I was planning to write a quick essay here about how the Houthis’ robust pro-Gaza-ceasefire actions in the Red Sea have further strengthened the already clear (can we say “ironclad”?) tie-up between Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and the massive shifts now underway in the balance of global power.
I will get to that a little more, below. But meantime the confrontations in the Red Sea and the adjacent Gulf of Aden seem to be escalating—along with the tensions between the U.S. ground/expeditionary forces at the crucial confluence of the Syria-Iraq-Jordan borders, where on Sunday, local anti-U.S. militias killed three U.S. service-members and injured dozens more in a drone attack.
In the global diplomacy over Gaza, much attention has been paid to the (not notably successful) missions that Sec. of State Blinken and CIA Director Bill Burns have been undertaking to try to win that ever-elusive Gaza-Israel ceasefire. Much less attention has been paid to the trip that Biden’s National security Advisor Jake Sullivan made to Bangkok last Friday, where he met with top PRC diplomat Wang Yi to try to persuade Wang to pressure Iran to rein in the Houthis’ actions in the Red Sea.
Above, an UNRWA school in Gaza serving as a shelter for thousands of Palestinians displaced by Israel’s assault
Let us be clear. Israel—a country whose entire existence is the result of the Partition Plan for Palestine that the United Nations adopted in 1947—has a long and serious record of defying U.N. resolutions. Then suddenly, on Friday, Israeli government spokesmen surfaced their accusation that 12 staff members of the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, had been involved in some way in the Hamas-led breakout into Israel on October 7.
Think about it:
The existence those accusations was publicized on the exact same day the International Court of Justice was scheduled to announce its interim ruling on South Africa’s accusation that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.Quelle coincidence! Hey, to the governments and government lackeys of the world: Don’t look over there at The Hague; Look over here! (Presumably, though, whatever “evidence” the Israeli authorities had been basing their accusations on must have been gathered many weeks ago and may also have been shared with the UNRWA head a while ago, too.)
The nature of the accusations has never been revealed. All that we have been told is that they involved 12 members of an UNRWA workforce in Gaza that totals 13,000 people (of whom, by the way, more than 150 have already been killed in Israel’s bombardment.) But neither Israel nor UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini, with whom the accusations were earlier shared, has ever revealed any of the relevant details such as: what acts those staff members were accused of; what level of staff members they were; and whether they were given any chance to refute the accusations.
Instead, according to both Israeli officials and Lazzarini, Israel had shared the accusations—at some undisclosed earlier date—with him and his staff; and at some later date he fired the 12 accused staff members. We have heard no information from UNRWA, which is an international public body, regarding: when all that happened; what kind of an internal investigative process Lazzarini pursued, and how long it took; and what were the results of any such investigation. Hey, for all we know, the Israelis may have initially accused many more than those 12 people who lost their jobs, and UNRWA was able to refute many of those accusations? We don’t know. But doesn’t the global public that pays Lazzarini’s salary deserve to know all this?
So on January 26, immediately upon the Israelis revealing the existence of its accusations and of UNRWA’s firing of the 12 individuals, the U.S. government and half a dozen other “White”-country governments all decided to withhold their contributions to all of UNRWA, with immediate effect. This was kowtowing to the government of Israel of the very first order! One can only assume that all these governments were just delighted to have some Gaza-related news to react to (and to contribute to) that was not the ICJ’s very clear, anti-Israel ruling…
The photo above, by Maureen Clare Murphy, shows a kite displayed at a memorial gathering held in Chicago for my friend the assassinated Gaza writer Refaat Alareer
I haven’t written much here recently. In the past two months I’ve been really busy with the book-publishing business, from which I’d earlier hoped I could start to retire. But my publishing company, Just World Books, has long had a strong list of titles on Gaza, and by Gaza-Palestinian authors, so there’s been a huge run on our books… Plus, on December 6, our wonderful author/editor Refaat Alareer, a professor of literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, was assassinated by Israel; and I’ve been doing what I could to defend his legacy and ensure that the works he edited (and contributed to) get as wide a distribution as possible.
I have also been working on a longer essay for a national publication about the clearly massive impact the Gaza crisis has already had, and will continue to have, on the dynamics of global power. Stay tuned for that… Oh, and with my dear Gaza-Palestinian colleague Dr. Yousef Aljamal and a talented new Irish pal called Tony Groves we’ve gotten our new Palestine-focused podcast, the PalCast, up and running. Hey, we’ve now released eighteen episodes of it! (Catch it at Apple, Spotify, or other good podcast platforms.)
So of course this means I’ve continued to follow all the developments unfolding in (and swirling very broadly around) the Gaza crisis pretty closely. I’ve also been networking with numerous other individuals and organizations that are pushing for a speedy ceasefire there and the launching of a serious, U.N.-led project to end Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including E. Jerusalem), and Golan, once and for all.
In these contacts, I’ve encountered quite a few people outside Gaza who admit to feeling “hopeless” to effect change there; and many of those people, and others, frequently express pity for the situation of the 2.3 million people of Gaza. I’ve thought quite a lot about that stance, and my general reaction is as follows: #1, Hopelessness/despair cannot be an option, especially for those of us who are outside Gaza. #2, I’m increasingly of the view that “pity” is a patronizing, othering, and somewhat self-paralyzing kind of response to the situation Gaza’s people are facing, under Israel’s truly outrageous genocidal assault.
What I would urge is that those of us outside Gaza should instead view the situation of the people there with a radical and empowering form of empathy for all of them, and with admiration for the steadfastness and resilience they and their society have shown in the face of Israel’s almost unfathomable cruelty.