As part of its genocidal onslaught on Gaza, Israel is killing media workers at an unprecedented rate, seemingly to prevent the world from seeing the unspeakable atrocities it carries out.
Israel is intentionally assassinating journalists in Gaza. As it wages its genocidal onslaught on the enclave, having murdered at least 13,000 Palestinians so far, Israel is simultaneously killing media workers in order to prevent the world from seeing the unspeakable atrocities it carries out.
The situation at hand is as dire as it is unprecedented. Since October 7, the Israeli military has killed 60 media workers, according to the Gaza Government Media Office. The Committee to Protect Journalists has stated this is the deadliest month for attacks on journalists since it started keeping record in 1992. Additionally, many other Palestinian reporters outside of Gaza face intimidation and harassment by Israeli forces.
“We have never experienced anything like this and we are overwhelmed,” admitted Nasser Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a Ramallah-based trade union representing Palestinian media workers. “We are losing colleagues and friends every day as a result of the ongoing Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people and the policy of targeted killing against journalists.”
“We can’t keep up with the number of attacks against our journalists,” Abu Bakr continued. “We are receiving more calls and information about … incidents than we can process. Our journalists have always been a target for the Israeli military, but Israel moved from killing [an average of] one Palestinian journalist a year before October 7 to killing [over] one a day.”
And it’s not just Palestinian reporters the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is attacking—any journalist who may potentially disseminate information critical of Israel is a potential target.
Among the long list of reporter casualties is Reuters photojournalist Issam Abdallah, who was killed by an October 13 Israeli strike on the Lebanese border while covering clashes between Hezbollah and the IDF. According to an independent investigation by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Abdallah was explicitly targeted by Israeli forces—he was clearly identified as a journalist through his press helmet and vest, and he was standing next to a vehicle marked “press” on its roof. Immediately before the attack, other journalists in the area had witnessed an Israeli helicopter flying overhead, so the military was able to clearly see that Abdallah was a non-combatant. According to ballistic analysis done by RWB, the missiles were launched from the side of the Israeli border and “two strikes in the same place in such a short space of time (just over 30 seconds), from the same direction, clearly indicate precise targeting.”
Not even the families of journalists are safe from Israeli retaliation. After learning on air that an Israeli air raid had killed his wife, son, daughter, and grandson, Gaza Al Jazeera bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh rushed to the hospital, followed by press cameras. Upon finding his son there, he knelt over his lifeless body and lamented, “They take revenge on us with our children.”
On November 7, Mohammad Abu Hasira, a correspondent for Palestinian news agency Wafa, was killed by an Israeli air raid, along with 42 members of his family. And just days before that, an Israeli strike killed Palestine TV reporter Mohammad Abu Hattab and 11 members of his family in south Gaza, including his wife, son, and brother.
Israel Invents Lies to Justify War Crimes
Just as it has claimed that Hamas was hiding in Gaza hospitals, near schools, and in ambulance convoys in order to justify its bombing and killing of civilians, Israel has peddled the same predictable excuses for these targeted assassinations of journalists. In a chilling November 2 article that effectively doubles as a hit list, the Jerusalem Post spotlighted several independent Palestinian journalists who had been reporting from Gaza and smeared them as part of “Hamas’s propaganda team.”
Then, pro-Israel media watchdog group HonestReporting released a report on November 8 claiming—with little evidence—that the Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, and Reuters freelance photographers in Gaza knew in advance of the October 7 Palestinian Resistance counter-offensive and even collaborated with Hamas in order be on location to get their shots during the operation.
Israeli officials quickly jumped on the story to vindicate their assassination campaign against Palestinian reporters.
In response to the report, former Minister of Defense and current member of Israel’s war cabinet Benny Gantz said, “Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and [who] still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered, are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such.”
Danny Danon, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, went so far as to declare that these reporters would be put on a hit list, stating on X, “Israel’s internal security agency announced that they will eliminate all participants of the October 7 massacre. The ‘photojournalists’ who took part in recording the assault will be added to that list.”
Gil Hoffman, executive director of HonestReporting, later admitted that he had no evidence to substantiate the claims made, but was just “raising questions.” According to Hoffman, he and HonestReporting “don’t claim to be a news organization.”
Accusations that Palestinian reporters are embedded within and acting in coordination with Hamas lay the propaganda groundwork to depict journalists as legitimate military targets.
Israel Restricting Information Coming out of Gaza
Not only is the IDF killing Palestinian journalists on the ground, but the Israeli government is actively denying access to foreign press into Gaza. The only reporters allowed into the strip are those embedded within the IDF, and media outlets such as NBC and CNN have confirmed that in exchange for access, they must submit all materials to the Israeli military prior to broadcast for review and approval.
Additionally, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate reported that as many as 50 media outlets in Gaza have been partially or entirely destroyed by Israeli air strikes since October 7. If Israel is not outright bombing news outlets, then they are actively trying to repress the flow of information coming out. In late October, the Israeli government approved regulations that would allow it to shut down any foreign news channel if it believed the outlet posed a threat to national security. This regulation was then used to block the programming and website of Lebanese outlet Al Mayadeen, because of its “wartime efforts to harm [Israel’s] security interests and to serve the enemy’s goals,” according to a statement released by the Israeli security cabinet.
In the absence of foreign press bearing witness to Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, Palestinian civilians have taken to documenting the horrors themselves and sharing them on social media sites such as X and TikTok for the outside world to see.
The Israeli government has responded by repeatedly shutting down internet and communications systems across Gaza, even further restricting the flow of information coming out.
History of Israel Targeting Journalists
Even before its current war on Gaza began on October 7, Israel had a long history of targeting reporters and news networks. During its 2021 military incursion on Gaza, Israel was accused of “silencing” journalists by press freedom advocates after it bombed the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. This occurred just days after it had bombed another building that housed a number of other news outlets, including Al Araby TV, Al Kofiya TV, and Watania News Agency, among others.
According to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, Israel killed 55 journalists from 2000 to 2022, either by live fire or bombardment. This figure includes Shireen Abu Akleh, the beloved Palestinian-American journalist and longtime Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot by Israeli forces while reporting on IDF raids in Jenin, as well as Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian network Ain Media, who was shot and killed by the IDF while covering the 2018 Great March of Return.
Like so many other Palestinian journalists Israel murdered on the job, Abu Akleh and Murtaja were both wearing their press vests at the time of their killings. Immediately after his death, Israel predictably—with no evidence—rushed to accuse Murtaja of being a Hamas fighter in order to cover its tracks.
The day after Murtaja’s killing, Israel’s then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman bluntly stated, “In the march of terror, there were no innocent civilians. They were all Hamas.”
Israel Is Losing the Information War
Israel relies on its advanced military weaponry and billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. to carry out its genocidal violence against the Palestinian people across Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Its Hasbara and “Brand Israel” campaigns work around the clock to justify its war crimes through outright lies and disinformation.
However, Israel has suffered significant losses in the information war as reports and images of the atrocities have reached millions across the world, many of whom have joined the mass mobilizations in support of the Palestinian cause. On the international stage, Israel is further politically isolated, with more and more countries cutting ties or recalling their diplomatic staff.
This battle of ideas cannot be won through sheer force and U.S.-backed military superiority. Israel cannot prevent information about its atrocities from leaking out, especially in an age of social media in which ordinary Palestinians are emboldened to act as citizen journalists, documenting what they are living through in Gaza for the world to see. As Israel escalates its assassination campaign against media workers, support for the Palestinian Resistance continues to grow.
Grim as the current situation may seem, it speaks to the reality at hand: The people of the world are waking up to the atrocities carried out by the Zionist state and refusing to allow it to continue.
And that speaks to another reality: Israel is living on borrowed time, and that time is running out.
Amanda Yee is a journalist and organizer based out of Brooklyn. She is the managing editor of Liberation News, and her writing has appeared in Monthly Review Online, The Real News Network, CounterPunch, and Peoples Dispatch. Follow her on X @catcontentonly.
Rarely has a summit between the world’s two most important countries been burdened with fewer expectations. Rarely has the world, bristling with problems both urgent and persistent – from proliferating conflicts, renewed nuclear threats, derailed climate negotiations, a listing world economy – needed them to be higher.
The meeting between Presidents Xi and Biden on Wednesday on the sidelines of the upcoming APEC meeting ‘appears aimed less at finding venues for cooperation and more at setting the tone for the mounting global competition between the world’s two largest economies’ opined one writer on the Institute for Responsible Statecraft website, which is normally critical of the President’s militarism and international aggression. Closer to the summit, the Atlantic Council’s Colleen Cattle, opined from the other side of the foreign policy spectrum that ‘We should probably keep a pretty low bar in terms of tangible outcomes and deliverables… This is a meeting that’s probably much more about symbolism and showing a commitment among both leaders to maintain high-level communications and keep communications flowing over the course of the next year.’ Even the ‘cautiously optimistic’ Global Times, anxious to ensure an overly dark mood did not blight any prospects for agreement the summit ‘will help both sides get a more realistic understanding of each other’s strategic intentions and prevent divergences from turning into out-of-control conflicts’ and that ‘the meeting may serve to stabilize bilateral relations in the short term, as uncertainty will grow when the US enters its election cycle next year’.
With the bar set so low, how could the summit fail? Easily.
This is not because of some inveterate big-power rivalry. Apportioning the blame equally may be tempting to some, but not accurate. China has consistently sought to lower tensions and cultivate better relations, often in the face of considerable US provocation, without compromising its development or security. So, both the deterioration of relations of recent years and the recent initiative to try to improve them, can be traced to the United States and the schizophrenia it has developed regarding China. Consider its actions during the Biden presidency alone.
On the one hand, belying expectations of better relations with China aroused during his campaign, President Biden took US-China relations to new depths. He pursued his predecessor’s trade with even greater zeal and escalated his technology war into the ‘Chips war openly aimed at stalling China’s technological advance. He seemed to go out of his way to worsen security relations, whether with irresponsible statements on Taiwan, baseless accusations of genocide in Xinjiang and increasing ‘freedom of navigation’ sorties close to China’s waters. Briefly, the Bali consensus arrived at on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in that city – essentially making US-China relations more predictable and crisis-free – seemed to reverse this deterioration but only months later the Biden administration reacted hysterically to the alleged ‘Chinese spy balloon’ and smashed it, though it had to admit later that the balloon was nothing of the sort.
On the other hand, however, since the middle of this year, the Biden administration has sent many high-level officials – including Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo for meetings with their Chinese counterparts. President Biden announced a ‘thaw’ and was clearly in negotiations to set up the upcoming meeting, though it could not be announced until last Friday. Fed up with such erratic behaviour the Chinese demanded more than the usual assurances before agreeing to it. And even then, they are hard at work, managing expectations downwards.
So, what accounts for the US’s schizophrenic posture? Understanding this is key to interpreting the outcomes of the summit, whatever they may be.
The US’s enthusiasm for ‘engaging China’ in the 1990s rested on the illusion, born of a combination of US’s long-standing wishes for imperial or ‘hegemonic’ dominance over the world and the temporary boost they got from the demise of the Soviet Union, that such engagement would turn China into a pliant periphery of the US, happy to produce low-tech, low-wage goods for the US market. By the early 2000s, however, senior US officials were already beginning to suspect that this wish would not be fulfilled. While China had no desire to offend the US, it was determined to pursue its own development, technological, economic and social to create and maintain its security and increase the material well-being of its people.
Since then, the US posture towards China has become ever more hostile and aimed to prevent China’s rise, with President Bush’s steel and aluminum tariffs, President Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’, President Trump’s trade and technology wars and now President Biden’s New Cold War, complete with threats about US ‘defending militarily, raising the specter of fighting China with Taiwanese proxy just as it is currently fighting Russia ‘to the last Ukranian’.
However, the US does not enjoy the luxury of giving free rein to its hostility. The results of its decades of ‘engaging China’, which include the productive intertwining of the two economies through outsourcing and the US’s much-ballyhooed reliance on China to support its treasuries market that gave rise to the ‘Chimerica’ of the 2000s, are not easily reversed. They have split the US corporate capitalist class into two sharply opposed parts, one benefitting from hostility to China – obviously the military-industrial complex and sections of the information and communications technology threatened by Chinese competition – and the other for continuing close links with China, such as Nvidia, the chip-maker. Every step the US takes to thwart China ends up hurting these latter corporations many of whom the Biden administration relies on for the funds to get re-elected in 2024.
This is why the US must both wreck its relations with China and try to repair them. So long as it wishes to pursue its goals of world dominance or hegemony despite mounting evidence that it cannot, as long as the US refuses to settle down to being an ordinary, if still very powerful country rather than an exceptional one destined to run the world, this will not change. If anything, US policy towards China will only get more schizophrenic. What it will take to change it used to be called revolution. The word may have become old-fashioned but the reality needed to change it remains the same, no matter what new-fangled term is devised to denote it.
Dr. Radhika Desai is a Professor at the Department of Political Studies, and Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group at University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She has proposed a new historical materialist approach to understanding world affairs and geopolitical economy based on the materiality of nations. Some of her recent books include Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire (2013), Karl Polanyi and Twenty First Century Capitalism (2020) Revolutions (2020) and Japan’s Secular Stagnation (2022). Her articles and book chapters appear in international scholarly journals and edited volumes. With Alan Freeman, she co-edits the Geopolitical Economy book series with Manchester University Press and the Future of Capitalism book series with Pluto Press. Her latest book is Capitalism, Coronavirus and War: A Geopolitical Economy, which is now available through open access.
Republished from Counterpunch.
