To be clear, we welcome the modest mercies in Gaza: the "pause" in slaughter, release of hostages, freeing of Palestinian prisoners, most stone-throwing teenagers who've been warned they'll be re-arrested if their families show "joy." But as a handful of innocents get swapped, Palestinian children, victims of a racist hierarchy of victimhood, still suffer and die. Asks Abu al-Walid, who lost his son, daughter, seven nieces and nephews, his whole beloved "gang," "How will I live (when) these children are gone?"
Gaza officials estimate Israel has now killed over 16,000 civilians, almost half children, and injured at least 34,000; another 6,000 Palestinians are believed dead, trapped under rubble. With a health system all but collapsed, many more will likely continue to die of untreated wounds, spreading disease, winter rains and cold, lack of food, water, medical supplies. Along with wiping out hundreds of families, Israel's deliberate targeting of civilian homes has left over 1.7 million people homeless; most are crammed into U.N. facilities in the south without adequate food, water, toilets or care. Monday's news of a two-day extension of the "pause" was welcomed on all sides, as was the UN's first delivery of drinking water and other humanitarian aid, but rights groups said it "barely registers" in light of the massive need, "breathtaking" death toll, and vast destruction wrought by the Israeli equivalent of two nuclear bombs. During this relative calm, scarred, stunned Gazans have emergedto try and recover relatives' bodies under the debris, stand in lines for flour, water, fuel, take their kids to the beach, travel north to see what's left of their ravaged homes after a brutal, US-backed Israeli campaign of collective punishment that rights advocates widely deem "a stain upon our souls."
In the face of that devastation, UN experts have urged investigations into war crimes by both Israel and Hamas; Jordan has joined much of the world in declaring Israel's assault within "the legal definition of genocide"; the EU's Josep Borrell has demanded a permanent ceasefire - “It makes no sense to give food to somebody that will be killed the day after" - and the UN warns "the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is getting worse by the day." None of that has stopped ongoing Israeli aggression: IDF forces have fired at people returning to inspect homes, killed over 200 Palestinians in the West Bank, including children, and arrested 3,200, "seized" $1.3 million from "Hamas homes" amidst Gazan stories of stolen jewelry and other items, and have escalated the rampant abuse of Palestinian political prisoners. This week, Israel's far-right Finance Minister proposed a budget with billions for the war and hundreds of millions to expand illegal settlements and arm settlers in the name of "empowerment and readiness," even as a monomaniacal Netanyahu vowed to "continue the war in full force until we achieve all our goals," however genocidal, refuting all that Biden malarkey about "freedom and dignity" to swear he's "the only one" who can erase a Palestinian state.
Still, the ever-corrupt Netanyahu has said he's open to extending the truce, one day for every 10 additional hostages, because he's "moved to the depths of my heart" by seeing families reunited, and definitely not because he's hungry for good press that could save his own political skin. With the four-day pause due to end Tuesday now extended two days, the media has largely obliged, offering up a flood of empathic coverage about Hamas' release of what are now 69 captives, most Israeli women and children. Strikingly, doctors have found the hostages in "satisfactory" health, at least physically; the trauma they likely endured remains an open question. "They don’t have any serious sickness, but you can see they're not in the best condition," said a doctor, adding they're monitoring the hostages' "sodium balance" as they reintroduce "routine eating." Many hostages lost their homes, they added, "so they've nowhere to return to, and that's also hard to accept." To date, none of the extensive coverage has noted that the same or worse hardships - sodium imbalances (with no water), no foreseeable chance to return to "routine eating" (no food), and no homes to return to (with dead relatives trapped under them) - afflict hundreds of thousands of Gazans.
Meanwhile, mainstream Israeli media have barely covered the release of up to 300 Palestinian prisoners, all women and minors; most recently, Monday saw 30 teens and three women freed from Ofer prison in the West Bank and a prison in Jerusalem. "It would never occur to them, even for a moment, to tarnish the Jews’ feelings of happiness with the happiness of Arabs," writes Haaretz's Odeh Bisharat, quoting Psalms: "He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep." As proof "there’s no prouder form of nationalism than making 'the other' miserable," police "worked (for) hours to tamp down the joy" of female Palestinian prisoners," including enforcing a ban - the fine is $18,700 - on giving candy to well-wishers by confiscating it from the home of prisoner Amani al-Hashim in Beit Hanina. Days before the release, right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had urged his "fine boys" in the Israeli Police to use "an iron fist" to ensure Palestinian unhappiness. “My instructions are clear - there are to be no expressions of joy," he said. "Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism. Victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, those Nazis." Deuteronomy 32:35: "Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip."
