Thursday, November 23, 2023

Rosalynn Carter's Strawberry Cake in the Kitchen

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Rosalynn Carter passed away (Rebecca's "rosalynn carter" notes the passing).  Heather e-mailed that she was in third grade when Jimmy Carter became president and her school did a trip to DC late that spring and got to tour the White House.  Rosalynn and two staff members were walking through the hall and stopped to speak to the kids.  That had a huge impact on Heather -- I imagine it would on most kids -- and she's sad (as I think the whole nation is) over the passing.  People magazine is noting Rosalynn's recipe for Strawberry Cake and Heather asked if I could note it.  Sure will:

1 package of yellow or white cake mix
1 3-ounce package of strawberry jello
3/4 cup cooking oil
1 cup chopped nuts
4 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 10-ounce package of frozen strawberries or 1 pint fresh strawberries with 1/2 cup of sugar 

Mix all ingredients and beat well; pour into angle food cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.
Serve plain or with whipped cream.

People also notes:

Rosalynn was married to the nation’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter, for 77 years, and served as the first lady during his tenure from 1977 to 1981. She is survived by their four children and numerous grandchildren and great-children. Jimmy, who terminated medical intervention in February amid his own health challenges at the age of 99, remains in hospice care at home.

The National Women's Hall of Fame inductee is remembered for her human rights advocacy work throughout her life. Rosalynn wrote five books and was the recipient of numerous honors from organizations like the National Organization of Women and the National Mental Health Association.

She has been honored by messages that have poured in from world leaders, as well as many other political and public figures. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are among the many people who have shared their tributes to Rosalynn. They released a statement Sunday, remembering Rosalynn for "inspiring a nation and the world" with her dedication to addressing "many of society's greatest needs."

Here's The National Archives noting the recipe:

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:

Wednesday, November 22, 2023.  A pause is not a cease-fire and more realities. 

CNN notes, "Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day humanitarian pause to allow the release of at least 50 hostages – women and children – held in Gaza. The deal will also involve the release of 150 Palestinians, including women and children, held in Israeli prisons."  ALJAZEERA provides more specifics:

Under the truce, Hamas says the initial 50 captives will be released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

Israel’s justice ministry has published a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners who could be among those freed. Some details:

  • The list includes at least 33 women and 123 minors
  • The youngest detainees are 14, while the eldest is a 59-year-old woman
  • None of the male detainees listed is older than 18; they all have been arrested since 2021, with the vast majority detained in the past year
  • Most of those in the list are still awaiting trial
  • Their charges range from incitement to stone-throwing to attempted murder
  • Among the more well-known prisoners on the list is 38-year-old Israa Jaabis.

NBC NEWS adds, "The agreement which Hamas said will start tomorrow, was reached after weeks of talks brokered by the U.S. and Qatar. It will also allow humanitarian aid and fuel into the besieged Gaza Strip. The hostages' families or others have 24 hours to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to object to the deal."

If the deal holds, it's not much at all.  It's four days.  The Israeli government -- which continues to attack Gaza today -- has already stated that after the pause, they will return to bombing and attacking.  They're finally going to allow fuel and humanitarian aid in?  How sweet of them after people have died in hospitals in the last week because of lack of fuel and humanitarian aid (that was sarcasm).  US President Joe Biden issued the following statement:

I welcome the deal to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist group Hamas during its brutal assault against Israel on October 7th. 

Jill and I have been keeping all those held hostage and their loved ones close to our hearts these many weeks, and I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented.

I thank Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt for their critical leadership and partnership in reaching this deal.  And I appreciate the commitment that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have made in supporting an extended pause to ensure this deal can be fully carried out and to ensure the provision of additional humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza. I look forward to speaking with each of these leaders and staying in close contact as we work to ensure this deal is carried through in its entirety. It is important that all aspects of this deal be fully implemented.

As President, I have no higher priority than ensuring the safety of Americans held hostage around the world. That’s why—from the earliest moments of Hamas’s brutal assault—my national security team and I have worked closely with regional partners to do everything possible to secure the release of our fellow citizens.  We saw the first results of that effort in late October, when two Americans were reunited with their loved ones.  Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released. 

Today’s deal is a testament to the tireless diplomacy and determination of many dedicated individuals across the United States Government to bring Americans home.

And I'm sure he is grateful.  Grateful that this fig leaf can be grasped by the deluded at Thanksgiving gatherings tomorrow.  Otherwise, family members might force them to realize the reality of the slaughter that's taken place.  Instead the deluded and the elderly can cling to this and close their minds to the truth.

  If it holds, the Qatar-mediated hostage deal will mark a temporary reprieve in what has been a catastrophic six-week war. Israel's response to the October 7 Hamas-led attack—which killed roughly 1,200 people—has decimated large swaths of the Gaza Strip, wrecking schools, homes, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure and killing more than 14,000 people, drawing accusations of genocide.

Israel's siege of the Palestinian enclave has left virtually the entire population on the brink of starvation and forced many of the territory's overwhelmed hospitals to shut down due to a lack of fuel and other critical supplies, depriving many patients—including premature babies—of necessary treatment. 

  Progressive U.S. lawmakers who have been calling for a cease-fire for weeks welcomed the newly announced hostage deal but said it's not sufficient, particularly if the Israeli government resumes its devastating bombing campaign once the four-day pause is over—as Netanyahu has said he intends to do.

"A temporary pause in the violence is not enough," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said in a statement. "We must move with urgency to save as many lives as possible and achieve a permanent cease-fire agreement. Over 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since this violence began, including thousands of children, and 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes."

“Further displacement of Palestinians and forced annexation of their land will only perpetuate this conflict," Tlaib added. "Expanding the illegal occupation will never lead to a just and lasting peace. We must address the root causes of this conflict."

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), the lead sponsor of a cease-fire resolution in the U.S. House, said the pause announcement "further proves the effectiveness of de-escalation and diplomacy—not military force—as a means of saving lives and affirms why we must keep up our push for a permanent cease-fire."

"When this agreement expires, the bombing will continue, thousands more will die, and millions of people will continue to be displaced," said Bush. "We must continue to vigorously push for a permanent cease-fire that ends this violence, protects and saves lives, and ensures the safe return of all hostages, including those who are being arbitrarily detained."

The advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace echoed Bush and Tlaib, saying that "the Israeli government's collective punishment and unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza cannot just be put on 'pause'; it must be stopped." 

Even if the truce between Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Hamas results in the promised four-day pause in hostilities – or longer – the horror enveloping Gaza in terms of lives lost is worse than many people think. Among those who oppose Israel’s onslaught, there are still those who do not truly grasp it. It’s understandable that Israeli authorities are seeking to sow doubt about the size of the death toll, because the numbers expose the gravity of the crimes being committed. But we should not be deceived.

Take the argument that the health ministry is Hamas-run and, therefore, its figures can never be trusted. It sounds like a reasonable enough claim on the surface, until you realise that in previous conflicts the death toll reported by the ministry was largely consistent with the UN’s and even Israel’s counts. Last month, after doubts were raised by President Biden, the ministry even released the names, ages and identification numbers of the victims.

Indeed, the health ministry’s official estimate – currently 13,300 dead after six weeks – could well be an underestimate, as a senior US official has conceded. The figures do not include the dead buried under rubble who have not been retrieved. According to the independent Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, which is chaired by US emeritus law professor and former UN special rapporteur on Palestine, Richard Falk, the civilian death toll as of 20 November is 16,413, with nearly 34,000 injured. This would mean one in every 142 Palestinian civilians killed in a month and a half.

Given that this slaughter may not end soon, the current health ministry tally of 13,300 dead, when placed in the context of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million, tells us something about the sheer scale of what has happened. Comparisons with other conflicts are truly eye-opening here. The Bosnian war loomed over my own childhood as a case study of an unspeakable atrocity. About 40,000 civilians died in those killing fields in the years between 1992 and 1995. That was over three years, not six weeks, and it was in a country whose prewar population was about twice that of Gaza.

But aren’t many of the deaths in Gaza not civilians, but Hamas militants, you might ask? The evidence suggests not. Research by the Iraq Body Count project, which diligently compiled violent civilian deaths after the 2003 invasion, concluded last month about Gaza that “few of the victims can have been combatants”. Analysing the ministry of health data, they found only a “modest excess of adult males killed”, which could be explained by their greater exposure to risk in, for instance, rescue efforts. With an estimated 70% of the dead being women and children – and many of the slain men unlikely to have been combatants – their conclusion is difficult to rebut.

The dead includes at least 102 United Nations workers.  In fact, last week  and CNN) reported, "More United Nations aid workers have been killed in Gaza than in any other single conflict in the organization’s 78-year history, the UN said Monday, a stark reminder that humanitarian staff from global agencies have not been spared from Israel’s relentless bombardment of the besieged strip."  The dead also includes journalists.  From yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: It’s been another devastating 24 hours in Gaza and southern Lebanon for journalists covering the 46-day Israeli bombardment. The Beirut-based TV channel Al Mayadeen has just announced two of its journalists were killed today in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. The network says correspondent Farah Omar and camera operator Rabih Al-Me’mari were deliberately targeted by an Israeli warplane after reporting on Israel’s latest bombardment of south Lebanon.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, Ayat Khaddura, a 27-year-old digital content and podcast presenter, has been reportedly killed along with her family in an Israeli airstrike. This is Ayat, one of her last video reports.

AYAT KHADDURA: [translated] This may be the last video for me. Today, the occupation dropped phosphorus bombs on the Beit Lahia project area and scary sound bombs and threw evacuation notices in the area. And, of course, almost the entire area has evacuated. Everyone started running madly in the streets. No one knows neither where they’re going to or coming from. We’re separated, of course. I and a few others remain at home, while the rest have evacuated, and we don’t know where they went. The situation is very scary. The situation is very terrifying. What is happening is very difficult. May God have mercy on us.

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, the head of the Gaza Press House was also killed by the Israeli military. Belal Jadallah was heading to southern Gaza when he was killed by an Israeli tank shell in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Belal was known as the “Godfather” of Palestinian journalism. He helped train generations of reporters and welcomed foreign correspondents and sponsored them when covering the Gaza Strip.

The Committee to Protect Journalists Monday announced a grim milestone had been reached with at least 50 journalists and media workers killed since October 7th. Forty-five of the journalists have been Palestinian. There have been three Israeli journalists killed, and there have been at least three Lebanese journalists killed. CPJ reports 11 journalists have been injured, three are reported missing, and 18 have been arrested. According to CPJ, the past month and a half has been the deadliest period of journalists covering the conflict since the media group began tracking these deaths over 30 years ago.

We go now to Philadelphia, where we’re joined by Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Sherif, welcome back to Democracy Now!, under horrific circumstances. The U.N. secretary-general says that the number of civilian deaths is “unparalleled and unprecedented.” Of course, journalists are civilians. As I woke up this morning, I got one text after another, first the young woman and her cameraman in southern Lebanon killed about an hour after she posted a video report. She’s standing in a field in southern Lebanon, and she’s talking about the Israeli military killing civilians. She and her cameraman are then hit and killed. And then, as I’m learning their names, another text comes in. This young reporter in northern Gaza is killed, even as she says in her report, “I fear I will die.” Can you talk about this latest news and then a man you have come to know, who worked with you on a CPJ report, the head of the Gaza journalists’ association, also killed in an airstrike?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Thank you, Amy, for having me.

I remember being on your show a little bit more of a month ago and saying, for journalists in the region, this is a deadly time. And it was the deadliest week back then. It became the deadliest month and now the deadliest six weeks on our record. I was not exaggerating. I was not speculating.

The killing of Belal Jadallah, who helped us document this deadly pattern of journalists being killed by Israeli fire over 21 years — just in May, we made a profile of 20 journalists. The majority, 18, were Palestinians. And he, Jadallah, his center have helped identify them, their families, get us their pictures. And on Sunday, he became a victim of this same deadly pattern when he was killed in his car. Jadallah has also provided crucial safety equipment for journalists in order to do their job safely. And he opened the Press House for journalists to use the electricity and internet when there was no other place.

This deadly pattern has existed before. It’s getting more deadly per day. We are investigating the three more killing today, adding to 50 as of yesterday. We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s unprecedented. And for journalists in Gaza specifically, the exponential risk is possibly the most dangerous we have seen. Journalists were killed in the very early stages at the two entry and exit points from Gaza — in the south, the Rafah crossing; in the north, the Erez crossing. And since then, they were killed everywhere in between. They were killed in the south in Rafah City, in Khan Younis, where they were told it’s going to be safe. They were killed in the middle in the Gaza Strip. And they were killed in the north in Gaza City. They have no safe haven. They have no exit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sherif, could you talk, as well, about the arrests of journalists in Gaza and the Occupied Territories? And also, your organization has criticized, as well, Israel for its censorship within Israel of the press in Israel. Could you talk about that, as well?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Well, we have documented separately from the casualties list, which includes journalists going missing, injured, the escalation of arrests. As of yesterday, 18 Palestinian journalists from the West Bank were arrested. Many of them were put in administrative detention, in military prosecutions. In addition, dozens of cases of censorship, direct censorship, cyberattacks, physical assaults, obstruction from coverage within the West Bank and within Israel.

In Israel, an emergency legislation has now given the government for the first time the unprecedented power of shutting down international media organization, including acting on Al Mayadeen — which two journalists were killed today in Lebanon — banning them in Israel, and allowing the government also to jail even Israeli journalists for up to a year under suspicious and these accusations of harming national morale and harming national security.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Also, here in the United States, we are getting much coverage on the commercial media of the war, of the Israeli war in Gaza, but it’s all of U.S. journalists that are basically based in Israel, and there are no U.S. journalists that I’ve seen that are actually in Gaza. And those who do go in only go in with the Israeli army and under the condition that Israel must review all of their videotape beforehand and approve it before it can go out. I’m wondering your sense of how the American people — what kind of story they’re getting as a result of these conditions?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Well, these conditions put local Palestinian photojournalists and freelancers at the most risk. They are the ones on the frontlines. We have not — we have seen a dwindling number of international media and international journalists within Gaza over the years because of the risks involved. And right now the Palestinian journalists are bearing the brunt of this risk and this heavy toll.

Of course, these casualties, the censorship is also coupled with communication blackouts for, to date, since the start of the war, that makes this more often news blackout, not just communication blackout. And, of course, that denies journalists a voice. It also denies people in the region and worldwide of essential media coverage, lifesaving information for 2 million Palestinians who are struggling to find food, clean water and shelter right now, but millions and hundreds of millions all over the world who are following this heartbreaking conflict and try to understand it, including in the U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: So, as Juan said, Sherif, you have — the Israeli military says they cannot guarantee the lives of journalists that go into Gaza. In early November — I’m just thinking back to a few weeks ago — the Palestine News Agency reported that their journalist Mohammad Abu Hattab was killed in an Israeli strike on his home in southern Gaza Strip along with 11 members of his family, including his wife, son and brother. His colleague, journalist Salman Al-Bashir, burst into tears during a live broadcast upon learning of Abu Hattab’s killing. As he spoke, Al-Bashir tore off his helmet and protective vest, labeled “press,” and threw them to the ground. And then there was a split screen, as he ripped off his gear, saying, “Why do we bother wearing this if we’re going to be killed anyway?” They showed the anchor back in the Palestine news studio as she wept as Al-Bashir tore off his helmet and protective vest. Your response to this situation and this whole issue of embedded journalism is the only way the U.S. media can get those reports inside Gaza, where their news reports are reviewed, and the Gazan journalists on the ground being killed one after another, dozens of Palestinian journalists killed?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Well, the Israeli army cannot escape or evade their responsibility under international law not to use unwarranted lethal force against journalists and against media facilities. It would constitute a possible war crime to do so. We have raised directly with Israeli officials the need for them to reform the rules of engagement, to respect press insignia and to ensure there are safeguards, checks when civilians and journalists are around. We have called for Israeli allies, including the U.S. government, European allies, to raise directly these issues, and publicly, with their Israeli counterparts. And we have called for the U.N. Security Council to include safety of journalists on the agenda in any diplomatic discussion.

Of course, the Israeli government are obliged under international law to protect journalists as civilians, but it’s also journalists’ vital role in time of war providing accurate, timely, independent information that gives them these protections under international law. And we want to make sure that the Israeli army, as well, do not continue to push false narratives and smear campaigns to try and justify the killing of those journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: Sherif Mansour, we want to thank you for being with us, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, speaking to us from Philadelphia.

Coming up, the acclaimed Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha has been detained at an Israeli checkpoint in Gaza, his whereabouts now unknown. Back in 20 seconds.

On the topic of the dead, AP reports:

Palestinian health officials in Gaza said Tuesday that they have lost the ability to count the dead because of the collapse of parts of the enclave’s health system and the difficulty of retrieving bodies from areas overrun by Israeli tanks and troops.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which carefully tracked casualties over the first five weeks of war, gave its most recent death toll of 11,078 on Nov. 10. The United Nations humanitarian office, which cites the Health Ministry death toll in its regular reports, still refers to 11,078 as the last verified death toll from the war.

One thing that doesn't die?  Lying by the Israeli government.  Arun Gupta (ZNET) explains:

Israeli propaganda is bad, really bad, comically bad

There are fake stories about Hamas beheading babies, and even beheading a fetus. There are outlandish claims of “mass rape so brutal that they broke their victims’ pelvis – women, grandmothers, children.” 

There is a fake Al Qaeda manual found on a dead Hamas fighter emblazoned with “Al Qaeda” in English on its cover. There’s a pristine copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf found in a child’s room of a Hamas “terrorism hub.

There’s the Israeli video of a fake nurse at al-Shifa Hospital ranting about Hamas stealing morphine and fuel that was seen more than 12 million times before being deleted. There’s Israeli footage of a Hamas tunnel under a hospital that turned out to be a Swedish Cold War-era bunker

There’s video of IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, the face of Israeli propaganda, touring a fake Hamas bunker where he said hostages were imprisoned under a children’s hospital. In the video Hagari points to a schedule in Arabic posted to a wall where “every terrorist writes his name” to take turns guarding hostages. In reality, the paper was a shift timetable with dates and days and no names.

As laughably bad as the propaganda is, it gets worse. After besieging hospitals in North Gaza for a week, Israel says it has proof that the largest hospital, al-Shifa, was a Hamas command center. Its evidence? An IDF video showing “about 10 guns.” 

That’s it  — 10 guns, some ammo, vests, uniforms. That’s all the “evidence” the Israelis could muster in a sprawling 10-acre complex with six separate hospitals and medical facilities. Shifa is so large that in October, 50,000 Gazans were sheltering there from relentless Israeli bombing. 

That simple fact, 117,000 displaced Gazans had taken refuge at Shifa and other hospitals in North Gaza, points to the real story. On Oct. 13 Israel issued orders for hospitals in North Gaza to evacuate, which the World Health Organization called a “death sentence” for thousands of injured and sick patients. Amnesty International said the orders amounted to “forced evacuation” and would violate international humanitarian law. 

On Oct. 14, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights warned that “in the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.”

That is Israel’s main goal in its war on Gaza hospitals. It is attacking places with the greatest protection under international law to show no place is safe. Routing terrified refugees from shelter in hospitals is necessary for Israel to ethnically cleanse the northern half and perhaps the entirety of Gaza.

Leaders of major emerging economies called for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza on Tuesday, and for a cessation of hostilities on both sides to ease the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

In a virtual summit chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the BRICS grouping denounced attacks on civilians in Palestine and Israel, with many leaders calling the forced displacement of Palestinians, within Gaza or outside the territory, “war crimes.”

“We condemned any kind of individual or mass forcible transfer and deportation of Palestinians from their own land,” a chair’s summary read. The group, which did not issue a joint declaration, also “reiterated that the forced transfer and deportation of Palestinians, whether inside Gaza or to neighbouring countries, constitute grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and war crimes and violations under International Humanitarian Law.”

The BRICS is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all major emerging economies looking for a greater say in a global order long dominated by the United States and its Western allies. These countries are often viewed as leaders of what is referred to in international policy speak as the “Global South”.

In the US?  Amy Goodman (DEMOCRACY NOW!) notes, "Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon became just the second senator to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, joining Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin. Merkley wrote, 'By waging a war that generates a shocking level of civilian carnage rather than a targeted campaign against Hamas, Israel is burning through its reserves of international support. Too many civilians and too many children have died, and we must value each and every child equally whether they are Israeli or Palestinian'."  From yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to the growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza coming from lawmakers in Washington. On Monday, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon became the second senator to demand a ceasefire, joining Dick Durbin of Illinois. According to one count, 42 members of Congress have now called for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Israel and occupied Palestine.

We’re joined now by Democratic Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont. Last week she became the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Balint. Thanks so much for joining us. Talk about why you’ve made this decision. You’re senator from Vermont. Bernie Sanders is not there yet, but you are. Talk about why.

REP. BECCA BALINT: So, I want to be really clear, Amy, with folks who are listening and watching, that I wrote the op-ed to express to Vermonters — it was really geared towards my constituents, and I should have anticipated that it might get national attention, but I actually didn’t. So, I wrote it for Vermonters, and what I wanted to do was really give voice to all the things that I had been feeling and thinking and wrestling with since the beginning of October, and wanted to articulate clearly for Vermonters what I thought needed to happen, so, you know, wanted to just lay it out there: The horrific violence has to stop. Hostages must be released. We have to end the suffering in Gaza. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve safety and security. And now more than ever, I believe that we need a true, negotiated ceasefire to get to a two-state solution.

And as you mentioned, both my senators here in Vermont have not yet made the call. But I know, in my conversations with them, that we actually want the same things. Where we differ is just in the strategy that is needed to get us there. But we all want to find a way to stop the violence, to stop the bombing. We don’t want to continue to see innocent civilians, including so many children and babies, die. And I just felt that it was really important for me to articulate clearly for Vermonters all of the complexity I was holding. And I honestly — when we released the op-ed, I was very focused on how my constituents would feel about what I said, and I didn’t anticipate that I was the first Jewish member of Congress to call specifically for a negotiated ceasefire, because I know we’ve been saying a lot of the same things for weeks. So, what I do know is there are no exact words right now that will sum up the totality of what we are all thinking and feeling about this situation, but I do know that we have complete agreement on an immediate cessation of hostilities, pausing the violence, ending the suffering, and trying to get to a negotiated ceasefire that will hold.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Representative, you’ve said that you and Representative Rashida Tlaib have been brought together by your people’s suffering and are now friends. Could you talk about the vitriol directed toward her as the only — 


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — Palestinian congresswoman?

REP. BECCA BALINT: Yes. I really appreciate the question. It’s disgusting. The Islamophobia right now is completely and totally out of control. And I was disgusted by the fact that colleagues are trying to go after the one Palestinian American member of Congress.

And as I said, you know, Rashida and I became friends early on in my tenure. We were brought together, I think, by — we both have big hearts. And she’s known a little bit like a mama bear in the caucus. She is very loving and gentle towards, you know, specifically new members, like making sure we have what we needed. I was really drawn to her because we are, as I said, two people that have people within our family that have endured suffering over a very long time. We are both parents to teenagers, and we share the struggles of that.

And actually, I don’t think it’s betraying a trust to say, you know, she sent me a message last week saying what she hopes is that in the future she and I will be able to walk together in a true democratic Palestine and in Israel, both of us together as friends, as people who understand the horrific suffering that is going on right now.

And I have really tried to use my platform, and will continue to do so, to stand up against the Islamophobia, and also the antisemitism. And we’ve discussed this, as well, that you can be critical of Israel, and you should be critical of Israel and Netanyahu and the policies — and I’ve never shied away from that — and I also am very uncomfortable in this moment by some of the outrageous antisemitism hurled at Jewish members of Congress, specifically progressive Jewish members of Congress who are trying to do the right thing in figuring out the correct strategy going forward. But, you know, Rashida will always be what I call one of my heart people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on the day after Rashida Tlaib was censured by the House of Representatives, we brought on Marione Ingram, 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, protesting outside the White House, calling for a ceasefire, and she condemned the censure —


AMY GOODMAN: — of your colleague, [Representative] Tlaib.

I want to thank you very much, Democratic Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont. She is the first openly LGBTQ member to represent Vermont in Congress, the first congresswoman to represent Vermont, and now the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. We’ll link to her op-ed in the VTDigger headlined “Cease-fire needed to stop bloodshed in Israel-Hamas conflict.”

Coming up, we go to Argentina, where the far-right political outsider Javier Milei has been elected president. He’s called “the Trump of Argentina.” The first to congratulate him was President Trump and the former Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Back in 20 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: “En el país de la libertad,” “In a Country of Liberty,” by the Argentine León Gieco, who signed a letter protesting Milei’s erasure of the horrors of Argentina’s 1976 to 1983 right-wing dictatorship that killed over 30,000 Argentinians.

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Mini pistachio cheese balls in the Kitchen

 Sue notes this no cook recipe for an appetizer:

Mini pistachio cheese balls (12 pieces) :

  • 200g goat cheese
  • 100g pistachios

Take a tablespoon of goat cheese and roll it in the palm of your hand. Repeat until you have 12 balls shaped.

Put the cheese balls into a plate and freeze them for 15 minutes so they harden a bit.

Meanwhile, shell the pistachios and chop them coarsely in a mortar or food processor.

Put the crushed pistachios in a shallow dish.

Take the cheese balls out of the freezer. At this time, you can reshape them a bit if some of them aren't exactly round.

Roll the balls into the pistachios, put a toothpick in and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

The most important tip is always that this is about gathering.  Good food or even great food is nice.  But it's about gathering.  Take a breath, don't get overwhelmed.

Enjoy Thanksgiving. 

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, November 21, 2023.  The assault on Gaza continues and expands. 

The assault continues on Gaza.  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."  AFP notes, "At least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, 30,000 injured, says Gaza's Health Ministry."  In addition the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing." The world watches as the US government is exposed as just another part of the killing machine.  And the see those who stand up and those who just go along. 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

To talk more about the dire situation in Gaza, we’re joined by Muhammad Shehada, a writer and analyst from Gaza, chief of communications at Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and a columnist at The Forward newspaper, a Jewish weekly in New York. He’s joining us from Copenhagen, where there have been a number of protests.

In fact, Muhammad, can you start with those protests? We are covering the protests here in the country and around the world. What’s happening in Copenhagen?

MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: It was actually pretty remarkable. I’ve never seen a protest of that size in Denmark for at least the last two years. There was the climate march last year in November around elections time, so every political party was very keen to show up there, including the prime minister. But the demonstration yesterday for Gaza was almost twice the size of Denmark’s climate march, and the climate is a very huge topic here. And it’s been a tremendous ongoing daily movement where people move with demonstrations every night to different locations of Denmark’s capital to make a statement about the necessity of a ceasefire and to stop the bloodshed in Gaza. So it’s been extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: And do people there face the same issue that they face in the United States, being accused by some that if they criticize Israel, they’re automatically antisemitic?

MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. There’s plenty of that. Even the Danish prime minister, she laid a wreath of flowers at the Israeli Embassy, and then she was asked, “Would you do the same to Palestinian victims?” And she said, “There is no comparison whatsoever. Israel is defending itself. Hamas is a terrorist organization.” So, that was basically the sentiment. It’s the same in Danish media. So, for instance, the question of “Do you condemn Hamas?” is, again, the same question asked to any person of color whenever they want to talk about what Israel has done to them and their own families in Gaza. And the media bias is very visible, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: In the last few days — well, the Israeli military completely controls the media of international journalists in Gaza, does not let them in unless they are embedded with the Israeli military, and they review their video, unless they’re, you know, journalists, Gazan journalists, Palestinian journalists inside Gaza, of course, are there operating. So many of them, more than 30 of them, have been killed. But in the last few days, the Israeli military has brought in journalists from BBC, from CNN, and they show them a hole at Al-Shifa Hospital, where they say this goes directly down, right near Al-Shifa, into the ground and then underneath Al-Shifa. Can you talk about what we understand at this point?

MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Yeah, absolutely. As you said, Amy, it’s very horrendous to see journalists agreeing to these humiliating conditions that basically mean anything they convey is literal propaganda, because there are three conditions. You are not allowed to speak to any Palestinian or Gazan to challenge what the IDF is spoon-feeding you. You are not allowed to go beyond the tour that the IDF has staged, so you stick to what the IDF wants to show you and where they take you. And you have to review the material with them before you publish, so that the result of that is not journalism. It’s propaganda.

But with Al-Shifa Hospital, what we’ve seen is, basically, for Gaza’s main medical complex, of giant symbolic value and of important, crucial necessity to the lives of thousands — there were about 50,000 people sheltering there — for Israel to say that it has lost its protected status, it has a huge burden of proof to show that the hospital was used to direct or engage in hostilities against it. But up until now, what we have, the facts that we know, is that not a single bullet was fired against the IDF from the hospital over the last week or they have operated in the hospital completely. Not a single bullet. Not a single footage of a Hamas rocket being fired from the hospital. And not a single incident of the sprawling — alleged sprawling command-and-control centers that Israel has published as CGI-animated footage of and claimed that they knew the precise entrance to. They have not shown any of that. And they have not shown or captured any Hamas militants in the hospital or Hamas members. So, basically, there is no satisfying proof for the hospital to lose its protected status and for what Israel has inflicted on the hospital for the last week. They starved, literally starved, everyone inside. About eight babies were suffocated to death. Twenty-two people in the ICU units were killed, and six dialysis patients were killed. The overall totality of how many people killed were there were 53 in total. So, that is very atrocious.

And as you said, the only evidence that Israel had to show for it was a hole in the ground. And I consulted with experts in Gaza, experienced engineers who are familiar with sort of different structures that were observed — for instance, Hamas tunnels — and they said that does not look like a Hamas tunnel whatsoever, because you have two very giant, very solid concrete columns on both sides of the entrance, the shaft’s entrance, and these can only be built by pouring cement down in a mold and vibrating every time you pour a little bit, and vibrate it with a concrete vibrator, and wait for it to dry. And that takes days, and it makes a huge noise. In a hospital in full view of thousands of people going in and out on a daily basis, that’s not how you build a secret tunnel. And the IDF has not allowed anyone to go inside the alleged tunnel to see what’s in it. But even if you presume that it is a tunnel, the IDF would still have a burden of proof to show that Hamas was actually using it at the time of the IDF raid to essentially legitimize their raid, or using it at all during that war. They have not shown any evidence of that.

AMY GOODMAN: I saw one Israeli military spokesperson showing a CNN reporter and saying, “We believe that at the bottom there,” where you see a metal door — they haven’t opened it, because they say they’re afraid there are explosives that are attached to it — it would make some kind of sharp turn, and that would then go under the hospital. So, they haven’t shown that the tunnel itself is under the hospital. They say what’s behind it, what they can’t see, they think, makes a turn.

MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Yeah, but even with that door, I know [inaudible] that Hamas and other militant groups were abiding by a very strict decision, since 2014 at least, to not have any military activities in or around hospitals, because that was previously Israel’s pretext for bombing medical facilities and schools and homes. So they say they had a strict decision not to use it. You don’t need to believe Hamas, but you take a statement that Gaza’s Ministry of Health and Hamas, as well, have made. They said that we would allow any international expedition, a group of experts, to come into Gaza and vet and scrutinize every little aspect of the hospital, without any of the patients dying. And Israel’s answer to that has been a resounding refusal.

So, if Israel had more than a week — they had eight days inside the hospital, daily operations, uninterrupted, unattacked, unimpeded, going through every single room, every single detail — and still unable to show any traces of Hamas using the hospital for military activities, the IDF propaganda becomes more or less a laughingstock than actual sort of evidence or communication. Especially when last week they went to a children’s hospital, the Rantisi Hospital, after doing the same, surrounding it, besieging it, starving people inside, forcing them out at gunpoint, and then, once they went inside, the spokesperson of the IDF, he went to the basement, and he showed a piece of paper on the wall, and he said, “This shows the names of Hamas terrorists that were guarding hostages here.” And he showed a baby nappy and a bottle of milk, and he said that’s proof — a bottle of milk in a children’s hospital, where thousands of people were taking refuge. But even with the list that he showed on the wall, it was basically a calendar with the names “Saturday,” “Sunday,” “Monday.” So, if you believe Monday is a terrorist, a legitimate target, go ahead and kill Monday. You would have my utmost sympathy.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any information on the latest negotiations, the deal where dozens of hostages would be released by Hamas, particularly women and children, prisoners would be released by Israel — there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails — and there would be some kind of ceasefire?

MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Yeah, yeah. There’s plenty of proposals that have been put on the table, and I’ve been following them up very meticulously. So, the priority right now is to get Israeli children, women and elderly, and civilian hostages altogether, especially foreigners, released and returned to Israel. And Hamas alleges that some of them were kidnapped by other groups, once the fence collapsed, and that they still need to audit and collect these hostages and release them, which is why they’ve been asking for a temporary ceasefire for five days, to allow them to go and find the hostages held by more minor and less known groups, and with Nasser Salah al-Deen, Saraya al-Quds, Kitab ul-Mujahideen, etc. So, basically, that’s one of the reasons.

The other is, the negotiations, where it stopped is Hamas promised to release about 50 to 70 civilian hostages on stages during a five-day ceasefire, in return mainly for Israel to allow food and humanitarian aid and fuel to go to all of Gaza, especially the north, because now the northern half, Israel has not been allowing any food, water, electricity or fuel to go inside the north for the last 44 days. It has become a death zone to force people out and to defeat Hamas militarily by besieging and starving and randomly even killing everyone inside. So, basically, Hamas’s condition was that Israel allows aid to go to the north for people that are still there, tens of thousands, if not over 100,000 people, and to allow fuel to go through the United Nations to run, for instance, Gaza’s sole power plant to power water distillation facilities and water sewage treatment facilities, etc., to prevent diseases and a humanitarian catastrophe. So, that has been the demand.

There are two logistical stumbling blocks that are obstructing the talks. They say the two sides are almost in agreement, but the two major blocks is basically Hamas asking that people who fled to the south be allowed during these five days of ceasefire — they should be allowed to go back if they wanted to, or people in the north to go south. And Israel is objecting to that. And Hamas is asking the Israeli military tanks and vehicles on the ground to pull back a little bit to allow for the hostages to be taken out and to be moved to Rafah, where they would be released, and also in the south, as well. And they’re asking the Israelis to suspend their drone surveillance on top of Gaza, because they are afraid that Israel would use that moment of the hostage release to find out the hideouts of Hamas and their military infrastructure. So it’s more of a logistical militant demand than sort of a substantial block. But Israel is still refusing, as I said, the entry of humanitarian aid and fuel to the northern half, and they are refusing the return of people that were displaced south to return back to the north.

AMY GOODMAN: Muhammad Shehada, I want to thank you for being with us, writer and analyst from Gaza, chief of communications at Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, columnist with The Forward newspaper, a Jewish weekly here in New York, joining us from Copenhagen.

The Israeli government is in violation of international law.  That's a fact.  Here's another, they've been expanding the war with attacks on other areas -- such as the country of Leganon. 

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has condemned the Israeli attack that has killed two Al Mayadeen TV employees in southern Lebanon and a number of civilians.

“This attack proves once again that there are no limits to Israeli crimes, and that its goal is to silence the media that exposes its crimes and attacks,” broadcaster NBN Lebanon quoted him as saying on X.

“We extend our condolences to the Al Mayadeen family and the families of the two media martyrs, asking God to shower them with His mercy and grant their families patience and solace.”

Last week, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari threatened, “Lebanon’s citizens will bear the cost of this recklessness and of Hezbollah’s decision to be the defender of Hamas-ISIS. … The IDF has operational plans for changing the security situation in the north.”

On Monday morning, Israel carried out another round of provocative shelling. Hezbollah returned fire against Arab al-Aramshe and Bar’am, as well as the Biranit army base. No injuries were suffered, though heavy damage was caused to the barracks.

Further exchanges of fire followed between IDF artillery, helicopters, fighter jets and tanks and Hezbollah missiles and drones.

Since October 7, nearly 100 have been killed in Lebanon, including 74 members of Hezbollah, and nine in Israel, including six IDF soldiers.

On Friday, Britain’s leading foreign policy think tank Chatham House published, “The closer Israel gets to destroying Hamas, the more likely war with Hezbollah becomes.” It noted, “There are those in the Israeli government, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who want to more aggressively punish Hezbollah for its shelling of Israeli military positions along the border.”

People are watching this and they're rightly outraged.  Hilary Goodfriend (ZNET) notes:

As the United States and its European allies continue to pledge unconditional support for Israel’s unconscionable campaign of collective punishment and ethnic cleansing in Gaza, the Latin American left has become a beacon of moral and diplomatic leadership in the ongoing crisis.

From Brazil to Honduras, recently elected progressive administrations in South and Central America are mobilizing in defense of Palestinian lives. Their courage and clarity are a source of hope in an otherwise bleak geopolitical landscape.

On October 18, as Israel denied responsibility for bombing Gaza’s al-Ahli Hospital, Brazil put forward a conservative resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for “humanitarian pauses” in the assault. According to the Brazilian foreign ministry, the draft balanced forceful condemnations of Hamas’s attack on civilians with calls for Israeli restraint, “reflected the ethical necessity to provide civilians in Gaza with electricity, water, fuel, food and medical supplies, [and] the necessity to be protected from forced relocation when the prevailing conditions on the ground do not ensure a safe and secure displacement.” The United States vetoed the resolution. “Sadly, very sadly,” the ministry responded, “silence and inaction prevailed.”

The defeated United Nations resolution was moderate, balancing forceful condemnations of Hamas’s attacks on civilians with calls for Israeli restraint. But on October 25, Brazilian president Luiz Ignacio “Lula” da Silva was blunt. “What Is happening is not a war, it is a genocide,” he stated, reiterating calls for a cease-fire.

Israel appeared to retaliate against Brazil’s position by repeatedly blocking the evacuation of thirty-four Brazilians from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. On November 8, the Israeli ambassador further rebuked the Lula administration in a visit to Brazil’s congress, where he was received by far-right politicians including former president Jair Bolsonaro in a private meeting.

As multilateral efforts failed, Latin American governments turned to individual diplomatic action. On October 31, the Bolivian government of President Luis Arce of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party severed diplomatic relations with Israel, citing “crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people.” Israel had already been without a permanent ambassador in the country since 2009, when MAS president Evo Morales broke ties in response to the Israeli offensive in Gaza known as “Operation Cast Lead” that killed over a thousand Palestinians. Relations were restored in 2020 under the far-right coup government of Janine Áñez.

AP reports, "Senior officials from eight Muslim countries and territories are visiting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and other nations in an attempt to secure an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, a Turkish official said Tuesday.  The official said the group -- made up of representatives of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Qatar, Jordan and the Palestinian territories -- has already visited China and is due in Russia on Tuesday. The secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was also taking part in the talks."

While leaders use the process to try to end the assault, others resort to violence.  THE CRADLE notes, "The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced on 17 November its forces attacked three US bases in Syria and Iraq."  The Mujahideen of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq issued a statement, "In response to the crimes committed by the enemy against our people in Gaza, the Mujahideen of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq targeted the American occupation base, Tal Baidar, west of the Syrian city of Hasakah, with two drones, and they directly hit their targets."  Iraq knows all about occupation -- the US government has spent the last 23 years with its foot on their throats.  An independent nation doesn't need permission from the US government to buy gas from a  country they share a border with.

We'll again note that US President Joe Biden's actions have put a target on the back of US service members in the Middle East.


Things in Gaza have been in constant deterioration. Every single day that passes, new crises are compounded over the crises that already exist. It’s been over 40 days of non-stop bombardment. I’ve been saying many times throughout my coverage that what we have seen in this war, what we are witnessing is unlike any other war in any other place that anyone else has witnessed or lived through. The bombardments of hospitals, of UNRWA schools, residential homes—there’s no place that is not under fire. There’s no place that is not targeted from day one.
And the amount of people, the amount of casualties, the numbers of civilians that are being killed in this war is just enormous. It’s a crisis in itself that the entire world is watching all these civilians being killed and not doing anything about it and justifying for Israel that it is actually defending itself. This is not defending itself. I’ve said it many times, in many interviews: This is not a war against Hamas militants or against Palestinian fighters. This is a war on the civilians of Gaza. This is a genocide.

No one is spared in this war. Journalists are being deliberately attacked and deliberately killed. There are no crossings; there’s no food in the Strip. We’re talking about over 2.5 million people who are systematically being starved. There’s no water, no electricity. Any means of life in the Gaza Strip are running out. We’re struggling to eat. We’re literally struggling to drink, to find water to drink. We’re struggling to find water to bathe. The amount of pressure that this war is conducting on people is not just physical; it’s not just the fear of bombardment; it’s emotional, psychological, mental, you name it. You’re asking thousands to live together in open tents without water, without electricity, without any means of life, and diseases are spreading. My kids are at home but I fear every single time I go back home that I could transmit a disease to my kids.

It’s indescribable. Not finding a place that you can call safe, or that you can leave your family in safely—this is something that we have never experienced before. Having to leave your homes and evacuate all the way to the south on foot—this is something that we would have never imagined could ever happen to us. The press vest and the press helmet that we wear—we think that we’re protected as journalists, [but] almost 50 now have been killed in over 40 days of war. This hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world. No matter how [many] wars we’ve covered before, no matter how [many] escalations, no matter how bad they were, nothing compares to what we have been living these past 40 days.

This morning, THE GUARDIAN notes:

Unicef, the UN children’s agency, has said there is a serious threat of a mass disease outbreak in besieged Gaza.

“It’s a perfect storm for tragedy,” Unicef spokesperson James Elder said. “Without enough fuel, we will see the collapse of sanitation services. So we have then, on top of the mortars and the bombs, a perfect storm for the spread of disease.”

“We have a desperate lack of water, faecal matter strewn across densely populated settlements, an unacceptable lack of latrines, and severe, severe restraints on hand-washing, personal hygiene and cleaning.”

Speaking in Geneva via videolink from Cairo, Elder said the potential for wider loss of life in Gaza was being significantly exacerbated because an estimated 800,000 children are displaced from their homes.

“If children’s access to water and sanitation in Gaza continues to be restricted and insufficient, we will see a tragic yet entirely avoidable surge in the number of children dying,” AFP reports Elder said.

“It’s also important to note it’s starting to rain in Gaza. Now combined, children face a serious threat of mass disease outbreak. This, of course, would be lethal.” for tragedy' in Gaza amid warning on serious threat of mass disease outbreak.  This, of course, would be lethal."

The government of Israel does not seem able to grasp that the tide has turned.  This isn't 1978, they can't scapegoat Vanessa Redgrave and bully everyone into submission.  The bulk of the people across the world are watching in horror as a genocide is carried out.  And there is no comeback from this.  This is an indelible impression left upon the world.  This is not "defense" and the world is not fooled by that term.  This is a non-stop attack on an occupied people.  

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Health officials in Gaza say the overall death toll from Israel’s 45-day bombardment has topped 13,000. More than 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced, with many fearing they’ll never be allowed to return home.

In Gaza City, Israeli tanks have surrounded the Indonesian Hospital. Palestinian officials say at least 12 people have already been killed in Israeli strikes on the hospital. The government of Indonesia has condemned Israel’s targeting of the hospital, saying it’s a clear violation of international humanitarian laws.

Meanwhile, 31 premature babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza City, which has been seized by the Israeli military. The babies, who are suffering from dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis, have been taken to Rafah. Some have already been moved across the border.

On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike killed at least 50 Palestinian civilians at a U.N.-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, though some estimates put the number as high as 200. A second UNRWA school was also hit Saturday. This comes as the World Food Programme is warning residents of Gaza may soon face starvation due to a massive shortage of food.

We begin today’s show with Tamara Alrifai, spokesperson for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees. She’s joining us from Jordan.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Tamara. If you can talk about the situation right now in Gaza? We understand U.N. workers were allowed in to help transport these premature babies from northern Gaza to southern Gaza. Some have crossed over into Egypt right now. And then you have the bombing of the UNRWA schools — you work for UNRWA — in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

TAMARA ALRIFAI: I do work for UNRWA. And sadly, the bombing of an UNRWA school in Jabaliya is the 85th incident against an UNRWA building. We have 67 UNRWA buildings. Many of them are actual shelters that have sustained damage because of strikes nearby or direct hits, killing 176 people who were displaced inside the U.N. building, under the U.N. flag, in search for safety. So nowhere is safe in Gaza. This is, in a nutshell, the situation. Especially, as you so rightly mentioned, Amy, 1.7 million Gazans, of a total population of 2.2 million — that’s roughly 77% of the Gazan population — is now displaced outside of their homes, not knowing whether they’re going to go back, especially if they have moved from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south, noting that the north has been completely sealed for the last few weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what these schools did before, and now what’s happening.

TAMARA ALRIFAI: UNRWA has a system of education, schooling, where 300,000 girls and boys in Gaza receive quality education, very much focused on human rights, tolerance, conflict resolution. This is before the war. During this war, so for the last now six weeks, these schools have turned into shelters. People in Gaza, sadly, are used to wars, and they’re used to sheltering in UNRWA schools, because this is where they feel that there’s sanctity, a U.N. and a global understanding that when someone is in the protection of the U.N., that these buildings will not be targeted. Sadly, this is not the case. So, not only are three-quarters of the Gaza population now made forcibly displaced, some of them for the second or third time, but also their access to basic, basic food and humanitarian assistance is very, very restricted, given the low level of supplies that have been coming into the strip despite an agreement to get trucks in.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the children — well, I should say the infants — who were at Al-Shifa? We have all seen the pictures of them not in incubators, but huddled together, I think wrapped in aluminum to try to maintain their heat. Now U.N. workers getting in and bringing them south, and now, just as we’re broadcasting, apparently, some are being taken over the border into Egypt. What did that whole journey involve? How did the U.N. workers also get in?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: So, I think this picture of these premature infants will remain as one of the most compelling ones of this conflict. And I think it’ll come back to remind us that Gazans really hold onto life.

It took a very, very complex and elaborate U.N. operation to be able to go to Al-Shifa Hospital and remove these premature babies. The mission was led by the World Health Organization’s colleagues, actual heroes, with support from several U.N. organizations, including UNRWA.

But these kids, I’m afraid, these babies, might be joining their peers in Gaza, who before the war we had already identified that most children in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of having grown up within a choking blockade on the strip, where they cannot leave the strip, and because of having survived so many conflicts at such a young age. I really, really hope that these kids’ parents are alive and that they will be taken care of, but that’s something to remember about the long-term impact on the psychology of children of all these wars.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play for you a clip. This is Mark Regev, senior adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He recently spoke on MSNBC, where he was interviewed by Mehdi Hasan.

MEHDI HASAN: I have seen lots of children with my own lying eyes being pulled from the rubble. So —

MARK REGEV: Now, because they’re the pictures Hamas wants you to see. Exactly my point, Mehdi.

MEHDI HASAN: And also because they’re dead, Mark. Also —

MARK REGEV: They’re the pictures Hamas wants — no.

MEHDI HASAN: But they’re also people your government has killed. You accept that, right? You’ve killed children? Or do you deny that?

MARK REGEV: No, I do not. I do not. I do not. First of all, you don’t know how those people died, those children.


AMY GOODMAN: That was Mehdi Hasan saying, “Oh wow,” when Mark Regev said he did not accept that children have died in Gaza. Tamara Alrifai, your response?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: There are enough — there is enough footage, and there is enough documenting from credible sources, including the U.N., of children dying. Save the Children already a few weeks ago said that at least 4,000 children died. It is a reality. Every war in Gaza sees scores of children dead. And those who do not die, most of them have long-term impact on their psychological and mental well-being.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m wondering if you can talk about UNRWA, your agency, that serves Palestinians, warning that you’ll have to stop life-saving operations in Gaza unless you receive more fuel.

TAMARA ALRIFAI: A couple of days ago, there was an agreement on letting fuel into the strip, after many weeks, since the beginning of the war, of not allowing fuel in. The Israeli authorities had not allowed fuel in. I want to say a word about the centrality of fuel to humanitarian operations. Trucks that bring the aid from the Rafah crossing, and electricity generators that provide electricity to water pumping and water desalination so that people can have access to clean drinking water, life-saving machines at hospitals, bakeries that run — everything needs fuel.

The agreement of two days ago is an agreement to bring in 120,000 liters of fuel to cover two days. We require that same amount every single day. So, effectively, we’re getting half of what we need for our humanitarian operations, for the bakeries, the hospitals, the trucks and the clean water, which then will force us to have to take very difficult decisions as to what do we — what do we diminish? Do we diminish access to clean drinking water at the risk of skin and gastro diseases, especially in overcrowded shelters? Do we diminish the bread and the bakeries, especially to people, I just heard you say, that World Food Programme is warning of famine? And what do we diminish? Do we diminish bringing the trucks in from the Rafah border? If we do not get the exact amount we need for a minimal humanitarian response, then we’re going to have to function halfway and only provide half of what these people need.

AMY GOODMAN: If the IDF knows the coordinates of UNRWA locations, you know, among them, schools, can you explain how at least 40 UNRWA buildings have been hit?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: Sixty-seven buildings now, that we’re speaking. I cannot explain militarily how decisions are taken, but I can reiterate that UNRWA provides very regularly, every two weeks, the GPS locations of all its installations to both parties, so to the Israeli authorities but also to the de facto Hamas authorities, so that no one can say, “We did not know.” Every one of our schools and installations and warehouses are very clearly marked, and that marking is communicated.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the UNRWA mandate, Tamara?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: The UNRWA mandate is to provide basic services, schools, health services, social protection to Palestine refugees until there is a political solution whereby 5.9 people who are the descendants of the original Palestine refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 — there’s a solution that takes them into account so that they’re no longer refugees. These Palestine refugees are not citizens of a country, and therefore UNRWA runs services that are like public services — schools and health centers — until there’s a political solution and, hopefully, they no longer have that status in limbo of a refugee.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to Republicans who — Senate Republicans who introduced a bill to block funds for UNRWA, accusing it of teaching antisemitic school curricula and harboring terrorists in its facilities, Tamara?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: I respond by reminding of the extremely thorough reviews we do of all our teaching material. Page by page is reviewed to ensure that nothing we teach in our school, over 700 schools, runs against the U.N. values and principles. But I also respond that if UNRWA ceases to exist tomorrow, then there is a huge layer of stabilizing and stability that UNRWA usually offers in a very, very, very volatile area that also collapses. It is in everyone’s interest that the UNRWA schools, the health centers, the food assistance and the protection continues, because besides its humanitarian and human rights value, it has a stabilizing impact on the region.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you say to the Israeli military, that says they won’t allow in fuel because Hamas will take it?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: I will say that our trucks take the fuel from the borders into our depots, into our warehouses, and that we use it directly, or we deliver it directly to the bakeries and the hospitals. So there is no intermediary between the fuel and the beneficiaries. We are the only entity responsible for using that fuel.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Tamara, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called for a ceasefire. That has not been accomplished at this point. There have been protests around the world demanding a ceasefire. The first Jewish American congressmember, Becca Balint of Vermont, has joined scores of other congressmembers in calling for a ceasefire. But especially around the U.N., at this point, what can it do?

TAMARA ALRIFAI: It can continue calling for a ceasefire. I want to notice that several countries have called for a ceasefire, including France, and that without a ceasefire, it’s going to be very difficult to come back from the brink or to deescalate. So, the U.N., on the political side, must — different U.N. member states must continue to push for a ceasefire. And on the humanitarian side, we must continue to advocate for more funding and for more access to different parts of the Gaza Strip, because right now the access of aid agencies is almost entirely restricted to the south. The north is completely sealed. But we have to be able to reach people where they are, and for that, we need a ceasefire.

AMY GOODMAN: We thank you so much for being with us, Tamara Alrifai, spokesperson for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees. We’re going to break now. When we come back, we’ll talk more about what’s happening in Gaza. Stay with us.

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