2/25/2024

Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 26, 2024



Saturday, March 2, 12:00 Noon
Harry Bridges Plaza
Outside the Ferry Building
San Francisco, California

ANSWER San Francisco -- (415) 821-6545 

answer@answersf.org

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Art Against Imprisonment Presents

A Benefit for a New Oakland Mural-

Sumud: Resistance Until Liberation

 

A collaboration between artists and activists that explores and confronts the deep interconnections between the brutal systems of imprisonment in the U.S. and Palestine.

 

Caroline Davis on Saxophone

Satya Chima, CCWP

Opium Sabbah, Oakland Jericho Movement

 

Sunday, March 10, 2:00 P.M.

Eastside Cultural Center

2277 International Blvd., Oakland

 

For more information contact:

 artagainstimprisonment@gmail.com


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Gaza Strip Access Restrictions.pdf since 2007

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gaza_Strip_Access_Restrictions.pdf

Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of February 26, 2024the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 29,782,* 70,043 wounded, and more than 406+ Palestinians have been killed and 4,600 wounded 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.

Israel lowers its estimated October 7 death toll from 1,400 to 1,139, 579 Israeli soldiers killed since ground invasion, 3,221 wounded**


*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 38,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”


Source: mondoweiss.net


FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA PALESTINE WILL BE FREE!
END ALL U.S. AID TO ISRAEL!
FOR A DEMOCRATIC, SECULAR PALESTINE!

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Comment on the New York Times Editorial titled:

“A U.S. Call for a Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza”

Opinion By The Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/24/opinion/gaza-ceasefire.html

 

K

Seattle

2m ago

The root of the cycles of violence is the occupation. The US policy in Israel/Palestine has been a failure and contributed to the ongoing suffering on both sides. Even though the US has the capacity to help resolve this issue, it lacks the will. 

 

Consider the following published soon after the occupation started, in September 1967 in an Israeli newspaper by Moshe Machover and others.

 

Our right to defend ourselves from extermination does not give us the right to oppress others

 

Occupation entails Foreign Rule

Foreign Rule entails Resistance

Resistance entails Repression

Repression entails Terror and Counter-Terror

The victims of terror are mostly innocent people

 

Holding on to the occupied territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims

 

Let us get out of the Occupied Territories immediately


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We are all Palestinian

Listen and view this beautiful, powerful, song by Mistahi Corkill on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQwuhbLczgI

Greetings,

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!

Mistahi

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


We are all Palestinian


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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

https://youtu.be/L9k79honqIA


For More Information:

bayarealabor4palestine@gmail.com

Production of Labor Video Project

www.labormedia.net

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0ad3mEylwY

Just Like The Nazis Did

By David Rovics

 

After so many decades of patronage

By the world’s greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

After crushing so many uprisings

Now they’re making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their Final Solution

Just like the Nazis did

 

They forced refugees into ghettos

Then set the ghettos aflame

Murdering writers and poets

And so no one remember their names

Killing their entire families

The grandparents, women and kids

The uncles and cousins and babies

Just like the Nazis did

 

They’re bombing all means of sustaining

Human life at all

See the few shelters remaining

Watch as the tower blocks fall

They’re bombing museums and libraries

In order to get rid

Of any memory of the people who lived here

Just like the Nazis did

 

They’re saying these people are animals

And they should all end up dead

They’re sending soldiers into schools

And shooting children in the head

The rhetoric is identical

And with Gaza off the grid

They’ve already said what happens next

Just like the Nazis did

 

Words of war for domestic consumption

And lies for all the rest

To try to distract our attention

Among their enablers in the West

Because Israel needs their imports

To keep those pallets on the skids

They need fuel and they need missiles

Just like the Nazis did

 

They’re using food as a weapon

They’re using water that way, too

They’re trying to kill everyone in Gaza

Or make them flee, it’s true

As the pundits talk of “after the war”

Like with the Fall of Madrid

The victors are preparing for more

Just like the Nazis did

 

But it’s after the conquest’s complete

If history is any guide

When the occupying army

Is positioned to decide

When disease and famine kills

Whoever may have hid

Behind the ghetto walls

Just like the Nazis did

 

All around the world

People are trying to tell

There's a genocide unfolding

Ringing alarm bells

But with such a powerful axis

And so many lucrative bids

They know who wants their money

Just like the Nazis did

 

There's so many decades of patronage

For the world's greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

They're crushing so many uprisings

Now they're making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their final solution

Just like the Nazis did

  Just like the Nazis did

    Just like the Nazis did


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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:

https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member

 

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: 

             202-456-1111

             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 



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Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!

FREE HIM NOW!

Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733


Join the Fight for Mumia's Life


Since September, Mumia Abu-Jamal's health has been declining at a concerning rate. He has lost weight, is anemic, has high blood pressure and an extreme flair up of his psoriasis, and his hair has fallen out. In April 2021 Mumia underwent open heart surgery. Since then, he has been denied cardiac rehabilitation care including a healthy diet and exercise.

Donate to Mumia Abu-Jamal's Emergency Legal and Medical Defense Fund, Official 2024

Mumia has instructed PrisonRadio to set up this fund. Gifts donated here are designated for the Mumia Abu-Jamal Medical and Legal Defense Fund. If you are writing a check or making a donation in another way, note this in the memo line.

Send to:

 Mumia Medical and Legal Fund c/o Prison Radio

P.O. Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94103

Prison Radio is a project of the Redwood Justice Fund (RJF), which is a California 501c3 (Tax ID no. 680334309) not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the defense of the environment and of civil and human rights secured by law.  Prison Radio/Redwood Justice Fund PO Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94141


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We are saddened to announce the passing of Leonard Peltier’s sister, Linda.

 

Leonard is humbly requesting help with funeral expenses.

 

Even a dollar or two would be greatly appreciated.

 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-leonard-peltier-family-bury-his-sister-linda?utm_campaign=p_cp+fundraiser-sidebar&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer

 

Respect,

Dawn Lawson

Personal Assistant Leonard Peltier

Executive Assistant Jenipher Jones, Esq.

Secretary Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee

800-901-4413

dawn@allfiredup.blue

www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org





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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM8GDeGv90E

 

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

www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org


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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWdJdODKO6M&feature=youtu.be


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

 

https://www.freeleonardpeltier.com/petition

 

Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

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


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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)


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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:

https://www.amazon.com/Reports-Within-Belly-Beast-Department-ebook/dp/B084656JDZ/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

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


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Sign the petition:

https://dontextraditeassange.com/petition/


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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
Director
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
ExposeFacts

Twitter: @JesselynRadack

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Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

https://www.nlg.org/federalrepressionresources/

 

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


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Articles

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1) The Particular Anguish of Being Palestinian in Israel

By Raghad Jaraisy and Ofer Dagan, Feb. 23, 2024

Ms. Jaraisy and Mr. Dagan are co-chief executives of Sikkuy-Aufoq, a nonprofit run by Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel working toward an equal and shared society.

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/23/opinion/palestinians-citizens-israel-gaza.html

Samantha Wall


As the rest of the world watches the Gaza war with horror, one community is following it with a particular kind of anguish: the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

 

They are connected by family ties, language, culture and history to their fellow Palestinians in Gaza — while living, working and studying side-by-side with Jewish Israelis in the very country that caused their people’s misfortune.

 

Palestinian citizens of Israel are no strangers to seeing their country of citizenship bring force to bear on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and their own history is rife with systematic discrimination and little recognition of their collective identity. Israel’s war in response to the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 has led the Israeli government to ratchet up those social, economic and legal pressures, putting an already vulnerable people in an especially thorny place and threatening the fragile links between Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

 

That is a terrible mistake.

 

Most of Israel’s two million Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the national population, hold on to their Palestinian identity, language and culture. At the same time they speak Hebrew, participate in Israeli politics to varying degrees and are generally acquainted with Jewish and Israeli culture. They hold a unique position, as perhaps the only group that continues to form friendship, partnership and solidarity ties — albeit often flawed and partial — with both the Palestinians across the border and the Jewish citizens of Israel.

 

That delicate position provides a rare commodity in the region: the ability to see a broader and more nuanced picture and serve as a bridge to a long-lasting solution to the war and the larger conflict. The links between the two groups could be a model for a different future in the area, and a stronger Palestinian voice in Israel could increase the demand for a just and humane resolution to the war, helping both peoples. The Palestinian citizens of Israel are worth listening to.

 

Many Palestinians in Israel were filled with revulsion on Oct. 7 as Hamas attacked the Israeli towns near the border and murdered and brutalized their inhabitants. They also suffered their own casualties: Seven of the 240 people kidnapped and taken to Gaza were Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and more than a dozen Palestinian citizens were killed in the Hamas attack or by rockets fired from Gaza since that day.

 

But unlike a majority of Israel’s citizens, who have for the past four months been glued to an Israeli media that barely covers what is happening in Gaza, Palestinian citizens have learned, with dread and panic, from Arab news sources, friends and social media the enormous toll of death and destruction suffered by their people.

 

Despite the violent history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they’ve been aghast at the deep humanitarian crisis, the starvation of Gazans and the forced displacement of over a million people that evoked the Nakba, or catastrophe — the mass flight and expulsion of Palestinians when Israel became a state.

 

The trauma has been compounded by their inability to do or even say much about it. The government has cracked down harshly on criticism of its actions, and even empathy with the Palestinian people in Gaza. Palestinian citizens of Israel have borne the brunt of the crackdown.

 

A Palestinian doctor was suspended from his position, Palestinian students at colleges and universities have been punished, and other people have been arrested for social media posts that were often simply misunderstood by those who don’t speak Arabic.

 

Well before the war, Palestinian citizens of Israel had to deal with discrimination — lesser government services for education, welfare, housing and culture, along with a campaign against their collective identity. Now the silencing of dissent has had a significant impact not only on the psyches of Palestinian citizens, who worry that even liking a social media post will put them in a cell, but also on their economic well-being.

 

Since Oct. 7, their unemployment rate has tripled to 15.6 percent largely because of firings for political reasons, boycotts and downturns in sectors with a large proportion of Palestinian Israeli workers. The increase for Jewish Israelis was milder — slightly more than doubling to just over 8.6 percent.

 

The government is also attempting to cut the very budgets dedicated to the development of Palestinian citizens. The war is estimated to have cost Israel nearly $60 billion in the first three months — an expense so extreme that the Moody’s rating agency recently downgraded Israel’s credit rating.

 

In an effort to minimize further economic damage, Israel has increased its deficit and is pushing major budget cuts through parliament. These include cuts across the board, but the board isn’t flat. Reductions to funding directed to Palestinian citizens are slated to be three times higher than the rest — 15 percent compared with 5 percent. Through these budget cuts the Palestinians in Israel are effectively paying a disproportionate cost of the war against fellow Palestinians.