On Sunday, Israel published a list of Palestinian prisoners being freed and their alleged "crimes," mostly stone-throwing, that reveals a flagrant "stratification of victimhood” wherein one captive Israeli child gets more public attention than thousands of Palestinian children imprisoned for trifling acts, along with thousands killed in bombings and even more thousands captive to an occupying force that routinely terrorizes, ghettoizes, and arrests them in the middle of the night. The list is also "a dizzying testament to just how central detention and imprisonment are to Israel’s occupation and control over Palestinians," and how inequitably that control is wielded. Each year, up to 700 Palestinian children as young as 12 are detained as "security prisoners"; by far most of those being freed - 287 - are 18 or under, and of 146 who are 18, most came of age in prison. So far Israel has freed 150 prisoners, 117 children and 33 women; over the same four days, they arrested at least 133, and 3,160 since Oct. 7. Still, despite the no-joy edict, crowds have gathered in the West Bank to collectively celebrate the releases, united by both grief for their losses and determination to embrace resilience and happiness as part of their resistance. Said one celebrant, "We are dancing with broken hearts."
“The cries of Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me," said Rep. Rashiba Tlaib, calling for a ceasefire. "What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all." But they do, here and in Israel, where a Knesset member once quoted an Israeli writer who called Palestinian children "little snakes." Most of the teenagers being freed, who were often held in isolation under indefinite "administrative detention," haven't been convicted or even tried, which in Israel, alone among "developed" countries, would occur in not a civil but military court that boasts a nearly 100% conviction rate. Yet under the Israeli government's hierarchy, they can be arrested based solely on "intention" to do...something. A 17-year-old served two years for throwing stones at an Israeli police car in Jerusalem, where Jewish settlers regularly riot, attack Palestinians and storm mosques without constraint, never mind arrest. One 18-year-old was arrested for “incitement on Instagram," another for declaring, "Allahu Akbar," God is great - this in an Israelwhere soldiers enforcing apartheid are deemed innocents, and calls for genocide "a legitimate way to raise national morale." Thus are "the roles of occupier and occupied, predator and prey, abuser and victim," reversed.
In all this, writes Jonathan Cook, "History is repeating itself." He cites Israel's genocidal consistency - and Western complicity - since 1948's Nakba, when up to 900,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land, farms, olive groves by Israelis who then blithely claimed they were "making the desert bloom." What followed was decades of a carefully crafted, deeply fraudulent narrative - Palestinians never belonged there, weren't massacred, chose to leave - and a steadfast rejection of all non-violent Palestinian resistance to it. When Gazans gathered at the fence marking their seige, they were shot; when they hurled flaming balloons in a plea for visibility, it was called terrorism; when a movement to boycott Israel for its crimes took root, it was dubbed anti-Semitism. Even chants - “From the river to the sea" - were deemed an existential threat to Israel, though it was a critique of apartheid, not Judaism, and Likud's own charter declares of Jews' "eternal and indisputable" right to Israel, "Between the Sea and the Jordan, there will only be Israeli sovereignty." The problem, says Cook, isn't a slogan. It's "settler colonialism's mission" - as always, to replace a native population - and the "collective and wilful refusal" of observers of Israel's establishment "to join the dots in Gaza."
Echoing him is British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who argues Gaza represents "the continuation of the Nakba." Its aim: "An uninhabitable Gaza Strip (and) the destruction of all the components of modern life," with a now-razed health system "the main military objective." In London after six weeks shuttling between Gaza's al-Ahli and al-Shifa hospitals and seeing "a massacre unfold," he dismissed multiple Israeli claims to justify their slaughter: That Hamas used Al-Shifa as a base of operations - he saw no evidence; that tunnels, some of which Israel built in the 1980s, proved their case; that civilians weren't targeted: "It appears the numbers tell a different story." So did his experience. Having spent 30 years in war zones in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, he described "medieval" conditions: Surgery without anaesthetic, soap or vinegar to clean wounds, patients screaming "in agony," children, again - 7 or 8,000 wounded, with up to 900, at times 12 a day, undergoing "very tough" amputations from being hit by fragmentary missiles. He also began to see burns from white phosphorus bombs; Israel denies using them, but Abu-Sittah plans to give war crime testimony to Scotland Yard. "If we live in a world where it’s okay to do this," he says, "that world is a dangerous place.”
Because that world is also infused with the message that Palestinian lives are of lesser value, last month a group of Gazan children held a "press conference" outside al-Shifah to plead for their existence. "We came to shout as children, urging you all to protect us," said a boy acting as spokesperson. "Stop the death. We want life." One can only hope they never saw the now-deleted video titled "Love Sanctified By Blood," created by warmonger and “crisis-communication expert" Ofer Rosenbaum, featuring a chorus of wide-eyed Israeli children singing, "Look the IDF is crossing the line/to annihilate the swastika-bearers/In another year there will be nothing there/And we will safely return to our homes/We will show the world/How today we destroy our enemy." "The bitter reality for us in Gaza," says Haidar Eid, a professor at Al-Aqsa University, "is that we are alone, beleaguered, under siege, and seen as undesirables even by some of those who are supposed to be our brethren." He denounces "the cowardice and hypocrisy" of Arab states, as well as the UN and EU, who have declined to help end a 17-year siege, and now genocide, evidently, incomprehensibly, because "thousands of corpses of women and children have failed to convince them of the need to act."
