Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, May 22, 2024.  The distribution of aid has ceased operations in Gaza, AP's equipment was seized by Israel, calls for Palestinian statehood increase, and much more.

Last night, AP reported, "The United Nations suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Tuesday due to a lack of supplies and an untenable security situation caused by Israel’s expanding military operation. The U.N. warned that humanitarian operations across the territory were nearing collapse."  Frances Vinall (WASHINGTON POST) quotes UNRWA's Juliette Touma stating, "We have no supplies.  So we have nothing to distribute."  THE NATIONAL notes:

The International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestinians warned that people in Gaza are surviving on as little as three percent of the minimum daily water needs, leading to severe public health risks at a time of decreasing aid deliveries.

“While Israel’s offensive inside Rafah continues accelerating Gaza’s humanitarian need, our recent assessment found that some Palestinians are surviving on just 3 per cent of the internationally-recognized minimum standard for daily water intake,” both NGOs said.

With Israel’s closure of the Rafah crossing, limited fully functioning hospitals, and more than 800,000 people displaced in just the last week, they said they are deeply concerned about the sanitation and health impact for people inside Gaza.

Wait! Wait! Wait!  There's Joe Biden's Pier To Nowhere!  It's finally built! Long after it was promised!  The Pier To Nowhere will save the day!!!

Uh.  No.

None of the aid that has passed through the pier built by the United States in Gaza has been distributed to Palestinians yet, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

According to Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, 569 metric tons of aid from many countries had made it across the temporary pier and there is “more aid on the way.”

Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder said on Tuesday that the goods unloaded on the temporary pier that the US built off the coast of Gaza haven't reached those in need, per CNN.

And this entire project may eventually be a failure if Israel doesn't create conditions for aid groups to carry out their operations safely, the UN World Food Program said on Tuesday, per the Associated Press.

This is not a surprise outcome.  For months, various United Nations officials have warned against thi, various aid organizations, Cindy McCain, in her role as the executive director of The World Food Program has repeatedly warned of this.


CINDY MCCAIN (Executive Director, World Food Programme): Well, thank you for having me.

First of all, the - the bottom line here is that we need to get more aid in, as – as has been said. We are looking at possible – possibly being on the brink of famine in this region. This is something that's not only terrific, but it will spread. And - and with that comes disease and - and everything else that you can imagine.

Bottom line, we need more trucks in, we need more aid in, we need to be able to have more access to be able to distribute the aid. And - and, you know, hopefully maybe a longer time to do that, not just four days. We look forward to - to making sure that we can work with all of our partners on the ground and in the area to make sure that this can happen. And I want to thank the Egyptians for being so helpful in all of this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: UNICEF also said approximately 30,000 children under the age of five in Gaza had stunted growth. And this was even before the war began.



CINDY MCCAIN: Well, I – the access for aid, again, prior to the war and then, of course, since the war has been an issue all along. And the ability to make sure that these children get the proper nutrients, not just food, but the proper nutrients in this. It's a terrific situation. It's a - it's - it is - it is a massive, catastrophic event that is occurring, and it will cross regions as it happens. We have got to be able to get in there. And not only that, we have to make sure that we can safely have access to be able to feed the people that we need to feed.

And while you nod at that CBS FACE THE NATION segment, grasp that Cindy's been on that program more than once.  She's been on all the morning programs and various other news programs.  But the one above?  It's from November 26th of last year.  That's how much time Joe Biden's had to address this.

At the end of last week, Cindy was again sounding the alarms.


Starving children and adults in Gaza are dying after being reduced to the "size of a skeleton", according to the World Food Programme boss.

Cindy McCain, executive director of the UN agency, said her staff describe it as "a complete disaster" and there are serious problems getting trucks in safely and in sufficient numbers.

Israel's offensive following the Hamas attack on 7 October has displaced much of Gaza's population, many of whom are fleeing again as Israel escalates attacks in the southern city of Rafah.

Hundreds of thousands are starving and desperate, and Mrs McCain told Sky News the reality is devastating.

She told Yalda Hakim: "Imagine a child wasting into the size of a skeleton - and of course passing from it - and an adult doing the same thing. That's what we're seeing on the ground.

"If we could get in now we might be able to fend off a hardcore famine, but we're not there yet and we're not getting in."

The  title for this site comes from the late political theorist Judith N. Shklar -- see her BETWEEN UTOPIA AND REALISM.  She's also known for THE FACES OF INJUSTICE in which she explains there is a difference between a tragedy and an injustice -- an injustice could have been prevented. 

And this lack of aid right now? It could have been prevented. It is an injustice and therefore a legal crime.  

