Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

February 01, 2024


Between a Rock and a Hard Spot


The Hague, The Netherlands 02 February 2024 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

Photo credit: Abraham A. van Kempen. May 2017. I just swam 4.5 hours of non-stop training to cross the Dead Sea at age 70. That’s me at age 67. What’s my secret? Tea! “Destroy your enemies by becoming friends” with Cuppa Tea. How do you love your enemy? Have none!




The International Court of Justice (ICJ) drove Israel to a point between a rock and a hard spot by ordering Israel to prevent Genocide. The majority of the Court consented to the cleverly worded de-facto provisional cease-fire. Compliance with the order demands all sides to cease the killing spree of innocent bystanders. It also invokes a fervent message to other countries, not just Israel’s allies, that aid and abet Israeli atrocities and crimes against humanity. How else could ‘all’ parties implement and execute the CIJ’s explicit ruling: “Israel must take measures to protect all civilians,” not just in Gaza?


The wording is a compromise. If the Court explicitly ordered Israel to a cease-fire, the US in the UN Securities Council would have vetoed the ruling. Instead, the Court ordered something out of the blue: “Prevent genocide.” It is an indisputable ruling. If the US, UK, and France veto this explicit ruling, they’ll cave into admitting that Israel perpetrates Genocide. If Israel insists on business as usual, Israel persists in Genocide. In the meantime, Israel states emphatically that Israel is only and solely after Hamas. The Court advocates that not all Palestinians are Hamas militants. In this case, Israel’s best defense is NOT a strong offense.


Suspending funding of UNRWA


While the people of Gaza are experiencing an extreme humanitarian disaster of starvation, polluted drinking water, disease, and lack of medical facilities, the suspension of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is cruel and unjustified.


The 12 individuals who have been accused of involvement in the Hamas 7 October action make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza. They have been dismissed, and the charges against them are under investigation.


UNRWA is central to the humanitarian relief effort. Israel continues funding UNRWA. “Israel must take measures to protect all civilians” and depends on the UNRWA to comply with the ICJ’s ruling.


Read more: Our Wednesday News Analysis | ‘The World Court has put Israel and its allies on trial for genocide,’ by Jonathan Cook, Middle East Eye, 27 January 2024.


Read more: Our Wednesday News Analysis | ‘The failure of Zionism and the triumph of the Israel lobby,’ by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 27 January 2024.


Read more: Our Wednesday News Analysis | ‘Ironclad Support For Starving, Blinding, Shattering Children,’ by Abby Zimet, Common Dreams, 24 January 2024.





What do the ICJ's interim orders mean?


The ICJ has ruled that South Africa made a plausible case that Israel has engaged in genocidal conduct in Gaza. This interim judgment will influence how the international community ultimately views Israel’s conduct in Gaza following the 7 October Hamas attacks. (Michel Porro / Getty Images)



“South Africa did not need to prove Israel was engaging in Genocide conclusively.

All South Africa needed to demonstrate was that there was a plausible case
Israel was acting with genocidal intent in Gaza and engaging in genocidal conduct.”

By Donald Rothwell
ABC News Australia
Religion and Ethics
29 January 2024


Donald Rothwell is a Professor of International Law in the College of Law at the Australian National University. This piece originally appeared in The Conversation.


The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has issued an unprecedented set of preliminary orders in the case brought against Israel by South Africa, alleging it is committing Genocide in its war against Hamas in Gaza. By a fifteen–to–two majority, the orders place constraints on Israel’s military operations in Gaza and require Israel to report back by 26 February on steps it is taking to fulfill these orders.


However, the ICJ did not accept South Africa’s request that Israel immediately suspend its military operations in Gaza. Instead, the court modified the South African request, which, if upheld, would have denied Israel’s inherent right of self-defense. Israel can, therefore, continue to defend itself against ongoing Hamas attacks in Gaza. However, Israel must now conduct its military operations consistently with the ICJ’s orders.


The orders are final and binding and not subject to appeal. However, the ICJ needs more enforcement capacity, which ultimately rests with the UN Security Council.


The ICJ orders make clear there is no conclusive finding at this stage as to whether acts of Genocide have occurred. That will be determined at the “merits” phase of the case, which may take up to four to five years to be completed.