 

This hurts the entire Israeli economy. International institutions such as the O.E.C.D., as well as the Bank of Israel, have warned that without serious investment in the economic development of the large Palestinian community in Israel, the economy could suffer. The plans now threatened to be cut actually work. Over the past few years the employment rate of Palestinian women increased to approximately 45 percent in the second half of 2023 from 33 percent in 2014.

 

The hostile environment has also worsened the relationship between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, raising fears of a return to the violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel of nearly three years ago. Israel’s right-wing government has also begun making it easier for Jewish citizens to acquire weapons.

 

Rather than isolating and weakening the Palestinian citizens of Israel, marking them as the “enemy within” through repressive tactics, the Israeli government must remove discriminatory policies against them and stop fighting recognition of their Palestinian identity.

 

Doing so would create a model of what equal partnership between Palestinian and Jewish Israelis could look like, one that would signify a significant step toward reconciliation and an end to the cycle of violence.


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2) Sanitation Crisis in Gaza Spreads Disease

“It is a public health concern,” one U.N. official said of the lack of toilets for displaced people in the territory. “But the second thing is simply just dignity.”

By Raja Abdulrahim, Feb. 24, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/24/world/middleeast/gaza-sanitation-crisis.html

Several makeshift tents with people inside stand behind pools of dirty water.

Makeshift tents where displaced Palestinians live in Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. In a sprawling tent encampment, access to bathrooms is a prevailing concern. Credit...Fatima Shbair/Associated Press


In a sprawling tent encampment in Gaza, the Israeli bombs fall close enough to hear and feel. But daily life is also a struggle against hunger, cold and a growing sanitation crisis.

 

A lack of sufficient toilets and clean water, as well as open sewage, are problems that displaced Palestinians have struggled with since the early days of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

 

For two months after Salwa al-Masri, 75, and her family fled to the city of Rafah, at the southernmost tip of Gaza, to escape Israel’s military offensive, she said she would walk 200 yards to reach the nearest bathroom. If she was lucky, younger women in line would let her jump ahead. Other times, she might wait up to an hour to use a dirty toilet shared with thousands of other people.

 

“It’s horrible,” Ms. al-Masri said via WhatsApp recently from her family’s ramshackle tent, which they made out of wood and plastic sheeting. “I wouldn’t drink water. I would stay thirsty so I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom. I stopped drinking coffee and tea.”

 

Many other Gazans, already facing hunger and thirst as a result of Israel’s more than four-month siege of the territory, say they, too, have tried to cut back on eating and drinking even more to avoid an uncomfortable and unsanitary visit to the toilet.

 

Recently, Ms. al-Masri’s son and other relatives bought a cement toilet basin and dug a hole behind their tent, where the sewage gathers. It is a closer bathroom and one she shares with fewer people.

 

But the challenges of getting water to wash with and of the accumulating sewage are threatening their health, and the stench of sewage fills their makeshift encampment.

 

Last month, the World Health Organization reported that cases of hepatitis A had been spreading in Gaza. It also said that there were several thousand people with jaundice, which is caused by hepatitis A, among other conditions. Cases of diarrhea among children have also skyrocketed. All of it is linked to poor sanitation, according to UNICEF.

 

“The inhumane living conditions — barely any clean water, clean toilets and possibility to keep the surroundings clean — will enable hepatitis A to spread further,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., wrote on social media at the time, “and highlight how explosively dangerous the environment is for the spread of disease.”

 

Prominent epidemiologists have estimated that an escalation of the war in Gaza could cause up to 85,000 Palestinian deaths over the next six months from injuries, disease and lack of medical care, in addition to the nearly 30,000 that local authorities have already reported since early October. Their estimate represents “excess deaths” that would not have been expected without the war.

 

Schools, hospitals, mosques and churches have become overcrowded shelters for Palestinians seeking safety from Israeli airstrikes. The few available bathrooms have to be shared among hundreds or thousands of people who sometimes wait in lines for hours to use them.

 

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the accompanying ground offensive have increasingly pushed Palestinians south into the overcrowded corner of Gaza around Rafah and forced them to erect makeshift tents. As a result, access to bathrooms and sanitation has only worsened.

 

Some 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are now in Rafah — more than half of Gaza’s total population of about 2.2 million — even as Israel threatens to invade the area.

 

After the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, Israel’s near-complete siege on Gaza has prevented most things from coming into the territory, creating a dire shortage of food, water and medicines. Additionally, representatives of both UNICEF and the Palestine Red Crescent Society said their organizations have tried to bring in portable toilets and materials to build sanitation facilities, but the Israeli authorities prevented them.

 

“It is a public health concern,” said Abrassac Kamara, a UNICEF manager for the Palestine WASH program, which helps deliver safe water and sanitation services. “But the second thing is simply just dignity. It is something we take for granted, but it’s really how we are taking dignity away from people.”

 

Israel’s civil administration, the bureaucratic arm of its military in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, said the restrictions on certain goods entering Gaza prevented the entry of items that could also be used for military purposes.

 

Hamas “exploits civilian resources in order to strengthen itself militarily at the expense of caring for the civilian population,” the civil administration said, without explaining how portable bathrooms could serve military needs.

 

UNICEF officials said they have had to resort to constructing toilets out of wood, concrete and plastic sheeting — materials already available in Gaza — often at a high cost. The agency plans to make 500 such toilets in Rafah to help reduce the congestion.

 

“At the moment, anything that is considered construction material — mostly metal, but also sandwich panels, nails, reinforcement rods — are all banned,” Mr. Kamara said. “We are making do.”

 

UNICEF had planned to build another 500 toilets in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, but had to abandon those efforts as Israel’s ground offensive moved into the area recently.

 

“They will literally put any sort of privacy screening — plastic at the back of the tent — and just dig and bury when they need to relieve themselves,” Mr. Kamara said. “We are back to the basic sanitation of digging a hole and covering it.”

 

In a video posted on Instagram last month, Bisan Owda, a Gazan journalist and documentary filmmaker, chronicled the daily struggle of finding a latrine. As she walked past tents in the street, carrying a large jug of water, she narrated her challenges.

 

“This is my daily routine,” she said, “walking for almost 20 to 25 minutes to reach a bathroom — struggling to reach a bathroom, actually.”

 

Other women have lamented a desperate lack of sanitary pads in the territory, and at least one of them told The New York Times that she had started taking birth control pills to stop her period altogether.

 

Sana Kabariti, 33, a pharmacist from Gaza City, in the north, said she fled home with her family to the town of Nuseirat, in central Gaza, as Israeli bombs rained down on their neighborhood in the first few days of the war. She and some 40 members of her extended family, including 10 children, cloistered in a small room and shared one bathroom, she said. But there was no water and no toilet paper.

 

So despite the dangers, they returned to their homes.

 

“With regards to the toilet, there wasn’t any water,” she said. “And this is what led to the families with us to return to Gaza City, and to the danger, because they couldn’t handle the lack of water and lack of toilet paper.”

 

Eventually, the bombing in Gaza City became so intense that she and her family had to flee again. They headed south, first to the city of Deir al Balah and eventually to Rafah.

 

They are better off than many in Rafah because they are sheltering in a room in a house shared among many. But the bathroom is small, and they must trek each day to get water to wash themselves and try to keep the bathroom clean. Showering is a luxury they can rarely afford.

 

They do not use toilet paper. Even if they can find it at markets, the price is exorbitant: Israel’s siege has driven up the cost of what few goods are still available in Gaza.

 

Instead, the family cuts up pieces of fabric to use, Ms. Kabariti said.

 

“There are many people who aren’t willing to use the bathroom more than once a day,” she said.

 

In her neighborhood, she recounted meeting an older woman who refused to use the bathroom in the center where she was sheltering because it was so dirty and unhygienic. Instead, neighbors allowed her to use their bathroom.

 

But not wanting to impose, she uses it only once a day — right after sunrise when she has said her morning prayers. Afterward, she holds it in until the next morning.

 

“I don’t know how long a person’s body can continue like this after nearly four months,” Ms. Kabariti said.

 

Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.


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3) U.S. Criticism of Israel Shows Frustration, but Support Remains Steadfast

By Aaron Boxerman, Feb. 24, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/24/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

The remnants of a chair and burned-out car are seen on a debris-strewn street lined by buildings.

The aftermath of strikes in the West Bank city of Jenin on Friday. Credit...Alaa Badarneh/EPA, via Shutterstock


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s reversal of Trump-era policy on settlements in the occupied West Bank reflects rising Biden administration frustration with Israel, but it is unlikely to dent the strong American backing for its ally’s military campaign in Gaza or pressure Israel to change course, analysts said on Saturday.

 

During a trip to Argentina on Friday, Mr. Blinken called the settlements “inconsistent with international law," a break with policy set under the Trump administration and a return to the decades-long U.S. position.

 

The Biden administration is increasingly fed up with the Israeli government’s conduct in the Gaza war and beyond, with officials speaking out more publicly on contentious issues, said Nimrod Novik, a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum think tank. As an example, he cited a U.S. decision to slap financial sanctions on four Israelis accused of attacking Palestinians in the West Bank — three of them settlers — at a time when settler violence against Palestinians has increased.

 

Mr. Novik called Mr. Blinken’s remarks “too little, too late,” adding that the administration’s moves “in practice, are disjointed. The message is there, but it’s a tactical statement where the overall strategy is unclear.”

 

The United States has long been Israel’s most important international ally. After the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 left 1,200 dead in Israel, mostly civilians, Washington has consistently backed Israel’s blistering campaign in Gaza. The Biden administration has also shielded Israel from international censure by blocking cease-fire resolutions at the U.N. Security Council, even as the death toll in Gaza nears 30,000, according to health officials in the enclave.

 

Blinken’s declaration appears to have been triggered by an announcement by Bezalel Smotrich, a senior Israeli minister, that a planning committee would soon discuss moving ahead with over 3,000 new housing units in the settlements. Most would be in Ma’ale Adumim, where three Palestinian gunmen killed one Israeli and wounded several others on Thursday.

 

Mr. Smotrich called the new units “an appropriate Zionist response” to the attack.

 

Biden administration officials have repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank — where roughly 500,000 Israelis now live among some 2.7 million Palestinians — as an obstacle to the longstanding U.S. goal of a two-state solution. In recent weeks, Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said he worked for years to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he has long said would endanger Israel’s security.

 

Palestinians hope the West Bank will be an integral part of their future independent state, but Israeli settlements have slowly taken over sizable chunks of the territory. Palestinian officials called Mr. Blinken’s declaration long overdue and not nearly enough.

 

“Reversing an illegal act by the previous administration has been overdue for three and a half years,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, said in a phone call on Saturday. “For the love of God, I don’t understand why Blinken and President Biden sat on their hands on this issue — and many others — for all this time.”

 

Still, Mr. Blinken’s declaration was “better late than never,” Mr. Zomlot said, adding that Palestinians expected “real actions” against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank rather than “baby steps.”

