Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Truest statement of the week

If Sanders has some unique insight that Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Action Against Hunger, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Red Cross, and the International Federation for Human Rights doesn’t have, he should share it. If Sanders feels he knows better than his labor allies at the American Postal Workers Union, United Auto Workers, and National Nurses United, he should explain why. 

“But October 7 changed everything” is a common retort to those pointing out that a cease-fire framework exists and ought to be used as a basis to end the current slaughter. “Israel simply cannot let Hamas survive after what they did,” one often hears. 

Again, this is one of these Very Serious statements people make without really thinking it through. It just sort of sounds profound and meaningful. But Israel cannot and will not “eliminate Hamas” from Gaza in any meaningful sense. Even the most generous estimates show Israel killing two civilians for every Hamas fighter—a ratio that suggests that Hamas would not be wiped out without an even more intolerable level of civilian death than exists already. Israel cannot kill 9,000 children, create 25,000 orphans, and expect the remaining population to renounce violence and all become compliant fishermen and NGO employees. This is an underlying reality of the conflict even the former head of Israeli security service Shin Bet, Yaakov Peri, acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times on November 9, “We’ll be fighting [the Hamas fighters’] sons in four or five years.”

Israel cannot bomb its way out of the underlying issues of apartheid, dispossession, and occupation, and more indefinite slaughter won’t change this fact. That is, unless Israel’s goal is to remove all or most Palestinians from Gaza. Sanders’s clarity about the folly of endless war was one of his main selling points during his presidential campaigns. Now that clarity appears to have deserted him.

-- Adam Johnson, "Bernie Sanders’s Incoherent, Pernicious Gaza Cease-Fire Position, Explained" (THE NATION).



Truest statement of the week II

Christopher Gunness, the former chief spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), accused the UNSC resolution of “greenlighting genocide” in a statement to Al Jazeera. Gunness said the massacre in Gaza is “an American-Israeli genocide—it’s not just an Israeli genocide.”

“Just as America provides Israel with $4 billion of military support per annum, it’s also—as we’ve seen tonight—providing Israel with diplomatic and political cover to continue with a genocide which is marked by the wholesale and industrial ignoring of international humanitarian law,” Gunness told Al Jazeera.

Gunness is correct. In a press briefing on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Blinken was asked to comment on the world seeing Israel’s onslaught on Gaza as “America’s war.” Blinken did not object to this characterization, instead declaring that the US government is “intent on seeing this through to completion.”

-- Andre Damon, "Gaza genocide death toll tops 20,000 amid mass starvation" (WSWS).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Late Sunday.

Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's  Ava, 
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,

and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

 What did we come up with?

Adam Johnson gets a truest.

Andre Damon gets a truest.

We look at how even basic statistics prove to be too much for a network news department that would rather just use WIKIPEDIA as a source than do actual fact checking.

We (Ava and C.I.) did this as a top ten list.  Stan, Rebecca, Trina and Ann joined us to work on the edition after this post went up at THE COMMON ILLS (and we thank them for it).  They suggested 23 shows for 2023 and added to this ist.

We asked Stan to join us for this piece and he thankfully did.

She really needs professional hep -- and we don't just mean a better agent.

Repost from the UK SOCIALIST WORKER (Ann found this).

Rebecca found this.


We asked Trina to find a video to highlight and she selected this one.

 What we listened to while working on this edition.



--  Ava and C.I.




TV: The Garbage Trash Media -- we're talking CBS NEWS and CRAPAPEDIA

We have a right, as Americans, to expect that media in a democracy is truthful and honest.  Hopefully, Gaza coverage has made clear just how far we are from having an honest media.


CBS NEWS demonstrated just how shoddy journalism is today.  It happens 30 seconds into the segment above that was aired last week.

It was garbage.  And they got away with it.  We waited for someone to call them out.

What's the problem with the above, Dionne Warwick is not the woman with the second most  singles to make BILLBOARD's pop chart ("the second most charted vocalist of the rock era"). Some would say the first is Aretha.  If you're focusing solely on the 20th century, yes, the first is Aretha Franklin -- though not mentioned by CBS NEWS in the segment above, Aretha does have the most.  Dionne is not second to Aretha even if you focus only on the 20th century.  Let's do that for a moment, focus only on the 20th century.

Does it matter?

Well if ESPN had someone declaring Alex Rodriguez to hold the title for most homeruns, we think most baseball fans would object (Barry Bonds holds the title, Alex isn't even second).

Where do these lies come from?  CBS is a major network and its news division has a huge payroll. 

But apparently, they're all too busy playing games on their computers to do actual work.


Instead of doing actual work, they go to CRAPAPEDIA where they found this

She has charted 69 times on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making her the second-most charted female vocalist during the rock era (1955–2010), after Aretha Franklin.[1]


That is a lie.  It was put out by a press relations company that Dionne had just signed with.  


CRAPAPEDIA is crap but if CBS NEWS knew how to do math, they could have looked at the discography CRAPAPEDIA provides -- all of Dionne's singles.  It would have taken them some work, but they could have counted and they would have counted fifty-six.  She sang lead or co-lead on 56 singles that charted on BILLBOARD's Hot 100 singles chart (the pop chart).   

CRAPAPEDIA is a secondary source. 


The smart thing to do would be to use the primary source:  BILLBOARD.  Click her for the list of Dionne Warwick's 56 singles that hit the BILLBOARD Hot 100.

We're getting really sick of liars.  Dionne is not a close second to Aretha.  Aretha landed 73 songs on BILLBOARDS Hot 100.  There are many artists between the two women.  But the one actually after Aretha?

Diana Ross.


Need it in text?  Here you are:


In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Ross the most successful female music artist in history, having had more hits than any female artist in the charts, a career total of 70 hit singles with The Supremes and as a solo artist. This year Diana Ross celebrates her 75th birthday and Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy will be simulcast to over 250 UK cinemas on 26 March.

Need it on video?  About three minutes and ten seconds into the video below, you'll see Diana be presented with her plaque from GUINNESS.

In 1994, Aretha would tie Diana with the release of "A Deeper Love" and then surpass Diana with "Willing To Forgive," "A Rose Is Still A Rose" and (her last Hot 100 chart entry) "Here We Go Again.

Again, you really should utilize the primary source.  Here for the Supremes -- there are 45 songs that made the hot 100 -- 30 are sung -- lead vocal -- by Diana.  The other 15 are after she left the group.  If you're not familiar with the Supremes, the easiest way is to look at the release date on BILLBOARD's chart.  Anything from 1970 and after on that chart was after Diana left the group.  So 30 as lead singer of the Supremes.  Solo career here -- and her solo total is 40.  70 total which puts her three behind Aretha.  Dionne, again, has only 56.  

Maybe if CBS NEWS actually grasped that they are supposed to get facts right, they'd have known that.


Here's some more reality for them?  Aretha's no longer number one.  Readers of CRAPAPEDIA will falsely be told Nicki Minaj is now the number one female artist with songs placed in BILLBOARD's Hot 100.  Per BILLBOARD, she's the lead on 147 songs.  That's huge but it doesn't make her number one.

She's a rapper.  Some argue that rappers are not vocalists (some don't -- we're among those who consider rappers vocalists). So why are we arguing with CRAPAPEDIA?  Taylor Swift.  She's now charted 232 songs in BILLBOARD's Hot 100.

If you want to reduce it to singers, and just focus on the 20th century,  Aretha's number one and Diana comes in right behind her.  

We could use other measures on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 charts to determine most popular female singer of the 20th century.  Want to go by numbers ones?  Diana has 18.  Aretha has 2.  Dionne has 2.  Want to go by top ten hits on the Hot 100?  Diana Ross sang on 30 top ten hits, Aretha on 17 and Dionne on 12.  

But we really believe the best measure of which of the three singers was the most popular and heard the most is the number of weeks they spent with songs in the Hot 100.  Check our math but these are the numbers we came up with (again using BILLBOARD since it is the primary source).  

Dionne charted on the Hot 100 for 376 weeks.  That puts her in third. Aretha for 574.  Diana?  789 weeks.  That means Diana dominated the charts.

