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Meet the settlers targeted by Biden’s sanctions — and their victims

Palestinians and Israelis who’ve experienced the settlers’ attacks first-hand see the move as a positive but wholly insufficient step toward accountability.

Oren Ziv, +972, February 8, 2024

Einan Tanjil (left) and another settler attack Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists in Surif, occupied West Bank. (Shay Kendler)
Einan Tanjil (left) and another settler attack Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists in Surif, occupied West Bank, Nov. 12, 2021. (Shay Kendler)

 
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After years of toothless verbal condemnation of Israeli settler violence by successive U.S. governments, the Biden administration took the historic step last week of imposing sanctions against four settlers involved in recent attacks in the occupied West Bank. The executive order includes freezing the settlers’ assets in the United States and banning their entry into the country. Israeli banks have also frozen the accounts of two of the settlers on the list in compliance with the U.S. sanctions.

Settler violence has been on the rise for years, with perpetrators very often supported in the act by Israeli soldiers and enjoying near-total impunity in the Israeli justice system. The inauguration of the most far-right government in Israel’s history just over a year ago — with a man once arrested on suspicion of planning an attack becoming overlord of the West Bank, and a man once convicted of support for terrorism becoming national security minister — has further emboldened violent settlers: 2023 saw a sharp escalation in large-scale pogroms, including in Huwara, Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, Turmus Ayya, and many other locations.

These attacks are succeeding in their state-sanctioned goal of cleansing vast regions of the West Bank of their Palestinian inhabitants to enable the further expansion of Jewish settlements. And the situation has deteriorated even further under the shadow of war, with settlers forcibly displacing at least 16 entire Palestinian villages since October 7.

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To try to assess the significance of Biden’s decision, +972 Magazine and Local Call spoke with Palestinians and Israelis who have been directly impacted by the violence of the targeted settlers — David Chai Chasdai, Shalom Zicherman, Einan Tanjil, and Yinon Levi — and their comrades in arms. Most welcomed the executive order but wondered whether it would have any effect on the ground; whether it would deter other settlers; whether sanctions would be extended to other settlers involved in the violence; and whether such sanctions would ultimately reach the leadership of the settlement movement, including those sitting in government.

‘These are organized groups that come to kill’

David Chai Chasdai was arrested for leading one of the worst instances of settler violence in recent memory: the pogrom in the Palestinian town of Huwara in February 2023, during which hundreds of settlers set fire to dozens of homes and hundreds of vehicles, wounding over 100 residents in the process. Sameh Aqtash, from the nearby village of Za’atara, was shot and killed during the attack.

Israeli settlers burn Palestinian homes, vehicles, and businesses during a rampage in the West Bank town of Huwara, Feb. 26, 2023. (Activestills)
Israeli settlers burn Palestinian homes, vehicles, and businesses during a rampage in the West Bank town of Huwara, Feb. 26, 2023. (Activestills)

Chasdai, who lives in the settlement of Beit El, is a familiar figure in the world of the “hilltop youth” — the generic term given to young Israeli settlers who routinely descend from illegal West Bank outposts to attack Palestinians. In 2014, then a teenager, he was described in the settler news outlet Makor Rishon as “the number one target of the Nationalist Crimes Division in the Judea and Samaria [police] district and one of the names that causes the greatest headaches for members of the Jewish Unit of the Shin Bet.”

In 2015, Chasdai was convicted of intent to unlawfully use hazardous materials after bottles filled with gasoline and other flammable substances were found in his car. Two years later, he was convicted of aggravated assault for attacking a Palestinian taxi driver with tear gas. In 2021, he was convicted of threatening a police officer.

Chasdai was one of only 18 settlers arrested after the Huwara pogrom (only one of whom was charged). He was soon released but then re-arrested and placed into three months of administrative detention — a tool Israel uses almost exclusively against Palestinians to detain whomever it wants without charge or trial. 50 Knesset members signed a call for his release.

“It’s a symbolic measure,” a resident of Huwara from the Awwad family, who asked that his first name not be published for fear of settler reprisal, told +972. “America says, ‘We also watch what’s going on in the [occupied] territories. It helps a little that the Israeli government knows that the Palestinians have good relations with the U.S. and are giving them material about what the settlers are doing.”

Awwad believes that although the sanctions are a good start, they are not nearly enough to deter settler violence. “It’s not just Huwara — it’s everywhere in the West Bank,” he said. “Settlers walking around in military uniforms and with weapons. These are not people who just shoot and run. These are organized groups that come to kill, and America should declare them terrorist organizations. They are part of the right [wing], and the right wing is responsible for them: it gives them orders, gives them lawyers and money, and supports their criminal behavior.”

Palestinian residents of Huwara walk among their burned homes, cars, and businesses the morning after Israeli settlers rampaged through their town in the West Bank, Feb. 27, 2023. (Oren Ziv)
Palestinian residents of Huwara walk among their burned homes, cars, and businesses the morning after Israeli settlers rampaged through their town in the West Bank, Feb. 27, 2023. (Oren Ziv)

Awwad also questions the effectiveness of this initial package of sanctions, as these settlers likely do not regularly — if ever — travel to the United States, and they almost certainly do not have American bank accounts. “We need the sanctions to be here,” he says. “The ones who need to act against the settlers are the government and the law enforcement authorities in Israel. Only if this happens will they begin to be afraid.

“The problem is that the government here doesn’t want to act against them,” Awwad continued. “The settlers are part of the government, so the government doesn’t want to deal with them because they’re afraid that the coalition will fall.”

Chasdai himself responded to the freezing of his bank accounts, telling Israel’s public broadcaster Kan that it was a “national disgrace,” all the more so because it took place under a right-wing government. “Throughout the generations we have seen many oppressors who have harmed the people of Israel,” Chasdai said. “We will also get through the persecution of Biden and his collaborators.”

‘It’s convenient to blame the small fish’

Another settler on Biden’s list is Shalom Zicherman, a resident of the Mitzpe Yair outpost. In June 2022, he threw stones through the window of a car belonging to left-wing Israeli activists. I was present at the scene and documented the attack, after which Zicherman was able to return to the outpost, despite the fact that the army’s Judea Area Brigade Commander Col. Yehuda Rosilio saw the attack and did nothing to stop or detain him. The IDF Spokesperson initially described the incident as “friction between settlers and protesters,” but Zicherman was later indicted, and his trial is ongoing.

The U.S. State Department notes that “according to video evidence, [Zicherman] assaulted Israeli activists and their vehicles in the West Bank, blocking them on the street, and attempted to break the windows of passing vehicles with activists inside. Zicherman cornered at least two of the activists and injured both.”

An Israeli settler throws a stone at the window of a car containing three left-wing Israeli activists, as another settler blocks their exit, outside the Mitzpe Yair outpost, occupied West Bank, June 10, 2022. (Oren Ziv)
Israeli settler Shalom Zicherman throws a stone at the window of a car containing three left-wing Israeli activists, as another settler blocks their exit, outside the Mitzpe Yair outpost, occupied West Bank, June 10, 2022. (Oren Ziv)

According to the order, Zicherman and another settler “directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in planning, ordering, otherwise directing, or participating in efforts to place civilians in reasonable fear of violence with the purpose or effect of necessitating a change of residence to avoid such violence, affecting the West Bank.”

Yasmin Eran Vardi, a left-wing activist who spends most of her time in the West Bank doing “protect presence” solidarity work — whereby Israeli and international activists put their bodies in between Palestinians on the one hand and settlers and soldiers on the other — was wounded in the attack. “I’m in favor of sanctions being imposed, but these sanctions don’t mean a lot,” she told +972. “It’s clear that these four [settlers] did bad things, but there is a whole policy here that allows them to do whatever they want, under the auspices of the army and the government, all with American funding.”

Like Awwad, Eran Vardi wondered whether these sanctions would effectively deter other settlers, or whether they would even deter the four who were themselves sanctioned. “The question is whether anything will change, even a little,” she said.

Eran Vardi wants to see more significant sanctions, but she has no expectation that the U.S. will impose them. “These sanctions demonstrate Biden’s full cooperation with Israel’s needs,” she said. “It’s convenient to blame the small fish, especially because [the settlers] hurt Israeli citizens. Biden could stop funding the killing in Gaza if he wanted to.”

‘Why focus specifically on those who harmed Israelis?’

Einan Tanjil, a third settler named in Biden’s executive order, was documented in November 2021 attacking Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists who came to harvest olives in the village of Surif. The order states that Tanjil “was involved in assaulting Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists by attacking them with stones and clubs, resulting in wounds that required medical treatment.”

Israeli settlers assaulting Palestinian residents and solidarity activists during an attack on an olive harvest in the town of Surif, South Hebron Hills, occupied West Bank, Nov. 12, 2021. (Shay Kendler)
Israeli settlers assaulting Palestinian residents and solidarity activists during an attack on an olive harvest in the town of Surif, South Hebron Hills, occupied West Bank, Nov. 12, 2021. (Shay Kendler)

+972 and Local Call reported at the time that masked settlers descended from nearby outposts and, using stones and clubs, wounded at least three Israeli activists who subsequently needed medical treatment, including the veteran activist Rabbi Arik Asherman. Tanjil was charged with assault and causing bodily harm.

Netta Ben Porat, an Israeli human rights activist, was wounded during the incident. “There were eight of us Israelis,” she recounted. “Einan and his friend attacked us with clubs, and another activist stood between me and them, and then he beat me.

“He was only charged with assault, not even aggravated assault or politically-driven assault [which would carry a more severe punishment],” Ben Porat continued. “They omitted that he attacked more people. The indictment does not clarify why he attacked us. He claimed self-defense, even though I was standing to the side and filming while he hit me.”

To Ben Porat, the sanctions appear “ridiculous.” “Out of all [the settlers], the one the U.S. imposes sanctions on is a 19-year-old who attacked Israelis once or twice? It’s irrelevant,” she said. “They could have tried a little harder — what about the military security coordinator who was armed and who brought the settlers [to where we were] and watched from above [as they attacked us]? Or the farmers responsible for expelling entire communities? If the problem is settler violence and its impact on Palestinians, then why focus specifically on those who harmed Israelis?

“Maybe this is a harbinger of things to come,” she continued. “I hope this is a first step, that sanctions will be imposed on [Bezalel] Smotrich and [prominent settler leader] Yossi Dagan.”

‘We hope this will help us return to our lands’

The final settler targeted by the sanctions is Yinon Levi, who helped found the Meitarim Farm outpost. According to Kerem Navot, an NGO that tracks the dispossession of Palestinian land, Levi owns an earthworks company that has been hired by state authorities to carry out demolition orders in Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

Last November, violence emanating from Meitarim Farm led to the expulsion of the Palestinian community of Khirbet Zanuta — 27 families, totalling around 250 people — from their homes near the Meitar checkpoint in the southern West Bank. At the beginning of the war, Levi’s company also blocked roads leading to the entrance of the Palestinian village of Susiya — an apparent attempt to intimidate the village residents.

Palestinian residents of Khirbet Zanuta pack their belongings and house materials as they flee their homes following a spike in Israeli settler violence during the Gaza war, West Bank, November 1, 2023. (Oren Ziv)
Palestinian residents of Khirbet Zanuta pack their belongings and house materials as they flee their homes following a spike in Israeli settler violence during the Gaza war, West Bank, November 1, 2023. (Oren Ziv)

A petition filed on behalf of the Palestinians expelled from Zanuta states that Levi headed a group of settlers who, accompanied by two soldiers, came to the village on Oct. 12, beat village residents, threatened to kill them, smashed solar panels, and destroyed a car. According to the petition, Levi drove a bulldozer and “began extensive and massive demolitions of buildings, infrastructure, olive trees, and other agricultural crops belonging to the villagers.”

Levi differs slightly from the other three settlers on the American list in that he is not merely a hilltop youth activist, but rather the leader of a settler farm. In recent years, dozens of such farms have been established in the West Bank, and they are at the heart of the effort to expel Palestinians from their land. Although most of them were not established legally, they receive government support and protection from the military.