 

But that expectation might not be forthcoming, analysts said. Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. diplomat, said the Biden administration was unlikely to follow up Mr. Blinken’s declaration with “serious costs and consequences.” Alongside regional mediators, U.S. officials have been trying to clinch a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas, making a “sustained public war with Netanyahu” unpalatable for Biden, he said in an email.

 

Although Mr. Biden entered office pledging to reverse some of his predecessor’s policies on Israel, many remain intact. A separate Jerusalem consulate that effectively served as the U.S. liaison to the Palestinians was never formally reopened after it was closed by the Trump administration; the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington is still closed; and most financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, is frozen under legislation signed by Mr. Trump.


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4) U.N. human rights experts urge nations to stop exporting arms to Israel.

By Nick Cumming-Bruce reporting from Geneva, Feb. 24, 2024

“The United States supplies the most military aid to Israel, more than $3 billion, which accounts for about two-thirds of Israel’s arms imports. It also maintains large weapons stockpiles in Israel, which the United States has allowed the Israeli military to draw from.”

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/24/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

Israeli soldiers dressed in helmets and green uniforms walk past a wall in central Gaza printed with the blue U.N. logo.

Israeli soldiers patrolling the central Gaza Strip, photographed during an escorted tour by the Israeli military early this month. Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times


United Nations human rights experts on Friday urged countries to stop transferring arms or ammunition to Israel that it might use in Gaza on the grounds that they could be deployed to commit war crimes.

 

More than 30 U.N. human rights monitors signed onto a statement issued on Friday asserting that Israel’s military operations in Gaza had repeatedly violated international law and that states were obligated under international law to halt arms transfers if evidence suggested they might be used to commit war crimes.

 

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk,” the statement said.

 

Israel has rejected allegations that it has committed war crimes in the operations it launched in Gaza after the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7. It maintains it has tried to warn civilians in advance to leave areas being attacked and has targeted only civilian buildings being used  by Hamas for military purposes.

 

But Israel has faced growing international condemnation for the tens of thousands of civilians, most of them women and children, who Gazan health officials say have been killed or injured since it began its invasion of Gaza in October.

 

Human rights experts have said that Israel’s use of powerful, imprecise bombs with a wide blast range in densely populated areas amounts to an indiscriminate and disproportionate attack on civilians that cannot be justified by military necessity under international law.

 

Hamas, the armed group that once controlled Gaza, is also accused of committing atrocities against Israeli civilians during cross-border attacks on Oct. 7. Israeli officials say Hamas-led raiders killed 1,200 people and took 250 hostage.

 

Multiple news organizations have reported allegations of sexual violence during the attack, and The New York Times in late December published a monthslong investigation that included accounts from several eyewitnesses who said they saw women being sexually assaulted and killed.

 

A report released by the U.N.’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, later on Friday found that all parties in the conflict had committed “clear violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes.”

 

He urged governments to use their influence to stop, and not to enable, violations of international law, and also called for an independent investigation to determine other potential violations of international law.

 

The experts called for Israel’s leading arms suppliers, the United States and Germany, to halt military aid, along with Britain, France, Canada and Australia. Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain have already decided to suspend arms transfers to Israel.

 

The United States supplies the most military aid to Israel, more than $3 billion, which accounts for about two-thirds of Israel’s arms imports.

 

It also maintains large weapons stockpiles in Israel, which the United States has allowed the Israeli military to draw from.

 

President Biden has shown no sign of changing course despite recently characterizing Israel’s military response in Gaza as “over the top” and receiving sharp criticism from within his administration and skepticism from allies in Europe.

 

Asked about the U.N. experts’ recommendations, a State Department spokesperson said the United States supported Israel’s right to self-defense and that U.S. officials had made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians.

 

Earlier this month, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, responded to President Biden’s stated concern over the immense civilian suffering, saying that “if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms.”

 

His comments echoed wider European calls for a halt to arms sales to Israel. A Dutch court this month ordered the Netherlands to block shipments to Israel of F-35 jet fighter parts from American-owned warehouses. Judges rejected the government’s argument that the aircraft were essential for Israel’s security and said there was a “clear risk the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

 

Britain continues to allow arms sales to Israel, one of its close allies, but is under pressure to change its policy as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which says that states should not supply arms that might be used to commit genocide or crimes against humanity.

 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to documents produced in court proceedings earlier this year, was unable to conclude that Israeli operations in Gaza complied with international humanitarian law, and British government ministers have warned Israel against an assault on Rafah.

 

Adam Sella contributed reporting.


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5) A U.S. Call for a Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza

Opinion By The Editorial Board, Feb. 24, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/24/opinion/gaza-ceasefire.html

An aerial view of dust rising from bombed buildings.

Fatima Shbair/Associated Press


Vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza while circulating a softer hostages-for-cease-fire resolution of its own may have been the best of the bad options available to the Biden administration. President Biden is right to take this step. Given the scale of death and destruction in Gaza, and the prospect of more to come, he can take other measures as well that might lessen Palestinians’ suffering and loss of life.

 

The issue is not whether Israel was justified in going after Hamas after the terrorist attack of Oct. 7. It was, and it has achieved some of its military aims. It has destroyed significant parts of Hamas’s military infrastructure and reduced its fighting force. Hamas reportedly says it has lost about 6,000 of an estimated 25,000 fighters; Israel says it has killed more than 10,000 of them.

 

But this war, on its current course, is leading to the wholesale killing of Palestinians while Hamas gains in international standing and the remaining Israeli hostages remain captive. The United States, as Israel’s most important ally and source of military aid, should take the lead in changing that.

 

The president was right to demonstrate sympathy and support for Israel in the days after the Oct. 7 attack. Since then, his administration has worked tirelessly with Arab allies, first mediating a brief halt in fighting in November and more recently trying to negotiate a longer cease-fire to release the Israeli hostages and to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza.

 

Hamas launched its attack to provoke an Israeli response, knowing that the people of Gaza would be acutely vulnerable. The terrorist group hides its fighters among civilians, and built its infrastructure, including miles of tunnels, underneath homes, schools and hospitals.

 

Since the war began, the two million people who live in Gaza have been pounded by Israeli bombardment. More than 29,000 people have been killed, according to Palestinian figures; more than half of Gaza’s homes and buildings have been destroyed, and the United Nations has raised the alarm that, cut off from supplies of food, Gazans are at risk of starvation. The death toll could soon rise sharply if Israel carries out a ground invasion of Rafah, a city in the far south of Gaza, where the military believes 10,000 Hamas fighters remain, and to which a million civilians have fled.

 

Yet every U.S. effort to rein in the Israeli assault has been rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or blocked by unacceptable demands from Hamas. Mr. Netanyahu, in particular, has been more concerned about satisfying the far-right and religious coalition partners who keep him in power. On Friday he released a position paper for postwar Gaza that allows for indefinite military control by Israel, playing to his base of supporters while angering Palestinians.

 

This complicates the work of the United States and moderate Arab states, which are trying to engineer a plan for “after Gaza” — a crucial step in making sure that Gaza has a chance at stability once the fighting stops. Though no details have been made public, the plan, which is not part of the proposed Security Council resolution, calls for international help in the reconstruction of the devastated Gaza Strip, the formation of a functional Hamas-free government in the West Bank and Gaza, the normalization of Israeli relations with Saudi Arabia, and a road map toward a demilitarized state for the Palestinians.

 

That plan, however, depends on first arranging a cease-fire durable enough to provide for the release of the remaining Israeli hostages — the most recent proposal was for at least six weeks. The resolution the United States is circulating does not go as far and does not have sharp teeth. It proposes a cease-fire “as soon as practicable,” which can be whatever Israel wants it to be, and it warns Israel against invading Rafah under current conditions. And it will most likely be vetoed by Russia and China.

 

But given the extraordinary record of American support for Israel at the United Nations — demonstrated by dozens of vetoes to block resolutions critical of Israel, including three calling for a cease-fire in Gaza — the fact of the United States circulating a resolution that mentions the term “cease-fire” should be a signal to Israelis that American leaders are losing patience with Mr. Netanyahu’s forever war.

 

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the United States also sent a message to Israel when it abstained on a resolution condemning settlement construction in the West Bank, thus allowing it to pass. The resolution had no practical import, but it made an important point — which the Biden administration has reinforced — about settlements as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

 

Similarly, this resolution, however short-lived, is a moment for the U.S. to make clear to the Israeli people that its enduring support for Israel does not extend to the worst policies of its government. However divided America might be, the United States still wields a powerful voice in Israeli affairs, both as supplier of arms and aid and as its political shield on the world stage.

 

The Israeli public has made clear its longing to dump the discredited Mr. Netanyahu. And the Israeli military, which must depend on American arms after almost five months of fighting in Gaza and the threat of Hezbollah to the north, is keenly aware of the danger of alienating the Biden administration. Recent opinion polls show that over 80 percent of Israelis approve of Washington’s leadership — and prefer Mr. Biden to Donald Trump by 14 points.

 

That gives Mr. Biden considerable leverage. One option, described by Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, in a recent article in the journal Foreign Affairs, would be for Mr. Biden to bypass Mr. Netanyahu and instead make a direct address to the Israeli people.

 

He could make clear that Israelis face a stark choice — an endless war that would only create more Hamas-like militants and turn more Americans against Israel, or the plan for “after Gaza” proposed by the Americans and Arabs, one that includes international financing for the rehabilitation of Gaza and peace with Saudi Arabia.

 

Though Israelis may not be in any mood to contemplate a Palestinian state, and the depth of their fury against Hamas may be unknown, Mr. Biden has earned considerable trust from them through his decades of unstinting support.

 

Speaking directly to Israelis may prove to be more fruitful than speaking to Mr. Netanyahu, who has alienated himself from the Biden administration and has become an obstacle to any kind of lasting peace. On the contrary, his far-right allies are worsening tensions with the Palestinians. Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist who serves as national security minister, for example, has proposed severe limits on Palestinian and Arab Israeli worshipers at the Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. Those restrictions, at a site Israelis call the Temple Mount, would no doubt stoke further anger and violence as Ramadan begins in early March.

 

There is considerably more President Biden and his administration could do, including continuing the diplomatic effort toward a humanitarian cease-fire that would ease the suffering of Palestinian civilians and allow the remaining hostages to return to their families. He could also do more to demonstrate America’s commitment to the two-state solution, the only path to a lasting peace, by proposing a resolution in the Security Council to that effect. Arab support and a unanimous vote, argues Mr. Indyk, would be hard for Israel, or the Palestinians, to resist.

 

None of this, of course, may be enough to quiet the global outcry over the war’s toll on Palestinians, or to silence the fierce criticism of Mr. Biden by the American left. At the same time, any move to pressure Israel carries political risks as well. This is a moment when there are no good options for Mr. Biden politically; so it is a moment when leadership is indispensable. Allowing this conflict to continue unchecked is no longer acceptable, and the United States alone has the power and leverage to do what must be done.


