Slithering ever further down a timeworn slippery slope into fascism, Texas Republicans just took one small step for white supremacy by rejecting a resolution to ban members from consorting with anti-Semites, Nazi-sympathizers or plain ole Nazis in a state already crawling with them. Critics claimed the move - born of furor over a meeting between a big-wig GOP fundraiser and Hitler-fanboy Nick Fuentes - was "too vague" and akin to a "Marxist" decree, evidently in that it seeks to differentiate between "good" and "bad" guys.
The GOP reluctance to distance itself from neo-Nazi extremism is, of course, part of the nationwide lunge to the right of a party so devoid of principles, policies or goals - they already killed Roe - they're left with only fear-mongering and hate. Let us (briefly) count the ways. They are "led" by a vengeful, authoritarian criminal who poses "a direct existential threat" to democracy. Their ranks include Stephen Miller, a literal Nazi whose America First Legal is zealously working to sue out of existence any public or private efforts at diversity, even targeting NASCAAR: “So instead of its drivers being 99.999% white, we need them to be 2,000% white?" Across red states, Popular Information's Judd Legum has chronicled their sordid efforts to ensure power remains in the hands of the white, straight, bigoted: In North Carolina, they've created a powerful Gov Ops "secret police" to target political enemies; in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, they've sought to impose a Christian, anti-sex, pro-slavery curriculum aimed at eliminating "ideology," aka ugly historical truths, in schools; in Florida, they've feverishly removed pernicious books suggesting two male penguins can love each other, arguing the purpose of public school libraries is to "convey the government’s message."
Deep-dark-red Texas, a longtime, flourishing hotbed for right-wing extremism, is a logical place for the GOP to take on the devil's work. The home base for the white nationalist Patriot Front, Texas boasts the largest number of Jan. 6 rioters and roughly 80% of the nation's white supremacist propaganda, with racist and anti-Semitic flyers routinely infesting Dallas and north Texas; hundreds once made their way to windshields at Fort Worth's pastoral Botanical Gardens. In May, a neo-Nazi gunman killed 8 people - the victims came from Korea, India, Venezuela, Mexico - and wounded 7 at a shopping center in a diverse Dallas suburb; the Latino shooter bragged online that he'd decided to "take my chances with the white supremacists." Most recently, in Forth Worth, burly neo-Nazis had to be escorted out of a gun show, and a group of swastika-wearing Nazis showily gathered in and sauntered through a Torchy's Tacos, (even though they're presumably made by brown people). Last week, a report found anti-Semitic incidents in Texas have soared 89% since 2021; there's also been six "terrorist plots" and 28 "extremist" rallies. And their governor is a stand-your-ground fascist goon who's never met a worker, migrant, pregnant woman or left-wing protester he didn't try to abuse.
Texas GOP "crackpots and ideologues" have likewise, predictably crawled rightward to join the Nazis looming on their fringe. In 2020, when Allen West became chairman, he pushed the party to adopt a new slogan: "We Are the Storm." Though it weirdly, precisely echoes the slogan of QAnon, which argues Democrats are Satan-worshiping, child-eating drug-traffickers, West says his inspiration was a popular "anonymous" quote - "The devil whispers to the warrior slyly, can it withstand the coming storm? The warrior responds, 'I am the storm," - that's evidently used by both Spanish fascists and/or ultra-runner Adharanand Finn, but it pretty much sounds like QAnon to us. In June 2022, to burnish its far-right credentials, the Texas GOP also adopted a platform that described homosexuality as "an abnormal lifestyle choice," argued Biden was not "legitimately elected," urged Texas legislators to affirm the state's right to secede, demanded Texas students be taught "life begins at fertilization," and called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. It also started posting on the fringe white nationalist social network Gab, and tweeted its months-long support for the anti-Semitic unholy trinity of "Trump, West, Musk," only taking down the post after Ye boldly came out as pro-Hitler.