While Hamas and its conduct were not before the court, direct reference was made to the group’s assault on southern Israel on 7 October and the fate of the remaining hostages taken that day. The ICJ observed that it “is gravely concerned about the fate of the hostages … and calls for their immediate and unconditional release”.


The Hague is the seat of the UN International Court of Justice, Netherlands. (Walter Bibikow / Stone / Getty Images)


Background to the case


South Africa brought the case to the court on 29 December, alleging Israel’s military operations in Gaza in response to the 7 October Hamas attacks amounted to acts of Genocide. Although South Africa is not involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict, it claimed it had standing to bring the case as a party to the Genocide Convention.


The case proceeded swiftly. Preliminary hearings were held in early January, and South Africa expedited the case by seeking “provisional measures” against Israel. These are a form of interim orders the ICJ can urgently issue where there is a risk of irreparable harm occurring.


South Africa did not need to prove Israel was engaging in Genocide conclusively. All South Africa needed to demonstrate was that there was a plausible case Israel was acting with genocidal intent in Gaza and engaging in genocidal conduct.


As evidence of this genocidal intent, the ICJ made express reference to public statements between 9–13 October of Israeli public officials such as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, President Isaac Herzog, and Energy and Infrastructure Minister Israel Katz.


For example, the judgment quotes Gallant as saying to Israeli troops on the Gaza border in early October:


               You saw what we are fighting against. We are fighting human animals. This is the ISIS of Gaza. This is what we are fighting against … Gaza won’t return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate everything. If it doesn’t take one day, it will take a week, weeks, or even months, and we will reach all places.


Concerning genocidal conduct, the court noted the deaths of 25,700 Palestinians and more than 63,000 injuries since the war began while also observing these figures could not be independently verified.


The court also stated that the “civilian population in the Gaza Strip remains extremely vulnerable” and the “catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the Court renders its final judgment.


What the court’s orders mean


The court ordered Israel (including its military) to immediately comply with six provisional measures, ensuring it takes all measures to prevent acts of Genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. This extends to killing Palestinians, causing serious bodily or mental harm to civilians, and imposing measures to prevent births. Israel is also to take immediate measures to allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza.


Of the 17 judges sitting on this case, an overwhelming majority (15 of them) voted to endorse these orders. Its president, Judge Joan Donoghue, is from the United States. Other judges are from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and Russia. Special ad hoc judges from Israel and South Africa were appointed for this case.


While the ICJ’s interim judgment demonstrated the strength of the South African case at this preliminary stage, it will not resolve the Israel-Hamas conflict.

For example, the court’s orders do not interfere with Israel’s right of self-defense.


Nevertheless, the judgment will affect how Israel conducts its military operations. Much greater emphasis will now need to be given to the principle of distinction between targeting combatants and civilians, and additional measures of precaution will need to be taken to avoid civilian casualties.


Humanitarian aid will also need to flow to Gaza.


In addition, Israel’s supporters and allies — such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States — will now be expected to respond to the court’s ruling. How they recalibrate their public statements supporting Israel — and their diplomatic and private exchanges with Israeli political leaders — may prove pivotal to Israel scaling back aspects of its military operations.


Israel has been placed on notice by the ICJ. A plausible case has been made that Israel has engaged in genocidal conduct in Gaza. It will take many years before a final judgment is reached. Still, this judgment will influence how the international community and court of public opinion ultimately view Israel’s conduct in Gaza and its pursuit for justice following the 7 October Hamas attacks.



What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.




Allowing Israel to distribute humanitarian aid through the establishment of a military government is a straight shot to the replication of this West Bank nightmare, the merging of settler and military violence against Palestinians by an authoritarian state


Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at a briefing in November. Credit: Noam Revkin-Fenton

By Dahlia Scheindlin
Haaretz Israel
1 February 2024

When Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich gave an interview on Channel 12 last week, it took him just a few split seconds to lay out the astonishing path Israel is – or at least some influential decision-makers are – forging for the future.


"We must not let the aid in through UNRWA… to comply with international law… we will get aid and distribute it by ourselves."