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6) U.S. and Britain Strike 18 Houthi Targets in Yemen

By Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt Reporting from Washington, Feb. 25, 2024

"...the Houthis have become skilled at concealing their weaponry, putting some of it in urban areas and shooting missiles from the backs of vehicles before scooting off."

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/25/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

Houthi supporters raise flags and hold up weapons during a protest.

Houthi militants have launched attack drones and cruise and ballistic missiles at vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Credit...Yahya Arhab/EPA, via Shutterstock


The United States and Britain carried out another round of large-scale military strikes Saturday against multiple sites in Yemen controlled by Houthi militants, U.S. officials said.

 

The strikes were intended to degrade the Iran-backed militants’ ability to attack ships in sea lanes that are critical for global trade, a campaign they have carried out for almost four months.

 

American and British warplanes hit missile systems and launchers and other targets, the officials said. Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand provided support for the operation, according to a joint statement from the countries involved that was emailed to reporters by the Defense Department.

 

The strikes, which the statement called “necessary and proportionate,” hit 18 targets across eight locations in Yemen associated with Houthi underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, air defense systems, radars and a helicopter.

 

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” the statement said.

 

The strikes were the largest salvo since the allies struck Houthi targets on Feb. 3 and came after a week in which the Houthis have launched attack drones and cruise and ballistic missiles at vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

 

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the Houthis denounced “U.S.-British aggression” and said they would not be deterred. “The Yemeni Armed Forces affirm that they will confront the U.S.-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arabian Seas in defense of our country, our people and our nation,” the statement said.

 

On Monday, Houthi militants fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at a cargo ship, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The ship, called the Sea Champion, continued on to its destination at the port of Aden in Yemen, the statement added. Central Command reported several other tit-for-tat attacks that day between U.S. forces in the area and Houthis.

 

On Thursday, it was more of the same. American warplanes and a ship belonging to a member of the U.S.-led coalition shot down six Houthi attack drones in the Red Sea, Central Command said in another statement. The drones were “likely targeting U.S. and coalition warships and were an imminent threat,” it added.

 

Later that day, the statement said, the Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles from southern Yemen into the Gulf of Aden, hitting the Islander, a Palau-flagged, Britain-owned cargo carrier. The vessel was damaged, and one person had a minor injury.

 

And earlier on Saturday, the naval destroyer U.S.S. Mason shot down what Central Command said was an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Yemen into the Gulf of Aden.

 

The Houthis say their attacks are a protest against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, which was launched in response to attacks by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7.

 

The American-led retaliatory air and naval strikes against Houthi targets began last month.

 

“The Houthis’ now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response,” Saturday’s statement from the U.S.-led coalition said.

 

In a separate statement Saturday evening, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said that the Houthi attacks “harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries.”

 

The United States and several allies have repeatedly warned the Houthis of serious consequences if the salvos did not stop. But the U.S.-led strikes have so far failed to deter the Houthis. Hundreds of ships have been forced to take a lengthy detour around southern Africa, driving up costs.

 

Of all the Iran-backed militias that had escalated hostilities in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, the Houthis have been perhaps the most difficult to restrain. While the Houthis have continued their attacks, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria appear to be observing a period of quietude since the United States carried out a series of strikes against Iranian forces and the militias they support in Syria and Iraq on Feb. 2.

 

Middle East experts say that after nearly a decade of evading airstrikes in a war with Saudi Arabia, the Houthis have become skilled at concealing their weaponry, putting some of it in urban areas and shooting missiles from the backs of vehicles before scooting off.


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7) Biden’s reversal on Israeli settlements, days before the Michigan primary, shows the political bind he’s in.

By Jonathan Weisman, Feb/ 25, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/25/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

President Biden is listening and standing near an American flag in a room at the White House.

President Biden in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times


The Biden administration’s decree that the United States will once again consider new Jewish settlements on the West Bank to be “inconsistent with international law” highlighted a political bind President Biden finds himself in just days before the Democratic primary on Tuesday in Michigan, where a large Arab American population is urging voters to register their anger by voting “uncommitted.”

 

Mr. Biden’s recent moves to press the Israeli government toward cease-fire negotiations have angered ardent supporters of the Jewish state. Yet they have come nowhere close to placating Israel’s fiercest critics on the political left and in the Arab American community.

 

Shortly after the deadly Hamas terrorist attacks of Oct. 7, Arab Americans and progressive voters who support Palestinian statehood were largely standing back, as even Jewish Republicans were praising Mr. Biden’s pro-Israel response.

 

Those same Jewish Republicans are now castigating the president over Friday’s policy change, which erased a Trump-era position that the settlements were legal.

 

The American secretary of state announced the new policy after Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said on Thursday that, in direct response to a deadly terrorist attack this week, thousands of new residences would be added to some existing settlements.

 

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which had expressed approval of what it called the president’s “tremendous support” for Israel after Oct. 7, called the administration’s reversal on settlements “yet another lowlight to its campaign of undermining Israel.”

 

“The communities at issue, located west of the West Bank security barrier, are not preventing peace,” the group’s chief executive officer, Matt Brooks, said. “Palestinian terrorism is.”

 

The group ticked off other policies the administration has implemented to rein in Israel’s pro-settler policies, including sanctions against West Bank settlers who commit acts of violence and pressuring the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize a Palestinian state.

 

But those steps are far short of what progressive voters who sympathize with the Palestinian cause and many Arab Americans are demanding: an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza war and a halt to American military aid to Israel. Those calls are only getting louder as Mr. Netanyahu shows no sign of relenting.

 

“It’s a welcome reset,” said Waleed Shahid, a Democratic consultant who is pressing for a policy shift on the Gaza war. “But it continues to beg the question of why Biden is providing billions in weapons funding to a government conducting activities it deems illegal.”

 

Yousef Munayyer, an analyst at the Arab Center in Washington, said that Mr. Biden’s “sanctions on settler violence and the declaration that settlements are illegal would be inadequate at any time in recent years, given how deep Israel’s apartheid has become entrenched.” But with the administration’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza as a backdrop, Mr. Munayyer added, “This is like showing up to a five-alarm fire with a cup of water while giving fuel to the arsonist.”


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8) A Re-established West Bank Settlement Symbolizes Hardened Israeli Views

Homesh, one of the four West Bank settlements dismantled by Israel when it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, has taken on new importance since Oct. 7 and the war against Hamas.

By Steven Erlanger, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Feb. 25, 2024

Steven Erlanger traveled to Homesh, Silat Ad-Dhahr, Al Fandaqumiya and Shavei Shomron in the West Bank to report this article.

"The new settlers of Homesh believe they are retaking land God granted the Jews in biblical times and do not much care what their own government thinks. They are hostile to  journalists and have no interest in the beliefs or property deeds of the Palestinians."

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/25/world/middleeast/west-bank-israeli-settlement-homesh.html

Several people in military gear with a vehicle at a guard station.

Israeli soldiers guarding the entrance to the Homesh settlement. Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times


For an Israeli settlement that has become such a resounding symbol of religious and right-wing politics in the West Bank, Homesh is not much to look at.

 

Three families live in tarpaulin-covered shelters full of bunk beds for some 50 young men, who study in a yeshiva that is a shabby prefab structure surrounded by abandoned toys, building materials and garbage.

 

They live part time here amid the ruins and rubbish of a hilltop settlement ripped down in 2005 by the Israeli army and police. It is one of four West Bank settlements dismantled when Israel pulled all of its troops and settlements out of Gaza. Israel’s intention then, pushed by Washington, was to signal that outlying settlements too hard to defend would be consolidated in any future peace deal.

 

The decision to dismantle them is now being challenged by the more religious and right-wing ministers in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. They are agitating to settle more land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and even remove Palestinians from Gaza to resettle there.

 

Homesh, perched in the hills above Nablus, has become a symbol of their resolve.

 

Early last year, the Israeli government decided to relegalize Homesh, but the Supreme Court then required the government to dismantle it once more and ensure that Palestinians who own the land on which it sits can reach it safely.

 

Instead, the settlers moved their prefab yeshiva to a small spot of what is considered state or public land and are defying the court’s order, with the fervent support of the Shomron Regional Council.

 

It is settlements like these that Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has promised to expand, announcing plans late last week for 3,000 new homes, “deepening our eternal grip on the entire land of Israel.” The Biden administration reacted immediately, opposing any expansion and calling existing settlements “inconsistent with international law.”

 

But after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, settlements like Homesh embody the shift in thinking among Israelis since the days, seemingly ages ago, when dialogue with Palestinians focused on a two-state solution.

 

The rise of Hamas in Gaza and the deepening religious and rightward drift of Israeli politics have changed that. After Oct. 7, more Israelis not only oppose an independent Palestinian state, but a larger minority favor expanding settlements further, including in a reoccupied Gaza.

 

Emboldened, settlers like those in Homesh consider themselves a vanguard, pulling the army along in their wake. Today, they are protected (and nearly outnumbered) by bored Israeli soldiers, who say that their orders are to keep the settlers and the local Palestinians apart, to avoid new clashes and bloodshed.

 

“Our orders are to be a human fence between the two sides,” one soldier said, asking anonymity for speaking without authorization. “We try to keep them apart; we try to stop the settlers going down the hill. And we tell the Palestinians, ‘You don’t need to be here.’”

 

The effect of the military presence is to keep the Palestinians from their land, and the new checkpoints badly damage the businesses along Route 60, the main north-south road in the West Bank that leads from Ramallah to Nablus and Jenin.

 

The new settlers of Homesh believe they are retaking land God granted the Jews in biblical times and do not much care what their own government thinks. They are hostile to  journalists and have no interest in the beliefs or property deeds of the Palestinians.

 

The Palestinians who live in the villages under Homesh and who own most of its land say the settlers are aggressive and violent. Sometimes armed with rifles, the settlers intermittently engage in housebreaking, sheep stealing and vandalism. They chop down olive trees, roll flaming tires down the hills to burn crops and even send boars to dig up Palestinian seedlings and fruit trees, the locals say.

 

Salah Qararia, 54, showed visitors the broken windows and doors of his house, on his own land perhaps 200 yards down the hill from Homesh. Settlers armed with pistols have come often, shouting racist insults and throwing stones, and have uprooted some of his 600 fruit trees, he said. So he has sent his wife and seven children away and stays in the house to guard it, and has bought some dogs to try to keep the boars away.

 

“They try to scare us,” Mr. Qararia said. “They want to try to take the house and the land.”

 

Does he complain to the army or to the Palestinian Authority, which exercises civil control over parts of the West Bank? He laughed. “The P.A. is powerless here,” he said. As for the army, “you cannot speak to them, you cannot reach them. And they would take their side for sure.”

