May 21, 2018
Phyllis Bennis

In These Times
The Gaza massacre is a war crime. And the United States is complicit alongside Israel.

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag as Israeli soldiers crack down on demonstrators to remark the ‘Great March of Return’ east of Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on April 11, 2018, Photo by Hassan Jedi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


We watch a split screen. On one side: celebrations of the new U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem. The president’s daughter, son-in-law, cabinet officials, Congress members, all smiling, proud. The U.S. ambassador, longtime settlement financier David Friedman, joins Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, his family, cabinet officials, Knesset members—all waiting for President Trump to join their festivities.

There is little question that the U.S. decision to schedule the embassy opening for May 14 was designed to be a major provocation.

The other screen: solemn faces, tears, teenagers splayed across makeshift stretchers carried by other teenagers to waiting ambulances. Tear gas so thick one can’t see through it even on a television or computer screen. Sharpshooters, with live fire coming so fast that casualty counters can’t keep up. It’s 38 dead—just in one day. No, it’s 40. And then it turns out it’s nearly 60. Another 1,500 injured, no it’s more than 2,000 already. Twenty-four hours later it turns out to be more than 2,400. Not a single Israeli has been killed—the dead are all Palestinians. The killers, the maimers, the shooters, the gassers, are all Israeli soldiers.

And Jared Kushner says that the Palestinian protesters, whom he defines as “those who provoke violence,” are “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

But the split screen is an illusion: There is only one screen, framing both the embassy carnival and the Gaza massacre. The same screen includes Netanyahu and Trump, as well as people like Sheldon Adelson and the rest of their joint backers across the United States. And the same screen includes Palestinians. Some appear as they are killed in unprecedented numbers, shot by Israeli sharpshooters who claim their commanders approve every bullet’s target. And the others, the living, continue to remind the world that they are here. They are human. They are a nation, and they have human rights.

Some of the embassy backers, like the evangelical Christian Zionists John Hagee and Robert Jeffress who offered prayers and praise of Israel and racist hatred towards Palestinians, claim to speak in the word of God. They celebrate U.S. collaboration with the Israeli government to the tune of 3.8 billion American tax dollars that Washington sends directly to the Israeli military every year.

Trump says the United States will always be a friend to Israel “and” support a lasting peace, only one of many such lies. The Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is about reminding the world that Israel is the strategic ally of the United States, and that Palestinians are not. This U.S. maneuver is not about protecting Jews: This is about Israel’s claim to the land of the Palestinians. Israel’s mass killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza is part of that message: Palestinian land belongs to Israel, and Palestinian lives don’t matter.

There is little question that the U.S. decision to schedule the embassy opening for May 14 was designed to be a major provocation. Of course, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the embassy to Jerusalem in violation of international law and a host of UN Security Council resolutions, constituted major acts of aggression to begin with. Trump said the festivities were timed to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday—citing the declaration of the state on May 14, 1948. But Israelis’ own celebration was based on the Hebrew lunar calendar, which placed the anniversary back in April. The United States chose May 14 because the day after is the Palestinians’ annual commemoration of the Nakba: the catastrophe of dispossession from their land, the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, and Israel’s continuing denial of those Palestinians and their descendants to exercise their internationally guaranteed right to return to their homes. And Nakba Day, as it is widely known, was to be the culmination of the Great March of Return.

But plans for the Gaza protests were underway before the embassy opening was announced. Palestinians were continuing to protest the devastation of their lives in Gaza caused by Israeli wars against the impoverished, crowded strip of land. They were protesting the 11-year-old siege that has kept 2 million Gazans locked into an open-air prison, denied food, clean water, electricity and contact with the outside world, as well as air, the right to breathe, to travel, to leave and to return. Their demands started with the right to return, guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions and specifically guaranteed to Palestinians by UN resolution 194. So the protests on Monday were not primarily about the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Now, among the thousands of Palestinian casualties, among the scores of Palestinians dead, have been many children. They were shot by Israeli sharpshooters, whose targets were approved by Israeli commanders. Israeli Brigadier General Zvika Fogel defended the practice. In a radio interview last Saturday, he was asked specifically about the killing of children, and answered that “anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation.” The interviewer says, “Then his punishment is death?” And the general responds, “His punishment is death.”