There is no measure by which Dionne Warwick comes in second to Aretha.

What if we leave pop (Hot 100) and go over to R&B?  That chart matters too.  So let's look at that Aretha has 92 songs that charted on the R&B charts in the 20th century.  Diana has 79.  Dionne has 56.  If we include the 21st century, Aretha's number jumps to 97; however, Diana and Dionne's numbers stay the same.


Dionne Warwick is a great singer and we're glad that she was honored by The Kennedy Center (CBS will broadcast the ceremony on December 27th).  Like Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin who were earlier honored by The Kennedy Center, Dionne deserves it.  She's a great singer, a one-of-a-kind vocalist. 


The Kennedy Center notes "more than 60 charted songs" for Dionne.  56 on the Hot 100.  57 if you include "We Are The World" -- but if you do that, add one more to Diana who also sings on that song.  Maybe they're pulling from pop and her R&B and AC chart singles that didn't make the Hot 100?  Possibly.


When they honored Aretha, they didn't feel the need to count her hits or provide a number; however, when Diana Ross was honored, they stuck to the pop charts:


She has not one but two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has won a Tony and a Golden Globe, she has been nominated for a dozen Grammys, and she was named "Entertainer of the Century" by Billboard magazine, and the Guinness Book of World Records declared her the most successful female musical artist of the 20th century-with 70 hit singles. It's no exaggeration. "Diana Ross long ago moved from mere success to the status of a classic," The Washington Post once stated and concluded that Ross and the supremes, together with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, were America's strongest and most successful line of the defense against the powerful music of the British Invasion.


Dionne's more than talented enough that people don't need to spread lies.  She's got tremendous talent and has had amazing success.  When you tell a lie to make her look better, you only make her and yourself look worse.

And can you imagine if they did about an athlete?  They would be held accountable.  CBS NEWS and CRAPAPEDIA need to be held accountable.


23 shows that made 2023 a little better

The illegitimate and crooked Supreme Court, constant attacks on LGBTQ+ people, school shootings, Ron DeSantis insisting that slavery was nothing more than a needed trade school, the assault on Gaza and so much more helped make 2023 a really bad year -- one worth escaping from at any chance you were given.  Here are twenty-three TV shows that provided release in the last 12 months.



3) FARGO (FX and HULU)






















Two things on TV that need to go

There are many things wrong with broadcast TV.  But there are two fixes that could be applied which would greatly improve TV.

Sam Elliott needs to leave FAMILY GUY.  He's done fifteen episodes so far, mainly as the Mayor Wild West.  He adds nothing to the show and, in fact, his voice over really brings the show down -- he doesn't sound smart and he can't handle comedy.  

Equally true, the show has far too many male characters.  Southern idiot Wild West adds nothing to the show.  In the fifth season of the series, Lois was mayor for one episode.  So the writers are aware that women can be mayors.  

They really don't need to hire any other male for a voice role until they hire some more women.  

Two more who need to be let go?  Michael Che and Colin Jost.  If they're behind the WEEKEND UPDATE desks next fall, that will be ten years of their being a team.  That's far too long.  It's not supposed to be geriatric show, it's supposed to pull in a young audience.  Che is already 40 and Jost if 41.  In the old days of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, both would've been kicked off the show at that age (to be clear, we just want them kicked off the WEEKEND UPDATE desk).  That was considered way too old to be a cast member.

For those who fear we're just calling for people to be let go, here's a call for an addition: COMEDY CENTRAL, stop dicking everyone around and hire Leslie Jones to be the regular host of THE DAILY SHOW.


Taraji's crocodile tears


A lot of time and energy and, yes, money went into making THE COLOR PURPLE which was released today.  The Broadway musical was far truer to the  novel Alice Walker wrote so many of us have hoped it would be turned into a film.  Thanks to Oprah Winfrey, it has been.

But, no surprise, Taraji P. Henson has been a storm could hanging over it.  "More trouble than it's worth," Rickie Lee Jones sings in "Living It Up" and she might as well have been singing about Taraji.


When the focus should have been positive and upbeat ahead of the film's Christmas Day release, Taraji took it to the gutter -- as she so often does.  See Stan's "Taraji competes with Jennifer Love to see who can be most whiny."  Karen Hunter and so many others have been running with a 'beef' between Oprah and Taraji and how Taraji was ripped off and poor Taraji.

Taraji's always been a mess on any set.  She's been a diva and a disappointment.  

Oprah shouldn't have hired her to begin with.

Taraji cried on camera last week --boo hoo -- about pay inequity.

She didn't correct when people included her salary for THE COLOR PURPLE in the discussion.  Why not?  She always needs attention.

Taraji insists that she's not paid what she's worth.

And that's true if you buy the inflated opinion that she has of herself.

That inflated opinion led her to declare repeatedly in 2017 that she was about to become a movie star.  Didn't happen.  Instead, 2018 and 2019 saw her onscreen in lead roles in one film after another -- every single one flopped in the United States: PROUD MARY ($21 million),  ACRIMONY ($46 million), WHAT MEN WANT ($54 million) and THE BEST OF ENEMIES ($10 million) -- no, those totals are not the totals for hit films.  She had one live-action flop after another.  And her most recent live-action film went straight to streaming. 

B-b-b-b-but she is a TV star.

Was.  EMPIRE started airing in 2015 and it was a huge hit for the first two seasons.  Then it fell from being the fifth most watched series in the second season to the 22nd most watched in the third.  As bad as that was, it was only about to get worse. Season four found it to be the 52nd most watched show.  A huge fall off.  More would take place in season five when Jussie Smollett pulled off his hoax (he staged a crime against himself in real life).  Before the hoax, it was getting a little over five million viewers a week.  After the hoax -- and after America learned Jussie not only made it up but paid off his 'attackers' - the show never got five million again and ended the season as the 68th most watched show.  Could it get any lower?  Yes.  In the sixth and final season, it fell to the 80th most watched series.  And all the production staff are very clear that they could have ridden out Jussie if Taraji hadn't kept lying for him.  She insisted he was a victim, when he got convicted, she continued to whine for him, when he was put behind bars . . .

America hates her.  That's the reality.

She fired her entire staff -- and bragged about it -- after EMPIRE ended because she didn't have jobs and endorsements lied up.  The reason was because America hated her.  She was a liar and some suspected she was in on it with Jussie insisting why else would she keep claiming he was innocent?

Taraji hasn't delieved a TV audience since 2017.  She hasn't been in a hit film -- the ensemble piece HIDDEN FIGURES -- since 2015.  And she's never carried a hit film.

There is no product endorsement because of the way she polls with Americans as a result of her Jussie nonsense.  

She's damn lucky that Oprah gave her a supporting role in THE COLOR PURPLE but, being Taraji, gratitude isn't in her makeup.

So she's caused a cloud to move over the sunny day that the release of THE COLOR PURPLE should have been.

If she was underpaid -- we don't think she was, especially since she was lucky just to be hired -- that's on her at this point.

You say "no."  You set your figure.  If you think you're worth more, insist for more.

Sometimes the power of "no" is the only power you have.

Most actresses learn that before they hit 30.  But Taraji's 53 and never learned it.  Just like she never learned that, historically, no actress becomes a film star after the age of 36.  In other words, Taraji long ago reached the highest rung she was going to.  Sad that the industry grasped what she couldn't.

Oprah got the musical made, with a budget of $100 million.  It's time for Karen Hunter and everyone else to stop trashing Oprah for the awful career that Taraji created for herself.


An unsung hero of the March on Washington

Repost of Michael Dance's film review for the United Kingdom's SOCIALIST WORKER:

An unsung hero of the March on Washington

New film documents Bayard Rustin—a lesser known civil rights organiser we should remember
picture of Bayard Rustin one of the key organisers of the March on Washington during the civil rights movement

Bayard Rustin organiser of the march on Washington

Rustin, the new Netflix film, documents Bayard Rustin—a lesser known Civil Rights organiser but one of huge significance.  Martin Luther King is widely seen as the hero of the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. 

Rustin was a leading organiser and activist against racial segregation in the US. But he was also a gay man fighting against homophobia, inside and outside the movement.