 

Mr. Qararia and his neighbors have a WhatsApp group to warn one another if the settlers approach, he said. “But it’s very dangerous to come and help.” The settlers have weapons, he said. “We do not.”

 

He did say that sometimes he had seen the soldiers trying to restrain the settlers, who push back at them. “They don’t listen to the soldiers,” he said.

 

Most of them came after Mr. Netanyahu’s 2022 re-election, he said. They have been supported by far-right ministers like Mr. Smotrich, who has long wanted to rebuild Homesh, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security.

 

“The settlers are seeking the delegitimization of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza,” said Amnon Abramovich, an Israeli commentator for Channel 12. “Why disband the four in the West Bank?” It was a signal by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “that in the years to come he would evacuate many more.”

 

Like Yitzhak Rabin, Mr. Sharon wanted to stay in the West Bank but bring outlying settlers into three defensible settlement blocs, removing the outposts that were overextending the resources of the army, Mr. Abramovich said.

 

But Mr. Sharon had a stroke soon afterward, and under successive governments, settlement activity accelerated.

 

Jihad Moussa, 46, who sells building materials, is constructing a house on his land on the hill near Homesh. But some eight months ago, 30 settlers with butcher knives and wire cutters, some with M16 rifles, took all the aluminum windows and doors, stole the water pumps, “and what they couldn’t take, they broke, including the marble on my new staircase,” he said.

 

He showed a video that he said was taken from his shop’s security camera and showed settlers smashing the windows of a car and truck. He said he went to the Israeli police with the video, which The New York Times could not verify, but the police never called back.

 

He now lives in town in an older house with water damage, afraid to continue building his new home. “I’m scared to live there,” he said, fearing for his wife and children.

 

Asked to comment on Homesh and the allegations of settler violence, the Israeli military said in a statement that officers of the army and the police, when they “encounter incidents of violation of the law by Israelis, especially violent incidents or incidents directed at Palestinians and their property, are required to act to stop the violation and if necessary to detain or arrest the suspects until police arrive at the scene.”

 

“Any claim” that the military “supports and permits settler violence is false,” the statement continued. Palestinians may also file a complaint with the Israeli police, the statement said.

 

Ghassan Qararia, the head of Al Fandaqumiya village council, said that he gave landowners a tax discount “to be steadfast on the land and build on it, but they are too scared.”

 

Abdel Fatah Abu Ali, the mayor of nearby Silat Ad-Dhahr, also situated under Homesh, said that since Oct. 7, Israeli military checkpoints to protect the settlers had badly damaged commerce and travel along Route 60.

 

“I can’t even go to Nablus or Ramallah now,” the mayor said. “I can’t go to Al Aqsa to pray,” citing the Jerusalem mosque, one of Islam’s holiest places. He laughed bitterly. “Did the settlers close the road? No, it was the army that protects them. There is no difference between them.”

 

Mr. Abu Ali, 65, lived for a time in the United States. “I had the taste of freedom there,” he said. “Here now it is the taste of hell.”

 

The Palestinian Authority was “useless,” he said. “My government is corrupt. They are the Harvard University of corruption.”

 

The issue of Homesh is increasingly sensitive, even among the settlers, who feel they get hostile media coverage.

 

Some members of the Homesh settlement had agreed to talk to me, but when Esther Allouch, the Shomron Council spokeswoman, heard of my plans to visit, she said she would cooperate only if I provided quotations for approval and promised not to include any Palestinians in my report.

 

I did not agree to her conditions. Ms. Allouch then refused to cooperate and  discouraged others from doing so,  telling the settlers there not to invite us in, they said. It was only after a call to Israeli commanders that soldiers agreed to let us enter.

 

The students, forewarned, refused to talk. But Avihoo Ben-Zahav, 26, visiting Homesh from a nearby settlement after doing his reserve duty in the army, spoke freely.

 

“We are here because of our love for all the land of Israel,” he said. “That people were forced out of this village is a wound that is still bleeding.” Pointing toward Tel Aviv in the distance, he said that Homesh was “one of the most beautiful and strategic spots in the country.”

 

“We’re here because God gave us this land in the Torah,” he said. “It will be better for the Palestinians if we are secure in our place.”

 

Local Palestinians vow to preserve what is theirs.

 

Salah Qararia, who stays in his vandalized house to protect it, said firmly: “I will never leave the land, even if I die defending it.”


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9) ‘Our bodies know the pain’: Why Norway’s reindeer herders support Gaza

Having long endured threats to their own existence, the Indigenous Sami community is protesting Israel’s war on Gaza.

By Shafi Musaddique, Feb. 24, 2024

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2024/2/24/also-forced-from-our-homes-the-norwegian-sami-and-the-palestinian-cause

Maja Kristine Jama with her reindeer herd in Norway [Courtesy of Maja Kristine Jama]


Fosen Peninsula, Norway – A herd of reindeer running through thick, white snow sounds a bit like thunder.

 

It is a spectacle that has been replayed for at least the past 10,000 years on eastern Norway’s Fosen Peninsula and one that Maja Kristine Jama, who comes from a family of reindeer herders, is deeply familiar with.

 

Like most Sami reindeer herders, Jama knows every inch of this terrain without any need for a map.

 

Instead of going to kindergarten like most other children in Norway, she was raised living outdoors alongside the migrating reindeer. Reindeer husbandry in Norway is a sustainable activity that is carried out in accordance with the traditional practices of Sami culture. Reindeer also play an important role in the Arctic’s ecosystem and have long been a symbol of the region

 

“Reindeer herding defines me,” Jama says. “We are so connected to nature, we have respect for it. We say that you don’t live off the land, you live within it. But we see our lands being destroyed.”

 

Europe’s oldest and last remaining Indigenous people are under grave threat as a result of borders, land seizures, construction projects dedicated to the extraction of natural resources and systematic discrimination.

 

Yet, that creeping sense of suffocation has made the Sami reach out to another set of Indigenous people nearly 4,000km (2,500 miles) away, whose fight for survival they identify with: the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

 

Their own struggle for Indigenous rights and self-determination has turned the Sami into vocal advocates for the Palestinian cause.

 

“There is an instant urge to stand up for people who are being displaced from their homes,” Ella Marie Haetta Isaksen, a Sami activist and artist widely known for her singing, tells Al Jazeera.

 

Isaksen had just finished taking part in several months of demonstrations in Oslo for the rights of her own people when Israel launched its war on Gaza in October.

 

As the death toll mounted, anger about Gaza quickly spread through Norway generally and the Sami community in particular. Scores of Norwegians posted images of themselves holding “Stop bombing Palestine” placards on social media while mass demonstrations called for an immediate ceasefire after Nordic countries, with the exception of Norway, abstained from a United Nations General Assembly ceasefire vote on October 27.

 

For the Sami, it was a pivotal moment of two causes tangling into one. The community launched a series of regular protests in Oslo against the war in Gaza, and those rallies continue to take place.

 

In front of the Norwegian Parliament on a cold October day, surrounded by hundreds of Palestinian and Sami flags, Isaksen held a mic and performed the “joik”, a traditional Sami song performed without instruments. Her lilting sounds brought the noisy demonstrators to a standstill, carrying a prayer that she hoped would somehow reach the besieged children of Gaza.

 

“I’m physically so far away from them, but I just want to grab them, hold them and take them out of this nightmare,” Isaksen says.

 

“Without trying to compare situations, Indigenous peoples all over the world have stood up for the Palestinian people because our bodies know the pain of being displaced from our homes and forced out of our own lands,” Isaksen says.

 

A long struggle

For more than 9,000 years, the Sami lived a free, nomadic existence spanning modern-day Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. That began to change in the ninth century when outsiders from Southern Scandinavia encroached into Sapmi, the name given to the broad, untamed lands of the Sami. Christian invaders established a church in the 13th century in Finnmark in northern Sapmi territory in what is now northern Norway.

 

Sweden’s break from Denmark, which had also ruled Norway, in 1542 launched an era of land disputes, conflict and coercion of the Sami that lingers today. A Swedish census that has been preserved from 1591 notes how one Sami community, moving across borders that hadn’t existed for their ancestors, simultaneously paid taxes to Sweden, Denmark and Russia.

 

The creation of Europe’s longest unbroken border in 1751 – between Norway and Sweden – was particularly disastrous for the Sami, restricting them permanently within one country, splitting families apart and forcing their reindeer away from migratory routes.

 

As has been the case for the Palestinians, the imposition of such borders has had a direct impact on the Sami’s fragile existence, says Aslat Holmberg, president of the Sami Council, a nongovernmental organisation promoting the rights of the Sami people across the Nordics and western Russia. He comes from an area on the border between Finland and Norway.

 

“I don’t like to divide the Sami with borders, but we are people now living in four countries,” Holmberg says.

 

Although Sami groups maintain a bond, they believe the borders imposed on them were one of many colonial acts that tore them apart. A ban on speaking their own language under forced assimilation policies, which officially ended in the 1960s in Norway, almost erased their cultural ties. Holmberg warns that Sami languages are now “endangered”.

 

He isn’t exaggerating.

 

There are no historical records showing population figures for the Sami through history. Today, however, they are estimated at 80,000. About half that number live in Norway, where just three Sami languages remain in use. There are only 20 remaining speakers of one of them – the Ume language used in Sweden and Norway.

 

In all, there are nine surviving Sami languages, which are related to languages such as Estonian and Finnish.

 

Preservation of these languages is fraught with difficulties. In Finland, 80 percent of Sami youth live outside traditional Sami territory, where there is no legal obligation to offer their language services in government and the judicial system. By comparison, Swedish language services in legal and government administration are mandatory in Finland.

 

Dying languages and disruptions from borders are not the only problems faced by the Sami. Climate change and land seizures for the extraction of natural resources also threaten livelihoods.

 

Small-scale gold mining and forestry, both legal and illegal, are common. The mining of nickel and iron ore, which is considered part of the European Union’s mission for self-sufficiency, have restricted reindeer from roaming and have destroyed their feeding grounds.

 

According to Amnesty International, mining companies are now showing interest in digging up Sami territory in Finland to feed the ever-rising demand for mobile phone batteries.

 

“We live in a settler colonial society,” Holmberg says. “The Sami know how it is to be marginalised and lose our lands. The levels of violence are different in Palestine, but a lot of the underlying mindset is similar. The US and Europe have shown they are not able to fully acknowledge their own colonial history.”

 

Holmberg delivers a stark warning that sounds eerily similar to the voices heard in Palestine.

 

“We are at the edge now. Any more push, and we collapse.”

 

‘Greenwashing colonialism’

Construction of Europe’s biggest wind farm in the Fosen Peninsula began in 2016. A total of 151 wind turbines and 131km (81 miles) of new roads and power cables are now spread across the winter pastures for local reindeer herders and were placed there without the consent of local Sami.

