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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
October 30, 2023

"In Gaza there's nothing but sand and children."

For those of you who might wonder why there are so many kids in such a desperate place as Gaza—I have to say I was looking for some perspective on this myself—Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who lived in Gaza for many years, addresses this topic in her book Drinking the Sea at Gaza and her take on this makes a lot of sense to me. This book was written in the 90s when the population of Gaza was only a little over half of what it is currently:

“In Gaza there’s nothing but sand and children,” I was told by A., a Jabalia native doing sociological research. He complained that even the younger, modern couples went on having one child after another. Along with my growing wonder at Gazans’ staying power, I began to understand an underlying reason for their extraordinary familial devotion. They clung steadfastly to family, to respect for elder members, and to having large numbers of children as a bulwark—like religion—against the instability and lack of continuity in their lives.

Since 1948, they have been subject to upheaval, to sweeping political changes over which they have no control, and to the constant shadow of sudden, violent death, especially once the intifada began in 1987. Much has been said about how the intifada undermined adult authority, but it is also true that the crushing oppression and daily violence heightened the need to seek consolation among family members, and to use the home to counterbalance the crumbling social framework outside.
October 29, 2023

Palestinian civilians 'didn't deserve to die' in Israeli strikes, US chief security adviser says

Thousands of Palestinians killed in Israel’s attacks on Gaza over the past three weeks “did not deserve to die”, according to the US national security adviser, in a marked softening of the Biden administration’s hardline support of Israel. In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Jake Sullivan, the White House’s chief security adviser, said Hamas is “hiding” behind civilians but that doesn’t lessen Israel’s “responsibility under international humanitarian law and the laws in war to do all in their power to protect the civilian population”.

“There have been deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians in this conflict and that is an absolute tragedy … Those people did not deserve to die. Those people deserve to live lives of peace and safety and dignity,” Sullivan told ABC’s This Week.

At least 8,000 Palestinians including more than 3,300 children and more than 2,000 women have been killed by Israeli’s military bombardment of Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The toll is expected to rise as Israel continues with its ground offensive – in addition to ongoing aerial attacks. Israel’s current offensives were launched in retaliation for the surprise cross-border attack on 7 October in which Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007, killed about 1,400 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages.

“Israel has a right – indeed a duty – to defend itself against terrorists. Israel also has a responsibility to distinguish between terrorists and ordinary civilians,” said Sullivan.

More at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/29/hamas-israel-war-palestinian-civilians-jake-sullivan-comments?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

October 28, 2023

NYT column: I Fought for the I.D.F. in Gaza. It Made Me Fight for Peace.

By Benzion Sanders

When my Israeli infantry unit arrived at the first village in Gaza, in July 2014, we cleared houses by sending grenades through windows, blowing doors open and firing bullets into rooms to avoid ambush and booby traps. We were told Palestinian civilians had fled. I realized this wasn’t true as I stood over the corpse of an elderly Palestinian woman whose face had been mutilated by shrapnel. She had been lying on the sand floor of a shack, in a pool of blood.

…Like the invasion that the Israeli military has said is imminent, that campaign was precipitated by atrocities carried out by Hamas terrorists. On June 12 of that year, Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers; soon after, Israelis murdered a Palestinian teenager. The horrific exchange escalated into a larger conflict; ultimately some 70 Israelis and 2,250 Palestinians were killed over seven weeks. Then, as now, Israelis were told that we were going in to deal a decisive blow to Hamas.

…Those three fateful weeks inside the Gaza Strip transformed me from a deeply religious, Modern Orthodox yeshiva student and West Bank settler into an activist with the movement opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, first with the antiwar veterans organization Breaking the Silence and now with Extend, a group that connects Palestinian and Israeli human rights leaders with American Jewish audiences. All our casualties and the suffering brought on Palestinians in Gaza accomplished nothing since our leaders refused to work on creating a political reality in which more violence would not be inevitable. While I believe in self-defense, fighting in Gaza taught me that if my government doesn’t change its approach from crushing Palestinian hope to committing to Palestinian independence, not only will this war kill an untold number of Israelis and Palestinians in addition to the thousands who already have died, but it also will not decisively end terror. A ground invasion is doomed to failure.

…These periodic episodes of killing and destruction, which Israeli commentators and politicians cynically call “mowing the lawn,” have been a price Israel was willing to pay to avoid being pushed toward a two-state solution. We chose to “manage” the conflict through a combination of brute force and economic incentives, instead of working to solve it by ending our perpetual occupation of Palestinian territory. Many of my Palestinian human rights partners who organize nonviolent protests are targeted and harassed by the Israeli military. I believe these policies have the goal of preventing pressure for a Palestinian state and permitting Israeli settlement development and creeping annexation in the West Bank.

