Biden’s super-fuzzy Gaza plan

It is certainly a welcome development that the President of the United States is now– at last– openly on the record calling for a “durable end” to the current “conflict” in Gaza. Much of the context behind Biden’s latest initiative is crystal clear. Just download, if you have a minute, the infographic (PDF) that UN-OCHA posted yesterday about the casualties of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Strip, and scroll through its highlights (lowlights.) They represent unspeakable levels of human misery that have been quite deliberately inflicted on Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, by Israel, and with the full permission until now of the “indispensable nation” that is its ally, the United States of America.

As I often do, I have made a quick review of the “truckloads of aid” portion of the UN-OCHA chart (in the banner image above.) And here you can see a detail from that.

UN-OCHA does keep changing the format of those charts– not least because this crisis keeps going on and on and on, which does present formatting challenges….

What you can see there is the effect on aid deliveries of the assault on Rafah that the Israeli military launched on around May 6-7. Prior to that assault, the number of aid trucks that the Israeli prison guards allowed into Gaza each day averaged 213 trucks/day (compared with 500 trucks/day that they allowed into Gaza prior to October 7.)

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Israel’s two big provocations of April 1

Here are some quick thoughts on the two big military provocations the Israeli government undertook last Monday, April 1. The first, which was undoubtedly deliberate, was the missile attack it launched against an Iranian consular building in Damascus that leveled the building and killed at least five people and possibly as many as 13. Those killed included some high-ranking Iranian military commanders.

On Tuesday, at the request of the governments of Iran, Syria, and Russia, the U.N. Security Council considered the threat that that attack posed to international peace and security. (Attacks on consular premises are judged unlawful under the Charter of the United Nations as well as Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 on on, respectively, Diplomatic and Consular Relations.)

On Wednesday, the government of the United States, Britain, and France prevented the Security Council from issuing any joint statement that would have condemned the attack. That, while Israeli and U.S. forces located across West Asia (the ‘Middle East’) braced for an expected response from the Iranian military.

Meantime, the corporate media in most Western countries were devoting most of their attention to the second of Israel’s April 1 outrages: the deadly attack that Israeli drone operators in Gaza undertook late that evening against three separate vehicles in a convoy run by the Washington-backed aid organization World Central Kitchen. The Israelis killed seven of WCK’s logistics staff, including citizens of Poland, the UK, Australia, a  joint US-Canadian citizen, and a (presumably stateless) Palestinian.

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It’s past time to end the demonization of Hamas

The above image shows leaders of Hamas and Fateh sitting together in Moscow in late February to await a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov

Over the decades, the Palestinian Hamas movement has often been demonized in Western public discourse, but never so thoroughly and virulently as has happened since October 7. This demonization, as exemplified in repeated demands that everyone “condemn Hamas” or in depictions of the movement as constituting “pure evil”, has had real and very damaging consequences. For example, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations three times cast a veto at the Security Council to block resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, attributing that veto mainly to the failure of the resolution in question to include an explicit condemnation of Hamas.

Those vetoes all considerably prolonged the suffering of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Israel’s leaders have led the chorus of voices demanding that everyone condemn Hamas. From October 7 on, those leaders widely touted accounts of the rights violations that, they claimed, Hamas and allied groups had committed inside Israel that day, and used those accounts to argue that Hamas is “just like ISIS.” (It is not.) Then, after media outlets in Israel itself had debunked some of the more lurid and disturbing descriptions of the violations of October 7, PM Netanyahu and his ministers still continued to anathematize the movement and to argue that that they needed to continue their devastating military offensive in Gaza until they completely “destroy” it.

But even while Israeli and U.S. leaders continued in every public forum to push their hard-hitting campaign to excoriate and exclude Hamas, at the same time behind closed doors in Cairo, Doha, or Paris they have often been working hard to pursue the indirect negotiations with the Hamas leaders that they know are needed if the Israeli hostages are ever to be released. What hypocrites. And during the seven-day pause in fighting that Israel and the United States negotiated with Hamas last November, Hamas delivered on its promises. (There are contending accounts of which side was responsible for the ending of that pause. But its first 6.5 days passed according to the negotiated plan and saw the release of 105 Israeli hostages.)