From Gaza and Cuba, they ask–are you human like us?: The Forty-Fifth Newsletter (2023). By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Rachid Koraichi (Algeria), One Plate, from A Nation in Exile, c. 1981.
Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli armed forces in Gaza since 7 October, nearly half of them children, according to the most recent report by spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health Dr Ashraf Al-Qudra. Over 25,000 others have been injured, with thousands still buried under the rubble. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks have begun to encircle Gaza City, whose population was 600,000 a month ago but whose neighbourhoods are now largely vacant due to the desperate flight of its inhabitants to Gaza’s southern shelters and due to Israel’s killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians in their homes. Israel has cut off the city and begun to raid it, going door to door to bring the terror of the occupation from the skies to the streets. Those who await these raids in their homes might whisper the poem of Mahmoud Darwish (1941—2008), which is addressed to the Israeli soldier ready to kick down the door of a Palestinian home:
You there, by the threshold of our door,
come in and drink Arabic coffee with us
(you may feel that you are human like us)
You there, by the threshold of our door,
get out of our mornings
so that we may be assured that
we are humans like you
Laila Shawa (Palestine), Target 2009, 2009.
When Israeli soldiers begin going door to door there will be no time for coffee, not only because there is no coffee or water left, but because Israeli soldiers have been told that Palestinians are not human. They have been told, instead, that Palestinians are terrorists and animals. In the eyes of the occupying forces, the only treatment Palestinians deserve is to be assaulted, shot, killed, and eradicated altogether. A hunger for genocide and ethnic cleansing colours senior Israeli officials’ statements and has influenced their conduct in this war. Talk of civilian casualties is brushed off, and so are calls for a ceasefire. The spokesperson of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) James Elder said of this situation: ‘Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It’s a living hell for everyone else’.
Even when high-ranking U.S. officials talk about a ‘humanitarian pause’, they continue to find billions of dollars and more weapons systems for the Israeli military. This idea of a ‘humanitarian pause’ is legalese that means nothing for the survival of Gazans: the pause would end the bombing for a short period of time, possibly only a few hours, to allow the wounded to be removed and some aid to enter Gaza City before giving Israelis a green light to resume their murderous bombardment. Thus far, Israel has dropped a higher tonnage of explosives on Gaza than the combined weight of the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Belkis Ayón (Cuba), La cena (‘The Supper’), 1991.
he denial of both a ceasefire and the possibility of political talks sponsored by the UN is not a policy that the U.S. is pushing in Palestine alone; it is the same policy that the U.S., alongside its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), have insisted upon in Ukraine. A new supplemental spending bill that totals $105 billion (in addition to the—likely underreported—$858-billion military budget for 2023) includes $61.4 billion for the grinding war in Ukraine and $14.1 billion for the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. Though peace talks opened between Ukrainian and Russian authorities in both Belarus and Turkey days after Russian troops entered Ukraine, these talks were hastily scuttled by NATO, fuelling the conflict that has resulted in nearly 10,000 civilian deaths so far. The civilian death toll in Ukraine during one year and eight months of the conflict has already been surpassed by the civilian death toll in Palestine in merely four weeks.
It is not a coincidence that these three countries—the U.S., Ukraine, and Israel—are the only ones that did not vote in favour of this year’s annual UN General Assembly resolution to end the six-decade-long U.S. embargo on Cuba (which was imposed formally by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on 3 February 1962 but began in 1960). The U.S. has not only enforced this blockade on Cuba as a country, but on the Cuban Revolution as a process. When the Cuban Revolution of 1959 emphatically declared that it would defend the sovereignty of Cuban territory and advance the dignity of the Cuban people, the U.S. saw it as a threat not only to its criminal interests on the island but also to its ability to maintain its grip over global affairs, which the potential contagion of the revolutionary process threatened to fracture. If Cuba could get away with looking after its own people, and even extending solidarity to others fighting for their right to do the same, before submitting to the demands of U.S.-owned transnational corporations, then perhaps other countries could adopt a similar attitude. It was this fear of sovereignty that set the policy of the blockade in motion.
Though the blockade has cost the Cuban Revolution hundreds of billions of dollars since 1960, it has not been able to stop the revolution from building up people’s dignity. For example, the World Bank reported that in 2020, despite the harsh blockade and the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba’s government spent 11.5% of its Gross Domestic Product on education, while the U.S. spent 5.4%. Not only are all schools free for Cuban children, but all Cuban children receive meals at school and are given their uniforms. Medical education is also free in Cuba, creating a high doctor-to-patient ratio of 8.4 physicians and 7.1 nurses for every 1,000 Cubans. At the UN General Assembly, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said that ‘attention to the human being has been and will continue to be the priority of the Cuban government’. The blockade might be ‘economic warfare’, he said, but the Cuban Revolution—which has faced this ‘economic siege’ for decades—will not wilt. It will stand firm.
Raúl Martínez (Cuba), Rosas y Estrellas (‘Roses and Stars’), 1972.
The blockade is cruel. Foreign Minister Rodríguez Parrilla offered some examples of that cruelty, such as when the U.S. government prevented Cuba from importing pulmonary ventilators and medical oxygen (including from other Latin American countries). In response, Cuba’s scientists and engineers developed their own ventilators, just as they produced their own COVID-19 vaccines. During the pandemic, Rodríguez Parrilla said, the U.S. government offered humanitarian exemptions to other countries but denied them to Cuba. ‘The reality’, he said, ‘is that the U.S. government opportunistically used COVID-19 as an ally in its hostile policy toward Cuba’.
Darwish asks Israeli soldiers of humanity, of whether they are capable of seeing Palestinians as human. The same should be asked of U.S. government officials who promote and prosecute the blockade on Cuba: do they see Cubans as human?
In June of this year, the Paris Poetry Market invited the Cuban poet Nancy Morejón to be its 2023 honorary president. Just before the event, the organisers of the poetry festival cancelled this honour, saying that they were responding to ‘pressures’ and ‘rumours’. The Cuban foreign ministry condemned this cancellation as part of the ‘siege of fascist hatred of Cuban culture’, another kind of blockade. Here is Nancy Morejón’s Réquiem para la mano izquierda (‘Requiem for the Left Hand’), as if in conversation with the humaneness of Darwish’s poetry and with the rhythms of the Cuban musician Marta Valdés (to whom this poem is dedicated):
On a map you could trace all the lines
horizontal, vertical, diagonal
from the Greenwich meridian to the Gulf of Mexico
that more or less
belong to our peculiarity
There are also big, big, big maps
in your imagination
and endless globes of the Earth,
But today I suspect that the tiniest, most minute map
sketched on school notebook paper
would be big enough to fit all of history
All of it.
Tings Chak (China), Palestine Will Be Free, 2023.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
A few weeks ago, I was standing under the entrance arch of the Hotel Villa Morgagni along via Giovanni Battista Morgagni, in Rome’s northeastern Nomentano neighborhood. It’s a smart looking mansion-cum-townhouse, built in a turn-of-the-century Liberty style, with some fetching Art Nouveau flourishes. Since the early 2000s, the property has been owned by the Italian businessman Adartico Vudafieri, a former rally car champion, who’d transformed it into a 4-star, 34-room, luxury boutique hotel, equipped with jacuzzis and conference room facilities.
Ninety-seven years back, via Giovanni Battista Morgagni, number 25, was a more modest lodging house, home of a quietly discreet pensionante called Antonio Gramsci. It was here, around 10:30pm on November 8, 1926, that Mussolini’s fascist henchmen, who’d been surveying Gramsci’s every move in the months prior, raided his room, confiscated his documents, and arrested him as an “enemy of the state.” (It wasn’t the first time his room had been ransacked.) He was carted off to Rome’s Regina Coeli penitentiary and immediately placed in solitary confinement. A small plaque on the hotel’s gatepost, with a poignant inscription, commemorates Gramsci’s sojourn at Morgagni, memorializing him as a rare “leader who knew how to listen”:
Gramsci’s landlady, Clara Passarge, a Prussian-born woman, was particularly disgruntled by those evening’s dramatic events, taking it very badly. Gramsci was her and husband Giorgio’s favorite tenant—the “professor” they affectionately called him, on account of his bookish nature, a scholarly-looking little man forever transporting caseloads of texts and papers to and from his rented room. (The professorial assumption wouldn’t have been unreasonable: Sapienza University of Rome was, after all, only a block away down the road from his dwelling.) Gramsci, of course, was no university academic. Journalist, Italian Communist Party’s (PCI) general secretary, he’d already been elected to Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, a position that should have given him immunity from such a politically motivated arrest. But Mussolini had schemed up Special Laws of Defense, rendering illegal any form of anti-fascist activity, depriving Gramsci and hundreds of other progressive deputies of their parliamentary mandate.
For a customarily cautious man, whose careful analysis had seen fascist forces brewing, it was a mystery why Gramsci had left himself so open to arrest. He knew he was being followed, watched everywhere and at all hours; he’d felt “the storm coming,” he told sister-in-law Tatiana (“Tania”), “in an indistinct and instinctive way.” Meanwhile, fearing for the safety of pregnant wife Giulia and infant son Delio, he insisted they return to Moscow, where Gramsci’s second son, Giuliano, who would never see his father, was born on August 30, 1926.
In a way, Gramsci seemed more bothered about the “trouble and inconveniences” he’d caused the Passarges the night of his arrest. The first of his famous Letters from Prison, written in the Regina Coeli penitentiary (undated), addressed to his landlady, is a touching expression of regret: “Dearest Signora, first of all, I want to apologize for the trouble and inconveniences I have caused you, which in truth formed no part of our tenancy agreement.” Gramsci asks her to forward onto him a few of his books, including his beloved Divine Comedy, and “prepare some of my underclothes and hand them over to a good woman called Marietta Bucciarelli, when she comes on my behalf.” “If my stay in this place,” Gramsci adds, “should last long, I think you should consider the room free and do as you wish with it. You can pack the books and throw away the newspapers. I apologize again, dear signora, and offer my regrets which are as deep as your kindness is great. My regards to signor Giorgio and to the young lady [Clara’s daughter]; with heartfelt respect, Antonio Gramsci.” The letter is all the more touching because it never reached its destination.
A few weeks on, Gramsci again wrote his landlady (November 30, 1926), telling her he’d been three days in a Palermo jail. “I left Rome on the morning of the twenty-fifth,” Gramsci said, “for Naples, where I stayed for a few days and was devoured by insects. In a few days, I will leave for the island of Ustica, to which I have been assigned for my confino. During my journey, I was unable to send back the keys to the house: as soon as I arrive at Ustica I will forward them immediately and I’ll send you the precise address and instructions for sending me or having sent to me the things that I’ll be able to keep here and that may be useful to me. My health is fairly good; I’m a bit tired, that’s all. Inform Maria if she comes to see you and ask her to give my regards to all my relatives and friends who still remember me. Kind regards to signor Giorgio and to the signorina, cordially, A. Gramsci.” Again, the letter never found its destination, again confiscated by Mussolini’s political police. (Both letters, incidentally, never saw the public light of day until the early 1970s.)
As it happened, signora Clara didn’t last long after Gramsci’s arrest; likely he’d suspected all wasn’t well. He’d asked Tania (March 19, 1927), “How is my landlady, or did she die?” “I’m afraid the scene of my arrest may have helped accelerate her illness,” he confessed, “because she liked me very much and looked so pale when they took me away.” Gramsci said he’d received a letter from Giorgio Passarge in early January 1927, “who was desperate and thought that his wife’s death was immanent, then I no longer heard anything. Poor woman.” Signora Passarge would pass away on February 19, 1927, aged sixty-five.
Not long after my visit to Gramsci’s old lodgings and site of arrest, I discovered something I’d hitherto not known: Clara Passarge is likewise a denizen of Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery. I’d spotted her gravestone, looking rather forlorn and untended, on one of my regular inspections of the tombs and their environs. Seeing Gramsci and his former landlady reunited, sharing the same abode again, struck me as a strange quirk of fate, just as my witnessing it strikes me as a strange quirk of fate, finding myself before both of them now, a volunteer at the cemetery.
Clara’s grave prompted me to look her up in the cemetery’s death register, where I managed to track down the original, handwritten entry. Then I did the same for Gramsci, wondering why I hadn’t done so before; sure enough, he’s there, too, registered in the same hand a little more than a decade after the “signora’s” passing.
To say that Clara’s grave looked forlorn and untended isn’t exactly the whole truth. For there’s another story to her being at the cemetery, another connection involving an impressive, far from forlorn, white marble sculpture located just behind Clara’s tombstone, tucked into an alcove of the Aurelian wall. It’s a striking, haunting, structure known as “The Bride,” a life-size (and life-like) reclining young woman, on her deathbed; a rose is sometimes placed in her hand, a gesture said to bring good luck to the giver. The bride in question is Elsbeth Wegener Passarge, none other than Clara Passarge’s eldest daughter, who died in 1902, tragically of typhus, at the age of age 18. She was born in Prussia to Clara’s first husband (Giorgio was Elsbeth’s stepfather), yet grew up in Rome, later engaged to be married to an Austrian sculptor Ferdinand Seeboeck. The couple were deeply in love. But the husband-and-wife pairing wasn’t meant to be, and as a memorial to his late fiancée, Ferdinand created “The Bride,” with, on its base, written in Italian and German, the following words: “She passes from a sweet dream of love to the life of angels.” It took Ferdinand thirty-years to get his sculpture installed in its current site, during which time he’d relinquished his own plot beside his bride, in favor of her mother, Clara, whose remains now lie beside her daughter’s, and not in the marked grave nearby.