Photographer Majd Arandas, 29, felt the same isolation, declaring, "We are for Gaza, and Gaza has no one but us." Yet he chose to document the richness of Palestinian life, its land and sky and pockets of joy, "so the world knows there are people in Gaza who love life and beauty." Self-taught, Arandas often shot his images wide and in motion; said a mentor, "You got the sense he was trying to fit as much of the world into each frame as possible." "I am the living dead," Arandas wrote in 2016, but he held out the hope "our voice and cause reach the largest number of people." He was killed Nov. 1 by an Israeli airstrike near his home in Deir al-Balah. There are too many wrenching losses to count, and too many kids. The mother of Waseem Abedrabou, 8, wouldn't "let him sleep a meter away from her." But one night Waseem said he wanted to see his grandma, and she let him and his father Husam go stay with Husam's mother in Nuseirat. An airstrike killed them both; an uncle pulled his body from the rubble to return him to his mother; his aunt recalled a bright kid who'd won chess and engineering contests, and worried about losing his trophies if the home they'd left in Gaza City was bombed. "I don’t want him to be a number," she said. "Waseem’s eyes were full of dreams."
Abu 'Raed' al-Walid, a cheerful swimmer, volleyball player, Barcelona fan and muezzin "aged quickly" when his mother was killed, then his sister, children, nieces and nephews. "They took away Asma, my dear daughter and love of my soul," Raed laments. "My son Walid. My brother Ahmad’s four children. My sister Ilham’s daughter Najwa. My sister Reem’s children Yamen and Rawan." He made his "gang" kites from colored paper and flour-and-water glue, took them to the beach, built them a water-tank pool: "I die a hundred times a day as I remember how they died, how I couldn’t protect any of them." But in one small victory, award-winning poet Mosab Abu Toha, 32, has been released by the IDF after they detained and beat him as he tried to leave Gaza with his wife and three kids. He's been writing about fraught life in Gaza - "I am being killed every day with my people" - and, often, about kids. He was 8 when he first saw a rocket; his son Yazzan, 8, just asked him, "Are our toys still alive?" "Upon birth, mask up your children and leave them unnamed /so/ the angel of death won't find them," he writes. When bombed, "Turn off the lights in every room.../ have a bottle of water nearby/big enough to cool down/children’s fear." In 5th grade he saw a poster at the library claiming, "If you read books, you live more than one life." Now, "Whenever i look at faces/ around me...I read, 'If you live in Gaza, you die several times.'"
"Death was born here. It never left our neighborhoods." - Mosab Abu Toha
Seeking to celebrate what was once "the joy and beauty of Gaza," Majd Arandas caught boys leaping in the air at the beach. Photo by Majd Arandas
Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama’ra hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli jail.Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz/APA Images
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday issued yet another impassioned call for ambitious climate action after a trip to Antarctica and amid preparations for the U.N. Climate Change Conference later this week.
"I have just returned from Antarctica—the sleeping giant. A giant being awoken by climate chaos. Together, Antarctica and Greenland are melting well over three times faster than they were in the early 1990s," he told reporters in New York City.
"It is profoundly shocking to stand on the ice of Antarctica and hear directly from scientists how fast the ice is disappearing," the U.N. leader said of his trip to the continent last week, pointing out that "this year, Antarctic sea ice hit an all-time low."
"Leaders must not let the hopes of people around the world for a sustainable planet melt away."
Scientists project that 2023 will be the hottest year in 125,000 years. Recent research has also shown that Antarctica is warming faster than widely cited models predicted, and even if humanity significantly cuts planet-heating pollution from fossil fuels, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet faces an "unavoidable" increase in melting this century.
Guterres stressed Monday that "what happens in Antarctica doesn't stay in Antarctica. We live in an interconnected world. Melting sea ice means rising seas. And that directly endangers lives and livelihoods in coastal communities across the globe. Floods and saltwater intrusion imperil crops and drinking water—threatening food and water security."
"The movement of waters around Antarctica distributes heat, nutrients, and carbon around the world, helping to regulate our climate and regional weather patterns," he explained. "But that system is slowing as the Southern Ocean grows warmer and less dense. Further slowdown—or entire breakdown—would spell catastrophe."
"The cause of all this destruction is clear: the fossil fuel pollution coating the Earth and heating the planet," he stressed. "Without changing course, we're heading towards a calamitous 3°C temperature rise by the end of the century."
That's according to a U.N. analysis of currently implemented policies, released last week ahead of the COP28 summit—which will be hosted in the United Arab Emirates by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who has allegedly used meetings about the upcoming climate talks to push for fossil fuel deals with other governments.
"If we continue as we are, and I strongly hope we will not, the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets will cross a deadly tipping point. This alone would ultimately push up sea levels by around 10 meters. We are trapped in a deadly cycle," Guterres declared Monday. "At COP28, which starts later this week, leaders must break this cycle."
