Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 22, 2024


Pita bread made from animal feed.

See Gaza Strip Access Restrictions.pdf since 2007 at:


Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of March 22, 2024the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 31,988,* 74,188 wounded, and more than 435 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 1,147—594 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 40,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

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

*** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 6, this is the latest figure.

Source: mondoweiss.net




Boris Kagarlitsky is in Prison!

On February 13, the court overturned the previous decision on release and sent Boris Kagarlitsky to prison for five years.

Petition in Support of Boris Kagarlitsky

We, the undersigned, were deeply shocked to learn that on February 13 the leading Russian socialist intellectual and antiwar activist Dr. Boris Kagarlitsky (65) was sentenced to five years in prison.

Dr. Kagarlitsky was arrested on the absurd charge of 'justifying terrorism' in July last year. After a global campaign reflecting his worldwide reputation as a writer and critic of capitalism and imperialism, his trial ended on December 12 with a guilty verdict and a fine of 609,000 roubles.

The prosecution then appealed against the fine as 'unjust due to its excessive leniency' and claimed falsely that Dr. Kagarlitsky was unable to pay the fine and had failed to cooperate with the court. In fact, he had paid the fine in full and provided the court with everything it requested.

On February 13 a military court of appeal sent him to prison for five years and banned him from running a website for two years after his release.

The reversal of the original court decision is a deliberate insult to the many thousands of activists, academics, and artists around the world who respect Dr. Kagarlitsky and took part in the global campaign for his release. The section of Russian law used against Dr. Kagarlitsky effectively prohibits free expression. The decision to replace the fine with imprisonment was made under a completely trumped-up pretext. Undoubtedly, the court's action represents an attempt to silence criticism in the Russian Federation of the government's war in Ukraine, which is turning the country into a prison.

The sham trial of Dr. Kagarlitsky is the latest in a wave of brutal repression against the left-wing movements in Russia. Organizations that have consistently criticized imperialism, Western and otherwise, are now under direct attack, many of them banned. Dozens of activists are already serving long terms simply because they disagree with the policies of the Russian government and have the courage to speak up. Many of them are tortured and subjected to life-threatening conditions in Russian penal colonies, deprived of basic medical care. Left-wing politicians are forced to flee Russia, facing criminal charges. International trade unions such as IndustriALL and the International Transport Federation are banned and any contact with them will result in long prison sentences.

There is a clear reason for this crackdown on the Russian left. The heavy toll of the war gives rise to growing discontent among the mass of working people. The poor pay for this massacre with their lives and wellbeing, and opposition to war is consistently highest among the poorest. The left has the message and resolve to expose the connection between imperialist war and human suffering.

Dr. Kagarlitsky has responded to the court's outrageous decision with calm and dignity: “We just need to live a little longer and survive this dark period for our country,” he said. Russia is nearing a period of radical change and upheaval, and freedom for Dr. Kagarlitsky and other activists is a condition for these changes to take a progressive course.

We demand that Boris Kagarlitsky and all other antiwar prisoners be released immediately and unconditionally.

We also call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to reverse their growing repression of dissent and respect their citizens' freedom of speech and right to protest.

Sign to Demand the Release of Boris Kagarlitsky


The petition is also available on Change.org



*Major Announcement*

Claudia De la Cruz wins

Peace and Freedom Party primary in California!

We have an exciting announcement. The votes are still being counted in California, but the Claudia-Karina “Vote Socialist” campaign has achieved a clear and irreversible lead in the Peace and Freedom Party primary. Based on the current count, Claudia has 46% of the vote compared to 40% for Cornel West. A significant majority of PFP’s newly elected Central Committee, which will formally choose the nominee at its August convention, have also pledged their support to the Claudia-Karina campaign.


We are excited to campaign in California now and expect Claudia De la Cruz to be the candidate on the ballot of the Peace and Freedom Party in November.


We achieved another big accomplishment this week - we’re officially on the ballot in Hawai’i! This comes after also petitioning to successfully gain ballot access in Utah. We are already petitioning in many other states. Each of these achievements is powered by the tremendous effort of our volunteers and grassroots organizers across the country. When we’re organized, people power can move mountains!


We need your help to keep the momentum going. Building a campaign like this takes time, energy, and money. We know that our class enemies — the billionaires, bankers, and CEO’s — put huge sums toward loyal politicians and other henchmen who defend their interests. They will use all the money and power at their disposal to stop movements like ours. As an independent, socialist party, our campaign is relying on contributions from the working class and people like you.


We call on each and every one of our supporters to set up a monthly or one-time donation to support this campaign to help it keep growing and reaching more people. A new socialist movement, independent of the Democrats and Republicans, is being built but it will only happen when we all pitch in.


The Claudia-Karina campaign calls to end all U.S. aid to Israel. End this government’s endless wars. We want jobs for all, with union representation and wages that let us live with dignity. Housing, healthcare, and education for all - without the lifelong debt. End the ruthless attacks on women, Black people, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. These are just some of the demands that are resonating across the country. Help us take the next step: 


Volunteer: https://votesocialist2024.com/volunteer


Donate: https://votesocialist2024.com/donate


See you in the streets,


Claudia & Karina


Don't Forget! Join our telegram channel for regular updates: https://t.me/+KtYBAKgX51JhNjMx



We are all Palestinian

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



Here is my new song and music video, We are all Palestinian, linked below. If you find it inspiring, please feel free to share with others. All the best!


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

We are all Palestinian



Labor for Palestine

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

Video of December 16th Labor rally for Palestine.


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


For More Information:


Production of Labor Video Project





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



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


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


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

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

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


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


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

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 

Sign the petition:




Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733

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



Leonard Peltier “Why?” (Henry CrowDog)

Leonard Peltier Update—Experiencing the Onset of Blindness


Greetings Relatives,

Leonard is in trouble, physically. He is experiencing the onset of blindness. He is losing strength in his limbs. His blood sugar is testing erratically. This, on top of already severe conditions that have become dire. Leonard has not seen a dentist in ten years. His few remaining teeth are infected. He is locked down, in pain.

As always, Leonard’s fortitude remains astonishing. He is not scared of dying. He does not want to die in lockdown.

Our legal team has an emergency transfer underway. They are going to extraordinary lengths. We must get a top ophthalmologist to him. Thanks to your calls, the BOP did see him. They told him a specialist would be 8 - 10 weeks out.

Leonard does not have eight to ten weeks. He needs emergency care immediately.

If you can, please donate to this GoFundMe. Every penny matters. If you cannot, please share. If you are so inclined, go to www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org and contact the officials listed.


As always, thank you for your support.


Dawn Lawson

Personal Assistant Leonard Peltier

Executive Assistant Jenipher Jones, Esq.

Secretary Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee




Leonard Peltier Update - Not One More Year


Coleman 1 has gone on permanent lockdown.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fight for Free Speech – YouTube:



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


Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

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

Video at:


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




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

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



Updates From Kevin Cooper 

A Never-ending Constitutional Violation

A summary of the current status of Kevin Cooper’s case by the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee


      On October 26, 2023, the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP wrote a rebuttal in response to the Special Counsel's January 13, 2023 report upholding the conviction of their client Kevin Cooper. A focus of the rebuttal was that all law enforcement files were not turned over to the Special Counsel during their investigation, despite a request for them to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

      On October 29, 2023, Law Professors Lara Bazelon and Charlie Nelson Keever, who run the six member panel that reviews wrongful convictions for the San Francisco County District Attorney's office, published an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle calling the "Innocence Investigation” done by the Special Counsel in the Cooper case a “Sham Investigation” largely because Cooper has unsuccessfully fought for years to obtain the police and prosecutor files in his case. This is a Brady claim, named for the U.S. Supreme court’s 1963 case establishing the Constitutional rule that defendants are entitled to any information in police and prosecutor's possession that could weaken the state's case or point to innocence. Brady violations are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Special Counsel's report faults Cooper for not offering up evidence of his own despite the fact that the best evidence to prove or disprove Brady violations or other misconduct claims are in those files that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office will not turn over to the Special Counsel or to Cooper's attorneys.

      On December 14, 2023, the president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Mary Smith, sent Governor Gavin Newsom a three page letter on behalf of the ABA stating in part that Mr.Cooper's counsel objected to the state's failure to provide Special Counsel all documents in their possession relating to Mr.Cooper's conviction, and that concerns about missing information are not new. For nearly 40 years Mr.Cooper's attorneys have sought this same information from the state.

      On December 19, 2023, Bob Egelko, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about the ABA letter to the Governor that the prosecutors apparently withheld evidence from the Governor's legal team in the Cooper case.

      These are just a few recent examples concerning the ongoing failure of the San Bernardino County District Attorney to turn over to Cooper's attorney's the files that have been requested, even though under the law and especially the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney of San Bernardino county is required to turn over to the defendant any and all material and or exculpatory evidence that they have in their files. Apparently, they must have something in their files because they refuse to turn them over to anyone.