“I didn’t believe this would happen,” Fayez al-Tal, the leader of Khirbet Zanuta, told +972 in response to the announcement of sanctions against Levi. “We read the decision and were overjoyed. Yinon Levi is in charge of the outpost: he is one of the people who came at the beginning of the war and threatened us. We hope this will help us in our lawsuit requesting to return to our lands, and we hope that the court will see that the Americans are imposing sanctions. But Israel is not doing anything.”

According to al-Tal, it is important to remember the broader context of settler violence: “The settlers don’t do it alone. They serve the government, and the police do nothing when they attack us. They know that no law applies to them. They are not afraid of anything. The Americans can’t say a word about Gaza, because Hamas is there — but there is no Hamas here, so they can ask why there are violent attacks by settlers.”

Like other interviewees, al-Tal hopes that the order will later be extended to other settlers, including Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, and that “the U.S. Consulate and Embassy will pressure the Civil Administration or the police to prevent the attacks and bring us back to our land.”

+972 and Local Call contacted Chasdai’s lawyer, but he did not respond. We also contacted Levi, but he didn’t respond. Levi told other media outlets that the accusations leveled against him are “false.” Tanjil’s lawyer referred us to the Honenu legal organization, which said that it does not represent him on the issue of U.S. sanctions. Zicherman could not be reached for comment.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Oren Ziv

Oren Ziv is a photojournalist, reporter for Local Call, and a founding member of the Activestills photography collective.


Our team has been devastated by the horrific events of this latest war – the atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel and the massive retaliatory Israeli attacks on Gaza. Our hearts are with all the people and communities facing violence.

We are in an extraordinarily dangerous era in Israel-Palestine. The bloodshed unleashed by these events has reached extreme levels of brutality and threatens to engulf the entire region. Hamas’ murderous assault in southern Israel has devastated and shocked the country to its core. Israel’s retaliatory bombing of Gaza is wreaking destruction on the already besieged strip and killing a ballooning number of civilians. Emboldened settlers in the West Bank, backed by the army, are seizing the opportunity to escalate their attacks on Palestinians.

This escalation has a very clear context, one that +972 has spent the past 13 years covering: Israeli society’s growing racism and militarism, the entrenched occupation, and an increasingly normalized siege on Gaza.

We are well positioned to cover this perilous moment – but we need your help to do it. This terrible period will challenge the humanity of all of those working for a better future in this land. Palestinians and Israelis are already organizing and strategizing to put up the fight of their lives.

Can we count on your support? +972 Magazine is the leading media voice of this movement, a desperately needed platform where Palestinian and Israeli journalists and activists can report on and analyze what is happening, guided by humanism, equality, and justice. Join us.


Islamophobia Will Poison This Country

The U.S. media is once again presenting the vicious dehumanizing caricatures that make it easier to oppress and wage war on people.

Alex Skopic and Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs, 07 February 2024

This article was adapted from an item in the Current Affairs Biweekly News Briefing. Subscribe today!

One of the most disturbing things about our society—we’re not alone in this—is how easily our culture slips quickly into promoting violent bigotry. Usually what happens is this: a tiny number of people who are members of a particular demographic group carry out some outrageous act, and then the group as a whole is stigmatized and made to be feared even though nearly everyone in the group had nothing to do with the outrageous act whatsoever.

After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, for instance, anti-Japanese bigotry exploded. The Democratic president, known for his compassionate social democratic politics, rounded up around 125,000 Japanese Americans, the vast majority of the population living on the U.S. mainland at the time, and put them into internment camps. The Japanese were treated as subhumans—even Dr. Seuss started drawing grotesque racist caricatures of them—and the U.S. military had no hesitation in vaporizing Japanese civilian populations. (“There are no civilians in Japan,” declared an Air Force intelligence officer, who deemed the entire population a “legitimate military target,” a view that is defended by some to this day.) As John Dower writes in War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

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They were perceived as a race apart, even a species apart—and an overpoweringly monolithic one at that. There was no Japanese counterpart to the “good German” in the popular consciousness of the Western Allies…. The racist code words and imagery that accompanied the war in Asia were often exceedingly graphic and contemptuous. The Western Allies, for example, consistently emphasized the “subhuman” nature of the Japanese, routinely turning to images of apes and vermin to convey this. With more tempered disdain, they portrayed the Japanese as inherently inferior men and women who had to be understood in terms of primitivism, childishness, and collective mental and emotional deficiency. Cartoonists, songwriters, filmmakers, war correspondents, and the mass media in general all seized on these images…. An endless stream of evidence ranging from atrocities to suicidal tactics could be cited…. to substantiate the belief that the Japanese were a uniquely contemptible and formidable foe who deserved no mercy and virtually demanded extermination.  

Japanese nationalists dehumanized their own enemies in the same way, of course, perpetuating myths of Japanese racial superiority. These kinds of stories about the big scary Other are ubiquitous in times of war. George Orwell observed in 1937 that “Every war is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” Given this fact, Orwell said that our “essential job is to get people to recognize war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.” Looking back we can recognize it in the way Germans were portrayed during World War I—one infamous U.S. Army poster depicted Germany as an ape wielding a bloodstained club, with the caption “DESTROY THIS MAD BRUTE”—and in the treatment of Muslims after 9/11.

Khaled Beydoun, a scholar who studies Islamophobia around the world, spoke to Current Affairs last year about how the hatred and suspicion of Muslims spread along with the U.S. “war on terror.” He spoke, for instance, to a U.S. soldier who signed up to fight in Iraq because he believed he was going to fight a terrible enemy that had attacked the country. Instead, he found himself destroying a country whose people had never attacked the U.S. at all. Afterwards, he felt betrayed by his country, and Beydoun reflected on how effective propaganda can be:

“It’s really frightening how very good men, like the man I spoke to in the book, can be made into monsters with a scintilla of propaganda. When I sat across from this guy, he and I could be friends. We liked the same things. We live 10 miles away from one another. He was sort of an alpha male, and I say that in a benign way, where his objective was to just take care of his family and his community, and he had a love for his country. Those are beautiful things to be commended. But the way in which the media was disseminating this violent, vile information about Muslims—people like me, somebody who sat across him at the table—mobilized him to want to enlist in a war in a place that he had no knowledge of. He just knew that he wanted to defend his country and wanted vengeance, and that these Muslims, these Arabs, who were a world away, were the culprits of the 9/11 terror attacks…. [Afterward] he realized how the war had broken people like him, and how it told lies about people like me.”

By now, we have seen the same processes enough times to understand how they work, and we should be on our guard. We know that war drives people crazy. They see the body counts on their own side, and they want revenge, and empathy for the “other side” is in short supply. They see the enemy as monstrous and their own actions as purely defensive. They aren’t in the mood to make too many distinctions between civilians and soldiers on the other side.

Since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 of last year, these familiar processes have consumed Israel completely. Even as Israel starves Gaza to death and blows thousands of children to pieces, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis believe their government is either using the right amount of force or (!) not enough force. (The opinions of Arab Israelis are very different.) For these Israelis, the suffering of their own people is much more significant than the suffering of Palestinians.

That’s true in U.S. media, too. We know that Palestinian deaths are given a lot less weight than Israeli deaths in the American media, and even the liberal Washington Post ran (before deleting, under pressure) a nasty propaganda cartoon showing a swarthy Hamas terrorist strapping babies to his body. This past week, the major newspapers and TV networks hit a new low, with three especially egregious cases.

First was the Wall Street Journal, which ran an op-ed on February 2 calling Dearborn, Michigan, “America’s Jihad Capital.” Given the inflammatory title, you might think the author—one Steven Stalinsky—had uncovered evidence that some kind of political violence or “holy war,” as the word “jihad” is often interpreted in the West, was going on in Dearborn. But that’s not the case. Instead, Stalinsky spent 800 words clutching his pearls about the fact that—shockingly enough—some Muslims in Michigan don’t like Israel very much. The editorial is a masterpiece of dishonesty and Islamophobic fearmongering. It cherrypicks isolated expressions of anger, like when one imam said that Israel’s actions have filled his congregation with “fire in our hearts that will burn that state” and pretends they’re representative of the Michigan Muslim community as a whole, spinning them as evidence of “local enthusiasm for jihad.” It conflates simple political statements such as “America is a terrorist state”—which is straightforwardly true, if we apply the dictionary definition of “terrorism” consistently—with “open support for Hamas.” The Wall Street Journal has been on a roll lately, using the headline “Chicago Votes for Hamas” when that city called for a ceasefire in Gaza at the end of January. But Stalinsky’s rhetoric is irresponsible even by the Journal’s standards. The Detroit Free Press reports that, since the article was published, “swarms of online hate” have been directed toward Dearborn’s Muslim community, leading Mayor Abdullah Hammoud to ramp up security around mosques and other places of worship. (Not that more police will necessarily help, since U.S. law enforcement has a well-documented Islamophobia problem of its own.) All of this is a predictable consequence of publishing what amounts to a racist incitement, and any editor with even the slightest professional competence or ethics would have known better.

Meanwhile, a handful of whistleblowers at CNN have confirmed what was already fairly obvious: that the network has a systematic anti-Palestinian bias in its coverage. Summing up the testimonies of six anonymous staffers, The Guardian reports that CNN has “tight restrictions on quoting Hamas and reporting other Palestinian perspectives” at an institutional level, while “Israeli official statements are often quickly cleared and make it on air on the principle that they are to be trusted at face value, seemingly rubber-stamped for broadcast….” The principle of journalistic neutrality in reporting on a conflict, it seems, has been disregarded. In particular, CNN journalists say they’ve been instructed to include the words “Hamas-controlled” any time they cite statistics from the Gaza Ministry of Health, implicitly casting doubt on the legitimacy of civilian death tolls from the region, even though the Ministry’s figures have held up to scrutiny from numerous outside observers, including Israel itself. (Israel has sometimes even suggested that Israeli bombs have been flattening bakeries and apartment blocks without killing any innocent children at all.) They also report that memos have been circulated around the newsroom instructing them to always emphasize Hamas as the “cause of this current conflict,” ignoring the decades of Israeli occupation and violence in Palestine before October 7. At the same time, prominent anchors like Anderson Cooper have allowed current and former Israeli officials, like ex-Mossad leader Rami Igra, to say blatantly inflammatory things like “the non-combatant population in the Gaza Strip is really a nonexistent term” without pushback during interviews. At this point, unless dramatic changes are made, there’s little choice but to regard CNN’s Gaza coverage as ethically compromised and unreliable and to treat it accordingly.

Finally, in a column called “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom,” notorious New York Times writer and Iraq War booster Thomas Friedman has decided it’s a good idea to compare a variety of Muslim and Arab people to parasitic insects. The column is so breathtakingly racist, it seems like something out of a Victorian newspaper—but don’t take our word for it, read Friedman in his own words:

Iran is to geopolitics what a recently discovered species of parasitoid wasp is to nature. What does this parasitoid wasp do? According to Science Daily, the wasp “injects its eggs into live caterpillars, and the baby wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.” Is there a better description of Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq today? They are the caterpillars. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the wasp. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Kataib Hezbollah are the eggs that hatch inside the host—Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq—and eat it from the inside out. We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle.

What can you even say to something like this? It’s well-known that comparing your political enemies to rats and insects is a dehumanizing tactic, just as it was in the lead-up to Japanese internment. Certainly Friedman, who was educated at Brandeis and the University of Oxford, knows it—and yet here he is, spewing this rhetoric anyway. The late Edward Said had him dead to rights in 1989, when he described Friedman’s writing as a “threadbare repertoire of often racist clichés.” Nothing has changed. If anything, the New York Times has gotten worse, seemingly not bothering to edit the excretions of its tenured staff whatsoever. Just like in Dearborn, there are real-world consequences to promoting this kind of imagery in the paper of record. Friedman’s argument that “setting fire to the whole jungle” is the only way to kill the Iranian “wasp” is an argument for unrestrained war in the Middle East, and unfortunately many political leaders still read the New York Times. 