The day I discovered Clara’s tombstone, Gramsci’s marble casket was adorned with a beautiful red rose. At that moment, sitting close by on what I now like to call “Gramsci’s bench,” was an elderly gent, in his mid-seventies, portly with long, flowing gray hair, clad in scruffy shorts and a stained white undervest. Beside him a shopping bag full of old clothes. Maybe he was homeless or semi-destitute? He looked content next to Gramsci, and, as I passed, taking a photo of the red rose on the casket, I engaged him in conversation. He was an old communist, he said, and Gramsci his hero. He comes here often, to pay his respects. Was it he, I wondered, who’d laid that red rose?
For a while, we spoke about Giorgio Napolitano, a former high-ranking PCI leader, modern Italy’s longest standing President, who died in late September, aged 98, and who’s about to be laid to rest in the Non-Catholic Cemetery. The man in the white vest said Gramsci was better known abroad than in Italy; I was inclined to concur, but knew, too, that plenty of Italians, many young Italians included, visit the cemetery to see Gramsci, and talk about him as if he were still alive and kicking. Then the man in the white vest mentioned Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile, two of Gramsci’s interlocutors and antagonists. I said, as a by-the-way comment, that Antonio Labriola, an older generation Italian Marxist, another early influence from Gramsci’s Turin student days, frequently referenced in The Prison Notebooks, is buried not far away, in an impressive, opulent looking grave in the Zona Prima. The man in the white vest seemed to want to talk more about Gentile and Croce and about Gramsci’s views on education.
Croce’s was a liberal, Gentile a fascist. Both started out as vaguely marxisant Hegelian philosophers, before the former drifted toward the center and the latter toward the far-right. Each wrote about education; in the early 1920s, Gentile became Mussolini’s Minister of Education. But Gramsci rejected, on the one side, Croce’s liberal reductionism, which saw civil society as the realm of free individuality, somehow apart from the state, and, on the other, Gentile’s statist reductionism, where civil society got devoured entirely by the state. Gramsci’s line is more subtle. He never makes any “organic” distinction between state and civil society. The separation, he said, is analytical and methodological; state and civil society are conjoined, dialectically intertwined, operative together, yet theoretically distinguishable.
From prison, Gramsci cast a keen critical eye on the so-called Gentile Reform Act of 1923, where, amongst other things, religious education had become compulsory in elementary schools. Letters from Prison frequently ask Tania for copies of Gentile’s texts and speeches, a lot featured in a rather ominous sounding Educazione Fascista. Gentile’s educational reform also introduced an entrance exam for acceptance into middle-school, which, says Gramsci, privileged upper-class kids, relegating their working class and peasant counterparts to technical and training schools.
Gramsci was a bit old school in his educational beliefs. He says Gentile’s education act failed to provide the specific teaching of Italian grammar, thereby excluding “the national-popular masses from learning language, confining them to the ghetto of dialect.” (Gramsci advocates the teaching of Latin, for instance, because it “combines and satisfies a whole series of pedagogic and psychological requirements.”) “Active” schools, he says, aren’t elitist institutions nor sites of rote and factual inculcation. Yet neither should they encourage liberal laissez-faire free-play and voluntarist free-will, where individualities are seen as beyond any conditioning social relations and social institutions. Gramsci calls for a “nexus between instruction and education,” a curriculum that teaches critical, socially aware thinking at the same time as develops students’ creative capacities, accustoming them to reason, to think abstractly and schematically, while “remaining able to plunge back from abstraction into real and immediate life.”
For Gramsci, self-discipline and self-control are vital in learning. Students need to condition themselves to long hours of concentration, he says, to sitting still, developing bodily endurance as well as a lively mind, training their muscles and nerves as well as their brains. Learning can be tough, he says, an ethos likely gleaned from his own history as a lowly youth and studious prison inmate. It isn’t only manual labor, he says, that requires sweat and toil. Indeed, if ever the working classes were to develop their own brand of hardy and smart “organic intellectuals,” with the appropriate attributes and skills to help transform society, they’ll need, Gramsci thinks, an educational system very different from the one Gentile is proposing.
The man in the white vest and I shuck hands and we bid each other arrivederci. Wandering back to my duties at the cemetery’s Visitor’s Center, leaving him with Gramsci and that red rose, I realized I’d forgotten to ask if it was him who’d laid the flower there. I never got the chance to talk with him, either, about the significance of roses for Gramsci and how growing them became almost as much a passion as filling his thirty-three scholastic notebooks.
After Gramsci was transferred in July 1928 to the Turi prison for the infirm and disabled in Bari, Calabria, along a sidewall of its courtyard, in a little plot of soil, he began to grow different plants and flowers. His letters to Tania and Giulia thereafter begin to fill up with news of their progress. On April 22, 1929, he wrote Tania: “On one fourth of a square meter I want to plant four or five seeds of each kind and see how they turn out.” He asks his sister-in-law if she can get hold of sweet pea, spinach, carrot, chicory, and celery seeds.
Gramsci says he’s become more patient, “but only by virtue of a great effort to control myself.” He seems to take inspiration from his flowers and plants, from their slow and persistent growth, from the rose he’s trying to cultivate, patiently and persistently—against all odds. “The rose has fallen victim of a dreadful sunstroke,” he says, “all the leaves in the more tender parts are burnt and carbonized; it has a desolate, sad aspect, but it is putting out new buds.” Seemingly referring to himself, he adds: “It isn’t dead, at least not yet.” In Gramsci’s letters, the plight of his dear rose strikes as an allegory of his own dear plight.
“The seeds have been very slow in pushing up small sprouts,” he tells Tania, again maybe referring to himself and to the life of a Marxist radical; “an entire series obstinately insists on living an underground life.” Each day, Gramsci says, he’s seized by the temptation to pull at them a little, making them grow a little faster. “I remain undecided,” he admits,
between two concepts of the world and of education: whether to follow Rousseau and leave things to nature, which is never wrong and is basically good, or to be a voluntarist and force nature, introducing into the evolution the expert hand of humanity and the principle of authority. Until now the uncertainty persists and the two ideologies joust in my head.
Still, Gramsci’s voluntarist environmentalism—the intervention of human authority and action—doesn’t brutally impose itself on nature. He lovingly cares for his rose, admires its beauty and tenderness, the delicate texturing of its petals, its poetic quality, the radiance of its blossoming, often sounding the way Saint-Exupery’s petit prince would sound a decade on, nurturing his own rose; at the same time, Gramsci marvels at how robust his rose is, how hardy, struggling to survive, persisting on living, sometimes on the point of death, yet pulling through with new buds despite the impending “solar catastrophe.”
Elsewhere, Gramsci says to Tania: “The rose is beginning to bud after it had seemed reduced to desolate twigs. But will it manage to survive the approaching summer heat? It looks puny and run down to be up to the task. It is true of course that, at bottom, the rose is nothing but a wild thorn bush, and therefore very vital.” Again, maybe with himself in mind, we might recall one revealing letter he’d written Tania, earlier on in his incarceration (February 19, 1927), taking the boat with other prisoners to Ustica. One of the banished was an “anarchist type,” Gramsci says, called “Unico,” a sort of superintendent, who upon hearing Gramsci introduce himself to other inmates,
stared at me for a long time, then he asked: ‘Gramsci, Antonio?’ ‘Yes’, Antonio! I answered. ‘That can’t be’, he retorted, ‘because Antonio Gramsci must be a giant and not a little squirt like you’.
On February 10, 1930, Gramsci writes Tania:
So, then, become more energetic; cure your will too, do not let the southern winds fill you with languor. The bulbs have sprouted already, indeed some time back; one of the hyacinths already shows the colors of its future flower. Provided the frost doesn’t destroy everything. The rose has also borne new buds; it is wilder than ever, it seems a thorn bush instead of a rose, but the vegetal vigor of the thorn bush is also interesting. I embrace you affectionately. Antonio.
Today, October 17, 2023, Gramsci’s grave was covered with brilliant flowers, blooming everywhere, a sight to behold. Who could have placed them all here? Today, as well, I began to think about what it was I wanted to stress in this blog. If last time I spoke of stones and a sense of obligation—obligation to Gramsci, to Marxist politics, to the Left, a sentiment somehow reinforced by the little grapefruit-sized rocks a deformed Gramsci had lifted as a child—now, I think it’s the rose I want to emphasize, a rose for Gramsci, and the notion of resilience. Not just of our intervening to nurture nature, to sustain ourselves ecologically, but of an individual capacity for resilience, a stoicism to resist, to learn and educate oneself, to promulgate a politics of emancipation even in incarceration, even in an inferno resembling Dante’s.
“It seems to me that under such conditions prolonged for years,” Gramsci told his younger brother Carlo (December 19, 1929),
and with such psychological experience, a person should have reached the loftiest stage of stoic serenity and should have acquired such a profound conviction that humans bear within themselves the source of their own moral strength, that everything depends on them, on their energy, on their will, on the iron coherence of the aims that they set for themselves and the means they adopt to realize them, that they will never again despair and lapse into those vulgar, banal states of mind that are called pessimism and optimism. My state of mind syntheses these two emotions and overcomes them: I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.
Today, those Gramsci’s flowers remind me of Elsa Morante’s epic novel called History, on the horrors of Nazism/fascism, and the rape of a young woman by a adolescent German soldier (killed a few days later on the front) and her fierce battle to raise her bastard child in the horror of it all, in a world Gramsci often said was “vast and terrible,” and her hope that hope would win out in the end, and her final words, Morante’s final note, borrowing from a Gramsci letter, never mentioning him by name, only his Turi prison number…7047: “All the seeds have failed except one; I don’t know what it is, but probably it is a flower and not a weed.” That’s it, that’s what I want to say: flowers will always outlast weeds.
Andy Merrifield is an independent scholar and the author of numerous books, including Dialectical Urbanism (Monthly Review Press, 2002), Magical Marxism (Pluto Press, 2011), and, most recently, The Amateur (Verso Books, 2018), What We Talk About When We Talk About Cities (and Love) (OR Books, 2018), and Marx, Dead and Alive (Monthly Review Press, 2020). He can be contacted at andymerrifield10 [at] gmail.com.
Republished from Andy Merrifield's Blog.
Israel's genocidal attacks, which are killing hundreds of Palestinians a day, including some 160 children, have expanded to shelling the remaining hospitals in Gaza.
DOHA, Qatar: I am in the studio of Al Jazeera’s Arabic service watching a live feed from Gaza City. The Al Jazeera reporter in northern Gaza, because of the intense Israeli shelling, was forced to evacuate to southern Gaza. He left his camera behind. He trained it on Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest medical complex. It is night. Israeli tanks fire directly towards the hospital compound. Long horizontal red flashes. A deliberate attack on a hospital. A deliberate war crime. A deliberate massacre of the most helpless civilians, including the very sick and infants. Then the feed goes dead.
We sit in front of the monitors. We are silent. We know what this means. No power. No water. No internet. No medical supplies. Every infant in an incubator will die. Every dialysis patient will die. Everyone in the intensive care unit will die. Everyone who needs oxygen will die. Everyone who needs emergency surgery will die. And what will happen to the 50,000 people who, driven from their homes by the relentless bombing, have taken refuge on the hospital grounds? We know the answer to that as well. Many of them, too, will die.
There are no words to express what we are witnessing. In the five weeks of horror this is one of the pinnacles of horror. The indifference of Europe is bad enough. The active complicity by the United States is unfathomable. Nothing justifies this. Nothing. And Joe Biden will go down in history as an accomplice to genocide. May the ghosts of the thousands of children he has participated in murdering haunt him for the rest of his life.
Israel and the United States are sending a chilling message to the rest of the world. International and humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention, are meaningless pieces of paper. They did not apply in Iraq. They do not apply in Gaza. We will pulverize your neighborhoods and cities with bombs and missiles. We will wantonly murder your women, children, elderly and sick. We will set up blockades to engineer starvation and the spread of infectious diseases. You, the “lesser breeds” of the earth, do not matter. To us you are vermin to be extinguished. We have everything. If you try and take any of it away from us, we will kill you. And we will never be held accountable.
We are not hated for our values. We are hated because we have no values. We are hated because rules only apply to others. Not to us. We are hated because we have arrogated to ourselves the right to carry out indiscriminate slaughter. We are hated because we are heartless and cruel. We are hated because we are hypocrites, talking about protecting civilians, the rule of law and humanitarianism while extinguishing the lives of hundreds of people in Gaza a day, including 160 children.
Israel reacted with indignation and moral outrage when it was accused of bombing the al-Ahli Arab Christian hospital in Gaza, which left hundreds of dead. The bombing, Israel claimed, came from an errant rocket fired by Palestine Islamic Jihad. There is nothing in the arsenal of Hamas or Islamic Jihad that could have replicated the massive explosive power of the missile that struck the hospital. Those of us who have covered Gaza have heard this Israel trope so many times it is risible. They always blame Hamas and the Palestinians for their war crimes, now attempting to argue that hospitals are Hamas command centers and therefore legitimate targets. They never provide evidence. The Israeli military and government lie like they breathe.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which has staff working in Al-Shifa, issued a statement saying patients, doctors and nurses are "trapped in hospitals under fire." It called on the “Israeli government to cease this unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system.”
“Over the past 24 hours, hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment. Al-Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health facility where MSF staff are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries,” the statement read. “The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. MSF teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa hospital. MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff and patients.”