This weekend's vote to essentially follow Ye's example was sparked by two recent events exposing a growing internecine squabble about just how far right the party should tilt. The first was the impeachment of scandal-beset A.G Ken Paxton, whose subsequent acquittal by the Texas Senate - shades of Orange Guy - "marked a screaming milestone in a (long) career that has seen Paxton harness the state’s increasingly conservative politics (to) stay in power longer than his vulnerabilities would suggest." Paxton is a key ally of Defend Texas Liberty, a powerful, oil-billionaire-funded PAC that bankrolls a vast network of far-right candidates, media outfits and initiatives that serves as the GOP's puppet-master. Vexed their bestie Paxton had (almost) been held to account, they undertook a "scorched-earth campaign" against the party's (likely Marxist) RINOS until a second, fraught, saying-the-quiet-part-out-loud incident in October when the Texas Tribunerevealed Jonathan Strickland, a former pest-control-geek-turned-head of Defend Texas, had hostedwhite supremacist Nick Fuentes, who has urged a "holy war" against Jews and might be viewed as a fascist too far. The same day, Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi was also seen entering the same hotel, but he said he was seeing someone else so OK, yeah, sure.
Since then, both the GOP-controlled legislature and Defend Texas Liberty have sought to downplay their coziness with Fuentes and the extremist thugs he represents. Defend Texas Liberty issued a brief outraged statement trashing those who've tried to connect them to Fuentes’ "incendiary" views; they also may or may not have fired Stickland as president. House Speaker Dade Phelan called on GOP colleagues to fork over some of the millions they get from Defend Texas Liberty to pro-Israel charities; then he was blasted for crassly politicizing anti-Semitism. A prominent Republican also at the scene of the Nazi crime that day dismissed all the fuss as (likely Marxist again) nonsense, blaming "hearsay,", "fuzzy photographs," and "narratives." Thus did the Texas GOP’s Executive Committee gather this weekend for their quarterly meeting in hopes of putting to rest the ugly rumor - and given the times, really, we're kinda astonished it's still deemed "ugly" - that they're into Nazis. Their original plan, endorsed by about half the committee, was to call for severing ties with Defend Texas Liberty and its allies until Stickland was removed and a full explanation for the Fuentes fiasco was forthcoming; the move would have been part of a broader pro-Israel resolution.
But in our current pay-to-play politics - thanks Citizens United! - that proposal was quickly watered down to a resolution to bar any association with individuals or groups "known to espouse or tolerate anti-Semitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial." That doesn't seem like too much to ask, so we were sure even the Texas GOP could manage to quit flat-out, holy-war-declaring Nazis.... But nope. Too much. After a tense debate, the Committee voted it down 32-29; in an almost equally appalling move, almost half the board tried to prevent their vote from being recorded - almost like, if they had it in them, they were ashamed. Still, naysayers argued the words "tolerate" and "anti-Semitism" were "too vague" and "could create future problems" for lawmakers; others thought the phrasing of the ban could "create a slippery slope"; another said it felt akin to "Marxist" (again!) and "leftist" tactics, and would incite "guilt by association"; one said the Fuentes meeting was "a mistake" but there's "no evidence" Stickland/Defend are anti-Semitic. "I've had meetings with transgenders, gays and lesbians - does that make me a transgender, gay or lesbian? he said. “We don’t need to do our enemy’s work for them." And no, we have no idea what any of this gibberish means.
Chairman Rinaldi abstained, but insisted that despite Nazi clowns regularly parading through north Texas and growing GOP links with them, with , the GOP's all good: "I don't see any anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or Holocaust denial movement on the right that has any significant traction whatsoever." A colleague argued "our position as a party" is that people who want to slaughter Jews are "not welcome" and "the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Texas" would agree, a ringing endorsement if we've ever heard one. Still, some were distressed. Speaker Phelan called it "despicable" that members "can’t even bring themselves to denounce neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers or cut ties with their top donor who brought them to the dance," and Morgan Cisneros Graham impugned the arguments of her name-calling, linguistically-challenged colleagues. "I just don’t understand how people who routinely refer to others as leftists, liberals, communists, socialists and RINOs don’t have the discernment to define what a Nazi is," she said, which was a good point, especially for a Republican. This whole don't-pal-around-with-Nazis thing shouldn't be so hard. Helpful hint: If they're named Adolf, wearing a Swastika, calling people "vermin" or talking up Aryan victory, just friggin' steer clear.
