the risk, she and many others decided they had no choice but to make the nearly four-hour journey on foot because Khan Younis was no longer safe, Ms. Ahmad said.


“Five men were shot by a sniper in front of my eyes,” she said in one of a series of frazzled voice messages on Monday. “I’m sure they are dead — they were left to bleed on the ground.”


A spokeswoman for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Monday that Israeli forces had essentially besieged the entire Khan Younis district. The organization said that the presence of Israeli troops near Al-Amal Hospital, which it operates, meant that ambulances could not reach the injured in Khan Younis and that anyone moving in the area was being fired upon.


The Israeli military said on Monday that it was aware of sensitive sites in the Khan Younis area, including several hospitals, but that Hamas “exploits the civilian population” and has used medical facilities in its operations, including an attack launched last week from Nasser Hospital. It said areas occupied by civilians had been marked and the soldiers involved would use their experience to “mitigate harm to uninvolved individuals.”


The health authorities in Gaza have said in recent days that more than 25,000 people there have been killed since Israel began its campaign to defeat Hamas, adding that more than 63,000 others had been injured. The authorities do not distinguish between civilians and fighters.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel began the campaign after Hamas attacked the country on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking around 240 people hostage, according to the Israeli authorities. More than 100 of those hostages remain in captivity.


Israeli forces, using thousands of airstrikes and a ground invasion, largely secured military control of northern Gaza before pushing south. The United Nations said this month that more than 60 percent of homes in Gaza had been damaged or destroyed during the campaign, while almost all of the strip’s 2.2 million people have been displaced from their homes.


Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting.



9) Israel’s military says it will review its demolition of a university building in Gaza.

By Aaron Boxerman, Arijeta Lajka and Riley Mellen reporting from Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2024


Screenshot from a video verified by The New York Times shows Israa University, south of Gaza City, being blown up.

After a video of the Israeli military’s demolition of a large university building in Gaza circulated widely on social media, prompting pushback from U.S. officials and others, the military said Sunday that it would review the incident.


The video, which was verified by The New York Times, showed the main building of Israa University being blown up in what appeared to be a controlled demolition. Satellite imagery by Planet Labs shows that the building was destroyed sometime between Jan. 10 and Jan. 14.


Israa University also posted the video on its Facebook page, where it said the demolished building housed graduate studies and undergraduate colleges. It said other university buildings had been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the war, including its training hospital, medical and engineering laboratories and cafeteria.


On Sunday, the Israeli military said both the demolition of the building and the approval process that led to it were “under review.” It said a preliminary investigation indicated that Hamas “used the compound and its surrounding area for military purposes.”


Israa University, near Gaza City, is one of several in the strip that have been devastated during Israel’s campaign against Hamas. Seven universities operate in the region, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education.


Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said last week that he had seen the video of the demolition and that it was “something we are raising with the government of Israel, as we often do.” But he cautioned that the full picture remained unclear.


On Oct. 11 — just four days after Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel prompted full-blown war — Israel bombed the Islamic University, Gaza’s oldest university. The Israeli military said that it served as a “Hamas training camp for military intelligence operatives, as well as for the development and production of weapons.”


The Islamic University’s leadership was indeed close to Hamas, and its ideological sentiment aligned with the group’s, said Muhib Abu Loha, the secretary general of the Palestinian Higher Education Council. But that did not justify turning the campus into a military target, he said.


Sofyan Taya, who was the Islamic University’s president and a well-known physics professor, was killed alongside family members in early December in an Israeli airstrike, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education. The Israeli military did not comment on the strike at the time.


Another university in Gaza, Al-Azhar, was a stronghold of Fatah — a Palestinian political movement that is a rival to Hamas. Fatah dominates the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and works closely with Israel on security. But that did not spare the Al-Azhar campus from the impact of the war, university officials said.


“The head of the Islamic University was Hamas, the head of Al-Azhar was Fatah — but both universities were targeted,” Dr. Abu Loha said. The Israelis “didn’t distinguish between them,” he added.


Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University, said one of the institute’s two campuses was heavily damaged. The other was hit during the Israeli strikes on the adjacent Islamic University, he said.