Three other hospitals in northern Gaza and Gaza City are encircled by Israeli forces and tanks, in what a doctor told Al Jazeera was a “day of war against hospitals.” The Indonesian Hospital has reportedly also lost power. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that 20 of 36 hospitals in Gaza no longer function.
Israel and Washington’s cynicism is breathtaking. There are no differences in intent. Washington only wants it done quickly. Humanitarian corridors? Pauses in the shelling? These are vehicles to facilitate the total depopulation of northern Gaza. The handful of aid trucks allowed through the border at Rafah with Egypt? A public relations gimmick. There is only one goal – kill, kill, kill. The faster the better. All Biden officials talk about is what comes next once Israel has finished its decimation of Gaza. They know Israel’s slaughter will not end until Gazans are living in the open without shelter in the southern part of the strip and dying because of a lack of food, water and medical care.
Gaza before Israel’s ground incursion was one of the most densely populated spots on the planet. Imagine what will happen with 1.1 million Gazans from the north piled on top of over 1 million in the south. Imagine what will take place when infectious diseases such as cholera become an epidemic. Imagine the ravages of starvation. The pressure will build to do something. And that something, Israel hopes, will be to push the Palestinians over the border into the Sinai in Egypt. Once there, they will never return. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Gaza will be complete. Its ethnic cleansing of the West Bank will begin.
That is Israel’s demented dream. To achieve it, they will make Gaza uninhabitable.
Ask yourself, if you were a Palestinian in Gaza and had access to a weapon what would you do? If Israel killed your family, how would you react? Why would you care about international or humanitarian law when you know it only applies to the oppressed, not the oppressors? If terror is the only language Israel uses to communicate, the only language it apparently understands, wouldn’t you speak back with terror?
Israel’s orgy of death will not crush Hamas. Hamas is an idea. This idea is fed on the blood of martyrs. Israel is giving Hamas an abundant supply.
Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 12 books, including the New York Times best-seller “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. His other books include "Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt," (2015) “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His latest book is "America: The Farewell Tour" (2018). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and has sold over 400,000 copies. He writes a weekly column for the website Truthdig and hosts a show, "On Contact," on RT America.
Republished from Chris Hedges's Substack.
This dispatch was relayed by Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent Tareq Hajjaj via voice note.
Two days ago, the injured left Al-Shifa Hospital with wounds still bleeding, some on wheelchairs, some pulled by cart. Those who arrived in the south a few days ago reported that Al-Shifa Hospital’s administration had urged them to flee since it would soon no longer be operational. By now, it has completely closed down.
These directives did not come out of nowhere. They were based on the hospital administration’s expectation of what would transpire during the ground invasion, given Israel’s systematic policy of targeting medical facilities. In the days leading up to the Al-Shifa exodus, Israel’s forces continued to close in, bombing and shelling the neighboring buildings and outer parts of the hospital and launching missiles into the hospital’s courtyard where refugees were sleeping, cutting them up into pieces.
The tanks continued to approach Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, until they were right at its gate.
Ministry of Health spokespeople remain at Al-Shifa, in the hopes that injuries and dead bodies would reach the hospital, where they could be documented and tallied. These hopes have since been dashed, as no one is allowed to move outdoors or reach the hospital for treatment or refuge.
The past few hours have been the most catastrophic for Gaza’s northern hospitals, which include Al-Shifa, Al-Quds Hospital, Rantisi Hospital for Pediatrics, and Nasr Hospital in Gaza City, and the Indonesian Hospital in the north, which was targeted last week with shelling and “firebelts” meant to force medical staff, patients, and refugees to evacuate.
Medical workers have suffered the most during the recent rounds. But many medical teams refused to leave the hospitals, staying behind to take care of patients in ICUs and NICUS who could not move without dying. This includes 48 premature babies whose incubators and respirators have since failed.
Only yesterday, it was announced that two of these infants have died due to the lack of oxygen and heating. Photos began circulating of remaining hospital staff swaddling the remaining infants and laying them close to one another to conserve heat and keep them warm.
‘We can see injured people. We hear them crying for help, but we cannot do anything.’The Palestinian Authority Minister of Health, Mai Keileh, said that medical staff are no longer able to move between buildings to carry out their work. Attack drones hovering over the medical complex target anything that moves. It has led to the pile-up of corpses in the hospital’s courtyard, and anyone who tries to go out to collect them is also killed. Keileh stated that medical staff has been unable to bury over 100 martyrs, and their bodies have begun to rot in the courtyard, while stray dogs are now beginning to eat at their flesh.
A Gaza government spokesperson yesterday said that Israeli army snipers stationed in nearby buildings have shot a patient in his bed through the window, in addition to a maintenance worker who tried to rewire hospital electrical lines in an attempt to restore power to a part of the hospital. The same government source stated that a group of medical staff attempted to leave the hospital while waving white flags and made their way to the hospital’s main entrance, but that drones also targeted them directly, killing most. Those who survived the initial blast lay on the ground for hours, bleeding to death and screaming for help, until they, too, died.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported a similar incidents, quoting the testimony of Dr. Mohammed Obeid at Al-Shifa:
We’re on the fourth floor. There’s a sniper who attacked four patients inside the hospital. One of the patients has a gunshot wound directly in his neck, and he is a quadriplegic, and the other one [was shot] in the abdomen.
MSF also confirmed government reports of the injured left to bleed to death in the courtyard. One MSF staff member described the scene:
There are dead people on the streets. We see people being shot at. We can see injured people. We hear them crying for help, but we cannot do anything. It is too dangerous to go outside.
The Mahdi maternity hospital in northern Gaza was also targeted with bombardment and shelling. People who stood near windows were shot by Israeli snipers, while Israeli drones hovering overhead targeted anything that moved in the hospital’s courtyard, even medical teams, who were trapped inside.
Dr. Basel Mahdi, who works at the hospital, wrote online that “No one dies before their time. But there are many who die without dignity.”
“May God never forgive you,” his letter said, addressing Arab heads of state. “You betrayed us. You betrayed your Arab identity.”
Half an hour after posting the message, Dr. Mahdi was killed when he tried to leave the hospital.
No one left to document the genocideThe medical system in northern Gaza has subsequently collapsed. No hospital or medical center is operational. The likely hundreds of thousands of civilians who have remained in the north now have no place to seek treatment for their wounded, which pile up daily.
And they have been met with the same treatment as the hospital staff. When someone attempts to move and flee south, they are shot or bombed where they stand.
In addition, the invasion of the Israeli troops and the raiding of homes with residents still inside has opened the door for further violations. Dr. Muhammad Nizam Ziyara wrote a post on social media about his family’s ordeal in the al-Nasr neighborhood:
Yesterday, Israeli occupation forces entered our home in the Nasr neighborhood in Gaza after blowing up our house’s front door. They gathered the entire family in a single room, and then proceeded to beat and abuse everyone, and turned the house into a military base. The soldiers then separated the women and young children the men and boys, who they continued to beat before taking them to the nearby UNRWA school. We haven’t received word of their fate for the past 24 hours. The women and children were taken out of the house and used as human shields, forcing them to walk in front of the military tanks and head to the southern part [of the Nasr neighborhood]. As of now, we do not have any word of their fate either.
Dr. Ziyara concluded his post by asking anyone who might have information about his family’s whereabouts to contact him.
Israel’s claims that it is targeting these hospitals because Hamas is allegedly using them for military purposes have been repeatedly denied by hospital administrations, who have said that they are prepared for an international delegation to conduct a search of the hospitals and their grounds for evidence of such alleged underground tunnels and command centers. The only Israeli response has been more shelling and bombardment, murdering anyone who attempts escape.
Perhaps when it becomes clear that Israel’s claims about Al-Shifa are baseless, it will find an excuse to level and destroy this remaining bastion of humanity in Gaza. Along with it, it seeks to kill the remaining staff of the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is responsible for documenting and tallying the fatalities and the wounded.
In doing so, Israel seeks to silence the Ministry as well as the journalists still embedded in the hospital, causing a complete information blackout so that Israel can commit its massacres with no one to see. As more people are killed and left to decompose out in the open, no one will be left to document the scale of the unfolding genocide.
Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of the Palestinian Writers Union. He studied English Literature at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. He started his career in journalism in 2015 working as a news writer and translator for the local newspaper, Donia al-Watan. He has reported for Elbadi, Middle East Eye, and Al Monitor.
The Israeli Attack on Palestinian Health Workers in Gaza and the Failure of the American Medical Association. By: Rupa Marya and Vijay PrashadRead Now
On November 11, 2023, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) stated that Israeli tanks were within twenty meters of the al-Quds hospital, the second-largest hospital in Gaza City. They reported that there was “direct shooting at the hospital, creating a state of extreme panic and fear among 14,000 displaced people.” Many of those killed have been medical personnel. A group called Healthcare Workers Watch-Palestine, formed in November 2023, has been keeping a list of healthcare workers in Gaza killed by Israeli attacks (226 are known to have been killed from October 7 till November 13).
The day before, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported that the PRCS is “caring for hundreds of injured people and bed-ridden, long-term patients” at al-Quds. “Evacuating patients, including those in intensive care, on life-support, and babies in incubators, is close to, if not impossible in the current situation,” said the IFRC. This and other hospitals as well as medical missions and medical workers “are protected under international humanitarian law,” noted the IFRC. The legal framework they referred to is straightforward:
1. Article 19 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Protection of medical units and establishments). “Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.”
2. Rule 25 of the International Humanitarian Law (Medical Personnel). “Medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances.”
Two similar phrases in both the Article and the Rule stand out: “in no circumstances” must the protection be withdrawn, and medical workers must be protected “in all circumstances.” Humanitarian law applies to all parts of the world and all conflicts. This is now established by the Treaty of Rome (2002), which is the legal basis for the International Criminal Court. The Treaty of Rome says that it is a war crime if an army is “intentionally directing attacks against buildings,” including “hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected.” There is one exception: “provided they are not military objectives.” By claiming that the hospitals are above Hamas tunnels, the Israelis are claiming that the entire medical infrastructure in Gaza is a military target. This is a convenient way to skirt the absoluteness of international humanitarian law.
In the coming days, we can expect the Israeli propaganda machine to pump out images of IDF soldiers in the tunnels under decimated hospitals holding up guns and copies of Mein Kampf to counter the horrific real-time images of premature babies dying. While these are attempts to justify murdering healthcare workers and the patients they were caring for, they won’t hold up against International Humanitarian Law. Israel has a documented history of bombing hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Gaza, and any doctor versed in patient care quality and safety would insist that underground spaces were constructed to conduct patient care far from the shrapnel of these air strikes.
‘At All Costs’
Across the world on November 11, the American Medical Association (AMA) held a meeting of its House of Delegates while these terrible acts took place. When over 135 medical students and doctors in training in the AMA tried to hold a discussion about a resolution that would call for a ceasefire in Gaza, the AMA leadership shut them down. Those who supported the effort said that there was a “coordinated effort at the national meeting to shut the resolution down, with the Speaker not allowing delegates their allotted 90 seconds to speak about the resolution.” The AMA said that this resolution was “not relevant to advocacy.” “The AMA,” wrote the medical personnel who framed the resolution, “has a responsibility to uphold the wellbeing of healthcare workers and minimize human suffering, and it is clear that these values are not being upheld by some of the most influential physicians in the country, nor is the democratic process being respected.”
This stands in stark contrast to the AMA’s official position on Ukraine in 2022, when they threw their institutional weight behind a call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to Russian attacks on healthcare workers and facilities, emphasizing that international humanitarian and human rights laws must be and civilian and medical personnel lives must be protected “at all costs.”
Every Life Is Sacred
A few days before the House of Delegates meeting, the flagship journal of the AMA, the Journal of the AMA (JAMA), published an article by Dr. Matthew Wynia from the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado and the co-chair of the AMA’s Taskforce on Truth, Reconciliation, Healing, and Transformation. His article “Health Professionals and War in the Middle East” makes three unimpeachable points:
- First, health professionals should condemn dehumanization and acts of genocide.
- Second, health professionals should vigorously oppose both antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
- Third, health professionals have special responsibilities to speak out against certain war crimes.
We concur with all three of these points, including the final sentiment by Dr. Wynia: “In wartime, our profession must remain the living embodiment of religious injunctions to treat every life as sacred, because to save a single life is to save an entire world.”
Dr. Wynia’s article in JAMA, published a few days before the AMA meeting, suggests that it would have been uncontroversial for the AMA to pass a resolution asking for a ceasefire. After all, a ceasefire would allow fellow medical workers to do their work without fear of bombardment, it would stop the killing of civilians, and it would allow for investigation into the attacks on medical facilities and medical workers. If “every life is sacred,” then a medical body must join in the call to prevent any further loss of innocent life. But this is not what happened at the AMA meeting, whose refusal to open the floor for discussion about a ceasefire resolution suggests the opposite approach.
A closer reading of Dr. Wynia’s article shows why medical professionals decided not to allow even a discussion of a ceasefire in Gaza. “Health professionals of goodwill and equally strong commitments to human rights have differing questions on these questions, which reflects the nature of the questions,” Dr. Wynia writes. Introducing moral relativism to the discussion, Dr. Wynia allows for ambiguity where there is none—none in legal terms and none in moral terms. How can “health professionals of goodwill” have a disagreement about the targeting of medical workers and medical institutions or indeed how can they disagree about the killing of civilians, including those who are injured and sick in hospitals? There is room for debate over what must be done when confronted by the evidence of attacks on medical workers and medical workers, but there is no ambiguity about their illegality and immorality.
