Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 8-15, 2023

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We Are No Strangers to Human Suffering, but We’ve Seen Nothing Like the Siege of Gaza,

“But as the leaders of some of the world’s largest global humanitarian organizations, we have seen nothing like the siege of Gaza. In the more than two months since the horrifying attack on Israel that killed more than 1,200 people and resulted in some 240 abductions, about 18,000 Gazans — including more than 7,500 children — have been killed, according to the Gazan health ministry. More children have been reported killed in this conflict than in all major global conflicts combined last year…Most of our organizations have been operating in Gaza for decades. But we can do nothing remotely adequate to address the level of suffering there without an immediate and complete cease-fire and an end to the siege. The aerial bombardments have rendered our jobs impossible. The withholding of water, fuel, food and other basic goods has created an enormous scale of need that aid alone cannot offset. Global leaders — and especially the United States government — must understand that we cannot save lives under these conditions. A significant change in approach from the U.S. government is needed today to pull Gaza back from this abyss. For a start, the Biden administration must stop its diplomatic interference at the United Nations, blocking calls for a cease-fire.”


See also Diseases spread in Gaza amid health system collapse, Israeli strikes (Al Jazeera), Torrential rains in Gaza bring flooding and disease to displaced population (WaPo); ‘Diseases are spreading rapidly’: In Jabalia camp, thousands shelter in one school (Ibrahim Mohammad//+972);


See alsoThe farce of Israel’s ‘humanitarianism’ in Gaza, Yara Asi//New Arab: “But the exploitation of humanitarianism in Gaza does little to genuinely reduce vulnerability and prevent suffering. Aid distribution has essentially been dictated by the terms of the actor doing the bombing and imposing the siege, and the manner in which “pauses” have been portrayed as generous acts of mercy, shows how little genuine humanity is afforded to Palestinians…The extent to which the concept of humanitarianism has been warped in the Gaza Strip, including long before this most recent bombing campaign, shows the extent to which global powers are willing to go against their own stated principles in pursuit of political goals, regardless of whether they adhere to international law. Meanwhile, those who work at actual humanitarian agencies have been desperately calling for a permanent ceasefire and unfettered access to aid for weeks.”

Israel’s “Humanitarian” Expulsion,

“The Israeli right is capitalizing on the aftermath of October 7th to build support for a permanent transfer of Palestinians out of Gaza…Once discussed plainly as a demographic and security strategy, the idea of expulsion is now being presented as a humanitarian response to the devastation in Gaza.” See also The Israeli Army Has Dropped the Restraint in Gaza, and the Data Shows Unprecedented Killing (Yagil Levy//Haaretz); Unguided ‘dumb bombs’ used in almost half of Israeli strikes on Gaza (WaPo); IDF troops mistakenly open fire and kill 3 hostages in northern Gaza battlefield (Times of Israel)

Biden says ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in Gaza is costing Israel support ,

President Biden offered sharp criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the war on Hamas in Gaza on Tuesday, suggesting that Israel’s closest ally and biggest donor is souring on a campaign that has killed thousands of Palestinians and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Biden told supporters that “the indiscriminate bombing that takes place” was beginning to cost Israel support around the world…The comments, delivered at a fundraiser in Washington, stood out as some of the most direct language the president has used in speaking about his Israeli counterpart. Biden and Netanyahu, who have known each other for decades, have in recent days expressed increasingly divergent views of the conflict.” See also Biden Warns Israel It Is ‘Losing Support’ Over War (NYT); US presses Israel on civilian deaths, move to ‘lower intensity’ war in Gaza (Al Jazeera); U.S. more isolated on Israel as Gaza crisis deepens, need for aid grows (WaPo)

U.N. General Assembly Votes for Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire, Countering U.S. Veto,

“The U.N. General Assembly demanded an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in an overwhelming vote on Tuesday that highlighted much of the world’s desire to bring the bloody conflict to an end. About three-quarters of the body’s members voted in favor of the nonbinding resolution, underscoring the isolation of Israel and the United States, which last week blocked a cease-fire resolution in the Security Council…The countries that joined the U.S. and Israel in rejecting the cease-fire resolution on Tuesday were Austria, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Liberia, Micronesia, Paraguay and Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Among the countries that abstained were Britain, Hungary, South Sudan and Germany.” See also U.S. Vetoes Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Resolution at U.N. Security Council (NYT); UN chief vows to go on seeking ceasefire in Gaza despite US veto (Guardian); Pope renews calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza (Middle East Eye)

Shipping companies pause Red Sea journeys after Houthi attacks,

“Two shipping companies have announced they will pause all journeys through the Red Sea after a series of attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Danish shipping company Maersk said on Friday it was suspending its vessels’ passage through the key Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and the German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd said it would pause journeys in the Red Sea until Monday. The announcements come after attacks from Houthi-controlled Yemen hit two Liberian-flagged ships in the Bab al-Mandab Strait earlier on Friday, a US defence official told the news agency Reuters.”

