Roaming Charges: Back to the Future in Gaza

IDF footage of airstrike on Gaza.

+ The past two weeks in Gaza have been a critical period for people of conscience. It’s been one of those historical moments, which reveals what people are made of and its worth taking a moment to reflect on who said what and when and where they said it. Who spoke out during the first evictions in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrar, who spoke out when the first missiles hit Gaza, who spoke out when a refugee camp was hit, when residential buildings were turned to rubble, who waited until the AP/Al Jazeera building was targeted, who refused to fall for the bait of blaming both sides? I ask this because my memories are still fresh from the early days of the Afghan War, when the voices in opposition where so very few, when those of us who did speak out were tarred as traitors and terrorist appeasers, when many lost their jobs, their writing and music gigs, their tenured faculty positions, their friends and lovers. I think about how some of the people who now strut about as popular voices of the “anti-war” movement, like Glenn Greenwald, supported both the Afghan and Iraq Wars. I’m glad they’ve come around, naturally. But I trust the people who were there in the beginning, who didn’t need mounds of civilian corpses and a gradual shift in public opinion to change their minds. This is critical in part because the reputational consequences of standing up to criticize Israel are fraught with peril and also because the last two weeks have only been a hyper-violent phase of the Gaza war, which was going on before the frenzy of missiles and will continue tomorrow and next week and next month, when the daily humiliations, evictions, beatings, jailings, and killings happen out of the media spotlight. And who will still be speaking out then? And what will they say?

+ The next war on Gaza is the current war on Gaza and the past war on Gaza.

+ There are two wars being conducted against Palestinians. One is an open war waged by Israel for its own expansionist objectives. Israel doesn’t care about its reputation. It doesn’t mind being perceived as a bully. It might even prefer it.

The other war is a hidden war, backed and financed by the US for its own geo-political objectives. The US needs to remain in the shadows, in large measure to preserve its role in the periodic “peace agreements” that cede more and more Palestinian territory to Israel in exchange for a pause in the carnage. But this time, as the bombing went on and global outrage percolated, the US’s supportive role was being exposed, like Nosferatu dragged into the first rays of dawn.

And so Tony Blinken traveled to Jerusalem to enact a ritual of reconciliation, even reopening the US consulate office (despite ominous warnings of the “risks” from the editorial page of the New York Times) with the Palestinians. Still Blinken pointedly refused to meet with representatives from Hamas, as if to lend diplomatic legitimacy to Israel’s drive to the evict the current  government of Gaza, such as it is.

The US financed the demolition of Gaza and now offers to finance its reconstruction, in a cycle of boom and dust, that has gone on for decades. Yet it is clear that the offer of US aid is just one more Faustian bargain, where the State Department dictates the terms. Only the rebuilding comes with strings attached. The shipments of city-destroying weapons to Tel Aviv are strictly use at your own discretion, or lack thereof.

+ Inevitably, the political backlash to the latest missile attacks on Gaza will not be against Israel, but the protests *against* Israel, which will be labeled “anti-semitic” and used as justification for the next round of academic and political purges, press censorship and, yes, bombings.

+ It’s been said many times but unfortunately can’t be said often enough that the conflation of criticism of Israeli atrocities with anti-semitism is a deliberate tactic even though it demeans the toxicity of real anti-semitism. You almost get the sense that if anti-semitism didn’t exist, it would serve Israel’s strategic interest to bomb it into being, as a kind of permanent shield against popular outrage over its human rights crimes.

+ In 11-days the IDF bombed the center of Gaza City harder than the entire 53-days military operation of 2014.

+ Biden couldn’t make a more explicit endorsement of apartheid. It would be like saying there will be no peace in southern Africa until the rest of the world recognizes South Africa as an independent state for whites. At least, he didn’t call Israel the Middle East’s “only democracy.”

+ Of course, Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, is the guy who once claimed that Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world was rooted in his “father abandonment issues.”