Dr. Abusada — who left Gaza for Cairo in November along with his family — is still in touch with university colleagues in a private WhatsApp channel. But no one is yet talking about going back to school, he said. Instead, they swap condolences over friends and family killed in the fighting.


“In previous wars, we’d return to the university a few days after the cease-fire. But this time is different — everything is in a state of destruction,” Dr. Abusada said. “Life will eventually go on. But it’s not going to be easy.”



10) Stripped, Beaten or Vanished: Israel’s Treatment of Gaza Detainees Raises Alarm

A U.N. office said Israel’s detention and treatment of detainees might amount to torture. It estimated thousands had been detained and held in “horrific” conditions. Some were freed wearing only diapers.

By Raja Abdulrahim, Jan. 23, 2024


Soldiers standing by a flatbed truck, its back full of shirtless, blindfolded detainees.

Palestinian men and at least one woman detained in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 8. The Israeli military reviewed this image as part of the conditions of the photographer’s embed. Credit...Yossi Zeliger/Reuters

Cold, almost naked and surrounded by Israeli soldiers with M16 assault rifles, Ayman Lubbad knelt among dozens of Palestinian men and boys who had just been forced from their homes in northern Gaza.


It was early December and photographs and videos taken at the time showed him and other detainees in the street, wearing only underwear and lined up in rows, surrounded by Israeli forces. In one video, a soldier yelled at them over a megaphone: “We’re occupying all of Gaza. Is that what you wanted? You want Hamas with you? Don’t tell me you’re not Hamas.”


The detainees, some barefoot with their hands on their heads, shouted objections. “I’m a day laborer,” one man shouted.


“Shut up,” the soldier yelled back.


Palestinian detainees from Gaza have been stripped, beaten, interrogated and held incommunicado over the past three months, according to accounts by nearly a dozen of the detainees or their relatives interviewed by The New York Times. Organizations representing Palestinian prisoners and detainees gave similar accounts in a report, accusing Israel of both indiscriminate detention of civilians and demeaning treatment of detainees.


Israeli forces who invaded Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack have detained men, women and children by the thousands.


Some were ordered out of their houses and seized while others were taken as they fled their neighborhoods on foot with their families, trying to reach safer areas after the Israeli authorities ordered them to leave.


Photographs taken by Gaza journalists have shown newly released detainees being treated in hospitals, the skin around their wrists worn down with deep cuts from the tight restraints Israeli forces kept on them, sometimes for weeks at a time.


The United Nations human rights office said last week that Israel’s treatment of Gazan detainees might amount to torture. It estimated that thousands had been detained and held in “horrific” conditions before being released, sometimes with no clothes on, only diapers.


In a statement in response to questions from The Times, the Israeli military said it detains people suspected of involvement in terrorist activity and releases those who are cleared. It said the Israeli authorities were treating detainees in accordance with international law and defended forcing men and boys to strip, saying this was to “ensure that they are not concealing explosive vests or other weaponry.”


“Detainees are given back their clothes when it’s possible,” the military added.


Human rights defenders say Israel’s detention and demeaning treatment of Palestinians in Gaza could violate international laws of war.


“Since the beginning of the Israeli bombardment and ground invasion in Gaza, the Israeli Army arrested hundreds of Palestinians in a barbaric and unprecedented manner and has published pictures and videos showing the inhumane treatment of detainees,” said a recent report by several Palestinian rights groups, including the Palestinian Prisoners’ Commission and Addameer.


“So far, Israel has concealed the fate of detainees from Gaza, has not disclosed their numbers, and prevented lawyers and the Red Cross from visiting detainees,” the report added.


A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Hisham Mhanna, said his organization received daily reports from families in Gaza about detained family members. The organization is working on some 4,000 cases of Palestinians from Gaza who had vanished, nearly half believed to be detained by the Israeli military, he said.


The group has been seeking information about the conditions and whereabouts of detainees and pushing for visits. But only in a handful of cases has it even received proof of life, Mr. Mhanna said.


Brian Finucane, an analyst at the research organization International Crisis Group and a former legal adviser to the State Department, said international law set “a very high bar” to detain noncombatants and required that they be treated humanely.