 

Five years later, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled that the green energy construction had been illegal and violated the Sami’s human rights. But it did not issue any instructions about what should be done next.

 

So the Fosen wind farm, which is co-owned by a state-funded Norwegian energy firm, a Swiss company and the German city of Munich, remains operational on Sami land to this day.

 

A compensation deal between Fosen Vind, a subsidiary of the Norwegian state utility Statkraft, which operates 80 of the wind turbines at Fosen, and the southern Fosen Sami was agreed in December. But wind farms owned by foreign companies have yet to compensate the remaining Sami.

 

There is an irony at play for the Fosen Sami here. “Green” energy projects for globalised communities have been prioritised and built at the expense of the very people living sustainably – a process described as “greenwashing colonialism” by Sami activists.

 

“Many talk about the material impact of the landscape destroyed for grazing with the pastures now gone for reindeer,” Jama says. “But any proof of Sami history in the area is hidden now and needs a well-trained eye to see it.”

 

She adds that living in “constant fight mode, in stress or fear of our future” has taken a toll on the mental health of many Sami.

 

The past year has seen the Sami staging sit-ins inside the Norwegian Parliament and blockading the offices of Statkraft, an event that was attended by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

 

Throwing off a shadow of shame

Sami resistance is in the throes of a revival, particularly among people in their 20s and 30s born or living in urbanised communities and now embracing their Sami roots, which their grandparents were made to feel shame for, they say.

 

“There’s a wave of people wanting to reconnect with the culture of our grandparents, who themselves wanted to hide it,” says Ida Helene Benonisen, a Sami poet and activist who herself scuffled with police at the October protests in Oslo.

 

Official assimilation of the Sami ended in the 1960s in Norway. But the stigma of having Sami roots left families back then feeling “ashamed”, including her own family, she says. Historical “Norwegianisation” still haunts Sami families today.

 

While navigating past traumas is difficult, Benonisen takes pride in her roots, showcasing her Sami identity on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

 

Like Isaksen and other activists in their 20s and 30s, she uses social media to educate outsiders about greenwashing and also shares stories from Gaza as part of “a movement of people standing against colonialism”.

 

“It felt natural for Sami to speak for Palestine, especially since the genocide started,” says Benonisen, co-founder of a slam poetry venue in Oslo with Asha Abdullahi, a Norwegian Muslim.

 

“Social media is giving people a platform to connect with a decolonised point of view. The history we are too often told is the story of the oppressors.”


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10) The War in Gaza Turned This Longtime Michigan Democrat Against Biden

She knows the stakes. She loathes Donald Trump. But Terry Ahwal says she won’t back President Biden in November.

By Jennifer Medina, Feb. 26, 2024

Reporting for this story included interviews with dozens of Arab American voters in and around Detroit.

“Still, after long urging fellow activists to ‘work from within,’ Ms. Ahwal believes that strategy has failed. Petitions, marches, and boycotts have produced little change in U.S. policy, she says, as both political parties have offered steadfast support for Israel. She is angry, not only about Israel, but also the iron grip the two parties have on the system.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/26/us/politics/israel-gaza-biden-michigan-democrats.html

Terry Ahwal outside walking with her dog. She has a warm coat and winter hat on.

Ms. Ahwal is urging voters in Michigan to vote “uncommitted” as a protest vote against President Biden. Credit...Nick Hagen for The New York Times


Tucked down in Terry Ahwal’s basement is her personal wall of fame: Here she is at the Obama White House Christmas party. Here is a framed thank-you note from President Bill Clinton. There she is grinning alongside Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan.

 

President Biden, Ms. Ahwal says, will not appear on her wall.

 

After a lifetime of work in Democratic politics — running local campaigns, asking strangers for money, begging acquaintances to vote for candidates — she is now campaigning against the Democrat in the White House.

 

A Palestinian American who emigrated from the West Bank more than 50 years ago, Ms. Ahwal is furious over the president’s alliance with Israel in its war against Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza. She does not even have a better candidate in mind, but she vows there is nothing Mr. Biden can do to get her back now.

 

“You want my vote? You cannot kill my people in my name. As simple as that,” she said recently, sitting at the dining room table of her home in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb. Photographs of her travels to Jordan, Peru and the Great Lakes decorate her walls. “Everything Israel wants, they get.”

 

Such promises to punish Mr. Biden in November have the power to reshape American politics — if they hold. Michigan is home to 200,000 Arab Americans, and other crucial battlegrounds have smaller, but sizable populations. While there are no firm estimates of how many are registered voters, even modest numbers of defection from Democrats could spell trouble for the president’s re-election campaign. Mr. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 voters in 2020. Donald J. Trump won the state in 2016 by 10,700.

 

There is no shortage of fury and disappointment directed at Mr. Biden in and around Detroit, where Palestinian Americans often display maps of pre-1948 Palestine and keys to family homes seized or abandoned during the Israeli war of independence. Ms. Ahwal regularly wears a pendant in the shape of the contested land, with a line from a Palestinian poet: “This earth is something worth living for.”

 

In dozens of recent interviews in the Detroit area, Arab Americans described being consumed by the war, endlessly scrolling social media for the latest images of the aftermath of the bombings, which began after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. In conversations in mosques and coffee shops, there was nearly unanimous agreement that Mr. Biden and his support for Israel’s right-wing government have enabled the devastation. Most shared Ms. Ahwal’s stance against voting for Mr. Biden.

 

Ms. Ahwal has spent hours calling and texting friends to urge them to vote “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, to register their discontent. She said she had heard almost no resistance, although there is no reliable polling indicating how big the protest vote may be.

 

But the more consequential question is about November. Like Ms. Ahwal, few of those vowing to reject Mr. Biden know for sure whether they will sit out the election, vote for a third-party candidate or support Mr. Trump, now the all-but-certain Republican nominee.

 

Ms. Ahwal says she is under no illusions that Mr. Trump, who was even more closely aligned with Israel during his tenure, would push for a cease-fire or be more supportive of Palestinians. She knows that many voters outside the Arab American community think that she and other Biden objectors are spiting themselves, increasing the chance that the same president who banned millions of Muslims from traveling to the U.S. will return to the White House.

 

“The other person is not going to be any better,” she said, refusing to say Mr. Trump’s name.

 

Still, after long urging fellow activists to “work from within,” Ms. Ahwal believes that strategy has failed. Petitions, marches and boycotts have produced little change in U.S. policy, she says, as both political parties have offered steadfast support for Israel. She is angry, not only about Israel, but also the iron grip the two parties have on the system. She is also cleareyed about the irony: She is fighting against the very political system she helped build up.

 

This is the only option she has, she said.

 

“Nothing is working,” she said. “If you are desperate, what would you do?”

 

A changed world

 

Ms. Ahwal had an immediate thought as news of Hamas’s attacks on Israeli civilians came in on Oct. 7: It would not be long before Israel took revenge.

 

As a young child in Ramallah, Ms. Ahwal, now 67, attended Catholic school and dreamed of becoming a nun. She often got into trouble for playing marbles with the boys or sullying her clothes as she climbed the walls in the neighborhood. She was too young to know or care much about politics.

 

That all changed in 1967, when Israeli forces crossed into the West Bank in response to a surprise attack. Her family huddled in a basement as reports of war trickled in on the radio. They waited for days to hear news from her father, who was stuck in Jerusalem, where he worked as a carpenter. The room reeked of urine; the children were instructed to wait to go outside.

 

The war lasted just six days, but changed life in the region profoundly.

 

“That’s what I call introduction to hell,” Ms. Ahwal said. Her parents and the nuns at the school discouraged her and other students from protesting, but after witnessing shootings and beatings, Ms. Ahwal rebelled.

 

She mouthed off to soldiers, perhaps getting away with it because she was a girl or because she is Christian, less likely to be seen as a threat. By the time she was 16, her worried parents sent her to family living outside Detroit.

 

Even before she became a U.S. citizen in 1981, she began volunteering for Democrats. She worked for a Democratic county executive and volunteered with the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. She poured energy into municipal projects as well as Palestinian rights. She wrote letters to Congress, debated Israeli politicians passing through Detroit and raised money for Palestinians.

 

She volunteered for the Clinton campaign, drawn to his policies on education rather than foreign policy. But in 1993, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, shook hands on the White House lawn as part of President Clinton’s peace negotiations, Ms. Ahwal was there, sharing their hope for a new era. Within months, her own optimism dissipated.

 

Scholars cite many factors for the demise of the agreement: Arafat’s failure to accept Israeli and American offers. Mr. Rabin’s assassination by two right-wing extremists in 1995. Steady growth of settlements in the West Bank. The second intifada followed by Hamas’s ascent to power. For Ms. Ahwal, the answer is simpler.

 

“It was just basically a process of delaying, a process of land theft, a process of deception,” she said, blaming the U.S. for not restraining Israel. “What happened is just the Palestinians were snookered.”

 

Frustration turns to ire

 

A self-described pacifist, Ms. Ahwal recoiled at Hamas’s attacks on civilians on Oct. 7. Still, she saw Palestinians in Gaza in an impossible position, reacting to decades of Israeli control. She viewed Mr. Biden’s embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, as a knee-jerk response that set the stage for many civilian deaths.

 

At the end of October, Ms. Ahwal went to Washington for a previously scheduled lobbying trip with Palestinian activists, urging staff members at the State Department and White House to call for a cease-fire.

 

“I kept saying he will self-correct — the policymakers will change,” she said.

 

By Thanksgiving, when little had changed, she felt certain: She could no longer vote for Mr. Biden. She saw no other way to force her party to break from decades of foreign policy.

 

In 2020, Ms. Ahwal had spent hours urging her friends and neighbors to vote for Mr. Biden — the alternative was too frightening to consider. They had already lived through the travel ban, the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and the Trump administration’s tacit encouragement of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

 

Mr. Biden’s tenure had not brought meaningful change, but it was no worse, she thought — until Oct. 7. Now, in addition to the roughly 1,200 Israelis kidnapped or killed on that day, there are more than 29,000 people dead in Gaza. Whole neighborhoods have been flattened. Settler violence in the West Bank has only grown.

 

She now calls the president a hypocrite. Like some Arab American leaders in the Detroit area, she rebuffed recent offers for meetings with White House officials. When she thinks back to decades of promises of peace and calls for a two-state solution, she offers a grim assessment: “I just don’t buy it anymore.”

 

Mr. Biden has recently sought to assuage this discontent. Last week, the administration declared that the United States would once again consider new Jewish settlements on the West Bank to be “inconsistent with international law.”

 

But that doesn’t get close to the policies Ms. Ahwal says could change her mind: labeling Israel an apartheid state, freezing military aid, supporting a peace initiative led by Palestinians. Only the last move seems even remotely likely.