      The last time Cooper's attorney's received files from the state, in 2004, it wasn't from the D.A. but a Deputy Attorney General named Holly Wilkens in Judge Huff's courtroom. Cooper's attorneys discovered a never before revealed police report showing that a shirt was discovered that had blood on it and was connected to the murders for which Cooper was convicted, and that the shirt had disappeared. It had never been tested for blood. It was never turned over to Cooper's trial attorney, and no one knows where it is or what happened to it. Cooper's attorneys located the woman who found that shirt on the side of the road and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. She was called to Judge Huff's court to testify about finding and reporting that shirt to law enforcement. That shirt was the second shirt found that had blood on it that was not the victims’ blood. This was in 2004, 19 years after Cooper's conviction.

      It appears that this ongoing constitutional violation that everyone—from the Special Counsel to the Governor's legal team to the Governor himself—seems to know about, but won't do anything about, is acceptable in order to uphold Cooper's conviction.

But this type of thing is supposed to be unacceptable in the United States of America where the Constitution is supposed to stand for something other than a piece of paper with writing on it. How can a Governor, his legal team, people who support and believe in him ignore a United States citizen’s Constitutional Rights being violated for 40 years in order to uphold a conviction?

      This silence is betrayal of the Constitution. This permission and complicity by the Governor and his team is against everything that he and they claim to stand for as progressive politicians. They have accepted the Special Counsel's report even though the Special Counsel did not receive the files from the district attorney that may not only prove that Cooper is innocent, but that he was indeed framed by the Sheriff’s Department; and that evidence was purposely destroyed and tampered with, that certain witnesses were tampered with, or ignored if they had information that would have helped Cooper at trial, that evidence that the missing shirt was withheld from Cooper's trial attorney, and so much more.

      Is the Governor going to get away with turning a blind eye to this injustice under his watch?

      Are progressive people going to stay silent and turn their eyes blind in order to hopefully get him to end the death penalty for some while using Cooper as a sacrificial lamb?

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

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

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




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

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


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



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression



Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 


The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 


Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.


Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement, you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 


State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

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

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

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


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






1) Goon Squad Officers Face Sentencing in Mississippi Torture Cases

Six officers pleaded guilty last year to assaulting two Black men and shooting one in the mouth during a raid on their home.

By Nate Rosenfield, Jerry Mitchell and Brian Howey, Brian Howey and Nate Rosenfield are examining the power of sheriffs’ offices in Mississippi as part of The Times’s Local Investigations Fellowship. Jerry Mitchell is an investigative reporter who has examined civil rights-era cold murder cases in the state for more than 30 years, March 19, 2024


Six mugshots showing men in prison clothes.

Top row: former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon and Brett McAlpin; bottom row: former deputies Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. All pleaded guilty this year to federal and state charges. Credit...Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Six former law enforcement officers who called themselves the Goon Squad face sentencing in Mississippi starting today, months after they pleaded guilty to federal civil rights offenses for torturing and sexually assaulting two Black men and a third white man who has remained anonymous until now.


Over the next three days, the officers, who each could be sentenced to a decade or more in prison, will appear in federal court in Jackson, Miss. Prosecutors are expected to detail the officers’ violent actions, and victims will have an opportunity to share their stories.


The officers could speak publicly for the first time if they choose to talk about their crimes or ask the judge for leniency.


Hunter Elward, who pleaded guilty to shooting one of the victims, is scheduled to be sentenced first, on Tuesday morning. The other officers will then be sentenced during individual hearings.


The sheriff’s department in Rankin County, a suburban community just outside Jackson, came to national attention last year after five Rankin County deputies and a Richland Police detective raided the home of Eddie Parker, 36, and his friend, Michael Jenkins, 33, following a tip about suspicious activity.


The officers handcuffed and tortured the men by shocking them repeatedly with Tasers, beating them and sexually assaulting them with a sex toy. Mr. Elward put his gun into Mr. Jenkins’s mouth and shot him, shattering his jaw and nearly killing him.


“I experienced looking the devil in the eye,” Mr. Parker said Monday at a press conference.


The officers destroyed evidence and, to justify the shooting, falsely claimed that Mr. Jenkins had pointed a BB gun at them, according to federal prosecutors.


Three of the department’s deputies also pleaded guilty in a separate incident, but prosecutors have so far provided few details about what happened. Prosecutors are expected to read a statement written by the victim in that case, 28-year-old Alan Schmidt.


So far charges against officers in Rankin County have been narrowly focused on these two incidents, but residents in impoverished pockets of the county say that the sheriff’s department has routinely targeted them with similar levels of violence.


Last November, The New York Times and Mississippi Today published an investigation revealing that for nearly two decades, deputies in the Rankin sheriff department, many of whom called themselves the Goon Squad, would barge into homes in the middle of the night, handcuff people and torture them for information or confessions.


In the pursuit of drug arrests, the deputies rammed a stick down one man’s throat until he vomited, dripped molten metal onto another man’s skin and held people down and beat them until they were bloody and bruised, according to dozens of people who said they witnessed or experienced the raids.


Many of those who said they had experienced violence filed lawsuits or formal complaints detailing their encounters with the department. A few said they had contacted Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey directly, only to be ignored.


Sheriff Bailey, who has denied knowledge of the incidents, has faced calls to resign by local activists and the N.A.A.C.P. He has said he will not step down.


Malcolm Holmes, a professor in the department of criminal justice and sociology at the University of Wyoming, said that the Goon Squad case was “going to be one that finds its way into the chronicles of history.”


“There’s so much well-documented evidence that this is a pattern of behavior,” he said, noting that the case revealed “something we’ve covered up for a long time, particularly in rural America.”


The sentencing hearings this week are expected to reveal more details about violence perpetrated by Rankin County deputies, including what happened to Mr. Schmidt.


In an interview with The Times and Mississippi Today last week, Mr. Schmidt spoke publicly for the first time about what happened in December 2022 when a Rankin County deputy pulled him over for driving with an expired tag.

According to the federal indictment, deputies Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward and Daniel Opdyke arrived at the scene shortly afterward. Two other deputies, including the one who pulled Mr. Schmidt over, were also present throughout the arrest, Mr. Schmidt said. Neither has been criminally charged.


Mr. Schmidt said the deputies accused him of stealing tools from his boss, and then Mr. Dedmon pressed a gun to his head and fired it into the air before threatening to dump his body in the Pearl River.


“I thought this was it,” Mr. Schmidt said. “I’m never going to see my family again.”


Mr. Dedmon and the other deputies punched Mr. Schmidt and held his arm in a fire ant hill, then shocked him repeatedly with a Taser, Mr. Schmidt said.


Mr. Dedmon also pressed his genitals against the man’s face and bare buttocks as he yelled for help and kicked at the deputy, Mr. Schmidt said.


“It still goes through my head constantly,” Mr. Schmidt said of the experience.


Rankin County District Attorney Bubba Bramlett has begun to review and dismiss criminal cases that had involved Goon Squad members, his office confirmed last week, but Mr. Bramlett declined to share details about the cases under review.


State lawmakers introduced a bill in January that would expand oversight of Mississippi law enforcement, allowing the state board that certifies officers to investigate and revoke the licenses of officers accused of misconduct, regardless of whether they are criminally charged. Lawmakers have said that the Goon Squad and several other incidents of alleged police misconduct in Mississippi helped prompt the bill.


The Mississippi House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the bill last week. The state senate is expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks.



2) Israel’s return to Al-Shifa points to a power vacuum in northern Gaza.

By Adam Rasgon reporting from Jerusalem, March 20, 2024


Scattered people walking on a road amid damaged buildings.

Walking through destroyed streets in Gaza City on Wednesday. Credit...Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

Since the start of the war in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly spoken of the need to topple Hamas but has done little to address the power vacuum left behind by withdrawing Israeli forces.


Nowhere is that more apparent than in northern Gaza, where an Israeli military raid on a major hospital complex entered a third day on Wednesday, as Israel said the re-emergence of Hamas fighters had forced it to return to a site they first stormed in November.


Since Monday, the Israeli military said, troops have engaged in deadly gun battles with militants at the complex, Al-Shifa, leaving displaced people, medical teams and nearby residents caught in the crossfire. On Wednesday, the army said that it had killed dozens of militants in the operation and questioned or arrested hundreds of people. Its account of the operation could not be independently confirmed.


Israeli military analysts say that a coherent plan for governing Gaza could take months or years to put in place, and that troops would likely have had to return to Al-Shifa in the interim. But critics of Mr. Netanyahu say that he has failed to advance even an initial realistic proposal, leaving Palestinian civilians to bear the highest cost of the disorder.


“Lives have been transformed into hell,” said Talal Okal, a political analyst from Gaza City who fled northern Gaza in October and is now in the United Arab Emirates.