During the first month of the war, Israel warned those who did not flee areas under evacuation orders that they “may be considered a partner in a terrorist organization.” Last month, an Israeli government spokesman, Eylon Levy, said Israeli forces were detaining “military-age men” in those areas.


Hamas was estimated to have 20,000 to 40,000 fighters before the war, according to American and other Western analysts, among a population of more than two million people in Gaza.


“The presumption that military-aged males are combatants is troubling,” Mr. Finucane said.


Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, said in October that designating civilians who did not evacuate as accomplices to terrorism was not only a threat of collective punishment, but could constitute ethnic cleansing.


Photos and videos taken by Israeli soldiers and Israeli journalists embedded with the military have shown Palestinians with hands bound behind their backs, sometimes blindfolded and in underwear, kneeling outdoors in winter.


In one video taken at a stadium in Gaza City, dozens of males wearing only underwear are lined up or marched across the field surrounded by Israeli soldiers. Some of the men were gray-haired and several were young boys.


Women and girls were also present, but they remained clothed.


One detainee was Hadeel al-Dahdouh, 22, who appeared in another photo published last month in the back of truck bed packed with almost naked men. In the image, her eyes were covered by a white blindfold and her head scarf had been removed.


She and her husband, Rushdi al-Thatha, both from Gaza City in the north, were taken together on Dec. 5, Mr. al-Thatha, 31, said.


“They would hit us on our heads with their weapons,” said Mr. al-Thatha, one of a number of detainees who described being beaten by Israeli soldiers. “They would hit my wife like they hit me,” he said. “They would yell ‘Shut up!’ and curse at her.”


Mr. al-Thatha said he was released after 25 days. Ms. al-Dahdouh is still missing.


On the day when Mr. Lubbad was detained, Dec. 7, he was at his parents’ house with his wife, he said. She had given birth weeks earlier to their third child. They could hear gunfire and tanks in the streets and then an Israeli soldier yelled on a megaphone for all men to come out and surrender.


As soon as he walked out, arms up, he said, he was confronted by a soldier who ordered him to kneel and strip. In the December chill, he was kept on his knees in the back row of a line of Palestinian men and some boys — all in their underwear, some barefoot.


Mr. Lubbad, himself a human rights worker with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said his detention lasted a week. In the first moments, he said, he told himself he would do whatever the soldiers ordered.


“We didn’t know what awaits us,” he said.


His hands were tied with rope that immediately began digging into his skin, he said. The detainees were forced into trucks, blindfolded and hands restrained, still in their underwear, as soldiers hit them, Mr. Lubbad said.


They were then driven for hours into Israel.


Only when they arrived at a prison in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva were they given clothes — gray tracksuits. Each person was given a number on a blue tag and guards called them by their numbers, not names.


Mr. Lubbad was held in a large barrack for three days. From 5 a.m. to midnight, all of the dozens of detainees were forced to sit on their knees in a position he described as agonizing. Anyone who tried to shift would be punished, Mr. Lubbad said.


He was not interrogated until days later, he said, after being taken to another detention facility in Jerusalem.


The interrogator asked him where he was on Oct. 7 and whether he had any information on members of Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza, or Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction, he said. He was asked about tunnels and Hamas positions.


When he repeatedly answered that he didn’t know anything and spent much of his time either at work or at home, the interrogator grew angry and hit him under his eye, he said, then put his blindfold back — tying it painfully tight.


He was detained for several more days, but not interrogated again.


Early on Dec. 14, Mr. Lubbad said, he was among busloads of detainees driven to Gaza’s southern border and told to start walking.


Several other detainees gave similar accounts.


Majdi al-Darini, a 50-year-old father of four and retired civil servant, said he was held for 40 days with his hands restrained nearly the entire time. The restraints cut into his wrists, leaving wounds that eventually became infected. A video of Mr. al-Darini after he was released shows scabs around his wrists.


“All the while, your hands are tied and your eyes are blindfolded and you are on your knees,” he said. “And you’re not allowed to move right or left.”