 

Ms. Ahwal knows her political calculus is fraught. She understands that withholding a vote for Mr. Biden is effectively helping Mr. Trump.

 

She has debated her vote with her husband, Bob Morris, 72, the son of a longtime United Auto Workers union leader. Mr. Morris’s father was Jewish, but he was raised Christian and shares his wife’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Still, he said he was likely to vote for Mr. Biden this fall.

 

Why? He answers with two words: “Donald Trump.”

 

“I am very concerned about our democracy,” Mr. Morris said.

 

But, like so many other Palestinian activists she knows, Ms. Ahwal has come to see little difference between Republicans and Democrats on what she sees as a moral crisis.

 

She is asked if she is willing to risk a Trump victory over the conflict.

 

She answers with a different question: Are Democrats willing to risk losing the presidency over their support for Israel?

 

Asthaa Chaturvedi contributed reporting from Detroit.


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11) An evacuation plan reinforces Israel’s intention to send troops into Rafah.

By Mike Ives, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

A woman holding a patterned scarf over her face as she stands in an alley filled with debris.

After bombardment in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Sunday. Credit...Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said early Monday that the country’s military had presented a long-awaited plan to the war cabinet for evacuating civilians from “areas of fighting” in the Gaza Strip, a likely reference to an expected invasion of the southern city of Rafah.

 

Mr. Netanyahu’s office made the announcement before dawn local time on social media. Though Mr. Netanyahu did not provide details of the plan publicly, the comments appeared to reinforce Israel’s intention to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are taking refuge.

 

While Israel has said sending troops into the city is necessary to defeat Hamas, it has also signaled optimism about talks on a possible cease-fire, and it was not clear whether Mr. Netanyahu was using the prospect of invading Rafah as a cudgel to gain leverage in the discussions. An Israeli delegation was expected to arrive in Qatar on Monday to continue negotiations with international mediators around securing a temporary cease-fire and the release of some hostages.

 

The Israeli government has not specified where civilians in Rafah would be expected to go, and the invasion plan has drawn condemnation from some of Israel’s most important allies, including the United States.

 

A follow-up statement by Mr. Netanyahu’s office said that a new plan for providing humanitarian assistance to the enclave had also been approved after reports that Palestinians in Gaza had surrounded and looted trucks carrying relief supplies because of a desperate lack of food and other necessities. The government did not release the plan or give further details.

 

Mr. Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that Israel planned to invade Rafah, a major city along Gaza’s border with Egypt whose civilian population is essentially trapped. Members of his government have set a deadline — the start of the holy month of Ramadan next month — for Hamas to release the more than 100 hostages who remain in the enclave after being captured during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

 

Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that the assault on Rafah could be “delayed somewhat” if a deal is reached with Hamas over the release of the remaining hostages being held in Gaza.

 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the Israeli prime minister’s announcement of an evacuation plan, saying that it confirmed his intention “to storm the city of Rafah.”

 

“The American administration must move in a different and serious way to stop this Israeli madness,” Mr. Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

 

The heads of humanitarian organizations including the Red Cross have warned there is nowhere safe for Palestinians in southern Gaza to move to, given the destruction of infrastructure and the large amounts of unexploded ordnance.

 

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said Monday that Rafah, with its border crossing, was central to efforts to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza. An Israeli offensive in the city “would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there, it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs,” he said in an address opening a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

 

Human rights conventions, Mr. Guterres added, “recognize that terrorizing civilians and depriving them of food, water, and health care is a recipe for endless anger, alienation, extremism and conflict.”

 

Nick Cumming-Bruce and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.


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12) The Palestinian Authority’s government tenders its resignation.

By Patrick Kingsley reporting from Jerusalem, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

Officials sitting around a long conference table, with a photo of Yasir Arafat in the background.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the Palestinian Authority during a cabinet meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday. Credit...Zain Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the Palestinian Authority, the body that administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, tendered the resignation of his cabinet on Monday, according to the authority’s official news agency.

 

The decision follows diplomatic efforts involving the United States and Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, to persuade the authority to overhaul itself in a way that would enable it to take over the administration of Gaza after the war there ends.

 

But it was unclear whether the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet would be enough to revamp the authority or persuade Israel to let it govern Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas, the most senior leader of the authority, will remain in position along with his security chiefs, regardless of whether he accepts Mr. Shtayyeh’s resignation.

 

Israeli leaders had strongly hinted that they would not allow the authority’s existing leadership to run Gaza. American and Arab leaders had hoped that new leadership might make Israel more likely to cede administrative control of Gaza to the authority.

 

With no functional parliament within the areas controlled by the authority, Mr. Abbas has long ruled by decree, and he exerts wide influence over the judiciary and prosecution system.

 

According to diplomats briefed on his thinking, Mr. Abbas’s preferred candidate for prime minister is Mohammad Mustafa, a longtime economic adviser who is considered a member of his inner circle.


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13) A man dies after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, authorities say.

By Aishvarya Kavi reporting from Washington, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

A man is silhouetted in front of a low brick building with arched windows.

The protester filmed his self-immolation in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Credit...Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock


An airman who had set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington in protest of civilian deaths in Gaza died of his injuries on Sunday night, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force, Rose M. Riley, said on Monday.

 

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington identified the man as Aaron Bushnell, 25, of San Antonio. A U.S. Air Force spokeswoman, Ann Stefanek, had confirmed on Sunday night that he was an active-duty airman.

 

Mr. Bushnell appeared to have filmed the protest on Sunday and livestreamed it on the social media platform Twitch. The New York Times could not confirm who was behind the account that posted the video, but the footage matched the details of the incident released by the police.

 

A man dressed in fatigues identifies himself in the video as Mr. Bushnell and calls himself an active-duty Air Force officer. A LinkedIn profile matching Mr. Bushnell’s name describes him as an “aspiring software engineer” and an active-duty airman for nearly four years.

 

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” a man says in the video, echoing language that opponents of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza have used to describe the war. “I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all.”

 

Standing in front of the gates of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, he sets his phone down to douse himself in a clear liquid from a metal bottle. He then lights himself on fire while yelling, “Free Palestine!” until he falls to the ground.

 

The video shows law enforcement officers approaching him seconds before the fire catches. One is heard off-camera saying: “Can I help you, sir?” The officers scramble for more than a minute to put out the flames.

 

Officers with the U.S. Secret Service were the first to respond at the embassy, in northwestern Washington, around 1 p.m., said Vito Maggiolo, a spokesman with the city’s fire department. Mr. Bushnell was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

 

The New York Times viewed the video before Twitch removed it on Sunday afternoon, replacing it with a message saying that the channel violated the platform’s guidelines. It was the only video posted to the account, which had a Palestinian flag as its header image.

 

No staff members of the Israeli Embassy were injured, according to Tal Naim, a spokeswoman for the embassy.

 

Officers with the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were still working with Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department to investigate the incident, the authorities said on Monday.

 

Protests against Israel have become a near-daily occurrence across the country since Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks that killed at least 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. More than 29,000 people have been killed in the war in Gaza, according to the Gaza health ministry.

 

As international calls for a cease-fire have grown and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has deepened, the Israeli Embassy has been the site of protests that have sometimes resulted in arrests — but seldom in violence.

 

In December, a protester self-immolated in front of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta in what police said was “likely an extreme act of political protest.”


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14) Israel launches its deepest airstrikes in Lebanon in years.

By Euan Ward and Hwaida Saad reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

Clouds of smoke rise over buildings and trees in the distance.

Smoke billowing from the site of Israeli airstrikes near the city of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Israeli airstrikes inside Lebanon on targets associated with the Hezbollah militia hit deeper than any in recent years on Monday, targeting an area close to the Syrian border.

 

The Israeli military said that its fighter jets had struck Hezbollah air defenses in the Bekaa Valley, about 60 miles from the Israeli border. It said that the strikes were in response to a surface-to-air missile attack that downed an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for that attack.

 

At least two Hezbollah fighters were killed in the Israeli airstrikes and at least six other people were wounded, according to Bachir Khodor, mayor of the nearby city of Baalbek. Video from the scene provided by Mr. Khodor, which could not be independently verified, showed a building reduced to rubble and people on stretchers being loaded into an ambulance.

 

In a statement, Hezbollah said that it had retaliated by firing a rocket barrage toward the Golan Heights, a plateau that Israel seized in 1967, and had aimed at an Israeli army headquarters. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the statement.

 

The Bekaa Valley, a fertile plain that runs along the Syrian border, has long been a stronghold for Hezbollah, the politically powerful Lebanese militia that has engaged in near-daily clashes with Israeli forces since the Hamas-led attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. The fighting has displaced more than 150,000 people on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border and left hundreds dead.

 

The airstrikes on Monday were the first time that the Israeli military had hit the Bekaa Valley during the current conflict. Its strikes have recently been moving deeper inside Lebanon. Last week, the Israeli military said that it had struck what it called Hezbollah weapons storage facilities near the Lebanese coastal city of Sidon, around 20 miles from the border with Israel.

 

During a meeting with military officials on Sunday, the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that his country was “planning to increase the firepower against Hezbollah,” adding that it would not pause operations along the border with Lebanon even if there were a temporary halt to the fighting in Gaza.

 

“We will increase the fire in the north separately and will continue until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah and the return of Israeli civilians to their homes,” he said.

 

Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah lawmaker in the Lebanese Parliament, said on Monday that the latest round of Israeli strikes would “not go without a response.”

 

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.


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15) The U.N.’s top court holds a final day of hearings on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Marlise Simons, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news#icj-hearing-israel-occupation

A view of an ornate courtroom at the International Court of Justice, with panels of lawyers on one side of the room facing the bench of the line of judges.

Public hearings on Israel’s policies toward Palestinian territories began last week at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Credit...Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters


The United Nations’ top court on Monday was hearing a final day of arguments on the legality of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, proceedings that have added pressure to Israel at a time when attention focuses on the war in Gaza.

 

The hearings, which began last Monday, are the first time that the court, the International Court of Justice, has been asked to detail the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation” of the territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since 1967 — issues that have been the subject of years of debate and resolutions at the United Nations. The U.N. General Assembly asked the court to give an advisory opinion, which it is expected to take months to deliver.

 

The sessions, held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, are hearing from representatives of more than 50 countries, an unusually high number for the court. Most have sided with the Palestinian representatives, who argued that Israel had long abused Palestinian rights with impunity and denied their right to self-determination.

 

“Israel has arrogated to itself the right to decide who owns land, who may live on it, how it is used,” Philippe Sands, a member of the Palestinian delegation’s legal team, argued last week. “It has confined Palestinians to enclaves,” he added, and broken up its territory with hundreds of settlements “regarded as a permanent part of Israel.”

 

Israel has not appeared at the hearings, but, in a written submission, it rejected the questions raised by the proceedings as biased.