“Netanyahu and his partners don’t want to answer the question of the day after the war,” he said. “Complete chaos has taken hold and the people are paying the price. But what can they do? All they can do is raise their hands and pray to God.”


Following the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli forces launched a wide-scale invasion of northern Gaza, killing Hamas militants and causing immense civilian death and devastation. Its soldiers first raided Al-Shifa Hospital in November after accusing Hamas of using the hospital for military purposes.


That raid on Shifa revealed a stone-and-concrete tunnel shaft below the hospital. At the time, the Gaza Health Ministry said the incursion had put the hospital out of service.


Soldiers withdrew from the hospital in mid-November, but returned to the surrounding area in late January and pulled back again in February.


As Israeli forces have shifted the focus of their invasion to southern Gaza — and Mr. Netanyahu says they will soon invade the southernmost city of Rafah — the north of the enclave has been all but cut off from humanitarian aid. Lawlessness, damaged roads and attacks on convoys have led aid groups to suspend deliveries there, and the United Nations has said many of its relief missions have been blocked by Israel. Israeli officials say there are no limits on how much aid can enter Gaza.


Palestinians in the north are struggling to obtain basic services and food.


“We’re living but we’re dead,” said Rajab Tafish, 37, a resident of Gaza City. “We’re exhausted from all of this misery.”


Mr. Tafish, a telephone repairman, said he and his family could hear “terrifying” explosions and gunfire emanating from the Shifa Hospital area, where a family member had been receiving treatment but was no longer reachable.


He said his family had sent his brother to nearby schools on Wednesday in hopes of acquiring flour.


The U.N.-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative said this week that 1.1 million people, half the population of Gaza, would most likely face catastrophic food insecurity and predicted an imminent rise in hunger-related deaths. In the northern areas, it said, 300,000 people faced “imminent” famine.


Twice in the past month, attempts to distribute food ended in bloodshed as Palestinians seeking aid were killed.


More than 100 people were killed in Gaza City on Feb. 29, according to local health authorities, who said Israeli troops had opened fire on a crowd that massed around aid trucks. The Israeli military acknowledged opening fire, but said most of the deaths had occurred when people stampeded or were run over by truck drivers.


Last week, at least 20 people were killed while awaiting aid at a traffic circle in northern Gaza. Gazan officials said Israeli forces had “targeted” the crowds, a claim that Israel’s military has denied.



3) How Gazans have fared after Israel has asked them to flee.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg, March 20, 2024


People standing around a truck.

Palestinians leaving Gaza City for the south of the Gaza Strip in November. Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

For many civilians in Gaza, fleeing from Israeli attacks has become a grim cycle. Israeli evacuation orders have prompted more than a million people to move from one destination to another since October, each time packing belongings and seeking transport — by vehicle, cart or foot — to escape airstrikes and ground fighting between Israel and Hamas.


The latest example is Rafah, in southern Gaza, a city swollen to more than 1.4 million people by forced displacement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Tuesday that his military would invade the city to root out Hamas but that it would provide humanitarian aid and “facilitate an orderly exit of the population.”


Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, has said that a major ground invasion in Rafah would be a mistake, not least because it would further imperil humanitarian access. Displacement has contributed to a hunger crisis sweeping the territory, and the United Nations has said that an invasion could mean that an already catastrophic situation slides “deeper into the abyss.”


Some civilians say they have fled time and again. As many people face the prospect of being displaced again, here is a look at what happened on a few occasions when Israel has told civilians to evacuate.


Northern Gaza


Israel began telling more than one million civilians to evacuate northern Gaza about two weeks ahead of its ground invasion on Oct. 27, though the area was pummeled by Israeli airstrikes soon after the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7.


“Hamas is using you as a human shield,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said on Oct. 22, calling on civilians still in northern Gaza to move south.


The Israeli military also dropped Arabic-language leaflets over the area, warning that anyone who did not move south “may be considered as a partner in a terrorist organization.”


The United Nations said that the evacuation order was impractical, and the U.S. asked Israel to delay its invasion to give civilians more time. Even so, hundreds of thousands of people obeyed the order and moved to southern Gaza, carrying a few possessions away from an area that had already been shattered by airstrikes before the full-scale invasion began.


The south proved to be no escape from peril. An investigation by The New York Times in December found that Israel had used some of the largest and most destructive bombs in its arsenal in southern Gaza, posing a pervasive threat to civilians.


Mr. Netanyahu says that Israel intends to minimize civilian casualties while fighting Hamas, and Israeli officials said that Hamas fighters had set up checkpoints to prevent people from complying with the orders to move.


Khan Younis


In early December, after a one-week cease-fire, Israel launched a major military operation in Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s largest city. Many civilians there had fled to the city from northern Gaza.


The Israeli military again warned civilians to leave parts of Khan Younis for Rafah and other places farther south, though residents said that they sometimes had mere hours of notice. Israel also dropped leaflets over Khan Younis and broadcast information about which parts of the city were safe at any given moment.


Several Palestinians said, however, that the orders to leave Khan Younis, or to move within it, were confusing, not least because they appeared to shift over time and left little opportunity to gather possessions. In addition, obeying the orders meant carting relatives — many of whom had been displaced several times previously — to a new place where the prospects for shelter and basic essentials were uncertain.


Civilians also said that when they fled as instructed, they sometimes found themselves at locations engulfed in fighting or subject to airstrikes.




The most recent designated large scale safe zone is Rafah, which lies against the closed Egyptian border and has been immensely swollen by displacement. Without sufficient accommodations, many of its new residents have pitched makeshift tents.


Rafah has been subject to airstrikes and fighting in recent weeks. In one example, the health authorities in Gaza said on Feb. 12 that at least 67 people had been killed overnight in airstrikes in the city. Israel’s military had launched an operation to rescue two people held hostage in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack.




The Israeli authorities have asked people at least twice to head to Al-Mawasi, a coastal village in southern Gaza that could be a destination for people asked to leave Rafah. Aid officials have said that the village lacks shelter, humanitarian aid and basic infrastructure.



4) University of California Could Bar Political Speech on Some Web Pages

With anger rising over pro-Palestinian protests, the university’s regents are set to vote on a proposal that would draw tighter boundaries around speech.

By Vimal Patel, March 20, 2024


The campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, on a bright, sunny day.

The proposal would affect the entire University of California system, including U.C. Santa Cruz. Credit...Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Israel’s bombing of Gaza is “genocidal,” according to the home page of the critical race and ethnic studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Such a statement would be considered political and would be prohibited, according to a new proposal by the regents of the University of California.


Under the proposal, academic departments would be barred from posting political statements on their home pages. And any political statement issued by a department — in any venue — would need to meet stricter guidelines.


The regents are set to vote as early as Wednesday on the plan, which would apply to the U.C. system’s 10 schools, including Santa Cruz, U.C.L.A. and Berkeley.


Higher education abounds in opinions on current events, from Black Lives Matter to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, and Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, universities have been under pressure to draw tighter boundaries around speech, sometimes in ways that have alarmed supporters of academic freedom.


The state’s progressive politics have generally insulated the University of California from some of the conservative attacks on colleges. But the regents’ proposal, some faculty and students worry, could represent a turnabout, at a moment when the very language used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply contested.


Many Jewish students, faculty and alumni have accused some pro-Palestinian protesters and faculty of veering into antisemitic speech. At Berkeley last month, an event featuring an Israeli speaker was canceled after a crowd of protesters broke down doors, which the chancellor, Carol Christ, described as “an attack on the fundamental values of the university.”


A political science professor at Berkeley, Ron Hassner, has organized a sit-in at his office, to protest what he says is inaction by the administration on campus antisemitism. And more than 400 professors signed a letter decrying how the university system’s ethnic studies departments posted material on their home pages that “vilifies Israel, rejects the characterization of the Hamas massacre as terrorism, and calls on the U.C. administration to ‘endorse the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.’”


On Tuesday, Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter to university officials requesting documents and information about Berkeley’s response to antisemitism on campus.


To Jay Sures, the regent who developed the proposal, prohibiting such statements on a department’s home page does not limit academic freedom. Professors and students have many other forums to express themselves, he said, but their opinions on department home pages could be misinterpreted as representing the University of California.


“The faculty can have their Twitter accounts,” Mr. Sures said at a January regents meeting. “They can do social media. They can publish peer studies. There are so many other ways.”


Some universities have already tightened their rules.


Universities have canceled or postponed speakers, tried to censor “Israelism,” a documentary critical of Israel, and suspended student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. Last fall, Barnard College, after overhauling its website policy, removed a pro-Palestinian statement posted by its gender studies department.


There has also been an intense debate about whether universities should adopt the University of Chicago’s famous policy of “institutional neutrality,” which means that the university takes no stance on issues that are not central to the university’s functions.


The debate at the University of California isn’t quite that. The president, board chair and others speaking as the official voice of the university would not be affected by the regents’ proposal.