"Leaders must act to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, protect people from climate chaos, and end the fossil fuel age," the U.N. chief said, referencing a key goal of the 2015 Paris agreement. He called for tripling renewables, doubling energy efficiency, bringing clean power to all, a "clear and credible commitment" to phasing out fossil fuels, and "climate justice."
"Antarctica is crying out for action," Guterres said. "Leaders must not let the hopes of people around the world for a sustainable planet melt away. They must make COP28 count."
Experts on anti-poverty policies on Tuesday urged lawmakers weighing tax legislation to consider evidence that became strikingly clear in 2021: Guaranteeing that families have money on a monthly basis to provide for their children, via the expanded child tax credit, helped ensure that far fewer kids struggled with insufficient food and other essentials.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that policymakers have reportedly begun negotiating a possible year-end tax bill and have already heard from dozens of pro-business groups from across the country that have called for a tax code that "supports innovation" and enables businesses to "finance growth."
To return to what analysts have called "a historic reduction in poverty" that was observed just two years ago, CBPP called on negotiators in Congress to include "a well-designed expansion of the child tax credit (CTC) in any tax legislation considered," with the children from the lowest-income households prioritized.
"Letting 9 million children in this country live in poverty is a policy choice, as recent census data underscores," wrote Chuck Marr, Kris Cox, and Sarah Calame at CBPP. "Policymakers have an opportunity to make a different—and better—choice in the coming weeks. They should prioritize reducing child poverty—and improving the life prospects of millions of children."
As Common Dreams reported in September, the opposition of Republican senators and right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) led to the end of the expanded CTC, which helped push child poverty to a record low of 5.2% in 2021 as eligible families received up to $300 per child, per month. As a result, in 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the largest single-year increase in poverty among children in the U.S., which rose to 12.4%.
"If Congress had continued the American Rescue Plan's child tax credit expansion in 2022, about 3 million fewer children would have been in poverty, preventing more than half of the increase in the number of children in poverty last year, we estimate," wrote Marr, Cox, and Calame.
The decision to take thousands of dollars per year away from families struggling with the rising cost of living and stagnant wages was driven largely by Manchin's false claim that parents who were given money to help with the cost of childcare and groceries each month would spend the cash on drugs, but CBPP expressed hope that some Republicans facing tough reelection campaigns next year have signaled an interest in supporting the provision, which was backed by Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters in an Economic Security Project poll last year.
Civil society groups including the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) and Americans for Tax Fairness this week began calling on lawmakers to "put children first, not corporate profits" as they negotiate a tax bill.
"Right now, Congress is hearing from big business, not American families like yours," MPA told its supporters in a call to action. "We are the people who know how critical cash is to making a household work. We are the people our members of Congress need to hear from."
CBPP emphasized that "the details of any child tax credit expansion are important" and called for a particular focus on the children who have been left out of the credit in the past despite their families' struggles with the cost of housing, food, childcare, and other essentials.
The economists wrote that any tax bill must prioritize ensuring that 19 million children whose parents' incomes are too low to receive the full CTC must be "the focus of any child tax credit expansion."
Explaining that the current structure of the CTC is "upside down," they wrote that children in families with less than $2,500 in earnings are not eligible for any credit, while families with incomes below about $16,000 get less than $2,000 in total and middle- and high-income households receive the maximum of $2,000 per child.
For example, a childcare provider who has two children of their own and is a single parent might earn $15,000 per year and receive $1,875, while a married couple who employs the provider might earn $400,000 per year and receive $4,000 in CTC.
"The children who would benefit the most—children whose families face challenges affording rent, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation—often get the least," wrote the economists. "As a result, more children live in poverty than would if children in families with low incomes received the same child tax credit as children in families with higher incomes."
This inequity disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and Latino children whose parents are "overrepresented in low-paid work," noted CBPP.
The record low child poverty rate in 2021 was achieved by making the full CTC available to low-income families, raising the maximum credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children aged 5 and younger and $3,000 for older children, and providing the credit on a monthly basis rather than a lump sum after taxes were filed.
Marr, Cox, and Calame explained that simply raising the maximum amount for the CTC would do little to help the families who need it most, and a proposal led by Rep. John James (R-Mich.) would still leave many low-income families with partial or no credit.
By contrast, the economists proposed making the current $2,000 CTC—often called the "fully refundable" credit—to the lowest-income households, which could lift an estimated 1.5 million children out of poverty and boost the income of the single parent in CBPP's example by $2,125—a significant difference for a regular household income of $15,000.
"As policymakers evaluate approaches to expanding the child tax credit" in end-of-year tax legislation, said Marr, Cox, and Calame, "they should seek to maximize the number of children with low incomes lifted out of poverty."
The new right-wing government of New Zealand, sworn in on Sunday, surveyed the policies left in place by the Labour Party and announced the reversal of one historic measure that was passed with the goal of preventing thousands of smoking-related deaths every year.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, head of the National Party and a former airline executive, announced that the government would scrap the generational smoking ban passed under progressive former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2021—a law that was praised by public health experts and inspired similar legislation in the United Kingdom.