An American doctor who refused to evacuate Gaza without his colleagues and called on President Biden to ensure medical workers’ safety announced late Tuesday that he has safely left the Strip alongside the rest of his 16-person team.

Adam Hamawy, who lives in New Jersey, wrote on Instagram that he and his team had been evacuated to Amman, Jordan, and credited Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for assisting with their safe passage.

“Since I entered Gaza I was bound by two commitments: first that I would leave on May 13 with the entire team I entered with and that our team would be replaced with another to serve patients,” said Hamawy, a reconstructive plastic surgeon.

“Today we received word that the entire [team] was to be evacuated to Jordan and that our administration is committed to facilitating alternative medical teams to offer relief in Gaza.

THE GUARDIAN notes, "According to AFP, the World Health Organization has said northern Gaza’s last two functioning hospitals, al-Awda and Kamal Adwan, were besieged by Israeli forces, with more than 200 patients trapped inside."

In other news, THE WASHINGTON POST reports, "Norway, Ireland and Spain announced plans Wednesday to recognize a Palestinian state. While the move is symbolic, the countries expressed hope that it will press Israelis, Palestinians and the international community toward a two-state solution. In response, Israel -- whose government rejects a two-state solution -- ordered the return of its ambassadors from the three countries."  THE NATIONAL notes the Israeli government's response, "Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return home, as Norway said it would recognise a Palestinian state and Ireland was expected to do the same."

Let's drop back to yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: On May 15th, Lily Greenberg Call, a special assistant to the chief of staff at the Department of the Interior and a political appointee of President Biden, resigned from her position in protest of the administration’s policies in Gaza. In doing so, she became the first known Jewish appointee to resign from the Biden administration over Gaza.

In a four-page letter of resignation she released publicly, Greenberg Call wrote, quote, “I can no longer in good conscience continue to represent this administration amidst President Biden’s disastrous, continued support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza,” unquote.

Lily Greenberg Call chose May 15th as the date of her resignation because it marked the anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” when up to 900,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and displaced in 1948 during the founding of Israel. In her resignation letter, she wrote, quote, “Nakba and Shoah, the Hebrew word for Holocaust, mean the same thing: catastrophe. I reject the premise that one people’s salvation must come at another’s destruction. I am committed to creating a world where this does not happen — and this cannot be done from within the Biden administration,” she wrote.

Lily Greenberg Call joins us today in our New York studio.

Lily, welcome to Democracy Now! Thanks so much for joining us. If you can talk about the significance of the date you chose and why you have decided to resign?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: Thanks for having me, Amy.

So, as I said in my resignation letter, you know, “Nakba” and “Shoah” mean the same thing. I was raised with a fairy tale about the Nakba. The Nakba was something that I was not really told about. And if anything, it was minimized and trivialized. Was raised with this idea that Israel was a land without a people for a people without a land. And, you know, so if there’s no Palestinian society, if there’s nothing to be destroyed, then there’s nothing to mourn. So I felt, as a Jewish person, that it was particularly important for me to acknowledge the significance of the Nakba, and the Nakba that has never really ended, that continues to this day.

And, you know, as I mentioned, there’s something devastating about the parallels between the same word, “Nakba” and “Shoah,” and the idea that what Jews see as our — what many Jews see as our salvation in the formation of the state of Israel came at the expense of Palestinian freedom. And so I want us to reject that premise, the idea that Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom are at odds with each other, and understand that any system that requires that, you know, requires the oppression of one people for another, is inherently unsafe.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you tell us: How did your Jewish faith lead you to make this decision?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: Yeah. So, I mean, I was raised very much steeped in Jewish community. I went to Jewish day school. I have like 20 years of Jewish education. I did, you know, traditional Jewish text study in high school. And a lot of the values that I learned in that, I internalized some really beautiful values, right? There’s this idea of pikuach nefesh in Judaism, which means “saving a life,” and it supercedes any other commandment. You are allowed to break any commandment if it means saving a life. We also say, “To save a life is to save the whole world.” There’s this idea of b’tselem elohim, that every person is made in the image of God. And so, those values, in addition to the fact that Judaism is really steeped in a justice-oriented ethos, that we fight against authority — you know, Jews have been the victims of injustice, of legal injustice, of violence, of persecution, of displacement throughout our history, right? So, I feel that I am really living in my Jewishness, in the essence of what I was raised with, by standing up for Palestinians and by demanding their freedom.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And your views on the Israeli state have evolved over the years. In 2019, as a college student at UC Berkeley, you served as president of Bears for Israel, which is affiliated with AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Could you talk about the evolution of your views?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: Yeah, of course. So, you know, as I mentioned, I was raised in a very — I was raised deeply involved in Jewish community. And within that community, it was very pro-Israel. There was no daylight between being Jewish and support for the state of Israel in the community I was raised in. And I also — you know, I believed in Israel as, like I said, the sort of salvation of the Jewish people, the way to protect Jews from antisemitism. And I grew up experiencing antisemitism from non-Jewish people in my life and in communities, and so it was really powerful for me to advocate for Israel.