 

The proceedings have been given urgency by Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Health authorities in Gaza say that Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 29,000 people, the majority civilians, and provoked what the United Nations says is a humanitarian disaster.

 

Since the war began, Israeli forces have also detained hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank raids. Deadly violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers has increased and Palestinian attacks on Israelis have also risen.

 

A few speakers at the court, including those from the United States, Britain and Hungary, have sided with Israel. On Wednesday, a State Department official argued before the court that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians were determined by its “very real security needs.”

 

But Israel’s campaign in Gaza has presented a dilemma to President Biden’s administration, which has continued to supply Israel with military aid while expressing growing concern over the treatment of Palestinians.

 

Mr. Biden has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been “over the top” in its conduct of the war in Gaza. And on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the American government was reversing a Trump administration policy and would now consider new Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories to be “inconsistent with international law.”

 

The final day of hearings at the U.N. court on Monday is scheduled to include arguments by representatives from Turkey, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 member states, most being Muslim-majority countries.


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16) Gazans gather in the north, awaiting aid trucks that don’t arrive.

By Hiba Yazbek reporting from Jerusalem, Feb. 26, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/26/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news#icj-hearing-israel-occupation




















Gazans described hunger and desperation in isolated northern Gaza. Aid organizations said it’s increasingly difficult to deliver any aid to the region. Credit...Mahmoud Essa/Associated Press (Screenshot)


Palestinians in the north of Gaza, growing more hungry and desperate by the day, have been gathering to wait for food assistance that United Nations agencies say can no longer be delivered there.

 

“I’m here to get flour or any aid to feed my kids before the month of Ramadan,” said Abu Mostafa, a Palestinian man among a crowd of people on the coast in Gaza City on Sunday, in video shot by The Associated Press. “We’re not scared of war or anything. We just need food and water,” he added.

 

“I cannot feed my own children,” cried another man, Naim Abouseido, standing next to his young son as they waited for aid. “There is no rice, no food, no flour. What did we do to deserve this?”

 

Several United Nations agencies and aid groups have said that the fighting in Gaza, a lack of help from the Israeli military in facilitating aid deliveries and the breakdown of order had made it increasingly difficult to send aid convoys to much of Gaza.

 

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the main United Nations aid agency that serves Palestinians, said on Sunday that the agency was last able to deliver aid to northern Gaza over a month ago. He added on Monday that famine could be avoided only if more aid trucks got through.

 

A statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office on Monday said the war cabinet had approved a new plan to provide aid to Gaza. The government did not release the plan or give further details.

 

Nader Ibrahim contributed reporting from London.


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17) ‘Cop City’ Prosecutions Hinge on a New Definition of Domestic Terrorism

Are the protesters against a new police training center part of a violent “extremist organization,” or are the serious charges they face a means of stifling free speech?

By Sean Keenan and Rick Rojas, Feb. 26, 2024

Sean Keenan has reported extensively on the Stop Cop City movement, including at various protests, and Rick Rojas has covered the response to it as The Times’s Atlanta bureau chief.

"Still, Mx. King has no illusions about the gravity of the situation. In fact, they recently had a stark reminder of the stakes: They declined a plea offer of a 10-year sentence that included three years in prison."

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/26/us/cop-city-domestic-terrorism.html

Timothy Bilodeau poses for a photo outside, wearing a red jacket.

Timothy Bilodeau, 26, was charged with domestic terrorism after taking part in protests against building a new police center in a forested area just outside Atlanta. Credit...Sophie Park for The New York Times


In a forest on the outskirts of Atlanta last March, hundreds of protesters had gathered once again to try to stop the construction of a new police and fire training center.

 

For Timothy Bilodeau, a 26-year-old who had flown in from Boston, the fight that began in 2021 had gained new urgency after state troopers killed a protester in a shootout in the forest weeks earlier that also wounded an officer.

 

On the day that Mr. Bilodeau headed in, there was another fiery confrontation. A crowd marched to the development site, where some protesters threw fireworks and Molotov cocktails, setting equipment ablaze. The police arrested nearly two dozen protesters, including Mr. Bilodeau.

 

As Mr. Bilodeau saw it, he was taking a principled stand against the destruction of the forest. But prosecutors had a darker take: They charged Mr. Bilodeau and 22 others with domestic terrorism.

 

In all, 42 people involved in the demonstrations against the training facility have been charged under Georgia’s domestic terrorism law, making for one of the largest cases of its kind in the country on a charge that is rarely prosecuted.

 

As several states have added or expanded laws related to terrorism, or are considering doing so, the case in Georgia is at the center of debate about the need for these measures, the dangers they pose and, more fundamentally, what constitutes terrorism. (One proposal in New York has suggested that blocking traffic, a tactic occasionally used in demonstrations, could be considered domestic terrorism.)

 

Georgia broadened its definition in 2017 to include attempts to seriously harm or kill people, or to disable or destroy “critical infrastructure,” with the goal of forcing a policy change. The charge carries a penalty of up to 35 years in prison.

 

Officials in Georgia have argued that those charged were involved in sowing disorder and destruction — actions that demanded a swift and forceful response.

 

“We will not waver when it comes to keeping people safe, enforcing the rule of law, and ensuring those who engage in criminal activity are vigorously pursued and aggressively prosecuted,” Christopher M. Carr, Georgia’s attorney general, said in a statement.

 

Critics say that the charges in Georgia justify their worst fear about domestic terrorism laws: that they can frame activism as terrorism, and allow prosecutors to pursue even harsher punishments for “property crimes that were already illegal, simply because of accompanying political expression critical of government policy,” as the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said in a recent statement.

 

The result, critics argue, is stifling free speech.

 

“It’s chilling,” Mr. Bilodeau, a tech consultant, said. “It is a devastating threat to all people who are advocates or activists for the well-being of our planet or climate or communities.”

 

Legal experts have also raised concerns about many people being prosecuted for serious crimes over the actions of a few.

 

Mr. Bilodeau’s lawyer, Amanda Clark Palmer, argued in a motion for a bond that his arrest warrant contained “no specific allegation that Mr. Bilodeau himself possessed or threw a rock, firework or Molotov cocktail.”

 

“The only specific allegation,” she added, “is the following: The accused was observed with muddy clothing from breaching and crossing the embankment. Accused was also in possession of a shield.”

 

Officials in Georgia have maintained that the charges were warranted, with the Atlanta Police Department calling the accused “violent agitators,” mostly from out of state, who committed violence “under the cover of a peaceful protest.”

 

The charges have not yet proceeded to indictments, in part because the local district attorney withdrew from the case, citing a “fundamental difference in prosecutorial philosophy” with Mr. Carr, the Republican attorney general.

 

But the allegations also provided the foundation for a broader case that Mr. Carr's office is pursuing under the state’s racketeering law — a powerful tool that prosecutors have used to target street gangs, public officials accused of corruption and even former President Donald J. Trump, who is accused of conspiring to overturn his election loss in 2020.

 

Mr. Bilodeau and 60 others are now facing racketeering charges, with prosecutors describing them as part of “an anarchist, anti-police and anti-business extremist organization” that conspired to block the training center. The first trial in the racketeering case could start in the coming weeks.

 

The Atlanta City Council voted in 2021 to authorize the training facility, officially named the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center and derided by protesters as “Cop City.”

 

The project stirred a diverse coalition of opponents: environmental activists who objected to developing a rare expanse of forest in a rapidly developing metropolitan area; social justice activists who believed the facility would train officers to police communities with militarized tactics; and nearby residents opposed to a potentially disruptive new neighbor.

 

The opposition intensified in 2022 as officers began sweeping the site. Protesters had set up camp in the trees and erected barricades to block officers and construction crews. Some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and set off fireworks, the police said. Officers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, and in January 2023, a 26-year-old activist, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, known as Tortuguita, was fatally shot by state troopers.

 

Officials have said that the activist shot first, wounding a trooper, but protesters have remained skeptical, partly because the troopers were not wearing body cameras.

 

More construction and police vehicles at the site have been set on fire since then, including as recently as late January. Construction companies in Georgia and beyond — including at least one mistakenly associated with the training center — have had equipment vandalized or burned, the authorities said.

 

Last month, city officials said that the destruction had caused the cost of the facility, which had been estimated at $90 million, to jump by nearly $20 million.

 

“These individuals are trafficking in fear,” John F. King, Georgia’s insurance and safety fire commissioner, said in a recent news conference announcing rewards of up to $200,000 for help finding and convicting arson suspects.

 

When Georgia lawmakers strengthened the state’s domestic terrorism laws, it was in part a response to the racist massacre in 2015 at a Black church in Charleston, S.C. The point, they said at the time, was to empower prosecutors to charge perpetrators of racist attacks as domestic terrorists. Georgia lawmakers are currently considering another measure to bolster its law further.

 

Like Georgia, other states have also moved to expand terrorism-related laws, reflecting an increasingly fractured political climate and fears of rising extremism. A bill in West Virginia would clarify definitions of terrorism and create mandatory sentencing rules.

 

Last year, Oregon — where the authorities have had showdowns with armed militias on public land, and where far-right demonstrators breached the State Capitol in 2021 — became the latest state to enact a domestic terrorism law.

 

Officials in Georgia have used the expanded law to target left-wing activism that, they argue, took a violent turn in Atlanta around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

 

One of the demands in the nationwide protests that followed the murder of George Floyd was to strip funding away from police departments and redirect those resources. The Cop City protesters see Atlanta as doing the opposite with the training center, which officials have hailed as an investment in a police force struggling with depleted ranks and morale.

 

“We don’t need more police and more of a surveillance state,” said Ayla King, 19, a recent high school graduate from Worcester, Mass., who traveled to Atlanta last March after following the developments on social media. Mx. King, who uses the they pronoun, faces both domestic terrorism and racketeering charges.

 

Mr. Bilodeau, who spent 17 days in jail after the confrontation last March, declined to discuss what he did in the forest in March, pointing to his impending trial. In charging documents, prosecutors accused him of criminal trespass and of joining “an organized mob designed to overwhelm the police force,” occupy the forest and cause property damage.

 

He returned to a life in Boston that was upended. His bank closed his accounts, he said. The youth art and music program where he had been a regular volunteer told him he was no longer welcome. His anxiety about the police seeped into his dreams, and he is wary of participating in any more protests.

 

“This has been just a crushing emotional and legal process, and we’re not really in the thick of things yet,” Mr. Bilodeau said.

 

Mx. King has had to set aside plans for college.

 

“This is terrifying,” Mx. King said in an interview in December, before a gag order was issued in their case. “But it’s really important to stay strong and just know that, just because the state says that I’m a domestic terrorist, it doesn’t mean anything, really. It’s such an inflated charge.”

 

Still, Mx. King has no illusions about the gravity of the situation. In fact, they recently had a stark reminder of the stakes: They declined a plea offer of a 10-year sentence that included three years in prison.


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