He said he was detained in mid-November as he and his family were walking south, after leaving their homes in northern Gaza in response to an evacuation order.


“They treated us like animals,” he said. “They would hit us with sticks and hurl curses at us.”


Mr. al-Thatha, the man who was detained with his wife, said that 25 days into his ordeal, a prison guard came to his barracks and asked him: “‘Can you run?’”


He didn’t understand the question.


Hours later at about 2 a.m., he said, his name was called and he was put on a bus to the Kerem Shalom border crossing from Israel into Gaza. As he got off the bus, he said, a soldier warned them that there was a sniper watching and ordered them to run for 10 minutes.


“We ran for 10 minutes without turning our heads,” he said.


Ameera Harouda, Hiba Yazbek and Nick Cumming-Bruce contributed reporting.



11) At Columbia, Student Protesters Say They Were Attacked With Chemicals

After pro-Palestinian students said they had been sprayed with a foul-smelling substance during a demonstration, the university began an investigation and barred those accused from campus.

By Gaya Gupta, Published Jan. 22, 2024, Updated Jan. 23, 2024


Protesters on stairs in front of a Columbia University library building.

Columbia University’s Low Library, where pro-Palestinian student demonstrators reported being sprayed with chemicals Friday, has been the site of several recent protests, such as this November rally for academic freedom. Credit...Bing Guan for The New York Times

Columbia University and the Police Department are investigating reports that pro-Palestinian student demonstrators were sprayed with a foul-smelling chemical during a protest last week, leading the university on Monday to bar the people accused of spraying it from campus.


In a statement that was emailed to all Columbia students and faculty members on Monday night, Dennis A. Mitchell, the university’s interim provost, said that the individuals had been barred while the Police Department investigated “what appears to have been serious crimes, possibly hate crimes.”


He called the events at the protest, on the steps of Low Library, “deeply troubling” and added that the university condemned “in the strongest possible terms any threats or acts of violence” directed toward its community members. Some students required medical treatment, the statement said.


A spokesman for the Police Department said that there had been no arrests and that an investigation was continuing.


The Columbia statement did not say how many people had been barred from campus or whether they were students. It did not specify what substance had been sprayed on the protesters or what had led to the incident.


Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel demonstrations have roiled Columbia and other American college campuses. While the demonstrations have largely been peaceful, some acts have crossed the line into harassment or violence.


At Columbia in October, an Israeli student was assaulted by a 19-year-old after putting up hostage posters. And pro-Palestinian students have been threatened online, and their faces and names have been displayed on a truck, funded by an outside group, that labeled them antisemites.


In November, seeking to reduce tensions on campus, the president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik, suspended two pro-Palestinian student groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The university said that the groups had violated student event rules by repeatedly failing to ask for permission well before protesting. The groups pushed back, calling the rules unjust, and entered a coalition that continued organizing protests under different banners.


A Columbia University official said that Friday’s events had been unsanctioned and had violated the university’s policies.


According to a Barnard College student who was at the protest on Friday, people from the two suspended groups were involved in the Low Library demonstration and were protesting peacefully when at least two men sprayed them with a foul-smelling liquid.


“Halfway through the protest, we started smelling this horrible smell,” said the Barnard student, Maryam Iqbal, an 18-year-old freshman. “I can only describe it as raw sewage and dead mouse.”


Layla Saliba, a 24-year-old Palestinian American graduate student at Columbia’s School of Social Work, said that two men, whom she did not recognize, looked as if they had wanted a confrontation and called some of the protesters “terrorists.” She added that they had seemed “especially aggressive” toward students holding up signs saying “Jews for cease-fire” and called them “self-hating Jews.”


She said on Monday that she was continuing to vomit and still smelled the odor on her clothes and hair, even after nearly a dozen showers.


On Sunday, Ms. Iqbal said she had reported the incident to Columbia’s public safety department and had showed personnel there a jacket she was wearing during the protest as evidence. But she said that when she smelled the jacket, she had become sick to her stomach and was treated for nausea at a hospital.


In its statement, Columbia asked anyone who had photos, videos or other evidence of the event to share it with the Police Department.


Sharon Otterman and Chelsia Rose Marcius contributed reporting.