It is a familiar refrain. In another settler-colony, a couple of hundred years earlier, another high-ranking military officer, Col. John Chivington, commanded his Colorado militia to attack Chief Black Kettle’s Cheyenne encampment at Sand Creek. It was November 29, 1864, in the middle of the Indian Wars raging against indigenous people across the United States. Chivington ordered his soldiers to attack the families camped in the pre-dawn morning. Some soldiers resisted, saying that it would violate the military’s promise of protection to the peaceful village. Chivington, a Methodist minister, was having none of it. “I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice,” he said. An estimated 200 Cheyenne, most of them women and children, were killed in the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Gaza massacre is a war crime. And the United States is complicit alongside Israel. U.S. funding of the Israeli military, U.S. protection of Israel in the UN so that Israeli military and political leaders are never held accountable in the International Criminal Court, U.S. provision of its own most advanced weapons systems to Israel—all of these actions make the United States a partner in crime and responsible for the slaughter of children, teenagers, women and men, journalists and medics.

Challenging that U.S. support, demanding accountability for both Israeli and U.S. officials, remains a critical task, however distant its completion. People in the United States should be demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel, petitions to congress, vigils outside the White House, sit-ins at the offices of Congress members determined to back Israel’s most extreme violations of human rights. All are needed, but none are sufficient. The legacy of Sand Creek, the legacy of Gaza, remain the legacies of massacres. It remains our obligation to respond.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer (Interlink, 2015).

Neoliberal Fantasy Undone

May 21, 2018


May 18, 2018

Blaming the Victims of Israel’s Gaza Massacre

by Gregory Shupak

Israel massacred 60 Palestinians on Monday, including seven children, bringing to 101 the total number of Palestinians Israel has killed since Palestinians began the Great March on March 30. In that period, Israel has killed 11 Palestinian children, two journalists, one person on crutches and three persons with disabilities.

Monday’s casualties included 1,861 wounded, bringing total injuries inflicted by Israel to 6,938 people, including 3,615 with live fire. Israel is using bullets designed to expand inside the body, causing maximum, often permanent damage: “The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities,” says Medicins Sans Frontiers (Ha’aretz4/22/18).

On the 70th anniversary of Israel’s so-called “declaration of independence,” the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem—a city Israel claims as its own, despite what international law says on the matter—and Palestinians undertook unarmed protests in reaction to the move and as part of the Great Return March. Although to this point, the only Israeli casualty during the entire cycle of demonstrations has been one “lightly wounded” soldier, considerable space in coverage of the massacres is devoted to blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.

NBC: Scores Dead in Gaza Fence Protest as US Moves Embassy to Jerusalem

NBC (5/14/18) mentions “what Palestinians refer to as their ‘right of return’”; actually, it’s what international law calls it, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘ proclamation that “everyone has the right…to return to his country.”

Two of the first three paragraphs in an NBC report (5/14/18) provided Israel’s rationalizations for its killing spree. The second sentence in the article says that the Israeli military

accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown towards the barrier.

Washington Post article (5/14/18) devoted two of its first four sentences to telling readers that Palestinians are responsible for being murdered by Israel. Palestinian “organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them,” read one sentence. “At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side,” stated the next one, as though stones and burning kites released by a besieged people is violence remotely equivalent to subjecting people to a military siege and mowing them down.

The New York Times (5/14/18) said that “a mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire,” painting Israel’s rampage as a reaction to a Palestinian provocation. Like FAIR (2/21/18) has previously said of the word “retaliation,” “response” functions as a justification of Israeli butchery: To characterize Israeli violence as a “response” is towrongly imply that Palestinian actions warranted Israel unleashing its firing squads.

Yahoo headline (5/14/18) described “Violent Protests in Gaza Ahead of US Embassy Inauguration in Jerusalem,” a flatly incorrect description in that it attributes the violence to Palestinian demonstrators rather than to Israel. The BBC (5/15/18) did the same with a segment called “Gaza Braced for Further Violent Protests.”

Bloomberg: Hamas Vows to Keep Targeting Fence After Gaza Bloodshed

In Bloomberg‘s account (5/14/18), the fence seemed to be the real victim.