Environmental protection groups on Tuesday warned that the Norwegian government's new deal with two right-wing minority parties to open the Arctic Ocean to deep-sea mining would be "a disaster" and flies in the face of warnings from scientists about companies' exploration of the seabed.
The Labor and Center Parties, which have control of the government, reached an agreement with the right-wing Hoeyre and Progress Parties to allow Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, to approve the first projects by deep-sea mining firms such as Loke Marine Minerals.
The plan would gradually open areas of the Greenland and Barents seas in the Arctic, and proponents claimed it would set strict environmental survey requirements. The proposal is set to be formally debated by the Stortinget on January 4, followed by a vote.
Despite the promises of environmental protections, Greenpeace Norway said the government cannot claim to know "what consequences this will have for the ecosystems in the sea, for endangered species such as whales and seabirds, or for the fish stocks on which we base our livelihood."
Norway is "giving up any pretense of being an environmental leader" by embracing deep-sea mining, said the group.
The European Academies Science Advisory Council in August said the push to extract metals like cobalt and copper from the fragile seabed—ostensibly to support the production of batteries for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other products—is "misleading" and could cause "irreparable damage" ecosystems where thousands of newly discovered species live.
The minerals are already mined elsewhere on Earth, scientists have pointed out, and the deep sea could be placed at risk for chemical leaks and spills as well as harmful noise and light pollution.
More than 800 marine scientists have called for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining, and 119 members of the European Parliament have called on Norwegian lawmakers to reject the proposed opening process.
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, called Tuesday's proposal "shameful" for the country.
"The Norwegian government is not only ignoring hundreds of concerned scientists, but also showing disregard for its international obligations and national environmental legislation," said Pleym. "By opening up for deep-sea mining, Norway has lost all credibility as a responsible ocean nation that signed the United Nations ocean treaty."
Martin Sveinssønn Melvær of the Bellona environmental group in Norway said it would be "a dangerous derailment in the fight against climate change to open up seabed minerals."
Pleym pledged that the fight against deep-sea mining in Norway "doesn't end here."
"Across the Greenpeace network, we will work to stop every deep-sea mining project presented to the Norwegian parliament," he said. "The wave of protests against deep-sea mining has just started to grow... We will not allow Norway to destroy the unique life in the deep sea, not in the Arctic nor anywhere else."
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 U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week—possibly as soon as Monday evening—on a resolution declaring that "anti-Zionism is antisemitism," a measure that Jewish peace campaigners called "deeply antisemitic."
House Resolution 894—introduced by a pair of Jewish Republicans, Reps. David Kustoff (Tenn.) and Max Miller (Ohio)—embraces the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) controversial working definition of antisemitism, which, while not explicitly mentioning anti-Zionism, includes "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination" and "claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor."
Kustoff said in a statement last Tuesday, when the measure was introduced, that "since October 7, we have seen an alarming rise in antisemitic incidents, attacks, harassment, and discrimination both in the United States and across the globe."
"Such hate has no place in our national discourse, and it is imperative leaders voice their strong opposition to these horrifying acts of violence and discrimination," he added.
"This is a cynical effort to conflate criticism of the government of Israel with antisemitism."
Many Jewish American critics, however, bristled at the conflation of hatred of Jews with opposition to Israel, a settler-colonial apartheid state with codified Jewish primacy illegally occupying and oppressing Palestine while waging what many call a genocidal war on Gaza.
"This is a cynical effort to conflate criticism of the government of Israel with antisemitism," Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of the progressive political action group Indivisible, said on social media. "It's not about protecting Jews. It's about shutting down dissent. And in doing so it makes all of us less safe."
The new resolution—which details numerous recent instances of antisemitism while completely ignoring concurrently rising and sometimes violent Islamophobia sweeping the United States—resolves that the House:
- Strongly condemns and denounces all instances of antisemitism occurring in the United States and globally;
- Reaffirms and reiterates its strong support for the Jewish community at home and abroad;
- Calls on elected officials and world leaders to condemn and fight all forms of domestic and global antisemitism;
- Clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism; and
- Rejects all forms of terror, hate, discrimination, and harassment of members of the Jewish community.