It focuses on Rustin’s brilliant organisational role in building the March on Washington in 1963, which involved 250,000 people. This was where King made his “I have a dream” speech.

Rustin aimed to put pressure on the wavering Democratic president John F Kennedy and the US establishment to pass the Civil Rights Act that year. 

The march was Rustin’s brainchild and he led the planning of it. 

Yet he had to fight to even get the project off the ground and was regarded as a pariah by some. The unity of the oppressed was not automatic.

The director George C Wolf dramatises the contradictions in Rustin’s position. He had been involved in the Montgomery bus boycott and was the organiser with the most creative flair in the anti-racist movement.

But he was an openly gay black man with a previous conviction in a period where gay relationships were illegal.

Therefore, he was targeted not only by Republican reactionaries, but also by some leading, “respectable” black members of the Democratic Party. 

They included Adam Clayton Powell (Jeffrey Wright) and the more conservative elements of the NAACP civil rights organisation, such as Roy Wilkins (Chris Rock).

He was attacked because he was an ex-Communist, keen to involve unions in the march. He had refused the draft because of his non-violent beliefs. Blackmail, slurs and lies become an everyday threat.

Colman Domingo plays Rustin emphasising his wit, humour and rhetorical skills that defeat his enemies and win influential friends. The relationship between Rustin and King (Aml Ameen) is beautifully crafted.

The moment in the film when King publicly defends Rustin from homophobic insults is a brilliant vindication of Rustin’s importance to the movement. 

As one character says about King and Rustin, “Together… you are fire.” The uneasy alliance against racism becomes a committed and united fight against bigotry.

The representation of Rustin’s two relationships with men in the film is cleverly used to show other contradictions. 

His off/on relationship with a white activist explores the difficulties placed on monogamous gay relationships with the divisions of race and sexuality in the 1960s. 

His relationship with an NAACP black Baptist minister reveals the fears about coming out and the religious pressures on black gay men.

This was the era before Stonewall Riot of 1969. The film rises to a victorious, emotional conclusion with the successful March on Washington. 

The final scene presents Rustin as a man who recognises his own class background and his belief in a grassroots movement. The film successfully presents an inspirational character who was determined to fight back despite the dangers.

Therefore, it only touches on the limitations of a non-violent strategy when some characters oppose Rustin’s pacifism with the Malcolm X’s ideas at the beginning of the film. 

But it’s important to see Rustin as a radicalising influence at the time, who took the struggle against racism forward. Rustin is a fascinating and moving account of the fight against oppression.

As Rustin says to his black male lover, “You have the right to love and be loved.”

Rustin is available to watch on Netflix

Tweet of the week



The resolution passed wasn't worth waiting for

Last weekend, the news was that the United Nations Security Council would vote Monday on a cease-fire.  Monday saw the vote postponed to Tuesday.  Tuesday came and it was kicked to Wednesday.  You can guess that happened Wednesday and the same thing took place Thursday.


Edith M. Lederer (AP) reports:

The U.N. Security Council adopted a watered-down resolution Friday calling for immediately speeding aid deliveries to hungry and desperate civilians in Gaza but without the original plea for an “urgent suspension of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas.

The long-delayed vote in the 15-member council was 13-0 with the United States and Russia abstaining. The U.S. abstention avoided a third American veto of a Gaza resolution following Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks inside Israel. Russia wanted the stronger language restored; the U.S. did not.

Amna Nawaz (PBS NEWSHOUR) notes, "The U.S. abstained from the vote, which did not demand a cease-fire."  ARAB NEWS adds, "The failure of the UN Security Council to agree on a permanent ceasefire in Gaza is equivalent to providing Israel with a 'license to kill,' Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said."  BBC NEWS recounts:

Friday's resolution was introduced by the United Arab Emirates.

Minutes before the vote, Russia - one of the five permanent members of the council - introduced an amendment to revert to an earlier draft calling for an immediate ceasefire. It argued the text gave Israel freedom of movement to further clear the Gaza Strip.

The Russian amendment was defeated and both Russia and the US went on to abstain, while the other 13 members of the council backed the text that now calls for creating conditions "for a sustainable cessation of hostilities".

Mallory Moench (TIME magazine) notes, "Global organizations have criticized the U.N. Security Council resolution that called for more humanitarian aid without demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war to facilitate its delivery." CNN adds, "The Security Council's call for pauses will be 'nearly meaningless' to the lives of civilians in Gaza, Doctors Without Borders said in a statement slamming the compromise resolution."   Australia's ABC notes that Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN, disagrees that the resolution was "watered-down" and insists instead that it is "strong,"; however, the network concludes, "But it was stripped of its key provision with teeth -- a call for 'the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities'."  Phyllis Bennis (COMMON DREAMS) explains:

The bottom line of the just-passed resolution at the UN Security Council is that it is NOT a cease-fire resolution. It is not even a “suspension of hostilities” resolution, which reflected the first major concession to Washington’s demands. That would have turned the resolution into a repeat of last month’s temporary pause – potentially useful for allowing in some additional humanitarian aid, perhaps another hostages-for-illegally-held-prisoners swap, and a few days respite for the millions of people in Gaza dying under Israeli bombardment before Israel’s full-scale war started again. But this resolution does not even do that. Despite misleading headlines in way too much of the mainstream media, the only mention even of “humanitarian pauses” appears in a reference to the Council’s November resolution that did call for such temporary halts to the fighting – and only mentioned in the preamble, not anywhere in the operative paragraphs of the new resolution. 

  The operative paragraphs do not call for pausing, suspending, ending, easing or ceasing hostilities – meaning Israel can continue its deadly assaults by air and land without violating the Security Council’s fought-over resolution. The vote was 13 in favor, with the U.S. and Russia abstaining. (Moscow had proposed an amendment returning to the “suspension of hostilities” language, but despite 10 votes in favor and 4 abstentions, the amendment was rejected by a U.S. veto.)

Instead the final text “calls for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered, and expanded humanitarian access” without defining those steps, and without any acknowledgement that the crucial “step” would require Israel to stop its bombing campaign and end its ground assaults. That means Israel, the overwhelmingly stronger party responsible for the deaths of 20,000+ Palestinians, overwhelmingly children and women, can decide when or if its bombs, drones, tank assaults decimating the Gaza Strip and its people should be paused or stopped or suspended. 

"Genocide Joe" has been a common chant at rallies, and a trending tag on social media. The White House says it's inappropriate. But for many, the moniker has stuck.

And so, as he battles to counter that perception, the way Biden talks about Israel has been changing.

[. . .]

Biden's complaint about indiscriminate bombing is his strongest public criticism of Israel since October 7. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law.

But his comments were generous, too — particularly his insistence that Israel enjoyed most of the world's support.

Within hours of that comment, 153 nations had demanded an immediate ceasefire via a UN vote. The resolution expressed "grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip". Just 10 countries — including the US and Israel — voted against it, and 23 abstained.

[. . .]

The US gives $US3.8 billion ($5.6 billion) in military aid to Israel every year. After October 7, Biden asked congress to approve an extra $US14.3 billion ($21 billion).

Its approval has been held up, but only because it's become tangled with unrelated political fights over Ukraine funding and domestic spending. It has broad support from both parties in both houses.

And the State Department's move to bypass congress resulted in a fast-tracked sale of 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition.

On Friday, the New York Times and CNN both reported the US has now also sent Israel more than 5,000 MK-84 munitions — 900-kilogram bombs whose impact is so devastating, they're rarely used by Western militaries in populated areas. Satellite images suggest bombs of that size have been dropped in densely populated Gaza hundreds of times.

AP reported today, "More than 90 Palestinians, including dozens from an extended family, were killed in Israeli airstrikes on two homes, rescuers and hospital officials said Saturday, a day after the U.N. chief warned again that nowhere is safe in Gaza and that Israel’s offensive is creating 'massive obstacles” to distribution of humanitarian aid'."  Yes, Gaza remains under assault.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is now well over 18,000. NBC NEWS notes, "The vast majority of its 2.2 million people are displaced, and an estimated half face starvation amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis."  ALJAZEERA notes, "On Friday, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that 20,057 Palestinians have been killed and 53,320 wounded in Israeli attacks since October 7, when the current conflict broke out."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."  Max Butterworth (NBC NEWS) adds, "Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies on Sunday reveal three of the main hospitals in Gaza from above, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings after weeks of intense bombing in the region by Israeli forces."