But I would say, you know, as I got a little older, over the past eight years or so, two things started to happen at once, or at the same time. So, the first was that my world started to expand. I was able to get to know Palestinians, Palestinian Americans. I worked with some Syrian Palestinian refugees in Greece. I saw for myself some of the injustices that Palestinians face in Israel-Palestine — the checkpoints, you know, the system of apartheid — and started to — you know, they didn’t feel in alignment with my values — right? — and with the kind of country that — you know, the kind of world that I want to live in. So, that was happening. I also studied Arabic and just had all this exposure to Palestinian culture and life.

And at the same time, the coalition of people that I was advocating for Israel with through AIPAC started to move to the right, as Trump came to power, as the Israeli government shifted to the right. And I started to see these people who I had spent years doing pro-Israel advocacy with, in particular, you know, the evangelical Christians, support Trump and support right-wing fascists here in the United States and people who were aligning themselves with white supremacists and antisemites, right? And so, I started to realize, OK, maybe these people aren’t here because they’re invested in Jews and Jewish safety, you know, that there wasn’t — they couldn’t be — they couldn’t care about us if they were aligning with people who were so clearly antisemitic and harmful to my communities.

And so, both of those things together led me to this realization that I had been told a lie — right? — and that the status quo is untenable, and that not only is it devastating for Palestinians — right? — but I think October 7th made it very, very clear that it also doesn’t keep Israelis safe, and that if we wanted to actually create of thriving future for Israelis, for Palestinians, for Jews, for the communities that we care about here in America, something has to change.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play some of what President Biden had to say earlier this month at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Driven by ancient desire to wipe out the Jewish people off the face of the Earth, over 1,200 innocent people — babies, parents, grandparents — slaughtered in their kibbutz, massacred at a music festival, brutally raped, mutilated and sexually assaulted.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden made those comments in April. In December, he spoke at a Hanukkah holiday reception at the White House.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My commitment to the safety of the Jewish people and the security of Israel and its right to exist is independent — as an independent Jewish state is unshakable. Folks, were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world who was safe — were there no Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Lily Greenberg Call, your response?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: I don’t think Jews are safe right now. And I don’t think it’s — you know, I think that part of that is the status quo in Israel. And what makes Jews less safe is these comments from President Biden. I think, you know, continually using this message of Jewish safety as a smokescreen for Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians makes Jews less safe. It enables antisemitism.

And I just want to say that, of course, what Hamas did on October 7th is atrocious. There were people in my community among those people that he’s speaking about. But it’s very clear that the Israeli government is not prioritizing bringing the hostages home. You know, if they cared about that, they would not be bombing the densely populated area that they’re in.

And, you know, again, I am so angry at the president that he is using my community as justification for the slaughter, making us the face of the American war machine. I don’t think that makes us safe. And if he really cared about Jewish safety, he wouldn’t be doing that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you what the reaction has been among your former colleagues in the Biden administration. You worked both for Kamala Harris and for President Biden. What’s your sense of the people within the bureaucracy of government, how they’re feeling about the continuing American support for Israel’s war in Gaza?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: There’s widespread sentiment within all levels of the administration and all agencies that the president’s continued support for Israel’s assault on Gaza is disastrous. It’s disastrous for American foreign policy, for sentiment towards Americans abroad. It’s disastrous here at home. And it’s very devastating that the leadership of the administration is not only not listening to their colleagues, but to the majority of the American people, who want a ceasefire, who are horrified by what’s happening in Gaza, and who have made their voices very clear.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the power of AIPAC right now. And do you think it’s diminishing, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee? And also, do you feel that the consensus, the Democratic establishment consensus, is breaking at this point? On the one hand, you have these massive protests across the country, President Biden saying, no, he’s not listening to them. Then he says he’s halting 2,000-pound bombs to Israel. But then, within a few days, he announces a billion dollars’ worth of weapons to Israel.

