OtherWords – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Fri, 05 Apr 2024 05:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.9 Israel’s Attacks on Aid Workers Must End https://www.juancole.com/2024/04/israels-attacks-workers.html Sat, 06 Apr 2024 04:04:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=217909

As Gazans starve, Israel has killed over 200 relief workers. Rights groups warn that food is being weaponized.

It’s Time to stop playing Politics with Immigrants’ Lives https://www.juancole.com/2024/03/playing-politics-immigrants.html Sun, 31 Mar 2024 04:06:26 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=217828

Being “tough” on immigration doesn’t mean you have to support cruel or ineffective policies.

( Otherwords.com ) – When President Biden was campaigning in 2020, he pledged to strengthen our country by supporting and welcoming immigrants. Early in his presidency, he began taking steps in that direction.

On his first day in office, Biden proclaimed an end to his predecessor’s “Muslim ban,” which summarily banned migration from several Muslim-majority countries. And In February 2021, Biden introduced an executive order aimed at reversing some of the Trump administration’s damage to our immigration system, from family separations to backlogs in our asylum system.

“Securing our borders does not require us to ignore the humanity of those who seek to cross them,” Biden said at the time. “Nor is the United States safer when resources that should be invested in policies targeting actual threats, such as drug cartels and human traffickers, are squandered on efforts to stymie legitimate asylum seekers.”

Biden seemed to understand that being “tough” does not mean you have to support cruel and ineffective policies. Unfortunately, as immigration has become a more polarizing topic, the administration has backed away from this more humane approach.

Instead, in many ways Biden has actually continued down Trump’s path on immigration.

For example, the Trump administration enforced a rule called Title 42 during the height of the COVID pandemic, which severely limited entry into the United States — supposedly to protect public health. Biden continued to implement that policy for years, even without the flimsy public health justification.

The bipartisan Senate border bill Biden recently endorsed includes funding for a border wall he once promised not to fund — along with new restrictions on asylum and a measure that would authorize the president to shut the border down completely. Biden is also considering using the same authority the Trump administration invoked in its Muslim ban to restrict asylum access.

A few weeks ago, Biden and Trump separately visited the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead of proposing actual solutions to support our immigration system, Biden uplifted the failed Senate bill — and even went so far as to invite Trump to “join him” in working to it.

“Immigration is an Act of Love,” by Juan Cole, Digital, Dream / Dreamland v.3 / IbisPaint

During his State of the Union address in March, Biden had the opportunity to distinguish himself from Trump. Instead, his speech demonstrated a strong disconnect between his rhetoric and actions.

Biden said he would not demonize immigrants, but in the same speech used the offensive term “illegal immigrant.” No human being is “illegal.” Continuing to echo that language is dehumanizing and puts immigrant communities at risk of violence. (Biden later said he regretted using the term, but did not apologize for using it.)

Biden said he would not separate families, but his current and proposed immigration policies have separated and continue to separate families. He said he would not ban people from the country because of their faith, but his proposed action would make asylum harder for nearly everyone regardless of their faith.

Invoking his Irish heritage, Biden has alluded to the Great Famine in Ireland to sympathize with immigrants looking for a better life in the United States. But families seeking shelter today from similar hardship would have extreme difficulty getting into the country under the policies he wants to implement.

Biden once understood that punitive measures were not going to make either immigrants or U.S. citizens safer, or make our immigration system more orderly. He understood that we’d need to create pathways to legislation and citizenship, honor our responsibility to offer refuge to asylum seekers, and live up to our American values.

If Biden’s sincere about finding real solutions, he needs to remember those commitments. It’s time to stop playing politics with immigrants’ lives.


Juan Carlos Gomez is a senior policy analyst on immigration at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP.org). This op-ed was adapted from a longer version at CLASP.org and distributed for syndication by OtherWords.org.

Palestinians of Gaza are Starving: Don’t Cut Aid https://www.juancole.com/2024/03/palestinians-gaza-starving.html Sun, 03 Mar 2024 05:04:58 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=217377

To feed children, treat the wounded, and save innocent lives, the U.S. must restore UNRWA’s funding.

Abortion Ban Extremists are using a Slavery-Era Texas Law against Women https://www.juancole.com/2024/02/abortion-extremists-slavery.html Mon, 26 Feb 2024 05:04:35 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=217288

Texas is trying to ban the use of its roads by people seeking care outside the state — and even dispatching right-wing vigilante groups to chase them.

By Jim Hightower | –

( Otherwords.org ) – Here’s our big word of the day: extraterritoriality. It expresses a sketchy legal theory asserting that rulers in one state have a right to enforce their laws in another state.