History shows that dehumanization takes hold easily, and its effects are deadly. At its worst, it is the road to concentration camps, gas chambers, and mass executions. We have to always be on guard against it, especially during times when war is causing a suspension of people’s usual critical faculties. It’s disgusting, but not surprising, to see even liberal papers printing, without a second thought, analysis that treats Iranians as insects. But one of the crucial lessons that history offers is that societies don’t notice themselves heading into this kind of moral abyss. Only the victims do. But their cries can’t be heard because they’re treated as menacing oppressors. Islamophobia, like all forms of bigotry, is poison to the soul of this country and portends terrible consequences for Muslims around the world. We have to fight against it—and remember that it won’t be the last time.

NETANYAHU’S WAR ON TRUTH

Israel’s Ruthless Propaganda Campaign to Dehumanize Palestinians

Israeli soldiers detain blindfolded Palestinian men in a military truck in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2023. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, February 7, 2024

TWO WEEKS BEFORE Hamas commandos led a series of raids into Israel on October 7, Benjamin Netanyahu stood before an empty chamberOpens in a new tab at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The Israeli prime minister brandished a map of what he promised could be the “New Middle East.” It depicted a state of Israel that stretched continuously from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. On this map, Gaza and the West Bank were erased. Palestinians did not exist.

“What a historic change for my country! You see, the land of Israel is situated on the crossroads between Africa, Asia, and Europe,” Netanyahu bellowedOpens in a new tab at a handful of spectators in the large hall, nearly all of whom were his loyalists or underlings. “For centuries, my country was repeatedly invaded by empires passing through it in their campaigns of plunder and conquest elsewhere. But today, as we tear down walls of enmity, Israel can become a bridge of peace and prosperity between these continents.”

During that speech, Netanyahu portrayed the full normalizing of relations with Saudi Arabia, an initiative spearheaded under the Trump administration and embraced by the Biden White House, as the linchpin of his vision for this “new” reality, one which would open the door to a “visionary corridor that will stretch across the Arabian Peninsula and Israel. It will connect India to Europe with maritime links, rail links, energy pipelines, fiber-optic cables.”

He was speaking on the grand stage of the U.N. General Assembly, but no world leaders bothered to attend. Outside, some 2,000 people, a mixture of American Jews and Israeli citizens, protested his attacks on the independence of the Israeli judiciary system. The scene served as a reminder of how deeply unpopular his far-right governing coalition, not to mention Netanyahu himself, had become in Israel. At that moment, it seemed that Netanyahu was pushed against the ropes, in a losing battle to continue his political reign.

Netanyahu is using the horrors of October 7 to wage the crusade he’s been preparing for his entire political career.

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Just days later, as Hamas commandos penetrated the barriers encircling Gaza and embarked on their deadly raids targeting several military installations as well as kibbutzim, everything changed in an instant. Everything, that is, except the primary agenda that has been at the center of Netanyahu’s long political career: the absolute destruction of Palestine and its people.

Just as the Bush administration exploited the 9/11 attacks to justify a sweeping war in which it declared the world a battlefield, Netanyahu is using the horrors of October 7 to wage the crusade he’s been preparing for his entire political career. With his grip on power fading last fall, the October 7 attacks provided him with just the opportunity he needed, and he hitched his political survival to the war on Gaza and what could be his last chance to eliminate Israel’s Palestinian problem once for all.

In that sense, Bibi was saved by Hamas.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2023/09/22: Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 78th Session of the General Assembly of the UN. In his speech PM Netanyahu emphasized three main themes: threats from Iran, Artificial Intelligence development and peace and prosperity in the Middle East. He urged countries to join Israel in developing responsible AI saying that this is a technology revolution like industrial and agricultural in the past. He pitched that recognition by Saudi Arabia and establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia will transform the Middle East and he showed a map of Israel in 1948 when the state was created and how it will look if and when relations with Saudi Arabia will be normalized by creating trade route directly from India to Europe via both countries. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu shows a graphic illustrating his “New Middle East” during his speech at the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 22, 2023. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Intelligence Failures

Four months in, Netanyahu’s war of annihilation against Gaza has become a guerrilla war of attrition. Not a single Israeli hostage has been freed through military force, and Hamas has shown an enduring resilience and ability to pick off Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The Israeli public, outside of the ideological true believers intent on occupying and settlingOpens in a new tab Gaza, is showing signs of fatigue and desperation. Many family members of captives are growing louderOpens in a new tab in their demands for an immediate deal with Hamas that centers the lives of their loved ones over the political agenda laid out by Netanyahu and his clique. Some have demandedOpens in a new tab new elections or Netanyahu’s resignationOpens in a new tab. Protests against the war, though small, are beginning to grow inside Israel, with some demonstrationsOpens in a new tab echoing global calls demanding a humanitarian ceasefire and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

As the death toll in Gaza surpasses a conservative estimate of 27,000 lives, many of the core narratives deployed by the Israeli and U.S. governments to justify the slaughter are coming under increased scrutiny; some have been definitively debunked. In Israel, this is a delicate line of inquiry. That Hamas killed large numbers of Israelis is not in doubt. But how they managed to do so while living under the lauded and vigilant eyes of the Mossad, Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency, and the IDF is the subject of mounting public attention.

There have been several credible reports that Israeli intelligence analysts warned that Hamas operatives appeared to be training for raids into Israel. The New York Times and other outlets have reportedOpens in a new tab on the existence of a 40-page internal Hamas document code-named “Jericho Wall.” Purportedly obtained by Israeli intelligence, it is said to lay out detailed plans by Hamas to conduct precisely the type of assault against Israeli military installations and villages that occurred on October 7.

While warnings from Israeli analysts who reviewed the document were reportedly brushed aside by senior officials, last July a signals intelligence officer urged the chain of command to take it seriously. Noting a recent daylong training exercise by Hamas in Gaza, the analyst asserted that the training precisely mirrored the operations laid out in the document. “It is a plan designed to start a war,” she pleadedOpens in a new tab. “It’s not just a raid on a village.”

TKUMA, ISRAEL - JANUARY 04: Over 800 Damaged cars from the October 7th Hamas attacks are collected at a site on November 5, 2023 in Tkuma, Israel. The location received hundreds of cars from the kibbutzes, the Nova music festival location, and other surrounding areas affected. Each car got inspected by Zaka, the police and various other teams to identify the cars and any remnants of bodies. According to Jewish law all parts of a human being, including blood or body parts must be buried, which Zaka volunteers are responsible for. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Hundreds of vehicles damaged or destroyed during the October 7 Hamas-led attacks and subsequent counterstrikes by the Israeli military are collected at a site in Tkuma, Israel, on Nov. 5, 2023. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

The night before Hamas’s raid, intelligence analysts began reporting significant evidence suggesting that Hamas might be preparing for an attack inside Israel. The head of Shin Bet traveled to the south and orders were issued to deploy a special counterterror force to confront any potential incursions, according to an investigative reportOpens in a new tab in the Israeli publication Yedioth Ahronoth.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on October 7, a senior intelligence official concluded the activity in Gaza was likely another Hamas training exercise, saying, “We still believe that [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar is not pivoting towards an escalation.”

A few hours later, as Israeli officials gathered in a command center chaotically scrambling to deploy forces to respond to the multipronged attacks led by Hamas, a senior officer silenced the room: “The Gaza Division was overpowered.”

Early on in the war against Gaza, Netanyahu sought to deflect blameOpens in a new tab for failing to foresee Hamas’s attacks onto his intelligence services. “Contrary to the false claims: Under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of Hamas’s war intentions,” read a tweet posted on Netanyahu’s official Twitter account. “On the contrary, all the security officials, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, assessed that Hamas had been deterred and was looking for a settlement. This assessment was submitted again and again to the prime minister and the cabinet by all the security forces and intelligence community, up until the outbreak of the war.”

But serious questions lingered over how Hamas was able to lay siege to large sections of what Israel calls the “Gaza envelope” and whether Netanyahu had knowledge that an attack of this very nature was being planned in full view of Israel’s extensive surveillance systems and spy networks. There is also a mounting body of evidence to indicate that Israeli forces were given orders on October 7 to stop Hamas’s attacks at all costs, including the killing of Israeli civilians taken captive by Palestinian fighters. The Israeli military has indicatedOpens in a new tab that it plans to conduct an “uncompromising” investigation into the intelligence failures, drawing the ire of some far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

Under fire from his own ministers and supporters for impugning Israeli military and intelligence agencies, Netanyahu apologized for his comments, deleted the tweet, and then shifted to the stance he now repeats: There will be a time for such inquiries — but only after Israel achieves total victory in Gaza and eliminates Hamas. “The only thing that I intend to have resign is Hamas,” he saidOpens in a new tab in November. “We’re going to resign them to the dustbin of history.”

03 February 2024, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: A picture provided on 4 February 2024 shows damage in the area of Al-Maqousi Towers, Al-Mashtal Hotel, and Al-Khalidi Mosque after the Israeli army withdrew from north of Gaza City. Photo: Omar Ishaq/dpa (Photo by Omar Ishaq/picture alliance via Getty Images)
The destruction in the area where the Al-Maqousi Towers, Al-Mashtal Hotel, and Al-Khalidi Mosque stood after the Israeli army withdrew from north of Gaza City on Feb. 3, 2024. Photo: Omar Ishaq/picture alliance via Getty Images

Information Warfare

The violent ethnonationalist ideology at the center of Netanyahu’s reign was born before his tenure and will endure when he’s gone. But his rule has embodied the most extremist and destructive version of the Israeli state project.

Netanyahu understands the power of defining and dominating the narrative, particularly when targeting it to U.S. audiences. For decades, he has advanced the Israeli propaganda doctrine of hasbaraOpens in a new tab — the notion that Israelis must be aggressive about “explaining” and justifying their actions to the West — to manipulate his adversaries and allies, domestic and international, into serving his objectives.

Netanyahu’s “vision of himself as the chief defender of the Jewish people against calamity allowed him to justify almost anything that would keep him in power,” observedOpens in a new tab former President Barack Obama in his 2020 memoir.

In the aftermath of October 7, Netanyahu cast Israel’s siege of a tiny strip of land the size of Philadelphia as a war of the worlds in which the very fate of humanity was at stake. “It’s not only our war. It’s your war too,” Netanyahu said in his first interviewOpens in a new tab on CNN after the October 7 attacks. “It’s the battle of civilization against barbarism. And if we don’t win here, this scourge will pass. The Middle East will pass to other places. The Middle East will fall. Europe is next. You will be next.”

The Israeli government rapidly deployed a multipronged propaganda strategy to win unprecedented support from the U.S. and other Western governments for a sweeping war against the entire population of Gaza. To oppose Israel’s war is antisemitic; to question its assertions about the events of October 7 is akin to Holocaust denial; to protest the mass killing of Palestinian civilians is to do the bidding of Hamas.

At the center of Israel’s information warfare campaign is a tactical mission to dehumanize Palestinians and to flood the public discourse with a stream of false, unsubstantiated, and unverifiable allegations.

“We were struck Saturday by an attack whose savagery I can say we have not seen since the Holocaust,” Netanyahu told President Joe Biden in a phone callOpens in a new tab on October 11. “They took dozens of children, bound them up, burned them and executed them.” He added: “We have never seen such savagery in the history of the state. They’re even worse than ISIS and we need to treat them as such.”

“We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” saidOpens in a new tab Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on October 9.

The message of these statements and others like them was clear: Israel is confronting monsters, and no one has any business telling the Jewish state, established in the aftermath of World War II under the mantra of “Never again,” how to respond to an attempted genocide. Israeli officials routinely invoke the Holocaust, compare Hamas to the Nazis or to ISIS, and portray the events of October 7 as evidence of an organized effort to commit genocide against the Jewish people.

On October 10, three days after the attacks, the Israeli military organized a tour for international journalists to view the scene at Kfar Aza Kibbutz. As they guided reporters and camera crews through the community, IDF officials spread rumorsOpens in a new tab that as many as 40 babiesOpens in a new tab had been murdered by Hamas, some of them beheaded. “It’s something I never saw in my life. It’s something I used to imagine of my grandmother and my grandfather in Europe and other places,” an Israeli general toldOpens in a new tab reporters. “We got very, very disturbing reports that came from the ground that there were babies that had been beheaded,” saidOpens in a new tab IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus in a briefing for international journalists. “I admit it took us some time to really understand and to verify that report. It was hard to believe that even Hamas could perform such a barbaric act.”