Authorities in Gaza have announced the killing of Ahmad Jamal Al Madhoun, the deputy director of the Al Rai Agency, in an Israeli air attack.

His death brings the total number of journalists killed in Gaza since October 7 to 101, according to the Gaza government’s media office, while more than 50 media offices have been completely or partially destroyed by Israeli attacks. Al Jazeera Arabic’s cameraman Samer Abudaqa is among the dead.

Tim Dawson, the deputy general secretary at the International Federation of Journalists, told Al Jazeera of the “extraordinarily high number” of journalists killed in Gaza. He said that we haven’t “seen a death toll of journalists to this concentration in any conflict that I can think of”.

[. . .]

The killing of Ahmad Jamal al-Madhoun brings the total number of journalists killed in Gaza to 101, says the Gaza Government Media Office.

The following sites updated:



    Video of the week: ​​Israel's War on Children: Journalist Describes Destruction in Gaza, Escaping to Egypt with Family


    This edition's playlist

    diana cover 2



    1) Diana Ross' THANK YOU


    2) Diana Ross' SWEPT AWAY

    3) Diana Ross' diana.

    4) Diana Ross' TAKE ME HIGHER.


    5) Diana Ross' EATEN ALIVE

    6) Diana Ross' SURRENDER.



    8) Diana Ross' THE BOSS.


    9) Diana Ross' GREATEST HITS LIVE.


    10) Diana Ross' TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING.



    Monday, December 18, 2023

    Truest statement of the week

    In the 71 days since the start of the genocide, 18,787 Gazans have been killed, or 265 per day—70 percent of them women and children. At that rate, 5,500 more people, including 3,800 women and children, will be massacred before Israel moves to what the Times speculates could be a “lower intensity” conflict.


    -- Andre Damon, "As Gaza genocide continues, US prepares major escalation of war throughout Middle East" (WSWS). 

    Truest statement of the week II

    Neither Michelle Dionne Peacock nor Colin Michael Smith was transgender or nonbinary. But both still lost their lives this year to anti-trans violence.

    Peacock, 59, survived several bouts of cancer. But she did not survive on June 30 when she was slashed in the neck by a man who allegedly thought she was a trans woman. That man, a fellow resident in the Richmond, Ind., apartment complex where Peacock lived, has been charged with murder.

    On July 2, Smith, 32, was at a Portland, Ore., bar for a night out with friends when a man reportedly began to harass and hurl homophobic slurs at a trans person in the group. When Smith, whom friends and family described as “a protector,” intervened to defend his friend, he was stabbed several times. A suspect was arrested days later and faces multiple charges, including murder.

    At a time when Republican presidential candidates openly boast about the harms they will inflict on the trans community and their rights and white supremacist thugs threaten, harass, and force cancellations of family-friendly drag queen story hours, the hate they inflame does not affect trans people alone. Such sentiments foment violence that clearly puts all of us — regardless of sexual or gender identity — at risk.



    -- Renee Graham, "Anti-trans violence threatens us all" (BOSTON GLOBE).



    A note to our readers

    Hey --

    Late Sunday.

    Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

    The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
    Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
    Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
    C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
    Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
    Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
    Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
    Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
    Ruth of Ruth's Report,
    Wally of The Daily Jot,
    Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
    Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
    Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
    and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

    And what did we come up with? 





    -- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.



    The Israeli government targets Palestinians, journalists, Catholics and Jewish hostages as the assault continues

     Repost from THE COMMON ILLS:

    The Israeli government targets Palestinians, journalists, Catholics and Jewish hostages as the assault continues

    Samer Abu Daqqa.  Yesterday, he became the latest journalist killed by the Israeli government.  THE GUARIDAN reports:

    Abu Daqqa and correspondent Wael al-Dahdouh had gone to Farhana school in the southern city of Khan Younis after it was hit by a strike earlier in the day. While they were there, an Israeli drone hit the school with a second strike, the network said.

    Dahdouh was hit by shrapnel on his upper arm and managed to reach Nasser hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries, the network reported.

    The correspondent – whose wife, son, daughter and grandson were killed in an Israeli airstrike in October – said the Al Jazeera crew had been accompanying civil defence rescuers.

    Subsequent efforts to coordinate a safe passage to send rescuers for Abu Daqqa were delayed, Dahdouh said, according to Al Jazeera, adding that one ambulance that tried to reach the cameraman came under fire. Abu Daqqa subsequently died of his injuries.

    Abu Daqqa, a native of Khan Younis, joined Al Jazeera in June 2004, working as both a cameraman and an editor. He leaves behind a daughter and three sons.

    Abu Daqqa and Dahdouh were on assignment in the southern city of Khan Younis when they came under fire.

    Dahdouh later recounted the moments leading up to the incident. He said it took place when they were heading back to an ambulance belonging to the Palestinian Civil Defense after they were done filming in an area of Khan Younis that was hard to reach.   

           “Suddenly, something happened, a big thing, I couldn’t tell what it was, I only felt something big happened and pushed me to the ground, the helmet fell and the microphone,” Dahdouh told Al Jazeera while on a hospital bed before being informed his colleague had lost his life.

    “I saw there was an intense bleeding from my shoulder and arm, and I realized if I stayed, I will be bleeding there in that location, and no one will reach me,” he added.

    Dahdouh said he was able to reach Civil Defense staff hundreds of meters away but was unable to help Abu Daqqa, fearing they would be targetted.

    Al Jazeera said on air that Abu Daqqa was bleeding for five hours and no-one could reach to him due to the situation around him.

    At least 17 others were killed and dozens of others were injured early Friday morning after artillery fire struck the city’s Haifa school and a residential home in the area.

    Three civil defense workers in Gaza whose rescue efforts at the school were being covered by the al Jazeera team were also killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior.   

    Journalists are being killed in Gaza by Israeli forces.  December 7th, Human Rights Watch issued a report with the following bullet points:

    • Two Israeli strikes on a group of Lebanese, American, and Iraqi journalists in south Lebanon on October 13, 2023, were apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime.
    • Evidence indicates that the Israeli military knew or should have known that the group of people they were firing on were civilians.
    • Israel's key allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany – should suspend military assistance and arms sales to Israel, given the risk they will be used for grave abuses.

    Earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders has released (PDF format warning) "2023 Round-Up: Journalists Killed, Detained, Held Hostage and Missing" which noted:

    War zones: grim toll of journalists killed in Gaza in 2023 
    Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, in just two months, 17 journalists have lost their lives in the exercise of their duties in Gaza (13), Lebanon (3) and Israel (1), a toll that brings to 23 the number of journalists killed in war zones this year, versus 20 in 2022. Journalists have also died while covering armed clashes in northern Cameroon, northern Mali, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine.

    Samer Abu Daqqa is the latest of a line of journalist killed by Israeli forces in the last weeks.  From  Thursday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

    AMY GOODMAN: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are calling for Israel to be investigated for committing war crimes for targeting journalists. The groups have both called for an official investigation into an October 13th Israeli tank strike that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah while he was reporting in southern Lebanon with a group of six other journalists. One of the journalists who survived the attack, Christina Assi of Agence France-Presse, AFP, had to have her leg amputated. She’s still hospitalized. Human Rights Watch said it, quote, “found no evidence of a military target near the journalists’ location,” unquote. Reuters also conducted its own investigation and concluded that Issam Abdallah was killed by an Israeli tank shell.

    This is an excerpt of a short video report produced by Agence France-Presse. It includes interviews with AFP reporters Christina Assi, in her hospital bed, and Dylan Collins.

    ALESSANDRA GALLONI: Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah was killed on Friday, October 13th, when a shell hit him.

    NARRATOR: Six other journalists are wounded. Among them, AFP photographer Christina Assi, who suffers serious injuries, later needing an amputation of her right leg.

