Chaos, collusion, and catastrophe: Biden and the genocide in Gaza

Pres. Biden’s disastrous performance in the June 27 debate sent waves of horror through all supporters of the U.S. Democratic Party and spurred a gathering wave of Democratic activists at all levels desperate to find a way to replace him at the head of the party ticket in the upcoming election. After the debate, numerous groups of other influential Biden supporters including big political donors and several of the “Western” allies who interacted with him at last month’s G-7 summit in Italy came forward to say that recently many of them had also seen signs of a marked decline in his cognitive functioning.

It is now increasingly clear that, as he has been (allegedly?) working to end the intense, genocidal crisis in Gaza, Biden has been operating in a mental cloud cuckoo-land of his own creation, untethered from any ability to comprehend either what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians in Gaza or– more crucially– the fairly simple steps that he could take to end the crisis by insisting on Israeli compliance with the terms of the 3-phase ceasefire+hostage deal that has clearly been attainable since March or April.

The most charitable thing one can say about Biden’s performance regarding the genocide in Gaza is that he has been operationally AWOL from being able to run U.S. policy in response to the crisis, and that Washington’s very muddled actions and inactions regarding the crisis have instead been the result of ad-hoc decisions taken by his– extremely unqualified– staffers. Those would be primarily his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and his National security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Neither of those men has any longstanding basis of expertise, wisdom, or judgment that is independent of the role they have both played for the overwhelming bulk of their careers, as staff members for a Joe Biden chronically seeking re-election, whether in the Senate, in the Vice President’s office– or now in the White House: yes, the very White House that is now in such deep chaos.

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Israel’s path to defeat: The implications

The image above is a still from footage a Hizbullah drone recently shot of a key Israeli naval base in Haifa

Today, nearly nine months into Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, the evidence is mounting that the country’s political-military leadership is on a path to serious defeat not only in Gaza but also more broadly in its decades-long contest against West Asia’s Iran-led “Axis of Resistance.” This fact is only just starting to receive some glimmers of recognition in the corporate media in the West. (Interestingly, one of the few to give it any public acknowledgment at all has been lifelong Zionist apologist Tom Friedman, who did so in some key portions of this June 18 column. Most of the other Zionist apologists who are deeply embedded in the US elite are still publicly spinning fairy tales of “an imminent defeat for Hamas.”)

The defeat towards which the Israeli leadership is currently hurtling is, as I noted, not only in Gaza, where numerous, apparently well-coordinated, cells of armed resisters have been making smart use of the rubble to which the Israeli military has reduced most of the Strip’s buildings, as well as their own tunnels, to launch well-prepared and often lethal attacks on Israel’s tanks, APCs, and snipers across the length and breadth of the Strip… and where Israel’s grotesquely genocidal attacks and other policies have notably failed to turn the population against Hamas. (Find more on the evidence for that key political fact, below.) But this defeat looms also in the ever-tense, but until now somewhat controlled, confrontation Israeli forces have been engaged in in the North, against Hizbullah fighters who are considerably more lethally armed than the Hamas fighters of Gaza and who have continued to upgrade their capabilities almost continuously in the 18 years since they last inflicted a decisive defeat on Israel’s military, in summer 2006.

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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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The geopolitical impact of the ICC’s actions on Gaza

I want to pen some quick thoughts on this topic– not least because in the years 2001-06 I conducted some pretty serious research on the whole matter of “criminal liability/accountability” in individuals in cases of atrocious war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide… And in 2007 I published a whole book on the whole, then fairly recent, emergence of a set of “international courts” that sought to hold leaders and other high-ranking perpetrators criminally responsible for their acts, irrespective of whether they carried out those acts while in political/military office or not. (Most often, they had been in office.)

Two people whom I honored to call friends and colleagues have issued very powerful commentaries on yesterday’s announcement by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan that he is applying for arrest warrants regarding the situation in Gaza, for Israeli PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and for Hamas General Secretary Ismail Haniyeh and the Gaza-based military-political heads Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif.

These two commentaries come from Jonathan Cook and from Noura Erakat.

Cook’s piece is headed thus:

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Some key resources for understanding Hamas

(This post on Globalities is a work in progress, as I’m planning to add additional resources and more commentary onto it. It is part of Just World Ed’s preps for the launch later this month of our forthcoming Online Learning Hub “Understanding Hamas and the Gaza/Palestinian Resistance”. Stay tuned for news of that launch! ~HC)