In fact, a university statement sparked the tussle between Mr. Sures and the ethnic studies faculty.


On Oct. 9, Michael V. Drake, the president of University of California, and Richard Leib, the board chair, issued a statement condemning the Hamas attack as “terrorism” and “sickening and incomprehensible.”


A week later, the university’s ethnic studies council, which represents hundreds of the discipline’s faculty members across the system, objected, writing in a letter that the official statement lacked “a full understanding of this historical moment” and contributed to anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiments.


“We call on the U.C. administrative leadership to retract its charges of terrorism, to uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle, and to stand against Israel’s war crimes against and ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people,” the council said.


Mr. Sures called the letter “appalling and repugnant.”


He responded that he would do everything in his power “to protect our Jewish students, and for that matter, everyone in our extended community from your inflammatory and out of touch rhetoric.”


The U.C. system had already considered the issue of political statements. In 2022, an academic freedom committee argued against the prohibition of department political statements.


Departments, the report said, should instead create guidelines about when to issue statements, be transparent about whose views are represented, and also consider whether they could chill the speech of those who disagree.


For now, political statements are allowed so long as they don’t veer into electoral politics.


But the regents' proposal would limit department home pages to day-to-day operations, which include course descriptions, upcoming events and the release of new publications.


Opinions would be allowed on other university websites. But any political declaration would need a disclaimer, stating that the views are not necessarily that of the university’s.


The regents’ proposal adopts other recommendations of the 2022 academic freedom report. It would mandate that department members vote before issuing a political statement, with ballots collected anonymously to protect dissenting opinions. Departments would need to create and post guidelines about the process.


The proposal did not assuage the concerns of many faculty members, who say it was politically motivated.


The regents proposal “delegitimizes the work that we do in ethnic studies,” said Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, the department chair at Santa Cruz.


The ethnic studies department’s statements, she said, are “based on the academic expertise of almost all of us at the department and especially our faculty who work on Palestine.”


James Steintrager, the chair of the university’s academic senate, worried that the proposal is an invitation for outsiders to police academia.


“It’s not only about straightforwardly political statements about some world events,” he said in an interview, “but also about things like climate change, vaccine science, things like that.”


But Ty Alper, a Berkeley law professor who led the academic freedom committee in 2022, was pleased that the proposal adopted its recommendations. Mr. Alper said he was less focused on rules about department home pages.


“I’m more concerned,” he said, “with ensuring that faculty have the individual and collective right to issue statements on matters of interest.”



5) When African Women Are Raped, Where Is the Outrage?

By Maebel Gebremedhin, March 20, 2024

Ms. Gebremedhin is the co-founder and president of Tigray Action Committee and United Women of the Horn.


An African woman presses a hand to her forehead.

Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the summer of 2023, while I was negotiating the price of a pair of cloud-shaped wire sunglasses, a man walked behind me and sexually assaulted me. I was at a stall in one of the many open-air markets in Mekelle, Ethiopia’s second largest city. The man touched my body, attempting to feel as much of me as possible. I stood for a few seconds, unsure of what was happening, until his hands went further and his body got closer.


Jolted out of my shock, I turned to face him and started yelling. My mother, who was standing next to me, did her best to diffuse the confrontation and quietly shooed the man away. As soon as he left, many people who had witnessed what happened — from the boys selling peanuts nearby to a woman strolling with her children — laughed. The laughter is what stays with me.


It was not the first time I would encounter the troubling consequences of sexual assault during my trip to Mekelle last year, nor was it the last. My assault was just one of many painful encounters that highlighted the pervasiveness and intense normalization of sexual violence in Ethiopia, especially in regions like Tigray that are warped by other kinds of violence.


Two weeks earlier, I had flown to Mekelle from Brooklyn. It was the first time I was back in Ethiopia in 20 years. One of my reasons for visiting was to speak with women who were survivors of conflict-related sexual violence as part of my work with Tigray Action Committee, a nonprofit my sister and I co-founded to raise awareness about people’s suffering during the two-year civil war between Ethiopia and Tigray, the country’s northernmost regional state. Many of the women I spoke to had been assaulted during the central government’s war on Tigray, which has been described as one of the deadliest of the 21st century with an estimated death toll of over half a million. Although a cease-fire was reached in 2022, sexual violence continued for months after that, countless families remain displaced and the country is at risk of sliding into famine.


Women in Tigray have been subjected to unimaginable crimes during both the war and its ongoing, tumultuous aftermath. Over 100,000 women in Tigray are thought to have experienced conflict-related sexual violence. Health experts recently estimated that over 40 percent of Tigray’s women experienced some type of gender-based violence during the war. Most of them — a whopping 89.7 percent — never received any post-violence medical or psychological support.


Survivors have reported that foreign objects were inserted in their bodies, that their children were murdered in front of them, that they were forced into sexual slavery, starved and intentionally infected with H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections. One victim recalled being told that she was being raped because “a Tigrayan womb should never give birth.” Some survivors are now taking care of children fathered by their rapists. Others are likely becoming new survivors of conflict-related sexual violence themselves, with little hope of recourse from the government.


Unfortunately, the women of Tigray are not alone. Today, conflict-related sexual violence remains a persistent issue across the Horn of Africa. United Nations experts have expressed alarm about the reported widespread use of rape by the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan’s ongoing war, a horror eerily reminiscent of the genocide in Darfur, where women experienced sexual violence en masse. In Eritrea, Tigray’s neighbor to the north, women conscripted into the federal army have been reportedly subjected to sexual violence during compulsory national service. In Somalia, to the east, women living in refugee camps and centers for internally displaced people face high numbers of gender-based violence and are often targeted by predatory clan militias and soldiers. Outside of the Horn, the Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed alarming levels of sexual violence during its ongoing conflict, with especially high numbers of child victims.


It’s a practice that continues to be used with impunity despite international pledges to eliminate it. In 2022, President Biden released a memorandum on conflict-related sexual violence, pledging to strengthen the U.S. government’s commitment to combat and hold accountable those responsible for such violence. The European Union continues to release statements on the need to end C.R.S.V. worldwide. And U.N. Resolution 1325, passed nearly 25 years ago, calls on “all parties to conflict” to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly sexual abuse, in the context of armed conflict. Still, the violence and impunity continue.


To put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, women’s voices must be included at every level of decision-making. Research shows that when women participate in a peace process, it lasts longer; maintaining peace is one way to ensure that conflict-related atrocities do not continue. In the context of Tigray, this will require the active engagement and participation of women in designing and implementing protection measures, shaping legal and judicial actions, and contributing to sustainable peace-building initiatives. One good example to follow would be Liberia, where women, including survivors, spearheaded movements that played a critical role in ending a brutal civil war characterized by extensive rape.


Outside of Tigray, the United States and other powers must put pressure on the Ethiopian government to follow the terms of the 2022 cease-fire, which includes a clause about condemning “any act of sexual and gender-based violence,” to allow unfettered humanitarian access and refrain from restricting or shuttering internet access. International aid organizations must prioritize setting up health care infrastructure for the countless survivors in Tigray today, and local organizations who are committed to this work should be better funded.


The relative Western disregard for the Tigrayan war, and the horrific acts of violence against Tigrayan women, presents a lesson to learn from; Tigray stands as one of many stark examples of what happens when C.R.S.V. goes unchecked. It is time the world speaks up for African women and holds governments, armies and all perpetrators accountable for the crimes they are committing. If not, they may continue to suspect that when it comes to them, accountability and justice are only buzz words.


During my trip last summer, I spoke to women in every town I visited, asking about their lives, experiences, hopes and dreams. I asked them if they saw a future for themselves in Tigray or anywhere at all. Overwhelmingly, they said their goal was to leave Ethiopia, or to help their children leave if they could not. They wanted their daughters to experience a different life, to have a chance at something else.



6) Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital grows into one of the longest of the war.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Hiba Yazbek, March 21, 2024


Smoke over high-rise buildings.

Smoke rising during an Israeli raid at Al-Shifa Hospital and the surrounding area in Gaza City on Thursday. Credit...Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

One of Israel’s longest and deadliest hospital raids of the Gaza war stretched into a fourth day on Thursday, as the military said that it had killed dozens of people it described as terrorists in the previous 24 hours in its operation at Al-Shifa Hospital.


Israel has staged a series of raids on Al-Shifa in northern Gaza, the largest medical facility in the territory, arguing that Hamas used it as a command center and concealed weapons and fighters in underground tunnels there. Since the latest attack began on Monday, the Israeli military has reported killing more than 140 people it said were terrorists in and around the hospital, far more than in past raids. The Israeli accounts could not be independently verified.


The Al Jazeera news network and Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, reported on Thursday that Israeli forces had blown up a building used for surgery that is one of the largest at the complex. The Israeli military said it had no comment on the reports.