The law has barred anyone born after 2009 from ever buying cigarettes, with the goal of stopping young people from becoming smokers. It also drastically reduced the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products and cut the number of stores that are allowed to sell cigarettes from 6,000 nationwide to just 600.
Data modeling showed that the Smokefree Act would save $1.3 billion in health costs over two decades and would reduce mortality rates by 22% for women in New Zealand and by 9% for men.
Currently, about 5,000 people in New Zealand die each year from smoking-related causes.
The possibility of reducing those deaths didn't sway Luxon and his new administration to keep the law in place, with the new prime minister explaining that "coming back to those extra sources of revenue and other savings areas that will help us to fund the tax reduction" that the National Party aims to pass.
Boyd Swinburn, professor of population nutrition and global health at the University of Auckland, said the government is "effectively wanting smokers to continue smoking and more children to start so they can collect more excise tax."
Ben Uffindell, editor of the publication The Civilian, noted that Luxon's goal of increasing revenues and funding tax cuts "doesn't take into account increased cost to the health system."
Public health experts pointed out that the rollback of the law could particularly cost thousands of lives in the Indigenous Maori community.
Health CoalitionAotearoa (HCA), which uses the Maori-language name for New Zealand, said the government's move was "astounding," especially considering that new Minister of Health Dr. Shane Reti had previously stated support for anti-smoking measures.
"This is major loss for public health," said Swinburn, co-chair of the HCA, "and a huge win for the tobacco industry—whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives."
Teachers in Portland, Oregon and their supporters celebrated Monday after the local teachers union reached a tentative deal with the school district following a strike that lasted more than three weeks—paving the way for a finalized contract that the union said would provide "historic" investments in mental healthcare for students, reduce class sizes, and ensure teachers earn a fair wage.
Students returned to school on Monday for the first time since October 31, when the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) began its first strike ever following contract negotiations that had gone on for months with Portland Public Schools (PPS) without reaching an agreement.
The previous contract for about 3,700 members of the union had expired in June.
The tentative deal includes a cost-of-living raise that will reach 13.8% over three years, starting with a 6.25% raise this year. The PAT had originally called for a 20% cost-of-living adjustment, while the district offered less than 11%.
Teachers earn $50,000 per year as a starting salary in Portland, where the cost of living is 24% higher than the national average and housing costs 62% more than the average in the rest of the country, according to compensation research firm PayScale. The union said teacher pay had not been keeping up with inflation.
The tentative contract, which union members still need to ratify and the school board will need to approve at a Tuesday meeting, would represent "a watershed moment for Portland students, families, and educators," PAT president Angela Bonilla toldOregon Public Broadcasting.
"Educators walked picket lines alongside families, students, and allies—and because of that, our schools are getting the added investment they need," said Bonilla.
Teachers won non-pay-related concessions from the district including an increase to teacher planning time by 90 minutes each week for elementary and middle schools, additional classroom time for those grades, and a commitment from the district that it will triple the number of staffers who support students' mental and emotional health needs.
A sticking point in the negotiations that persisted over the weekend before the deal was reached was the question of assembling committees of parents and teachers who would tackle the problem of overcrowded classrooms.
PAT said the two sides had reached a deal including "shared decision-making committees involving educators and parents," but did not release specific details about the proposed committees.
"We know that the best solutions to problems that we have in our schools come from the folks who actually attend them, who work at them and who send their students to those places," Bonilla said at a press conference Sunday evening.
The tentative deal was announced days after Portland teachers and supporters escalated the fight by marching across the Burnside Bridge and halting traffic for about 15 minutes around 9:00 am last Tuesday.
PAT garnered support from celebrities including stars of the public education-themed sitcom Abbott Elementary, despite labor opponents' attempts to "villainize" the teachers, as one author and PPS parent, Madeline Lane-McKinley, said.
Despite claims that teachers were "depriving" students of classroom time, said Lane-McKinley, "my kid and so many others are showing up to support their teachers at the picket lines, getting a political education they will never forget."
Julia Silverman, an education reporter for The Oregonian, added that the nearly month-long strike "focused attention on whether it is time, after three decades, to fundamentally reconsider how the state of Oregon funds education."
PPS said during negotiations that state education funding limits the district's budget, and on Sunday said it will have to find $100 million in its budget to fund the contract. The school board said it would encourage voters to support the renewal of a property tax levy to help fund the deal.
Statewide attention on Oregon's school funding structure "absolutely wouldn't have happened without this strike," said one supporter. "Collective action sets the electoral agenda, not the other way around. Intense gratitude to Portland teachers."
As Israel and Hamas on Monday agreed to extend their temporary pause of fighting in the Gaza Strip, advocacy group leaders, U.S. state lawmakers, and actor and activist Cynthia Nixon were among those who launched a hunger strike demanding a permanent cease-fire in Washington, D.C. outside the White House.