More at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/28/opinion/international-world/gaza-idf-israel-veterans.html?unlocked_article_code=1.6Ew.-fUH.vR98CQ9kPakx&smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare
October 27, 2023

Is there anything more Republican

than a Bible-thumping Speaker of the House who was installed in his chair thanks to the leadership of a guy who crushed Viagara and chased it with Red Bull so he could tomcat all night with underage girls and showed the videos to anyone who would watch on the House floor?

October 26, 2023

It has been another rough day...here's some happiness

Ford and United Auto Workers’ union negotiators reach potential new deal


Shawn Fain is how we win.

“We’re all fed up with living in a world that values profits over people,” Fain said earlier this month. “We’re all fed up with seeing the rich get richer while the rest of us just continue to scrape by. We’re all fed up with corporate greed and together, we’re going to fight like hell to change it.”


October 23, 2023

Kristof: We Must Not Kill Gazan Children to Try to Protect Israel's Children

The crisis in the Middle East is a knotty test of our humanity, asking how to respond to a grotesque provocation for which there is no good remedy. And in this test, we in the West are not doing well. The acceptance of large-scale bombing of Gaza and of a ground invasion likely to begin soon suggests that Palestinian children are lesser victims, devalued by their association with Hamas and its history of terrorism. Consider that more than 1,500 children in Gaza have been killed, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and around one-third of Gaza homes have been destroyed or damaged in just two weeks — and this is merely the softening-up before what is expected to be a much bloodier ground invasion.

…The United States speaks a good deal about principles, but I fear that President Biden has embedded a hierarchy of human life in official American policy. He expressed outrage at the massacres of Jews by Hamas, as he should have, but he has struggled to be equally clear about valuing Gazan lives. And it’s not always evident whether he is standing four-square with Israel as a country or with its failed prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime obstacle to peace.

…In his speech on Thursday, Biden called for America to stand firmly behind Ukraine and Israel, two nations attacked by forces aiming to destroy them. Fair enough. But suppose Ukraine responded to Russian war crimes by laying siege to a Russian city, bombing it into dust and cutting off water and electricity while killing thousands and obliging doctors to operate on patients without anesthetic. I doubt we Americans would shrug and say: Well, Putin started it. Too bad about those Russian children, but they should have chosen somewhere else to be born.

…The best answer to this test is to try even in the face of provocation to cling to our values. That means that despite our biases, we try to uphold all lives as having equal value. If your ethics see some children as invaluable and others as disposable, that’s not moral clarity but moral myopia. We must not kill Gazan children to try to protect Israeli children.

More at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/21/opinion/israel-gaza-palestine-children.html?unlocked_article_code=1.40w.v7UG.4WZQwsV6xF_9&smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare
October 22, 2023

Corporations are voting with their investment dollars for Bidenomics

But if they don’t start speaking up they run the risk of losing all the incentives that are driving their decisions.

From Barrons:

Siemens’ U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton made an unusual plea for these politically fractured times in a recent Financial Times interview. She called on beneficiaries of infrastructure investment—her company is one of them—to tell voters how important that government policy is for the economy. The Biden administration championed infrastructure investment, and Congress passed it in bipartisan bills in 2021. But a change of government could imperil the tax breaks and subsidies that are just starting to modernize the U.S. economy and fight climate change.

Infrastructure investment is a “transcendent and nonpartisan issue,” she said. Businesses need to speak up, she added, “so that whoever is sitting in the White House or whoever’s legislating on Capitol Hill knows the importance of this to American workers, to American families, and frankly, to our national security.” Humpton has a point. Republicans in the presidential race and in Congress are attacking Bidenomics. Former President Trump recently called automakers “stupid or gutless” for investing in electric cars. Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, described Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act—focused on rebuilding American industry and weaning the country off fossil fuels—as a “communist manifesto filled with tax hikes and green subsidies that benefit China.”

…It didn’t used to be rare to hear from executives like Siemens’ Humpton. CEOs spoke up on affirmative action hiring after the murder of George Floyd, stopped doing business with gunmakers after a series of school massacres, and supported employees in anti-abortion states. Then came the conservative backlash against “woke,” and a series of red state policies that look an awful lot like retribution for business leaders speaking their minds. Plenty of companies have said they’re eager to participate in publicly funded projects, but Humpton seems alone in citing the looming risks to Biden’s economic policies and calling on her fellow leaders to speak out in support of federal economic policies that will broadly benefit the U.S. economy. They’re going to be on the ballot next year, whether voters know it or not.

