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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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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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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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.

Israel’s latest shameful attacks on UNRWA

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…
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To the people of Gaza: Empathy and admiration, not ‘pity’

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.

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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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