Lt. Col. Guy Basson, deputy commander of the Israeli army’s Kfir Brigade, claimed that he saw the aftermath of eight babies who were executedOpens in a new tab in a nursery at Kibbutz Be’eri. Among the victims, Basson asserted, was also a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. “I see the number engraved on her arm, and you say to yourself, she went through the Holocaust in Auschwitz and ended up dying on Kibbutz Be’eri.” Another Israeli soldier toldOpens in a new tab a journalist that “babies and children were hung on a clothes line in a row.”

US President Joe Biden speaks with Eli Beer, Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, while meeting with people in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, effected by this month's attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Thousands of people, both Israeli and Palestinians have died since October 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip entered southern Israel in a surprise attack, holding some people hostage, that lead Israel to declare war on Hamas in Gaza on October 8. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks with Eli Beer, founder of volunteer EMS organization United Hatzalah of Israel on Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. Beer told several graphic stories about the Hamas attacks that were later debunked. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Three weeks after the October 7 attacks, Eli Beer, the head of a volunteer EMS squad in Israel, traveled to the U.S. and addressed a gathering at the convention of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. “I saw in my own eyes a woman who was pregnant, four months pregnant,” he saidOpens in a new tab. “They came into her house, in front of her kids, they opened up her stomach took out the baby, and stabbed the little, tiny baby in front of her and then shot her in front of her family and then they killed the rest of the kids.”

Beer offered graphic descriptions of other horrors he claimed to have witnessed. “These bastards put these babies in an oven and put on the oven. We found the kid a few hours later,” he toldOpens in a new tab the U.S. audience on October 28. “I saw little kids who were beheaded. We didn’t know which head belonged to which kid.” Beer, whose stories were widely reportedOpens in a new tab in the international media, also met withOpens in a new tab Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Israel soon after the attack.

But there is a problem with the gut-wrenching narratives that have bolstered the underlying justification for the slaughter of Gaza: They are either complete fabrications or have not been substantiated with a shred of evidence. Many have been thoroughly disproven by major Israeli media outlets.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials presentedOpens in a new tab U.S. and international leaders with a range of graphic images and videos along with unverified narrative explanations for what they allegedly depicted. “It’s simply depravity in the worst imaginable way,” Blinken saidOpens in a new tab after first viewing the photos. “Images are worth a thousand words. These images may be worth a million.”

In a coup for Netanyahu’s hasbara campaign, Biden and other leaders have laundered many of Israel’s obscene lies.

In a coup for Netanyahu’s hasbara campaign, Biden and other leaders have laundered many of Israel’s obscene lies. Beginning just days after October 7, Biden repeatedly claimed that he personally saw photographs of beheaded babies and more atrocities. Even after the White House admittedOpens in a new tab Biden had seen no such photos, he continued to make the allegation, including after visiting Netanyahu and other Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. “I saw some of the photographs when I was there — tying a mother and her daughter together on a rope and then pouring kerosene on them and then burning them, beheading infants, doing things that are just inhuman — totally, completely inhuman,” Biden saidOpens in a new tab at a campaign event in December.

Blinken told the U.S. Senate another harrowing story about how Hamas terrorists had tortured a family in their living room while intermittently taking breaks to eat a meal their victims had placed on the dining table before the horrors began that morning. “A young boy and girl, 6 and 8 years old, and their parents around the breakfast table. The father’s eye gouged out in front of his kids. The mother’s breast cut off, the girl’s foot amputated, the boy’s fingers cut off before they were executed,” Blinken saidOpens in a new tab. “And then their executioners sat down and had a meal. That is what this society is dealing with.”

The story Blinken told about terrorists eating a meal while torturing an Israeli family, as well as some of the assertions about decapitated babies, was based on the speculative fictionOpens in a new tab invented by Yossi Landau, an official from the scandal-plaguedOpens in a new tab private Israeli rescue organization Zaka, who has repeatedly spreadOpens in a new tab wildly false stories.

BE'ERI, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 22:  Members of Army rescue and ZAKA crews search for bodies and body parts after the Hamas and Palestinians militants attack on the Kibbutz on October 22, 2023 in Be'eri, Israel. As Israel prepares to invade the Gaza Strip in its campaign to vanquish Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that launched a deadly attack in southern Israel on October 7th, worries are growing of a wider war with multiple fronts, including at the country's northern border with Lebanon. Countries have scrambled to evacuate their citizens from Israel, and Israel has begun relocating residents some communities on its northern border. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of residents of northern Gaza have fled to the southern part of the territory, following Israel's vow to launch a ground invasion.  (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
Army rescue and Zaka crews search Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the sites attacked by Hamas fighters, on Oct. 22, 2023. Members of Zaka, a private Israeli rescue organization, repeatedly spread disinformation, some of which was promoted by U.S. officials. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images/Getty Images

There was no Holocaust survivorOpens in a new tab killed at Kibbutz Be’eri that day. There were no mass beheadings of babies, no group executions in a nursery, no children hung from clotheslinesOpens in a new tab, and no infants placed in ovens. No pregnant woman had her stomach cut open and the fetus knifed in front of her and her other children. These stories are entirely fictional, a set of audacious lies weaponized to generate the type of collective rage used to justify the unjustifiable.

According to major Israeli media outletsOpens in a new tab that have worked diligently to identifyOpens in a new tab all the victims of the October 7 attacks, there was one infant killed that day: a 9-month-old named Mila CohenOpens in a new tab who was shot dead at Kibbutz Be’eri as her mother held her in her arms. Cohen’s mother, who was wounded by gunfire, survived. Among the other civilians killed on October 7, seven of them were between the ages of 2 and 9 years, and 28 were between the ages of 10 and 19. Fourteen of these children died in Hamas rocket attacksOpens in a new tab, not at the hands of the armed commandos who stormed the kibbutzes.

There is no doubt that widespread atrocities and war crimes were committed during the Hamas-led attacks of October 7. It is also true that Israeli military, government, and rescue officials have engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign about the nature of many deaths that occurred that day.

These stories are a set of audacious lies weaponized to generate the type of collective rage used to justify the unjustifiable.

Israeli officials have toured the world with a film producedOpens in a new tab at the direction of the IDF. The 47-minute “Bearing Witness to the October 7 Massacre” features video allegedly seized from Palestinian attackers equipped with GoPro cameras and cellphones, according to Israeli officials. The movie has not been released to the public and has only been available via special invitation from the Israeli government. Its audiences have includedOpens in a new tab Hollywood celebrities, dozensOpens in a new tab of U.S. lawmakers and government officials, journalists, and global luminaries; it has screened at various international venues, including museums established in memory of the Holocaust. While hours of footage of the attacks and their aftermath are available online, including video shot by Palestinians who participated in the raids, the Israeli government has said the footage is too sensitive to be publicly released.

An IDF official, in uniformOpens in a new tab, personally delivers the professionally produced Digital Cinema Package for the screenings, and viewers are required to sign nondisclosure agreements affirming they will not record or distribute the footage. “It will change the way you view the Middle East and the way you view the war in Gaza,” said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, at the Los Angeles premiereOpens in a new tab of the footage last November. The film was characterized in media accounts as depictingOpens in a new tab “murder, beheadings, rapes and other atrocities against Jewish adults and children.”

The event, at the Museum of Tolerance, was organized by Israeli actor Gal Gadot, star of the “Wonder Woman” movies, for film executives and other members of the Hollywood industry. “Hamas must be eradicated. This is the only way to prevent another massacre,” Erdan added. “If Israel doesn’t eradicate this evil, mark my words: The West is next.”

While Israel has emphasized how incendiary the footage is, British journalist Owen Jones, who attendedOpens in a new tab an IDF screening in the U.K., said a “significant amount” of the video is already in the public domain. He said that while there was footage of one IDF soldier who had apparently been decapitated, as well as the already public footage of an unsuccessful attempt to behead a migrant Thai worker with a garden tool, there was no footage substantiating allegations of torture, sexual violence, and mass beheadings, including of babies or other children. “Clearly this footage hasn’t been selected at random. You would expect it to be the worst material that they have,” Jones said. “This isn’t to say none of this happened, it’s just not in the footage, which has been provided by the Israeli authorities.”

Israel’s hasbara campaign is reminiscent of the Bush administration’s monthslong carnival of lies, sanitized and promoted by major media outlets, about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And Biden directly participated in President George W. Bush’s campaign as well. In his October 2002 Senate floor speech endorsing war against Iraq, Biden declared that Saddam HusseinOpens in a new tab “possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons.”

TOPSHOT - Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) hugs US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Biden landed in Israel on October 18, on a solidarity visit following Hamas attacks that have led to major Israeli reprisals. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs U.S. President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Allegations of Systematic Rape

The Israeli propaganda machine is well oiled. Anyone can look back at Israel’s four-month war against Gaza and trace a pattern: Israel chooses an issue and demands global attention to its agenda at the expense of any other matter.

When news organizations began reporting on the civilian toll of Israel’s initial airstrikes against Gaza, the government accusedOpens in a new tab photographers for major news organizations of being Hamas members or sympathizers who had foreknowledge of the October 7 attacks. Netanyahu said the journalists were “accomplices in crimes against humanity.” Israel then portrayed Gaza’s hospitals as secret Hamas command centers, an allegation that the Biden administration bolstered as the IDF prepared to lay siege to Al-Shifa Hospital last November.

Throughout the war, Israel has sought to direct media and global attention to various new smoking-gun narratives. And in nearly every case, it succeeds in getting the U.S. on board to launder and promote the talking points.

In late November, as the civilian death toll in Gaza climbed, Israel was struggling to retain its dominance of the narrative. Global demands for a ceasefire were mounting, and even some of Israel’s alliesOpens in a new tab were expressing horrorOpens in a new tab at the indiscriminate killing of women and children and the worsening humanitarian catastrophe.

A weeklong truce, during which captives were exchanged, raised hopesOpens in a new tab that a more enduring peace deal could be on the horizon, despite Israeli insistence that that was out of the question. “A prolonged ceasefire that allows more hostages to be released, and that evolves towards a permanent ceasefire linked to a political process, is something we have consensus on,” saidOpens in a new tab the EU’s top foreign policy official Josep Borrell.

Days earlier, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium traveled to the Rafah border to push for such a deal and drew the fury of the Israeli government when they publicly condemned the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians. Eli Cohen, then the Israeli foreign minister, accused the leaders of offering “support [for] terrorism,” while Netanyahu released a statementOpens in a new tab condemning them because they “did not place total responsibility on Hamas for the crimes against humanity it perpetrated.”

Anyone can look back at Israel’s four-month war against Gaza and trace a pattern: Israel chooses an issue and demands global attention to its agenda at the expense of any other matter.

It was at this moment that the Israeli government decided it needed to remind the world of Israel’s victimhood and launched a new phase of the hasbara campaign. It began accusing the international community of standing silent in the face of what Israeli officials described as a widespread campaign of rape and sexual violence aimed at Jewish women and orchestrated by Hamas on October 7. By early December, the issue had become a major focus of conservative media and Israel’s allies.

“I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?” Netanyahu saidOpens in a new tab in a December 5 speech in Tel Aviv.

That day, on the other side of the globe, Biden was at a campaign fundraising event in Boston. “Over the past few weeks, survivors and witnesses of the attacks have shared the horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty: reports of women raped — repeatedly raped and their bodies being mutilated while still alive, of women corpses being desecrated, and Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering as — on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. And it’s appalling,” Biden saidOpens in a new tab. “The world can’t just look away — what’s going on. It’s on all of us — the government, international organizations, civil society, individual citizens — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation — without equivocation, without exception.”

From the earliest moments following the October 7 attacks, Israel charged that women had been raped by Hamas fighters, though it was often an allegation made in sequence alongside other alleged atrocities. But in mid-November, those assertions began evolving into a sustained public blitz, accusingOpens in a new tab Hamas of instituting a plan to “systematically rape women.” Israel government spokesperson Eylon Levy spokeOpens in a new tab of a “Hamas rapist machine.”

“Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war,” chargedOpens in a new tab Erdan, the U.N. ambassador. “These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated.”