Israel used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus in Lebanon attack,

“Israel used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an October attack in southern Lebanon that injured at least nine civilians in what a rights group says should be investigated as a war crime, according to a Washington Post analysis of shell fragments found in a small village.” See also U.S. Raises Concern Over Israel’s Possible Use of U.S.-Supplied White Phosphorus (NYT)

Boycotts and protests – how are people around the world defying Israel?,

“From Jakarta to San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past two months to protest Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 18,700 people, including more than 7,700 children. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Events Data Project, a nongovernmental organisation specialising in conflict data collection, from October 7 to November 24, there were at least 7,283 pro-Palestine protests that took place in more than 118 countries and territories.”

3-Day Israeli Raid in Jenin Kills at Least 12, West Bank Officials Say,

“A three-day Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin appeared to end on Thursday; the Palestinian Health Ministry said that during the raid, Israeli forces killed at least 12 people and wounded 34 others…At least 78 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military raids in Jenin since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah, making it the deadliest period in the city in recent years. Across the West Bank, at least 286 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, most during Israeli raids but others in clashes with extremist Israeli settlers.” See also Israeli soldiers recite Jewish prayers, Hannukah songs inside Jenin mosque (Al Jazeera: “Israeli soldiers have been disciplined after video surfaced of them singing Hannukah songs and reciting Jewish prayers inside a mosque. The soldiers, who are conducting raids in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, have been suspended from duty.”); See also Israeli Border Police Officers Filmed Attacking Arab Journalist in East Jerusalem (Haaretz)

'Psychological warfare': Israeli troops go on looting and vandalism spree across Gaza,

“Footage shows soldiers in besieged enclave stealing makeup and necklaces, setting fire to food supplies and installing Jewish symbols in Palestinian neighbourhoods”) See also Israel-Palestine war: Families of Palestinians stripped and detained recall ‘humiliating’ Israeli arrests (Middle East Eye); Israel is detaining civilians in Gaza. Many have disappeared, families say. (WaPo)

Refaat Alareer Was a Brilliant Poet and Intellectual—He Was Also My Teacher,

“To those of us lucky enough to learn from him, Alareer offered a chance to explore new worlds and stories, defying the laws of physics and oppression.”

U.S. Scene

Democrats Slam Lack of Congressional Oversight on Israel Arms Sale,

“At 11:00pm on Friday night, the State Department notified Congress’s foreign affairs committees that it would be invoking emergency authority to bypass Congressional review in selling Israel nearly 14,000 rounds of tank shells—a type of ammunition Israel has so far used to attack militant forces in Gaza and Lebanon but have also hit civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals. The decision to invoke emergency authority drew immediate criticism from Democratic members of Congress as well as human rights advocates who say that Congress must retain the opportunity to object to the sale of ammunition that Israel could use to harm civilians in Gaza and Lebanon…Skeptics of the tank shell sale say there is ample reason for Congressional Democrats to scrutinize it. Israel has reportedly used these types of tank shells in attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure…US law requires that the president formally notify Congress of an arms sale to Israel or other top allies 15 days before proceeding with the transaction. The notice triggers a review period, giving Congress the chance to block the sale via resolution if they have concerns over how the weapons may be used by a foreign country…The Arms Export Control Act, however, allows the president to waive such Congressional review in the event of an emergency involving US national security interests. It is this authority that the Biden administration has invoked to skip Congressional oversight and quickly push through the tank shell sale, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the decision to bypass Congress was necessary because “Israel is in combat right now” and “we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas.”…

This is not the first time the Biden administration has moved to shirk transparency on arms sales to Israel since October 7th. In the past two months, US officials have not made public the number of weapons being delivered to Israel. The administration is also pushing Congress to provide it with the authority to bypass transparency measures—which apply to every other country receiving military assistance—when it comes to sending Israel an additional $14.3 billion in military aid.” See also from Politico: State Department OKs sale of tank ammunition to Israel in deal that bypasses Congress; ‘A disservice to the American public’: Democrats rip Biden over weapons sale to Israel; Kamala Harris pushes White House to be more sympathetic toward Palestinians

Congress Should Ask Hard Questions About Israel Aid,

“First, does Israel actually have financial need?…Additionally, lawmakers should ask whether Israel—already the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid—has used tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military support to date in a way that enhances rather than harms its security…U.S. workers are owed an explanation as to why they should backfill gaps in Israeli military funding that were caused, in part, by settlement activity that only exacerbates a wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government’s unending project of settlement expansion and Palestinian displacement raises another critical question: Will Israel use U.S.-funded weapons in accordance with both U.S. and international law?” See also: U.S. seeks Israeli commitment that assault rifles won’t go to settlers