Iyad Elejel, who lives about 500 yards from Al-Shifa, said the situation was “very terrifying,” adding in a phone call on Thursday: “We are hearing the constant sounds of clashes, gunshots, shelling, bombing, quadcopters and planes all day and all night.” Smoke had infiltrated the apartment where he is staying with 30 relatives, making it hard to breathe, he said.


Mr. Elejel said the children in the apartment were becoming used to the cacophony. “We try to convince them that the sounds they are hearing are from fireworks, but they don’t believe it,” he said.


Nobody has been able to leave the apartment since the raid began, Mr. Elejel said, and the family feared that they could run out of food soon. He said that when he looked out of his window Thursday morning, he saw “many dead bodies lying on the main street” out front. Israeli soldiers have been forcing people in the area to leave their apartments and head south, so the neighborhood was emptying out, Mr. Elejel said.


The military said in an earlier statement that it was continuing to “conduct precise operational activity in the Shifa hospital, eliminating dozens of terrorists over the past day during exchanges of fire.” It also said it was preventing harm to civilians and had located storage sites for weapons.


Israeli forces have carried out a series of raids on medical facilities in Gaza, arguing that Hamas has used them for military purposes. The armed group has denied doing so.


Israel made northern Gaza the initial target of its ground invasion of the enclave, which started on Oct. 27, and it first raided the hospital in November. It later provided evidence that Hamas had constructed a lengthy tunnel under the hospital. A later analysis by The New York Times found that Hamas had used the complex for military purposes. The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under it.


Even before the current raid began, international aid workers said that the hospital barely functioned. Israeli officials said earlier this week that Hamas personnel had returned to the hospital, prompting its operation. Military analysts said Israel’s decision to withdraw most of its forces from the north, in part to concentrate on defeating Hamas in other parts of Gaza, had in effect left a security vacuum.


The initial raid on Al-Shifa became a lightning rod for criticism of Israel over military action around hospitals and the danger it poses to patients and medical staff. The raid also became a symbol of a broader debate about the human cost of Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded.


Lauren Leatherby contributed reporting.



7) What Is Antisemitism? A Columbia Task Force Would Rather Not Say.

Definitions of the term are highly contested, so a group monitoring antisemitism on Columbia University’s campus has avoided picking sides. It is still facing criticism.

By Sharon Otterman, March 21, 2024


A wide exterior of Columbia University with students walking in the foreground.

A debate over how to define antisemitism is dividing campuses. Credit...Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

A Columbia University task force set up to combat antisemitism on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks is attempting to avoid one of the most contentious issues in university debates over the war: Its members have refused to settle on what the definition of “antisemitism” is.


Competing factions on campus and beyond are pushing for two different definitions. The first, favored by the U.S. State Department and many supporters of Israel, says “targeting of the state of Israel” could be antisemitic, a definition that could label much of the pro-Palestinian activism sweeping campus as antisemitic.


The second is narrower. It distinguishes between anti-Zionism and antisemitism and could lead to criticism that the school is not taking antisemitism seriously enough.


The debate over the definitions has become a lightning rod for the Columbia task force and for other universities around the country. The task force is charged with “understanding how antisemitism manifests on campus” and improving the climate for Jewish faculty and students. But the refusal to pick a definition has also been met with harsh criticism on both sides.


“If you don’t diagnose the problem, you don’t have to deal with it,” said Shai Davidai, a Columbia professor who is Israeli and favors the more sweeping definition. He added, “Saying we don’t want to define it so we don’t have a problem, that’s copping out.”


Pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist faculty and students, quite a few of whom are Jewish, fear that without a definition, the antisemitism task force could be too sweeping in the speech and activity it seeks to regulate.


Columbia’s dilemma illustrates the broad challenge universities are facing as they attempt to walk a line between protecting free speech and avoiding discrimination lawsuits from Jewish students.


Universities are also facing enormous outside pressure. Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, and the co-chairs of its board of directors have been called to testify at a congressional hearing on antisemitism on April 17. Ms. Shafik did not attend the contentious December hearing where the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania struggled to answer questions about whether a call for the genocide of Jews would violate school policies.


Columbia has already been sued in a federal civil rights lawsuit, filed by more than a dozen Jewish students, which describes the university as an institution where “mobs of pro-Hamas students and faculty march by the hundreds shouting vile antisemitic slogans, including calls to genocide.”


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators dispute that chants like “By any means necessary” and “There is only one solution, intifada, revolution” are antisemitic calls to genocide.


For the task force, the university chose three Jewish professors as co-chairs because they are seasoned senior faculty who know how Columbia works. They are not academic experts in antisemitism research, however.


The professors argue that their 15-member task force does not need to define antisemitism, because they don’t see it as their task to label things as antisemitic or not. Rather, they want to hear why Jewish students and faculty are upset and see if there are practical solutions that can be found to help them feel more comfortable.


“I get letters from parents every single day, just regular people, students,” one of the co-chairs, Nicholas Lemann, a former dean of the journalism school, said in an interview. He said that many of them ask: “‘Why aren’t you listening? Why aren’t you doing anything?’”


“Our job is not to define antisemitism,” he said, adding, “Our job is to listen to them, make them feel that somebody at Columbia cares about them, and to try to figure out what is causing this great discomfort and distress, and whether anything can be done to ameliorate it that’s consistent with the values of the university.”


Pro-Israel Jewish advocacy groups have been pushing for years for organizations and governments to adopt the more sweeping definition developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which wraps in anti-Zionist speech. Since 2016, it has been endorsed by more than 40 countries, including Israel.


There is no dispute about the core of the definition — antisemitism, it states, is a “certain perception of Jews that may be expressed as hatred” toward them. But its examples about Israel can be broadly interpreted, in ways that critics say would unfairly silence political criticism.


For example, the definition says that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” could be antisemitic.


Left-wing Jews often support the newer, Jerusalem Declaration definition, which takes a more tolerant approach toward criticism of Israel, including toward boycotts and sanctions of the Jewish state. Another definition, known as the Nexus Document, stands in the uneasy middle.


At Harvard and Stanford, antisemitism task force members have faced harsh criticism for not supporting the more sweeping definition; that tension was one reason the co-chair of the task force at Stanford decided to resign.


At Columbia, the task force chairs are trying to avoid falling into a similar trap. But fighting something without defining it could prove difficult.


“If you want to understand any issue and any problem, you need to have an understanding of what it is,” said Dov Waxman, an expert on antisemitism at UCLA. “You can’t count something if you’re not able to understand what it is.”


He recommended that the Columbia task force refer to more than one definition, as the Biden administration did last year in outlining its antisemitism strategy. The task force has not ruled out such a step, Mr. Lemann said.


Some of the Columbia task-force listening sessions on campus have become tense. At a March 1 session with graduate students, for example, several anti-Zionist Jews demanded to know what the definition of antisemitism would be and whether their views would be included in it.


Ester Fuchs, an urban studies professor and task force co-chair, interrupted them and became hostile, four students charged in a subsequent letter to Ms. Shafik and other administrators in which they called on Professor Fuchs to be replaced on the task force by an anti-Zionist.


Caitlin Liss, a Jewish graduate student who signed the letter, said she is part of a “long Jewish tradition of anti-Zionism” that includes many students at the school. But, she said, “you would never know that on campus from the way that the administration talks about it, from the way that the task force talks about it.”


Professor Fuchs said the students “attempted to disrupt the session and ignore its purpose — to listen to students’ concerns and experiences with antisemitism on campus.”


Joseph Howley, a Jewish classics professor and supporter of Columbia’s pro-Palestinian movement, was invited to attend a listening session, but didn’t go. “I have no reason to believe I’ll be taken seriously,” he said. In the end, only a few of the roughly 40 faculty members who had been invited to a listening session intended for critics of Israel attended.


In another session, Amy Werman, a professor at the School of Social Work who supports Israel, brought up a question about whether the task force might just be window dressing to appease Congress.


“Ester, oh, boy, she did not take to that kindly,” she said, referring to Professor Fuchs. “I would almost say I felt like she was attacking me.”


Professor Fuchs disputed that and said she had replied: “You obviously don’t know us. We have never been window dressing, and we don’t intend to be now.”


Still, at least some Jewish students who have felt ostracized or unsafe on campus have found the listening sessions helpful, said Rebecca Massel, a sophomore who covers antisemitism for The Columbia Spectator.


“It’s been an outlet for students to raise concerns,” she said.


The task force is now hiring a research director to develop a study on antisemitism at Columbia and recommend training materials for the university.


Earlier this month, it issued its first report. The 24-page document called for additional limits on protests and better enforcement of existing rules, to address a key complaint of Jewish students who say the environment at Columbia has become intolerable.


Protests were the first focus, Professor Fuchs said, because they are the “most overtly disruptive to life on campus and make people feel like they’re unsafe, like they’re unwelcome and they should find another place to go to school.”