Also, lest we forget, after the UN Security Council finally on March 25 adopted a ceasefire resolution that demanded an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, Hamas speedily expressed it support for the resolution, while the government of Israel rejected it.

The tough campaign that Israel’s leaders and their backers worldwide have pursued to demonize and exclude Hamas as much as possible is nothing new. When I grew up in England in the 1950s and 1960s, British and other Western leaders leaders kept up a chorus of condemnation of the “primitive violence” of anti-colonial movements like that of the Mau Mau in Kenya or the FLN in Algeria. A little later, American leaders were using the same kinds of demonizing tropes to belittle and anathematize the forces that resisted the large-scale colonial-style violence that Washington deployed in Vietnam.

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Ramadan coming. Gazans starving. U.S. policy in chaos. Hamas sketches political future.

The image above is of Dr. Khaled Qadomi. It’s a screengrab from the recent interview he gave to British Channel 4 tv

These past couple of days have seen several important revelations and analyses related to Israel’s still-continuing genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. I don’t have time to delve deeply into any of them. But here, to help establish a record, is information about four such revelations/analyses that I see as most consequential:

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Aaron Bushnell’s courageous activism for a Gaza ceasefire

On Sunday (Feb.25), Aaron Bushnell, a serving member of the US Air Force, undertook a stunningly focused and courageous act of self-immolation at the gates of the Israeli Embassy here in Washington DC, protesting Israel’s attacks against Gaza and calling for a ceasefire.

Bushnell had set up a camera and livestreamed himself on “Twitch” as he delivered a statement expressing his strong opposition to Israel’s genocide in Gaza and declaring that he no longer wanted to be complicit in it. He then doused himself with kerosene and set fire to his body, while continuing to shout for a “Free Palestine”.

Still from Bushnell’s video

I did not watch the whole video. Those who did describe Bushnell’s demeanor as composed, serious, and very focused. Accounts in the corporate media have tried to imply that he was deranged… or a member of a Christian “cult”… or even (gasp!) an anarchist. News that has come out from his friends and colleagues indicates, by contrast, that he was a good participant in a mutual-aid project in Ohio that offered food for unhoused and indigent people there, and also that he was due to leave the Air Force in May after serving for four years.

There were some reports that he had worked in intelligence in the Air Force, in which case he may have known more than most of us about the volume of the intel and targeting help that the U.S. Air Force has been giving to Israel as part of Biden’s support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

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The politics of ending Gaza’s misery

(The above charts are taken from UN-OCHA’s summary report of December 29, on the casualties in the Gaza-Israel crisis. The following essay was first distributed in my newsletter series for Just World Ed.)

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza of course should stay top of mind, but I’ve always been very wary of attempts to divorce intense humanitarian crises from the very real political factors that so often, as in this case, underlie them. The intense crisis that Gaza’s 2.3 million people are suffering is absolutely not the result of a “natural” disaster, but the result of very deliberate policies– political projects– pursued by the leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian (Hamas-led) sides, as well as those pursued by influential allies including, on the Israeli side, primarily the United States.

Hence, the ending/resolution of the crisis requires political decisions, not just “humanitarian” action. (And as has been clear all along even the attainment of humanitarian goals in this crisis, such as the release of hostages/prisoners or the delivery of aid, requires clear political decisionmaking by many of the involved parties.)

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U.N. Security Council resolution on Gaza: text

At noon ET today, the Security Council finally adopted a (notably watered-down) resolution on the Gaza crisis, resolution 2720. Unlike the resolution passed by the General Assembly earlier this month, it did not call for a ceasefire in Gaza, or even (as an earlier draft of the UNSC resolution had) for a “suspension” of hostilities in Gaza. Instead, it called only on all parties to “create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Even with this highly watered-down version, the U.S. ambassador would not vote FOR the resolution. She abstained, citing as her main criticism the fact that it made no mention of “condemning” the actions that Hamas and its partners engaged in in Israel on October 7.