Referencing the trope that anti-Zionists are antisemites and Jewish people who oppose Israel are "self-hating," the Bay Area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace
asked on social media, "So what, we're all self-hating Jews?"
The IHRA definition of antisemitism has been rejected by the scholars and other experts—many of them Jewish—behind the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which states that while anti-Israel sentiment "could be an expression of an antisemitic animus," it could also be "a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the [Israeli] state."
The modern state of Israel was established largely by ethnically cleansing over 750,000 Arabs from Palestine 75 years ago. In the decades since, Israel illegally occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, whose 2.3 million people endure periodic wars that have claimed nearly 20,000 lives—most of them in the past two months—while living and dying in what human rights defenders call the "world's largest open-air prison."
Jewish Americans—from progressive left-wing activists to the Orthodox Torah Judaism movement—have been at the forefront of opposition to both Israel's war and U.S. support for it.
"Zionism is the greatest source of real antisemitism today," Jewish American filmmaker Dan Cohen
said in a Monday social media post condemning "Israel's genocide of Palestinians."
"The Israel lobby and the elected representatives it controls are responsible," he added.
Dr. Eric Reinhart, a Harvard scholar,
asserted that "not only is anti-Zionism not antisemitism, but a strong argument can be made that Zionism is in fact antisemitic."
"It is used to license Zionist violence against Jews who refuse to back it," he added, including "the Israeli government's recent attacks on their own anti-Zionist Jewish citizens."
Richard Beck, a senior writer at n+1, called the resolution "very dark."
"But," he added, "the fact that Congress has to pass a resolution saying that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are the same thing means that people's efforts to end the conflation of the two are getting somewhere."
Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis made a return to capital punishment in his state a key element of his "tough on crime" campaign messaging this past year, and the result was an overall increase in the use of the death penalty in the United States, according to a new annual report.
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) found that although a majority of U.S. states—29 of them—have now either abolished the death penalty or enacted a moratorium on executions, the number of people killed by state governments rose from 18 in 2022 to 25 in 2023.
The group attributed the rise to Florida's return to capital punishment after a four-year hiatus, with DeSantis moving forward with the executions of six people—the highest number in the state since 2014.
The state's new pattern of putting Floridians to death showed no sign of slowing down in the coming year, as it also imposed five new death sentences—the most of any state in 2023.
The DPIC catalogued other laws signed by DeSantis this year as he joined the Republican presidential primary race, in which he is currently trailing former Republican President Donald Trump by more than 47 points, with an average of 12.6% of Republicans backing him according to the latest polls.
In April Florida passed a law allowing the state to execute people convicted of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12 in cases in which the victim is not killed—a law that conflicts with a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar statute in Louisiana.
DeSantis also approved a law giving Florida the lowest threshold in the U.S. for permitting juries to sentence a convicted criminal to death, allowing a death sentence if only eight out of 12 jurors agree. Only Alabama and Florida allow non-unanimous juries to impose a death sentence, and Alabama's threshold is 10 jurors.
Florida also holds the country's record for the highest number of exonerations from death row, with 30 people exonerated—the majority after being sentenced by non-unanimous juries.
"It should be hard to send someone to the death penalty," Randolph Bracy, a former Democratic Florida state senator who pushed to require a unanimous jury vote for death sentences, toldThe New York Times when DeSantis signed the bill. "Florida has the highest rate of wrongful convictions, I think, in the country. We needed that threshold to make sure that we were doing the right thing."
As DeSantis' policies led to an increase in executions in the U.S., the DPIC reported that the Florida governor is out of step with a growing number of Americans. For the first time this year, Gallup found that 50% of Americans believe the death penalty is administered unfairly, while only 47% believe it is used fairly.
"That important change can also be seen in the unprecedented show of support for death-sentenced prisoners from conservative lawmakers and elected officials this year, some of whom now oppose use of the death penalty in their state," said Robin M. Maher, executive director of DPIC.
Richard Glossip, who was convicted of a 1997 murder in Oklahoma and sentenced to death earlier this year, was issued a stay of execution in May after the state's Republican attorney general joined campaigners who had long advocated for Glossip's life to be spared.