When the hosts argued how dangerous it would be, he slowed down for effect: "Listen to what I'm saying: There. Will. Be. A military government in Gaza. Because everyone agrees that we need to stay in Gaza and control it militarily, and there's no military control without civilian control." That last part was spoken so fast. It's as if Smotrich hopes you'll miss it.

This roughly 10-second exchange contains multitudes. First, Smotrich asserts that Israel should comply with international law by finding a means to get humanitarian aid to Gaza. The world will probably consider that a step in the right direction.

But what happens today sets the course for tomorrow; this is a rule of thumb regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations.


The proposal for Israel to distribute aid sounds good at first, until considering Smotrich's three stated aims: first, permanent Israeli control over Gaza after the war; second, Israeli control will be implemented through a military regime; third, that this military government will have both military and civilian control.


Displaced Palestinian women gather on a sand dune above a makeshift camp on the Egyptian border, west of Rafah in southern Gaza in January. Credit: AFP


As I've observed before, there is no such thing in practice as Israeli military control over Palestinians that does not ultimately entail civilian control. The Areas A, B, and C fiction in the West Bank – which holds that Palestinians control civilian affairs in about 40 percent of the region (A and B) as per the Oslo Accords – just means that Israel influences every aspect of Palestinian life, but declines to pick up the trash or provide health services and social welfare benefits.


Smotrich is thus trying to leverage the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the orders of the International Court of Justice, and some American cajoling to get humanitarian aid in as a launchpad for the future occupation-annexation of Gaza, with a high likelihood of mass Palestinian exodus in the meantime.


He's not a war cabinet member – but consider the trickle-up effect. He plants the seed, and – as Haaretz reported today – Smotrich now claims that Netanyahu has asked the army to investigate the possibility.


Earlier this week, leaks of a briefing by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee showed contradictory positions: the Kan public broadcaster reported that Gallant said a "Gazan actor" would run the Strip after the war. But Ynet reported he stated: "It's obvious that Hamas will not rule in Gaza. Israel will rule militarily, but not civilian rule." Maybe Gallant has convinced himself of the false separation. His office did not answer requests for clarification.


Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks at a press conference in November. Credit: Moti Milrod


This week, it became clear why fringe radicals should never be dismissed. Historically, a bunch of dancing, divinely inspired activists moved into the Park Hotel in Hebron for a Passover seder in 1968 and formed the kernel of what later became Kiryat Arba, and the settlement movement.


But there's another phenomenon too often ignored in this conflict: the perfect partnership of ideological fringes and the institutions of the Israeli state. As Gershom Gorenberg has argued in his book "The Accidental Empire," which just never gets old, it was the heavy, if semi-tacit involvement of the Labor-led government in the first decade after 1967 that provided the support system to the whole project in its infancy.


Five decades later, the state-settler partnership has made the settlements almost irreversible, and the partnership is thriving. Recall that Smotrich holds a ministerial position in the Defense Ministry, together with Gallant. In that civilian perch, he has appropriated powers once held by the military to govern Jewish Israeli settlers, ending the fiction of the temporary military occupation while institutionalizing unequal rule over Jews and Palestinians under civilian authorities.


An Israeli flag is painted on a wall surrounding the Jewish settlement of Migdalim near the Palestinian town of Nablus in the West Bank, 2022. Credit: Ariel Schalit /AP


And it's a two-way street: Lately, the army is also adopting settler tactics on the ground in the West Bank. Shira Livne, who directs the unit for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told me that the IDF has recruited settlers to regional defense units after the war began, such that "the same settlers who attacked Palestinians are now the ones in charge, and can continue their attacks under the protection of the uniform."


Please continue reading





Reports of progress towards a hostage release deal, including an immediate cease-fire, are a paramount first step, but as a temporary measure, they are critically insufficient. Neither Israelis nor Gazans can accept a return to an untenable and traumatic status quo


Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade near the border in the central Gaza Strip in July. Credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS


By Muhammad Shehada

Haaretz Israel
30 January 2024

Muhammad Shehada is a writer, civil society activist from the Gaza Strip, and a development studies student at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights. On Twitter: @muhammadshehad2

Despite reports that negotiators may be making progress towards a possible hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas, a significant gap remains in the duration of the war. Israel's reported proposal would merely stop the war in Gaza for about two months in return for over 100 of its hostages being held there.