"As the mother of Jewish children whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, I have been asked by my son to use my platform to project as loudly as possible that 'never again' means never again for everyone," said Nixon, one of more than 260 artists who signed a letter asking U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
"As an American, I am here to demand that our president stop funding the mass killing and starvation of thousands of innocent Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women," she continued. "President Biden must use this moment to negotiate a permanent cease-fire that will bring all the hostages and political prisoners home and start to lay the foundation for a lasting peace."
"Palestinians in Gaza deserve to be grieved and it's astonishing that we even have to say this, but Palestinians in Gaza deserve to live."
Other supporters of the five-day hunger strike include Palestinian organizer and activist Linda Sarsour, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton (D-26), Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner (D-88), Virginia state Rep. Sam Rasoul (D-11), Adalah Justice Project (AJP), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Democratic Socialists of America, Dream Defenders, IfNotNow, the Institute for Middle East Understanding, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).
"By every measure, this moment is the greatest loss of life and devastation in the history of the Palestinian people," said Iman Abid-Thompson, director of advocacy and organizing at USCPR. "We have been calling on Congress and President Biden to demand a total cease-fire since the beginning of October. While we welcome the 48 statements of support from members of Congress who have called for a total cease-fire, it is not enough. Time is of the essence."
"We know that Congress and President Biden could have called for a cease-fire weeks ago, but they haven't," she added. "We have all watched the destruction of Gaza and seen entire families, every generation, buried in mass graves. We cannot escape the images of children laying lifeless and in pieces. We are haunted by the dead and the living, and we will never forget what we have witnessed."
Since the October 7 Hamas-led attack that killed around 1,200 Israelis, Israel's retaliatory war on Gaza has killed over 14,850 Palestinians, including at least 6,150 children, and devastated civilian infrastructure in the besieged enclave. Both sides agreed to a four-day cease-fire that began Friday and have since exchanged hostages taken by Hamas last month and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
On Monday, Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the two-day extension of the truce on social media. The Associated Pressreported that "Israel will resume its operations with 'full force' as soon as the current deal expires if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters."'
Hunger strike supporter Rana Abdelhamid, an ex-New York congressional candidate, stressed that "a temporary cease-fire is not enough. Israel has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of stopping its bombing of Gaza as long as it enjoys the full backing of the U.S. government. We will not allow the Biden administration to continue to fund the killing and starvation of Palestinians with impunity. We need a permanent cease-fire to save lives, and we need it now."
In the wake of Hamas' attack last month, Biden affirmed his "unwavering" support for Israel—currently controlled by the most far-right government in its history—and asked Congress for $14.3 billion for the war effort, on top of the $3.8 billion in annual military assistance that the country gets from the United States.
The Interceptreported Saturday that Biden has also asked Congress to lift most restrictions on Israel's access to a U.S. stockpile of weapons there, which "would essentially create a free-flowing pipeline to provide any defense articles to Israel," according to Josh Paul, a former U.S. State Department official who resigned over arms transfers to the country.
"Our government should not be supporting the mass murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza," AJP director of strategy and communications Sumaya Awad declared Monday. "No one is spared by Israel's bombs, not journalists, not doctors, not children and NICU babies."
"As a Palestinian, as an American, and as a mother, I am on hunger strike to demand that President Biden call for a permanent cease-fire," she said. "Without a lasting cease-fire, Israel will continue the unfolding genocide in Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza deserve to be grieved and it's astonishing that we even have to say this, but Palestinians in Gaza deserve to live."
"Governments at the COP28 climate talks must take real action for a full, fair, funded, and fast phaseout of fossil fuels," one advocate said in response to the news.
It is "virtually certain" that 2023 will be the warmest year on record, the World Meteorological Organization concluded in its provisional State of the Global Climate report for the year.
That was only one of the broken records detailed in the report, which was released Thursday to coincide with the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates. The WMO documented a year of "extreme weather and climate events" that "had major impacts on all inhabited continents."
"Record heat. Deadly floods. Toxic air. It has never been clearer that the world must stop burning fossil fuels if we want a safe, livable planet," Oil Change International global policy manager Romain Ioualelen said in response to the findings. "And yet, the fossil fuel industry is pumping more and more gas and oil, expanding its business, lying to us, and raking in deadly profits, as millions of people are displaced, harmed, and killed. Governments at the COP28 climate talks must take real action for a full, fair, funded, and fast phaseout of fossil fuels."
As of October, 2023 was set to be the warmest year in 174 years of record-keeping, WMO confirmed. The body's findings come as scientists have previously said it will likely be the hottest year in 125,000 years as well. Mean near-surface temperatures during the first 10 months of the year were around 1.4°C above the average from 1850 to 1900, WMO found. Because 2016 and 2020, the two previous hottest years on record, came in at 1.29°C and 1.27°C above that average, it is unlikely that the last two months of 2023 would be cold enough to offset its lead.
Hottest year wasn't the only record broken in 2023. The year also saw the hottest monthly ocean temperatures on record from April through September, and the hottest land temperatures from July to October. Because July is typically the hottest month of the year, this July was the hottest month ever recorded.