12) After a Botched Execution, Alabama Is Trying an Untested Method

The state plans to carry out the first U.S. execution via nitrogen hypoxia with Kenneth Smith, who survived an earlier attempt to execute him by lethal injection.

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jan. 23, 2024


A barbed wire fence surrounds a white building with an external staircase; a surveillance tower is in the background.

The William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala., is where Kenneth Smith has been on death row. Credit...Jeff Haller for The New York Times

It was Nov. 17, 2022, and Kenneth Smith was lying on a gurney inside Alabama’s execution chamber, his arms and legs strapped down as he waited to be put to death. Mr. Smith, who had been on death row for more than a quarter-century after being convicted of murdering a woman, recalled thanking God for his final week alive and thinking of his family.


At the time, the state was using the same method of execution that has been used in the vast majority of modern U.S. executions: lethal injection. And like many other states, Alabama had problems. That night, a team of people tried and repeatedly failed to insert an intravenous line into Mr. Smith’s arms and hands and, eventually, a vein near his heart. The jabbing stopped — according to his lawyers, who recounted in court documents Mr. Smith’s experiences that night — when prison officials decided that they might not have time to carry out the execution before the death warrant expired at midnight.


Now, more than a year later, Alabama is preparing once again this week to execute Mr. Smith, this time employing a method that has never been used in a U.S. execution: nitrogen hypoxia. Under this method, which has been used in assisted suicides in Europe, Mr. Smith will be fitted with a mask and administered a flow of nitrogen gas, effectively depriving him of oxygen until he dies.


The execution, scheduled for Thursday evening, is the latest turn in the fraught battle over executions in the U.S., where a growing number of states are banning the death penalty; those that retain the punishment are finding it difficult to carry out. Pressure from activist and medical groups has made it challenging for prison officials to procure lethal drugs, and a series of executions in the last two years were plagued by trouble finding veins. Alabama is one of several states that are looking at alternatives, including nitrogen hypoxia, and some states have recently authorized the use of a firing squad.


This week’s planned execution has galvanized death penalty critics who say that Alabama prison officials are making Mr. Smith a test subject for an unproven and potentially macabre experiment. State officials argue that death by nitrogen hypoxia is painless because it quickly causes a person to lose consciousness. They note that Mr. Smith’s lawyers have themselves identified nitrogen hypoxia as preferable to Alabama’s troubled administration of lethal injection drugs.


Last week, a federal judge in Alabama rejected a request by Mr. Smith’s lawyers to halt the execution. Mr. Smith has appealed, and the case will most likely be appealed further to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in recent years has been reticent to halt executions at the last minute.


Mr. Smith, who responded to written questions via email, said he was worried that the procedure could go wrong.


”I am worried that we have told Alabama that these risks could happen — will happen — just like we warned them last year,” he said. “And they will do nothing to prevent these dangers from happening.”


The details of how the procedure is expected to unfold are outlined in a 40-page protocol document that Alabama issued last summer, the public version of which is heavily redacted.


What is known is that Mr. Smith will be led from his cell in the William C. Holman Correctional Facility to the prison’s death chamber. The complex is in Atmore, Ala., about 55 miles northeast of Mobile, and five reporters will be allowed to witness the execution. Mr. Smith will be put on a gurney and a mask will be placed over his face, and then he will be given two minutes to say his last words. Then, the prison warden or an assistant will initiate the pumping of the gas into Mr. Smith’s mask for at least 15 minutes.


There are few people who have intimate knowledge of what an execution by nitrogen hypoxia might look like. However, one of them is Dr. Philip Nitschke, a pioneer in assisted suicide who recently invented a pod that fills with nitrogen as a way for people to end their lives.


Dr. Nitschke estimates he has witnessed at least 50 deaths by nitrogen hypoxia. He was called to testify by Mr. Smith’s lawyers in December during their effort to block the execution, and he met with Mr. Smith. After visiting the Alabama execution chamber and examining the mask that will be used by the state for Mr. Smith’s death, Dr. Nitschke said in an interview that he could imagine scenarios ranging from a quick and painless death to one involving substantial suffering if things were to go wrong.