The DPIC found that a majority of the people who were executed in 2023—79% of whom had impairments such as brain injuries, serious childhood trauma, or developmental disabilities—would likely not have received death sentences had they been tried today, "due to significant changes in the law, prosecutorial decision-making, and public attitudes over the past few decades."
"Today," said the group, "they would have powerful arguments for life sentences and decisions from juries who better understand the effects of mental illness, developmental impairments, and severe trauma."
A former United Nations human rights official who resigned from his job in October over what he called the world body's refusal to prevent Israel's slaughter of thousands of Palestinian civilians said this week that Israeli forces are undeniably committing genocide in Gaza.
In a Sunday interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed translated by The New Arab, Craig Mokhiber—formerly the New York director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights—described Israel's Gaza onslaught as the "most clear-cut case of genocide I have seen in my career."
"We are witnessing genocide in the 21st century, and it seems that the United Nations is once again unable to stop it," the American attorney added. "I realize that the term 'genocide' is being politicized and misused in some circumstances—so as a human rights lawyer, I am careful to apply the term only when there is a prima facie case and the evidence is clear."
"We are witnessing genocide in the 21st century, and it seems that the United Nations is once again unable to stop it."
Mokhiber, who is 63 years old, worked at the U.N. for more than 30 years as a human rights specialist, serving in places including Gaza, Afghanistan, and Darfur. He also worked during the Tutsi, Bosnian, Yazidi, and Rohingya genocides.
He quit in late October, penning a scathing resignation letter excoriating the U.N. Echoing earlier comments by Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal, Mokhiber called Israel's conduct "a textbook case of genocide."
"What's interesting about this case compared to others is that generally when you try to prove genocidal intent, you need to get secret government documents and files, and dig through old secret archives to find indicators of intent," Mokhiber said Sunday.
"Here we have frank and clear statements of genocidal intent by senior Israeli officials, both public and official," he added.
Numerous senior Israeli officials have made what critics have called genocidal statements, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, and a number of Knesset lawmakers.
"They have a strong sense of impunity, frankly because of the protection they enjoy from the United States, Britain, and Europe in international forums," said Mokhiber.
During a Monday press conference, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about Mokhiber's genocide assertion.
"The State Department has a rigorous process for evaluating... what constitutes genocide, ethnic cleansing, or a crime against humanity," he replied. "Those are terms we only use with very explicit care."
"We are monitoring the evolving situations and are examining facts as they develop," Miller continued. "It's an extremely challenging space to get all the information... But we support Israel's right to continue to take action to ensure that Hamas can never conduct terrorist attacks like it did on October 7th again. And as part of that, we urge Israel to take all possible measures to minimize civilian harm."
Asked if Israel is heeding Biden administration exhortations to protect civilians in Gaza, Miller said that "I think it's too early to draw a definitive assessment. I will say that unfortunately, we do expect to see civilian casualties as a result of this campaign."
"We believe that far too many civilians have been killed," Miller said later during the press conference. "But again, this goes back to the underlying problem of this entire situation, which is that Hamas has embedded itself inside civilians—inside civilian homes, inside its mosques, in schools, in churches. It is Hamas that is putting these civilians in harm's way."
Gaza officials said Tuesday that nearly 16,000 Palestinians—including more than 4,000 women and over 6,000 children—have been killed by Israeli bombs and bullets, with upward of 42,000 others wounded, around 80% of the besieged strip's 2.3 million people forcibly displaced, and approximately 60% of the territory's homes destroyed or damaged.
President Joe Biden—who is seeking $14.3 billion in additional military aid for Israel—and other U.S. officials have been accused of genocide denial for aspersing Gaza authorities' casualty reports because they were issued by Hamas. However, Israeli military officials said off the record this week that Hamas' figures are accurate.
"Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe and appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared."
With over 16,000 Palestinians dead just two months into Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday demanded immediate action by the U.N. Security Council.
For the first time since becoming secretary-general nearly seven years ago, Guterres invoked Article 99, a rarely used section of the U.N. Charter empowering him to bring to the attention of the council "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."
U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that Guterres was invoking Article 99 "given the scale of the loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, in such a short amount of time."
"I think it's arguably the most important invocation," Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters, "in my opinion, the most powerful tool that he has."