Dying One by One
Israel has been spreading propaganda over the past several weeks about the presence of Hamas headquarters under one of Gaza’s hospitals—Al-Shifa—to inject a space of moral confusion around protecting healthcare workers and healthcare facilities. On November 5, a group of almost 100 doctors in Israel circulated a letter calling for the annihilation of all hospitals in Gaza, as if to sanction the IDF’s direct attack on the most sacred spaces of our profession. On November 11, Israel also bombarded the Al-Shifa Hospital complex with 1,700 sick and injured patients inside and about 50,000 displaced people sheltering in its courtyard according to Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, a surgeon who was stationed there at the time. Israeli attacks have completely destroyed the hospital. With the power now out in Al-Shifa, 39 newborns in incubators are now wrapped in blankets, dying one by one. Perhaps this is whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to when he said the “children of darkness.”
Israel’s attack on Gaza’s healthcare is an attack on the soul of the medical profession, for which JAMA has provided cover and the AMA supports through enforced silence. Why the American Medical Association can make such a blunt statement about Ukraine but want to remain silent about Palestine raises an important question: does the AMA advocate only for the issues outlined by the U.S. State Department or are these the opinions of the doctors who make up its membership?
Rupa Marya, MD, is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition, and co-author with Raj Patel of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
The wars and the killing go on, day after day, year after year, out of sight and out of mind for most Americans.
We have both been reporting on and protesting against U.S. war crimes for many years, and against identical crimes committed by U.S. allies and proxies like Israel and Saudi Arabia: illegal uses of military force to try to remove enemy governments or “regimes”; hostile military occupations; disproportionate military violence justified by claims of “terrorism”; the bombing and killing of civilians; and the mass destruction of whole cities.
Most Americans share a general aversion to war, but tend to accept this militarized foreign policy because we are tragically susceptible to propaganda, the machinery of public manipulation that works hand in hand with the machinery of killing to justify otherwise unthinkable horrors.
This process of “manufacturing consent” works in a number of ways. One of the most effective forms of propaganda is silence, simply not telling us, and certainly not showing us, what war is really doing to the people whose homes and communities have been turned into America’s latest battlefield.
With the reality of war and genocide staring the world in the face, people everywhere are challenging the impunity with which Israel is systematically violating international humanitarian law.
The most devastating campaign the U.S. military has waged in recent years dropped over 100,000 bombs and missiles on Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa in Syria, and other areas occupied by ISIS or Da’esh. An Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report estimated that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in Mosul, while Raqqa was even more totally destroyed.
The shelling of Raqqa was the heaviest U.S. artillery bombardment since the Vietnam War, yet it was barely reported in the U.S. corporate media. A recent New York Times article about the traumatic brain injuries and PTSD suffered by U.S. artillerymen operating 155 mm howitzers, which each fired up to 10,000 shells into Raqqa, was appropriately titled A Secret War, Strange New Wounds and Silence from the Pentagon.
Shrouding such mass death and destruction in secrecy is a remarkable achievement. When British playwright Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, in the midst of the Iraq War, he titled his Nobel speech “Art, Truth and Politics,” and used it to shine a light on this diabolical aspect of U.S. war-making.
After talking about the hundreds of thousands of killings in Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguy, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua, Pinter asked: “Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes, they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy.“
"But you wouldn’t know it,” he went on.”It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”
But the wars and the killing go on, day after day, year after year, out of sight and out of mind for most Americans. Did you know that the United States and its allies have dropped more than 350,000 bombs and missiles on 9 countries since 2001 (including 14,000 in the current war on Gaza)? That’s an average of 44 airstrikes per day, day in, day out, for 22 years.
Israel, in its present war on Gaza, with children making up more than 40% of the more than 11,000 people killed to date, would surely like to mimic the extraordinary U.S. ability to hide its brutality. But despite Israel’s efforts to impose a media blackout, the massacre is taking place in a small, enclosed, densely-populated urban area, often called an open-air prison, where the world can see a great deal more than usual of how it impacts real people.
Israel has killed a record number of journalists in Gaza, and this appears to be a deliberate strategy, as when U.S. forces targeted journalists in Iraq. But we are still seeing horrifying video and photos of daily new atrocities: dead and wounded children; hospitals struggling to treat the injured; and desperate people fleeing from one place to another through the rubble of their destroyed homes.
Another reason this war is not so well hidden is because Israel is waging it, not the United States. The U.S. is supplying most of the weapons, has sent aircraft carriers to the region, and dispatched U.S. Marine General James Glynn to provide tactical advice based on his experience conducting similar massacres in Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq. But Israeli leaders seem to have overestimated the extent to which the U.S. information warfare machine would shield them from public scrutiny and political accountability.
Unlike in Fallujah, Mosul and Raqqa, people all over the world are seeing video of the unfolding catastrophe on their computers, phones and TVs. Netanyahu, Biden and the corrupt “defense analysts” on cable TV are no longer the ones creating the narrative, as they try to tack self-serving narratives onto the horrifying reality we can all see for ourselves.
With the reality of war and genocide staring the world in the face, people everywhere are challenging the impunity with which Israel is systematically violating international humanitarian law.
Michael Crowley and Edward Wong have reported in the New York Times that Israeli officials are defending their actions in Gaza by pointing to U.S. war crimes, insisting that they are simply interpreting the laws of war the same way that the United States has interpreted them in Iraq and other U.S. war zones. They compare Gaza to Fallujah, Mosul and even Hiroshima.
But copying U.S. war crimes is precisely what makes Israel’s actions illegal. And it is the world’s failure to hold the United States accountable that has emboldened Israel to believe it too can kill with impunity.
The United States systematically violates the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force, manufacturing political justifications to suit each case and using its Security Council veto to evade international accountability. Its military lawyers employ unique, exceptional interpretations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, under which the universal protections the Convention guarantees to civilians are treated as secondary to U.S. military objectives.
The United States fiercely resists the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure that its exceptional interpretations of international law are never subjected to impartial judicial scrutiny.
When the United States did allow the ICJ to rule on its war against Nicaragua in 1986, the ICJ ruled that its deployment of the “Contras” to invade and attack Nicaragua and its mining of Nicaragua’s ports were acts of aggression in violation of international law, and ordered the United States to pay war reparations to Nicaragua. When the United States declared that it would no longer recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ and failed to pay up, Nicaragua asked the UN Security Council to enforce the reparations, but the U.S. vetoed the resolution.
Atrocities like Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the bombing of German and Japanese cities to “unhouse” the civilian population, as Winston Churchill called it, together with the horrors of Germany’s Nazi holocaust, led to the adoption of the new Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949, to protect civilians in war zones and under military occupation.
On the 50th anniversary of the Convention in 1999, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is responsible for monitoring international compliance with the Geneva Conventions, conducted a survey to see how well people in different countries understood the protections the Convention provides.
They surveyed people in twelve countries that had been victims of war, in four countries (France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.) that are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and in Switzerland where the ICRC is based. The ICRC published the results of the survey in 2000, in a report titled, People on War - Civilians in the Line of Fire.
The survey asked people to choose between a correct understanding of the Convention’s civilian protections and a watered-down interpretation of them that closely resembles that of U.S. and Israeli military lawyers.
The correct understanding was defined by a statement that combatants “must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone.” The weaker, incorrect statement was that “combatants should avoid civilians as much as possible” as they conduct military operations.
Between 72% and 77% of the people in the other UNSC countries and Switzerland agreed with the correct statement, but the United States was an outlier, with only 52% agreeing. In fact 42% of Americans agreed with the weaker statement, twice as many as in the other countries. There were similar disparities between the United States and the others on questions about torture and the treatment of prisoners of war.
In U.S.-occupied Iraq, the United States’ exceptionally weak interpretations of the Geneva Conventions led to endless disputes with the ICRC and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which issued damning quarterly human rights reports. UNAMI consistently maintained that U.S. airstrikes in densely populated civilian areas were violations of international law.
For instance, its human rights report for the2nd quarter of 2007 documented UNAMI’s investigations of 15 incidents in which U.S. occupation forces killed 103 Iraqi civilians, including 27 killed in airstrikes in Khalidiya, near Ramadi, on April 3rd, and 7 children killed in a helicopter attack on an elementary school in Diyala province on May 8th.
UNAMI demanded that “all credible allegations of unlawful killings by MNF (Multi-National Force) forces be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force.”
A footnote explained, “Customary international humanitarian law demands that, as much as possible, military objectives must not be located within areas densely populated by civilians. The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area.”
UNAMI also rejected U.S. claims that its widespread killing of civilians was the result of the Iraqi Resistance using civilians as “human shields,” another U.S. propaganda trope that Israel is mimicking today. Israeli accusations of human shielding are even more absurd in the densely populated, confined space of Gaza, where the whole world can see that it is Israel that is placing civilians in the line of fire as they desperately seek safety from Israeli bombardment.
Calls for a ceasefire in Gaza are echoing around the world: through the halls of the United Nations; from the governments of traditional U.S. allies like France, Spain and Norway; from a newly united front of previously divided Middle Eastern leaders; and in the streets of London and Washington. The world is withdrawing its consent for a genocidal “two-state solution” in which Israel and the United States are the only two states that can settle the fate of Palestine.
If U.S. and Israeli leaders are hoping that they can squeak through this crisis, and that the public’s habitually short attention span will wash away the world’s horror at the crimes we are all witnessing, that may be yet another serious misjudgment. As Hannah Arendt wrote in 1950 in the preface to The Origins of Totalitarianism.“
We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion. The subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are vain.”
Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher for CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.
Republished from LA Progressive.
Provocations by the U.S. State Department Can Chill Press Freedom in Latin America. By: Vijay Prashad.Read Now
Provocations by the U.S. State Department Can Chill Press Freedom in Latin America
The headline is provocative: “The Kremlin’s Efforts to Covertly Spread Disinformation in Latin America.” This was a statement on the U.S. State Department website, posted on November 7, 2023. The United States government accused two companies—Social Design Agency and Structura National Technologies—of being the main agents of what it alleged is Russian-backed disinformation. The statement named the heads of both of the firms, Ilya Gambashidze of Social Design Agency and Nikolay Tupkin of Structura. On July 28, 2023, the European Union sanctioned several Russian individuals and firms, including SDA and Structura. The European Union accuses these two IT firms of being “involved in the Russian-led digital disinformation campaign” against the government of Ukraine. The statement by the U.S. State Department now alleges that these IT companies are involved in a disinformation project in Latin America.
Neither the European Union nor the U.S. State Department offer any evidence in their various public statements. The U.S. document does, however, refer to the 2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which says the following: “Russia’s influence actors have adapted their efforts to increasingly hide their hand, laundering their preferred messaging through a vast ecosystem of Russian proxy websites, individuals, and organizations that appear to be independent news sources.” Here, we get mainly the methodology—laundering information through proxy websites—rather than any hard evidence.
On May 3, 2023, the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on “The Global Information Wars: Is the U.S. Winning or Losing?” The main speaker at the hearing was Amanda Bennett, the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), an umbrella group that runs several U.S. government media projects from Europe (Radio Liberty) to the Americas (Office of Cuba Broadcasting) with an $810 million annual budget. Bennett, the former director of the U.S. government’s Voice of America, told the senators that if the U.S. government fails to “target investments to counter inroads Russia, the [People’s Republic of China], and Iran are making, we run the risk of losing the global information war.” These three countries, she argued, have “outspent” the United States in Latin America, an advantage that she said needed to be overcome by increased U.S. interference in Latin American media.
The Role of RT
In Latin America, Jessica Brandt of the Brookings Institute told the Senators, Russian media has secured a decisive advantage. The facts she laid out are worthwhile to consider: “Through the first quarter of 2023, three of the five most retweeted Russian state media accounts on Twitter messaged in Spanish, and five of the ten fastest growing ones targeted Spanish-language audiences. On YouTube, RT en Español has also proven capable of building large audiences, despite the platform’s global ban on Russian state-funded media channels. On TikTok, RT en Español is among the most popular Spanish-language media outlets. Its 29.6 million likes make it more popular than Telemundo, Univision, BBC Mundo, and El País. Likewise, on Facebook, RT en Español currently has more followers than any other Spanish-language international broadcaster.” In other words, RT by itself has become one of the most influential media outlets in Latin America. Brandt’s facts are widely accepted, including by a report published in March by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism called “Despite Western bans, Putin’s propaganda flourishes in Spanish on TV and social media” and by a study from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab from 2022.
RT (formerly Russia Today) is owned by TV-Novosti, a non-profit organization founded by the state-owned Ria Novosti in 2005. RT is banned or blocked in Canada, the European Union, Germany, the United States, and several other Western countries. In fact, at the Senate hearing, there was little discussion about the entire web of RT projects. The focus was on the “laundering” of “disinformation.”
What is striking about the U.S. State Department statement is that it names two news projects that operate in Latin America as these “proxies” without any evidence but with hesitant language. For instance, the U.S. State Department says that part of the Russian campaign is to cultivate a group of journalists “most likely in Chile,” but not definitely. This hesitation is important to underline because a few paragraphs later, the doubt vanishes: “While the network’s operations are primarily done in concert with Spanish-language outlets Pressenza and El Ciudadano, a broader network of media resources is available to the group to further amplify information.”
Pressenza, founded in 2009 in Milan, Italy, emerged out of the debates and discussions provoked by the International Commission for the Study of Communications Problems (formed by UNESCO) and its report, Many Voices, One World or the MacBride Report (1980). The MacBride report itself built on discussions about media democracy that had resulted in the formation, in 1964, of Inter-Press Services, and then later in Pressenza. El Ciudadano was founded in 2005 as part of the process of democratization in Chile in the aftermath of the fall of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1990.