Sea level rise reached a record height, and the rate of increase from 2013 to 2022 was more than double the rate from 1993 to 2002. Antarctic sea-ice extent also shrank to its lowest level on record in February and struggled to recover, measuring its lowest maximum extent on record in September.
"We urge governments to be ready now at the U.N. climate talks to take action commensurate with what the science is telling us."
Some markers for which 2023 data is not yet available broke records in 2022. This included atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—and ocean heat content.
"It's a deafening cacophony of broken records," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. "These are more than just statistics. We risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise."
The report also detailed how a warming climate is having a direct and devastating impact on human communities. Climate-fueled weather disasters this year included Storm Daniel, which brought severe flooding to much of the Mediterranean, with especially deadly consequences for Libya; a record wildfire season in Canada that shrouded major North American cities in toxic smoke; heat waves, which reached especially severe heights Southern Europe and North Africa; and flooding in the Horn of Africa following five years of drought that made the soil less able to absorb the rainfall. Many of these events forced people to flee their homes and made it harder for them to secure food.
"This year we have seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods, and searing temperatures. Record global heat should send shivers down the spines of world leaders," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in response to the report.
Guterres and other climate advocates used the report to push world leaders to deliver ambitious climate action at COP28, which is mired in controversy following revelations that its president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, used the talks to push oil and gas deals.
"We have the roadmap to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 °C and avoid the worst of climate chaos. But we need leaders to fire the starting gun at COP28 on a race to keep the 1.5 degree limit alive," Guterres said.
He called for a commitment to phase out fossil fuels, triple renewable energy, double energy efficiency, set clear guidelines for the next round of pledges, and provide countries with the financial support they need to make them happen.
Ioualelen said that the delegates should pay attention to experts instead of fossil fuel companies.
"Rather than prioritizing lobbyists and corporations, we need leaders to make real change that tackles the root cause of the climate crisis, fossil fuels, and makes a better world for all of us—today and for generations to come," Ioualelen said. "We urge governments to be ready now at the U.N. climate talks to take action commensurate with what the science is telling us."
Taalas also called for action to avoid worsening extremes.
"We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries," he said.
The United States' contribution of $17.5 million, in particular, was denounced as "embarrassing" for the wealthiest country in the world.
International campaigners who for years have demanded a global "loss and damage" fund to help developing countries confront the climate emergency were encouraged on Thursday as the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference began with an agreement to make the fund operational—but said the details of the deal made clear that wealthy countries are still largely abandoning communities that have contributed the least fossil fuel emissions, only to suffer the worst climate injustices.
A recent study from the University of Delaware showed that "the unweighted percentage of global GDP lost" due to climate impacts such as long-lasting drought, catastrophic flooding, and wildfires is estimated at 1.8%, or about $1.5 trillion, and low- and middle-income countries "have experienced $2.1 trillion in produced capital losses due to climate change."
To meet the need, developing countries have said they already require about $400 billion annually in a loss and damage fund that could help governments rebuild communities, restore crucial wildlife habitats, or relocate people who have been displaced by the climate emergency—so advocates on Thursday were left wondering why the fund agreed upon at COP28 was expected to provide only about $100 billion per year by 2030.
The shortfall threatened to ensure the loss and damage fund will remain "an empty promise," said Fanny Petitbon, head of advocacy for Care France.
"We hope the agreement will result in rapid delivery of support for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis," said Petitbon. "However, it has many shortcomings. It enables historical emitters to evade their responsibility. It also fails to establish the scale of finance needed and ensure that the fund is anchored in human rights principles."
"We urgently call on all governments who are most responsible for the climate emergency and have the capacity to contribute to announce significant pledges in the form of grants," she added. "Historical emitters must lead the way."
The United States, the largest historical contributor of the planet-heating emissions that scientists agree are fueling the climate crisis, has objected to tying loss and damage funding to each wealthy nation's emissions—perhaps partially explaining why the Biden administration pledged only $17.5 million to the fund.
Such contributions are "a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address," said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa.
"In particular, the amount announced by the U.S. is embarrassing for President [Joe] Biden and [Special Presidential Climate Envoy] John Kerry," said Adow. "It just shows how this must be just the start."
Campaigners also objected to the agreement's stipulation that the World Bank will host the fund for the first four years—a demand that had been made by the U.S. and other wealthy countries—with voluntary payments from powerful governments that will be "invited," not required, to contribute.
"Although rules have been agreed regarding how the fund will operate there are no hard deadlines, no targets, and countries are not obligated to pay into it, despite the whole point being for rich, high-polluting nations to support vulnerable communities who have suffered from climate impacts," said Adow.
"The most pressing issue now is to get money flowing into the fund and to the people that need it," he added. "The pledged funds must not just be repackaged commitments. We need new money, in the form of grants, not loans, otherwise it will just pile more debt onto some of the poorest countries in the world, defeating the point of a fund designed to improve lives."