    CHRISTINA ASSI: Everything gets white, and I lose sensation in my leg.

    DYLAN COLLINS: I saw Christina on the ground, and I immediately ran to her, and we were hit the second time.

    CHRISTINA ASSI: There was no Hamas around us, no Hezbollah around us.

    DYLAN COLLINS: Seven journalists wearing flak jackets, wearing helmets, everyone with “press” written on their chest, there’s no way they didn’t know that we were press.

    CHRISTINA ASSI: And we were attacked by Israel twice, not once.

    AMY GOODMAN: That was AFP reporter Christina Assi, who lost her leg after being hit by an Israeli tank shell October 13th in the same attack that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah. And this is an excerpt from a video made by Amnesty International documenting how it determined that Issam Abdallah was killed by an Israeli tank shell.

    MARIJA RISTIC: In many cases when we work on conflicts, the weapon can directly lead us to perpetrators. This is the key piece of evidence. My colleague, who’s our weapons analyst, knew immediately what this weapon is.

    AYA MAJZOUB: It was a 120-millimeter tank round. And that confirmed that it was the Israeli military that fired on the journalists, because Hezbollah and the armed groups in south Lebanon don’t use those kinds of weapons.

    MARIJA RISTIC: And more importantly, we did identify this weapon before being used by the Israeli forces in the context of different strikes on Gaza. So this is at least the third time where we are able to link this type of weapon with the Israeli forces.

    AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of a video by Amnesty International.

    We’re joined now by Maya Gebeily. She is the Reuters bureau chief for Lebanon. She co-wrote the new Reuters special report, “Israeli tank fire killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah in Lebanon.”

    Maya, welcome to Democracy Now! Our condolences to you and your colleagues on the loss of Issam. If you can talk about what exactly you found? Talk about that day, as we just heard these other reporters who survived the attack, one having lost her leg, discussing.

    MAYA GEBEILY: Thank you, Amy, for having us on. And, of course, Issam’s loss is one that we continue to feel every single day in the Reuters bureau and across the media, the media teams across Lebanon.

    That day, I mean, ironically and very sadly, it was Friday the 13th. And Issam had been in the south covering Israeli shelling on Lebanese territory for a few days by that point. And he’s a very seasoned journalist. So, as you have reported yourself, as well, on this show in the past, Issam had a lot of conflict experience. He did everything right, along with the colleagues with whom he was, on that day. They were wearing press helmets. They were wearing vests that had “press” written on them. They were in an open area in which they could be clearly identified by all of the, obviously, the Israeli drone activity above, the Israeli helicopter activity around them, that they could be clearly identified as press.

    And that evening — it was really as the sun was setting — that team of journalists — there were seven of them there in total on that hilltop — were hit twice, 37 seconds apart, first by an Israeli tank shell that hit Issam and killed Issam immediately, and 37 seconds later by another tank shell that hit the vehicle that had been driven by the two Al Jazeera journalists that were also going live from that location. And really, it was the experts that we spoke to at the end of our investigation, after presenting them with the evidence that we had gathered, you know, noting that there were two strikes in such quick succession at a team of journalists that could be so clearly identified, that warrants, you know, calling this a violation of international humanitarian law and possibly amounting to a war crime.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this. I mean, you’ve got Al Jazeera. You’ve got AFP, Agence France-Presse. You’ve got Reuters. Issam had just set up, what, like an hour before, this live feed, that people all over the world were watching. I talked to another Reuters journalist who said he was watching, and suddenly just this strike, trying to figure out what had taken place. So, in a sense, he actually filmed his own death, Issam.

    MAYA GEBEILY: Yes. And I think that is the ultimate kind of — you know, he was really bearing witness everything that was happening in southern Lebanon. And Issam himself is from southern Lebanon. So, you know, it is such a testament to the power of his work and of his job that really it was him and the feeds of other journalists that were there in the area that provided such an important piece of evidence for us as we were investigating exactly what happened. I mean, in the immediate aftermath, you know, we were gathering the footage from different journalists who were there. We were also gathering what Issam had filmed himself on his camera and on his phone. And it was so difficult to go through that, that evidence, knowing that he had really documented such important evidence of what had taken place that day.

    The Israeli government's killing never stops.   Miriam Berger and Kim Bellware (WASHINGTON POST) report:   

    Israeli forces killed two women who were taking shelter at a church in the Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon, Catholic authorities said.

    The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, an ecclesiastical office for the Latin Catholics in the region, in a statement identified the victims — a mother and daughter — by their first names only and said they were “shot in cold blood.”

    A sniper from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shot the women at the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families in Gaza have taken refuge during the war, according to the patriarchate’s statement.

    The majority of Christian families inside Gaza have taken refuge inside the parish since the start of the war, the statement added. 

    The two women, described as a mother and daughter, were walking to the convent, and "one was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety," it said. Seven others were shot and wounded in the attack.

    "No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents," the statement continued.

    The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said that Israel Defense Forces tanks also targeted the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa, which is housing 54 disabled persons and is part of the church's compound. The building's generator — which is the only current source of electricity — and its fuel resources, solar panels, and water tanks have been destroyed, it said, and IDF rockets have made the convent "uninhabitable." 

    Of this Catholic Church, ALJAZEERA notes:

    UK MP Layla Moran says her relatives are among hundreds of people trapped inside Gaza’s only Catholic church as Israeli forces operate in the vicinity.

    Moran, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said that four members of her extended family, including a grandmother and 11-year-old twins, have been sheltering at Holy Family Parish for weeks.

    “I’m now no longer sure they are going to survive until Christmas,” Moran told the BBC on Saturday.

    Moran, whose mother is Palestinian, said a sixth member of her extended family died last month after not being able to get to hospital for medical treatment.

    On Saturday, church authorities accused an Israeli sniper of murdering two Christian women who had been taking refuge in the building.

    Other notables murders in the last 48 hours?  The Israeli government killed three Jewish hostages.  Cara Tabachnick, Kerry Breen and Claire Day (CBS NEWS) explain:

    During combat operations in Shejaiya, a dense neighborhood in the Gaza City area where fighting has been taking place, the Israeli military said troops "mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat." Troops fired at the three and they were killed, the Israel Defense Forces said.
    [. . .]
    CBS Saturday Morning reported that the incident led to protests in Israel, with families and supporters of the hostages demanding the government resume talks for another hostage swap with Hamas. Sources told CBS News on Saturday that Mossad director David Barnea met with Qatari and U.S. officials in France last night to discuss diplomacy regarding hostages, but there is no hint of a break in the brutal fighting, which has been a key demand from Hamas before any negotiations take place. 

    The three Israeli citizens killed by their own government (instead of rescued) were Samer Talalka, Yotam Haim and Alon Shamriz.   AP adds, "Three Israeli hostages who were mistakenly shot by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip had been waving a white flag and were shirtless when they were killed, military officials said Saturday, in Israel’s first such acknowledgement of harming any hostages in its war against Hamas."

     Owen Jones discusses the slaughter in the video below.

    Owen declares, "They're shirtless which means you cannot mistake them for a suicide bomber or someone attempting to conceal their weapons.  They were waiving a white flag which they had fashioned themselves by attaching some white fabric to a stick. According to an IDF investigation, for some reason a solider felt threatened and yelled 'Terrorists'!"

    This is the pattern the Israeli forces are acting with and why so many Palestinians are dead.  

    Anyone suspected of being Palestinian -- not Hamas, Palestinian -- are fair targets to the Israeli government.  COMMON DREAMS notes:

      Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN, tweeted "Thousands (yes thousands) of Palestinians have described how Israel fires at unarmed people who pose no threat but only when it happens to Israelis do people believe it. We wrote a report some years ago *specifically* on the topic of Israel shooting at Gazans waving white flags."

    B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, tweeted "It is prohibited by International Humanitarian Law (and basic moral principles) to shoot people who yielded and carry a white flag, regardless whether they’re combatants or not, regardless of their nationality and religion."

    Owen Jones, a columnist for The Guardian, tweeted "Three obviously unarmed shirtless Israeli hostages yelling in Hebrew waving a white flag were shot dead by Israeli troops. Palestinian civilians don’t stand a chance." 