Opinion: How the U.S. has fueled Israel’s decades-long war on Palestinians,

“Although the United States has strongly supported Israel in every one of its wars since 1948 (with the exception of the 1956 Suez war), its support for this total war on Gaza is unprecedented in several ways. One is President Biden’s blanket rejection of a cease-fire — the words have become taboo in his administration — and his full-throated support for the Israeli war aim of “destroying Hamas,” apparently to be achieved with massacres of thousands of civilians and the devastation of the entire Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people…Another is Biden’s commitment of major U.S. naval, air and land assets to the region, presumably to prevent a widening of the conflict…Yet another unprecedented element has slipped under the media radar. This was U.S. support at the outset of the current war for Israel’s pushing all or part of the population of the Gaza Strip into Egypt. This support was never avowed, but was revealed by the fierce rejections of the proposal by Egypt and Jordan, and by the White House’s funding request to Congress on Oct. 20 for aid for Ukraine and Israel…Yet another unprecedented element has slipped under the media radar. This was U.S. support at the outset of the current war for Israel’s pushing all or part of the population of the Gaza Strip into Egypt. This support was never avowed, but was revealed by the fierce rejections of the proposal by Egypt and Jordan, and by the White House’s funding request to Congress on Oct. 20 for aid for Ukraine and Israel.”

Ukraine and Israel and the Two Joe Bidens,

“In Ukraine, Biden has spent two years articulating a stirring argument for a rules-based order. In Israel, he set about burning that argument to the ground. Is a morally consistent foreign policy possible?”

Redefining Antisemitism//Quashing Criticism of Israel & Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

In the Shadow of the Holocaust; How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today.,

“For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time—in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany…The term “open-air prison” seems to have been coined in 2010 by David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary who was then Prime Minister. Many human-rights organizations that document conditions in Gaza have adopted the description. But as in the Jewish ghettoes of Occupied Europe, there are no prison guards—Gaza is policed not by the occupiers but by a local force. Presumably, the more fitting term “ghetto” would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans to that of ghettoized Jews. It also would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated.”


See also Masha Gessen won a ‘political thought’ prize. Then they wrote on Gaza. (WaPo); Masha Gessen to receive Hannah Arendt prize despite backers withdrawing (Middle East Eye: “On Wednesday, the Heinrich Boll Foundation – which was sponsoring the prize – announced its withdrawal from sponsoring the prize, citing an essay by Gessen called “In The Shadow of the Holocaust” written for the New Yorker magazine. In tandem, the city of Bremen also said it had withdrawn support, denying the prize committee a venue for the award ceremony…Gessen said… “Hannah Arendt wouldn’t have gotten the Hannah Arendt prize if you applied those kinds of criteria to it,” they said.”)

Even in time of genocide, Big Tech silences Palestinians,

“The scorching violence against the people of Gaza has been unprecedented. And so have its reverberations online. Palestinians documenting and speaking up against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza have faced relentless censorship and repression, accompanied by an explosion of state-sponsored disinformation, hate speech and calls to violence on social media.

“Following Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, Big Tech set to eliminate content on the war that they claimed violated their rules…This elimination frenzy, run by ill-trained algorithms and further fuelled by pressure from the EU and Israel, has resulted in the disproportionate censorship of critical Palestinian voices, including content creators, journalists, and activists reporting from the ground in Gaza…So far, social media companies do not seem to comprehend the gravity of the situation at hand. Meta, in particular, seems to have learned very little from its role in Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya in 2017. The silencing of Palestinians, while promoting disinformation and violence against them, may have been the modus operandi for social media platforms in the absence of any meaningful accountability. But this round is different. Meta is risking being implicated again in genocide and it must correct course before it is too late.” See also Sen. Elizabeth Warren Questions META over Palestinian Censorship (Intercept)

Harvard Is Ignoring Its Own Antisemitism Experts,

“On October 27th…Harvard president Claudine Gay announced at a Shabbat dinner at Harvard Hillel that she was establishing an advisory group to guide her efforts to combat antisemitism on campus…But while Gay’s letter suggests that the task force will explore what she casts as a worrisome relationship between antisemitism and activism for Palestinian rights, none of its members have conducted scholarly research into this supposed intersection. Most notably absent from the advisory group was Derek Penslar, the director of Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies and a leading scholar of Zionism and its critics…Why wasn’t Penslar chosen? One likely factor is that he signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA), which states that “criticizing or opposing Zionism” is not necessarily antisemitic. By contrast, most of the people appointed to the advisory group—none of whom have Penslar’s expertise—have made public statements alleging that anti-Zionism is antisemitic, or are affiliated with organizations that hold that view. Though Gay’s email claims that the advisory group is committed to “bringing our teaching and research mission” to bear in the fight against antisemitism, the group’s composition suggests that its members were selected less for their scholarly credentials than for their political beliefs, which align with those of influential donors, some of whom have already withdrawn funding or have threatened to do so.” See also U.S. Campus Wars | A Despicable Campaign to Exploit Antisemitism and Suppress pro-Palestinian Voices (Naftali Kaminski//Haaretz)