+ Here’s Bernie playing his customary role of chastising the Left. Middle of the road Human Rights Watch just issued a big report documenting how it fits the definition of apartheid…

+ In an interview w Israeli Channel 12 with pilots who participated in blowing up 9 residential towers in Gaza, one pilot called the airstrikes “a way to vent the army’s frustration…”

+ Under the cover of a ceasefire, Israeli police are rounding up hundreds of Palestinian protesters and peace activists and holding them under the sinister “special detention” orders that have locked away so many Palestinians in the past, many of them teenagers. They’ve cynically dubbed the mass arrests Operation Law and Order. One Palestinian quipped that the next Gaza bombing will be titled Operation Crush Anti-Semitism.

+ It’s instructive to look at just how insulated Israel has been over the years from any serious international investigations into its war crimes, largely thanks to the intervention of the US and the EU nations…

+ Few countries understand partition, occupation and annexation as intimately as Ireland, which likely explains why Ireland’s parliament, the Dail, voted to condemn Israel’s “de facto annexation” of Palestinian land, in what was the first use of the phrase by an EU government in relation to Israel.

+ All politics is “performative” (one of my new least favorite words), but some performances have longer runs than others. In the least surprising show closing of the week, St. Bernard quietly, caved to Menendez and the rest of the Israel block in the senate, ended his bid to halt Biden’s arms sale package to Israel.

+ The online discipline and punishment of celebrities who make statements critical of Israel’s war crimes is a central feature of wrenching back their control of the narrative of what’s happening in Palestine. In the space of a few hours, Mark Ruffalo made an assertion that Israel was committing “genocide” in Gaza. It gained headlines and pushback. Ruffalo wilted under orchestrated fury, as many have before him. He recanted and his recantation reaped even bigger headlines. But not only did he recant. Ruffalo also castigated Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian liberation for using factually-based and legally apt terms, like “apartheid” and “genocide,” to describe Israel’s assault on Gaza. In this way, Ruffalo went from a critic to a high-profile agent of the very force had a just denounced. [See my comments on Thomas Mann below.]

+ There’s an insecurity in the heart of American liberalism, a lack of faith in its own professed beliefs.

+ Imagine being prohibited from using the word “Israel” at work, when your work is to cover the politics of the Middle East….”CBC News Toronto Executive Producer Laura Green … added that it is good practice to ‘avoid using Palestine colloquially in our own exchanges,’ as to reduce the risk that someone might ‘accidentally write or say it in something that is published or broadcast.'”

+ Effacedbook strikes again…Facebook’s AI algorithms are hunting down and blocking the posts of pro-Palestinian activists with the same relentless censorious zeal they once used against BLM activists.

+ Given the amount of pushback there’s been, the decision of the San Francisco Unified School District’s teachers union to pass a resolution endorsing the BDS movement against Israel must come as a blow.

+ And it’s likely to stand. In response to a lawsuit filed by journalist Abby Martin, a federal judge just ruled that Georgia’s anti-BDS law is unconstitutional.

+ Gallup’s numbers show that 53 percent of Democrats now favor putting more pressure on Israel, a 10 point jump since 2018, which is why Israel is desperate to tar all of its critics as anti-Semites.

+ Meanwhile, support for Israel among young US evangelical Christians has dropped sharply since 2018: down from 75% to 33%. Nearly half of evangelicals aged 18-29 say they now favor the establishment of Palestinian state…

+ The AP editor who chastised Emily Wilder for having “Black Lives Matter” in her Twitter bio is guilty of the worst kind of journalistic bias, the kind that hides its prejudices behind a cloak of “objectivity.”

+ I hope some of the 180,000 people who took to the streets of London earlier this week the city’s largest pro-Palestinian protest camped out in front of the Labour Party’s HQ and let them know in the loudest possible way just how reprehensible they’ve become…

+ Israel’s bombing of Gaza proved to be a welcome distraction for Biden from the total collapse of his domestic policy agenda…

+ Just when you think the Biden Administration. can’t possibly sink any lower in one week’s time, they surprise you by doing just that…”Biden Renews Trump Determination Cuba ‘Not Cooperating’ on Antiterrorism Efforts.

+ “Rushed!” Mitch’s sudden concern for women’s rights is touching…

+ What you’re getting instead of a national health care system: $634 billion in upgrades to the US nuclear arsenal.