Both outlets denied (in English and Spanish) that they are either funded by the Russian government or that they launder information for the Russian government. In their joint statement, signed by David Andersson (editor of Pressenza) and Bruno Sommer Catalán (editor of El Ciudadano), they say, “We believe that this kind of attack is malicious, and we insist that the US State Department withdraw this accusation as well as publicly apologize to us for maligning our reputations.” In a separate statement, Italian journalist Antonio Mazzeo (who won the Giorgio Bassani prize in 2010) said: “This affair worries me because it could prepare for the next step, the creation of a proscription list… to put all those who do not accept to think only of war and therefore become dangerous and must be silenced.”
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Mokhiber: US officials can be prosecuted for complicity in Israel's genocide in Palestine. By: Decensored NewsRead Now
The former UN human rights official recommends that a claim be brought to the World Court, since the ICC will “continue to drag its feet” due to political pressure from the West
On her show last Friday, political commentator Katie Halper played Decensored News’ recent video of journalist Sam Husseini confronting the U.S. State Department about the Genocide Convention for her guest Craig Mokhiber, asking for his reaction.
Mokhiber is an international lawyer who served as Director of the New York Office for the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights before stepping down recently due to their inaction over the “genocide unfolding before our eyes” in Palestine at the hands of the Israelis.
Here is a subtitled clip of the most relevant portion of his response (video of which is also seen in the longer Halper segment above).
Mokhiber praises Sam before going on to denounce the “arrogant” and self-serving nature of the State Department’s claim that they haven’t made a “determination” of genocide in Israel’s case.
“Of course you haven’t determined, because your determination is political. And you would never determine such a thing.”
He cited the genocide in Rwanda as an example:
Remember it was the US government, and again, thanks to the leaked memos, that we learned after the genocide in Rwanda that we had the State Department INSTRUCTING all their diplomatic missions DO NOT use the word genocide, because in Rwanda, as the genocide was unfolding because if you use the word genocide we are legally compelled to do something about it. So we don’t say genocide.
So the fact that the US government has not made a determination is not surprising, and it’s not the end of the story.
You could say, however, that it shows that they aren’t taking their international legal obligations seriously.
Mokhiber noted the urgency with which the Genocide Convention should be invoked:
You know, the convention on genocide is not… it’s not just to punish genocide, but it’s also to PREVENT genocide.
So you can’t WAIT until AFTER, you know, the dust is settled and say now we’ll determine whether that was genocide or not. The obligations go much further than that.
And, thank goodness that these are, you know, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide, these things are all subject to universal jurisdiction.
So, they can be prosecuted in ANY court, anywhere in the world by somebody who wants to bring a claim.
That’s why there are a lot of senior officials who have to check before they go to a country whether there’s a pending indictment, or whether there’s a risk of arrest. And I think there are gonna be a lot of names on that list in the coming months as well, because under universal jurisdiction all of these crimes can be prosecuted in— effectively in any court.
The US will continue to block the ICC; the ICC will continue to drag its feet because it does give in to political pressure from the West when it comes to Israel, and violations of— of international crimes by Israel.
He also briefly made the case for US culpability under the Genocide Convention, noting that “complicity” in genocide is one of the included crimes, in addition to “genocide itself.”
“But genocide, you know — and the Convention makes clear — you know, you can be a perpetrator whether you’re the head of a country, whether you’re an official within a country, or whether you’re a private actor.
Nobody is immune if they are participating. It outlaws not just genocide itself; it outlaws attempted genocide, incitement to genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and here’s what’s really important: complicity in genocide.
And I have argued that many of the crimes that are being perpetrated now in Gaza by the Israelis the US is very complicit through the financing, arming, diplomatic cover, intelligence support, even the mobilization of some troops I understand as well.
Asked by Halper about what role the World Court might play in this situation, Mokhiber said:
[The World Court is] different from the International Criminal Court, where you can have INDIVIDUAL criminal accountability.
In the World Court it’s state to state. So there would be a kind of accountability that would then— would help to support charges against individuals.
But there should be a claim in the World Court. Any state can bring it if they’re a party to the convention.
I think there needs to be pressure to counter-balance the pressure that has caused the International Criminal Court not to take action all these years when it comes to Israel. There needs to be pressure. And they are feeling, I think, a little pressure now as more and more voices are speaking up and saying this really does look like genocide.
Mokhiber’s four-page resignation letter was sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on October 28, 2023, and began (bold added):
Dear High Commissioner,
This will be my last official communication to you as Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I write at a moment of great anguish for the world, including for many of our colleagues. Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it. As someone who has investigated human rights in Palestine since the 1980s, lived in Gaza as a UN human rights advisor in the 1990s, and carried out several human rights missions to the country before and since, this is deeply personal to me.
I also worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. In each case, when the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenseless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocites, of protection of the vulnerable, and of accountability for perpetrators. And so it has been with successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the UN.
High Commissioner, we are failing again.
You can read his full letter here.
This was originally posted on the Decensored News website.
SIGNIFICANT segments of the non-Communist Western Left see the developing contradiction between the United States and China in terms of an inter-imperialist rivalry. Such a characterisation fulfils three distinct theoretical functions from their point of view: first, it provides an explanation for the growing contradiction between the U.S. and China; second, it does so by using a Leninist concept and within a Leninist paradigm; and third, it critiques China as an emerging imperialist power, and hence by inference, a capitalist economy, which is in conformity with an ultra-Left critique of China.
Such a characterisation ironically makes these segments of the Left implicitly or explicitly complicit in U.S. imperialism’s machinations against China. At best, it leads to a position which holds that they are both imperialist countries, so that there is no point in supporting one against the other; at worst, it leads to supporting the U.S. against China as the “lesser evil” in the conflict between these two imperialist powers. In either case, it leads to the obliteration of an oppositional position with regard to the aggressive postures of U.S. imperialism vis-à-vis China; and since the two countries are at loggerheads on most contemporary issues, it leads to a general muting of opposition to U.S. imperialism.
For quite some time now, significant sections of the western Left, even those who otherwise profess opposition to western imperialism, have been supportive of the actions of this imperialism in specific situations. It was evident in their support for the bombing of Serbia when that country was being ruled by Slobodan Milosevich; it is evident at present in the support for NATO in the ongoing Ukraine war; and it is also evident in their shocking lack of any strong opposition to the genocide that is being perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinian people in Gaza with the active support of western imperialism. The silence on, or the support for, the aggressive imperialist position on China by certain sections of the western Left, is, to be sure, not necessarily identical with these positions; but it is in conformity with them.
Such a position which does not frontally oppose western imperialism, is, ironically, at complete variance with the interests and the attitudes of the working class in the metropolitan countries. The working class in Europe for instance is overwhelmingly opposed to NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, as is evident in many instances of workers’ refusal to load shipment of European arms meant for Ukraine. This is not surprising, for the war has also directly impacted workers’ lives by aggravating inflation. But the absence of any forthright Left opposition to the war is making many workers turn to right-wing parties that, even though they fall in line with imperialist positions upon coming to power as Meloni has done in Italy, are at least critical of such positions when they are in opposition. The quietude of the western left vis-à-vis western imperialism is thus causing a shift of the entire political centre of gravity to the right over much of the metropolis. And looking upon the U.S.-China contradiction as an inter-imperialist rivalry plays into this narrative.
As for China being a capitalist economy, and hence engaged in imperialist activities all over the globe in rivalry with the U.S., those who hold this view are, at best, taking a moralist position and mixing up “capitalist” with “bad” and “socialist” with “good”. Their position amounts in effect to saying: I have my notion of how a socialist society should behave (which is an idealised notion), and if China’s behaviour in some respects differs from my notion, then ipso facto China cannot be socialist and hence must be capitalist. The terms capitalist and socialist however have very specific meanings, which imply their being associated with very specific kinds of dynamics, each kind rooted in certain basic property relations. True, China has a significant capitalist sector, namely one characterised by capitalist property relations, but the bulk of the Chinese economy is still State-owned and characterised by centralised direction which prevents it from having the self- drivenness (or “spontaneity”) that marks capitalism. One may critique many aspects of Chinese economy and society, but calling it “capitalist” and hence engaged in imperialist activities on a par with western metropolitan economies, is a travesty. It is not only analytically wrong but leads to praxis that is palpably against the interests of both the working classes in the metropolis and the working people in the global south.
But the question immediately arises: if the U.S.-China contradiction is not a manifestation of inter-imperialist rivalry, then how can we explain its rise to prominence in the more recent period? To understand this we have to go back to the post-second world war period. Capitalism emerged from the war greatly weakened, and facing an existential crisis: the working class in the metropolis was not willing to go back to the pre-war capitalism that had entailed mass unemployment and destitution; socialism had made great advances all over the world; and liberation struggles in the global south against colonial and semi-colonial oppression had reached a real crescendo. For its very survival therefore capitalism had to make a number of concessions: the introduction of universal adult suffrage, the adoption of welfare State measures, the institution of State intervention in demand management, and above all the acceptance of formal political decolonisation.
Political decolonisation however did not mean economic decolonisation, that is, the transfer of control over third world resources, exercised till then by metropolitan capital to the newly independent countries; indeed against such transfers imperialism fought a bitter and prolonged struggle, marked by the overthrow of governments led by Arbenz, Mossadegh, Allende, Cheddi Jagan, Lumumba and many others. Even so, however, metropolitan capital could not prevent third world resources in many instances from slipping out of its control to the dirigiste regimes that had come up in these countries following decolonisation.
The tide turned in favour of imperialism with the coming into being of a higher stage of centralisation of capital that gave rise to globalised capital, including above all globalised finance, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union that itself was not altogether unrelated to the globalisation of finance. Imperialism trapped countries in the web of globalisation and hence in the vortex of global financial flows, forcing them under the threat of financial outflows into pursuing neo-liberal policies that meant the end of dirigiste regimes and the re-acquisition of control by metropolitan capital over much of third world resources, including third world land-use.
It is against this background of re-assertion of imperialist hegemony that one can understand the heightening of U.S.-China contradiction and many other contemporary developments like the Ukraine war. Two features of this re-assertion need to be noted: the first is that metropolitan market access for goods from countries like China, together with the willingness of metropolitan capital to locate plants in such countries to take advantage of their comparatively lower wages for meeting global demand, accelerated the growth-rate in these economies (and only these economies) of the global south; it did so in China to a point where the leading metropolitan power, the U.S., began to see China as a threat. The second feature is the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism that has emerged with virulence after the collapse of the housing “bubble” in the U.S.
For both these reasons the U.S. would now like to protect its economy against imports from China and from other similarly-placed countries of the global south. Even though these imports may be occurring, at least in part, under the aegis of U.S. capital, the U.S. cannot afford to run the risk of “deindustrialising” itself. The desire on its part to cut China “down to size” so soon after it had been hailing China for its “economic reforms” is thus rooted in the contradictions of neo-liberal capitalism, and hence in the very logic inherent to the reassertion of imperialist hegemony. It is not inter-imperialist rivalry, but resistance on the part of China, and other countries following its lead, to the re-assertion of hegemony by western imperialism that explains the heightening of U.S.-China contradictions.
As the capitalist crisis accentuates, as the oppression of third world countries because of their inability to service their external debt increases through the imposition of “austerity” by imperialist agencies like the IMF, and in turn calls forth greater resistance from them and greater assistance to them from China, the U.S.-China contradictions will become more acute and the tirades against China in the west will grow shriller.
Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian political economist and political commentator. His books include Accumulation and Stability Under Capitalism (1997), The Value of Money (2009), and Re-envisioning Socialism (2011).
Republished from Peoples Democracy.
How the War on Gaza Has Stalled the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
On September 9, 2023, during the G20 meeting in New Delhi, the governments of seven countries and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding to create an India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor. Only three of the countries (India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates or the UAE) would be directly part of this corridor, which was to begin in India, go through the Gulf, and terminate in Greece. The European countries (France, Germany, and Italy) as well as the European Union joined this endeavor because they expected the IMEC to be a trade route for their goods to go to India and for them to access Indian goods at, what they hoped would be, a reduced cost.
The United States, which was one of the initiators of the IMEC, pushed it as a means to both isolate China and Iran as well as to hasten the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It seemed like a perfect instrument for Washington: sequester China and Iran, bring Israel and Saudi Arabia together, and deepen ties with India that seemed to have been weakened by India’s reluctance to join the United States in its policy regarding Russia.
Israel’s war on the Palestinians in Gaza has changed the entire equation and stalled the IMEC. It is now inconceivable for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to enter such a project with the Israelis. Public opinion in the Arab world is red-hot, with inflamed anger at the indiscriminate bombardment by Israel and the catastrophic loss of civilian life. Regional countries with close relations with Israel—such as Jordan and Turkey—have had to harden their rhetoric against Israel. In the short term, at least, it is impossible to imagine the implementation of the IMEC.
Pivot to Asia
Two years before China inaugurated its “One Belt, One Road” or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the United States had already planned a private-sector-funded trade route to link India to Europe and to tighten the links between Washington and New Delhi. In 2011, then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Chennai, India, where she spoke of the creation of a New Silk Road that would run from India through Pakistan and into Central Asia. This new “international web and network of economic and transit connections” would be an instrument for the United States to create a new intergovernmental forum and a “free trade zone” in which the United States would be a member (in much the same way as the United States is part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC).