He said that the big difference between Alabama’s protocols and those of his assisted suicide work in Europe and Australia lies in Alabama’s plan to use a mask. He said it would create a higher chance of there being a leak — allowing oxygen in and prolonging the process — than a room, pod or a plastic bag would.


“I feel anxious about Kenny, and I just don’t know which way things are going to go,” Dr. Nitschke said of Mr. Smith, whom he said seemed very nervous when the two met.


“What he would’ve liked to hear from me,” Dr. Nitschke said, “was that this was going to work well.” But, he said, he did not feel that he could promise Mr. Smith as much, instead viewing Alabama’s protocols as a “quick and nasty” attempt at nitrogen hypoxia that ignores the potential dangers of vomiting and air leakage.


In the room during the execution will be Mr. Smith’s spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeff Hood, who lives in Little Rock, Ark. He began speaking with Mr. Smith in November, developing what he describes as a close bond, and planned to be present during the execution.


Mr. Hood said in an interview that he was fearful of what Mr. Smith might have to endure, and he raised the possibility that Mr. Smith might physically resist the execution attempt.


“This is not going to be a peaceful experiment,” Mr. Hood said, adding: “I think it’s important for people to realize, when you strap someone down like that, you can’t expect someone who’s choking to death — suffocating to death — to not resist.”


Mr. Hood said he was also worried about his own safety, noting that prison officials required him to sign a waiver that warns about the potential hazards of nitrogen and to stay three feet away from Mr. Smith while he is wearing the mask.


Mr. Smith is facing execution for the 1988 stabbing murder of Elizabeth Sennett, after testimony that Ms. Sennett’s husband, a pastor, had offered to pay Mr. Smith and two other men $1,000 each to kill her. (The pastor, Charles Sennett Sr., later killed himself.) The jurors who convicted Mr. Smith voted 11 to 1 to spare his life and instead to sentence him to life in prison, but a judge overruled them and condemned him to death. In 2017, Alabama stopped allowing judges to overrule death penalty juries in such a way, and such rulings are no longer allowed anywhere in the United States.


Mr. Smith said that he did not believe that it was just for the judge to override the jury’s sentence in his case. Since the failed execution attempt, Mr. Smith said, he had struggled with severe anxiety and depression.


To Ms. Sennett’s sons, the execution cannot come soon enough — particularly after the botched attempt in 2022 — and they have said that the novel method was of little concern to them.


“Some of these people out there say, ‘Well, he doesn’t need to suffer like that,’” one son, Charles Sennett Jr., told WAAY 31 television station. “Well, he didn’t ask Mama how to suffer. They just did it. They stabbed her multiple times.”


Mr. Sennett said that he and other family members planned to attend the execution.


Another son, Michael Sennett, told NBC News last month that he was frustrated that the state had taken so long to carry out an execution that the judge ordered decades ago.


“It doesn’t matter to me how he goes out, so long as he goes,” he said, noting that Mr. Smith had been in prison “twice as long as I knew my mom.”


A slew of botched executions in Alabama, including that of Mr. Smith, led the state’s governor, Kay Ivey, a Republican, to order a temporary pause in executions while prison officials reviewed their procedures. Ms. Ivey lifted the pause after a few months, with prison officials describing some minor changes and a new rule allowing the state more time to carry out executions.


Since executions resumed, the state has killed two death row prisoners and has not had the kind of problems that plagued its previous attempts.


Polling has consistently showed that a slight majority of Americans support the death penalty, with a sharp divide along political lines. Most Republicans (81 percent) and just 32 percent of Democrats support the death penalty for people convicted of murder, according to one Gallup poll last year.


Still, executions have declined significantly since the modern peak of 98 carried out in 1999. Last year, states executed 24 people, and the federal government has played an increased role in recent years. The Trump administration put to death 13 people by lethal injection, the first executions by the federal government since George W. Bush was president.


Last week, the Justice Department under President Joe Biden, who campaigned on ending the federal death penalty, said it would seek the death penalty against a white gunman who killed 10 Black people in a racist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo.


Anna Betts contributed reporting.