+ Kamala Harris resurfaced this week with promises of “investment deals” for Central American countries. First, it might be prudent for the US to just stop all of the coup-ing…?

+ Something’s gotta give: The median sales price of a home in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of $341,600. Home prices across the country are up 19.1% from a year ago, another record.

+ Here’s Biden doing his usual schtick about unions and the middle class, even though his neoliberal economic policies have steadily eroded both. As a caveat, he takes pains to note that he doesn’t have problem with anybody making “a million bucks”…For a “man-is-he-out-of-touch” moment, this reminds me of Poppy Bush at the grocery store marveling at the magical wizardry of the price scanner.

+ 6: the number of days in 2021 when police haven’t killed anyone.

+ 937: the number of people killed by police since police killed George Floyd.

+ How many cease-and-desist orders does the Ghost of James Baldwin have to send before you stop quoting him?

+Say, aren’t you the same guy who bullied the NBA players into ending their strike after the police murder of Jacob Blake?

+ The budget hawks at the Washington Post are circling again, offering Biden advice on how he could “save billions of dollars.” Screw “saving it.” Find better ways to spend it. And spend more of it. Much more, even if you have to print the stuff…

+ What it took to get Little Ben to jump off the Marjorie Taylor Greene bandwagon. (Not to worry, she probably still has Netanyahu.)

+ Marjorie Taylor Greene is the best thing to happen to the Dems since the raid on the Capitol. Her antics have completely occluded Biden’s retreats on infrastructure, cancelation of student debt, expansion of Medicare to those 60 & up, instituting a public option, rent relief, min wage, etc…

+ Where’s the vaccine for the systemic ravages capitalism? In 2020, CEO pay increased by 16%, while worker compensation edged up 1.8%.

+ Biden’s decision not to cancel any student loan debt, despite his endlessly repeated promises to the contrary, can’t come as much of a surprise. What did you really think was going to happen? Biden’s represented debt collectors his entire career.

+ The latest self-reflective offering from the Woke CIA…(A victory “never realized” is CIA code-speak for “got their asses kicked.”)

+ There aren’t many acts of malfeasance the US government hasn’t done on a grand scale which it lambasts other nations for doing in miniature. See Tony Blinken on Belarus, which in no way is meant to exculpate the outrageous behavior of Lukashenko.

+ I’m not buying what Le Boulangerie de Clyburn is selling…

+ As of 2019 African-Americans represented 12% of the American adult population, but 33% of its prison population

+ Gwendolyn Midlo Hall talks about her newly published memoir Haunted by Slavery…

+ Ammon Bundy, who legally can’t step on Idaho Capitol grounds or be in the building, is running for governor. And the way things are going he’ll probably win…

+ Strangest take on the San Jose shooting so far (though its early days yet): Retired NYPD detective Pat Brosnan on Fox News: “Once covid starts to lift, these cowardly shooters will come out exactly in tandem with the number of vaccinations. You can be sure they probably got vaccinated.”

+ The headlines from this week’s IPSO poll were all about how 53% of Republicans, and 25% of all Americans, believe that Trump is still the secret president of the US. But surely the real story is that 14% of the people can’t remember who they voted for in 2020, which is a state of political unconsciousness I am entirely in synch with…

+ Florida High School edited the some of the photos of female students in order to cover up more of their chests. Will Matt Gaetz launch a congressional inquiry?

+ Gaetz is reportedly contemplating a run for president in 2024. Why not? Gaetz has checked all of the Clinton/Trump boxes: opulent hair, sex molester, faux populist, pathological narcissist. I’d say he’s got a shot.

+ Is Feinstein pretending to be senile like some Mafia don evading indictment or is the brain rot really this advanced? Feinstein was asked by NBC News’ Sahil Kapur on Thursday if a GOP filibuster on the 1/6 Commission would motivate her to abolish the rule:

“I don’t see us abolishing the 60-vote threshold. I don’t.” But would she vote to kill it? “This is the first time I’ve heard it. No one has proposed it. No one has talked to me about it. So it’s a non-issue.”

+ The fuss over the 1/6 commission is ridiculous. The history of such bi-partisan investigation is one of buck-passing, distraction and obfuscation. Consider the work of the Warren and 9/11 commissions, which opened rabbit holes down which thousands have disappeared and never returned.

+ There’s a comforting myth among liberal “good government” types that hearings & commissions will reform bad behavior, the classic example being the Church/Pike Hearings blowing the lid off the CIA. But a couple of years later, the newly “reformed” and chastised Agency was running its biggest covert OP ever in Afghanistan, meddling in the 1980 elections, flagrantly flouting a Congressional ban on funding the Contras and managing death squads across Central America. It’s almost as if the public ritual of reform gave the Agency cover to engage in even more malign endeavors. These agencies are not “reformable.” They can only be eliminated or, at the very least, defunded.

+ A GOP lawmaker and teacher in Kansas named Mark Samsel has been accused of kicking his students in the testicles, an act he claims he carried out on “instructions from God.”

God says to Samsel, “Kick me a Son.”
And Samsel says, “You must be putting me on.”
God say, “No.” Mark say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want to, but … next time you see me you’d better run.”
Mark say, “Where you want this kicking done?”
God say, “First the right ball, then in the other one…”

+ New editions and translations of the Bible come out every few years, but few of them have the gumption to insert new books written two millennia after the first edition. But the God Bless America Bible, sure to be a bestseller, includes the US Constitution alongside the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me
especially the part
that speaks right to my heart
about keeping those blacks

+ Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: “The Constitution is the sacred text of the civic religion that is U.S. nationalism, and that nationalism is inexorably tied to white supremacy.”

+ NBC raised the alarums about the growing threat of QAnon by citing a poll allegedly showing that “one-in-five Americans” believe QAnon conspiracy theories. But when you look at the poll itself, only 15% percent of the respondents bought into Q’s central tenet that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds “are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.” “15%” equals  “one-in-five” only if you practice math with a hand grenade…

+ A report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports how the system of carbon offsets used by the airline industry to make claims that their carbon emissions are “net zero” is “seriously flawed.” “Seriously flawed” the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ delicate way of saying: “Total Fucking Scam.”

+ How many “tipping points” is one planet expected to endure? According to the latest climate assessment by the World Meteorological Association, there is now a 40% likelihood that global temperatures will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within the next five years, and these odds of that happening are rising.

+ The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet, driving the rising sea levels that threaten 300 million people around the world living in coastal communities, which is, of course. This is, of course, one reason why the fossil fuel lobby is very happy with the data showing 80 percent of US High School students lack even a basic understanding of science.

+ The Biden administration continues to support Trump’s malicious oil grab policies in Alaska. This week they announced their backing for ConocoPhillips’ massively destructive Willow oil & gas project on the North Slope, while lawyers in Biden’s Justice Department continue to defend former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s awful decision to allow the State of Alaska to build a road through the Izembek Wilderness. These decisions are all Biden’s, no arm-twisting or horse trading with Mitch or Manchin.

+ A new study estimate that it may cost the state of New Mexico $8.3 billion to clean up the waste left behind at oil and gas sites. It’s the same old story, all across the West. The mining, oil and timber corporations rip it up, abscond with the cash, leave behind poisonous rubble and the bill for cleaning it up…if it can be cleaned up.

+ Here’s a better idea, Senator: Revoke the oil depletion allowance, prohibit mountain top removal coal mining and stop logging old-growth forests.

+ What’s really driving the decline in woodland caribou? Hint: It’s not wolves, but another apex predator (humans).

+ By the end of the century, Nigeria could surpass China in population….

+ The National Report Card just came out for science:

4th Grade: 36% proficient
8th Grade: 35% proficient
12th Grade: 22% proficient

This is the planned outcome, right?….

+ Has there ever been a nation more ridiculously proud of its intellectual decline than the US?

+ A fascinating new report suggests that landscapes where wolves are present see a 24% reduction in car/deer collisions, in part because reduce deer populations and in part because wolves tend to use roads as hunting corridors which the deer learn to avoid. If wolves were as wicked as they’re made out to be by western ranchers and politicians, wouldn’t they be scaring the deer toward cars?

+ I had not realized, though I should have, that Thomas Mann was hounded by the FBI and McCarthy and finally hauled before HUAC during the Red Scare witch-hunts. Mann wasn’t a communist, but he refused to condemn communism or its adherents. But a non-communist who refused to be an “anti-communist” was, of course, was a much more dangerous threat to the whole Red Scare project, which is why they went after him so viciously.  What the witch-hunters demanded was conformity and submission. You had to renounce;  to remain silent was to be suspect. “As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends: Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ That is how it started in Germany.” (See the new edition of his Reflections of a Non-Political Man published by NYRB.)

+ In my column last week I sung the praises of Dirk Bogarde. This prompted an email: “Have you seen his version of Justine?” The Divine Marquis’ novel? Alas, no, Lawrence Durrell’s, from the Alexandria Quartet. Directed by George Cukor with a screenplay by film critic Andrew Sarris! It must be a travesty. But it cries out to be seen. Where? Right here…

+ A page floats out of my old copy of Sarris’ The American Cinema every time open it now, the spine is so hopelessly cracked. But I’d hate to get a new copy because I’ve learned so much from it & argued with it so vehemently over 40 years. The curious thing is that Sarris isn’t my favorite film critic and I’ve always found his prose to be stilted and stiff. It’s just one of those books I keep returning to, again & again, even though almost every assertion has been committed to memory, perhaps because it was the first book that thought me a new way to think about movies and challenged many of the assumptions I had about directors like Kubrick, who he consigned to the wonderfully apt category: “Strained Seriousness.” Like LPs, individual books have a way of lodging themselves into our lives and a “new edition” just doesn’t feel right in our hands.

+ I highly recommend watching Liliana Cavani’s 1965 documentary Women of the Resistance. While Cavani’s feature-length explorations of the psycho-sexual dimensions of fascism, especially the Night Porter, have often confounded, if not repulsed, American critics, her documentaries remain almost unknown here. I certainly wasn’t aware of them. Moreover, while somewhat familiar with the Resistance movements in France and Poland, I knew almost nothing about the resistance to fascism and Nazism inside of Italy. In this brief, powerful film, Cavani interviews a dozen or so Italian women struggled to overthrow Mussolini and later the Nazi occupation. They plotted prison escapes for other leaders of the resistance, ran communications networks, spied on the SS, helped to hide Italian Jews, provided intelligence to allies, plotted assassinations of Nazi leaders, endured torture and imprisonment, including at death camps like Ravensbruck, ran guns, and engaged in ambushes. These women came from all sectors of Italian society, peasants and intelligentsia, nuns and prostitutes, Catholics, atheists and Jews. The real Antifa.

+ One day on the set of The Public Enemy, James Cagney asked the braless Jean Harlow how she kept her breasts “so high.” Without missing a beat, Harlow shot back, “I soak them in ice all night, honey.”

+ John Steinbeck wrote a still-unpublished…werewolf novel? This gives entirely new possibilities the kinds of characters one might run into far east of Eden.

+ Alice Coltrane: “Some critics used to say that John’s music was nihilistic, and no one understands it. But the man is searching his soul, and in hearing him do that his listeners would identify with it. A Love Supreme changed a lot of those negative attitudes. When that came out, people went, ‘Ohhh, so this is what he’s talking about.’ ”

+ As underrated Dylan songs go, “Dark Eyes” is up there with the electric version of Blind Willie McTell and Julius and Ethel…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the State
Eric Laursen
(AK Press)

Snowden’s Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance
Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
Louis Menand
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946-1966
Louis Armstrong
(Mosaic Records)

Afrique Victime
Mdou Moctar

Sharecropper’s Son
Robert Finley
(Universal Music)

The Innocent Whom Society Repulsed

“The bourgeois decked out in their Sunday finery who passed the Elephant of the Bastille, were fond of saying as they scanned it disdainfully with their prominent eyes: “What’s the good of that?” It served to save from the cold, the frost, the hail, and rain to shelter from the winds of winter, to preserve from slumber in the mud which produces fever, and from slumber in the snow which produces death, a little being who had no father, no mother, no bread, no clothes, no refuge. It served to receive the innocent whom society repulsed.” (Victor Hugo, Les Misérables)

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3