"The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis."
Guterres wrote to José Javier De la Gasca Lopez Domínguez, the Ecuadorian president of the Security Council, that "more than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory."
The U.N. chief reaffirmed his condemnation of the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel—in which around 1,200 people were killed and over 200 others were captured—that led to the war. He called accounts of sexual violence "appalling" and stressed that the remaining hostages "must be immediately and unconditionally released."
He also emphasized that "civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger," with the Israeli airstrikes and raids damaging more than half of all homes and displacing about 80% of the 2.3 million residents. Over a million of them have sought shelter at U.N. facilities, "creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions," while others "find themselves on the street."
"The healthcare system in Gaza is collapsing," he noted, pointing out that only 14 of 36 hospitals are operating at all. "I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible. An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries."
Already, conditions in Gaza are making "it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted," Guterres added. "The capacity of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners has been decimated by supply shortages, lack of fuel, interrupted communications, and growing insecurity."
"The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region. Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost," the U.N. leader warned. "The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis."
"I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe," he wrote. "I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared. This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm."
The United States—a supporter of Israel's war and one of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members—vetoed a mid-October resolution condemning violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza and urging "humanitarian pauses" for aid delivery.
Roughly a month later, the Security Council approved a Gaza resolution that calls on all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and advocates for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors."
Dr. Christos Christou, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, said at the time that "the unacceptably jumbled and sluggish process finally led to the adoption of a text that does not come close to reflecting the severity of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza."
"We're worth more than what they're offering," said the Washington Post News Guild.
More than 700 unionized staffers of The Washington Post made a request of readers on Wednesday: For 24 hours starting on Thursday, December 7, they said, "please do not engage with any Washington Post content"—including reading the venerated newspaper's print and online editions, listening to podcasts, watching videos, or filling out the crossword puzzle.
The journalists and staff members are staging a one-day work stoppage to protest extensive staffing cuts in the newsroom over the past year and management's refusal to "bargain in good faith" and offer a fair contract to members of the Washington Post News Guild.
"For 18 months, members of our union, the Post Guild, have sought to negotiate a fairer contract for us all," wrote the union to readers. "But management has refused to bargain in good faith and repeatedly—and illegally—shut down negotiations over key issues, such as pay equity, raises that keep pace with inflation and our competitors, remote work policies, mental health supports, and a buyout package that seeks to reduce our workforce by 10%."
"That's why, on December 7, Washington Post workers are going on strike for 24 hours," the workers said.
On social media, the union detailed its demands and contrasted them with management's offers in the most recent negotiations.
The Post Guild asked for raises of 4% annually for three years to help staffers support themselves and their families amid inflation and the rising cost of living; management offered just 2.25% in the first year and 2% in the second and third year of the contract.
The newspaper—owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, currently the third-richest person in the world with a net worth of $167.8 billion—also said it would provide "no mental health[care] guarantees" and that it has "absolute power to demand full-time return to the office at any time." The union had called for a continuation of the current hybrid working arrangement with staffers permitted to work from anywhere for four weeks out of the year.
"We're worth more than what they're offering," said the Post Guild.
The union has also voiced objections to repeated staffing cuts at the Post this year. The company has laid off nearly 40 people in 2023, said the Post Guild, as well as offering "voluntary" buyouts to 240 employees.
"Nowthe Post has threatened that if they don't get enough people to leave, more layoffs will be next," said the union in another message to readers in which members asked the public to write to the newspaper management and tell executives they support "its workers in our fight to keep our jobs and earn a living wage."
The Post currently aims to shrink its workforce by about 10%, with about 940 journalists in the newsroom.
"That means fewer Post employees making the critical journalism that keeps our communities informed and holds our public officials accountable. Democracy Dies in Darkness, right?" said the unionized workers, quoting the company's slogan that was adopted in 2017.
In a video posted on social media, some of the Guild's 700 dues-paying members—who work in editorial, advertising, and non-newsroom departments—shared how they are continuously covering a tumultuous time in U.S. history, from the January 6 insurrection, to the Covid-19 pandemic, to the climate crisis.
"I'm worth a fair and transparent pay process," said publicist Kathleen Floyd.