The United Arab Emirates, which is hosting COP28, pledged $100 million to the fund, a sum that was matched by Germany. The United Kingdom committed to contributing 60 million British pounds, or about $75 million, while Japan pledged $10 billion. The U.S. also said it would provide $4.5 million to the Pacific Resilience Facility, which will offer loss and damage funding to Pacific Island nations, and $2.5 million for the Santiago Network, which will provide technical support to developing countries.
Izzie McIntosh, climate campaign manager at U.K.-based Global Justice Now, called the creation of the global loss and damage fund was called a "welcome, yet long overdue, step forward for our climate," and one that "reflects the utter devastation caused by climate change in the global south, and the need for rich countries to pay what they owe for their role in it."
Rich countries, however, "have weakened the commitment they made to climate justice by insisting on the World Bank as interim host," added McIntosh. "This decision risks both excluding countries due to its outdated rules and deepening the debt crisis if support is provided through loans, not grants. If loss and damage funding is to be truly impactful, it must be funded and designed adequately, or risk being all talk and no action."
At COP27 in Egypt one year ago, noted Christian Aid global advocacy lead Mariana Paoli, policymakers did not even place the loss and damage fund on the agenda.
"It's a testament to the determination of developing country negotiators that we now already have the fund agreed and established," she said. "It's now vital we see the fund filled. People who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are already suffering climate losses and damages. The longer they are forced to wait for financial support to cover these costs, the greater the injustice."
Before COP28 wraps up on December 12, Paoli added, campaigners are hoping they will "see significant new and additional pledges of money to the loss and damage fund, and not just repackaged climate finance that has already been committed."
A fully funded, impactful loss and damage fund must be paired with a commitment by countries to end fossil fuel expansion, added Romain Ioualalen, global policy manager at Oil Change International, with rich countries "redirecting trillions in fossil industry handouts to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency."
"We have had enough delays," said Ioualalen, "and this must happen now to secure a livable future."
"Unarmed and running away," said Palestine's envoy to the U.K. "But Israeli soldiers still killed this child in Jenin today in the same indiscriminate manner that they have been killing thousands of children in Gaza."
Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian children during a Wednesday morning raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the illegally occupied West Bank, where more than 240 people have been killed by occupation soldiers and Jewish settler-colonists since early October.
Fifteen-year-old Basil Suleiman Abu al-Wafa and Adam Samer al-Ghoul, who was either 8 or 9, were shot dead by Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops during the raid, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
According toAl Jazeera, al-Wafa was shot in the chest and died in a hospital, while al-Ghoul was shot in the head. Graphic CCTV footage posted on social media shows al-Ghoul trying to run away as he is gunned down. Another boy is seen dragging him away, with blood trailing behind the victim's body.
"Palestinian children in Jenin have been a routine target for the Israeli military."
The children were shot as IDF troops forced residents of the ad-Damj neighborhood from their homes at gunpoint before destroying streets there and bombing at least one home with an armed drone.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Israeli forces subsequently prevented paramedics from reaching Palestinians wounded during the raid.
"Unarmed and running away," Husam Zumlot, Palestine's ambassador to the United Kingdom, wrote on social media. "But Israeli soldiers still killed this child in Jenin today in the same indiscriminate manner that they have been killing thousands of children in Gaza."
Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at the advocacy group Defense of Children International-Palestine (DCIP), noted in a statement that "Palestinian children in Jenin have been a routine target for the Israeli military."
"It is shocking that Israeli forces, sitting in an armored vehicle, can fatally shoot two children in broad daylight and the international community will refuse to hold them accountable," Abu Eqtaish added.
An IDF spokesperson said Israeli troops opened fire with live rounds after "explosives" were thrown at them. Al-Ghoul can be seen in CCTV footage holding a very small object, which he drops after being shot.
Two Palestinian men—Muhammad Jamal Zubaidi and Wissam Ziad Hanoun—were also killed during the Jenin raid. Palestine's WAFA News Agencyreported that occupation forces took their bodies.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 242 Palestinians, including more than 50 children, have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 7, when Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel left approximately 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers dead and around 240 others kidnapped. Over 2,750 other Palestinians have been injured.
Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem so far this year, according to DCIP, making 2023 the deadliest year ever recorded.
Occupation forces have also arrested more than 3,300 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including 35 people—one of them a 12-year-old child—since Tuesday. Israeli authorities have arrested nearly as many Palestinians during the six-day cease-fire with Hamas as they have freed during the concurrent prisoner exchanges.
Meanwhile in Gaza, officials reported that 160 Palestinian bodies were recovered from the rubble on Tuesday and Wednesday during the relative calm of the cease-fire. Gaza civil defense officials said at least 7,000 bodies remain buried under the bombed-out buildings.
More than 15,000 Palestinians—including over 4,000 women and 6,100 children—have been killed by Israeli bombs and bullets since October 7.
Gaza and United Nations officials also said Wednesday that more than 80% of Gazans—or around 1.8 million people—have been forcibly displaced by the Israeli onslaught, which has destroyed or damaged more than 300,000 homes.