Its most prominent was in the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required officials in Northern anti-slave states to capture and return escaped slaves to their plantation “owners” in the South, thus applying Southern slave laws in Northern jurisdictions. This abomination was finally repealed in 1864.

Katie Couric Video: “”I was forced to carry my child full term”: Texas abortion plaintiff”

But 160 years later, here comes another faction of right-wing zealots trying to revive the slave-law concept of extraterritoriality — this time applying it to any and all American women who dare to make their own reproductive health decisions.

I’m ashamed to say that this repressive use of the doctrine is being led by my state’s misogynistic governor, Greg Abbott, and our corrupt attorney general, Ken Paxton. These two tyrannical men have already saddled Texas women with the most draconian abortion ban in the country, including piously forbidding abortion in cases of rape and incest.

For women to exercise their inherent right to control their own bodies, they’re forced to travel to nearby states. But Texas’s brutal extremists bark that “we’ll ban that, too!” They’ve pushed a flagrantly unconstitutional scheme to outlaw the use of public roads to drive out-of-state for care. And they’ve even sanctioned right-wing vigilantes to follow suspected medical travelers to doctors beyond our borders.

And, going full-tilt totalitarian, the Abbott-Paxton posse has demanded that out-of-state-care groups hand over the names and addresses of Texas women they’ve helped outside of Texas.

Talk about government overreach! Big Brother isn’t just watching… he’s stalking you. To oppose this brutish repression — and to keep it from coming to your state — contact RewireNewsGroup.com/abortion.

Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker.

Via Otherwords.org

Civilian Casualties in Gaza Are No Accident https://www.juancole.com/2024/01/civilian-casualties-accident.html Sun, 14 Jan 2024 05:02:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=216550

Israeli leaders have openly endorsed starving, killing, and displacing Palestinian civilians — and that’s what they’re doing. Is Biden listening?

( Otherwords.org ) –

An old legal adage states: “Men are presumed to intend the natural consequences of their acts.”

The natural, indeed inescapable, consequence of Israel’s cutting off life-sustaining supplies of food and water to over 2 million people in Gaza is famine and mass death by starvation and dehydration. As 90 percent of the people of Gaza have become refugees, 93 percent of the population is facing crisis levels of hunger.

Epidemics of cholera, typhoid, and dysentery are also the natural consequence as sanitation systems collapse and there’s only contaminated water to drink. Deaths from disease and hunger are predicted to be several times that from fighting and bombing.

Who are most likely to die first? Children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Who are least likely to be affected? Hamas’s soldiers, who stockpiled food and water before the war.

Israel’s indiscriminate bombing has killed over 23,000 Palestinians, 40 percent of them children. The pace of killing has been “exceptionally high,” reports the New York Times. “It’s beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career,” says a former Pentagon senior intelligence analyst.

Israelis assert casualties are high because Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.” But Hamas fighters are intermixed with civilians because they live crammed together in densely populated Gaza.

Even on its own terms, the excuse fails. If a killer tries to escape capture by forcing an innocent family to stand between himself and the police, the cops can’t mow them all down to get the killer. If Hamas terrorists are surrounded by the people of Gaza, that doesn’t justify eliminating the entire population.

“Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising,” the Times report continued.

“Israel Tells U.S. They ARE Ethnically Cleansing Gaza – The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder”

But it’s not a surprise if Israel in fact intends the mass deaths it has inflicted. Calls for “erasing” the people of Gaza and claims that “there are no innocents in Gaza” have become widespread among Israeli officials.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has likened the war in Gaza to a biblical call to “totally destroy” the Amalekites, a rival nation to the ancient Israelites. “Do not spare them,” the prophet Samuel tells King Saul: God commands you to “put to death men and women, children and infants.” The idea of treating Palestinians this way is now widespread among Israeli leaders.

Why deliberately target civilians? Many Israelis consider all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean to be the God-given “Land of Israel.” Butchering and starving Palestinian noncombatants forces the survivors to flee this land.

“There will be no electricity and no water,” decreed Israeli Major General Ghassan Alain at the outset of the war. “There will only be destruction.” General Giora Eiland added: “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.” Eiland said Palestinians should be told, “They have two choices: to stay and to starve, or to leave.”

Last September at the United Nations, Netanyahu himself displayed a map showing “The New Middle East.” The map had no West Bank and no Gaza — only Israel incorporating both.

Members of Israel’s cabinet openly call for removing 90 percent of Palestinians from Gaza and resettling the land with Israelis. And Netanyahu recently told a meeting of his party that he is “looking for countries that are willing to absorb Gazans … we are working on it.”

Israel’s campaign in Gaza fits the legal definition of genocide: Israel is killing or inflicting conditions intended to bring about the destruction of Gazans as a group.