    Thousands of people rallied in Tel Aviv today to call for the release of the remaining hostages being held by Hamas militants.

    Some of the rallygoers included family members of hostages, who demanded that the Israeli government do more to bring their loved ones home.

    “The Israeli families believe that the Israeli government needs to put an offer on the table today and not wait for an offer to come from Hamas, from Qatar or even from the United States,” said Ruby Chen, the father of 19-year-old Itay Chen, who was taken hostage by Hamas. “The Israeli needs to take the initiative and put an offer on the table.”

    And the Israeli government has destroyed medical facilities in Gaza.  Remember back when they made such a big deal of denying that they'd shot a missile at a hospital.  Mere weeks ago, but it seems like years.  Imran Khan (ALJAZEERA) reports:

    A joint UN-mission which travelled to Al-Shifa Hospital, once the most important & largest referral hospital in Gaza, have shared a report on what they saw.

    “Patients with trauma injuries were being sutured on the floor, and limited to no pain management is available at the hospital,” the UN said in a short report of the supply mission on Saturday, posted on X.

    There were hundreds of injured patients in the emergency department and “new patients arriving every minute,” the UN added.

    WHO staff said a “handful of doctors and a few nurses” were working in “unbelievably challenging circumstances.”

    They said the hospital in northern Gaza is “in need of resuscitation.” 

    The assault on Gaza continues.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is now well over 18,000. NBC NEWS notes, "More than 18,700 Palestinians have been killed, with 70% of them women and children, according to the territory's health officials. The vast majority of its 2.2 million people are displaced, and an estimated half face starvation amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."  Max Butterworth (NBC NEWS) adds, "Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies on Sunday reveal three of the main hospitals in Gaza from above, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings after weeks of intense bombing in the region by Israeli forces."

    In the midst of Netanyahu’s annihilation of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza, many of them children, women and the elderly, there is a rising urgency from many Israeli and domestic Jewish groups for an immediate ceasefire and greatly increasing the flow of humanitarian aid.

    In the U.S. Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now have vigorously engaged in public non-violent civil disobedience – an American tradition – to challenge the inhumane unconditional co-belligerency by Congress and Joe Biden of the present extremist regime’s genocidal destruction of Palestinians. Many U.S. Jewish Americans are standing tall either individually or in groups to exclaim “not in our name” to the U.S.-funded civilian slaughter in Gaza.

    A most remarkable, little-noticed open letter to President Joe Biden appeared in December 13, 2023, New York Times,paid for by the legendary Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and signed by 16 other Israeli peace, human rights, veterans and religious associations. (See the letter here).

    Titled “The Humanitarian Catastrophe in the Gaza Strip,” the letter condemns the Hamas “horrific and criminal attack on Israeli civilians” and demands the release of the Israelis in Gaza. What follows are excerpts from their message to the White House:

    “Since the war began, Israel’s policy has driven the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to the point of catastrophe – not only as an inevitable outcome of war. As part of this policy, soon after the fighting began, Israel stopped selling Gaza electricity and water, closed its crossings and blocked all entry of food, water, fuel and medicine.”

    Citing international law and committed war crimes, the signers continue:

    “UN agencies and humanitarian organizations report that the situation in Gaza is catastrophic and they have almost no way left to help the population. The few truckloads that are allowed in – a drop in the ocean, according to the reports – cannot be distributed due to the ongoing bombardments, the destruction of infrastructure and restrictions imposed by Israel. This leaves more than two million people hungry and thirsty, without access to proper medical care, and with infectious diseases spreading due to unhygienic overcrowding and lack of water. This inconceivable reality grows worse by the day.”

    “You [Biden] have the power to influence our government to change its policy and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, in accordance with Israel’s legal obligations ….”

    “We are in the final throes of an emergency. Many deaths can still be prevented. Israel must change its policy now.”

    The estimated death toll in Gaza at “more than 18,000” is a gross undercount. Well over ten times more children in Gaza have been killed in nine weeks than the number of children lost in the Russian war on Ukraine over nearly 22 months. In addition to the unprecedented intense bombing, large numbers of Palestinian infants, children, women, the infirmed, and disabled are homeless, facing the elements, dying by the minute from the homicidal conditions described by these Israeli human rights groups, journalists, and recorded by U.S. drones above Gaza.


    Janine Jackson: Despite the official contention that civilian deaths in the Gaza strip are in keeping with those of other military campaigns, a recent New York Times report acknowledged that, actually, “Israel’s assault is different.”

    “Even a conservative estimate” of the reported Gaza casualty figures, the Times said, shows that the rate of death during Israel’s assault has “few precedents in this century.”

    Listeners know that the response to the current violence on Gaza—the massive killings and displacement—what response you believe in has to do with your understanding of what’s happening and why. And that depends on who you’re hearing from, who you’re told to believe.

    Who gets to speak is always a key question about US news media coverage of what we call foreign policy, but that doesn’t just mean which officially credentialed policy experts, but which human beings, which communities, get to, not just be quoted, but shape the conversation.

    And now, as always, US corporate media’s insistence that power speaks—and those affected get to comment, maybe—is trying to win the day. But if that insistence is failing, it’s to do with the work of our guest and, I’m sure she would say, many others.

    Sonya Meyerson-Knox is communications director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She joins us now by phone from Philadelphia. Welcome to CounterSpin, Sonya Meyerson-Knox.

    Sonya Meyerson-Knox: Thank you so much. It’s so great to be here.

    JJ: I don’t think New York Times columnist Bret Stephens is himself especially worthy of respectful consideration here. Ten years ago, he was saying, “The Palestinian saga has gotten awfully boring, hasn’t it?” Everyone else in the region is changing; “only the Palestinians remain trapped in ideological amber. How long can the world be expected to keep staring at this 4-million-year-old mosquito?” OK.

    But the Times op-ed page is still looked to as a measure of kind of the range of acceptable opinion. So it’s meaningful what Stephens does in this recent piece where he states, “On October 8, Jews woke up to discover who our friends are not.” He cites Jewish Voice for Peace as being used as “Jewish beards”—interesting language—“for aggressive antisemites.” And he essentially suggests that we can maybe dismiss the views of Black Lives Matter, because one of them didn’t immediately denounce Hamas, and we should side-eye academic and corporate diversity efforts, because they’re also sites of antisemitism.

    We’ve seen it elsewhere, this notion that, well, Jewish people put out lawn signs after George Floyd’s murder, so it’s unfair and it’s revealingly biased that all Black people don’t support Israel’s assault on Gaza, and indeed the occupation itself.

    It reflects a sad and cynical view of coalitional social movements as transactional, as favor-trading.  Your work represents a different vision and understanding. Can you talk about that and how you engage, or if you engage, that transactional view of justice movements?

    SM: The thing about Bret Stephens and so much, unfortunately, of the New York Times opinion pages, is that, in fact, they are the ones who I would argue are historical anomalies stuck in amber. What we are seeing yet again, as we have seen so many times in recent history, is that people who are believing in progressive causes, who want the world to be a better place, are already understanding and committed to a vision of the world that is intersectional, where our struggles are absolutely connected.

    The belief that none of us are free unless all of us are free, it’s not just a slogan. It’s absolutely, I think, the only way that any of us are going to have the future that we’re trying to build.

    And so to have the paper of record continually disparage some movements, and I would put Jewish Voice for Peace’s work as anti-Zionist Jews, along with the much, much larger and rapidly growing Palestine solidarity movement globally—to put all of that somehow always on the exception, and to castigate anybody who chooses to stand with an incredibly moral and just cause, simply because one prefers to defend the actions of the State of Israel and a government which is advocating for genocide, is just utterly appalling.

    I am astounded every time the New York Times and most of corporate media does this, the way that some causes are allowed to be lifted up and progressive, and other causes are not, not because they’re not presented as cleanly or as well-behaved, but literally because they are pointing out the inconsistencies of US foreign policy, and the extent to which the US government and our elected officials are out of step with what the US population wants.