Hamas' position is to condition the hostages' release on a cease-fire that ends the war with international guarantees.

But what if there is a way to satisfy everyone's needs?

          • Why are Israelis so opposed to a cease-fire in the war with Hamas?
          • Cease-fire remains a bone of contention as Israel and Hamas advance toward a hostage deal
          • Israel may not destroy Hamas, but the group has suffered the worst blow in its history

There are many voices in Israel arguing a cease-fire "only strengthens Hamas" and renders Israel critically vulnerable to another attack, but this is premised on the disingenuous proposition that Israel is incapable of defending its borders and learning anything from October 7, the most catastrophic intelligence and political failure in Israel's history.


As veteran Israeli journalist Nir Gontarz noted, October 7 was more about "the stupidity, arrogance, and negligence of the Israeli army and government than about sophistication and danger on the part of Hamas."


Arguably, the most decisive element of success in Hamas's attack is now wholly lost. Israel, with more soldiers and aircraft along its borders and a sobered-up government army and intelligence community, could easily block a repeat of the Hamas invasion of Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage.


Visitors look at photos of Israelis killed during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and those who died during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, displayed on a giant screen at the National Library in Jerusalem, Israel, on Sunday. Credit: Leo Correa /AP


Moreover, as we have seen, almost four months of relentless Israeli indiscriminate bombing of Gaza alongside a ground invasion, forced mass displacement, and pushing of the population to the brink of famine – all failed to achieve Israel's purported goals of dismantling Hamas and freeing the hostages.


According to The Wall Street Journal, 80 percent of Hamas' tunnels remain intact, and at best, only 20 percent of its militants were killed. Israel can't defeat Hamas militarily, is the conclusion many Israeli experts are slowly reaching.


Hamas rejects another "humanitarian pause" in return for the hostage release because the last "pause" in November did more damage than good. Although it brought 105 hostages and 240 Palestinian detainees home, most of them women and children, it didn't improve life on the ground for Gazans in any sustained way. It left the displaced masses barred from returning to their homes in the north. Hamas now believes there is nothing more to lose in Gaza after Israel destroyed virtually everything above ground, so they feel they can keep waiting things out.


A permanent cease-fire, "hudna," as it is called in Arabic, the scope of which has never been signed by Israel and Hamas, is the only way to free the hostages and restore stability.


If the war were to end today, Hamas' internal position is not to seek another significant escalation for the next ten to twenty years while Gaza is being rebuilt, according to people with sources close to Hamas. This leaves time to solve the conflict, mainly because momentum and international pressure exist entirely new in the wake of October 7 and the war.

It's highly likely that as part of a hudna, Hamas could be persuaded to concede the government and control over Gaza's borders to a technocratic government or the Palestinian Authority, aware that the level of rage against it by the people of Gaza makes its continued rule nearly impossible.

Even before October 7, people were fed up with Hamas' governing. (However, there is more support for its military wing, which some Gazans regard as an army preventing Israel from reoccupying Gaza and reestablishing settlements there.)

Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, whom Israel has been keen to portray as the all-powerful mastermind of October 7, is unlikely to remain in power. Internal elections are scheduled for later this year, and he's already at the end of two terms. Yes, Hamas has term limits, and officially, he cannot run again. Also, competition for the top leadership, Ismael Haniya's position, is fierce, and Sinwar was resented by multiple Hamas leaders even before the war.

There is flexibility around what the "day after" in Gaza could look like. Hamas could be persuaded of a peacekeeping mission or a joint Arab, EU, or Turkish presence on the ground as long as the keywords of "transitional" and "timeframe" are ensured, i.e., that this is only temporary and part of a process leading to something more meaningful regarding Israel's blockade and occupation.


Nour Moussa, 11 years old, listens to speakers at a rally in December held by the Boston Coalition for Palestine, calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. Credit: REBA SALDANHA/ REUTERS


An immediate cease-fire is a paramount first step. Still, it would be critically insufficient if it is not paired with a more extensive political process to end Gaza's blockade and Israel's occupation because it would otherwise return us to the status quo ante.