The New Silk Road was part of a wider “pivot to Asia,” as U.S. President Barack Obama put it. This “pivot” was designed to check the rise of China and to prevent its influence in Asia. Clinton’s article in Foreign Policy (“America’s Pacific Century,” October 11, 2011) suggested that this New Silk Road was not antagonistic to China. However, this rhetoric of the “pivot” came alongside the U.S. military’s new AirSea Battle concept that was designed around direct conflict between the United States and China (the concept built on a 1999 Pentagon study called “Asia 2025” which noted that “the threats are in Asia”).
Two years later, the Chinese government said that it would build a massive infrastructure and trade project called “One Belt, One Road,” which would later be called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the next ten years, from 2013 to 2023, the BRI investments totaled $1.04 trillion spread out over 148 countries (three-quarters of the countries in the world). In this short period, the BRI project has made a considerable mark on the world, particularly on the poorer nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where the BRI has made investments to build infrastructure and industry.
Chastened by the growth of the BRI, the United States attempted to block it through various instruments: the América Crece for Latin America and the Millennium Challenge Corporation for South Asia. The weakness in these attempts was that both relied upon funding from an unenthusiastic private sector.
Complications of the IMEC
Even before the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, IMEC faced several serious challenges.
First, the attempt to isolate China appeared illusory, given that the main Greek port in the corridor—at Piraeus—is managed by the China Ocean Shipping Corporation, and that the Dubai Ports have considerable investment from China’s Ningbo-Zhoushan port and the Zhejiang Seaport. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now members of the BRICS+, and both countries are participants in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Second, the entire IMEC process is reliant upon private-sector funding. The Adani Group—which has close ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has come under the spotlight for fraudulent practices—already owns the Mundra port (Gujarat, India) and the Haifa port (Israel), and seeks to take a share in the port at Piraeus. In other words, the IMEC corridor is providing geopolitical cover for Adani’s investments from Greece to Gujarat.
Third, the sea lane between Haifa and Piraeus would go through waters contested between Turkey and Greece. This “Aegean Dispute” has provoked the Turkish government to threaten war if Greece goes through with its designs.
Fourth, the entire project relied upon the “normalization” between Saudi Arabia and Israel, an extension of the Abraham Accords that drew Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates to recognize Israel in August 2020. In July 2022, India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States formed the I2U2 Group, with the intention, among other things, to “modernize infrastructure” and to “advance low-carbon development pathways” through “private enterprise partnerships.” This was the precursor of IMEC. Neither “normalization” with Saudi Arabia nor advancement of the I2U2 process between the UAE and Israel seem possible in this climate. Israel’s bombardment of the Palestinians in Gaza has frozen this process.
Previous Indian trade route projects, such as the International North-South Trade Corridor (with India, Iran, and Russia) and the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (led by India and Japan), have not gone from paper to port for a host of reasons. These, at least, had the merit of being viable. IMEC will suffer the same fate as these corridors, to some extent due to Israel’s bombing of Gaza but also due to Washington’s fantasy that it can “defeat” China in an economic war.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
From the beginning, the international Zionist movement was linked to the global capitalist movement and the imperialist political center of power
Israel began as a Zionist project for imperialism, as a main base to extend its hegemony over the Arab region, and to protect its interests there, as well as to curb the rise of Arab national liberation movement, and to hold the development of each individual Arab country back.
But this mission would not negate Israel’s own ambitions to control the Arab region. The opportunity came in the June War (1967), from which Israel emerged and occupied the entire land of Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Then, Israel exercised its Zionist dream of expanding beyond Palestine.
After the October War (1973), Israel began preparing to play a new role within the region, no longer limited to being a proxy base for international monopolies and the expansion of Zionist capital, and their extension represented by multinational companies. Rather, it has come to express the needs of the development of the Israeli economy itself, with its objective and subjective difficulties and its aspiration to expand — authentically — within the Arab region.
The growth of Israeli industry aspires to break the barriers of isolation and launch into markets that constitute a natural field for it, which are primarily Arab markets. This development has recently been embodied in Israel’s ambitions for economic control over the Arab region, and its capitalism’s ambition to participate directly in the theft of Arab wealth by obtaining its share of Arab money and Arab oil as well.
In the face of these urgent considerations, Israel proceeded to put forward “peace” slogans according to its conditions, hoping to achieve, through the new colonial method, what it had not yet achieved through the old colonial methods. Thus, a project was established in the Arab land, “Palestine,” which is like any capitalist project that tolerates profit and loss, but it has continued to achieve its economic feasibility for the imperialist countries until now.
And we must clearly distinguish within Israel. Between the imperialist phenomenon and the Zionist phenomenon, when Imperialism, in general, can be described as the movement of colonial capitalists in the world, while Zionism is specifically the movement of Jewish settlers in the Arab region.
Simha Flapan in his book “Zionism and the Palestinians,” which published in London in 1979, said, “that Israeli political thought was formed during the period preceding the establishment of Israel itself, and in the process of crystallizing this thought, a doctrine was formulated from several basic concepts:
1- The gradual construction of economic and military organizations as a basis for achieving political goals.
2- An alliance with a major power outside the Middle East.
3- Not recognizing the existence of a national entity for the Palestinians.
4- Economic, social and cultural discrimination as necessities for the renaissance of Jewish national life.
5- Peace by force.
Thus, the issue of our classification in the past of the form and essence of Israel as either a driving force for global colonialism in the Arab region, or merely one of its tools…is not completely accurate. On the basis that the first view cannot be considered to be correct, and the second view is not entirely correct.
And if Israel maintained for a long time the image of being the pampered stepchild of colonialism, it has now transformed, by successfully performing its role, into a small colonial power, especially when it now adds to the methods of regional expansion the neo-colonial methods of economic control within the Arab region.
Palestine is at the heart of the imperial project
The interest of the colonial and imperial regimes in Palestine began during the period of free trade capitalism and commercial competition between colonial industrial capitalist countries, even before the middle of the 19th century. The primary motivation for this was the importance of Palestine’s strategic geographical location for international colonial trade, which was considered the most important economic branch in the field of colonial competition in the stage of free competition and the colonial struggle to secure foreign markets.
Palestine is located in the middle of the “Arab East” and is considered the shortest land route between the colonial capitalist countries in Europe, especially Britain, and its colonies in the Far East — India and others. At this stage, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was suffering from weakness, economic underdevelopment, and backwardness compared to the industrially advanced capitalist countries. Therefore, during the stage of free competition, the imperialist countries tried to infiltrate the Ottoman Empire, especially to its sections in the Near East, and pave the way for dividing their legacy in this important region. These attempts took several forms, including the attempt of the imperialist regimes to get closer to the Ottoman Sultanate with the aim of obtaining privileges, such as securing trade routes and allowing capitalist commercial convoys to cross and pass through the Palestinian and Syrian lands (at that stage, the lands of Palestine, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Syria constituted Historical Syria).
The facts indicate that “between the years 1839 – 1854,” and with the increase of interest in Palestine, the major European powers established consulates in the city of Jerusalem. The imperialist countries also tried to adopt the various sects in Palestine and pretend to defend their interests as a mask behind which they concealed their true intentions to monopolize the center of influence in Palestine and create a material base on which it is based. Perhaps the most prominent thing that reveals the imperialist intentions behind the cover-up slogan of defending the interests of the sects is the position of British imperialism towards the Jewish community and its attempts to make it its main pillar for extending its colonial influence.
At the beginning of the forties (of the nineteenth century), many British imperialist politicians called for Jewish settlement in Palestine as a guarantee to defend British imperialist commercial interests and secure freedom of roads to India. In his book “The History of Zionism” the Zionist Nahum Sokolov highlights many examples and citations that confirm the reality and dimensions of ambitions. British colonialism was behind the idea of settling Jews in Palestine even before the emergence of the World Zionist Organization on the political scene.
Sokolov mentions, for example, that British Foreign Secretary Viscount Palmerston wrote on September 25, 1840, confirming the “Syrian question,” after Britain intervened militarily alongside Turkey to repel the forces of Ibrahim Pasha. He wrote that he proposed establishing a British colony there, and added that the region needed money and work… And the Hebrews are waiting to return to Syria. Therefore — he said — if the countries guarantee the laws to achieve equality in Syria and the doubts of the Hebrews are dispelled, then the call will mobilize them and they will go out with their wealth and industry…He stressed in the end that the colonization of Syria by the Hebrews is the cheapest and surest way to supply these areas, sparsely populated and needs it.
In fact, the goal of British colonialism was never to provide the natural needs of the population of Syria and to seek help from Jewish settlement to achieve this goal. Rather, its primary goal was to remove any competing power by continuing to guarantee British imperial trade privileges and its trade routes with its colonies. From this standpoint, and to preserve its interests, it stood along with the Ottoman Empire against the young state in Egypt led by Muhammad Ali and against his forces led by his son Ibrahim.
In the period from 1831 to 1840, Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim tried to establish a large Arab state. This state extended from Egypt through Historical Syria to the borders of Minor Asia. Palmerston indicates in a letter he sent to his country’s ambassador in Naples on March 21, 1833, that the goal of Muhammad Ali is the establishment of an Arab kingdom that includes all the countries that speak Arabic. He noted that this project in itself may not cause any harm, “but it will lead to the dismemberment of Turkey, and this is what we are not satisfied with. Moreover, we see no reason to justify replacing Turkey with an Arab king in controlling the India Road.”
Palestine gained special importance on the map of conflict between the imperial regimes after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, but the imperial conflict to carve up the territories of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine, between Britain, France, Tsarist Russia, and the German Empire, which raged at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially on the eve of and during World War I, led to the Sykes-Picot Treaty in 1916, which divided the countries of the Near East between France, England, and Tsarist Russia.
Israel and imperial financing to establish the entity
Since the first months of the founding of the Zionist entity, the capitalist countries have undertaken the task of financing it, “the United States of America – Sweden – Switzerland – Belgium – France – West Germany.” Therefore, the flow of foreign capital to Israel is considered the most important basis for the development of its economy, according to Galina Tynikina in a book entitled “The State of Israel.”
Rather, the main character of the Israeli economy was rapid growth due to the expanded import of capital, until in that period, the rate of capital formation per capita in Israel became the highest rate in the entire world, and the entire economy, including the private sector, became completely dependent on foreign aid that reached… Through channels controlled by the state, it flows into immigration, settlement, and employment projects, and thus contributes to financing the daily lives of the citizens of the new state.
In the beginning, the purpose of imperial external financing was to encourage immigration to Israel, absorb immigrants there, and develop its agriculture and industry. At every challenge facing the Zionist occupation, the imperialist countries were quick to inject the Israeli economy with German reparations, US aid, and French weapons, in addition to concluding bilateral trade agreements, loans, and donations in forms of sales of bonds and loans for import and export, loans for surplus American agricultural crops, and encouragement of direct private investment.
Thus, the prevailing opinion regarding the formation of national capital is carried out by the country itself. Israel has been assigned this vital task by the major imperialist powers. Therefore, the role of global capital in creating the so-called “Israeli miracle” must be continuously revealed. In Israel, the total resources exceed the total Gross National Product, which allowed for an intensive investment effort that led to a high annual growth rate, without accompanying pressure on consumption levels.
Consequently, we are faced with a unique phenomenon, which is the emergence of an entire state as an economic project financed by all of global imperialism, and this alone is sufficient to demonstrate the convergence between Zionism and imperialism. It’s a fact that unilateral transfers/free transfers was an important feature of support for the fusion between imperialism and Zionism, however foreign investment had a distant and tangible signification it was a manifestation of the participation of international Zionism and imperialism in the project to establish the state of Israel.
Israel and the transition to American imperialism
From the beginning, the international Zionist movement was linked to the global capitalist movement and the imperialist political center of power. At the beginning of the last century, international Zionism pinned its hopes on Germany, a rising capitalist power which was competing with the British monopoly. After the Balfour Declaration and the Allied victory in World War I, loyalty shifted to Great Britain, which opened the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration, and since World War II, the World Zionist Organization moved its headquarters to the United States and began pinning hopes on it,
On May 11, 1942, what was then called the “Baltimore Statement” was approved by the Extraordinary Zionist Conference held at the Baltimore Hotel in New York. The most important thing included in the statement was reliance on the United States of America as the main support of the Zionist movement.
Indeed, the leadership of the capitalist world then passed to the United States, which had by chance encroached on the Arab oil wells, while its major financiers had been linked to the Jewish Agency for a long time (Cohn, Lieb, Lehman, Goldman, Sachs, Guggenheim, Mullazar, Rockefeller, and Morgan). With the end of World War II and the collapse of the centers of France and Britain in the Arab East, the United States intervened more forcefully in the entire region, and was behind the United Nations decision to partition Palestine and establish Israel.
However, in the early years of Israel’s founding, the United States was keen to hide its funding of Israel for fear of provoking Arab hostility towards it. In agreement with the United States, West Germany took up the funding process in those years, whether openly with compensation or secretly with weapons, and the United States did not appear on the scene. It was revealed only with the June War, and since then, it has not hidden its special relationship with Israel nor its full commitment to it.
As for financing, the United States of America was the organizer, driver, and financier of the process of establishing Israel. Between 1948 and 1962, Israel obtained from the United States an amount exceeding USD 3,200 million, which was used to equip and expand agricultural settlements, build housing, create and renew roads, ports, and transportation, and provide food to the population.
After the June War, the United States became the main source of foreign funds in various forms. For example, the US aid provided during the five years that followed the aggression exceeded double what the United States provided in similar aid to Israel during the twenty years that preceded the war, and the aid continued and even increased, especially soft loans.