As for whether some common anti-Israel protest chants like “Death to the Zionist State” could amount to discriminatory harassment of Jewish or Israeli students, the report largely punted, saying that was ultimately a question for lawyers.


“We urge the university to provide more guidance on the meaning of ‘discriminatory harassment,’ including antisemitic harassment,” the report said.



8) Congress Seeks to Bar Funding for U.N. Agency for Palestinians

A bill would bar support for the agency, UNRWA, amid accusations that some employees were Hamas fighters. Other countries are scrambling to make up the looming shortfall.

By Adam Rasgon and Robert Jimison, March 20, 2024

Adam Rasgon reported from Jerusalem and Robert Jimison from Washington.


A crowd of men, some holding up green cards, gather outside a concrete building

Palestinians gathered to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse in Gaza City on Monday. Credit...Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

The United States would cut off funding for the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza under a spending agreement on track to soon become law, according to two people familiar with the plan.


The ban, part of a massive spending bill negotiated by lawmakers and the White House that is expected to clear Congress by this weekend, would create a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the agency, known as UNRWA. That could have disastrous consequences for Gazans, who are facing an acute hunger crisis and displacement in crowded shelters and tent encampments.


The move would also put Washington at odds with its Western allies over how to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid accusations that Hamas fighters have infiltrated the agency.


The U.S. has unilaterally taken other steps to ameliorate the deprivation in Gaza, including pressuring the Israelis to allow more aid into the enclave, conducting airdrops of food and announcing a plan to construct a pier to deliver aid by sea.


Though before the war UNRWA employees filled a broad array of civil functions in the territory, operating schools and providing health services, they have since become the main resource on the ground for delivering aid to the territory’s besieged residents. As Congress bans funding for the agency, U.S. officials are seeking alternative organizations to tackle the distribution of food in particular.


But as the U.S. courts other agencies to help fill the void in Gaza, some of America’s closest allies are scrambling to ensure funding for the agency continues.


The suspension of funding is planned through March 2025 and extends a pause that the White House and lawmakers from both major U.S. parties supported after Israel accused at least 12 UNRWA employees in January of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel led by Hamas. Efforts are underway to impose a longer-lasting funding ban, according to people familiar with the negotiations.


“Not a single taxpayer dollar should go to UNRWA after the serious allegations of its members participating in the October 7th attacks,” Senator James Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement to The New York Times.


The loss of American support would hamper the agency’s ability to deliver food and health services in Gaza. The United States has paid the plurality of the agency’s overall budget, including $370 million in 2023. As of earlier this month, UNRWA had enough funds to continue its operations until the end of May, according to Scott Anderson, the agency’s deputy director for Gaza.


Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said he feared that U.S. efforts to suspend funding would have drastic effects on agency services in Gaza, particularly schooling. “I really hope that the U.S. will continue to show their solidarity,” he said.


The agreement, which is the product of long and painstaking negotiations, is expected to easily pass Congress.


Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said he opposed the ban on funding.


“To punish over two million innocent people in Gaza and UNRWA beneficiaries throughout the region for these actions is not just misguided — it’s unconscionable,” he said on Wednesday.


The White House appeared to be holding out hope for the possibility of eventually restoring funding to UNRWA, which supports Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, once the agency concludes its investigation and takes steps toward reform.


“There is no other organization that has the reach, the tentacles and the distribution capabilities that UNRWA has in Gaza. That’s just a fact,” said John F. Kirby,  the White House National Security Council spokesman.


“Obviously UNRWA is going to have to reform itself, clearly, because that’s just unacceptable behavior by anybody,” he added.


U.N. officials said they had fired 10 of the original 12 employees accused of participating in the Oct. 7 attack or its aftermath and that two others were dead. António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general who described himself as “horrified by these accusations,” ordered an investigation into the agency and has implored those nations that suspended their aid payments to reconsider.


Over the past two weeks, Canada, Sweden, Iceland and Australia, which suspended funding for UNRWA after Israel’s accusations were made public in January, have said that they would renew it. A host of other countries, including Germany, UNRWA’s second-biggest backer, are expected to make similar announcements in the coming months, according to five European diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to communicate with the news media.


On Wednesday, a Saudi-funded humanitarian agency pledged to increase its funding for the agency by $40 million, according to a statement.


“We welcome the decisions of donor countries to restore funding, but we are not out of the woods,” said Juliette Touma, the communications director for UNRWA.


But while America’s allies look for ways to fund and potentially reform the agency — like stepping up enforcement of its rules that require employees to maintain neutrality  — Washington is seeking other alternatives.


Humanitarian officials, however, have questioned whether other U.N. agencies or smaller relief organizations are capable of distributing large amounts of aid independently while the war between Israel and Hamas is raging.


Israeli officials recently met in Washington with members of Congress and the Biden administration and shared new evidence that they said showed UNRWA employees had connections with militant groups in Gaza, according to an Israeli official with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The New York Times has not seen the material Israeli officials presented to members of Congress.


Last week, he said, Israeli officials shared materials with visiting investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight who are conducting an inquiry into whether UNRWA employees have ties to Hamas. He said Israel was committed to ensuring the continued flow of aid to Gaza, but not through UNRWA.


Earlier in the war, the distribution of food aid was primarily overseen by UNRWA. But more recently, a patchwork of aid agencies, convoys operated by local businessmen and airdrops by foreign governments have become involved in the delivery of desperately needed food.


Distribution, particularly in northern Gaza, has been slowed by lawlessness, violence and Israel denying convoys entry.


At least twice in recent weeks, attempts to distribute food ended in bloodshed as hungry Palestinians seeking aid were killed. In the deadliest such event, more than 100 people were killed in Gaza City on Feb. 29, according to local health authorities, who attributed the deaths to Israeli troops firing on the crowd. The Israeli military acknowledged opening fire, but said most of the deaths had occurred when people stampeded or were run over by trucks.


On Monday, the U.N.-backed organization that monitors food insecurity warned that “famine is imminent” in Gaza.


Both Republicans and Democrats have proposed the World Food Program as an alternative, according to UNRWA supporters who recently visited Congress and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their private meetings.


But the World Food Program, or W.F.P., has fewer than 100 staff members in Gaza compared to the 13,000 on UNRWA’s payroll, 3,000 of whom have kept working during the war.


“The World Food Program’s mandate is to deliver food assistance to hungry and vulnerable people,” the agency said in a statement. “We are ready to further step up our food assistance in Gaza, with the necessary funding. We cannot replace the critical functions of UNRWA in Gaza, including the running of shelters and health clinics.”


Israel has also engaged with the W.F.P., along with other organizations, about playing a larger role in Gaza, according to the Israeli official who discussed the recent Washington meetings, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.


But moving employees from one organization to another would be complicated, said Jamie McGoldrick, a top U.N. relief official in Jerusalem. For example, W.F.P.’s employees in Gaza are generally paid about three times as much as their UNRWA counterparts, he said.


As Washington looks for alternatives to UNRWA, some countries have decided to restore their funding, based on reassurances the agency has given about improving its employee vetting process and its enforcement of ethics rules.


Other donor nations, according to UNRWA officials and the European diplomats, are seeking additional information from the U.N. office overseeing the inquiry into Israel’s allegations, as well as the results of an independent review being conducted by Catherine Colonna, a former French foreign minister. Ms. Colonna is expected to release an interim update on Wednesday and her final report on April 20.


Many European countries are looking to see that UNRWA is taking the investigation seriously, one of the European diplomats said, adding that evidence of “credible efforts” to reform was important. “The overall sense is things are going quite well,” the diplomat said.


Hugh Lovatt, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the push in European capitals to restore funding was a recognition that Europe had “overreacted” when faced with the allegations.


Nevertheless, the European Union has said future funding for UNRWA is contingent on the agency allowing E.U.-appointed experts to audit the organization; increasing the staff of its internal investigations and ethics departments; and making employees sign conflict-of-interest declarations, according to written correspondence between the UNRWA commissioner-general, Mr. Lazzarini, and Oliver Varhelyi, a senior E.U. official.


UNRWA, according to the correspondence between Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Varhelyi, also agreed to hand over a list of its employees to Israeli authorities every three months, including their Palestinian ID numbers; to confirm that financial institutions had vetted its staff against a list of people under E.U. sanctions; and to allow a third party to monitor employees’ compliance with training on humanitarian principles and neutrality.


Israeli officials had previously complained that UNRWA had handed over its employee lists only once a year, without their national ID numbers. Access to the ID numbers, diplomats said, would likely make it easier for Israel to check its databases for specific UNRWA employees with criminal histories.


Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.



9) Russia and China Veto U.S.-Led Cease-Fire Resolution at U.N.

By Alan Yuhas and Victoria Kim, March 22, 2024


An urban landscape clouded with smoke.

Smoke billowing in the Gaza Strip seen from a U.S. military aircraft dropping aid on Thursday. Credit...Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S. resolution at the United Nations Security Council that called for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” as part of a deal in Gaza, rejecting a measure that included some of Washington’s strongest language since the start of the war.