    Look at all the polls, including the ones that are coming out right now. A majority of US voters, and the vast majority of Democratic voters, are all demanding a lasting ceasefire, and most of them want to see US military aid to the Israeli government conditioned, if not stopped entirely.

    And yet none of that actually appears on the pages of the New York Times. It treats the Palestine movement, and those of us who stand for Palestinian freedom and liberation, as though we are somehow an anomaly, when in fact we are the vastly growing majority.

    Leaving the corporate media's approved lane of dialogue delayed the awarding of a prize for one writer.  From yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

    We begin today’s show with the acclaimed Russian American writer Masha Gessen, scheduled to receive the prestigious Hannah Arendt Prize in Germany today, but the ceremony had to be postponed after one of the award’s sponsors, the left-leaning Heinrich Böll Foundation, withdrew its support for the prize after Masha Gessen compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto in a recent article for The New Yorker titled “In the Shadow of the Holocaust: How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today.” The German city of Bremen also withdrew the venue where today’s prize ceremony was scheduled to take place.

    In the essay, Masha Gessen wrote, quote, “For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time — in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany.”

    Masha Gessen went on to write about why the term “ghetto” is not commonly used to describe Gaza. They wrote, quote, “Presumably, the more fitting term 'ghetto' would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans to that of ghettoized Jews. It also would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated.”

    Masha Gessen’s essay sparked some outrage in Germany. In its announcement withdrawing support for Gessen’s prize, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is tied to the German Green Party, criticizes Gessen’s essay, saying it, quote, “implies that Israel aims to liquidate Gaza like a Nazi ghetto,” unquote. While the foundation pulled out of the Hannah Arendt Prize ceremony, a smaller ceremony will take place Saturday at a different venue.

    For Gessen, the controversy in Germany comes just days after being added to Russia’s most wanted list for comments they made about the war in Iraq — in Ukraine.

    Masha Gessen joins us now from Bremen, Germany. Masha Gessen is staff writer at The New Yorker, author of numerous books, including, most recently, Surviving Autocracy.

    Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Masha. If you can start off by talking about this controversy, talking about what you wrote in The New Yorker magazine? And the fact that, well, the ceremony hasn’t been completely canceled, but just explain what’s happened.

    MASHA GESSEN: Hi, Amy. It’s good to be here.

    I don’t know that I can fully explain what happened, because I don’t think I quite understand what happened, because the Heinrich Böll Foundation first withdrew from the prize ceremony, causing the city of Bremen to withdraw from the prize ceremony, causing the prize organizers to tell me that, first of all, they stand by me and by their decision to give me the prize, but also to — oh, and then the university where the discussion the day after the prize was supposed to be held also withdrew. And this is interesting, because the university said that they believed that having the discussion would violate a law. Now, by the law, I think what they actually meant was the nonbinding resolution that bans anything connected with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which is nonbinding but has a huge influence in Germany. And that was largely the topic of my article.

    So, then the prize organizers decided to have a smaller ceremony at a different location, which I’m not going to mention, not because I’m afraid of Germans, but because I’m concerned about Russians. And then the Heinrich Böll Foundation, after quite an uproar in German social media and conventional media, issued a new statement saying that they stand by the prize, but the venue had canceled, so they couldn’t hold the award ceremony, so it was postponed, which I don’t think was entirely forthcoming on the part of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and their first statement was on record. But that’s where we stand now.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about the heart of what the Heinrich Böll Foundation has found so controversial. Talk about this piece that you wrote for The New Yorker magazine, the comparison you’ve made to Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto.

    MASHA GESSEN: So, the piece is fairly wide-ranging. It’s a piece in which I travel through Germany, Poland and Ukraine and talk about the politics of memory in each country, but a large part of the piece — and how we view the current war in Israel-Palestine through the prism — or, fail to view the war through the prism of the Holocaust. A large part of the article is devoted to, in fact, memory politics in Germany and the vast anti-antisemitism machine, which largely targets people who are critical of Israel and, in fact, are often Jewish. This happens to be a description that fits me, as well. I am Jewish. I come from a family that includes Holocaust survivors. I grew up in the Soviet Union very much in the shadow of the Holocaust. That’s where the phrase in the headline came from, is from the passage in the article itself. And I am critical of Israel.

    Now, the part that really offended the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the city of Bremen — and, I would imagine, some German public — is the part that you read out loud, which is where I make the comparison between the besieged Gaza, so Gaza before October 7th, and a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe. I made that comparison intentionally. It was not what they call here a provocation. It was very much the point of the piece, because I think that the way that memory politics function now in Europe and in the United States, but particularly in Germany, is that their cornerstone is that you can’t compare the Holocaust to anything. It is a singular event that stands outside of history.

    My argument is that in order to learn from history, we have to compare. Like, that actually has to be a constant exercise. We are not better people or smarter people or more educated people than the people who lived 90 years ago. The only thing that makes us different from those people is that in their imagination the Holocaust didn’t yet exist and in ours it does. We know that it’s possible. And the way to prevent it is to be vigilant, in the way that Hannah Arendt, in fact, and other Jewish thinkers who survived the Holocaust were vigilant and were — there was an entire conversation, especially in the first two decades after World War II, in which they really talked about how to recognize the signs of sliding into the darkness.

    And I think that we need to — oh, and one other thing that I want to say is that our entire framework of international humanitarian law is essentially based — it all comes out of the Holocaust, as does the concept of genocide. And I argue that that framework is based on the assumption that you’re always looking at war, at conflict, at violence through the prism of the Holocaust. You always have to be asking the question of whether crimes against humanity, the definitions of which came out of the Holocaust, are recurring. And Israel has waged an incredibly successful campaign at setting — not only setting the Holocaust outside of history, but setting itself aside from the optics of international humanitarian law, in part by weaponizing the politics of memory and the politics of the Holocaust.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, talk more about that, that learning about the Holocaust through the idea that it is separate and apart and can be compared to nothing else, versus how we ensure “never again” anywhere for anyone.

    MASHA GESSEN: I don’t know that we can ensure “never again” anywhere for anyone. But I think the only way to try to ensure it is to keep knowing that the Holocaust is possible, keep knowing that it is — it can come out of what Arendt called “shallowness.” I mean, this was very much her point in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. And by the way, this was a book that got Arendt really ostracized by both the Israeli political mainstream and much of the North American Jewish political mainstream, for things that she wrote about the Judenrat, but also for this very framing of the banality of evil. It was misinterpreted as trivializing the Holocaust. But what she was saying is that the most horrible things of which humanity has proven capable can grow out of something that seems like nothing, can grow out of thoughtlessness, can grow out of the failure to see the fate of the other or the inability to see it. And I interpret that as a call to constant vigilance for failure to see the fate of the other, for doubting the kind of overwhelming consensus that, certainly in Israel and in the North American Jewish community, appears to back the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. This is the way in which we stumble into our darkest moments.

    AMY GOODMAN: For people who don’t know who Hannah Arendt is, the Jewish philosopher, political theorist, the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition, The Banality of Evil, as well, covered the Eichmann trial for The New Yorker magazine, the magazine that Masha Gessen writes for.

    Masha, last week, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City killed the acclaimed Palestinian academic, the activist, the poet Refaat Alareer, along with his brother, his sister and his four nieces. For more than 16 years, Alareer worked as a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare and other subjects, the father of six and mentor to so many young Palestinian writers and journalists. He co-founded the organization We Are Not Numbers. In October, Democracy Now! spoke to Refaat Alareer, who also compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto.

    REFAAT ALAREER: If you have seen the pictures from Gaza, we speak about complete devastation and destruction to universities, to schools, to mosques, to businesses, to clinics, to roads, infrastructure, to water lines. I googled this morning Warsaw Ghetto pictures, and I got pictures I couldn’t differentiate. Somebody tweeted four pictures and asked to tell which one is from Gaza and which one is from the Warsaw Ghetto. They are remarkably the same, because the perpetrator is almost using the same strategies against a minority, against the oppressed people, the battered people, the besieged people, whether it was in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Jews in Warsaw Ghetto in the past or the Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the Gaza Strip. So, the similarity is uncanny.