Please continue reading





US President Joe Biden should remember the scenes from Sunday's far-right conference calling for resettlement of Gaza the next time he talks to Benjamin Netanyahu about a reconfigured Middle East


Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich, Haim Katz, and Itamar Ben-Gvir at Sunday's "Conference For the Victory of Israel" in Jerusalem. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi


By Alon Pinkas
Haaretz Israel
29 January 2024


Jerusalem played host Sunday to the modestly and concisely titled "Conference For the Victory of Israel – Settlement Brings Security: Returning to the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria." What you saw there was a religious-nationalistic sect in a state of thrall.


Even if you've seen one before, it's not the same. This was not a fringe opposition group; it was the government of Israel in all its political splendor, unabashedly showing its true colors. This was the governing coalition in an orgy of anti-state and antidemocratic euphoria.


But sure – and here I'm talking to US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken – you can keep pretending to be engaging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a geopolitical dialogue over a reconfigured Middle East. Let's see how that works out for you.


What you saw Sunday wasn't "Startup Nation" Israel. It wasn't "13 Nobel Prizes" Israel. It wasn't "Weizmann Institute of Science" Israel, nor "Iron Dome technology" Israel. It was not liberal-democratic Israel.


You saw messianic ecstasy and religious fervor in a position of power.


What you saw was not merely a theocratic-fascist strain in Israeli society and politics but almost half of Mr. Netanyahu's coalition (27 lawmakers), including five ministers in his government.


Attendees at the conference called for the resettlement of Gaza and North Samaria in Jerusalem on Sunday, with a map of the Gaza Strip in the background. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi


This strain of religious-nationalistic Jewish supremacy has been normalized, legitimized, mainstreamed, and encouraged by Netanyahu.

What you saw was not some wishful-thinking, abstract idea of resettling Gaza with Jews but a cry for the expulsion and displacement of Palestinians. What you saw was more about the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – than it is about Gaza.


Lastly, what you saw was not just the far-right elements in Netanyahu's government trying to make a point by demonstrating that they control entirely him politically. This is him. Unadulterated, unhinged Netanyahu, trying to distance himself far from the debacle of the October 7 massacre.


          • Netanyahu ministers participate in 'Resettle Gaza' confab, call for Palestinians' transfer
          • ICJ fires Israel a warning shot over genocide case. This is why Netanyahu should worry
          • First Biden, now Qatar: Netanyahu is creating nemeses to get his Mideast forever war

This strain of religious-nationalistic Jewish supremacy has been normalized, legitimized, mainstreamed, and encouraged by Netanyahu. So, President Biden, the next time you talk to him about "postwar Gaza," a "Palestinian state," or a "reconfigured Middle East," go back to the footage from Sunday's spectacle. Listen to the triumphant, vociferous, rapturous delight there. And don't bother searching for Netanyahu's response. You won't find it. Israel is your ally; Mr. Netanyahu is a liability to your interests.

Now that most Israelis have caught a clear glimpse of the future and realize what's in store, they may have to make a choice. The masks are off, and the masquerade is over.

From the attendees' perspective, the timing of the event was impeccable. The sensitivity to timing is not a concern or consideration for them. Two days after the International Court of Justice in the Hague rebuked Israel and recited incendiary Israeli rhetoric bordering on calls for Genocide, some of the culprits were at it again with full force.

On the very day the head of Mossad was meeting in Paris with the Qatari prime minister, Egyptian intelligence minister, and director of the CIA to discuss a possible hostage deal, they were chanting "Return to Gaza." At a time when the United States – after the enormously generous aid it provided Israel, and encouraged by Saudi and Qatari overtures – is sketching and shaping an axis of stability and order, Netanyahu's coalition went on a road show to prove it is not a partner to a "postwar" anything.

But there's a flip side to this political horror show. Paradoxically, it is a necessary spectacle because maybe, just maybe, it will force Israel to decide. There is a liberal-democratic majority in Israel. The ultranationalists, extremist Orthodox Jews, and settlers are the minority. Netanyahu put them in power because they served his legal and political survival. Yes, they were and remained his willing partners in an obscene attempt to instigate a constitutional coup that would have turned Israel from a democracy into an undemocratic, illiberal semi-theocracy.


Extremist Rabbi Uzi Sharbaf spoke at the conference on Sunday. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Now that most Israelis have caught a clear glimpse of the future and realize what's in store, they may have to make a choice. The masks are off, and the masquerade is over. The messianic eruption is inextricably linked to both the occupation and uncertainty over the future of the territories and the constitutional coup Mr. Netanyahu has tried to impose on Israel. They are connected vessels and are conducive to each other's existence.

The strain of "atchalta de'geulah" – Aramaic for the beginning of the redemption, before the coming of the Messiah – is as old as religious Zionism. It was enhanced by Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and nurtured after 1967's Six-Day War, which, to a growing number of religious Zionists, was a sign of the coming of the Messiah. From there, the settler movement evolved and had an outsize influence on the policies of right-wing governments. The settlers sought to create an irreversible reality and assumed that the Palestinians would either approve or flee. Religious Zionism sought to integrate into Israel's elites, partly succeeding, and gained limited political power.

A parallel cultural-religious-political process saw the religious Zionists become more ultra-Orthodox. In contrast, the ultra-Orthodox community, reclusive and suspicious of the state, has increasingly become nationalistic, xenophobic, and racist.

This was the ideal airtight coalition Netanyahu needed to evade his legal problems and ongoing corruption trial. But with the constitutional coup and the October 7 massacre (and subsequent war) exposing his weaknesses and vulnerability, the messianic bloc feels it needs to assert as much power as possible.

One hundred and fifteen days since 1,200 Israelis were killed, with some mutilated and raped, and while Israel Defense Forces soldiers are fighting in Gaza, a sect of religious zealots put on a carnival-style show complete with singing, dancing, and chanting.

So, President Biden, the next time you discuss the "Mideast security architecture" with the Israeli premier, bear in mind Sunday's scenes. Those weren't just messianic. That was Mr. Netanyahu himself.





Image war! What news do Israelis consume about Gaza? In Israeli mainstream media, human suffering in Gaza is absent. Videos on social media give a different picture.


The Channel 11 broadcast with the discussion between Carmela Menashe (left) and Suleiman Maswadeh.


By Lucia Admiraal

NRC The Netherlands
29 January 2024


Halfway through the Friday evening broadcast of the Israeli state channel Kan 11, reporter Suleiman Maswadeh enters into a discussion with military reporter Carmela Menashe. Maswadeh, a Palestinian from occupied East Jerusalem, is criticized by some Palestinians for his work for an Israeli channel. Menashe is a long-serving military correspondent who reports to the Israeli army in Gaza.


Maswadeh notes that Israelis who watch the news do not know what exactly is happening in Gaza and have to open Telegram messages from Palestinians to do so. “Sorry,” Menashe interrupts indignantly. “But I report from Gaza,” Maswadeh replies that he is not referring to the Israeli army. Another commentator says, “But we see what happens in the end, right? We see destroyed neighborhoods, completely collapsed, broken buildings.”


The previous part of the broadcast 'Israel at War' mainly showed interviews with Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the "secret apartment" of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, which was allegedly revealed by the Israeli army. A long series of video images have emerged of tunnels and entire neighborhoods in Gaza being razed to the ground.


Dehumanizing war language


Military correspondent Menashe defends herself and claims that Israeli reporters cannot enter many areas of the Gaza Strip. The broadcast host concludes: “The images shown on television in the West about the war, of Palestinian women, children, and the dead, are incomparable to the images we see here in Israel.”


The short-lived discussion on Kan 11 suggests that there is some room in Israel for reflection on the mainstream media's reporting on Gaza. Since the October 7 Hamas attack, reporting on Israeli victims and hostages has been accompanied by bombastic and dehumanizing war language. It is in line with the statements of various Israeli politicians who hold the people of Gaza collectively responsible for October 7.


Television channels such as Channel 14, known to be pro-Prime Netanyahu, consistently indicate the total death toll in Gaza as “the terrorists we have eliminated.”


In recent weeks, Israeli television has focused almost exclusively on the ongoing battle of the Israeli army against Hamas, victims and testimonies of October 7, and the fate of the hostages. The more than 26,000 deaths in Gaza and 1.9 million displaced persons are not a subject of discussion.


Foreign media are seen by many as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.”

Haggai Matar — Director +972 Magazine


According to Haggai Matar, director of +972 Magazine, an English-language medium with Israeli and Palestinian authors, Israelis have little understanding of what is happening in Gaza.


               “The whole world sees what is happening in Gaza, but Israelis see very little,” he says by telephone from Tel Aviv.


On every channel, news from the front alternates with testimonies from Israeli victims, Matar sees. “People live every day as if it were October 7 again.” Most Israelis consume only Israeli media, he believes. Foreign media are seen by many as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.


               “Israeli journalists go to Gaza in tanks and with army spokesmen. Through them, people see the mass destruction, but not the human suffering and the faces and testimonies of Palestinians,” says Matar.


               “They may see a soldier arresting or even torturing a Palestinian, but the whole framework will be that this is a terrorist. Whether he is a terrorist is not up for debate.”


It is doubtful whether Israelis are ignorant of what is happening in Gaza due to the framing of the mainstream media. Even though they do not see the 'faces' of Palestinians, the images of the destruction of buildings make it easy to guess the human suffering.


Moreover, a selection of social media channels shows an entirely different picture. In recent months, several soldiers have posted videos on social media, including TikTok, of blowing up buildings, looting houses, arresting and humiliating Palestinians, and joking about the destruction.


Racist commentary


The Israeli Telegram channel 'Terrorists from another angle,' with more than 124,000 members, consists of a long series of photos and videos from Gaza, mainly of killed Palestinians. The material comes partly from Palestinians in Gaza itself, which shows that images recorded by Gaza residents are also circulating in Israel. The accompanying messages on the channel consistently talk about 'terrorists' and are provided with numerous smileys and racist comments.


In response to reporting in Israeli mainstream media, a group of young activists under the name 'Free Jerusalem' recently hung posters in Jerusalem with photos of Gaza. They did this, among other things, in Gaza Street in West Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private residence is located.


In no time, in the middle of the night, stickers were hanging on lampposts and in bus shelters with texts such as 'Their suffering does not give us safety' and 'There is no military solution.' Underneath photos of displaced Palestinians and mass graves in Gaza was the text 'We cannot build a future this way.'


I want to show people what is happening on the other side

and humanize the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza
Hillel Levi Faur — law student


               “I want to show people what is happening on the other side and humanize the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” said Hillel Levi Faur, 23, a law student in Jerusalem who was involved in the action, in a cafe near Gaza Street.


               “Society is so preoccupied with the war and united under the Israeli flag that it is unable to see anything else,” says Faur.


Most posters have been removed, but the group is already preparing a new campaign.


Faur is critical of the constant reporting about the fallen Israeli soldiers at the moment:


               "By always talking about their good personalities, criticizing what they did in Gaza becomes all the more difficult."


Two friends of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza were recently interviewed on the commercial channel Channel 14. In the background, a large screen showed a photo of a destroyed urban part of Gaza.


               “Most in Israel see the destruction as a restoration of national pride. Others look at it and think, this is crazy,” says Faur.


But the latter group is tiny, he emphasizes.


               “The international media love Israelis who are against the war and the occupation, but there are few of us in Israel.”





From Hiroshima to the Houthis, American presidents tend to overreach when they believe they are facing down communism or terrorism, and the world pays the price


Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy at the White House on September 10, 1962. / Photo by Votava/Imagno/Getty Images.


By Seymour Hersh
25 January 2024

I’ve been wrestling with how to put in context Joe Biden’s recent decision, amid wrong polling numbers and his current disastrous involvements in Ukraine and Gaza, to go all out in a naval war against the determined Houthis of Yemen and the dhows—sailing vessels common in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea for millennia—that supply them.

It’s not a simple matter. But modern American history is full of presidents who made disastrous decisions when confronted with what they saw as challenges posed by Moscow. The Soviet Union had been America's most important ally in the Second World War, but the emerging superpowers entered a deadly new rivalry before the war ended. Though the Cold War seemed to have ended three decades ago, that rivalry has been revived, and Russia, though no longer communist, has returned to haunt the Biden administration. It’s a rivalry that shapes America’s entanglements, friendly or hostile, with China, Ukraine, Israel, and now the Houthis of Yemen. This accounts for some of the bad decisions made by presidents urged on by their political insecurities and those of their close advisers. One constant has been a lack of good intelligence about their opponents, as with the Houthis, who continue to fire missiles despite repeated American attacks.

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You can call your political opponents vermin all you want until you can't, and you are Hitler, as Matt Orfalea discovers


By Matt Taibbi
26 January 2024

Donald Trump gave a Veterans’ Day speech late last year with a provocative quote. “We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” he said, adding that these vermin “lie and steal and cheat on elections.”


Instant Scanners-style displays of exploding-media-heads ensued:


Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin,’ echoing dictators Hitler, Mussolini,” wrote the Washington Post in a typical treatment; added NPR: Why Trump's authoritarian language about ‘vermin’ mattersAfter Calling Foes ‘Vermin,’ Trump Campaign Warns Its Critics Will Be ‘Crushed’ was the New York Times take, in a bit of a double-whammy (stay tuned to this space to see why). “It’s Official: With “Vermin,” Trump Is Now Using Straight-up Nazi Talk” from the New Republic and “Trump Compares Political Foes To ‘Vermin’ On Veterans Day—Echoing Nazi Propaganda” from Forbes were also much circulated.


Within a day, Biden spokesperson Ammar Moussa put out a statement:


On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini — two dictators many US veterans gave their lives fighting to defeat precisely the kind of un-American ideas Trump now champions.


The Biden campaign recommended a number of the headlines above as well. Old friend Adam Schiff got into the act in an interview with former White House spokesperson Jen Psaki on MSNBC, White House TV, or whatever it’s now. The clip below is worth a full watch because Psaki feeds Schiff the “Mussolini and Hitler” line, and though he takes a while, Schiff eventually feeds it back to her. It’s seldom possible to tell who’s creating and repeating the content in these canned outrage displays. The catchphrases tossed back and forth between pols and media are like children wandering cult compounds: they don’t have one set of parents but belong to everyone.


Click to watch the video


Calling one’s political enemies “vermin” would be a great sin indeed to pin on Trump in the context of the last century of genocides, except for one thing, as the increasingly invaluable Matt Orfalea points out: the man’s critics beat him to it. Orf’s “Rats!” compilation shows the years of Trump-as-rat and Republicans-as-treasonous-rats rhetoric that preceded this recent freakout. Rats are an excellent subject for illustrators and wordsmiths alike. Trump critics went all-out with the imagery previously, and rightly so, since only a crazy person would take offense at this sort of thing. Of course, we have a lot of crazy people.


The “vermin” episode shows that big deals can be made of anything in the age of coordinated media campaigns. Also, you can probably find a way to compare almost any speech to Hitler or Mussolini if you’re willing to be a dink about word usage. As Orf notes, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow were still hitting this theme as late as January, while CNN was calling for Trump, like a vermin, to be “destroyed.” This is tremendous mileage to get from your own invented controversy. All hail hypocrisy!





Making a Difference – The Means, Methods, and Mechanism for Many to Move Mountains


Photo Credit: Abraham A. van Kempen, our home away from home on the Dead Sea


By Abraham A. van Kempen
Senior Editor
Updated 19 January 2024


Those who commit to 'healing our broken humanity' build intercultural bridges to learn to know and understand one another and others. Readers who thumb through the Building the Bridge (BTB) pages are not mindless sheep following other mindless sheep. They THINK. They want to be at the forefront of making a difference. They're in search of the bigger picture to expand their horizons. They don't need BTB or anyone else to confirm their biases.


Making a Difference – The Means, Methods, and Mechanism for Many to Move Mountains


Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more. Words have an extraordinary power to bring people together, divide them, forge bonds of friendship, or provoke hostility. Modern technology places unprecedented possibilities for good at our disposal, fostering harmony and reconciliation. Yet its misuse can do untold harm, leading to misunderstanding, prejudice, and conflict.


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