One Bloomberg article (5/14/18) by Saud Abu Ramadan and Amy Teibel had the same problem, referring to “a protest marred by violence,” while another one (5/14/18) attributed only to Ramadan is headlined “Hamas Targets Fence as Gaza Bloodshed Clouds Embassy Move,” as though the fence were Monday’s most tragic casualty. Ascribing this phantom violence to Palestinians provides Israel an alibi: Many readers will likely conclude that Israel’s lethal violence is reasonable if it is cast as a way of coping with “violent protests.”

The second paragraph of the Bloomberg article solely written by Ramadan says that

Gaza protesters, egged on by loudspeakers and transported in buses, streamed to the border, where some threw rocks, burned tires, and flew kites and balloons outfitted with firebombs into Israeli territory.

This author—like the rest in the “Palestinians were asking for it” chorus—failed to note that Israel’s fence runs deep into Palestinian territory and creates a 300-meter “buffer zone” between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which makes it highly unlikely that the kites and balloons of the colonized will have an effect on their drone-operating, rifle-wielding colonizers, let alone on people further afield in Israeli-held territory.

The New York Times editorial board (5/14/18) wrote as though Palestinians are barbarians against whom Israel has no choice but to unleash terror:

Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.

The board claimed that “Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza,” incorrectly suggesting that Palestinians were aggressors rather than on the receiving end of 100 years of settler-colonialism.

Moreover, like the Times and Bloomberg articles discussed above, the editorial attempts to legitimize Israel’s deadly violence by saying that it is defending a border that Palestinians are attempting to breach, but there is no border between Gaza and Israel. There is, as Maureen Murphy of Electronic Intifada (4/6/18) pointed out, “an armistice line between an occupying power and the population living under its military rule” that Palestinians are trying to cross in order to exercise their right to return to their land.

WaPo: Hamas Has Launched Another War. Israel Needs a Better Response

The Washington Post (5/15/18) condemned the “cruel, cynical tactic” of trying to exercise the internationally guaranteed right of return.

Washington Post editorial (5/15/18) called the Palestinians hunted by Israel “nominal civilians.” Apart from being a logical impossibility (one either is or isn’t a civilian), the phrase illuminates how too much of media think about Palestinians:  They are inherently threatening, intrinsically killable, always suspect, never innocent, permanently guilty of existing.

Business Insider piece (5/14/18) by columnist Daniella Greenbaum described “Palestinian protesters who ramped up their activities along the Gaza strip and, as a result, were targeted by the Israeli army with increasing intensity.” Greenbaum’s use of the phrase “as a result” implies that it was inevitable and perhaps just that Palestinians’ “ramped up activities” led to Israel mowing down a population it occupies, 70 percent of whom are refugees Israel refuses to allow to return to their homes.

Greenbaum then climbs into the intellectual and moral gutter, claiming that

absent from the commentary that children have unfortunately been among the injured and dead are questions about how they ended up at the border. On that question, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which Palestinians have glorified violence and martyrdom — and the extent to which the terrorist organization Hamas has organized the “protests.”

In her view, dozens of Palestinians died because they are primitive savages who take pleasure in sacrificing their own children, not because Israel maintains the right to gun down refugees in the name of maintaining an ethnostate.

In a rare instance of a resident of Gaza allowed to participate directly in the media conversation, Fadi Abu Shammalah wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (4/27/18) that offered an explanation of why Palestinians are putting their lives on the line to march. Life for the people of Gaza, including for his three young sons, has been “one tragedy after another: waves of mass displacement, life in squalid refugee camps, a captured economy, restricted access to fishing waters, a strangling siege and three wars in the past nine years. ” Recalling the concern for his safety expressed by his seven-year-old child, Shammalah concludes:

If Ali asks me why I’m returning to the Great Return March despite the danger, I will tell him this: I love my life. But more than that, I love you, Karam and Adam. If risking my life means you and your brothers will have a chance to thrive, to have a future with dignity, to live in peace with all your neighbors, in your free country, then this is a risk I must take.

