Common Grounds

Our Wednesday News Analysis | The Biden administration has helped kill 85 members of my family. Of course I refused to meet with Antony Blinken.

February 14, 2024

Source: Mondoweiss


Published February 10, 2024


I refused to provide a photo opportunity to the Biden administration because it has aided and abetted the killing of 85 members of my family. I hope they take the time to read about the nightmare all Palestinians in Gaza are living through.

Our Wednesday News Analysis | The Biden administration has helped kill 85 members of my family. Of course I refused to meet with Antony Blinken.




"There is a new medical acronym coined in Gaza, which is used with horrifying frequency:
WCNSF– 'Wounded child, no surviving family.'”



A few days before his recent visit to the region, Secretary of State Antony Blinken invited several members of the Palestinian-American community to a meeting to discuss the Biden administration’s response to Israel’s onslaught against Gaza, which the International Court of Justice and a U.S. federal court ruled may amount to genocide. I was among them.

What could I say in three minutes to someone who is aiding and abetting Israel’s assault, which has killed 85 members of my family so far? How could I provide a photo opportunity to Secretary Blinken when President Biden has not only armed and funded Israel, but also just suspended funding to the most important aid agency providing humanitarian assistance to two million Palestinians facing death from US-supplied bombs, and starvation and disease caused by Israel preventing all but a trickle of food, water, and medicine from entering Gaza?


I could not, in good conscience, accept Secretary Blinken’s invitation, so I chose to boycott the meeting, as did a number of others from our community. Instead, I hope he will take the time to read about my family’s ordeal, which is a microcosm of the nightmare that all Palestinians in Gaza are living through and which the Biden administration is deeply complicit in.


In mid-October, generations of one branch of my family were killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Among those killed, Tuqa, who was supposed to be celebrating her wedding, and Esam and Jamal, who played competitive basketball and ping pong as teenagers. Shortly afterwards my cousins Hatem and Aziz were killed in Khan Younis in southern Gaza – which was supposed to be in the so-called safe zone – along with 14 other relatives, including seven children. Aziz was a pharmacist. Hatem always had a smile on his face. One child survived, with an amputation. He woke up from surgery to learn his father, uncle, and siblings were dead. Soon after, he died as well.


In November, my cousins’ home was destroyed by an Israeli missile without warning. Wael, who survived, found half of his mother’s body buried in rubble, alongside the pieces of his sister Wafaa, who was a beloved teacher. His brother Hani suffered what should have been a minor leg injury. But unable to get medical attention, Hani bled to death. The bodies of Hani’s wife and his sister, Huda, are still missing. The intensity of the Israeli bombing made it impossible to hold a proper burial; relatives buried the bodies they could recover in a makeshift mass grave...


Read more: The Biden administration has helped kill 85 members of my family. Of course I refused to meet with Antony Blinken.





Source: Haaretz


By Amira Hass
Published February 10, 2023


An Israeli invasion of Rafah will lead to a mass, panicked exodus of nearly a million Palestinian civilians towards a designated safe zone roughly the size of Ben-Gurion Airport. It's still unclear how the IDF plans to reconcile this with the ICJ's order that Israel must take all measures to avoid acts of genocide


Tents for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Friday.Credit: Saleh Salem / Reuters



"Even if "only" about a million Palestinians will flee for the third and fourth time into Al-Mawasi – an area that is already full of displaced Gazans –
the density will be about 62,500 people per square kilometer (about 157,000 people per square mile).


This will happen in an open areawith no skyscrapers to house the refugees, that has no running water, no privacy, no means of living, no hospitals or medical clinics, no solar panels to charge phones,
and all while aid organizations will have to cross through or near battle zones to distribute the small amounts of food that enter the Gaza Strip.


The only position in which this narrow area could accommodate everyone would be if they were all standing or kneeling.


Perhaps it'll be necessary to form special committees to determine sleeping arrangements in shifts:
A few thousand would lie down while the rest continued to stand awake.


The buzzing of the drones above and below, the cries of babies born during the war ...
These will be the unnerving soundtrack, and mothers have no milk or not enough of it.



Since Yahya Sinwar, his close aides and Hamas militants have never been found in Gaza City and then not in Khan Yunis, the Israeli army is considering expanding its ground operation into the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The army is doing so because it assumes that Sinwar and his aids are hiding in the tunnels underneath this southern region of the Gaza Strip, presumably holding on to the Israeli hostages who are still alive.


Most of the Gaza Strip residents, some 1.4 million people, are concentrated in Rafah. Tens of thousands are still fleeing into the city from Khan Yunis, where the fighting continues. The thought that Israel will invade Rafah and that fighting will take place between and near civilians terrifies the city's residents and the internally displaced persons. The terror they feel is augmented by the conclusion that nobody can prevent Israel from carrying out its intention – not even the ICJ ruling that orders Israel to take all measures to avoid acts of genocide...


Read more: If the Israeli Army Invades Rafah, What Will Be of More Than 1.5 Million Palestinians Who Take Shelter There?





Source: Haaretz


By Anshel Pfeffer
Published February 9, 2024


At a time when many reservists have already spent four months in uniform since the war in Gaza began, Israel's ultra-Orthodox and secular communities are heading for a clash over who must serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already trying to muster his troops


An observant reservist passed an ultra-Orthodox man in a Jerusalem street last December.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi



The rabbis' edicts are not the only reason young Haredi men aren't joining up. They have been raised in a community largely isolated from the rest of Israeli society.
By the time they turn 18, they have no relevant education or experience to help them in the stressful secular environment of military service.



Early on in the Israel-Hamas war, a few dozen ultra-Orthodox men volunteered to join the Israel Defense Forces. It was a brilliant publicity stunt. Their pictures at an IDF induction base in their new uniforms featured prominently in all the news organizations – especially the 40-year-old son of Shas leader Arye Dery.


Finally, it was happening: the Haredi community that for 75 years had remained distant from matters of state was prepared to do its bit sharing the national security burden. Yet the truth was that none of the not-so-young men were destined for boot camp in one of the IDF's combat units. Within a few weeks, most of them were back in civilian life. They will occasionally be called up for light reserve duty in the Military Rabbinate corps.


A total of 450 Haredi men took the opportunity to gain the social cachet of having "served" in this way. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Haredi yeshiva students remain exempt from the draft, even though the High Court of Justice has ruled that this exemption is unconstitutional as it discriminates against those who do serve.


Like many other Israeli controversies, this one would have been set aside during wartime – Israel has far more pressing issues right now – if it weren't for a new bill being prepared for swift legislation in the Knesset. If passed, this bill will extend the period of compulsory service for young men to three years (it's currently 32 months), while the age at which former conscripts can be called up for the reserves will be 45 (instead of the current 40). And while most active reservists previously did 25 days of operational duty every three years, now they will be liable to do 40 days annually...


Read more: Opinion | Anger Is Rising in Wartime Israel About Which Israelis Must Go and Fight


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