LILY GREENBERG CALL: Yeah, you know, I think the Democratic Party, in particular, has to make a choice. They have to decide if they’re going to align themselves with a group like AIPAC, that supports and funds and enables insurrectionists and white supremacists, and take money from the same people who fund the NRA and Big Oil, you know, people — those groups are completely blacklisted from the Democratic Party. So, are we going to align ourselves with those people and take money from them? Or are we going to choose to uplift and support progressive champions who are fighting for a multiracial democracy and the type of country that we know that we deserve and that we want? And yeah, I do think the consensus is starting to shift a little bit. I think AIPAC realizes that their power is diminishing in particular within the Democratic Party, which is why they are making this kind of shift to the right. And I think, yeah, again, the Democratic Party has to make a choice.

AMY GOODMAN: And your journey from AIPAC and CAMERA — if you can explain what that is — to where you are now? And if you’re finding more and more of your friends back then are actually shifting?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: I think so, yeah. Again, I think it is very challenging and hard to — you know, when you grow up in the communities that I’m from, it’s very hard to change. And also, you know, a lot of Jewish people, unfortunately, we have internalized this message that Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom are at odds with each other — right? — and that to ensure the safety of the Jewish people, this is unfortunately the — we have to be OK with the status quo and with what Israel is doing. And I understand that. I understand our fear of annihilation after the Holocaust. I understand the fear of antisemitism. I feel it in myself. But we cannot let that fear blind us and trick us into somehow thinking — you know, into accepting the slaughter of Palestinians. And I really urge people in my community to think about what it means for us to accept that and to be the face of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the response within the Interior Department? I mean, the secretary of interior is the first Native American cabinet member, first Indigenous cabinet member, the former New Mexico congressmember, Deb Haaland. Her response?

LILY GREENBERG CALL: Yeah, I mean, a lot of folks that I know across the administration have been supportive and understanding. You know, like I said, there is widespread dissent and sentiment within the administration that what the president is doing is disastrous. And, you know, I’ll say that I may no longer be in the federal government right now, I might not be in this administration, but I do feel that I am here upholding my oath that I took to serve the American people, to listen to them. And I’m fighting for a country that we deserve, for a shared future for Israelis and Palestinians and for our communities here in America. And I don’t see that the president is doing that.

AMY GOODMAN: Lily Greenberg Call, thanks so much for being with us, the first known Jewish political appointee to resign over President Biden’s policies on Gaza. She had been working as special assistant to the chief of staff at the Interior Department. She also worked for Biden’s election, as well as Kamala Harris’s.

Coming up, President Biden condemns the International Criminal Court’s decision to pursue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the defense minister. We’ll speak with war crimes prosecutor Reed Brody and the renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappé. Stay with us.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government continues to pretend it is acting in a humane and democratic manner.  What's more humane and democratic than attacks on press freedom, after all?  Brett Wilkins (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

  The White House and press freedom advocates were among those who on Tuesday criticized the Israeli government's shutdown of The Associated Press' live video shot of northern Gaza for violating a new media law by providing access to the banned Al Jazeera network.

The APsaid Israeli authorities confiscated its camera and broadcasting equipment from a home in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The live shot was broadcast from a balcony on the home.

"The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our long-standing live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment," said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the New York-based news organization.

"The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country's new foreign broadcaster law," Easton added. "We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world." 

CNN offers this update, "Israel returns AP gear: Israel said it would return camera equipment to the Associated Press after shutting down its live feed showing Gaza and seizing its gear. The reversal came after the White House, Israel’s opposition leader and press groups expressed concerns."

Gaza remains under assault. Day 229 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE NATIONAL notes, "Gaza death toll reaches 35,562, with 79,652 wounded."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:


On bodies trapped under rubble, ALJAZEERA notes this morning:

We’re talking about a three-storey building that housed not only residents but also dozens of other displaced Palestinians in Rafah that made it to Nuseirat three days ago.

I met the neighbours. I met the family. I met one of the relatives of people still trapped under the rubble earlier today. They were telling me heartbreaking things.

Imagine escaping the air strikes in Rafah, looking for a safe space but being killed after three days of evacuating – not only being killed but being trapped where the Civil Defence teams do not have any equipment to remove or pull these people from under the rubble.

I saw Civil Defence teams doing their best to pull people from under the rubble. They were digging with their bare hands, with very basic tools. This was not the first time we have seen this scene. We have been seeing this for more than seven months now.

Unfortunately, it may come to a point where the Civil Defence teams will give up on this house because there are more people being targeted every single hour across the Gaza Strip.

April 11th, Sharon Zhang (TRUTHOUT) reported, "In addition to the over 34,000 Palestinians who have been counted as killed in Israel’s genocidal assault so far, there are 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza who are missing, a humanitarian aid group has estimated, either buried in rubble or mass graves or disappeared into Israeli prisons.  In a report released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the estimate is based on initial reports and that the actual number of people missing is likely even higher."

As for the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

The following sites updated: