The Conversation – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 22 Jun 2024 03:35:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.9 Jewish critics of Zionism have Clashed with American Jewish Leaders for Decades https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/critics-zionism-american.html Sat, 22 Jun 2024 04:06:46 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219184 By Marjorie N. Feld, Babson College | –

Since October 2023, American Jews have been engaged in an intense, fractious debate over Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Media reports say that American Jews are experiencing “the great rupture,” widening “rifts,” and stand at a “moral, political crossroads.”

While most American Jews remain broadly supportive of Israel, others have protested vigorously against U.S. support for Israel and are demanding a cease-fire in the Gaza war. They carry signs saying “Not in Our Name.”

Their slogan highlights the fact that American foreign aid to Israel has long relied on the support of American Jews. Unqualified U.S. support for Israel was built, in part, on the promise that Israel kept American Jews – and all Jews – safe, especially after the Holocaust.

But American Jews have never been entirely unified in their support for Israel or in their visions of what role Israel and Palestine should play in American Jewish life.

A 1961 death notice for a man named William Zukerman, described as the editor of an 'anti-Zionist publication.'
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s 1961 death notice for William Zukerman, editor since 1948 of The Jewish Newsletter, a publication that captured some of the voices of Jewish dissent from Zionism – including his own.
JTA Archive

No consensus

My new book, “The Threshold of Dissent: A History of American Jewish Critics of Zionism,” analyzes a century of debates among American Jews over Zionism and Israel.

My account begins in 1885, when elite Reform Jews, with a goal of full integration in Jim Crow America, composed the Pittsburgh Platform, which rejected Jewish nationalism out of fear that it would make them targets of antisemitic accusations of dual loyalty.

Two years later, Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement, relying on European powers for support for a modern Jewish state.

The genocide of Europe’s Jewish population in the Holocaust fundamentally altered American Jews’ perspectives on Zionism.

Many believed that only a Jewish national homeland in what was then Palestine could prevent another genocide. Others insisted that the lessons of the Holocaust meant that Jews must not contribute to making refugees of another group of people: the Palestinians who were then living on the land.

The Majority Report with Sam Seder Video: “Jewish Voice For Peace Grows In North Carolina

There were other issues that contributed to a new understanding of Zionism in the 1950s and 1960s within American Jewish communities. Among them: the Nakba, which was the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians during the 1948 founding of Israel; Israel’s treatment of immigrant Jews from the Arab and Muslim world known as Mizrahi Jews; and the rise in Israel’s militarism.

Across the 20th century, mainstream Jewish leaders manufactured an American Jewish so-called consensus on Zionism and Israel, in part by silencing American Jewish critics of Zionism.

From the late 1940s through 1961, journalist William Zukerman edited The Jewish Newsletter, a publication that captured some of the voices of Jewish dissent from Zionism, including his own. He reported on Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians and documented how American Jewish funds fueled Israel’s military campaigns instead of supporting vibrant American Jewish communities.

Because Zukerman dared to publish this criticism, he faced campaigns of steep resistance, eventually losing funding and support from Jewish communal organizations.

Anxious that Zukerman’s dissent would cause “increasing trouble” for American support for Israel, Israeli diplomats wrote to American Jewish leaders, and together they convinced some Jewish journalists to exclude Zukerman’s writings from their publications.

Liberation movements, American Jews and Zionism

Into the 1960s, as mainstream Jewish leaders emphasized the urgency of Jewish unity on Israel and Zionism and showed growing intolerance for dissent, anti-colonialist activists gained momentum across the world. From 1948 through 1966, Israel held all Palestinians citizens under martial law, limiting their movement and access to opportunities and resources. Across the 1950s, Israel excluded Palestinian workers from the Histadrut, the state’s largest labor union federation.

Activists allied with the cause of Palestinian rights noted Israel’s alliance with colonial power France during the Algerian war of independence from 1954 to 1962 and criticized Israel as an occupier after the 1967 war. They spoke, too, of Israel’s growing alliance with apartheid South Africa in the 1970s.

Black and Arab leaders in the U.S. taught within, and learned from, these anti-colonial movements. Civil rights and anti-war activists offered new perspectives to debates over Israel and Zionism.

Raised in a liberal Zionist family, student Marty Blatt was learning to fight for justice. Blatt was born in 1951 in Brooklyn, New York. His grandfather had died in a Nazi prison camp. In 1970, he joined the anti-war movement at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

“The Vietnam war was a horrible injustice,” Blatt said. From the movement and from members of the Israeli left, he learned that “Israel/Palestine was another great injustice.”

With no access to the history of Palestinians in school, at home or at the synogogue, young American Jews like Blatt who joined the civil rights and anti-war movements learned these lessons for the first time. When they then criticized Israel and American Zionism, they, too, met with hostility from the mainstream Jewish world.

Blatt sought to teach his fellow students at Tufts with a course in 1973 titled Zionism Reconsidered. In it, he taught the history of Zionism, Palestinian resistance and Israel’s Cold War alliance with the United States. He taught students that anti-Zionism was not antisemitism.

On March 13, 1973, in the midst of the semester, members of the Jewish Defense League, a far-right, anti-Arab, Jewish nationalist group founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane,disrupted Blatt’s class. They called it an “anti-Jewish outrage” and passed out a flyer that read, “Not since Germany in the days of Hitler has any university dared to offer a course presenting a one-sided view of any national movement.”

Boston-area Jewish leaders urged community members to write to Tufts leadership to shut down Blatt’s class. These letters used apocalyptic language to describe the damage wrought by his course, likening it to the destruction of the Jewish people. During this controversy, Blatt picked up the phone one day to hear someone who clearly knew his family history in the Holocaust tell him: “Your parents should not have been saved.”

An article about Blatt and his course in Boston’s Jewish Advocate was headlined “Tufts Anti-Zionist Course Seen as Abuse of Academic Freedom.” Though Tufts stood behind Blatt’s right to teach the class for another term, which it still touts on the university website, angry responses to the class appeared in community forums for years.

Divided on campus and beyond

In the current moment, college campuses have been riven with debates over the boundaries between student safety and free speech and whether criticism of Israel constitutes antisemitism.

Young Jews dismayed by the unconditional Zionist agenda of Jewish campus organization Hillel and who founded Open Hillel in 2013 are now active in Gaza protests as “Judaism on Our Own Terms.” They might be surprised to learn that in late 1972, even before his course began, Blatt and others founded the Tufts Hillel Non-Zionist Caucus. Hillel subsequently expelled them from the organization.

For over a century, some American Jews have modeled the idea that unqualified support for Israel and Zionism was “not in our name.” They prioritized justice as a Jewish value and were motivated not by self-hatred or antisemitism but by abiding commitments to human rights and to Jewish safety and community.

Today’s activists protesting over the devastation in Gaza are testing the threshold of dissent and the limits of free speech and academic freedom. They embrace what they view as more just visions of Israel and Palestine and more inclusive visions of an American Jewish community, one with space for dissent and earnest conversations about Israel and Zionism, and one in which Jews stand in solidarity with groups working for justice in Palestine, Israel and around the world.The Conversation

Marjorie N. Feld, Professor of History and Society, Babson College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Israel Threatens all-out War against Lebanon’s Hezbollah: Curve-ball for US Presidential Campaign? https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/threatens-hezbollah-presidential.html Thu, 20 Jun 2024 04:06:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219144 By Michelle Bentley, Royal Holloway University of London | –

(The Conversation) – Israel has announced that it is ready to go to war with Hezbollah – a move that is likely to undermine US president Joe Biden’s chances in the 2024 election even further.

Israel says that Hezbollah – the Lebanese political party and militant group – has pushed it close to an all-out war after the organisation posted a nine-minute video of drone footage, showing military and civilian areas in several locations including the Israeli port of Haifa. Israel has now publicly stated that it has approved military plans to move to a war footing against Hezbollah. Lebanon is on Israel’s border and the two countries have a long history of conflict and tension, which has been intensifying in recent months.

Israel’s escalation would be a significant blow to Biden ahead of the US presidential election. The Israel-Palestine conflict is already eroding Democrat support and Biden has repeatedly been accused from all sides of mishandling the situation. If further violence ramps up in the region, this will put even greater pressure on Biden, in ways he doesn’t need, just before the US goes to the ballot box.

Any further weakening of support for Biden is of concern to other national leaders who want to avoid a Trump presidency, and, potentially, its fallout for the Ukraine war. Biden has already had to navigate a complex situation of wanting to bring peace in the Middle East, while also respecting a longstanding expectation that the US will always stand by Israel. Biden has faced political pressure to arm Israel and public condemnation of the way he has dealt with protests on university campuses. There has been further pressure on him after allegations that Israel was committing genocide were filed with the International Court of Justice. In short, it’s the sort of situation that no president wants.

Al Jazeera English Video added by IC: “Israel’s military advantage over Hezbollah and Hamas no longer the same: Analysis”

The tension between Israel and Hezbollah will not be seen as an isolated incident but will play into deeper concerns about Israeli foreign policy and where the US should stand. The situation will inevitably be considered part of a wider US debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict, with all the emotions and political difficulties that come with this, and is likely to be a source of contention at the upcoming presidential debate on June 27.

The US is already working to maintain peace between Israel and Hezbollah and to bring about a diplomatic solution in the form of a ceasefire proposal. Critics who want increased US support for Israel will be upset with peace negotiations which they say favour Hezbollah – and, with it, Iran. But if Biden goes beyond trying for a peace deal – for example, by providing more military aid to Israel – he can forget the votes of those who would prefer a more hardline American stance towards the Netanyahu government. Even if Biden gets a peace deal, or Israel doesn’t move to all-out war, the situation will still undermine Biden’s electoral chances, because it can’t be separated from the wider disputes around Israel that are already losing him support in some quarters.

Damaged relationships

Biden’s response will also be extremely difficult for his relations with the Democratic party. The party is already deeply divided over Israel and this new threat will only exacerbate that division. The last thing candidates need before an election is to not have the full support of their party. The Israel-Hezbollah conflict has the potential to inflame internal political disputes between the Democrats even further and Biden will be going into the election with one hand tied behind his back.

This isn’t just a domestic question, however, but an international one. Israel is one of the most important issues on the international political agenda right now. The criticisms against Biden don’t just come from US voters but from other states. If Biden can’t win those states over to whatever he does next in relation to Israel and Hezbollah, he will look incompetent and unreliable. And if he can’t convince other national leaders that he is up to the job, he won’t convince US voters either.

The problems that Biden now has to address over Hezbollah will also be problematic for his electoral competition with Donald Trump. The Republican party is also split on Israel. But the situation would hurt Trump in the election to a lesser degree. In fact, it may even be a win for Trump.

Trump has been a strong backer of Israel – and this has often appealed to his supporters and pro-Israeli voters. Yet this is going to be less about issues and more about image. Trump’s vocal (and occasionally critical) stance can make him look like an effective leader. His position on Israel may attract condemnation from some, but you can’t deny that he at least looks like he knows what he wants. To many he will appear more presidential in comparison to Biden – who is in a difficult position on Israel and has been frequently accused of not having what it takes to be president.

The tension between Israel and Hezbollah is another chance for Trump to make himself look dynamic and attack his opponent. While the politics of the situation will alone be enough to sway some voters, it’s also the case that this represents another opportunity for Trump’s supporters to call Biden weak. If Biden think the criticism of him now is bad, it’s about to get much worse.The Conversation

Michelle Bentley, Reader in International Relations, Royal Holloway University of London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Is Earth Really Getting too Hot for People to Survive? A Scientist Explains https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/getting-scientist-explains.html Tue, 18 Jun 2024 04:02:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219099 By Scott Denning, Colorado State University | –

My parents said the planet is getting too hot for people to live here. They called it climate change. What does that mean? – Joseph, age 12, Boise, Idaho


Many countries have seen extremely hot weather lately, but in most of the inhabited world, it’s never going to get “too hot for people to live here,” especially in relatively dry climates.

When it’s hot outside in dry places, most of the time our bodies can cool off by evaporating water and heat from our skin as sweat.

However, there are places where it occasionally gets dangerously hot and humid, especially where hot deserts are right next to the warm ocean. When the air is humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so sweating doesn’t cool us the way it does in drier environments.

In parts of the Middle East, Pakistan and India, summer heat waves can combine with humid air that blows in off the sea, and this combination can be truly deadly. Hundreds of millions of people live in those regions, most without access to indoor air conditioning.


Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Scientists like me use a “wet bulb thermometer” to get a better sense of this risk. A wet bulb thermometer allows water to evaporate by blowing ambient air over a damp cloth. If the wet bulb temperature is over 95 F (35 C), and even at lower levels, the human body won’t be able to let enough heat out. Prolonged exposure to such combined heat and humidity can be fatal.

During a severe heat wave in 2023, wet bulb temperatures were very high over the lower Mississippi Valley, though they didn’t reach fatal levels. In Delhi, India, where air temperatures were over 120 degree Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) for several days in May 2024, the wet bulb temperatures came close, and several people died from suspected heatstroke in the hot and humid weather. In conditions like that, everyone has to take precautions.

Is it climate change?

When people burn carbon – whether it’s coal in a power plant or gasoline in a vehicle – it creates carbon dioxide (CO2). This invisible gas builds up in the atmosphere and traps the Sun’s warmth near the Earth’s surface.

The result is what we mean by “climate change.”

Every bit of coal, oil or gas that ever gets burned adds a little bit more to the temperature. As temperatures rise, dangerously hot and humid weather has begun to spread to more places.

Areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas are increasingly at risk of dangerous hot and humid conditions in summer, as are heavily irrigated areas of the desert Southwest where water sprayed over farm fields adds moisture to the atmosphere.

Climate change causes a lot more problems than just hot, sweaty weather.

Hot air evaporates a lot more water, so crops, forests and landscapes in some areas dry out, which makes them more susceptible to wildfire. Each Celsius degree of warming can cause a sixfold increase in wildfire over parts of the western U.S.

Warming also makes ocean water expand, which can flood coastal regions. Rising sea levels threaten to displace as many as 2 billion people by 2100.

All of these impacts mean that climate change threatens the global economy. Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas could cut global incomes by about 25% by the end of the century, according to one estimate.

Good news and bad news

There’s both bad news and good news about climate change in the future.

The bad news is that as long as we keep burning carbon, it will continue to get hotter and hotter.

The good news is that we can substitute clean energy, like solar and wind power, instead of burning carbon, to power the products and services of modern life.

There’s been tremendous progress in the past 15 years in making clean energy reliable and affordable, and almost every country on Earth has now agreed to stop climate change before too much damage is done.

Just as our ancestors built better lives by switching from outhouses to indoor plumbing, we will avoid making our world unlivable by switching from coal, oil and gas to clean energy.


Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Scott Denning, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Khorasan: why many Afghanistan Citizens are pushing back against the Term’s association with Terrorism https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/afghanistan-association-terrorism.html Sat, 15 Jun 2024 04:02:20 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219046 By Magnus Marsden, University of Sussex | –

Gunmen attacked Moscow’s Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, killing 137 people. The four suspects were purportedly aligned to the militant terrorist organisation Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K).

IS-K is an affiliate of the Islamic State militant group and seeks to create a territorially unbound caliphate. Its militants have launched violent attacks in Afghanistan, especially on ethnically Hazara Shia Muslims, as well as on high-profile targets in Iran and Pakistan. The group’s deadly attacks have ensured that the term Khorasan is now globally associated with Islamist militancy.

Khorasan is often translated from Persian as “there where the sun rises”. It refers to a geographical region spanning parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and the five post-Soviet states of Central Asia. Historically, cities across the region played a pivotal in Khorasan’s dynamics – culturally and politically.

For IS-K militants, Khorasan’s symbolic power is derived from the region’s importance to the emergence of one of the great Muslim dynasties, the Abbasid caliphate, in the 8th century. Yet Islamists are not the only group active in Afghanistan and the wider region to have gained inspiration from Khorasan’s history in recent years.


Via Wikimedia Commons.

For much of the past two decades I have conducted research in Afghanistan and among the country’s diaspora in Asia, Europe and North America. I have met men and women from the country who are deeply attached to the idea of Khorasan and think it is relevant to Afghanistan’s future.

These intellectual-activists, who are mostly Persian-speakers from north and central Afghanistan, imagine Khorasan in ways that are strikingly different from those of IS-K militants. They think of Khorasan as a historic locus of cultural and intellectual sophistication, creativity and innovation, and religious and cultural tolerance.

They define Khorasan’s culture in relation to several key aspects. The most prominent among them is the Persian language. Persian, they argue, is the region’s lingua franca and has enabled cross-cultural communication between diverse peoples over centuries.

In stark contrast to IS-K, they also focus on Khorasan’s history of religious pluralism. This is something that manifested in the historic presence of Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Zoroastrian populations across the region. For many of the activists, indigenous forms of Islam have nurtured religious pluralism rather than treating it as a threat.

Imagining Khorasan is, above all, an intellectual pursuit. Living in cities across Europe and North America, many of the activists organise public events where they present their ideas in speeches. And they disseminate their thoughts, mostly in Persian, in essays posted on social media and in books often published in Iran.

Poetry is also used to express the yearning for a shared Khorasani identity for people living across the region. As one line of a popular poem goes: “Kabul, Kulab and Tehran, I am a Khorasani”.

But their activities are also having an effect on the identities of people from Afghanistan. For example, a song performed by celebrated Afghan singer Sediq Shabab alongside a woman from Tajikistan concludes: “without doubt, we are Khorasanis”.

In Afghanistan and beyond, men and women increasingly adopt Khorasan as a pen name, and some use it to market their businesses. The sense of being Khorasani is also materialised in particular styles of women’s clothing, said by those who wear them to be distinct from dresses traditionally marketed in the diaspora as “Afghan”.

Relevance to Afghanistan today

Those who see Khorasan as relevant for the future of Afghanistan are often criticised in Afghanistan and among the diaspora. They are depicted either as ethno-nationalists or as people living comfortable lives in the west more interested in romanticising the past than addressing the crises facing Afghanistan’s people, including calamitous flooding connected to climate change.

For the activists, however, engaging with the history, culture and geography of Khorasan is of vital importance. Doing so challenges the perception of Afghanistan as a site of fundamentalist Islam and unchanging tribal customs.

It acts as a counterpoint to the symbolic deployment of Khorasan by IS-K, too. As a result, it carries the potential of reversing the country’s cultural and political isolation.

Debates about history, geography and culture are also playing a particularly prominent role in the politics of Afghanistan today. Despite the emphasis placed on “nation-building” during the early years of the 2001–2021 international intervention in Afghanistan, ethnic tensions in the country intensified.

Then, in 2021, the Taliban returned to power. Since then, states and international organisations have been unwilling to hold the Taliban administration to account for human rights abuses, especially against women.

Against this backdrop, people in Afghanistan and the diaspora calling for the establishment of an inclusive government or for greater political recognition for specific ethno-linguistic communities, have increasingly sought to frame and legitimise their ideas by referencing an imagined past.

Attempts to imagine Afghanistan as part of an interconnected, plural and culturally vibrant region can easily be dismissed as wishful thinking. They can also be treated as an expression of divisive ethnic politics.

But the state of thinking about Afghanistan and the wider region is narrow and lacks ambition. Within this context, recognising the underlying desire for human dignity, cultural recognition and political visibility encapsulated by these expressions of historical imagination is more important now than ever before.The Conversation

Magnus Marsden, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Sussex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Gaza war: with both Sides playing Politics, don’t expect a Ceasefire any time Soon https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/playing-politics-ceasefire.html Fri, 14 Jun 2024 04:06:21 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219032 By Paul Rogers, University of Bradford | –

(The Conversation) – When the UN security council voted in favour of a resolution backing the latest ceasefire deal for Gaza on June 10, the only member state to abstain was Russia. It did so, it said, because of insufficient assurances that Israel would abide by the deal’s terms. China supported the resolution, but doubted whether there had been notable developments since the previous ceasefire motion. The other 13 states were supportive if not overly optimistic.

Whether progress is now made depends on several factors. Prominent among these are how the war goes from here, the Israeli political environment and the extent of pressure on Israel from the Washington for a ceasefire.

The four hostages released by Israeli forces were certainly welcomed home to Israel but the remarkable element in their release was that they were in good physical health. This was after eight months of captivity in an intense war zone and suggests that Hamas is very far from defeat if it can maintain that degree of organisation for so long when faced persistently with overwhelming firepower.

It is one more sign that Hamas is proving far more resilient than the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) or Israeli intelligence and security agencies expected.

Much of Gaza has been reduced to little more than rubble, at least 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, including more than 15,000 children. Another 10,000 people are missing, over 80,000 have been injured, and the World Health Organization is reporting 8,000 children currently with symptoms of acute malnutrition.

Universities, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants, public services and buildings have been wrecked, yet Hamas is persistently reasserting itself in parts of Gaza that have previously been occupied by the IDF. Hamas may have had huge losses of its own, but it is becoming clear that it has not been defeated. And this is having serious consequences for Netanyahu’s government.

Taking the bait

From the start of the Israeli response to the October 7 atrocities, there was a risk that the IDF was falling into a trap of Hamas’s making. Given the skill of Hamas’s preparations and the ability to maintain high levels of security until the day of the attack, there was a strong probability that the Hamas planners had thought the whole thing through. Moreover, this would have included planning for multiple scenarios, most of them no doubt focused on a very strong Israeli retaliation.

Democracy Now! Video: “Gaza Ceasefire Only Possible Once Israel Commits to Ending the War, Says Palestinian Diplomat”

Remember that barely three weeks into the war, some analysts were already pointing to the dangers for Israel of embarking on a ground invasion. By early November, much international opinion outside the west had moved markedly against Israel in the wake of the intensive bombing of urban areas and the rapidly rising death toll. Despite this mood, which increasingly spread to northwards as it became more difficult to disrupt the Hamas paramilitaries, the IDF made more intensive use of the Dahiya doctrine.

That term had first been used after the war in Lebanon in 2006 but the approach goes right back to the occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982 and of the risks of engaging in counter-guerrilla warfare. Put bluntly, Israeli ground forces would invariably take serious casualties if engaged against determined and combat-experienced paramilitaries fighting on their own territory.

Map of Gaza showing IDF clearing operations, June 12.
Israel is having to refocus on areas of Gaza it thought it had cleared of Hamas fighters.
Institute for the Study of War

That was especially so if that territory was an urban environment, so a response was rooted in the collective punishment of civilians, and this came rapidly to dominate IDF behaviour. The aim may have been to undermine civilian support for the insurgents, but inevitably Palestinian casualties went through the roof.

Young victims

Even the freeing of the hostages fits into this pattern. Four Israelis were successfully freed, but at the cost of the intensive bombardment of a densely populated refugee camp, the deaths of up to 274 Palestinians and the injuring of many hundreds more. For many observers what makes it worse is the high proportion of children among those killed and injured.

Throughout the eight-month war, children have been massively affected, so much so that a UN report due to be presented to the general assembly this week states that: “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory presents an unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children”. There were more violations against children in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel than anywhere else in the world last year, the report says.

The Israeli government reacted angrily to the report. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the UN had “added itself to the blacklist of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers”. There has been a similar response to a further UN report accusing Israel as well as Hamas of war crimes.

Israel is now trapped in an intensely violent stalemate. In the face of this, Biden’s current proposal is for a three-phase transition to a settlement, starting with a long ceasefire to allow negotiations to proceed. Perhaps progress can be made but there is considerable doubt among close observers of Israeli politics that Netanyahu has any intention of seeing an end to the war in the next few months.

On the Palestinian side, there are certainly some differences between the Hamas military leadership in Gaza and the overall political leadership in Qatar. But Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank, especially persistent violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers and the IDF, mean more support for Hamas and confidence in its ultimate success.

Given the predicament that Netanyahu is now in what will be uppermost in his mind will be the US election in November and the chance of Donald Trump returning to the White House, giving him far more of a blank cheque in terms of US support for his government.

There desperately needs to be a swift end to the fighting. But it is much more likely that this appalling war has many more months to run.The Conversation

Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Will the New, more Specific UN Ceasefire Resolution for Gaza Succeed? https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/specific-ceasefire-resolution.html Thu, 13 Jun 2024 04:06:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219018 By Marika Sosnowski, The University of Melbourne | –

(The Conversation) – The UN Security Council has passed yet another resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. This is the fourth such resolution adopted by the council since Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel and the launching of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Little has come from the three previous resolutions, all of which have been legally binding since they were passed by the Security Council:

  • a resolution on March 25 calling for a ceasefire that was ignored by Israel

  • a resolution on December 22 calling for a “sustainable cessation of hostitilies”, which also had no immediate practical effect

  • a resolution on November 15 calling for “humanitarian pauses”, which did nothing to alleviate Palestinian suffering or secure the release of hostages.

So, what is new about this latest resolution? And does it have any more chance of succeeding than previous attempts at a ceasefire?

What is new

First, this most recent resolution, which was drafted by the United States and supported by a vote of 14-0 (with Russia abstaining), has much more specific terms. For example, it lays out a three-stage approach to achieving a “permanent end to hostilities”.

In this first stage, all fighting will stop and some of the remaining hostages will be returned in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. And if the negotiations take longer than six weeks, the ceasefire will continue.

The document also calls for the return of Palestinians to their homes and neighbourhoods, and for housing units to be delivered by the international community.

This staged approach and inclusion of housing units is new, perhaps with the realisation that over half of Gaza’s buildings have been destroyed and more than 80% of the population has been displaced, often multiple times.

The resolution is also explicitly linked to the ongoing negotiations being carried out by Qatar, with the help of Egypt and the US, to achieve a ceasefire.

This is a positive given Qatar successfully negotiated the only temporary pause in the fighting for seven days in November. This resulted in the release of around 100 hostages, in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

This current resolution also specifically rejects any territorial or demographic changes to the Gaza Strip, which is a welcome addition given that many fear the re-occupation of Gaza by Israel.

India Today Video: “What Difference Does The Latest Gaza UNSC Ceasefire Resolution Make?”

What is not new

Since the beginning of the war, the multiple resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly have largely gone unactioned.

Hamas has previously signalled it is willing to accept the terms of a similar ceasefire negotiated by Qatar. The militant group is also now saying it will abide by the terms of the new UN resolution “that are consistent with the demands of our people and resistance”.

Despite the fact the current resolution specifically mentions Israel has “accepted” its terms, there has been no sign that Israel will, in fact, abide by its obligations under international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been sceptical about the plan, with his office saying any permanent ceasefire before the “destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities” is achieved is a “non-starter”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also apparently still trying to sell the resolution to Israel on Monday. This seems to negate Israel’s presumed acceptance of the ceasefire.

A better chance of success?

Arguably, some of the more specific and detailed terms of this resolution give it a better chance of success than previous UN resolutions.

This is because if parties to a ceasefire have invested time into negotiating and have agreed to specific terms, they know what needs to happen, when and how. There is also greater likelihood the two sides will abide by the terms because this level of specificity ensures some level of accountability from outside observers and the international community.

We saw this in the November temporary truce agreement, which had very specific terms that were followed by both Hamas and Israel.

Another example from a different conflict is the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant group. This ceasefire, which lasted for several years, included references to freedom of troop and civilian movement in specific geographical locations. It also specified landmarks to be used as de-militarised zones.

Problematically, while the current Security Council resolution calls for the effective distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale, including housing units, aid access to Gaza has been stymied by Israel, which now controls all entry points.

Interestingly, the resolution also specifically rejects “any attempt at demographic or territorial change”. However, it omits wording from a previous draft that had included mention of a “buffer zone” Israel is currently building along the border inside Gaza.

And despite the welcome addition of more specific chronological phases in this resolution, the text has some of the same vagueness as previous resolutions, particularly around what exactly will happen in phases two and three.

Phase two seems to link the continuation of the ceasefire with the negotiations being led by Qatar. But, as we have already seen during the war, negotiations can easily be abandoned or dismissed by one or both sides of a conflict.

Likewise, phase three offers the chance for a “multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza”, but offers no practical detail on how this would be accomplished.

Actions matter more than words

At this stage of this devastating conflict, any halt in fighting that alleviates the suffering of Palestinians is welcome.

However, I remain sceptical this resolution will be any more successful at halting the violence than its predecessors. Success will only come when both parties – but, in particular, Israel as the side with the greater military power – show they are willing to implement a ceasefire through their actions.The Conversation

Marika Sosnowski, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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As Oceans Heat up, American Coastal Economies find themselves in Hot Water https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/american-economies-themselves.html Wed, 12 Jun 2024 04:06:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219001 By Charles Colgan, Middlebury Institute of International Studies | –

Ocean-related tourism and recreation supports more than 320,000 jobs and US$13.5 billion in goods and services in Florida. But a swim in the ocean became much less attractive in the summer of 2023, when the water temperatures off Miami reached as high as 101 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius).

The future of some jobs and businesses across the ocean economy have also become less secure as the ocean warms and damage from storms, sea-level rise and marine heat waves increases.

Ocean temperatures have been heating up over the past century, and hitting record highs for much of the past year, driven primarily by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Scientists estimate that more than 90% of the excess heat produced by human activities has been taken up by the ocean.

That warming, hidden for years in data of interest only to oceanographers, is now having profound consequences for coastal economies around the world.

Understanding the role of the ocean in the economy is something I have been working on for more than 40 years, currently at the Center for the Blue Economy of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Mostly, I study the positive contributions of the ocean, but this has begun to change, sometimes dramatically. Climate change has made the ocean a threat to the economy in multiple ways.


“Boiling Shore,” Digital, Dream/ Dreamworld v3, 2024

The dangers of sea-level rise

One of the big threats to economies from ocean warming is sea-level rise. As water warms, it expands. Along with meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets, thermal expansion of the water has increased flooding in low-lying coastal areas and put the future of island nations at risk.

In the U.S., rising sea levels will soon overwhelm Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana and Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay.

Flooding at high tide, even on sunny days, is becoming increasingly common in places such as Miami Beach; Annapolis, Maryland; Norfolk, Virginia; and San Francisco. High-tide flooding has more than doubled since 2000 and is on track to triple by 2050 along the country’s coasts.

Maps show temperatures and sea level rise, with the fastest ris along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and lower rates on the Pacific.
Satellite and tide gauge data show sea-level change from 1993 to 2020.
National Climate Assessment 2023

Rising sea levels also push salt water into freshwater aquifers, from which water is drawn to support agriculture. The strawberry crop in coastal California is already being affected.

These effects are still small and highly localized. Much larger effects come with storms enhanced by sea level.

Higher sea level can worsen storm damage

Warmer ocean water fuels tropical storms. It’s one reason forecasters are warning of a busy 2024 hurricane season.

Tropical storms pick up moisture over warm water and transfer it to cooler areas. The warmer the water, the faster the storm can form, the quicker it can intensify and the longer it can last, resulting in destructive storms and heavy downpours that can flood cities even far from the coasts.

When these storms now come in on top of already higher sea levels, the waves and storm surge can dramatically increase coastal flooding.

What Hurricane Hugo’s flooding would look like in Charleston, S.C., with today’s higher sea levels.

Tropical cyclones caused more than $1.3 trillion in damage in the U.S. from 1980 to 2023, with an average cost of $22.8 billion per storm. Much of that cost has been absorbed by federal taxpayers.

It is not just tropical storms. Maine saw what can happen when a winter storm in January 2024 generated tides 5 feet above normal that filled coastal streets with seawater.

What does that mean for the economy?

The possible future economic damages from sea-level rise are not known because the pace and extent of rising sea levels are unknown.

One estimate puts the costs from sea-level rise and storm surge alone at over $990 billion this century, with adaptation measures able to reduce this by only $100 billion. These estimates include direct property damage and damage to infrastructure such as transportation, water systems and ports. Not included are impacts on agriculture from saltwater intrusion into aquifers that support agriculture.

Marine heat waves leave fisheries in trouble

Rising ocean temperatures are also affecting marine life through extreme events, known as marine heat waves, and more gradual long-term shifts in temperature.

In spring 2024, one third of the global ocean was experiencing heat waves. Corals are struggling through their fourth global bleaching event on record as warm ocean temperatures cause them to expel the algae that live in their shells and give the corals color and provide food. While corals sometimes recover from bleaching, about half of the world’s coral reefs have died since 1950, and their future beyond the middle of this century is bleak.

A school of fish with yellow tails swim over a reef in July 2023.
Healthy coral reefs serve as fish nurseries and habitat. These schoolmaster snappers were spotted on Davey Crocker Reef near Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
Jstuby/wikimedia, CC BY

Losing coral reefs is about more than their beauty. Coral reefs serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for thousands of species of fish. By NOAA’s estimate, about half of all federally managed fisheries, including snapper and grouper, rely on reefs at some point in their life cycle.

Warmer waters cause fish to migrate to cooler areas. This is particularly notable with species that like cold water, such as lobsters, which have been steadily migrating north to flee warming seas. Once-robust lobstering in southern New England has declined significantly.

Map shows how the average locations of lobster, red hake and black sea bass changed over 45 year, 1974-2019. Smaller charts show each moving
How three fish and shellfish species migrated between 1974 and 2019 off the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Dots shows the annual average location.
NOAA

In the Gulf of Alaska, rising temperatures almost wiped out the snow crabs, and a $270 million fishery had to be completely closed for two years. A major heat wave off the Pacific coast extended over several years in the 2010s and disrupted fishing from Alaska to Oregon.

This won’t turn around soon

The accumulated ocean heat and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to affect ocean temperatures for centuries, even if countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 as hoped. So, while ocean temperatures fluctuate year to year, the overall trend is likely to continue upward for at least a century.

There is no cold-water tap that we can simply turn on to quickly return ocean temperatures to “normal,” so communities will have to adapt while the entire planet works to slow greenhouse gas emissions to protect ocean economies for the future.The Conversation

Charles Colgan, Director of Research for the Center for the Blue Economy, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Trump Rhetoric after his Felony Conviction: Distract, Stoke Fear, Pave way for Strongman https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/rhetoric-conviction-strongman.html Tue, 11 Jun 2024 04:06:51 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218981 By Karrin Vasby Anderson, Colorado State University | –

(The Conversation) – After a jury convicted Donald Trump of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a politically damaging relationship, he responded by warning viewers of his post-verdict news conference: “If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone.”

That statement simultaneously invokes the ideal of an independent judiciary and attempts to delegitimize it.

As a scholar of political communication, I study how rhetoric strengthens or erodes democratic institutions and can prime an audience to expect or accept violence. Regardless of how someone feels about the legal arguments made during Trump’s trial, Trump’s attempts to prevail in the court of public opinion continue his campaign to discredit democratic institutions and threaten anyone who gets in his way.

Demagoguery is weaponized political communication that, as communication scholar Jennifer Mercieca explains, “undermines both democratic decision-making and democracy itself.” Demagogues use rhetoric to dominate an electorate rather than to persuade voters. Key characteristics include evading responsibility for claims and scapegoating anyone disloyal to the demagogue.

Demagogic communication includes one or more of what scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt identify as “key indicators of authoritarian behavior.” Those include rejection of, or weak commitment to, democratic rules and norms; denial of the legitimacy of political opponents; tolerance or encouragement of violence; and readiness to curtail civil liberties and media freedom.

In the aftermath of Trump’s felony conviction, the demagogic rhetoric of Trump and allied Republicans delegitimizeed democratic institutions and fostered threats of violence.

‘Designed to distract’

When Trump declared that “if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” he was, of course, correct. Ideally, that’s how laws work. They should apply equally to a regular citizen and a former president.

Trump’s case is extraordinary given his status as a former president, and the legal theory used by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been dubbed “novel.” Nonetheless, in the legal and national security publication Just Security, Siven Watt and Norman L. Eisen document a long history of state prosecutors going after politicians who flout laws to benefit political campaigns in similar ways.

Trump’s posts on social media were designed to distract from those facts by undermining the independence and trustworthiness of the judiciary and scapegoating anyone who isn’t a Trump supporter. That included President Joe Biden, officers of the court, immigrants and even a Fox News anchor deemed insufficiently supportive.

While the jury was deliberating, Trump set the stage, described the proceedings as a “Biden witch hunt,” the “WEAPONIZATION OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM!” and “ELECTION INTERFERENCE.” Later he asserted that the gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan was “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” and described members of the “DOJ and White House” as “Thugs and Monsters who are destroying our Country.”

Immediately after the jury returned its verdict, Trump intensified his delegitimization of the American legal system, asserting that “the real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people” and adding, “our whole country is being rigged right now.”

Stoking fear

A particularly important dimension of Trump’s reaction to the verdict is that his comments combine the delegitimization of democratic institutions with ad hominem attacks – name-calling – and scapegoating. This strategy is textbook demagoguery.

The day after the judgment, Trump began his 33 minutes of public remarks with what seemed like a non sequitur, shifting from the case, to ad hominem attacks, to immigration, and back to ad hominem attacks:

“This is a case where if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone. These are bad people. These are in many cases, I believe, sick people. When you look at our country what is happening, where millions of people are flowing in from all parts of the world – not just South America, from Africa, from Asia, from the Middle East – and they’re coming in from jails and prisons and they’re coming in from mental institutions and insane asylums. They are coming in from all over the world into our country. And we have a president and a group of fascists that don’t want to do anything about it. Because they could, right now, today. They could stop it, but he’s not. They’re destroying our country.”

Voters are encouraged to believe that the government — comprised of “sick people” and “fascists” — is after them, as are immigrants.

Although Trump’s jumbled approach makes his rhetoric sound disjointed — even chaotic — it’s carefully designed to stoke fear and create an atmosphere more amenable to an anti-democratic strongman. Trump’s jaunty 2016 campaign promise, “I alone can fix it,” and his more recent, ostensible “joke” about being “dictator for one day,” have given way to dire pronouncements from Trump about his fellow citizens, such as this late-2023 statement: “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within.”

The strategy would be less effective if Trump was the only one deploying it. But, following a familiar pattern, prominent Republicans reliably echoed his framing.

Juan Cole, “State of Exception,” Digital, Dream / Dreamland v 3, PS Express, 2024

The Associated Press reported that the “ferocity of the outcry was remarkable, tossing aside usual restraints that lawmakers and political figures have observed in the past when refraining from criticism of judges and juries.”

The Guardian summarized Republicans’ responses: “A shameful day in American History. A sham show trial. A kangaroo court. A total witch-hunt. Worthy of a banana republic. These were the reactions from senior elected Republicans, who once claimed the mantle of the party of law and order, to the news that Donald Trump had become the first former US president convicted of a crime.”

Republican senator and vice-presidential hopeful Tim Scott’s impassioned attack on the judiciary was emblematic of the response. He called the verdict a “hoax,” a “sham” and an “absolute injustice justice system.” He then addressed Bragg, the Manhatten district attorney, directly, saying, “DA Bragg, hear me clearly: You cannot silence the American people. You cannot stop us from voting for change.”

GOP Sen. Tim Scott on the Trump conviction.

‘Hang everyone’

Stoking fear through ad hominem attacks and scapegoating is often a precursor to violence. The Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol followed Trump’s complaints about a “rigged” election.

NBC News reported that in the aftermath of Trump complaining about a “rigged” jury trial, posts are circulating on social media that target trial Judge Merchan, Bragg and the jurors with doxxing, intimidation and even death threats.

NBC quoted one poster who said, “We need to identify each juror. Then make them miserable. Maybe even suicidal.” Reuters quoted Patriots.win users who said, “1,000,000 men (armed) need to go to Washington and hang everyone. That’s the only solution” and “Trump should already know he has an army willing to fight and die for him if he says the words. … I’ll take up arms if he asks.”

Not everyone who supports Trump politically is poised to “take up arms,” but video posted on X by Donald Trump Jr. with the tagline “F— JOE BIDEN” shows an arena full of fans awaiting the UFC lightweight championship chanting “F— Joe Biden” and cheering Trump as he smiles and raises his fist.

Video of the event was posted on YouTube and circulated by right-wing websites like the Daily Caller and Breitbart.

In her book “Demagoguery and Democracy,” communication scholar Patricia Roberts-Miller explains that “We don’t have demagoguery in our culture because a demagogue came to power; when demagoguery becomes the normal way of participating in public discourse, then it’s just a question of time until a demagogue arises.”

A demagogue has arisen.The Conversation

Karrin Vasby Anderson, Professor of Communication Studies, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Forests may not benefit from extra CO2, spelling further Danger of Global Heating https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/forests-benefit-spelling.html Mon, 10 Jun 2024 04:02:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218977 By Kristine Crous, Western Sydney University; Belinda Medlyn, Western Sydney University; and David S Ellsworth, Western Sydney University |

(The Conversation) – As humanity continues to burn fossil fuels, the delicate balance of life on Earth is changing. That’s true of trees, many of which are growing faster as a result of increased carbon dioxide (CO₂) concentrations in our atmosphere.

But not all trees are responding in this way. In particular, eucalypts – Australia’s iconic forest trees – haven’t benefited from the increase in CO₂ as they were expected to.

Why not? Our new research, published today in Nature, shows it comes down to a below-ground battle for phosphorus, a mineral nutrient in soils that is essential for tree growth. The results suggest in some parts of the world, increased CO₂ means tiny bugs in the soil “hold onto” their phosphorus, making less available for trees.

This is alarming news, because according to current projections, global forest growth is meant to limit damage from global warming.

What our study involved

Our study used data from a Western Sydney University experiment known as “Eucalyptus Free Air CO₂ Enrichment”, or EucFACE. The experiment is located in a century-old Cumberland plain woodland in Sydney’s Hawkesbury district.

CO₂ is released into the woodland through a computer‐controlled system. Scientists then monitor the effects on trees, soils and the broader ecosystem. Over six years, CO₂ was raised to the levels expected around the year 2050 (according to the current business-as-usual emissions trajectory).

Our previous studies found the woodland trees did not show any extra growth at high CO₂ levels. We suspected the low availability of soil phosphorus was the cause, and set out to test this.

Phosphorus is crucial to the process of photosynthesis that makes trees grow. Phosphorus in soil is provided by bugs known as microbes. These micro-organisms break down dead and decaying matter, and in the process change phosphorus into a form that plants can take up with their roots.

Most Australian soils are naturally low in phosphorus, because they are derived from ancient, nutrient-depleted rocks. The same is true for most soils in tropical and subtropical regions. That makes the phosphorus service provided by microbes even more important.

We sampled phosphorus in all parts of the ecosystem, tracing its journey from the soil to the trees. We found under high-CO₂ conditions the microbes keep more of the phosphorus they produce, to aid their own metabolism. This left less available for trees to take up.

This occurred despite the trees trying to “bargain” for phosphorus by releasing extra carbon into the soil to feed the microbes.


Image by Hans from Pixabay

What’s more, trees are big “recyclers” of phosphorus – they remove half of the phosphorus from any leaf before it falls. But this was still not enough to support extra tree growth.

Why this matters

Our study is the first to show how the phosphorus cycle is affected by high CO₂ – and in particular, the role of soil microbes.

The results are important to predicting soil phosphorus availability, and plant productivity, in woodlands and forests as CO₂ levels increase in the atmosphere.

Current climate projections assume increasing CO₂ will lead to more forest growth globally. Forests are a vital carbon “sink” – that is, they draw down carbon from the atmosphere. So the increased forest growth was projected to go some way to limiting the effects of climate change.

If our results are taken into account, future warming would be higher than current projections. However, it’s important to verify our results in other locations, with other tree species. New experiments are being formed by overseas teams, including in the Amazon rainforest, to test the findings.

Importantly, our results don’t mean that forests are not a crucial sink for carbon. Forests hold a vast quantity of carbon. Avoiding deforestation and planting new forests are both valuable means of maintaining and adding to carbon stores.

Our research demonstrates the importance of considering soils when growing trees. We also hope our research stimulates further efforts to find phosphorus in ecosystems, especially in tropical rainforests where phosphorus is often greatly limited.The Conversation

Kristine Crous, Senior Lecturer, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University; Belinda Medlyn, Distinguished Professor, Ecosystem Function and Integration, Western Sydney University, and David S Ellsworth, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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