To date, there has been no credible evidence presented publicly that such a campaign took place, and Hamas has vehemently denied that its fighters committed any acts of rape or sexual assault. The fact that Israel has not produced forensic evidence for individual rapes does not prove that no such deeds took place. Rape investigations are often complex, particularly when the crime occurs amid a chaotic scene of mass violence. Sexual violence is common in warfare, and it often takes years for the full story of such crimes to emerge.

But there is a difference between making specific allegations of rape or sexual assault and charging that organized mass rape was a central component of an operation meticulously planned over the course of years. Israel’s evidence of the latter comes nowhere near to measuring up to its claims.

Israeli rescue workers as well as civilian and military medical officials have described evidence of dead women who were naked or had clothing removed, as well as women who were subjected to genital mutilation, though they have not released documentary or forensic evidence.

But many of the most graphic allegationsOpens in a new tab of mass rapes have been offered by Israeli military or rescue officials who acknowledge they have no trainingOpens in a new tab or expertise in forensics. Some of them, whose claims have been featured in many media accounts, also spread false stories about other alleged atrocities.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2023/12/04: Shari Mendes speaks during special event to address sexual violence during Hamas terror attack on October 7 held at UN Headquarters. During the event, speakers described their personal experience seeing women violated during terror attack and condemned women's advocacy groups, specifically UN Women, to be silent on this. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Shari Mendes, an IDF reservist originally from New Jersey, speaks at a conference organized by Israel at the U.N. on Dec. 4, 2023. Mendes has been one of the most prominent voices alleging widespread sexual violence occurred on October 7. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shari Mendes, an architect serving in the IDF reserves in a rabbinical unit, was deployed to a morgue to prepare bodies for burial after the attacks. An American originally from New Jersey, Mendes did multiple TV and print interviews about her experiences. “We have seen women who have been raped, from the age of children through to the elderly,” she toldOpens in a new tab reporters, emphasizingOpens in a new tab, “This is not just something we saw on the internet, we saw these bodies with our own eyes.”

For months, Mendes has served as one of the most visible witnesses bolstering Israel’s allegations of systematic rape. But few media outlets featuring her claims have mentioned the valid concernsOpens in a new tab about her credibility and her history of promoting a false story. She toldOpens in a new tab the Daily Mail last October, “A baby was cut out of a pregnant woman and beheaded and then the mother was beheaded.”

On December 5, as Israel engaged in a global media push around its allegations that Hamas had committed mass rapes, Mendes was a featured speaker at an eventOpens in a new tab in New York organized by Israel’s mission to the U.N. on sexual violence and the October 7 attacks. The Times of Israel reportedOpens in a new tab that Mendes “is not legally qualified to determine rape.”

The observations of first responders or members of religious burial units, particularly those without relevant scientific credentials, are not a replacement for forensic documentation of an uncontaminated crime scene. Israeli authorities have said evidence that would typically be taken in cases of suspected sexual assault was not recovered in the aftermath of the attacks, attributing this failure to a combination of the magnitude of the deaths, the charred nature of some bodies, and to Jewish burial practices.

Some of the evidence publicly citedOpens in a new tab by Israeli officials is testimony provided by Zaka, the private Israeli rescue organization whose members have been widely documented to have spread false allegations. Haaretz published an exposéOpens in a new tab documenting Zaka’s role in the rampant mishandling of forensic evidence that day and its subsequent campaign of misinformation.

The Israeli government has maintained that it possesses evidence that has not been made public and has enlistedOpens in a new tab international teams of forensic and other crime scene experts. Israel’s Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs told the New York TimesOpens in a new tab there are “at least three women and one man who were sexually assaulted and survived.”

But other Israeli officials have statedOpens in a new tab that there are no known living victims of rape that day, while some have described the challenge of identifying potential victims.


    Related
    New York Times Puts “Daily” Episode on Ice Amid Internal Firestorm Over Hamas Sexual Violence Article

On December 28, the New York Times published what instantly became the most widely circulated news storyOpens in a new tab purporting to document a widespread campaign of sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas. That story has come under intense scrutinyOpens in a new tab, including within the Times newsroom.

The family of Gal Abdush, whose alleged rape was at the center of the Times article, disputed the article’s assertion she was raped. One relative also suggested the family was pressured, under false pretenses, to speak with the reporters. Abdush’s sister wrote on Instagram that the Times reporters “mentioned they want to write a report in memory of Gal, and that’s it. If we knew that the title would be about rape and butchery, we’d never accept that.” A woman who filmed Abdush on October 7 told YNetOpens in a new tab that Israeli journalists working for the Times had pressured her into giving the paper access to her photos and videos. “They called me again and again and explained how important it is to Israeli hasbara,” she recalledOpens in a new tab. This series of events was documented extensively by MondoweissOpens in a new tab.

Critics of the Times story also pointed to the inconsistenciesOpens in a new tab of the accounts of some of the alleged witnesses featured, as well as to its use of information provided by members of Zaka.

Several Israelis who survived the October 7 attacks have publicly claimed that they witnessed rapes by Palestinian assailants, but Israeli investigators have said they are still searching for supporting evidence. Authorities also say they must match alleged victims with specific eyewitness testimony in order to bring potential charges.

What often goes unmentioned in Israel’s sweeping allegations is an important fact: Hamas was not the only Palestinian group to attack Israelis on October 7. Many individuals who had no knowledge of Hamas’s plans poured across the border and committed acts of violence in what has been referred to as an unplanned “second wave.” Some of these non-HamasOpens in a new tab Palestinians also took Israeli hostages back to Gaza.

One survivor of the Nova music festival massacre, a veteran of Israel’s special forces, has given multiple interviews to major media outlets, including the New York Times, about a rape he claims to have witnessed. During an appearance on CNN, Raz Cohen describedOpens in a new tab the assailants as “Five guys — five civilians from Gaza, normal guys, not soldiers, not Nukhba,” referring to Hamas’s elite commando force. “It was regular people from Gaza with normal clothes.” Cohen, it must be noted, has told varying, sometimes contradictory, versions of what he witnessed.

Israel has painted all actions on October 7 as being committed by Hamas and its fighters. That storyline obviously serves Israel’s military and political objectives, but the truth is more complicated.

In light of Israel’s well-documented campaign of lies and misinformation about other events on October 7, incendiary allegations, such as claims that Hamas engaged in a deliberate campaign of systematic rape, should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

In this picture taken during a media tour organised by the Israeli military on October 22, 2023, the international press film the Israeli army spokesperson during a press visit to Kibbutz Beeri along the border with the Gaza Strip, in the aftermath of a Palestinian militant attack on October 7. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the media go on a press tour organized by the Israeli military on Oct. 22, 2023, at Kibbutz Be’eri, which was targeted by Hamas during the October 7 attacks. Witnesses said that an Israeli tank fired on a house filled with Israeli civilians held hostage on October 7. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images

Friendly Fire

As many U.S. media outlets and politicians have promoted and laundered Israel’s claims, spreading them far and wide, there have been strong voices among the Israeli public and media that have exhibited skepticism. This is especially true regarding the actions taken by Israeli forces as they responded to the October 7 attacks. Calls are growing inside Israel, led by survivors and victims’ families, for the Israeli government to provide a factual explanation of precisely how their loved ones died: Were they killed by Palestinian militants or by the Israeli military?

Israeli media outlets have aired interviews with survivors and IDF personnel describingOpens in a new tab what they refer to as “friendly fire” incidentsOpens in a new tab, including the shelling of a house where Hamas commandos were holding Israeli civilians hostage. Families of some Israelis killed at Kibbutz Be’eri have citedOpens in a new tab witnesses who said that an Israeli tank fired on a house filled with Israeli civilians held hostage on October 7. A dozen hostages, including 12-year-old twins, died inside the house after Israeli forces began shelling it.

“According to the evidence, the shooting of the tank was fatal and killed many hostages in addition to the terrorists,” the families wroteOpens in a new tab in a January 4 letter to the IDF’s chief of staff. Given the “seriousness of the incident, we do not think it is right to wait with the investigation until after the end of the war.” They demanded a “comprehensive and transparent investigation into the decisions and actions that led to this tragic outcome.” Israeli military Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram has since admitted he ordered the shelling that day. “The negotiations are over,” he recalledOpens in a new tab saying. “Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

Yasmin Porat, who had escaped the horrors at the Nova music festival and sought refuge in a home at Be’eri, offered extensive details on this incident, as Electronic Intifada reportedOpens in a new tab. In a seriesOpens in a new tab of interviews on Israeli media, Porat described how Palestinian commandos entered the home and told the Israeli civilians they intended to take them hostage and, after moving them to a location with other hostages at the kibbutz, ultimately used their Israeli captives to contact the police to negotiate. “Their objective was to kidnap us to Gaza. Not to murder us,” she told Israeli network Kan News. “And after we were there for two hours with the abductors, the police arrive. A gun battle takes place that our police started.”

Porat, who said her captors “treated us very humanely,” described how she managed to escape the house by convincing one of the gunmen to exit with her. After using her as a “human shield” to exit the house, the Palestinian was taken into custody, and Porat remained on the scene as Israeli forces laid siege to the house. “They eliminated everyone, including the hostages. There was very, very heavy crossfire,” she said. “Everyone was killed there. Just horrible.”

Other witnesses at Be’eri have describedOpens in a new tab how Israeli forces were able to retake the kibbutz from Palestinian fighters only after the IDF shelled houses where hostages were being held.

There is also evidenceOpens in a new tab indicating that Israeli forces responding to the attacks at the Nova music festival, where 364 people died, may have killed Israeli civilians as they attacked Palestinian militants, including with munitions fired from Apache helicopters. Yedioth Ahronoth and other major Israeli media outlets have published reports detailing the massive fire from combat helicopters and drones unleashed against the gunmen who violently stormed the festival. Military sources describedOpens in a new tab the difficulty in distinguishing civilians from attackers, particularly in the early phases of the Israeli counterstrike.

In the most sweeping journalistic account to date of the events surrounding the Israeli military’s operations on October 7, Ronen Bergman and Yoav Zitun — two well-connected and prominent Israeli journalists —wroteOpens in a new tab about the state of chaos and panic within the security establishment. They described “a command chain that failed almost entirely and was entirely blindsided; orders to open fire on terrorist vehicles speeding towards Gaza even as there was a concern that they contained captives — some sort of renewed version of the Hannibal Directive.”

The Hannibal Directive, which dates back to 1986 and has been the subject of great controversy in Israel, authorized military forces to stop the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers at all costs, even if it meant shooting or injuring the captives. In a 2003 investigationOpens in a new tab, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the broadly held understanding of the directive: “From the point of view of the army, a dead soldier is better than a captive soldier who himself suffers and forces the state to release thousands of captives in order to obtain his release.”

The Hannibal Directive was allegedly rescindedOpens in a new tab in 2016. But Bergman and Zitun report that by midday on October 7, the IDF issued a similar order, instructing all units to stop Hamas from bringing hostages back to Gaza and to do so “at any cost.” They describe Israeli helicopter gunships, drones, and tanks firing on any and all cars en route to Gaza, burning them and in some cases killing everyone inside the vehicles. Haaretz reportedOpens in a new tab on an IDF commander, locked in a subterranean bunker, calling in a strike against his own bases “in order to repulse the terrorists.”

The truth is that we do not know how many of their own people Israeli forces killed during the counteroffensive on October 7. Nor do we know what happened in the firefightsOpens in a new tab when armed Israelis, including kibbutz private security and military personnel, sought to defend their settlements.

How many Israelis — soldiers and civilians — were killed in the chaos and had their deaths recorded as killed or sadistically burned alive by Hamas?

Beyond the deadly shelling of the house at Be’eri, the public has been given very few details of what exactly transpired when official Israeli military forces deployed to confront the commandos from Gaza. Israeli military and police forces engaged in prolonged standoffs and shootouts with Palestinian gunmen holed up in houses, police stations, military installations, and other buildings, often holding hostages. In some cases, these battles went on for days.