Palestinians have a right to liberate themselves that extends to the right to the use of armed struggle, yet as Shammalah wrote, the Great Return March signifies a “nearly unanimous acceptance of peaceful methods to call for our rights and insist on our humanity.” Nevertheless, based on media coverage, readers could be forgiven for concluding that it was Palestinians, not Israel, who carried out what Doctors Without Borders called “unacceptable and inhuman” violence.

Saree on Killing

May 17, 2018

ONION Strikes Again!

May 17, 2018

Gaza on my Mind

May 16, 2018
The spectacle of US-armed ($3 billion annually) Israeli snipers and mobilized IDF troops picking off unarmed protestors day in and day out is infuriating. The orchestrated campaign inside the US to dehumanize the victims and defend the criminals is despicable. This week, while American royalty toasted Israeli war criminals in Jerusalem, and Christian Zionists anointed the next step toward the End Times and the Second Coming, the butchers murdered in just hours at least 61 unarmed people (including an eight-month-old baby) and injured 3000 more. Israel routinely murders civilians, and then scrambles for a justification. For years the propaganda held that Palestinians were all terrorists engaged in armed struggle, and that was meant to justify extrajudicial killings and ethnic cleansing; when the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement found traction internationally, the propaganda cried anti-semitism and claimed BDS was helping “the terrorists;” this week the propagandists are working overtime to convince Americans that they should not believe “their own lying eyes” or hearts or common sense, but should listen instead to the US ambassador to the UN who called the Israeli war crimes “restrained.” Thousands of people rushing at a fence (it’s not a border by the way) and being mowed down by automatic fire is somehow understandable to the New York Times, NPR, and other powerful media outlets. Note to Tom Friedman and Brett Stephens: Looking up from your roast beef and red wine for a moment, how would you advise the prisoners of Gaza to raise their voices and be heard?Armed struggle, no. BDS, no. Demonstrations at the fence, no. I guess your advice is simple: shut up and die.
Gaza is an “Occupied Territory,” or more accurately the world’s largest open air prison, a concentration camp, a manufactured ghetto to enclose, control, and target the Palestinians trapped there.
Two million Palestinian civilians are inmates in that prison—over half of them children. People are not allowed to leave, and last year scores of people died of treatable medical conditions—several women with breast cancer—because they could not secure permission form Israel to leave the prison for treatment.
Let’s stay with “Occupied Territory” for a moment. Supplies allowed to enter Gaza are strictly controlled by the occupier, and the occupier is responsible by law for the well-being of the population. Israel restricts the import into the prison of concrete, steel cables, epoxy, shipping containers, baby chicks…the list is lengthy and mind-boggling. 95% of the water Israel supplies is polluted.
What is to be done?
Raise your voice. End US military aid to Israel. Support BDS.
Stand with Palestine.

Fresh Ayers

May 16, 2018


May 16, 2018

Paul Gorski on Grit

If you are still on the “grit” of “mindset of poverty” bandwagon, consider this. Compared with schools with low percentages of students experiencing poverty, schools with high percentages of students experiencing poverty are more likely to have:

  • less access to school nurses and college counselors;
  • more limited access to computers and the Internet;
  • inadequate learning facilities such as science labs
  • more teacher vacancies and substitute teachers
  • more teachers unlicensed in their subject areas;
  • less rigorous and student-centered curricula;
  • inoperative or dirty student bathrooms;
  • serious teacher turnover problems;
  • higher student-to-teacher ratios;
  • insufficient classroom materials;
  • fewer extracurricular programs;
  • fewer experienced teachers;
  • lower teacher salaries;
  • larger class sizes; and
  • less funding.

This is on top of all of the out-of-school challenges, such as less access to preventive healthcare, stable housing, and more.

So explain to me how we can meaningfully respond to the impacts of these conditions by completely ignoring these injustices while “fixing” the mindsets, cultures, or grittiness of students or families experiencing poverty.

By the way, this list can be reproduced with great precision for students of color, so stop using grit on them, too.

More David Gilbert

May 14, 2018
Dear friends,
Today show was on North Korea in the first part and the Columbia ‘68 Student strike in the second. Eleanor Stein, Stefan Bradley, and David Gilbert, whose words are read by Jim Lafferty, are featured. Check it out. And get to know David!
Please share.

Loud and Clear

May 8, 2018