    AMY GOODMAN: That was the Palestinian poet, writer and professor Refaat Alareer, who was killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike that killed his brother, sister and four of her daughters. This is Scottish actor Brian Cox, famous for Succession, just nominated for a number of Emmys, reading Refaat Alareer’s poem “If I Must Die,” in a video that’s gone viral.

    BRIAN COX: If I must die,
    you must live
    to tell my story
    to sell my things
    to buy a piece of cloth
    and some strings,
    (make it white with a long tail)
    so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
    while looking heaven in the eye
    awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
    and bid no one farewell
    not even to his flesh
    not even to himself—
    sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up
    and thinks for a moment an angel is there
    bringing back love
    If I must die
    let it bring hope
    let it be a tale.

    AMY GOODMAN: Scottish actor Brian Cox reciting Refaat Alareer’s poem “If I Must Die” in a video produced by the Palestine Festival of Literature, PalFest. Masha Gessen, if you can comment on both what Refaat and you are saying about the Warsaw Ghetto, and the significance of him dying in this strike, like so many other Palestinians? I think the number, as we speak, we’re at something like 19,000 Palestinians dead, more than 7,000 children, more than 5,000 women, Masha.

    MASHA GESSEN: I wasn’t aware that he had made this comparison, but I’m not particularly surprised, because the comparison lies on the surface. And so, the question I had to ask when writing this, it was, “Why hadn’t this comparison been made before?” The trope that’s been used for at least a dozen years in sort of human rights circles is “open-air prison.” And “open-air prison” is not a good descriptor for what was Gaza before October 7th. There are no prison cells. There are no prison guards. There is no regimented daily schedule. What there was was isolation. What there was was a wall. What there was was the inability of people to leave, with the exception of very, very few. What there was was a local force, enabled in part by the people who built the wall — and I’m talking about Hamas now as the local force — that maintained order, and in this way serviced, in part, the needs of the people who built the wall. That was the bargain that Israel had struck by pulling out of Gaza, was that Hamas would maintain order there. And obviously, there are huge differences. I’m not claiming, by any means, that this is a one-to-one comparison or that even there is such a thing as a one-to-one comparison. That’s not a thing. But what I’m arguing is that the similarities are so substantial that they can actually inform our understanding of what’s happening now.

    And what’s happening now — and this is probably the line in the piece that made a lot of people throw their laptops across the room — what’s happening now is that the ghetto is being liquidated. And I think that’s an important thing to say, not just because it’s important to call things — to describe things in the best possible way that we can, but because, again, in the name of “never again,” we have to ask if this is like a ghetto. And if what we’re witnessing now in this indiscriminate killing, in this — in an onslaught that has displaced almost all the people of Gaza, that has made them homeless, if that is substantially similar to what we saw in some places during the Holocaust, then what is the world going to do about it? What is the world going to do in the name of “never again”?

    AMY GOODMAN: Masha Gessen, the cancellations of speeches, of festivals that are seen as pro-Palestinian are on the rise. You have taught at Bard for years. You know the kind of pressure that professors and students are being brought under all over the United States. You’re in Germany right now. I’m wondering if you can comment on this. Some are calling it a “new McCarthyism.” And yet, interestingly, like you, so many of the protesters are Jews, are Jewish students, Jewish professors. But when this ceremony was first canceled, then postponed, what kind of response did you get from the press? Was it an avalanche of interest? And especially in Germany now, where people like Greta Thunberg — right? — the young climate activist, spoke up for Gaza and got pilloried in the German press?

    MASHA GESSEN: Well, funny you should ask, because I was making my way to Bremen after having woken up to an email telling me that this was all going on, and I started seeing media reports that were wildly inaccurate. They said, for example, that the prize had been rescinded, which it never was. The jury was very firm, and I can’t say enough to express my appreciation for them. I think they’ve shielded me from how much pressure they’ve come under as a result of this controversy. But I’ve felt so well hosted and supported by them. But, yeah, the media were reporting all sorts of things and also making up biographical facts about me.

    And in all that time, not a single German reporter contacted me, and only one U.S. reporter contacted me, a reporter from The Washington Post. So I tweeted about it. And it was like I reminded journalists that that’s what we do, is we call people and find out what actually happened. So, I have been talking to the media now nonstop for the last 28 hours. I almost wish I hadn’t tweeted it, but I also think it’s very important to try to have this conversation in a meaningful way. So I’ve been concentrating mostly on German media. Every single German media outlet I’ve ever heard of has reached out to me. So I don’t think it’s that they didn’t want give me a voice. It’s that the habit of aggregating the news has just become so ingrained that people forget that the substance of our profession is to actually call people and ask them.

    AMY GOODMAN: Go to where the silence is. Masha Gessen, I also want to ask you about another issue. Russian police recently placed you on a wanted list after opening a criminal case against you on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army. The Kremlin is accusing you of spreading false information over your remarks about the massacre of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces in the city of Bucha in March of last year. Can you comment?

    MASHA GESSEN: Well, it’s been quite a week. I kind of feel like I want to stop making news. But you know what? It’s not crazy to me that I’m both placed on the Russian wanted list and running into trouble with German authorities, because I think that there is a kind of politics — and this is what you referred to in the first part of your earlier question — which is, you know, the thing that some people are referring to as the “new McCarthyism.”

    This is, to me, the most worrying part of domestic Western politics, both here and in the United States, that the right wing is riding the horse of anti-antisemitism. In Germany, the AfD, which is the far-right anti-immigrant party, has been using antisemitism as a cudgel to — both as a ticket into the political mainstream and as a cudgel against a lot of anti-Israeli policy voices, many of which belong to Jews. And I think that what we have observed with the university presidents being called into Congress in the United States has definite similarities. It is also Elise Stefanik’s ticket into the political limelight and political mainstream. But it also — and this is the really important part — it is also based on a profoundly antisemitic worldview. Elise Stefanik is using these university presidents to attack liberal institutions, to attack Ivy League universities. And I think, in her imagination — and I think we know enough to know that this is how her imagination is working — she is trying to get donors to withdraw funding to undermine these institutions. And, of course, in her imagination, the Jews control all the money, so the donors are Jews. This is the most sort of basic antisemitic trope.

    And the fact that the right is able to hijack the issue of antisemitism so effectively is truly dangerous, because you know what? Antisemitism is real. Antisemitism, when right-wing politicians or stupid politicians mix actual antisemitism with fake antisemitism, with what in Germany they called Israel-related antisemitism, which is basically criticism of Israel, what we end up with is a muddled picture in which Jews are being used and antisemitic worldview is being reaffirmed, and, ultimately, actual real antisemitism becomes a bigger danger.

    AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to end with another victim of the Holocaust, the LGBTQ community. Russia’s Supreme Court recently banned LGBTQ+ activism in a landmark decision Amnesty International blasted as “shameful and absurd.” The ruling, which asserts the international LGBTQ movement is extremist, threatens to further endanger already persecuted communities. Masha, isn’t that part of the reason you left the Soviet Union, you left Russia, to begin with? We just have a minute, but if you could comment?

    MASHA GESSEN: Yes. I left — next week is 10 years since I was forced to leave Russia because of the anti-gay campaign that was already underway in Russia, and the Kremlin was threatening to go after my family.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, Masha Gessen, we thank you so much for joining us, staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, distinguished writer-in-residence at Bard, award-winning Russian American journalist, author of numerous books, including, most recently, Surviving Autocracy. Masha’s most recent piece for The New Yorker is headlined “In the Shadow of the Holocaust: How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today.” We’ll link to it at democracynow.org. Masha Gessen has been speaking to us from Bremen, Germany, where they will be receiving the Hannah Arendt Award, albeit at a different venue, not sponsored by as many organizations that originally were sponsoring that award.

    When we come back, we go to Jenin, to the occupied West Bank, to speak with the artistic director at the Freedom Theatre, jailed this week after Israel rounded up hundreds of Palestinian men and trashed the theater. And we’ll speak to Peter Schumann, the 89-year-old co-founder of Bread and Puppet Theater, about his legendary troupe addressing Israel’s assault on Gaza. The performance is this weekend here in New York. Back in 20 seconds.

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