In November, Netanyahu senior adviser Mark Regev was asked by MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan about some of the lies told by Israeli officials and soldiers about the events of October 7. Regev remarked that when a claim has been proven false, Israel retracts or clarifies it. “We originally said, in the atrocious Hamas attack upon our people on October 7, we had the number at 1,400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1,200 because we understood that we’d overestimated, we made a mistake,” Regev saidOpens in a new tab. He then added: “There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours; in the end, apparently they were Hamas terrorists.”

Israel’s social security agency has stated that the death toll from October 7 is 1,139 people. It has identified 695 Israeli civilians killed that day, along with 71 foreigners, most of whom were migrant laborers. Some 373 members of Israeli military and security forces were reportedOpens in a new tab dead.

Israel has estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinian fighters were killed that day, many of them during assaults launched with advanced weapons fired from tanks, helicopters, and drones. How many Israelis — soldiers and civilians — were killed in the chaos and had their deaths recorded as killed or sadistically burned alive by Hamas? How many Israeli lives were sacrificed under Hannibal-style orders to prevent them from being taken hostage at all costs?

The answers to these questions will bring no absolution to those who initiated the carnage on October 7. No civilians would have died in those Israeli communities had Hamas not launched its operations. It is also true that if Israel had not engaged in a 75-year campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, there would not have been an October 7. The illusion promoted by the Israeli state that its people could live a bucolic life in the “Gaza envelope” while their government enforced the caging and repression of 2.3 million Palestinians next door was shattered.

The families of the dead deserve to have answers. The specifics of what happened that day also matter because of how these events have shaped the public attitude toward Israel’s war, with its horrifying death toll, particularly among Palestinian children.

GAZA CITY, GAZA - FEBRUARY 6: Many Palestinian families take refuge under harsh conditions at a school affiliated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) at the Daraj neighborhood as the Israeli attacks continue in Gaza City, Gaza on February 6, 2024. (Photo by Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Many Palestinian families take refuge under harsh conditions at a school affiliated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, in the Daraj neighborhood as the Israeli attacks continue in Gaza City, Gaza, on Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

Faulty Justifications

Cynical manipulation of the truth has been a hallmark of Netanyahu’s career. He has long advocated for Hamas to achieve and maintain power in Gaza precisely because he believed it was the single best path to achieving his own colonial agenda.


    Related
    Before They Vowed to Annihilate Hamas, Israeli Officials Considered It an Asset

“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” Netanyahu toldOpens in a new tab his Likud confederates in 2019. The logic was clear: The world will never give the Palestinians a state while Hamas remains in power. That’s why, since at least 2012, Netanyahu has facilitated the continued flow of moneyOpens in a new tab to Hamas.

By January 18, with the horrors in Gaza intensifying, U.S. and European diplomats were telling anyone who would listen that they were deep into planning for a “day after” scenario that would pave the way for a two-state solution. Netanyahu responded to this chatter by giving a televised speech in Hebrew. “I clarify that in any arrangement in the foreseeable future, with an accord or without an accord, Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” Netanyahu saidOpens in a new tab. “That’s a necessary condition. It clashes with the principle of sovereignty but what can you do?”

While it was reported as a defiant rebuke of his U.S. and European allies, there was nothing new in Netanyahu’s position. It has been the Likud party’s official stance since its 1977 charter. “Between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty,” the documentOpens in a new tab reads. “A plan which relinquishes parts of western Eretz Israel, undermines our right to the country, unavoidably leads to the establishment of a ‘Palestinian State,’ jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the existence of the State of Israel, and frustrates any prospect of peace.”

The hospitals are Hamas, the U.N. is Hamas, journalists are Hamas, European allies are Hamas, the International Court of Justice is antisemitic.

The lies that were spread in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 attacks did not end there. Nearly every week, sometimes every day, the Israeli government and military have unloaded a fresh barrage of allegations intended to justify the ongoing slaughter. The hospitals are Hamas, the U.N. is Hamas, journalists are Hamas, European allies are Hamas, the International Court of Justice is antisemitic. The tactic is effective, particularly because the U.S. and other major allies have consistently laundered Israel’s unverified allegations as evidence of the righteousness of the cause.

NORTHERN GAZA, GAZA - DECEMBER 15: Head of the IDF spokesperson Unit, Daniel Hagari, stands at the opening to a tunnel near the border with Israel on December 15, 2023, northern Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces say this is the largest tunnel they've found yet in Gaza, comprising branches that extend well over four kilometers (2.5 miles) and reaches 400 meters (1,310 feet) from the Erez crossing. The IDF alleges the project of building the tunnel was led by Mohammed Sinwar, the brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and was used as part of the Oct. 7 attack, funnelling fighters near the Erez crossing and Israeli border communities. As the IDF have pressed into Gaza as part of their campaign to defeat Hamas, they have highlighted the militant group's extensive tunnel network as emblematic of the way the group embeds itself and its military activity in civilian areas. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari, pictured in northern Gaza on Dec. 15, 2023, is a daily fixture in Israel’s propaganda campaign. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The latest example is Israel’s campaign to destroy UNRWA, the single most important humanitarian organization in Gaza, which was established in 1949 specifically to protect Palestinians violently expelled from their homes and land by the creation of the Israeli state. Almost immediately after the ICJ ruled against Israel in the genocide case brought by South Africa in The Hague, Israel accused 12 of the organization’s 30,000 employees of participating in the October 7 attacks.

Israel then presentedOpens in a new tab the U.S. and other governments with “intelligence” it claimed to have obtained from the interrogations of Palestinian captives, documents recovered from the bodies of dead Palestinians, seized cellphones, and signals intercepts. Israel charged that 10 percent of UNRWA’s 12,000-person local staff in Gaza had some form of “links” to Hamas. “The institution as a whole is a haven for Hamas’ radical ideology,” an anonymous senior Israeli official told the Wall Street Journal in a widely cited article penned by a former IDF soldierOpens in a new tab.

The innuendo-laced allegation of UNRWA staff having undefined “links” to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, or “close relatives” who belong to the groups is a risible charge given that Hamas is not just an armed militia, but also the governing civil authority in Gaza.

The U.S. responded to Israel’s allegations by immediately announcing it was suspendingOpens in a new tab all funding to UNRWA. “We haven’t had the ability to investigate [the allegations] ourselves,” Blinken admittedOpens in a new tab on January 30. Nonetheless, he declared: “They are highly, highly credible.”

But journalists from Sky News reviewed the so-called dossier and reportedOpens in a new tab, “The Israeli intelligence documents make several claims that Sky News has not seen proof of and many of the claims, even if true, do not directly implicate UNRWA.” Britain’s Channel 4 also obtained the document and determinedOpens in a new tab it “provides no evidence to support its explosive new claim that UNRWA staff were involved with terror attacks on Israel.” The Financial Times, which also reviewed the materials, reportedOpens in a new tab there were specific allegations of direct participation in the October 7 attacks against four Palestinians employed by UNRWA, not 12 as originally asserted.

This was a transparent attempt by Israel to distract from the rulings in the ICJ genocide case and to obliterate a U.N. agency that Israel has long viewedOpens in a new tab as an impediment to its goal of denying Palestinians the right to return to the homes and territory from which Israel expelled them. It was also an action that explicitly violated the orders issued by the world court, which directed Israel to “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.” Based on Israel’s sweeping and unverified allegations alone, the U.S. led scores of Western nations to denounce the U.N. agency and pull their funding at the moment it is needed most.

From weapons and intelligence to political, diplomatic, and legal support, Israel has wanted for nothing from the Biden administration. The mounting pile of Palestinian civilian corpses and their surviving family members, meanwhile, are relegated to the workshopped afterthoughts uttered by Western politicians who have been told they should occasionally squeeze a line or two into their speeches about death and suffering in Gaza.

Propaganda and weaponized lies can only obscure the dead bodies, the forced starvation, the mass killing of children, and the utter destruction of an entire society for so long. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to conceal the nexus between the actions taken by Israel after October 7, the mendacious narratives it deployed, and Netanyahu’s desperate struggle to retain political power and his personal liberty. The 1,200 Israeli and international victims of October 7, and the more than 27,000 Palestinians whose deaths were justified in their names, deserve an unvarnished rendering of the truth.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Jeremy Scahill
jeremy.scahill@theintercept.com
@jeremyscahill on X

CNN staff say network’s pro-Israel slant amounts to ‘journalistic malpractice’

February 8, 2024
Gaza Poet Yahya Ashour at UW-Madison

Yahya Ashour is an emerging poet known for his profound and moving reflections on the human experience, particularly the challenges faced by Palestinians of Gaza. His unique perspective as a Palestinian poet adds depth and authenticity to the discourse surrounding the complexities of the Middle East.

Yahya arrived in the United States in September 2023 and, unfortunately, is unable to return to his home in Gaza due to current circumstances. You can read his poems here and check out his instagram account here.

If you plan to attend the meal after the talk, please RSVP here. You will need to sign in with Google.

Tammy Baldwin should join Bernie Sanders in questioning military aid to Israel

Gaza mourning
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a hospital in Deir al Balah, Monday, Jan. 29. AP Photo/Adel Hana

In the face of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, which has left more than 25,000 people dead, displaced almost 2 million and destroyed much of the region’s civilian infrastructure, the outcry against the wrongheaded policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grows ever louder.

Last week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, responding to South Africa’s allegation that Israel is committing genocide, adopted provisional measures that require Netanyahu’s government to take steps to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, to prevent and punish incitement to commit genocide against Palestinians, and to assure basic services and humanitarian assistance can get to Gazans.

“The World Court’s landmark decision puts Israel and its allies on notice that immediate action is needed to prevent genocide and further atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza,” explains Balkees Jarrah, the associate international justice director for Human Rights Watch. “Lives hang in the balance, and governments need to urgently use their leverage to ensure that the order is enforced. The scale and gravity of civilian suffering in Gaza driven by Israeli war crimes demands nothing less.”

The Israeli government rejects the ICJ’s determination. So, too, does the Biden administration.

But the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem observes:

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“The provisions of international humanitarian law require that every one of the bombed targets (in Gaza) be defined as a military objective that makes an ‘effective contribution’ to Hamas’ actions, and that its destruction offers Israel a ‘definite military advantage.’ Even if the thousands of targets Israel has struck meet these criteria, the law requires that the resulting harm to civilian life and property be proportionate. Yet there is no way to reconcile Israel’s strikes with these rules. Any claim to the contrary is not only legally flawed but morally unacceptable.”

B’Tselem, which monitors human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, is mindful of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli kibbutzim and a music festival that left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and 250 others kidnapped. The group recognizes that Israel has a right to self-defense.

“However,” it explains, “the right to self-defense does not confer the right to employ unlimited, indiscriminate violence, nor does it allow parties to ignore the provisions of international humanitarian law and commit war crimes. Israel certainly cannot rely on this right to justify a policy that does away with any protection of civilians and assumes there are no bystanders in Gaza.”

The United States has similar responsibilities. “We must understand,” explains U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, “that Israel’s war against the Palestinian people has been significantly waged with U.S. bombs, artillery shells, and other forms of weaponry. And the results have been catastrophic.”

As Congress has been working to pass a supplemental funding bill that includes as much as $14 billion in unconditional military aid for the Netanyahu government, Sanders says, “Enough is enough. Congress must reject that funding. The taxpayers of the United States must no longer be complicit in destroying the lives of innocent men, women, and children in Gaza.”

That’s a principled position. But, so far, it’s been a lonely one.

In mid-January, Sanders made a baseline request of the Senate. In the face of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, he asked his colleagues: “Do you support asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using U.S. equipment or assistance in this war?”

Only 10 senators — Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, and Democrats Laphonza Butler of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Mazie Hirano of Hawaii, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Peter Welch of Vermont — sided with Sanders.

Many constituents of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, were disappointed that she did not join them. We share their frustration.

Baldwin offered a thoughtful assessment of the crisis in late December, when she said, “The Netanyahu government’s indiscriminate bombing and military approach has led to unacceptable bloodshed in Gaza and does not appear to be moving us closer to our ultimate goals of removing Hamas from power and achieving a lasting peace in the region through a two-state solution.”