The U.S.-backed resolution reflected the Biden administration’s growing frustration with Israel’s conduct in the war, and had been intended to put pressure on Israel not to attack the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are sheltering.


But international divisions, including over Washington’s own use of its veto power in the Council and its refusal to call for a permanent cease-fire, appeared to doom the resolution on Friday.


Eleven members voted in favor of the resolution, but three nations, including two permanent members with veto power, Russia and China, voted against it. Algeria also voted against the measure and Guyana abstained.


After the vote, the U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, defended the resolution, saying it was brought forward “in good faith after consulting with all Council members and after multiple rounds of edits.”


She said Russia and China vetoed the resolution for two reasons: They had refused to condemn Hamas, and they “simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States because it would rather see us fail than to see this Council succeed.”


Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. draft would have put the Security Council’s weight behind diplomatic efforts “to secure an immediate and sustained cease-fire as part of a deal that leads to the release of all hostages that will allow much more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.”


Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, had denounced the U.S.-backed measure before the vote, calling it a “hypocritical initiative” and “a diluted formulation” regarding a cease-fire.


“To save the lives of peaceful Palestinians, this is not enough,” he said. The draft, he asserted, was written with U.S. political interests in mind, to “ensure the impunity of Israel” and to undermine the authority of the Council.


He urged Council members to vote against the resolution, saying, “We cannot allow the Security Council to become an instrument in advancement of Washington’s destructive policy in the Middle East.”


The United States had vetoed three previous resolutions demanding a stop to fighting in Gaza, arguing that the measures could disrupt hostage negotiations and staunchly defending Israel’s right to defend itself after the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7. In each of those earlier Security Council votes, the United States was the only vote against the resolutions. Russia and Britain abstained from the first vote, in October, and Britain abstained from the votes in December and February.


But as the death toll has mounted in Gaza, where the health authorities say more than 30,000 people have been killed, and as hunger and disease worsen around the territory, President Biden and other U.S. officials have grown increasingly critical of Israel’s prime minister and his handling of the war. In his State of the Union address this month, Mr. Biden called for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to let more aid into Gaza and do more to protect civilians.


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who met with Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv on Friday, has said that an immediate cease-fire would allow for the release of hostages and a “surge” in humanitarian aid to alleviate the acute suffering among the territory’s 2.2 million civilians.


The urging of an “immediate” cease-fire was a shift from a draft Security Council resolution that the United States circulated last month, which had called for a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable.”


A delegation of mediators from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the United States were meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital, on Friday to “advance the release of hostages” still being held in Gaza, according to the office of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. A U.S. official confirmed that William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, would travel to Qatar on Friday for negotiations.


In December, the Security Council adopted a resolution that called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” to allow aid to reach civilians in Gaza. But that measure stopped short of demanding a cease-fire. The United States and Russia abstained from that vote.



10) Israel designates more West Bank land for possible settlement use.

By Aaron Boxerman, March 22, 2024

"Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, and the country presides over a dual system in the territory. Roughly 500,000 Jewish Israelis reside in settlements and enjoy lives largely indistinguishable from their compatriots within the country’s internationally recognized borders. Their 2.7 million Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military rule and tight restrictions on their movement."


Bezalel Smotrich, with a beard in a dark suit and white shirt, sits in a dark chair.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s hard-right finance minister, said more than 2,500 acres of West Bank territory had been designated as state land this year. Credit...Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel has designated more than 2,500 acres of West Bank land this year as territory that could be used for settlements, a top Israeli minister said Friday, despite U.S. criticism of settlements.


Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, who arrived in Israel on Friday, has ratcheted up criticism of settlement construction in recent weeks as tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have flared.


Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s hard-right finance minister, said Israeli authorities had reclassified on Thursday an area of about 2,000 acres in the northern Jordan Valley as “state land.” An additional area of roughly 700 acres in the central West Bank were classified as state land last month, he said. The designation could allow Israel to build or expand Israeli settlements in those places, among other purposes, although that prospect is probably distant.


“Even as there are those at home and abroad who seek to cast doubt on our right to both Israel and to Judea and Samaria, we are advancing settlement,” Mr. Smotrich said, using the Hebrew name for the West Bank.


Among other things, Israeli surveyors determined that the area was neither registered to private owners or being cultivated, a spokesman for Mr. Smotrich said. He denied the announcement had been timed for Mr. Blinken’s visit.


Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, and the country presides over a dual system in the territory. Roughly 500,000 Jewish Israelis reside in settlements and enjoy lives largely indistinguishable from their compatriots within the country’s internationally recognized borders. Their 2.7 million Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military rule and tight restrictions on their movement.


Peace Now, an anti-settlement group, says the Israeli authorities have classified an area of the West Bank similar to what Mr. Smotrich announced as state land this year — a decades-long peak.


Biden administration officials have repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank as an obstacle to the longstanding U.S. goal of a two-state solution. Palestinians hope the West Bank will one day become part of an independent state.


Last month, after Mr. Smotrich announced the construction of over 3,000 new housing units in settlements, Mr. Blinken called them “inconsistent with international law,” reverting to a decades-old U.S. position.



11) Doctors bring harrowing stories from Gaza hospitals to Washington.

By Anushka Patil, March 22, 2024


In the aftermath of a missile strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, in January, a stream of victims was brought to the Nasser Hospital. Credit...Courtesy of Zaher Sahloul (Screenshot)

The memories are indelible. Screaming families carrying bloodied loved ones through the doors of an overcrowded hospital. A boy trying to resuscitate a child who looked not much older than himself. A 12-year-old with shrapnel wounds to his head and abdomen being intubated on the ground.


What he saw that January day at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza — after a missile strike on an aid distribution site — has haunted Dr. Zaher Sahloul, an American critical care specialist with years of experience treating patients in war zones, including in Syria and Ukraine.


He and other volunteer doctors who have returned from besieged hospitals in Gaza took their firsthand accounts to Washington this week, hoping to convey the suffering to the Biden administration and senior government officials and to press for an immediate cease-fire.


Dr. Sahloul showed American officials — including members of Congress and officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and the United States Agency for International Development — a photo of the 12-year-old boy and his death certificate. The child never woke up from surgery after being intubated, the doctor said, and the hospital could not reach his family amid a near-total communications blackout.


Two other doctors in the delegation — Amber Alayyan, a Paris-based deputy program manager for Doctors Without Borders, and Nick Maynard, a British surgeon — said that medical system in Gaza had been wiped out by the war between Israel and Hamas.


“This is the deliberate destruction of the whole health care system,” Dr. Maynard said in an interview.


He described operating on chest injuries from explosions with few anesthetics or antibiotics at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah in central Gaza in December and January. “The lack of pain relief was particularly disturbing because we saw lots of children with awful burns,” he said.


There was a limited supply of sterile gloves and surgical drapes, and the hospital’s record-keeping abilities had collapsed, rendering follow-up care nearly impossible, he said. Dr. Maynard said he walked through hallways packed with displaced people to check on patients he had operated on and sometimes failed to find them.


Also in the delegation was Thaer Ahmad, a Palestinian American emergency medicine physician. He was with Dr. Sahloul in January as Israeli forces encircled Khan Younis and began closing in on Nasser Hospital, the largest still functioning in the enclave at the time.


“I had to go,” Dr. Ahmad said in an interview. “They’re my people.”


He said that he had a toddler and a 2-month-old baby at home in Chicago when he traveled to Gaza. He contrasted his wife’s experience of delivery — in a safe, well-resourced hospital with an obstetrician she knows well — with the plight of pregnant women in Gaza, who have been starving and giving birth in shelters.


Not long after the doctors left Gaza, Nasser Hospital was raided by Israeli forces in what the military said was a search for Hamas members, weapons and the bodies of Israeli hostages. Before that, fighting had raged around the sprawling hospital for weeks, devastating the surrounding area.


The Israeli military said at the time that its operation was “conducted to ensure minimal disruption to the hospital’s ongoing activities.” Videos from the raid depicted chaos inside the damaged, smoke-filled hospital, punctuated by automatic gunfire and explosions, and health ministry described rapidly deteriorating conditions, and said patients had died from a lack of power and oxygen, and video footage from the scene.


“I will regret, for the rest of my life, leaving when I did,” Dr. Ahmad said.



12) Israel’s Supreme Court asks authorities to hold off on the deportation of Gazan cancer patients.

By Cassandra Vinograd, March 22, 2024


Israeli flags line the top of a building. Trees are in the foreground.

Israel’s Supreme Court asked the Israeli government to hold off on deporting a group of cancer patients from Gaza. Credit...Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Gazans who had been receiving medical treatment in Israel were to be deported back to the Palestinian territory on Thursday but have received a temporary reprieve from Israel’s Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court decision came in response to a last-minute petition filed by rights organizations and 13 cancer patients on Wednesday evening asking for the deportation to be blocked. The court asked the Israeli government to hold off on any action until it had time to review the petition.