We can argue about whether business should get involved in the politics of abortion or saving democracy (I vote yes), but this is about the economy. Business is already voting with its investment dollars. Now it’s time for business leaders to speak up and take a political stand.

October 20, 2023

Thomas Friedman: No new economic aid to Israel unless settlement expansion ceases

…I’m all for helping Israelis and Palestinian civilians at this time — but not without some very visible strings attached. If Israel needs weapons to protect itself from Hamas and Hezbollah, by all means ship them. But in terms of broader economic aid for Israel, it should be provided only if Israel agrees not to build even one more settlement in the West Bank — zero, none, no more, not one more brick, not one more nail — outside the settlement blocs and the territory immediately around them, where most Jewish settlers are now clustered and which Israel is expected to retain in any two-state solution with the Palestinians. (Netanyahu’s coalition agreement actually vows to annex the whole of the West Bank.)

…For way too long U.S. economic and military aid has allowed Netanyahu to have his cake and eat it too — to fund the insane settlement project, and maintain an advanced military, while not having to raise taxes on the whole Israeli public to pay for it all. While Israel got U.S. aid in one hand, the budget of its Ministry of Defense paid to build roads for settlers with the other hand. Uncle Sam’s wallet, indirectly, was the slush fund for Netanyahu’s politics. So no, we’re not telling Netanyahu what to do in Gaza — Israel is a sovereign country. We’re just going to tell him what we’re not going to do anymore — because we happen to be a sovereign country too.

America has been indirectly funding Israel’s slow-motion suicide — and I am not just talking settlements. Look at what Netanyahu did last June. To buy off the ultra-Orthodox parties he needs in his coalition to keep himself out of jail on corruption charges, Netanyahu’s government gave the ultra-Orthodox and the settlers “an unprecedented increment in allocations … including full funding of schools to not teach English, science and math,” explained Dan Ben-David, a macroeconomist who has focused on the interaction between Israel’s demography and education at Tel Aviv University, where he heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research. “This budgetary increment alone is more than Israel invests each year in higher education altogether — or 14 years of complete funding for the Technion, Israel’s M.I.T.,” Mr. Ben-David said. “It is completely nuts.”

Bottom line: Netanyahu has a completely incoherent strategy right now — eliminate Hamas in Gaza while building more settlements in the West Bank that undermine the only decent long-term Palestinian alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, which Israel needs to safely leave Gaza.

October 18, 2023

The danger of leaving things be: how the world 'failed miserably' in the Middle East

Amid Israel’s turn to the right and the resurgence of armed groups in the Palestinian territories, recent horrific events highlight the dangers of diplomatic inaction

…At the US behest, the Israelis came to the Red Sea port of Aqaba in Jordan on 26 February 2023 to meet Arab leaders and pledge a four-month moratorium (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/26/israeli-and-palestinian-security-chiefs-meet-in-jordan-for-talks) on settlements. It was the first negotiation between the two sides in 10 years.

But before the ink was dry on the communique, it was repudiated. Netanyahu simply denied that Israel had committed to halting new settlement projects during the summit. A second summit at Sharm el-Sheikh on 19 March repeated the same pledges, and this time spoke of developing “a mechanism” to curb and counter violence, incitement, and inflammatory statements and actions.

Regardless, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, was openly denying the existence of the Palestinian ethnic group. “The Palestinian people are an invention of less than a hundred years. Do they have a history, a culture? No, they do not. There are no Palestinians, there are just Arabs.”Far from punishing Smotrich, Netanyahu in June rewarded him by handing all control over planning approval for construction in West Bank settlements to him. Could Biden have done more to constrain the actions of the Israeli government?

The Democratic left says Biden should have recognised the de facto annexation of the West Bank was under way, intervened, and imposed a bigger punishment than a withheld invitation to the White House. Bernie Sanders, for instance, in February had argued that Biden had to recognise this was a qualitatively different Israeli government to anything that preceded it. He said: “If a government is acting in a racist way and they want billions of dollars from [US taxpayers], I think you say: ‘Sorry but it’s not acceptable. You want our money? Fine. This is what you got to do to get it.’”

More at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/17/left-on-the-shelf-how-the-world-failed-miserably-in-the-middle-east?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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