At the time, Baldwin called for the immediate resumption of a humanitarian cease-fire — agreed to by Israel and Hamas — in order to ensure the unconditional release of all hostages and full humanitarian access to Gaza. She also called for “adherence to international humanitarian law by all parties and the protection of all civilians and civilian sites.”

How does Baldwin reconcile her stated position with her failure to vote for the resolution that was proposed by Sanders? To us, it makes no sense to recognize that Israel has engaged in “indiscriminate bombing” that “has led to unacceptable bloodshed in Gaza,” and then refuse to support an effort to determine the extent to which Israel is relying on U.S. equipment in this war.

Further, we see no justification for approving additional U.S. military aid for Israel until a determination has been made regarding the role that U.S. weapons may be playing in increasing the death toll in Gaza.

We hold out little hope that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will ever do the right thing for the right reason. But we respect Baldwin enough to hope that she will give serious consideration to the arguments being made by Sanders and a growing number of her constituents.


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What Are We Doing??

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Within moments of the International Court of Justice issuing a preliminary finding on Friday morning that South Africa had made a plausible genocide case against Israel, Western media was suddenly gripped by a new storyline: 12 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, were alleged by Israel to have participated in the October 7 attacks.

In the most head-spinning pivot I’ve witnessed in my time covering global affairs, the entire conversation in the West (but definitely not the Global South or East, don’t forget that) changed on a dime when the U.S. responded instantly, pausing all funding to the relief agency. A dozen U.S. allies have followed suit.

One of the primary orders issued by the ICJ related to humanitarian aid, ordering Israel to stop blocking the flow of that aid as the U.N. warned of famine. Instead, Israel has launched its diplomatic assault on UNRWA, and has been allowing Israeli civilian protesters to physically block aid from entering.

We’re talking about the most important relief agency by miles in Gaza, one in which some 1.2 million displaced people are huddling in its schools, hoping to escape the Israeli bombs, tank shells, and bullets that have claimed the lives of 26,000 Palestinians and counting.

If you read the Western media, this is a simple situation: the relief agency employed terrorists, so it has to go. Yet those same people would never say the same thing about, say, a major police force found to have employed a militiaman from a white supremacist group. If a janitor at a university was found to be a terrorist, would we defund the university? You’d fire them, charge them if they committed a crime, and review what went wrong in your process. That’s exactly how UNRWA responded.

Norway is a close ally of Europe, but it is among the few not to abandon the refugee agency, and their foreign minister’s comment reads, to me, unimpeachably sound and ethical. “If you have 30,000 employees who are embedded in society,” he said, “to try to be absolutely certain that you have zero risk is very difficult even if you have zero tolerance, which is exactly why I want to continue our funding. I urge other donors to do so and then we will collectively work with UNRWA to make sure everything comes on the table with what actually happened and what UNRWA will do to prevent something like this from happening again, but we cannot collectively punish all the people who are refugees.”

In a sane world, that would be that, and we’d wait for the investigation. In this world, the agency is staring down the barrel of bankruptcy by the end of February, as they announced today.

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The ICJ’s order that Israel take concrete steps to avert the plausible genocide underway has been washed away, even as Israel has less than a month to report back to the court on its progress. In its place is debate over October 7 and the role of the 12 former employees. That the 152 UNRWA employees who’ve been killed in the war by Israel get no attention in this news cycle perfectly symbolizes the narrative asymmetry.

UNRWA, however, was not a random Israeli target. Leaders of the hard-right government have been gunning for the agency for years, and now they see their chance. The claim that the U.N. agency is a front for Hamas is the public rationale, but the less-public one is more straightforward: Israel does not want the Palestinians to be considered refugees under international law, because that implies some right to occupied territory that Israeli leaders are quite clear they intend to annex.

Most recently, on January 9, the Knesset discussed the issue, video of which has subsequently gone viral. “Our main goal in the war is to eliminate the threat and not to neutralize it and we know how to eliminate terrorists. It is more difficult for us with an idea. UNRWA is the source of the idea,” said Israeli Knesset member Noga Arbell on January 6. “And it will be impossible to win the war if we do not destroy UNRWA. And this destruction must begin immediately .… They must be abandoned. Or they must go to hell.”

The campaign against UNRWA continued over the following days in the Knesset. Later in January, the Christian Broadcasting Network highlighted Knesset members Sharren Haskel and Simcha Rothman, both of whom were calling to shut down UNRWA. Haskel had founded a caucus dedicated to combating UNRWA nine years earlier, CBN noted. “If we want a different future, a future of maybe coexistence, that we’ll be able to live here securely, things must change, and it starts with UNRWA,” Haskel told CBN. UNRWA is an organization of the United Nations that is a complete cover up for Hamas activities and terrorist activities. Hamas has taken over this organization.”

On January 17, the week before the ICJ ruling, I was at a State Department press briefing when spokesperson Matt Miller was asked about Haskel and Rothman’s calls to defund UNRWA. (I’m pretty sure the reporter works for CBN; I’ll confirm tomorrow when I’m there.)

Miller gave an unusually forceful response.

“I am not going to respond to the comments by individual members of the Knesset, but I will say that UNRWA has done and continues to do invaluable work to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza at great personal risk to UNRWA members. I believe it’s over 100 UNRWA staff members have been killed doing this lifesaving work, and we continue to not only support it but we continue to commend them for the really heroic efforts that they make oftentimes while making the greatest sacrifice,” he said.

The reporter followed up by citing a Jerusalem Post report that some UNRWA “teachers and students celebrated Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel October 7 and over half of the Hamas terrorists behind that massacre were graduates of UNRWA schools in Gaza.”

Miller again pushed back. “Well, I think most people in Gaza are graduates of UNRWA schools,” he said accurately. “There’s a little bit of a breakdown in logic there. But I will answer the question by saying, look, whenever we see reports of that nature, we ask specific questions about UNRWA and ask that they be followed up. It does not change the lifesaving work that UNRWA is doing every day in Gaza that I just detailed a moment ago.”

Yet, just nine days later, with the situation deteriorating by the hour, that “lifesaving work” was suddenly expendable.

Over the weekend, at least a dozen Israeli government ministers participated in a major conference organized to create a framework for a post-war scenario in Gaza. Its goal was the expulsion of Palestinians and their substitution with Israeli settlers. It was short-handed as the “Resettle Gaza Conference,” and its official name was “Conference for the Victory of Israel – Settlement Brings Security: Returning to the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria.”

After South Africa filed its genocide charges with The Hague, talk from Israeli ministers about their efforts to depopulate Gaza was largely muzzled. The whole world was watching, after all.

The world is no longer watching, and so the talk has gotten loud again. “If we don’t want another October 7, we need to go back home and control [Gaza],” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. “We need to find a legal way to voluntarily emigrate.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi unpacked the thought: “’Voluntary’ is at times a state you impose until they give their consent.'” The White House announced that it was “troubled” by the conference and the plans outlined there. But it pledged no action.


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US Court Hears Case on Gaza Genocide

Protesters painted the message, "Biden complicit in genocide"
Protesters displayed the message, “Biden complicit in genocide” outside a courtroom in Oakland, California on January 26, 2024. (Photo: @ashoswai/Twitter)

“We are watching a genocide unfold in Gaza in real time and, despite the government’s view that a U.S. court can do nothing about it, CCR and our clients argue that it certainly can and it absolutely must!” said one advocate.

JULIA CONLEY, COMMON DREAMS, JAN 26, 2024

Calling for an emergency injunction to stop the Biden administration from aiding Israel in its bombardment of Gaza, which has so far killed more than 26,000 people and pushed roughly 2 million more to the point of starvation, human rights organizations and Palestinians in the U.S. on Friday took federal leaders to court to stop U.S. “complicity in the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide.”

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland held a hearing on the case, in which the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is representing groups including Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) and Al-Haq in suing President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The groups, joined by individual plaintiffs whose families in Gaza have been subjected to Israel’s assault and decades of occupation, argue that the U.S. is violating domestic and international law and breaching the Genocide Convention, of which it is a a signatory.

The hearing was held hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released its initial ruling in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. The ICJ found that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide.

Laila El-Haddad, one of the plaintiffs in the U.S. case, said the group entered the courtroom “proud and hopeful” on the heels of the ICJ ruling.

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The CCR reported that the court’s livestream was at capacity during the hearing, while outside the courtroom, supporters painted, “Biden complicit in genocide,” and, “No bombs to Israel” on the street.

“A recording of the hearing will be made available by the court in due course,” said CCR.

Dena Takruri of AJ+reported that in the “unprecedented” hearing, a doctor testifying remotely from Rafah, Gaza told the court that “cases of childbirth in the streets are widespread at this time.”

Along with relentless air and ground attacks by Israeli forces, Gazans have for nearly four months faced a near-total blockade on Gaza, with aid deliveries severely curtailed by Israel. Roughly 90% of Gaza residents are now frequently going without any meals for at least a full day.

South Africa’s case at the ICJ outlined numerous statements of genocidal intent by top Israeli officials.

Despite the mounting evidence of ethnic cleansing, the Biden administration has called South Africa’s accusations “meritless” and has continued to arm Israel without congressional approval.

“Our community mobilized to put Biden in power after [former President Donald Trump,” Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Sacramento Valley and another Palestinian American plaintiff, testified at the hearing. “It hurts. It hurts deeply.”

The plaintiffs planned to hold a post-hearing press conference.

“The takeaway from today’s court hearing,” said CCR executive director Vince Warren, “is that we are watching a genocide unfold in Gaza in real time and, despite the government’s view that a U.S. court can do nothing about it, CCR and our clients argue that it certainly can and it absolutely must!”


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.
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The U.S. Must Act to End the Gaza Disaster

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Many of us are watching with horror the severe humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues in the House and Senate are choosing to ignore this reality and evade their Congressional responsibilities.

Let’s be clear: what’s happening in Gaza is not just some unfortunate tragedy taking place thousands of miles from our shores. The United States provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid every year, and the bombs and military equipment that are destroying Gaza are made in America. In other words, we are complicit in what is happening.

And what’s happening is unspeakable.

My staff and I have spoken in recent days with the United Nations, the World Food Programme, and other humanitarian organizations struggling to deal with the disaster in Gaza.

The bottom line is this: the coming weeks could mean the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people. If we do not see a dramatic improvement in humanitarian access very soon, countless innocent people – including thousands of children – could die of dehydration, diarrhea, preventable diseases, and starvation.

The World Health Organization predicts that the number of deaths from sickness and starvation could exceed the very high number killed in the war thus far.

And let’s be clear: this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made crisis. This is the direct result of choices made by political leaders, none more than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s extreme right-wing government.

Hamas began this war with its horrific terrorist attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 innocent Israeli men, women, and children, and took some 240 hostages. Israel had the right to respond to that attack and go to war against Hamas. It did not and does not, however, have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people – which is exactly what is happening.

More than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in this war, and 62,000 wounded – seventy percent of whom are women and children. Thousands more are believed to be trapped under the rubble. At least 152 UN aid workers have been killed so far, more than in any previous war.

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Unbelievably, 1.7 million people have been driven from their homes, almost 80 percent of the entire population of Gaza. These are people who were already impoverished and who are now living in crowded UN shelters or out in the open in winter conditions. They lack adequate food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. And they have no idea what the future holds for them.

Some 70 percent of the housing units in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. Most of Gaza’s critical infrastructure has been made inoperable – including many water wells, bakeries, power plants, and sewage treatment facilities. Much of the area has been without cell phone service for weeks, making communication extremely difficult.

Water is scarce, and what little is available is often contaminated. Public wells are operating at just 10 percent capacity, and just one of three water pipelines into Gaza is functioning. For several months now, children in southern Gaza are surviving on just 1.5-2 liters of water per day, far below what is needed. And that is in the area where UN can be delivered. The situation is worse elsewhere.

The lack of clean water is leading to a spike in waterborne diseases and diarrhea – a very serious condition which accounts for nearly 10 percent of all deaths among children under the age of five worldwide. In Gaza, the UN reports 158,000 cases – more than half among children under the age of five – a 4,000% increase from before the war. Humanitarian groups say they fear many thousands of children will die from diarrhea before they starve to death.