Talking about US loans to Israel contains quite a bit of excess: these loans are completely soft. The grace periods for postponing loans, periodic exemptions from previous debts, the initiative to provide new grants and loans, preferential treatment in customs tariffs, and the distinct tax treatment with which gifts granted to Israel are treated, all make American loans are like Israeli treasury bonds.
As for US investments, they played an important functional role in strengthening the Zionist economy even before the establishment of Israel, as the cooperation between those investments and the Jewish Agency was great, and we mention here the prominent role of two American companies: (the Palestinian Economic Company), which was founded in 1926, and (the American Palestinian Company), which was founded in 1942. This company is considered to be the giant monopoly that links American capitalism and Zionism. The company established many companies inside occupied Palestine in partnership with the Histadrut, or the Israeli state.
To this day, even with the change of administrations between Democrats and Republicans, US support is continuous and renewed through decisions and legislation from the US House of Representatives.
In conclusion, the relationship between imperialism, especially the US, and Israel cannot be described as good, bad, or wavering, given that Israel is considered one of the states of the United States, but it is in an advanced place, and this organic connection was not and is no longer hidden, and this is what we tried to show in the previous lines.
Wael Mustafa al Hersh is a Palestinian refugee in Syria, student activist, and political leader. He is the secretary of the Progressive Student Union Bloc which is the student arm of the Palestinian People’s Party. He researches and writes on economics and political science. He has a masters in economics and is currently in the process of writing his doctoral thesis.
Republished from Peoples Dispatch.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the US marched on Saturday for the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation and to decry the support of their government for Israel
Over 300,000 people poured into Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on November 4, in the largest Palestine solidarity demonstration in US history. The unprecedented demonstration comes in the wake of Israel’s ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip. Organized by a wide range of Palestinian, Arab, and anti-imperialist groups including the Palestinian Youth Movement, the ANSWER Coalition, the Peoples Forum, Al-Adwa: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and National Students for Justice in Palestine, hundreds of thousands rallied and then marched to the White House, demanding an end to US funding for Israel, and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Protesters yelled chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Ceasefire now!” Some brought long lists of names of those killed in Gaza in this past month by Israel.
This 300,000 strong march occurred in the heart of Israel’s most significant backer, the United States, despite the fact that people in the country have been faced with various forms of persecution for supporting Palestine. The Virginia Attorney General just opened an investigation into American Muslims for Palestine looking into allegations against the group for “benefiting or providing support to terrorist organizations”. Students who organize in solidarity for Palestine, especially those in local Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, have been doxxed and have had job offers rescinded.
“We’re all afraid, but this fear does not compare,” said Palestinian poet Mohammed El-Kurd, speaking from the podium at Freedom Plaza. “They want us to think that we are paying personal prices, but we have our community. They want us to think that we are alone, but we have our people supporting us. If they come for you, if they take your job, if they fire you from school, if they expel you, do not think of yourself as a casualty. You are not a casualty, you are fuel for the movement, you are part of the struggle.”
“Empire does not reward silence. It will crush us anyway, it will swallow us anyway, we will not sit in the corner quietly as they kill our people.”
The US has contributed around USD 130 billion in military aid to Israeli occupation since the creation of the state in 1948. In the wake of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the House of Representatives passed a massive USD 14.5 billion military aid package to further support the occupation. The bombs that Israel drops are largely US-made. “It is not lost on us that the US government sends its military advisors and soldiers, it’s aircraft carriers and rockets, its weapons of mass destruction to support the genocide of our people,” said Mohammed Nabulsi of the Palestinian Youth Movement. “It is not lost on us that this same government mobilizes its repressive vehicles in the US to surveil, suppress, and criminalize our communities in the movement for Palestinian freedom.”
Brian Becker, executive director of the ANSWER Coalition, brought up how similar numbers showed up many decades ago in solidarity with the struggle against South African apartheid. Despite the US government’s support for the South African government at the time “forty years ago this month… thousands of people came together in Washington DC to say that the racist fascist apartheid regime in South Africa must fall, and we will help it fall, and within a few years, it did fall.”
“We make the change, the change comes from us, and right now sisters and brothers—we are sending a message, a very strong message to Joe Biden: if you stand with genocide we hold you guilty of genocide.”
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, launched by Hamas on October 7, 2023, was a huge blow to the settler-colonial state of Israel: Al-Qassam Brigades captured 20 settlements and 11 military sites in merely a few hours. The attacks on Israeli civilian and military outposts destroyed the narcissistic sense of security associated with the carefully orchestrated narratives of Zionist dominance, surveillance and intelligence. In the words of Saree Makdisi, the breakout “smashed, hopefully once and for all, the very idea that the Palestinians can just be ignored, talked to, or talked about rather than talking for and representing themselves, their interests and their rights.” Earlier, it was Palestinians who had to explain their presence and prove their humanity. Now, it is they are setting the contours of the narrative. That’s why Zionists are terrified.
Unqualified solidarity with the anti-colonial violence of the Palestinian resistance has been hindered by liberal humanism, a bourgeois ideology that uses abstract slogans of peace to accelerate the genocide of Palestinians. There are two components in this ideology. First, the supreme value of human life is proclaimed as an unproblematic moral statement, which everyone has to support. While liberal humanists may admit that the Israeli occupation has given rise to Palestinian violence, they remain adamant that the death of individuals can never be justified. Judith Butler, for instance, criticizes those who blame Zionist apartheid for contemporary violence, saying that “nothing should exonerate Hamas from responsibility for the hideous killings they have perpetrated”.
In the above conception, violence is conceived as an infringement of the individual human body, whose sanctity is guaranteed by an unquestionable morality. The physiological and juridical body is innately exposed to physical, psychological and moral persecution. This kind of body has no positive project; it is entirely defined by its vulnerability to attacks, which requires protection. Christopher Caudwell traces this ethical ideology to the systemic logic of the capitalist economy. In the struggle against feudal fetters, the bourgeoisie saw freedom as the abolition of social organization, as the ability of every individual to pursue his own affairs and interests. This is articulated “in the absolute character of bourgeois property together with its complete alienability.”
On the ideological terrain, this gives rise to the “bourgeois dream – freedom as the absolute elimination of social relations,” by which is meant the absence of any restraint on the ownership, acquisition and alienation of private property. Here, private property isn’t considered as a social restraint that should be abolished, as the bourgeois project is inevitably bound to its particularistic interests. When assembled into ethics, the bourgeois dream translates into ultra-individualist pacifism, wherein the purity of the soul has to be guarded from the “heinous guilt” of the “sin” that is violence. Caudwell calls this “spiritual laissez-faire,” which uses the commercial mentality of capitalists – its concern with economic status – to proclaim the right of remaining preoccupied with one’s own soul.
When liberal humanists talk about mushy-mushy sentiments of individual human life, it is crucial to ask whether such an abstraction even exists in the horrors of Israeli barbarism. On one side, we have settlers, whose material security is guaranteed by an authoritarian state apparatus. On the other side, we have natives, whose wretchedness is maintained through incessant violence. In this scenario, I ask you: where is the pristine divinity that you label as “human life”? I can only see the all-too onerous divides constructed by Zionist settler-colonialism. Preaching a higher moral reconciliation beyond these divides, trying to organize a peaceful dialogue between two completely antagonistic camps, is a pathetic attempt that is bound to fail. In the open-air concentration camp that is Gaza, it is criminal to think that there is an ever-present and ready-at-hand reserve of morality that can calm the clamor of reality. We have to dive into reality, into its thundering materiality, if we want to shoulder the global responsibility of solidarity that has been forced upon us by the Palestinian resistance.
When an interviewer told Ghassan Kanafani that it would be better for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “to stop the war to stop the death,” Kanafani said, “Maybe to you, not to us. To us, to liberate our country, to have dignity, to have respect, to have our mere human rights; these are something as essential as life itself.” By absolutizing life, liberal humanists ignore how such a life doesn’t exist in a settler-colonial society. The boundary between life and death is not clear-cut. Huey P. Newton said, “I tell the comrades you can only die once, so do not die a thousand times worrying about it.” Liberal humanists ignore how death already walks among the Palestinians. This allows them to construe life as a personal capacity, as a possibility, that can be realized through a dialogue between the colonizer and the colonized. For the colonized, life is never a possibility. Colonialism is the violent closure of possibilities for the colonized. In the words of Mehdi Amel: “It…became impossible to define the structure of the colonized countries’ specific trajectories of becoming except within the colonial relation. What was possible before this relation became impossible after. This is what is novel in the structure of these countries’ history.”
Kanafani dispels the naive hope of humanistic possibility in the colonial context, starkly portraying the inhuman impossibility of peace talks between Israel and Palestine as “a conversation between the sword and the neck”. There is no mention here of the personal, biographical details of an abstract human life; they are replaced by impersonal metaphors. Why so? Because the liberal focus on human life conveys an ambience of integrity and security in a situation that is marked by disorder and destruction. By preserving the edifice of individual, non-violent agency, liberal humanism says that violence is optional, it is a matter of condonation or denunciation. Kanafani explodes this pious optimism by depicting Zionism as a structurally violent tool that is indifferent to our subjective feelings. Between the sword and the neck, there lies no other possibility than death.
The elision of the historical depth of Zionist violence is a core component of liberal humanism. Slavoj Žižek denounced the “barbarism” of Hamas by writing that the choice is not between Palestinian anti-colonial violence and Zionist settler-colonial violence but “between fundamentalists and all those who still believe in the possibility of peaceful coexistence”. The ruse of humanist possibility allows him to frame violence as a simplistic choice, whereas the toothless policy of dialogue comes off as the superior, more complex option. According to Joseph Stalin: “the Communists regard the substitution of one social system for another, not simply as a spontaneous and peaceful process, but as a complicated, long and violent process.” Here, the order of valuation is reversed. It is violence which is accorded the dignity of historical complexity. It is liberal humanism which is faulted for uncritically regarding the peacefulness of human life as an immediate, incontrovertible fact.
Reading Žižek, one is reminded of people whom Vladimir Lenin called the “spineless hangers-on of the bourgeoisie with intellectualist pretensions”. These “tyrannized, shocked and scared” intellectuals “have been flung into consternation at the sight of this unprecedentedly acute class struggle, have burst into tears, forgotten all their premises and demand that we perform the impossible, that we socialists achieve complete victory without fighting against the exploiters and without suppressing their resistance.” Decolonization is imagined as a peaceful project that can be “introduced” into the settler-colonial society. Liberal humanists forget how decolonization is forged in the intensity of national liberation, in “the struggles, the exploiters’ gnashing of teeth, or their diverse attempts to preserve the old order, or smuggle it back through the window”. What accounts for this ignorance? It can be traced to the liberal humanist delusion that a higher unity might emerge from the Zionist machine, that there is an element that might immediately unify the colonial compartments, that there is a humanist sensibility that lies hidden beneath colonialism. There is no such sensibility. Colonial violence has to be broken.
Instead of framing resistance in terms of the individual metric of human life, we have to take recourse to discourses that stress the concrete realities of colonized society. By inflating human life into a mythical capacity, liberal humanism paradoxically reveals a fundamental disregard for the human realities present in concrete societies. In order to avoid this extra-human concept, we must begin from the anti-colonial struggle. Liberal humanists begin with spiritual wishes for peace, attempting to convince people of an ideal method of resistance that will involve the least amount of death and suffering. Marxism doesn’t have any place for such a higher level of reconciliation. Lenin notes that Marxists appraise resistance “according to the class antagonisms and the class struggle which find expression in millions of facts of daily life.” Freedom is not a ready-made skill that can be invoked “in an atmosphere of cajoling and persuasion, in a school of mealy sermons or didactic declamations”. Rather, it is formed in the “school of life and struggle,” wherein the interests of the colonizers are exposed to the counter-interests of the colonized. Lenin puts it expressively:
“The proletariat must do its learning in the struggle, and stubborn, desperate struggle in earnest is the only real teacher. The greater the extremes of the exploiters’ resistance, the more vigorously, firmly, ruthlessly and successfully will they be suppressed by the exploited. The more varied the exploiters’ attempts to uphold the old, the sooner will the proletariat learn to ferret out its enemies from their last nook and corner, to pull up the roots of their domination, and cut the very ground which could (and had to) breed wage-slavery, mass poverty and the profiteering and effrontery of the money-bags.”
In a colonial situation, resistance is evaluated not according to the ethical ideology of human life but according to the contribution it makes to the opening of historical possibilities. Amilcar Cabral notes, “Resistance is the following: to destroy one thing for the sake of constructing another thing.” This terse statement is instructive because liberal humanists think of colonialism as a malleable arrangement that can be re-jigged to allow for a better outcome. Cabral brooks none of this. He identifies the inertia of colonialism that has to be destroyed, not merely reformed, to emancipate the colonized. It is because liberal humanists think that the possibility for life remains intact under colonialism that they are unable to appreciate the fight for such a life waged by the colonized. That’s why it is so clarifying to read Cabral’s searing words on the objective of national liberation:
“At the end of the day, we want the following: concrete and equal possibilities for any child of our land, man or woman, to advance as a human being, to give all of his or her capacity, to develop his or her body and spirit, in order to be a man or a woman at the height of his or her actual ability. We have to destroy everything that would be against this in our land, comrades. Step by step, one by one if it be necessary – but we have to destroy in order to construct a new life…our work is to destroy, in our resistance, whatever makes dogs of our people – men or women – so as to allow us to advance, to grow, to rise up like the flowers of our land, whatever can make our people valued human beings.”
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.