But whatever you call it, genocide or ethnic cleansing, deliberate mass murder is part of the project. The Biden administration should reconsider its support for Israel.

Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning.

Via Otherwords.org

“If I must die, you must live to tell my Story:” On Gaza, Biden is Violating International Law https://www.juancole.com/2023/12/biden-violating-international.html Sun, 17 Dec 2023 05:02:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=215995

The U.S. government says it stands for justice and the rule of law. So why won’t it stand by those principles for Palestinians?

By Farrah Hassen | –

( Otherwords.org ) – “If I must die, you must live to tell my story,” wrote Dr. Refaat Alareer, a 44-year-old Gazan poet and literature professor. A few weeks later, Alareer was killed while sheltering in his sister’s apartment, along with six family members.

In the densely populated Gaza Strip, the loss of life is staggering. Israel’s two-month bombardment has killed at least 18,000 Palestinian civilians there, including nearly 9,000 children. Another 25,000 children have lost one or both of their parents.

President Biden has repeatedly assured the public that Israel is following international law. Yet Israeli forces have deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure, in direct violation of international humanitarian law. With 90 percent of those killed in Gaza being civilians, only now is Biden finally admitting that Israel is bombing “indiscriminately.”

Homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, refugee camps, and government buildings have all been reduced to rubble. Israeli troops have forced Palestinian men to strip and parade through the streets. There are disturbing eyewitness allegations of torture and summary executions of civilians.

Palestinian human rights groups and many international experts, including Israeli scholars of the Holocaust, have warned that Israel’s actions meet the legal standard of genocide.

Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as specific acts taken “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Some of these acts include “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

“Gaza Guernica 13: University,” by Juan Cole, Digital (Dream/ IbisPaint), 2023.

The mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza’s schools, medical facilities, shelters, and residential areas are all evidence of likely genocidal acts. As are the forced relocation of over 1 million Palestinians out of northern Gaza and Israel’s frequent bombing of civilian evacuation routes.

Meanwhile, Israel has intensified its complete siege of Gaza, depriving Palestinians of food, water, electricity, fuel, and medical supplies. Starvation and infectious disease are rampant. Gaza’s health care system has “completely collapsed” from ongoing Israeli strikes, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Proving genocidal intent can often be difficult. However, experts have pointed to dehumanizing statements by Israeli leaders that hint at it — including calling Palestinians “human animals” and “children of darkness.”

Others are more explicit. An Israeli lawmaker called for a “Nakba” — an Arabic reference to the violent mass displacement of Palestinians — “that will overshadow the Nakba of 1948.” The defense minister declared “we will eliminate everything” in Gaza. And a recent investigation by the Israeli +972 Magazine found that Israel’s bombing of non-military targets is “calculated.”

Many experts believe these actions and statements of intent are evidence of an unfolding genocide. Due to the crime’s gravity, all parties to the Genocide Convention — including the U.S. —  have a legal duty to prevent it from the moment they learn of a serious risk that a genocide will be committed.

Instead, the U.S has vetoed UN Security Council ceasefire resolutions and expedited lethal arms to Israel on top of the annual aid we already provide. Far from preventing a genocide, a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights argues, the U.S. is complicit in one.

The October 7 attacks by Hamas fighters on Israeli civilians were reprehensible crimes, but they don’t provide legal or moral justification for the collective punishment of Gazan civilians. Nor can genocide ever be justified.

No government is above the law and free to commit mass slaughter. The U.S. government often claims to stand for justice and the rule of law. But is it willing to stand by those principles for the Palestinian people?

At this dire moment, with the world watching, the U.S. not only has the ability but the obligation to secure a permanent ceasefire and save innocent lives.

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Farrah Hassen

Farrah Hassen, J.D., is a writer, policy analyst, and adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Cal Poly Pomona. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.


Americans Want a Ceasefire. It’s Our Politicians Who Are Out of Touch https://www.juancole.com/2023/11/americans-ceasefire-politicians.html Tue, 14 Nov 2023 05:04:11 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=215388

Our elected officials should listen to the two-thirds of Americans calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Don’t Silence Palestinian Voices: Their Absence from News Coverage is Unfair and Harmful https://www.juancole.com/2023/10/silence-palestinian-coverage.html Sun, 29 Oct 2023 04:04:31 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=215077

The absence of Palestinians and their advocates from news coverage isn’t just unfair. As a Jewish American, I think it’s harmful.

Meeting Union Demands would be a Win-Win for Automakers https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/meeting-demands-automakers.html Mon, 25 Sep 2023 04:04:52 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214514

But with corporations insistent on squeezing more profits no matter the cost, strikes are inevitable — and necessary.

Sonali Kolhatkar

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. This commentary was produced by the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and adapted for syndication by OtherWords.org.