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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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.

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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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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On the Houthi shipping threats

The above image shows a Yemeni Coast Guard vessel guarding the hijacked Israeli-owned vessel Galaxy Leader

This is a Twitter thread I posted Wednesday, about the (economic!) effectiveness of the attacks and threats that Yemen’s Houthis have been making against Israel-related shipping trying to transit the Bab el-Mandeb straits.

Just in case it’s not accessible there I have uploaded the PDF of that thread here. And below, you’ll find (non-clickable) screengrabs of those pages. If you want clickable, go to the first link I put above.

(Just an update Friday afternoon: Reuters reported that France, Italy, and Spain– all of which SecDef Lloyd Austin had earlier announced would be members of the counter-Houthi ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ coalition– had all declared that they would not be; but their navies would continue coordinating with the U.S. Navy under previously existing arrangements. France and Norway also seemed to be pulling back from Austin’s OPG bravura…)

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On the Gaza crossings monitoring mechanism

Yesterday, I wrote a fairly substantial Twitter thread on the freight-crossings monitoring mechanism that’s a critical point of contention as the UN Security Council this week attempts to pass a meaningful resolution on a ceasefire (or even just a “suspension of hostilities”) in Gaza.

It’s a bit of a wonkish, insidery issue but since it has acquired such importance at the SC, I took that deep dive into it yesterday. You can read the whole thread here. That’s where you’ll need to access it if you want clickable links.

By the way if you’re interested in Israeli controls of *people* needing or wanting to cross into or out of Gaza, go read this excellent thread that the currently exiled Gazan Sarah Ali posted yesterday.

Anyway, here’s the content of my thread from yesterday, non-clickably (with two typos corrected):

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