Tamir Blank, the lead attorney for the patients, said on Thursday that seven names had been added to the petition since the decision.


“We’re making the argument that Israel created such conditions in Gaza that it cannot sustain people who have cancer and nobody with cancer can survive there for a reasonable amount of time,” he said.


The Israeli government said in a court filing on Thursday that it agreed to the court’s request not to deport any of the patients while the petition was under review. It also asked for 30 days to prepare its own response to the petition.


COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories and that was named along with the government in the petition, did not respond to questions about the petition or the patients involved. It said in a statement that “at present, Gazan residents and their escorts, who have received medical treatment in Israeli hospitals and who are not in need of further medical care, are returned to the Gaza Strip.”


“We emphasize that as of this moment, the coordination of the return of the Gazan patients has stopped and the issue is being discussed in court,” the statement added.


Months of bombardment and dire shortages of supplies since the war began in October have brought Gaza’s already struggling health care system to what aid organizations have said is the brink of collapse. Israel has raided several of Gaza’s main medical complexes, saying it is rooting out Hamas activity, a charge health officials deny.


The health care system was ill equipped to provide advanced cancer treatment even before the war. To get treatment in Israel, Gazans had to navigate several obstacles, including getting the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry to agree to absorb the cost of treatment and the Israeli authorities to issue a permit to cross the border.


Since the war began, Israel has sent some Palestinian workers back to Gaza, and rights groups say some Gazans receiving medical treatment have chosen to go back.


The 20 people named on the petition, most of whom are cancer patients and the majority of whom are adults, according to Mr. Black, do not want to return to Gaza. All of them were in Israel before the war began, mostly at hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.


They were scheduled for deportation because they were no longer receiving “active treatment,” according to the attorney, rights groups and a hospital.


Dr. Fadi Atrash, the head of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, said that the Israeli authorities had contacted his hospital last week for an updated list with the names and statuses of Gazan patients. The hospital was told that 11 cancer patients who were no longer receiving active treatment would be sent back to Gaza this week, he said.


Completing chemotherapy or radiation is not the end of treatment for cancer patients, the doctor and rights groups argued. Patients might need hormone therapies, and require follow-ups and regular checkups, none of which are feasible in Gaza.


“Sending them back to Gaza — it’s like putting them in a higher risk to be killed because it’s a war zone,” Dr. Atrash said.


Aseel Aburass, the director of the department for occupied Palestinian territories at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which took the lead on the petition, said that it was “crazy” to send the patients back to a war zone when they need follow-up care.


“They’re still weak and their immune system is weak,” she said, adding: “This is a death sentence.”


Myra Noveck and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.



13) The D.E.A. Needs to Stay Out of Medicine

By Shravani Durbhakula, Dr. Durbhakula is an anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician from Nashville, March 22, 2024


A “no exit” sign shaped like a pill on top of a solid black background.

Ben Hickey

Even when her pancreatic cancer began to invade her spine in the summer of 2021, my mother-in-law maintained an image of grace, never letting her own pain stop her from prioritizing the needs of others. Her appointment for a nerve block was a month away, but her pain medications enabled her to continue serving her community through her church. Until they didn’t.


Her medical condition quickly deteriorated, and her pain rapidly progressed. No one questioned that she needed opioid medications to live with dignity. But hydrocodone, and then oxycodone, became short at her usual pharmacy, and then at two other pharmacies. My mother-in-law’s 30-day prescriptions were filled with only enough medication to last a few days, and her care team required in-person visits for new scripts. Despite being riddled with painful tumors, she endured a tortuous cycle of uncertainty and travel, stressing her already immunocompromised body to secure her medications.


My mother-in-law’s anguish before she passed away in July 2022 mirrors the broader struggle of countless individuals grappling with pain. I’m still haunted by the fact that my husband and I, both anesthesiologists and pain physicians who have made it our life’s work to alleviate the suffering of those in pain, could not help her. It is no wonder that our patients are frustrated. They do not understand why we, doctors whom they trust, send them on wild goose chases. They do not understand how pharmacies fail to provide the medications they need to function. They do not understand why the system makes them feel like “drug seekers.”


Health care professionals and pharmacies in this country are chained by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Our patients’ stress is not the result of an orchestrated set of practice guidelines or a comprehensive clinical policy, but rather one government agency’s crude, broad-stroke technique to mitigate a public health crisis through manufacturing limits — the gradual and repeated rationing of how much opioids can be produced by legitimate entities. This is a bad and ineffective strategy to solving the opioid crisis, and it’s incumbent on us to hand the reins of authority over to public health institutions better suited to the task.


Since 2015, the D.E.A. has decreased manufacturing quotas for oxycodone by over 60 percent and for hydrocodone by about 72 percent. Despite thousands of public comments from concerned stakeholders, the agency has finalized even more reductions throughout 2024 for these drugs and other commonly prescribed prescription opioids.


In theory, fewer opioids sold means fewer inappropriate scripts filled, which should curb the diversion of prescription opioids for illicit purposes and decrease overdose deaths — right?


I can tell you from the front lines, that’s not quite right. Prescription opioids once drove the opioid crisis. But in recent years opioid prescriptions have significantly fallen, while overdose deaths have been at a record high. America’s new wave of fatalities is largely a result of the illicit market, specifically illicit fentanyl. And as production cuts contribute to the reduction of the already strained supply of legal, regulated prescription opioids, drug shortages stand to affect the more than 50 million people suffering from chronic pain in more ways than at the pharmacy counter.


Doctors may be forced to ration medications, or choose which patients out of a qualifying group actually receive scripts, and drug prices may increase for consumers. In an aging population with increasing pain medication needs, more patients may struggle more frequently to fill prescriptions that treat their pain; and because of known treatment biases in pain medicine, women and people of color could be disproportionately affected, widening existing disparities.


Paradoxically, the D.E.A.’s production cuts may drive patients to seek opioids on the illicit market, where access is easy but drugs are laced unpredictably with fentanyl, xylazine and other deadly synthetics. My patients confide that they cannot go through cycles of pain relief and withdrawal and cannot spend hours in the emergency room; in their minds, they have no choice but to turn to the streets.


We’ve seen this play out before: When the D.E.A. made legal access to products containing hydrocodone more difficult in 2014, the sale of opioids through online illicit markets increased to 13.7 percent of all drug sales from an estimated 6.7 percent, and sales shifted toward more potent opioids like fentanyl.


The D.E.A. isn’t new to these criticisms. As recently as January it insisted that manufacturing issues or other supply-chain disruptions were the real issues limiting patient access to pain medication, not manufacturing quotas or the imposition of limits. And the agency suggested that action would be taken if the Food and Drug Administration told it about shortages, which the F.D.A. hasn’t so far. But when more than a third of health care professionals attest that their patients’ struggle to fill opioid scripts, something is clearly not working. The D.E.A.’s responses read more like a deflection of blame than a serious strategy.


My profession makes me acutely aware of opioid risks, including addiction and overdose, but at times, and under careful dosing and monitoring, opioids are the right choice for our patients. Still, some health care providers are reluctant to prescribe them, even for cancer pain where opioids are a mainstay of treatment. Many cited opioid dispensing at pharmacies as a barrier.


This is concerning since untreated pain is associated with decreased immunity, a worsening of depression, reduced mobility and adverse effects on quality of life. Ineffective pain management has also been associated with increased medical costs. Among people with sickle cell disease, for instance, 10 percent of patients account for 50 percent of emergency room visits. Although they suffer from other possibly contributing disorders, the common feature among them is chronic pain.


Dangerous prescription drugs require safeguards, but a scalpel has more promise than a sledgehammer. The D.E.A., an agency staffed with law enforcement officials, is not equipped to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate prescribing, and it has in the past apparently confused inappropriate with criminal. Instead of itself defining medical aptness, the D.E.A. should pass the baton to our nation’s public health agencies.


Collaboratively, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services can take a tailored, more precise approach to opioids that is informed by medical and clinical acumen. The F.D.A. in particular should strengthen existing risk evaluation and mitigation strategies programs, which place controls on individual medications and respond to signs of inappropriate prescribing. Although such programs have not always responded effectively, they can be improved with planning, time and resources. And lastly, the government should strip the D.E.A. of its authority to suspend providers’ controlled substance licenses when dangers arise and should hand that power over to these public health agencies.


As the rates of chronic pain rise, I fear the future. Our medical students report reservations about treating pain patients, and while a dedicated medical school pain curriculum can shift attitudes, few schools offer one. The number of unfilled pain medicine fellowship training positions has more than doubled in the last three years, and pain physicians are leaving the specialty. For the field to recover, the thoughtful consideration of clinicians must be empowered by our nation’s health entities. It is time for the D.E.A. to stop meddling in medicine.