"I'm worth job protections that value my years of service," added health and medicine reporter Lenny Bernstein.
Nearly 750 Post workers are expected to join the walkout on Thursday, Reutersreported.
"Taking this historic action is not a decision we came to lightly. We take seriously the impact it will have on the people, issues and communities we cover," said the Guild in its letter to readers. "ThePost cannot stay competitive, retain the best talent, or produce the kind of elite journalism you rely on without giving its staff a fair deal."
The senators—who are seeking improved oversight—sounded the alarm on the "staggering number of civilian deaths" caused by Israeli bombing with U.S.-supplied ordnance.
As the number of Gazans killed, maimed, or left missing by Israeli bombs and bullets—many of them manufactured in the United States— tops 60,000, a group of U.S. senators on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to boost oversight of how American arms are used against Palestinian civilians.
Noting that Israel's response to the Hamas-led attacks of October 7 "has killed over 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom are civilians," Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked the White House for "information on the accountability and oversight measures that ensure any use of U.S. weapons is in accordance with U.S. policy and international law."
"U.S. allies and human rights groups have argued many of these deaths were preventable," the senators wrote in their letter. "In its campaign, Israel has also repeatedly targeted areas it previously designated as 'safe zones,' after telling Palestinians to move to these locations for safety."
"[Israel Defense Forces] airstrikes have also hit the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp multiple times," the lawmakers noted. "The first strike killed 'more than 100 people' and injured 'hundreds' more. The second strike left dozens wounded and rescuers said those killed included 'whole families'... Other strikes and operations have targeted hospitals."
A growing number of legal, human rights, and other experts have called Israel's war on Gaza a genocide.
The senators' letter continues:
While these strikes were aimed at Hamas, we have concerns that strikes on civilian infrastructure have not been proportional, particularly given the predictable harm to civilians. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said these strikes are 'clear violations of international humanitarian law.' Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that his government's efforts to minimize civilian casualties to date are 'not successful.'
The letter singles out 155mm artillery shells, unguided explosive rounds with a "kill radius" of about 50 meters, with shrapnel able to kill and wound people hundreds of meters away.
"The IDF requires its ground forces to stay 250 meters away to protect its own forces," the letter states. "The IDF has previously used these shells to 'hit populated areas including neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, shelters, and safe zones,' causing a staggering number of civilian deaths."
"Over 30 U.S.-based civil society organizations warned against providing Israel 155mm shells in an open letter to [U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin calling the shells 'inherently indiscriminate' and 'a grave risk to civilians,'" the lawmakers added.
Claiming that "civilian harm prevention is a cornerstone of American foreign policy"—a curious assertion given that the United States has killed more foreign civilians by far than any other armed force on the planet since the end of World War II—the senators argued that "we must ensure accountability for the use of U.S. weapons we provided to our ally."
"As you have acknowledged, Israel's military campaign has included 'indiscriminate bombing,'" they wrote. "Your administration must ensure that existing guidance and standards are being used to evaluate the reports of Israel using U.S. weapons in attacks that harm civilians in order to more rigorously protect civilian safety during Israel's operations in Gaza."
To that end, the senators ask Biden to answer 13 questions, including:
- Are U.S. officials aware of the IDF's current policy on preventing civilian harm?
- What insights does the U.S. government have into how the Israeli military assesses issues of proportionality?
- What systems does the Israeli government have in place to investigate allegations of civilian harm?
- Does the U.S. Defense Department or State Department plan to provide Israel with guidance on how 155mm shells should be
used when civilians are nearby?
- Are you aware of any requests for inspector general reviews or audits of U.S. military assistance provided to Israel?
The senators' letter came ahead of Wednesday's procedural vote on whether to begin debating a $106 billion "national security" spending package requested by Biden, which includes more than $10 billion in additional U.S. military aid to Israel atop the nearly $4 billion it receives each year from Washington.
On Tuesday, Sanders—who has
angered progressives by failing to demand a Gaza cease-fire—said he opposes sending billions of dollars in unconditional U.S. armed aid to the "right-wing, extremist" Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Israel must dramatically change its approach to minimize civilian harm," he said, "and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace."