Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Thu, 23 May 2024 17:50:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.9 Recognizing Palestine: “In Darkest Episode of 21st Century … Spaniards were on the Right Side of History.” https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/recognizing-palestine-spaniards.html Thu, 23 May 2024 05:39:46 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218691 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The announcement Wednesday that Spain, Ireland and Norway will recognize the State of Palestine diplomatically on May 28 is not unprecedented in Europe or in the world. In Europe, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Iceland have all done so. Indeed, most countries recognize Palestine. The outliers were the U.S., Australia and most countries of Western Europe. Now the Western European consensus against this step is crumbling, as well. Belgium came close to joining the other three and it could yet do so.

As for France, its foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné, said Wednesday that recognizing Palestine was “not taboo.” He said that France would prefer to take that step, however, when it would have a practical effect. He said, “”it is not just a symbolic issue or the challenge of taking a political position, but a diplomatic tool in the service of a solution yielding two states living side by side, in peace and security”.

President Emmanuel Macron is not as free to act decisively as Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. He leads a centrist government that has increasingly sought support from the right and big capital, though he once served in a Socialist cabinet. His backing for the International Criminal Court’s request for warrants against two top Israeli leaders has caused a backlash among his right wing colleagues.

Spain’s Sanchez, in contrast, is the Secretary-General of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the head of a left wing coalition in parliament. He is facing vehement demands from those further to his left that he unrecognize Israel the way Colombia has over the brutal Gaza campaign, and that he stop selling Israel arms.

Sanchez explained his reasoning in a speech, insisting that the step was not “anti-Israel.”

“We must say to the Palestinians that we are with them, that there is hope,” he said. He continued the affirmation that “the land and identity of Palestine will continue to exist in our hearts, in international legality and in the future of a harmonious Mediterranean.” In the past, Sanchez has defined the Palestinian state as the territory of “Gaza, the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He said that Spain’s foreign policy has to be coherent. Madrid voted in the UN General Assembly for Palestinian admission as a member state in the United Nations. “If Spain voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state with full rights in the UNO,” he said, “we must also recognize it bilaterally.”

Spain to recognise Palestinian state, PM says • FRANCE 24 English Video

Sanchez has been scathing on Netanyahu’s Gaza campaign. He complained Wednesday, “He doesn’t have a peace project for Palestine.” He said it was legitimate to fight Hamas after what it did on Oct. 7. But, he cautioned, “Netanyahu generates so much rancor that the two-state solution is in danger of being made unviable.” The present offensive, he said, “will only increase hatred by worsening security prospects for Israel and the entire region.”

In a subtle slam at the United States, the Spanish PM observed, “The countries that believe in a rules-based international order are obliged to act in Ukraine and Palestine, without double standards, and to do everything in our power — providing humanitarian aid, assisting the displaced, and using every political avenue to say that we will not allow the two-state solution to be forcibly destroyed.”

Sanchez made an excellent point when he went on to point out that a two state solution that guarantees security to both sides requires that the two parties feel themselves able to negotiate with legitimacy and must have the same status as states. He said that recognizing the State of Palestine was a way of enabling it to confront Hamas, an organization, he insisted, that must disappear so that the Palestine Authority can rule Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as its capital.

I have long argued that the reason for which treaties like the 1993 Oslo Accords have been so easily trashed by the Israelis is that the Palestinians are stateless and so Israel, a state, does not have to treat them as a legitimate government. It can easily renege on any agreement with them, since they have no legitimate status. Only be recognizing them as a state can third parties actually push Israel and the Palestinians to a settlement. Sanchez sees this.

He accused right wing Spanish leader José Maria Aznar of not being able to see the Palestinians and their suffering, even though he was able to see what no one else was — the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003.

Sanchez’s comments on the issue are informed, ethical and insightful. No one on the US political scene speaks halfway so coherently on this matter.

The prime minister also said the step was intended to push for a cease fire in Gaza. “In a while when shelling ceases and the dust of the tanks and the destruction of buildings dissipates, we will realize that we have witnessed one of the darkest episodes of the 21st century, and I want the Spaniards to be able to say with their heads high that they were on the right side of history.”

They were. Americans were not.

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Lawless: Washington Celebrates ICC ruling against Russia, Condemns Warrant Request for Israel https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/washington-celebrates-condemns.html Tue, 21 May 2024 04:47:41 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218656 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said Monday that he is asking the ICC to issue arrest warrants for several Hamas leaders as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of Defense Yoav Gallant.

It is the first time the ICC has sought warrants against leaders of a parliamentary government. Most of the officials indicted have been from African dictatorial regimes. If the warrants are approved, in a process that may take several months, Netanyahu and Gallant will join a rogues gallery featuring deposed Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, deposed Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In March, 2023, just a year ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked all countries that are parties to the ICC to detain Vladimir Putin if they could, after the court issued an arrest warrant for him. Russia is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that authorizes the court, but in 2015 Ukraine (also not a signatory) granted jurisdiction to the court over Ukrainian territory. It was for crimes committed in Ukraine that Putin was indicted.

The reaction in Washington to the warrant request for Netanyahu and Gallant has been the opposite. This reaction shows that the Biden administration does not respect international law and does not care that Putin committed crimes under it, but just wants to stick it to Putin. It is personalistic, not a matter of law. Because if the law was at issue, it should apply to everyone, including (especially) Benjamin Netanyahu, the Butcher of Gaza.

Everything Washington officials said in response to the request for warrants was wrong. I mean, incorrect. It isn’t a matter of opinion or a difference in values. They are spewing falsehoods. It is as though they have all contracted Trumpitis and now keep compulsively telling serial lies.

President Biden, apparently now the chief defense attorney for Netanyahu, denounced any “equivalence” between Hamas and the Israeli leadership and said that he rejects charges of genocide against it.

Biden’s spokespeople questioned whether the ICC has jurisdiction to charge the Israeli leaders.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the announcement as “outrageous” and said that it threatened the success of negotiations toward a ceasefire and a hostage release. Mr. Blinken did not explain why the ICC request for warrants should should delay a ceasefire. The Biden administration vetoed 3 ceasefire calls at the UN Security Council earlier this year, and abstained on a fourth, which it undercut by falsely damning it as “non-binding.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson said he and his colleagues would look into the possibility of placing sanctions on the ICC judges and their families.

The 18 judges are elected to nine-year terms by an assembly of the 124 states that are signatories to the Rome Statute, finalized in 2002, which authorizes the court and lays out International Humanitarian Law. The ICC therefore represents nearly two thirds of the countries in the world. Mike Johnson represents a district in Louisiana.

The parties to the International Criminal Court include Britain, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, Sweden, as well as the State of Palestine and large numbers of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific. It took some courage to sign the Rome Statute, since the officials of the signatory country place themselves under the authority of the judges. It is not a courage that the United States, Israel or Russia displayed, and it is disgraceful that the United States has not signed the major human rights instrument of the twenty-first century.

Al Jazeera English Video: “World reacts to ICC prosecutor seeking Israel, Hamas arrest warrants”

So why is everything Washington is saying about the decision of Karim Khan wrong?

First, the request for warrants does not make an equivalence between Israel and Hamas. The court does not judge countries, it judges individual officials.

These are the charges against the three Hamas leaders, aside from just killing a lot of innocents:

    Taking hostages as a war crime, contrary to article 8(2)(c)(iii);
    Rape and other acts of sexual violence as crimes against humanity, contrary to article 7(1)(g), and also as war crimes pursuant to article 8(2)(e)(vi) in the context of captivity;
    Torture as a crime against humanity, contrary to article 7(1)(f), and also as a war crime, contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i), in the context of captivity;
    Other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity, contrary to article 7(l)(k), in the context of captivity;
    Cruel treatment as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i), in the context of captivity; and
    Outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime, contrary to article 8(2)(c)(ii), in the context of captivity.

Rape, torture, hostage taking all bulk large here.

These are the charges against Netanyahu and Gallant:

    Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Statute;
    Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health contrary to article 8(2)(a)(iii), or cruel treatment as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i);
    Wilful killing contrary to article 8(2)(a)(i), or Murder as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i);
    Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime contrary to articles 8(2)(b)(i), or 8(2)(e)(i);
    Extermination and/or murder contrary to articles 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(a), including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity;
    Persecution as a crime against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(h);
    Other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(k).

The charges aren’t the same, or equivalent, at all. The Israeli officials are charged with starving the civilian population, blowing up the civilian population, exterminating the civilian population. There is no mention of rape or torture or hostage taking. In each case the officials are being charged for their specific actions.

The Israeli officials are not charged with genocide by the ICC, contrary to what Mr. Biden alleged.

The reason that the ICC has jurisdiction is that the State of Palestine has very doggedly and brilliantly arranged for that jurisdiction. First, Palestine sought to be admitted as a non-member observer state of the United Nations, the same status that the Vatican has. The UN General Assembly voted Palestine in some 12 years ago. As an observer state, it gained the right to become a signatory to the Rome Statute, which it did in 2015. Then Palestine asked the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which had de jure been granted to the State of Palestine by the 1993 Oslo Peace Treaty, signed by Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

On February 5, 2021, the ICC concluded that it does have jurisdiction over actions taken in the Occupied Territories. Gaza is included in that jurisdiction.

Hence, the ICC can issue the request for warrants against Hamas war criminals as well as against Israeli officials who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in the Occupied Territories. It most definitely has jurisdiction. In fact, since Palestine is a party to the ICC, the case for jurisdiction here is much stronger than for Ukraine and Putin.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the whole notion of a ceasefire and contrary to Mr. Blinken’s flagrant toadying there is no prospect of any such ceasefire. Hamas offered a hostage deal on the eve of the invasion of Rafah, and Netanyahu invaded precisely in order to torpedo any deal. That is why Israelis are demonstrating in the tens of thousands against Netanyahu. If Blinken had any shame he’d fly to Tel Aviv and join them. The ICC decision is completely irrelevant to negotiations, which have in any case collapsed and are not ongoing. Blinken is trying to blame Karim Khan for his own egregious failure as a diplomat. Unlike Khan, Blinken has done nothing practical to hold Netanyahu to account for repeatedly violating the Biden administration’s toothless red lines.

As for Mike Johnson and his merry band of GOP troglodytes, he should be careful if he’d ever like to vacation in Rio or in most of Europe.

Article 70 of the Rome Statute has these paragraphs prohibiting:

    d) Impeding, intimidating or corruptly influencing an official of the Court for the purpose of forcing or persuading the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties;

    (e) Retaliating against an official of the Court on account of duties performed by that or another official;

The Court should play hardball with politicians who try to sanction its judges, and should issue warrants against them. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see Mike Johnson arrested while on vacation at the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and unceremoniously flown to the Hague in handcuffs? And Mike Pompeo and Trump, who did sanction ICC judges, should also have warrants out. Though with Trump the ICC would have to get in line behind a whole gaggle of prosecutors waving warrants for an endless list of crimes.

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Iranian President dead in Crash: Now comes the Night of Long Knives https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/iranian-president-knives.html Mon, 20 May 2024 04:15:27 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218643 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Iran’s Mehr News Service reported Monday morning Tehran time that President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died Sunday in a helicopter crash in a remote area of Iran. They had been at the border with the neighboring country of Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam and were going to Tabriz when the crash occurred because of bad weather. Iran has two provinces also named Azerbaijan. The region was bifurcated in the early nineteenth century when the Russian Empire conquered half of Iran’s Azerbaijan and made it a Russian colony that became independent in 1991. The helicopter crashed in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

Raisi was elected president in the summer of 2021. The big features of his presidency in my view have been:

1. He declined to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear deal by the Biden administration. The deal had constrained Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program, but Trump tore it up in 2018 and put “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran even though it had abided by the deal. Biden seemed inclined to reenter the treaty in 2021, but wasn’t enthusiastic about it and Raisi’s election was the nail in the coffin.

2. He has cultivated close relations with Russia and China to sidestep the effect of US sanctions on selling Iranian petroleum.

3. He presided over the crushing of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement of Iran’s young women in 2022, which protested mandatory veiling and other patriarchal and police repression. As the perpetrator of a massive prison massacre, he knew his way around shooting and executing protesters.

4. He helped negotiate a possible natural gas pipeline with Pakistan, over the objections of the US, which wants to isolate Iran and crash its economy. Pakistan, however, is energy poor and has not exploited its vast sun and wind power, and so is tempted by Iranian gas.

5. He continued his predecessor’s policies of cultivating pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza. Although he supported Hamas, Hamas did not tell him that it was planning the October 7 attack.

6. His response to the Gaza War (though Khamenei was the main policy maker here) was to allow the pro-Iran militias to take symbolic actions like hitting bases with US troops or firing rockets into Israel, but to restrain them from igniting a full scale war.

7. He, Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps orchestrated the large-scale missile and rocket reprisal toward Israel after the government of Benjamin Netanyahu struck the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed high ranking Iranian officers. However, the Iranian response was announced in plenty of time for the US to shoot down all but a couple of the incoming missiles, avoiding a huge explosion in Israel that might have sparked a war. He was the only Iranian president ever to have struck Israel directly from Iran.

Raisi, known as a far right hawk and implicated in a 1988 prison massacre, was not all that powerful. Presidents in Iran are more like American vice presidents, subordinate to the clerical “August Leader” (rahbar-e mo`azzam), which I maintain is a more accurate translation than “supreme leader,” which sounds like something out of a comic book. In the Iranian system, there are four branches of government — the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, and the clerical Guardian-Jurisprudent. All the other branches of government are subordinated to the theocratic Guardian.

Al Jazeera English Video: “Mehr News Agency says Raisi, Amirabdollahian killed in crash”

In the thought of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, people in a society who do not have high-powered seminary training are sort of like minor orphans who need a guardian to be appointed over them. The clerical Guardian makes sure that the people do not use their voting power for the parliament and the president to take the country in an ungodly direction. Since Khomeini’s death in 1989, the role of the top cleric has been filled by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, an old-time revolutionary against the monarchist, pro-American government of Iran’s last king or shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi.

Maybe an analogy for Americans would be the role that Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito has taken on, of overruling Americans — implicitly on grounds of Christian doctrine and canon law — on ungodly activity such as abortion.

Raisi was being groomed to succeed Khamenei as the theocratic Guardian.

Khamenei’s son Mojtaba was the other leading contender to succeed him. However, the selection of the August Leader is the prerogative of the clerical Assembly of Experts, which has 88 members.

The Assembly of Experts in turn is chosen by the Guardianship Council.

The Guardianship Council is 12-man body that can strike down parliamentary legislation and vet candidates for office. Half of the Guardianship Council members are appointed by the August Leader and the other half are approved by the lay, elected parliament. So Khamenei has a heavy indirect influence on the Assembly of Experts, though it is not clear whether they would just roll over and appoint his son to succeed him. Mojtaba does not have the stature as a cleric that is usually thought necessary for such a role.

Afshon Ostovar points out that Khamenei championed and built up the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is a paramilitary alongside the conventional Iranian military. The best analogy I can think of for the IRGC for Americans is the National Guard, which isn’t identical to the US Army, but which was deployed in Iraq, for instance. It isn’t a very good analogy.

Ostovar, who wrote the book on the subject of the Revolutionary Guards points out that a new clerical Guardian coming to power will be an inflection point for the IRGC. A new clerical Leader could try to reduce the power of the paramilitary, or he could attempt to ensconce it as a military junta of sorts — though still subordinate to the clerical rulers.

There are supposed to be elections within two months for a new president. There will be a lot of jockeying for power during these two months, a night of long knives. As long as Khamenei is alive, Raisi’s successor will be subordinate to the August Leader. But the Iranian system is not fixed in stone, and the republic could see major changes in the next five to ten years, so that the new president could become a pivotal figure. The tendency of the regime in recent years has been to attempt to exclude centrists from running or even serving on the Assembly of Experts, in a coup of the hardliners. The presidential election will tell us whether this slow motion coup is still in progress.

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Top 3 Climate Catastrophes Menacing Florida, as DeSantis Erases Climate Change From Web Sites https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/catastrophes-menacing-desantis.html Sun, 19 May 2024 05:53:35 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218630 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – When we think about Florida, we may think about flamingos. But in the Ron DeSantis regime, the state bird ought to be the ostrich. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the governor this week signed legislation that would make the term “climate change” disappear from state web sites and would encourage burning more fossil fuels. Over 70% of Florida’s electricity comes from fossil gas, and only 7% from renewables. In contrast, about 60% of California’s electricity is from non-fossil fuel sources. Florida is blessed with abundant sunshine and the cost of solar is plummeting, and the state’s residents are being hurt by high fossil gas prices. But worst of all, they are spewing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which, given that they are in Florida, is going to come back and bite them in the behind.

Florida is among the states most vulnerable to deadly human-caused climate change. Here are the top three climate disasters DeSantis is bringing down on Floridians’ heads and from which he is trying to hide by sanitizing state web sites. I don’t think Mother Nature reads web sites.

1.

Sea level rise in the entire US southeast is accelerating with frightening rapidity. It was rising 2 millimeters a year throughout the twentieth century. NASA says it is now rising 10 millimeters a year, five times the rate of the previous century. The world’s seas are rising everywhere because of melting surface ice at the poles. But the waters around Florida are rising twice as fast as the global average. The seas around Florida have risen eight inches since 1950, and could rise another six inches by 2040. Fourteen inches may not sound like much, but it is over a foot and just imagine that your house was at sea level in 1950 and now there is over a foot of water standing in your living room.

Why is this happening? NASA says it is in part because of the increasingly hot water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of the southeast. Hot water expands and fills up more space than cold water, so if you live on the coast it is coming for your kitchen. That is on top of ice melt. Then, there’s a local situation not being caused by climate change, having to do with wind and water circulation in the Gulf. But nearly half of the accelerated sea level rise around Florida is on us, on human beings burning fossil fuels and putting heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


“Wicked Witch of the Southeast,” by Juan Cole, Digital, Dream / Dreamworld v.3 / PS Express, 2024.

2.

Hurricanes. Scientists already expect 2024 to see a higher than normal number of hurricanes in the Southeast, as many as 23 named storms. The unusually hot water in the Gulf of Mexico this spring, the unusually hot water in the Atlantic, and the end of the El Nino and beginning of La Nina, all play into this danger. La Nina, a cooling pattern, will weaken pressure in the Gulf and so more Atlantic hurricanes will be drawn west.

The problem is not, however, just a matter of this year. Hurricanes are becoming more powerful, with an increase in the number of category 4 and category 5 storms. In fact, some scientists are saying we need to expand the scale with a category 6. The hotter the water, the more powerful the hurricane, and the water is getting hotter and hotter. Such hurricanes over very hot sea water move slowly. Moreover, hot water puts more water vapor into the air above it, which hurricanes then cause to precipitate, so the severity of the downpours is also increasing. And the hurricanes move slowly now, so they just hover over land and drench the land below. There is more flooding and more storm surges. Florida gets more hurricanes than any other state, and twice as many hit there as hit Texas.

3.

Heat waves. The heat index for Miami is 112° F. Palm Beach county is right now under a heat advisory because the heat index will be 108° F. for over two hours. But you know that saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity?’ It is correct. The temperature will be 94° F. (96° F. in Ft. Lauderdale), which is eight to ten degrees higher than the average for late May. But if you add in the humidity, you get the heat index. The humidity is 73% in West Palm Beach today.

We humans cool down by sweating. The moisture on our skin evaporates, which has a cooling effect. A heat index of 112° F. makes it hard for us to cool down that way. The heat and moisture in the air mean that the sweat doesn’t evaporate as much. So here’s the thing. If the temperature reaches 120° F. and the humidity at the same time reaches 80%, and you are out in that for several hours, it will kill you dead. But the heat index can become unhealthy well below those numbers. Florida’s average temperature will likely increase by at least 6° F. over the next few decades, but that is the average. On some days in some places, you could hit a heat index that is fatal to some residents. Florida is at risk for being part of a new and growing deadly American heat belt where quality of life plummets. Helpfully, the DeSantis regime has passed a law forbidding local governments to require water and heat breaks for workers laboring outside in the heat, which for some may be a death sentence.

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Biden’s Potemkin Village: US Aid Dock Theatrics as Gaza Drowns in Starving Refugees amid Rivers of Shit https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/theatrics-starving-refugees.html Sat, 18 May 2024 04:15:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218618 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The story has it that Russian noble and officer Grigory Potemkin, who stole the Crimea from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, faced a dilemma. The place was a mess after the Russian conquest, but Tsarina Catherine the Great wanted to see her new possession. So Potemkin set up fake façades in pasteboard that looked like a village, and brought in some smiling peasants to stand before them, as Catherine sailed by. Then he had them dismantled and reassembled downriver so that she would think there was a whole set of such thriving villages. The tale is untrue, but worked its way into a popular biography of Potemkin and became the stuff of legend.

President Joe Biden’s floating pier off Gaza, which went operational on Friday, is such a Potemkin Village. While it isn’t completely useless, it cannot replace overland truck deliveries of food and aid. At most it will supply 150 trucks worth of aid daily, when 500 are needed. It is a PR band aid on the gaping wound of Israeli genocidal blockage of aid to the civilian population.

The pier’s operation is interrupted anytime there are high winds or sea swells. It is far from population centers. It is vulnerable to Israeli indiscriminate artillery and drone fire. It can be hit by Hamas sabotage. It depends on the delivery of the aid by United Nations workers (including UNRWA, which Biden hysterically defunded because of Israeli lies that it is a Hamas front). These aid workers, as with those of the World Central Kitchen, have sometimes been struck by Israeli fire, apparently in some cases deliberately.

The floating pier cost $320 million, which could have fed a lot of Palestinians if the Israelis hadn’t closed off almost all aid truck routes into the Strip.

Al Jazeera English: “Aid agencies: Land routes are more effective”

Meanwhile, in the real world the Israeli attempt to make Gaza uninhabitable and to ethnically cleanse its Palestinian inhabitants accelerated.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the Israeli army has in recent days forced 640,000 Palestinian refugees out of Rafah (to which it had earlier exiled them).

Embed from Getty Images
Displaced Palestinians pack their belongings before leaving an unsafe area in Rafah on May 15, 2024 (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images).

This expulsion of nearly a fourth of the entire population is problematic because, OCHA says, “Our colleagues working on ensuring that people in Gaza have adequate shelter say there are no remaining stocks of shelter materials inside Gaza.”

No shelter, no shelter materials.

People don’t have a pot to piss in. Or defecate in. The mass displacement at Israeli hands “has exacerbated the water and sanitation crisis, with sewage overflow and solid waste spreading across roads, displacement camps, and the rubble of destroyed homes – with a catastrophic impact on health.”

I repeat, sewage overflow and solid waste are spreading across roads and through the makeshift camps. Aid workers have talked about Gaza being awash in green slime, with the toxic brew spread to humans by a cloud of aggressive black flies that try to get into your mouth. The NGO Action for Humanity (AFH) says that some 270,000 tons of garbage and sewage have piled up in Gaza, with the Israelis interdicting access to the major landfill and preventing it from being disposed of.

AFH continues, “The lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation conditions continue to fuel rising cases of acute jaundice syndrome and bloody watery diarrhoea, posing a significant public health challenge.”

These refugees, hungry, sick, and some wounded by Israeli indiscriminate fire, have been death-marched to Deir al-Balah governorate or to Khan Younis, both of which have been destroyed and left bereft of shelter, toilets, functioning hospitals and bakeries. The World Health Organization says of hospitals that they are themselves on life support because the Israelis have embargoed the fuel they need to operate: “Spokesperson Tarik Jašarević reported that only 13 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza are now partially functioning, emphasizing that fuel is required for electricity and to run generators. He said health partners require between 1.4 million to 1.8 million litres monthly so that hospitals can function, but only 159,000 litres have entered Gaza since the border closure, ‘and that’s clearly not sufficient.'” The Israelis are letting in a tenth of the fuel needed to run the hospitals.

Imagine being told you have to hit the road carrying your few possessions and children, after months of starvation and drinking dirty water, and to try to find shelter in Khan Younis, which looks like this:

Embed from Getty Images
A displaced Palestinian woman pushes a stroller as she walks in front of destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Or perhaps you might prefer the well appointed apartments of Deir al-Balah after they’ve been the recipients of the tender mercies of the Israeli military:

Embed from Getty Images
DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA – MAY 15: A general view of the completely destroyed house belonging to the Berash family and the damaged buildings around it as a result of the Israeli attack on Bureij refugee camp in Deir Al Balah, Gaza on May 15, 2024. As a result of the Israeli attack, one building was completely destroyed and many houses and structures in the surrounding area were damaged as Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip continue uninterruptedly for 222 days. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Grain is essential to the human diet. In central Gaza, there are only five bakeries still functioning that Israel shells haven’t pulverized, four in Gaza City and one in Deir Balah. About twelve more are physically intact but have the severe disadvantage of having no fuel or flour, which would not make for what you might call… a bakery.

UN and volunteer aid workers can therefore only provide tiny meals, and are concentrating on Khan Younis and Deir al Balah.

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S. Africa v. Israel on Rafah Genocide: Endgame in which Gaza is utterly Destroyed for Human Habitation https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/genocide-destroyed-habitation.html Fri, 17 May 2024 05:41:48 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218601 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – South Africa returned to the International Court of Justice in the Hague on Thursday over the Israeli invasion of Rafah, which its attorneys alleged is a further act of genocide in Gaza. South Africa had laid out its initial case in January. The court will take months to come to a decision on whether Israel has violated the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The court ruled on January 26 that it is plausible that Israel is committing genocide and issued the equivalent of a preliminary injunction against the further commission of acts of genocide. It issued a further injunction on March 28.

The South African case has now been joined by Ireland, Egypt, Colombia, Libya, and Nicaragua, and Turkey says it too will join shortly. Egypt and Turkey have had strong trade and security relations with Israel and their decision to support Pretoria’s suit is a slap in the face of the Israeli government and a signal that Israel is losing what few friends it had in the region.

The Israeli government, given impunity from UNSC sanctions by the Biden administration, thumbed its nose at the injunctions and went on with its slaughterhouse policies. Adilah Hassim, one of several South African attorneys pressing Pretoria’s case, pointed to five pieces of evidence that the Rafah campaign is genocidal. At one point in her detailing of Israel’s atrocities she broke down. She said,

    (1) First, Israel has continued to kill Palestinians in Gaza, including women and children, at an alarming rate.

    (2) Second, as a result of Israel’s onslaught, Palestinians in Gaza are facing what the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations has described as the “worst humanitarian crisis” he has seen for more than 50 years.

    (3) Third, Israel’s systematic targeting and bombardment of hospitals and medical facilities, and its throttling of humanitarian aid, has pushed Gaza’s medical system to collapse;

    (4) Fourth, Israel’s direct attack and siege of Gaza’s biggest hospitals have led to the uncovering of mass graves evidencing Israeli massacres of Palestinians seeking shelter and medical treatment;

    (5) Finally, most recently, Israel has intensified its attacks in the north while pressing on with its Rafah offensive leaving displaced Palestinians nowhere safe to go.

Video: Lawyer Adila Hassim Outlines ‘Genocidal Conduct’ in Gaza at South Africa’s ICJ Hearing Against Israel

Earlier in the trial, Vaughan Lowe, Chichele Professor of Public International Law in the University of Oxford and himself a barrister, explained that “Israel’s action is directed against the Palestinian people throughout Gaza and the West Bank. South Africa’s request was initially focused on Rafah, because of the imminent prospect of death and suffering on a massive scale resulting from Israel’s attack. Since that request was made, it has become increasingly clear that Israel’s actions in Rafah are part of the endgame in which Gaza is utterly destroyed as an area capable of human habitation.”

Professor Lowe is clearly flabbergasted that partisans of the far, far right Netanyahu government continue to attempt to gaslight us all and to assert that nothing out of the ordinary is happening in Gaza. To the contrary, he said, we have the “evidence of continued bombings, attacks on people in so-called ‘safe areas’ to which they have been directed by Israel, attacks on aid convoys, and of mass graves and the horrors of which the corpses speak.”

Lowe deals summarily with the smarmy claim that the Israeli government is only exercising its right to self defense: “First, the right of self-defence does not give a State a licence to use unlimited violence. No right of self-defence can ever extend to a right to inflict massive, indiscriminate violence and starvation collectively on an entire people. Second, nothing — not self-defence or anything else — can ever justify genocide. The prohibition on genocide is absolute, a peremptory norm of international law. Third, the Court ruled in 2004 that there is no right of self-defence by an occupying State against the territory that it occupies.” (Emphasis added.)

If I owned a fleet of small aircraft I’d arrange for these words to be sky-written over every major city in the world. What Lowe is saying is that in some instances, two legal principles might come into conflict with one another. Where, for instance, does free speech stop and libel begin? But there are some laws that trump others. Genocide is the ultimate in this regard. It trumps every other law. There is no legal principle you can invoke to justify genocide, not even the right to self-defense, which is enshrined in the UN Charter and is generally sacrosanct.

Remember this the next time you hear a glib US government spokesman dance around the Gaza genocide by saying that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas.

As Max du Plessis explained Israel’s command that Palestinians who had taken refuge in Rafah must now leave is genocidal in effect: “Not only is there nowhere for the 1.5 million displaced people and others in Rafah to safely flee — so much of Gaza having been reduced to rubble — but that if Rafah is similarly destroyed there will be little left of Gaza or prospects for the survival of Palestinian life in the territory.” In particular, he said, the last functioning hospitals are in Rafah, and if they are destroyed as all the others have been, health care in the Strip will be dead.

At the same time, du Plessis pointed out, virtually all aid has now been blocked by the Israeli government, which seized the Rafah border checkpoint from Egypt and closed it. Gaza cannot feed itself in the best of circumstances, but it is now a basket case needing hundreds of trucks of food and medical aid a day to survive. Hunger and disease are spreading, since most of the trucks are now barred.

Du Plessis said, “Deliberately herding 1.5 million Palestinians into Rafah and then carrying out a full-scale bombardment while sealing off entry and exit for life-saving aid to an already devastated population, while exposing them to famine and human suffering, leaves only one inference, regrettably, and that is of genocidal intent.”

Prominent attorney and senior counsel (SILK) Tembeka Ngcukaitobi pointed to the extensive statements made publicly by Israeli officials that prove their genocidal intent:

The Israeli Minister of Defence: Yoav Gallant said that Israel is “taking apart neighbourhood after neighbourhood” and “will reach every location” in Gaza.

Finance Minister and Cabinet heavyweight Bezalel Smotrich : “[T]here are no half measures. Rafah, Deir al-Balah, Nuseirat — total annihilation.” He goes on to say: “We are negotiating with the ones that should not have existed for a long time.”

Ngcukaitobi cited reams of quotations showing genocidal intent from government officials — quotes that somehow I never see quoted by CNN anchors in the United States.

On January 26, the court had found that Israel was violating specific provisions of the Genocide Convention, to which Tel Aviv is signatory, regarding targeting a group of people because of their ethnicity:

    (a) killing members of the group;

    (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and

    (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

All of these genocidal actions have continued and intensified ever since.

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From Campus Climate to Middle East Climate Emergency https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/campus-climate-emergency.html Thu, 16 May 2024 05:06:00 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218584 Juan Cole: Israel, Gaza and Campus Protests, Part II on Sea Change Radio with Alex Wise. Transcript below.

Or listen here:

This week on Sea Change Radio, the second half of our discussion with Middle East expert Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. In this episode, we talk about some of the problems presented by certain trigger words when discussing Israel and Palestine and look at the handling of recent campus protests by police and college administrators. Then, we revisit part of our 2022 conversation with Prof. Cole to examine environmental and energy-related issues in the Fertile Crescent.

Narrator | 00:02 – This is Sea Change Radio, covering the shift to sustainability. I’m Alex Wise.

Juan Cole (JC) | 00:19 – I don’t see how anybody can investigate what’s been going on in the Palestinian West Bank since 1967 and not come to the conclusion that this is an apartheid arrangement.

Narrator | 00:33 – This week on Sea Change Radio, the second half of our discussion with Middle East expert Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. In this episode, we talk about some of the problems presented by certain trigger words when discussing Israel and Palestine and look at the handling of recent campus protests by police and college administrators. Then we revisit part of our 2022 conversation with Professor Cole to examine environmental and energy related issues in the Fertile Crescent.

Alex Wise (AW) | 01:05 – I am joined now on Sea Change Radio by Juan Cole. Juan is a professor of history at the University of Michigan. Juan, welcome back to Sea Change. Radio.

Juan Cole (JC) | 01:26 – Thank you so much.

Alex Wise (AW) | 01:27 – Let’s talk about the language for a second, because I think there are these trigger words like anti-Semitism and genocide, and Zionism, which can be in the eye of the beholder used either as a cudgel, a pejorative, but also a compliment. There’s a lot of wiggle room within these words, and I think they’re, they’re lightning rods for a lot of misunderstanding. For example, what you just said, if somebody is protesting what’s happening in Gaza, does that make them anti-Semitic, some people would say, yes. You talk about Trump. There’s that refuge that they constantly seek in victimization, right? He’s always the victim when he’s in court. He wants to be a martyr, even though he’s, he’s led one of the most privileged lives anyone can possibly consider. Antisemitism is also, it’s used to be victims when there’s not necessarily anybody being victimized in this sense, except that you happen to be Jewish and you disagree with me. It’s difficult because I want to respect the people who have had to deal with a lot more antisemitism than me, for example. But I can’t help but draw some parallels with the MAGA victimization and some of American Jewish people who are very quick to assign this term to people. And on the flip side, I think genocide is a trigger word, like apartheid was, it’s not necessarily inaccurate, but it’s a trigger word because people think, “oh, well, genocide is.. that’s the holocaust. That’s not war.” It definitely can incite, escalate the rhetoric, I think sometimes unfairly and to a level that I think is counterproductive.

Juan Cole (JC) | 03:17 – You’re right, these words, are not used in the same way by everybody. And the differences in nuance can cause problems. There are people who would say that Zionism is a settler colonial ideology, and that if you identify as a Zionist you’re identifying with a historic wrong. I think for a lot of American Jews who say they’re Zionists, what they mean is they’re proud of Albert Einstein, and they’re proud of the accomplishments of the Jewish people by saying they’re Zionists. They don’t mean that Itamar Ben-Gvir is allowed to invade a Palestinian’s property in the West Bank and usurp it.

AW | 04:00 – I think it’s such a hard word to generalize. I just have family members, for example, who might think they’re Zionists because they think that Israel has a right to exist versus somebody who thinks that Israel has a right to the whole region, or that American Jews have an obligation to go back and live in Israel. There’s a wide spectrum of that definition.

JC | 04:22 – Yes. It doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody. And you know, I’m a historian, so I I’m trying to be sensitive to nuance, but you get out there on social media or you’re in a campus protest, it’s not a place of nuance. And with regard to charges of apartheid and genocide frankly, these are legal matters. And , there’s a technical legal definition of these things. in international humanitarian law, I advise everybody just to go to the Rome statute. It’s online, it’s easily Googleable. And it’s kind of a summation of international humanitarian law that was drew on the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention and so forth. And it was finalized between 1998 and 2002, and about 124 countries have signed onto it. It became the charter for the International Criminal Court. So it has a section on apartheid. It has a section on genocide. Go and see what it says. So some people who get offended that, the current, Gaza campaign conducted by the Netanyahu government has been characterized by South Africa as a form of genocide don’t know what the word means in that context, because they, South Africa brought this action at the international Court of Justice, which is the court that was set up at the United Nations to adjudicate disputes among member nations. And it has a very specific set of meanings. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to kill millions of people. A genocide can be conducted by killing a relatively small number of people. It has to do with why you killed them, how you killed them, if you kill them because of who they are, that’s genocide. Likewise with apartheid, it’s not that everything has to be exactly as it was in South Africa. Apartheid has become a term of art in law, and there are some actions that a government takes disadvantaging people because of their race that that constitute a crime of apartheid. I don’t think, I don’t see how anybody can investigate what’s been going on in the Palestinian West Bank since 1967 and not come to the conclusion that this is an apartheid arrangement.

AW | 07:00 – It’s not inaccurate, but it becomes inflammatory because of the lack of curiosity, let’s say, or, or not being educated on the topic.

JC | 07:09 – Yeah. And as you said before, there’s a lot of tribalism so on all sides. So there are Jewish Americans who’ve grown up with a vision of Israel as a place that can do no wrong. It is the most moral army in the world, according to them. And I mean, frankly, they say silly things, and it becomes a form of ego inflation. They invest a lot of their, their own being in it. It’s a form of nationalism. You see Americans who do this, they won’t, won’t accept any criticism of anything the US government does.

AW | 07:48 – I think Trump has kind of changed that calculus for a lot of Americans. .

JC | 07:52 – Yes, exactly. Well, it’s nothing peculiar to Jewish Americans devoted to Israel, but it’s a wrong way of thinking, and it gets you into intellectual trouble. My country, right or wrong was a a saying that was put forward by an American, admiral [Stephan Decatur], I believe, in the 19th century, and which was rebuked by, right thinking, members of America’s, political establishment. We have to critique what our government does. There was a famous exchange by, I can’t remember who it was. It was a senator who called Ollie North, to testify before Congress. And North was one of those who thought that, you know, if the president does it, that it’s, it’s by de facto legal as, as Nixon said, and, whatever you have to do what you have to do for the United States. And so he was, Oliver North was taking money from Khomeini in Iran, selling them, illegally, selling them weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, and taking that money and giving it to right wing death squads in Central America, all off the books and explicitly beyond what Congress had authorized. And he was defending it. He defended what he did, and it was clearly unconstitutional. And if Senator said, you know, in the United States, critiquing the government is a good thing. [Sen. George Mitchell D-Maine said, “and in America disagreement with the policies of the government is not evidence of lack of patriotism.”] It’s, the foundation of our nation. So we have to be able to critique Netanyahu’s government. We have to be able to critique the US government. We have to be able to critique Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And if we don’t, then, then we end up with the Soviet Union. You know, we end up with gulags and and,totalitarianism. And I don’t know why anybody would want that. Certainly, I can’t understand why Jews would want that, because that doesn’t lead in a good direction for minorities.

(Music Break) | 10:08

AW | 10:48 – This is Alex Wise on Sea Change Radio, and I’m speaking to Juan Cole. He’s a professor of history at the University of Michigan. So as an academic, how do you feel when you see video of the professor in Emory University being pushed to the ground by the police and elsewhere? I mean, and it makes my blood boil, but I’m not a colleague of hers – you are.

JC | 11:10 – At Washington University in St. Louis also, there was an incident where a professor had ribs broken. Well, I think that it’s police brutality and it’s overreaction. I am an army brat, and I grew up in a family where my father was in the service. And I don’t approve of using insulting words for police. I respect our police but some of them are bullies who happen to get into uniform. Some of them are prone to overreacting. And, I think, that’s why you don’t call them. If somebody is used to dealing with bank robbers who might be armed and might hurt you, so the first thing you want to do is get them on the ground and make sure they’re not armed. That’s not the kind of person that you want to call on a college protest, because those are not dangerous situations. And, they shouldn’t be dealt with by police.

AW | 12:23 – You can see a, a whiplash effect against these rich college kids where you have the police force coming in with a carte blanche to bash some heads could be dangerous.

JC | 12:34 – Well, this is not new. I mean, we, we saw those kinds of fissures in the Vietnam War when a lot of police were angry at young people for not supporting the war and couldn’t see that it was a kind of genocide. You know, the United States probably killed between two and 5 million innocent civilians in Vietnam. And the police were, were angry that they were protesting against their own government. And class comes into it. But nowadays, in American University, and you talk elite universities, there are very substantial number of scholarship students. There are working class kids on that campus, and some of them are involved in these demonstrations as well. So if anybody thinks it’s just a matter of a elite, spoiled children, acting out, that would not be accurate, and it wouldn’t be fair to the students. So I think in some instances there has been police brutality and the police who undertook it should be blamed. They should be investigated. They’re acting, not as law enforcement, but as bullies. But I don’t think that’s typical of police. And I think the real problem is that the police have been put in an impossible situation–that they’ve been called to deploy the tools that they have, against people against whom those tools are not appropriate. You should never call the police in, on a nonviolent, non-disruptive event. And even the definition of disruption is open for debate because I think protests is inevitably to some extent disruptive. But I don’t know of any of these protests that have prevented people from learning or from taking their classes. And, I think, that the charges of such things are in every case that I know about overblown.

AW | 14:33 – So how does this play out, Juan, on campuses around the country? Most colleges are looking at commencement on the very near horizon. Do these protests peter out during the summer, or do you think they, they resume assuming that the aggression is still occurring come late August? Do we see a resumption of these protests around the country?

JC | 14:55 – Well, I can confidently predict that all the campuses in the country will be empty…

AW | 15:00 – going out on a limb there.

JC | 15:01 – …Within about a month, right? month, month and a half at most. We’re speaking in early May. So, wise administrations, and I think this is true of Michigan State University to some extent, the University of Michigan will just wait them out. There’s no reason to take a dramatic action as what is quite crazy, what, what Columbia did and what some of these other campuses are doing. There’s no student activism during the summer. And we’ll have to see what’s going on still in the fall. But, these are fast-moving developments. The US government can, I mean, I can’t imagine, frankly, that the, that the Biden administration wants this to go on very much longer. And already, here in early May, there’s just been an announcement of the Biden administration denying, some forms of ammunition to the Israeli military. And again, Israelis ran out of ammunition a long time ago. They’ve been being resupplied on a daily basis by the United States. And often Biden has gone around Congress because Congress should be appropriating, or making the decision about the use of these weapons. And Biden has just opened the storehouses to the Israelis. But in the same way that he has done that so far — he’s been a, very firm supporter of this campaign– he can also close it off, and I think to any extent that it’s starting to get in the way of his reelection, there will be pressure on him to wrap this thing up. And so I don’t feel comfortable speculating about what will be going on next fall. But I do think that the universities are being silly, frankly, to use such um, force against demonstrators when we’re, we’re coming towards the end of the semester, in any case, and they’ll all be gone. The, the University of Michigan has had its commencement. We,end early compared to most universities must have something to do with bringing in the spring wheat in the old days or whatever reason. We have our commencement in very early May. And there was a demonstration at the commencement. Students lifted Palestinian flags and marched out of the stadium. Nothing happened.

(Music Break) | 18:54

(2022 Interview) AW | 18:57 – I am joined now on Sea Change Radio by Juan Cole. Juan is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, and a longtime blogger informed comment is his website. Juan, welcome to Sea Change Radio.

JC | 19:11 – Thanks so much.

AW | 19:13 – You wrote recently, you’ve dived into giving us a, a glimpse of the various Middle Eastern countries and how they’re being affected by climate change. Why don’t we start with this region in Iran, Abadan and what they are encountering right now in terms of heat?

JC | 19:33 – There have been new records set in Abadan in southwestern Iran this summer with the temperatures getting up to 122 Fahrenheit. These are dangerous temperatures that we’re seeing in the region.

AW | 19:50 – And talk about their water usage in Iran’s decade long drought and how it’s affecting not just Abadan but the entire country.

JC | 20:00 – Iran really only has one big river system, and again, it’s in the southwest of the country, the Karun River and its tributaries ;and the former government of Iran under the Shah — the King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was overthrown in 1979 –while he was in power, he initiated a lot of dam works in hopes of creating artificial lakes that would yield irrigation possibilities, but then also to make hydroelectricity. And these monumental projects were pursued by the Shah, without much consultation with local people or much understanding of local conditions. And so some of the water now has been diverted to a big agricultural use and that has hurt Iraq where, where the water used to flow into from Iran. And now there’s this long, long term drought that we’re seeing that’s similar to the mega drought that we’re having in our American Southwest. And so major bodies of water like the Zayanderud, the major river that goes through the city of Isfahan have dried up that that river over which there is a historic ridge from the 16 hundreds does not exist at the moment. And farmers are not being able to irrigate as they used to from these streams and have demonstrated against the regime. So the government clearly is not dealing very well with with the drought. And it really threatens Iranian agriculture threatens people’s livelihoods food sources, and it has geopolitical implications because Iraq is furious that it’s not getting the water from the Iran anymore.

AW | 22:04 – Yes. I want to dive into that in a second and turn to Iraq, but just staying with Iran for a minute, what are the geopolitical consequences of this drought and possible agricultural shortfall in terms of embargoes and how western countries might approach negotiating with Iran moving forward? How dependent is Iran on foreign imports, for example?

JC | 22:32 – Yes. Well, Iran imports a lot of food. And most modern countries can no longer feed themselves. They’re, they’re part of a globalized, trade in commodities like grain. The US sanctions, which are very severe — they were called by Trump “he maximum pressure campaign” — have had a horrible effect on the lives of everyday people. But those sanctions don’t target food imports or medicine imports. The sanctions do weaken the earning power of people in Iran. And so there may be medicines they can’t afford as a result of the sanctions. And there may be certain kinds of food that they can’t afford, but the sanctions themselves don’t, don’t target that sector. I, I think the bigger political fallout from the drought and what I see as the Iranian government’s lack of ability to address it with engineering and administration, is that the rural sector could turn against the Iranian government. And the rural sector has been a pillar of this government. So, that’s bad news for Tehran.

AW | 23:49 – So let’s turn to Iraq for a moment, if you will. You, you wrote not that long ago on informed comment post titled 19 years ago, America really wanted Iraq’s Basra for its oil, which is now making it uninhabitable. Why don’t you explain, for those who aren’t familiar with Basra, this, this vital oil producing region and what it’s facing with climate change.

JC | 24:17 – Iraq’s major oil fields are in the south of the country around the riverine port of Basra. And, those oil fields had been under US sanctions after the Gulf War because Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, which was illegal in international law. And the US and the UNput sanctions on Iraq’s ex oil exports as a result. It’s my thesis that one of the reasons for the Iraq war was not so much that Bush and Cheney wanted to steal Iraq’s Petroleum. I think they just wanted to open it up for exploitation and allow American oil majors to get in there. And they couldn’t under the sanctions regime. And as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, I think there was very little likelihood that the Congress would take off those sanctions. And so I think it occurred to Dick Cheney in particular that were they to overthrow Saddam Hussein and have a new government, then the sanctions would go away and the oil would be available for exploitation, which is what happened. And Iraq is a major oil producer now and exports 4 million barrels a day, which is quite substantial.

AW | 25:50 – It’s a good opportunity for us to turn to desalinization efforts in the region. This leads to some unintended consequences with the handling of the, the byproduct of these plants. And I’m curious if this sludge that gets created by desal is affecting these river deltas that you’re talking about with Iraq and Iran at all.

JC | 26:18 – Yeah, not so much the river deltas, but the Persian Gulf itself, which is a big important body of water and very polluted with — oil tankers have spilled into it, and all kinds of runoff is there from agriculture and chemical plants. But yes the current technology that is being largely being used for desalinization has an environmental flaw which is that the way that the water is desalinized is, it’s taken up from the ocean and, distilled and that creates clean water when you recover the vapor. But then what’s left behind is the salt and the heavy metals and the more toxic elements in the water, and then they dump that back into the ocean. And if you do that consistently after a while, you create a dead zone where fish cannot live. And dead zones are very common throughout the world. There’s a big dead zone off of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s just from agricultural runoff. But but the desalinization plants also have this problem. And I believe it’s one of the reasons that when a desalinization plant was proposed for Huntington Beach, the population voted against it because they, they depend on their beach for tourism, and they don’t want a dead zone.

AW | 27:47 – Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, and people can read his blog Informed Comment at JuanCole.com. Juan, thanks so much for being my guest on Sea Change Radio.

JC | 28:01 – It’s great being here.

Narrator | 28:17 – You’ve been listening to Sea Change Radio. Our intro music is by Sanford Lewis, and our outro music is by Alex Wise. Additional music by the New Orleans Klezmer All-stars, Bob Marley & the Wailers and Radiohead. To read a transcript of this show, go to SeaChangeRadio.com to stream or download the show, or subscribe to our podcast on our site, or visit our archives to hear from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Gavin Newsom, Stewart Brand, and many others. And tune in to Sea Change Radio next week as we continue making connections for sustainability. For Sea Change Radio, I’m Alex Wise.

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Gaslit to Death: Giving Cover to Israel’s Rafah Atrocity with Phony Gaza Numbers Game https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/israels-atrocity-numbers.html Wed, 15 May 2024 05:21:05 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218566 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Playing with the death toll from Israel’s total war on Gaza is not as cruel as actually killing over 35,000 people, the majority women and children. But it is still cruel and heartless. It is also another way we are being gaslit by the pro-Zionist US establishment.

There is that scene in the first Star Wars film when Obi Wan Kenobe uses Jedi magic to convince the Storm Troopers looking for R2D2, “These are not the ‘droids you’re looking for.” Congressional staffers once told me that that is the way politics works on the Hill. Now they’re trying to tell us that actually all those little dead children are figments of our imagination.

The US government repeatedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist, fascist cabinet not to invade Rafah without a practical plan for protecting the nearly two million civilians whom Israel has force-marched into the small enclave, most with no potable water, no toilets, and insufficient food and shelter.

Israel is in the process of invading Rafah, forcing some 360,000 internal refugees to flee the area designated as a “safe zone” for wilderness or already-destroyed towns that are still being actively bombed.

I think it is in order to take people’s minds off the current additional war crimes being committed by Tel Aviv that Zionist agents provocateurs have signaled their useful idiots to try to make an issue of the Palestinian death toll.

It is a phony issue. Netanyahu himself has admitted that 30,000 are dead, though he implausibly alleges that 14,000 are Hamas militants and he leaves out another 5,000 he’s not accounting for.

The UN World Health Organization said Monday that 25,000 of the Palestinians in Gaza had been positively identified by the Gaza Health Ministry — which is run by professionals, not by the Hamas politburo. Another 10,000 of the corpses awaited such definite identification, coming to 35,000 total. The identification of 25,000 is an advance, since previously names had not been put to so many of the dead.

Persons who hate Palestinians the way the devil hates holy water jumped on the disaggregation of the two figures to allege that the UN was admitting “only” 25,000 had been killed and the MoH numbers were unreliable.

These horrid prevaricators included the US Council on Foreign Relations, which thereby lost all credibility, and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which never had any credibility, and Joe Scarborough, long a right wing clown.

That isn’t what the WHO said.

As a historian I like primary sources. So I’ll let you hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Here’s the video:

WHO Video: World Health Organization Gaza Casualties

And here’s the transcript:

    Storyline
    In Gaza, as more Palestinian casualties of the Israeli military offensive are identified by the enclave’s health authorities, UN humanitarians reiterated on Tuesday (14 May) that a high proportion of women and children were indeed among the 35,000 dead. UNTV CH

    Since the beginning of the war in the enclave triggered by Hamas’ deadly 7 October attacks in Israel, the United Nations has consistently relied on casualty figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health, noting that independent verification is not possible. Last week, the health authorities updated the breakdown of the figures based on the number of bodies identified, but the UN has maintained that neither the overall death toll nor the proportion of women and children killed had gone down.

    Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), told the Press in Geneva: “We’re basically talking about 35,000 people who are dead. And really every life matters, doesn’t it? We know that many and many of those are women and children, and there are thousands missing under the rubble.”

    Speaking on behalf of the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, Jens Laerke clarified that “what has been provided additionally by the Ministry of Health is more detailed information about a subsection of the overall tally” of the 35,000 dead.

    Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), explained that as the Gaza Ministry of Health “identifies every single body… gives names to people to give closure to their family, their friends – that’s when these figures get updated and the data get updated”.

    Some 25,000 have been identified, he said, calling the growing number of identified bodies “a step forward” and “a typical and very normal process in any conflict”.

    Among the 10,000 remaining dead, some are not reachable, including those “in mass graves”. These individuals need to be brought back to a health centre or morgue for identification, Mr. Lindmeier said, insisting that “every single of these figures is a person with a name, a history and a family”.

    The WHO spokesperson also warned against getting “sidetracked” by the death toll updates and breakdowns.

    Two recent OCHA situation reports have been widely “scrutinized” for changes in the proportion of women and children killed, he said. However, if one applies the breakdown by gender and age of the 25,000 bodies now identified to the remaining unidentified 10,000 casualties, women and children still represent about 60 per cent.

    The UN health agency spokesperson also pointed out that under collapsed houses, there is a “high likelihood that you find rather women and children because they are the ones typically staying at home while the men are out looking for food, looking for business, looking for any supplies for their families”.

    Mr. Lindmeier further insisted on the challenges of identification in a “difficult conflict” where people have been “displaced five, six, seven times”, and where, in certain areas, “not a single health worker, no ambulance” can venture to recover dead bodies.

    “Once everybody is recovered, you may have a chance to have a name to every person,” he said. “We need a ceasefire now to be able to recover those dead.”

Only the malicious could have read the UN reports in any other way but as an affirmation of the vast death toll and a plea for a ceasefire so that the remaining 10,000 Jane Does and John Does can have a decent individual burial, not the mass graves into which Israeli soldiers are bulldozing them. Of course, a ceasefire would also be nice so as to cease racking up such an astonishing death toll.

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Lindsey “Dr. Strangelove” Graham, Critic of Putin’s Atrocities, Urges Nuking of Gaza’s Civilians https://www.juancole.com/2024/05/strangelove-atrocities-civilians.html Mon, 13 May 2024 05:14:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218534 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina let his inner genocidal maniac loose on Sunday, defending Israel’s total war on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and he appeared to urge the nuking of Gaza. He said on NBC,

“When we were faced with destruction as a nation after Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans and the Japanese, we decided to end the war by the bombing [of] Hiroshima [and] Nagasaki with nuclear weapons. That was the right decision.”

The weaselly Mr. Graham slides easily from one position to another, having lambasted Donald Trump in 2016 and then having ended up kissing the ring (or other parts of the anatomy) once Trump won. It is therefore hard to take him seriously, since he pioneered the role of “Congressional troll,” later taken up by nonentities such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. It is now possible to fundraise nationally off clownish bombast, and flamethrowers play to an increasingly unhinged GOP base.

His argument is that when the United States faced an existential threat in 1945, it used nuclear weapons, killing on the order of 200,000 civilians in Japan. The problems with this argument from any rational point of view are manifold. First, the United States was not facing an existential threat from Japan in 1945 — the empire had been defeated. The only question left was the terms of Japanese surrender. The US vaporized hundreds of thousands of children, women and noncombatant men in hopes of forcing an early capitulation on terms favorable to the US. It was not about protecting the American mainland.

Second, Israel is also not facing an existential threat. Only 2.2 million Palestinians lived in Gaza, while Israel’s population is 9.5 million. Hamas only had, by Israel’s count, some 30,000 armed men in the Qassam Brigades, along with a few thousand irregulars from other groups, such as Islamic Jihad. The group has no Air Force, no fighter jets, no armored divisions, no significant artillery, and its homemade rockets typically land uselessly in the desert.

Israel has 169,000 active duty military personnel and 465,000 reservists. It is ranked as in the world’s top 20 military powers. NDTV notes that Israel has “241 fighter jets [including highly advanced F-35s], 48 attack helicopters, and 2,200 tanks. . . . Israel also has over 1,200 artillery units; this includes 300 MLRS, or multiple launch rocket systems. This includes smart bombs that can strike targets with minimum collateral damage.”

So the Qassam Brigades do not pose an existential threat to Israel, though they are capable of guerrilla actions and terrorist strikes. Israel lost 2,500 or so troops in the 1973 war, over twice the death toll (some 650 of them innocent civilians) lost on October 7. So the latter attack was not in existential threat territory, however horrific and disgusting it was.

Even if a country were existentially threatened, it would be immoral and illegal to target innocent noncombatants, and also would be stupid and ineffective. If an enemy military is attacking in such a way as to pose an existential threat, then you should be concentrating your firepower on the military instead of wasting it on grandmas and toddlers.


“Strangelove Graham,” Digital, by Juan Cole, Dream / Dreamworld v. 3, IbisPaint, 2024.

Graham not only delivered himself of a response suitable to a war criminal, he also talked out of both sides of his mouth.

Because Graham has postured over the killing of innocent civilians quite a lot, when his enemies rather than his friends have done it.

Here is what Mr. Graham said on “CBS Mornings,” “Conversation With Sen. Lindsey Graham,” on Thursday, March 3, 2022, about Russian war crimes in Ukraine:

    TONY DOKOUPIL: On the war crimes question, what was the breaking point for you before this extraordinary press conference yesterday?

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): When they started using banned munitions like cluster bombs, vacuum bombs. Everything he is doing is illegal under the Law of War . . .

    There is no rule of law in Russia to hold Putin accountable. So this international tribunal [the International Criminal Court] is the right way to go . . .

    Economic sanctions, aid to the Ukrainians so they can fight back. But I want every military commander in every pilot to know in Russia, that if you carry out these atrocities against the Ukrainian people, you do so at your own peril, you`re going to wind up in the dark.

    So if a sniper shoots a Russian soldier from an apartment building, what we would do is try to isolate the sniper. What they will do is destroy the apartment building.

    He`s going scorched earth here. He`s going to start disassembling all resistance. He has no — look at Aleppo. If you want to know the playbook for Putin, Chechnya — he leveled the place. Aleppo, Syria, barrel bombs coming out of helicopters. That`s the Russian game plan and they`re all war crimes and the world complain, but we moved on. We can`t move on when it comes to Ukraine.

The Syria example recalls an old crusade for Mr. Graham. In 2016 at the height of the Russian/ Syrian campaign against Aleppo, he issued a statement with the late Senator John McCain: “For four long years, Aleppo has been at the center of the Assad regime’s war on the Syrian people. Together with its Russian and Iranian allies, the Assad regime has relentlessly targeted women and children, doctors and rescue workers, hospitals and bakeries, aid warehouses and humanitarian convoys.”

The Israeli military, of course, has a long history of insisting on using cluster bombs in southern Lebanon, and has been condemned for it by the U.S. government and some of Mr. Graham’s colleagues in Congress. The U.S. sent two shipments of cluster bombs for use in Gaza to Israel last fall.

As for “vacuum bombs,” these are also called “thermobaric bombs.” Israel has used them extensively in Gaza. The Financial Express writes, “the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have employed Thermobaric bombs, a devastating and controversial weaponry previously unused on civilians. These weapons have resulted in 4th degree burns and caused significant harm to those unfortunate enough to be within their blast radius.”

When these bombs are dropped, the first compartment causes an explosion and create a cloud and, FE continues, “a second charge ignites the cloud, resulting in a massive fireball, a formidable blast wave, and the creation of a vacuum that absorbs all surrounding oxygen. This weapon has the capacity to demolish reinforced buildings, destroy equipment, and cause harm or casualties to people within its range.”

Israeli fighter jet pilots are behaving in Gaza in precisely the way Russian pilots behaved in Syria: “So if a sniper shoots a Russian soldier from an apartment building, what we would do is try to isolate the sniper. What they will do is destroy the apartment building.” Israel has behaved so much like this that a majority of domiciles in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed and over 34,000 people have been killed, with likely another 10,000 under the rubble of those buildings that the Israelis knocked down no less assiduously than the Russians knocked down buildings in Syria.

It is scorched earth.

As for violations of International Humanitarian Law, even the State Department of Antony Blinken, the chief defense counsel for Israel’s extremist cabinet, has admitted that Israel is in breach of it, though mysteriously avoiding the conclusion that US arms should be cut off as required by the Leahy Act.

And nothing could better describe the Israeli military’s behavior in Gaza than Graham’s denunciation of Russia and al-Assad for having “relentlessly targeted women and children, doctors and rescue workers, hospitals and bakeries, aid warehouses and humanitarian convoys.”

So it turns out that not cluster bombs, nor vacuum bombs, nor thumbing his nose at international law, nor targeting women, children, physicians, aid workers, hospitals and bakeries were actually what ticked Mr. Graham off about Mr. Putin. Otherwise he would be similarly peeved with Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu.

Graham just found a political and personal benefit in grandstanding on Syria and Ukraine and in being a Russia hawk. No principles are involved here, no actual concern for innocent life, since those are universal and not tribal.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is 42nd in the US for life expectancy.

In contrast, it is the 8th highest state for deaths of mothers in childbirth.

And there is an “alarming” increase in the infant mortality rate in South Carolina.

Perhaps Mr. Graham might concentrate on doing something about these health statistics in his state, which are in the gutter, rather than daydreaming about playing Slim Pickens riding a nuke, in the last scene of Dr. Strangelove.

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