Part 1. Hamas’s goals, actions in the Oct. 7 breakout

Ghazi Hamad interview with LBC (Lebanon), 24 Oct 2023In this interview, Hamad, a hardline, veteran Hamas leader, stated that Hamas would repeat Oct.7 again and again until it “finishes” Israel. He called for an end to the Israeli occupation, defining that to include the 1948 lands as well as those seized in 1967. (Source: Memri.)
Hamas’s official “Our Narrative” for Operation Al-Aqsa Flood (PDF), 21 Jan 2024Hamas issued this 18-page explainer in late January after what was almost certainly a lot of internal discussion on its text. The explainer states that the goals of the operation were wholly military, but it admits there may have been some violations of international law committed and calls for an independent international investigation of all the events of October 7. The text also contains an outline of Hamas’s history and current political position. (Source: Hamas’s account on Telegram, in English.)
Al-Jazeera’s hour-long investigation into October 7, 21 Mar 2024Al-Jaz’s summary says that this report, “reveals widespread human rights abuses by Hamas fighters and others who followed them through the fence from the Gaza Strip… [But the investigation] has also found that many of the stories that came out in the days following the attack were false.” The report pulls together much of the material previously published by Electronic Intifada, The Greyzone, etc, that debunks Israel’s more lurid claims of atrocities, and also includes impressive commentary from London-based experts.
What Is Hamas Thinking Now? (Huffpost), 6 Apr 2024Akbar Shahid Ahmed, an apparently non-Arabic-speaking journo from Huffpost, went to Qatar at the end of March 2024 and secured interviews, either separately or together, with Hamas leaders Mousa Abu Marzouk and Basem Naim. His write-up gives intriguing excerpts from their statements on the goals of the Oct 7 breakout, the ongoing hostage negotiations, and Hamas’s broader strategic/political position. Ahmed admits that prior to publication he “shared key Hamas statements included in this article with spokespeople at the State Department, the National Security Council at the White House and Israel’s embassy in Washington…” (A strange practice for a journalist.)

Part 2: History of Hamas

“Hamas” explainer from MakanBasic explainer of the history of Hamas from its founding in 1987-88 through October 7, 2023. Makan is a UK-based educational organization focusing on Palestinian issues.
Hamas charter as revised in Spring 2017The link at left provides the full text of the 2017 version of the charter, adopted after extensive internal consultations. This revision of the 1988 original version is widely judged (including here) to have made three main changes: Hamas came closer than before to accepting a two-state situation in Palestine/Israel, even if only as a temporary measure; it cut out most or all of the anti-Semitic language of 1988; and it codified Hamas’s separation from the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Hamas Contained, by Tareq Baconi (Stanford UP, 2018) Excellent study of the movement, drawing strongly from its own publications, but also some interviews and other materials. Baconi completed the manuscript shortly after Hamas’s adoption of the new, 2017 charter. Despite the title of the book, Baconi wrote (p.248), “There is little doubt that another conflagration is forthcoming”, though he predicted this would follow the pattern of previous (very damaging but politically inconclusive) Israeli “lawn-mowing” exercises.
“Hamas’s Next Steps”, 3 May 2006Report I published in Boston Review based on a reporting trip I made to Gaza and the West Bank a few weeks after the PA parliamentary elections held in late January 2006. Hamas made the crucial decision to take part in those elections– and then won them. The report includes material from interviews I conducted with Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahhar in Gaza, and other elected Hamas parliamentarians from the West Bank. The conclusion I penned there, predicting that Israel and the U.S. would learn to live with Hamas ruling over at least Gaza and possibly also the West Bank, proved disastrously wrong: in 2007, those two parties and the Ramallah-based PA colluded in trying to launch a coup to overthrow Hamas. Still, some of my interview material and analysis has continuing value…
“Sisterhood of Hamas”, 14 Mar 2006A short-ish report in Salon of the days I spent during my February 2006 reporting trip to Gaza, interviewing and reporting on the activities of some of Hamas’s women leaders and organizers. I thought that covering this little-understood feature of Hamas’s grassroots organizing was important (and I was impressed by the pedagogy they practised in the pre-school I visited with them.) Later, the org’s encouragement of women’s roles outside the home came to seem like one of the key distinctions between Hamas and ISIS.

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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My longform article on Gaza and the shifting global balance

… is now up at the Boston Review website, here. The piece draws on a lot of the writing I did here at Globalities in the nine months of 2023 prior to October 7. The original title I’d given it was “Gaza at the Hinge of History”… Which I still prefer to the one BR gave it, though I realize I’d used “hinge of history” in the title of an essay here last April about the Arabian Peninsular. But hey, these hinges are definitely linked.

I hope you can read the whole of the new BR article. It opens with an intriguing (one hopes) anecdote/observation. The meaty substance comes down near the bottom:

The Gaza crisis, seventeen weeks old at the time of this writing, has not only brought West Asia (and the world) to the brink of a major war. It has sent shockwaves into the heart of a world order that United States took the lead in designing in 1945 and in which, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it has acted as hegemon. Netanyahu and his political allies have adopted an openly confrontational stand not only against the UN’s refugee agency, but also against the UN itself and its highest judicial body, remaining implacably opposed to all those fundamentals of the world system…

Anyway, since BR doesn’t have a Comments section, here is your chance to post any reactions or further thoughts you have about the article, in the Comments box below.