Thirteen of the SC’s 15 members voted for the resolution. Only two abstained: the United States and Russia. Russia had wanted a much stronger resolution.

You can read the UN news center’s account of the day’s events, and find the whole text of resolution 2720, here.

Here are the operational parts of the resolution (after all the preamble, that is):

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The clocks ticking for Gaza (political and otherwise)

For the most of the 2.3 million Palestinians of Gaza, time has entered a horrifying and quite disorienting warp. How long since they were able to feed their children? How long to remain crammed into an insecure tent as winter’s rains lash? How long till the dysentery takes a loved one? How long since a father, uncle, brother was taken away, stripped nearly naked, and trucked to a distant prison camp? Above all: How much longer now till the crashing of Israeli bombs and bulldozers, the crack of sniper fire, the relentless buzz of drones all finally fall silent?

How long till a ceasefire? How long?

Pres. Joe Biden has, as we know, firmly blocked all the moves the Global Majority has taken to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza-Israel fighting. Well-connected reporters in Israel have written that the message Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan gave during the meeting he held yesterday with Israel’s war cabinet was that Biden could only “allow” Israel a few more weeks before he starts calling for a ceasefire.

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Commentaries on Gaza, on Twitter

Over the weekend, I became intrigued and impressed by some very substantial commentaries on the Gaza crisis that the super-smart Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani has been posting on Twitter. Today, he has two more. I invite you all to read them, which even if you’re not on Twitter you can do in these downloadable PDFs:

Each of these threads is very well worth reading.

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The record of Gaza’s ‘humanitarian pauses’

We are nearing the end of the sixth day (in West Asia) of the daily ‘humanitarian pauses’ that have been painstakingly negotiated between the Hamas military/political leadership and their Israeli counterparts, via a trail that goes through Qatar and Egypt, with the Biden administration also eager to take a lot of credit. The first of those pauses was agreed to be four days long, then there was a two-day extension. Right now there are reports that Hamas is offering a further extension of two or even more days, on basically similar terms.

These arrangements have four well-known components: a strong bilateral restriction on conducting hostilities; Hamas’s release of an agreed daily number woman, children, and non-Israeli captives; Israel’s release of an agreed daily number of Palestinians women and children captives, on a basis of 3-to-1; and Israel’s “permission” to aid organizations to send an agreed number of aid trucks into Gaza, in a greed manner, each day.

The fact that these terms have been largely met by both sides for six days is very significant. Primarily, it shows that Hamas’s command-and-control apparatus in Gaza remained fundamentally intact even after the extreme pounding (bombing from land, sea, and air, use of large tank and other ground-force formations, etc) that Israel inflicted on Gaza for seven weeks prior to the start of the ‘pauses’. Hamas showed it was able to abide by the ceasefire provisions and impose discipline on other Gaza groups that might have sought not to. Hamas showed it was able to organize at least one release of hostages from within the (northern) environs of Gaza City, which the IDF had previously encircled and on which it had inflicted a terrible, Dresden/Stalingrad degree of damage.

I also want to give a strong and awed shoutout to the resilience, dignity, and commitment of the people of Gaza. They have suffered almost unimaginable harm over the past 54 days. The Government Media Office there reports that “more than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including about 6,150 children and 4,000 women.” Untold thousands have been injured. 1.7 million Gaza Palestinians have been displaced. Most of the Strip’s hospitals and many other public-use buildings have been destroyed. Schools have been turned into refugee camps (and several of them also destroyed.) The ‘pauses’ allowed many Gazans to go out and about and to see the extent and degree of the physical damage, and also to see the remains of unburied corpses on the streets and in pancaked buildings. Despite all this, there have been very few mass melees around arriving aid trucks. On the day that cooking gas was delivered to a station in central Gaza, Gazans arranged their families’ gas canisters in an orderly line that reportedly stretched for two kilometres.

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