Hunger and starvation are now widespread. Before the war, Gaza had 97 bakeries – just 15 are now operating, and none are functioning in the north, closed by the combination of airstrikes and a lack of fuel and flour. Hundreds of thousands of children go to sleep hungry each night, and desperate people are mobbing the few relief trucks that can reach beyond the border crossing.

Right now, the UN says that 570,000 people in Gaza are facing “catastrophic hunger” equivalent to famine. This is the most severe category of starvation, but the UN reports that “the entire population of Gaza – roughly 2.2 million people – are in crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity.” Virtually every household is regularly skipping meals, and most are down to a single meal a day, often just bread.

Experts say infants and young children will succumb first to hunger. Without enough food, or with no clean water to make formula, their vital organs will begin to shut down. Many will die of infection before they reach that point. The technical term for this stage – child wasting – is too horrific to contemplate. Yet that is what we are watching unfold in slow motion as the world looks on.

Gaza’s healthcare system is under tremendous strain. Most healthcare facilities are inoperable or functioning at diminished capacity. Faced with tens of thousands of casualties, health workers have, with enormous courage, struggled to save lives amid frequent bombardment in overcrowded hospitals without electricity or adequate fuel or medicine. 337 health workers have been killed.

The lack of basic necessities and overcrowded conditions are contributing to a dramatic increase in disease, and 10 percent of the population now has acute respiratory infections. Those with long-term conditions that require advanced treatment have little hope of receiving adequate care.

Amidst this devastation, approximately 180 women give birth in Gaza every day, receiving completely inadequate medical care. Without enough food or clean water, let alone necessary medications and antibiotics, many of these women face serious complications, and their children will bear lifelong scars from this war.

That is life in Gaza today. The American people must not ignore it. The Biden Administration must not ignore it. Congress must not ignore it.

We also cannot ignore what is causing this disaster. And the answer is pretty clear: at every step, the Israeli government has failed to provide even the most basic protections to civilians. Every humanitarian move has been extracted only after weeks of delay and outside pressure from the United States and others.

The result is that today just 20 to 30 percent of what’s needed is being allowed in. Not enough food. Not enough water. Not enough medical supplies. Not enough fuel.

Onerous Israeli border inspections are a major cause of this crisis. Today, there is a three to four week wait for trucks to get into Gaza. Many trucks are unloaded and reloaded numerous times, often to be searched for the same items. Israel is rejecting items like tent-poles, feminine hygiene kits, hand sanitizers, water testing kits, and medical supplies. If a single item is rejected, the truck has to go back to the start of the process. Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point equipped to process trucks in large numbers, is only open eight hours a day.

It is hard to see this process and not conclude that it’s a deliberate effort to slow humanitarian aid. And sure enough, just last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel is only allowing in the absolute minimum amount necessary.

When trucks do eventually get across the border, they face a new set of problems. Israel is bombing targets across Gaza, and its ground forces have closed many major roads amidst the fighting. The process for coordinating aid convoys with the Israeli military has broken down, and the first half of January actually saw a deterioration in humanitarian access.

So let’s be clear: Netanyahu’s right-wing government is starving Gaza. Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment and restrictions on essential humanitarian aid have created one of the most severe humanitarian catastrophes of recent times.

For months, the United States government has pleaded with Israel to take urgent steps to avoid further civilian death. But despite these requests, including from President Biden himself, Netanyahu has done nothing.

That has to change now. Tens of thousands of lives hang in the balance, and every day matters.

This war is being fought primarily with U.S. arms and equipment. That means the United States is complicit in this nightmare. We must end it. The United States has to use its leverage to make Netanyahu change his approach.

As part of that effort, I have tried to force what I consider to be a very modest step in the U.S. Senate: a resolution requiring the State Department to report on any human rights violations that may have occurred in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The resolution is based on long-standing U.S. law requiring that any security assistance or military equipment provided to any country be used in line with internationally-recognized human rights.

Sadly, only 11 senators voted for this first Congressional effort to hold Israel accountable, but the momentum is shifting. More and more Americans – and more elected officials – understand that we cannot continue turning a blind eye to the suffering in Gaza. Given the scale of the disaster unfolding with American bombs and military equipment, Congress must act.

Prime Minister Netanyahu recently said, while rejecting a two-state solution, that “the prime minister needs to be able to say no, even to our best friends.” Well, now is the time for the United States to say NO to Netanyahu.

Congress is now considering a supplemental bill with another $14 billion in military aid for Israel. The United States must make it clear to Netanyahu that the we will not provide another dollar to support his inhumane, illegal war. We must use our leverage to demand an end to the indiscriminate bombing, a humanitarian ceasefire to allow aid to flow to those who are suffering and to secure the release of the more than 130 hostages still being held in Gaza. And we must demand that the Israeli government take steps to lay the groundwork for a two-state solution.

The United States must stop asking Israel to do the right thing. It’s time to start telling Israel it must do these things or it will lose America’s support.

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Minneapolis City Council passes cease-fire resolution for Israel-Hamas war

Calls for an immediate and permanent cease-fire; humanitarian aid; an end to U.S. military funding to Israel; and the release of hostages and Palestinians in Israeli military prisons

A person wearing a black and white scarf hugs a Black woman
Minneapolis City Council member Robin Wonsley hugs University of Minnesota professor Sima Shakhsari after the city council voted to pass a cease-fire resolution regarding the Israel-Hamas war on Thursday. Ben Hovland | MPR News

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The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The resolution passed on a 9-3 vote with one abstention, after more than an hour of discussion and debate among council members and Mayor Jacob Frey.

Hundreds of people, both in support of and opposed to the resolution, filled the council chambers and overflow rooms carrying signs and flags. Supporters rallied in the lobby afterwards to celebrate the outcome.

‘Different rules’: special policies keep US supplying weapons to Israel despite alleged abuses

January 26, 2024
Livestream: Palestine v. Biden Hearing

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Constitutional Rights

Livestream: Palestinians Take Biden to Court

REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT

Join the Center for Constitutional Rights and our partners for a multi-part livestream on January 26 to amplify the hearing in our federal lawsuit, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) v. Biden.

January 26 is also the We Charge Genocide International Day of Action for Permanent Ceasefire, and the Center for Constitutional Rights and our partners are encouraging people all over the world to hold watch events to follow the pre-hearing livestream and then to switch to the court stream when that begins at 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Pre-hearing Briefing (Online)
Time: 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. (PST) / 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. (EST) / 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. (Palestine)

During the YouTube livestream, lawyers, advocates, and organizers will share analysis about the importance to the Palestinian solidarity movement of this momentous court hearing and the DCIP v. Biden case, which charges the Biden administration with complicity in and failure to prevent Israel’s unfolding genocide against Palestinians. You can watch at on the Center for Constitutional Rights YouTube page.

Hearing in Defense for Children International – Palestine v. Biden (In-person & online)
Time: 9:00 a.m. (PST) / 12 p.m. (EST) / 7 p.m. (Palestine)

The hearing, which will include live testimony by our plaintiffs and expert, will take place in person at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 1301 Clay Street in Oakland, CA. You can also watch the court’s online stream – instructions for how to join can be found on Judge White’s page on the court website.

Defense for Children International – Palestine v. Biden was filed in November by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel Van Der Hout LLP against the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense on behalf of two Palestinian human rights organizations and eight Palestinians in the U.S. and Palestine. The case challenges the U.S. government’s failure to prevent and complicity in Israel’s unfolding genocide of the Palestinian people and asks the court to order the Biden administration to cease diplomatic and military support and comply with its legal obligations under international and federal law. The hearing on the preliminary injunction motion and the government’s motion to dismiss the case will take place on Friday, January 26.

Find out more on our case page and Stop the Genocide resource page.

Last modified: January 19, 2024

January 26, 2024
Online Solidarity Rally for Palestine v. Biden

Palestinian human rights organizations, Gaza residents, and US citizens with family members killed and displaced by Israel’s war filed a lawsuit last November against the Biden administration for failing to “prevent an unfolding genocide” in Gaza.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, 11,000 Palestinians had been murdered by Israeli forces. Today the death toll has exceeded 24,000. And the US has continued to provide Israel with weapons that have been used to wipe out entire Palestinian families.

This historic lawsuit seeks to enforce international law as codified in the Genocide Convention and US federal law. If the suit is successful, it will force the Biden administration to stop providing weapons to Israel.

Next week, the Ekō community is joining together with allies from all over the world to show support for the Palestinian plaintiffs during the lawsuit’s hearing in Oakland, California.

Here’s how you can get involved, wherever you are:

1. RSVP to attend the solidarity rally on Friday, 26 January online.

2. Write a message or create a piece of art in support of the courageous plaintiffs, or calling for an end to arms sales; include your name, city, and country; take a picture; and email it by Wednesday to Lacey@eko.org. We will display them outside the courthouse during the rally.

3. Watch your inbox for more ways to get involved.

The Ekō community has so far made 637 calls, sent 5,574 emails, and generated 127,142 petition signatures pressuring government officials to stop selling weapons to Israel. But if we are going to win this campaign, we need to continue speaking out and showing up.

 CLICK TO RSVP 

Thanks for all that you do,
Lacey and the team at Ekō

More information:

Defense for Children International – Palestine v. Biden, Center for Constitutional Rights, 13 November 2023
Palestinian advocates seeking genocide ruling dismiss Biden’s response, cite Reagan precedent, SF Chronicle, 25 December 2023
77 Groups Worldwide Back Genocide Lawsuit Against Biden in U.S. Court, The Intercept, 10 January 2024


Ekō is a community of people from around the world committed to curbing the growing power of corporations. We want to buy from, work for and invest in companies that respect the environment, treat their workers well and respect democracy. And we’re not afraid to stand up to them when they don’t.

Please help keep Ekō strong by chipping in $3: CHIP IN $3

An Open Letter to Senator Tammy Baldwin: A Shameful Vote on Gaza

Statistics on the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip (07 October – 19 January 2024)

January 19, 2024

An Open Letter to Senator Tammy Baldwin: A Shameful Vote on Gaza

On Tuesday January 16, the US Senate killed Senate Resolution 504, submitted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling for basic oversight of U.S. weapons to Israel. Only 11 senators had the courage to vote in favor even though a clear majority of Americans want an end to this bloody war. 

Sen. Baldwin, to your everlasting shame, you ignored your constituents and joined Sen. Ron Johnson and the others who made the cruel choice to keep giving Israel a free pass to commit mass murder.

Our sister city of Rafah is being bombed, shelled, and overwhelmed with more than a million starving, thirsty, sick and wounded civilians — including some 500,000 children — fleeing death and the total destruction of their lives. The projects that the citizens of Madison have so generously supported in Gaza over the last 21 years have been destroyed, damaged or rendered inoperable by Israel with weapons provided by our own tax dollars.

Prominent among these is the Atfaluna Society for the Deaf, a children’s school and adult crafts workshop, which was completely destroyed when Israel deliberately blew up the entire neighborhood where it was located. 

Are the people that our hands were extended to still alive and intact, searching desperately in the cold and wet winter of Gaza for food, water, medicine, shelter, the bodies and body parts of missing relatives? 

Or are they among the 25,000 already confirmed dead, the 7,000 buried under the rubble, the 62,000 enduring their wounds without benefit of medical care, painkillers, or anesthetics to relieve the pain of amputations and caesarean sections? We don’t even know.

We are angered and devastated beyond words that you — who have the unmitigated gall to call yourself a Progressive when asking for our votes — lacked the courage to even investigate whether Israel is using taxpayer-provided weapons to commit war crimes in Gaza in violation of US law.

As Ahmad Abuznaid of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights said, “Every senator who has voted to let Israel off the hook, refusing to conduct the most basic oversight for U.S. weapons, is deeply complicit in Israel’s mass killings of Palestinians in Gaza. History will remember how you fueled bloodshed during a genocide.”

Senator Baldwin, in the name of all that is decent, compassionate and just, how many more must suffer and die before you take action? When will it be enough?

Rowan Atalla
Amy Atalla-Hill
Tsela Barr
Cassandra Dixon
Lisa Masri
Barbara Olson
Donna Wallbaum
Kathy Walsh