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!,, 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 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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