97 stories
1 follower

Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies

1 Comment
The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him
Read the whole story
6 days ago
Send it to your Pocket account to read the whole story without a bunch of extra cruft on the page.
Share this story

a lot of things are true.

1 Comment

This is Life as a Sacred Text, an expansive, loving, everybody-celebrating, nobody-diminished, justice-centered voyage into one of the world’s most ancient and holy books. More about the project here, and to subscribe, go here.🌱

Subscribe now

These are my personal opinions, not those of my employer or of anyone else. They are also not the entirety of my personal opinions. There are a lot of other things I think that are not reflected here. I’m really tired right now, y’all. It’s been a lot these last many long days. I’m sure everybody’s gonna be angry that I’m not representing something fairly or clearly enough. Please do not yell. This is important and so much is at stake here, and so many of us are carrying so, so much love and care and also trauma into this conversation—processed or not, epigenetic or not. We are all trying our best to try to feel our way towards a more whole world: One that honors all of our inherent dignity. One that has enough for everyone, is safe for everyone, gives care to everyone. We are all doing our best. I am certain that I missed the mark somewhere. These are not the Twenty Commandments, they are some things to consider as put forth by one person. It’s ok to disagree with me or each other. But please, let’s stay respectful in the comments. If that’s not what happens I will turn them off for this round and re-open on a less charged topic. Anyway. Today, this is what I’ve got. (Reminder that if it’s bold, it’s probably a hyperlink.)

  1. There is no justification for the mass murder of innocents. There is no justification for bombing a dance festival. For kidnapping elders. Children. Peace activists. Gunning down families. Burning houses with people alive in them1. For posting the murder of a grandmother on her own Facebook profile for her grandchildren to see it. Hamas’ attack was a war crime. Murdering Jewish children is not fighting for human rights2. War crimes are not the path to liberation.

  2. There is also no justification for blowing up buildings without warning. For bombing hospitals. the bombing of children. For illegal blockades that turn tiny strips of land into open-air prisons. For unlawful killings; forced displacement; house demolitions and land theft; abusing children in detention; restrictions on movement; dehumanization and collective punishment, over 55 years of Occupation, and so much more.

  3. Hamas is not the Palestinian people.

  4. Netanyahu and his ultra far-right government is not the Israeli people (though, yes, the Occupation has been going since ‘67, and that’s ultimately a collective choice.)3

    4b. Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel. Which is a country. He is not Prime Minister of the Jewish People. He technically represents the Israeli people (Trump, you may recall, technically represented the American people, but many of us felt some kind of way about that) but he in no way represents Jews from other points around the world. Diaspora Jews may have strong personal ties to a country that might be halfway around the world from them—or they may not at all.

  5. Here are the words of Ahmed Al-Jaafari, the Palestinian chairman of the Parents Circle - Families Forum, an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members as a result of the ongoing conflict (also known as the Bereaved Families Forum for Peace): “Very dear friends. We are all in shock and confusion. The Palestinian members of the Families Forum worry about your safety, join in the terrible mourning of the Israeli people and grieve for all the dead, injured and kidnapped. We Palestinians are each shut up in our own towns. We are not allowed to leave our towns. We are very afraid of the future and horrible scenarios that may develop. All of us, Israelis and Palestinians, pray that the damn war will end soon, that fighting and violence will not start elsewhere, and that the killing of innocents on both sides will stop. Despite the great crisis, we are still determined in our belief that only an agreement and a political solution will bring an end to the wars, the suffering, the blood, the dead, the wounded, the kidnapped, the captives and the imprisoned. Take care of yourselves and we will continue to strengthen each other.”

  6. Israeli Hagit Ofran of Peace Now writes, (well, this, as I’m assuming is the above, is a translation:) “Please tell me, how does the bombing and starvation of two million Palestinians in Gaza contribute to our security? And does it help us recover and come back to life after the terrible massacre we went through? And will it return any of the prisoners? Really, we bombed them and put a heavy siege on them for so many years and so many times - how does this contribute to security? Enough. Since Black Sabbath we have already killed enough Gaza residents, we have shown them that we are stronger and that we can hurt them too. Very. Enough. What we need is quiet. A weigh in. Start picking up the fragments. Revenge does not help.”

  7. Rev. William Barber writes, about the Hamas attack on Shmini Atzeret (the massacre on Oct 7th):

    “Some say, in a moment like this, you cannot condemn the violence without also mentioning the violence that precipitated it. I will not agree to that position. I cannot. On one side of my own family, I come from formerly enslaved people who chose never to issue violence against the women and children of those who happened to be white, or even against those who held people in bondage. They chose to fight in the American civil war, soldier v soldier; and they believed in the right of self-defense …We are not talking about slaves versus slave masters in Israel today, but I know from my own context that an unequivocal “no” to the actors within Hamas who chose to commit these heinous acts does not dismiss history and the oppression of Palestinian people when they have been beaten and harmed by the actions of some – not all – in Israel. Nor does it dismiss a moral critique of Benjamin Netanyahu and others who have enacted harmful policies. In this moment, however, we must be clear that terrorism is not a protest against injustice, but rather an act of despair that creates more suffering for everyone.”

    [You may note in the comments that there was an earlier analogy trying to explain why what Hamas did was mass murder and not liberation and I am grateful to the people who noted that the vehicle for this explanation—not mine, but I made the choice to share—was suboptimal. Listening, learning, trying to learn how to do better—always. Succeeding? Sometimes.]

  8. Since people sometimes ask, “Well, where are the Palestinian MLKs? Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?” They’re in Israeli jail. When residents of a town, like Bil’in, try to protest nonviolently—as they have every Friday for years—the residents of the town are teargassed, jailed, put under curfew. Issa Amro, a prominent activist committed to nonviolence and civil disobedience, has been detained and arrested many, many times by Israeli authorities for doing things as legally nothingburger as filming soldiers threatening demonstrators and giving tours of Hebron. Same story with Abdullah Abu Rahma—to get a sense of the ridiculousness, he’s been charged with “arms possession” for collecting empty M16 cartridges and empty sound bomb canisters—left over from Israeli soldiers’ detonating them to disperse demonstrators—for exhibition in a West Bank museum. And then of course there are also joint Israeli-Palestinian nonviolence projects like Combatants for Peace, helmed by Sulaiman Khatib,4 and many others (like Standing Together/Omdim B’Yachad, Women Wage Peace, Hand in Hand School5, all your faves, etc.)6

  9. The First Intifada was primarily nonviolent, and led by women. (If your image of the “violent” First Intifada is of a Palestinian child throwing a stone at an Israeli tank, you may need to check your racism.) (Yes, there was some actual violence, but this first uprising was largely mass boycotts, civil disobedience, Palestinians refusing to work jobs in Israel, etc.—and the creation of health clinics, underground schools, and more) (The Israeli response was disproportionate, killing over 1,000 and injuring more than 130,000.)

  10. There are many things that could have happened to have prevented this moment. Israel’s ending the over 55-year Occupation at many points along the way would have been a great start. Another key factor contributing to this moment is Netanyahu’s choice to prop up Hamas, including allowing cash to be funneled from Qatarevidently part of his plan to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state by weakening the more moderate, diplomacy-minded Palestinian Authority.

  11. Israel’s Prime Minister Yizchak Rabin and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Chairman (and later President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority) Yasser Arafat had signed peace agreements in 1993 and then 1995, putting the process of Palestinian self-determination on track. Netanyahu spent July of 1995 rallying Israelis against the Oslo Peace Accords—manipulating through disinformation and inciting anger, violence, and fear. He even paraded around with a coffin bearing the words “Rabin” and “Zionism.” Rabin was murdered by right-wing Jewish extremist Yigal Amir in November, 1995, at a peace rally.7 The peace process never recovered—both Hamas’ terror attacks and Netanyahu’s election to Prime Minister in 1996 made sure of that.

  12. Terrorist attacks—by Hamas, but also several other terrorist factions—began ramping up in the 90’s, as the peace process moved along. Bus bombings and other suicide bombings began to pick up speed and frequency between ‘94 and ‘96, ‘98—suicide bombings in busy shopping areas, near the Central Bus Station, at the main food market in Jerusalem, etc. And then the Second Intifada broke out. There were 138 suicide attacks and 1,038 Israelis killed from September 28, 2000 through February 8, 2005. And again, this is not a defense of Occupation (nor obviously a defense of terrorism—I will defend neither and condemn both) but I will note that Israelis carry trauma from losing loved ones in such horrific ways, and over a decade of not knowing if they or their loved ones would be blown up when riding the bus or going to a cafe or going to the mall—and constantly hearing of attacks, and the terror of trying to contact their people who might have been in the area—and making the calculation about whether they had to take the bus or could afford (time or money) to go another way, whether it was safer or less safe to sit by the windows of the cafe in case there was an attack, etc. Again, this does not justify immoral actions, but this pain, too, is real, and this trauma is real, and must be named and attended to.

  13. It is also true that, during the Second Intifada, 3,189 Palestinians were killed, according to data of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. In addition, 4,100 Palestinian homes were demolished and some 6,000 Palestinians arrested.

  14. It is in both Netanyahu and Hamas’ interests for you to take extreme positions. The path to Palestinian freedom, and to peace and safety for everyone, requires seeing everyone’s humanity and rooting for everyone’s liberation. That’s the way out. That’s the only way through.

    gray, blurry photograph of a crowd of people holding up a coffin on which stars of david and the words rabin and tzionut are written in hebrew, and the image of a younger than today bibi netanyahu in a suit jacket, looking ready to incite murder and derail the freedom of a whole people
    The guy in the black suit and white shirt with no tie, standing in the foreground but looks sort of like he’s also under the coffin is Netanyahu.
  15. [Rava said], What did you see to make you think that your blood is redder and more important than someone else’s? Perhaps the blood of that [other person] is redder. (Talmud Yoma 82b)

  16. Yes, there are structural inequalities. Palestinians are not free or safe. Injustices must be rectified. Beginning with a telling of every truth.

  17. Friends, remember, both Jews and Palestinians have existed on that land for thousands of years—it wasn’t all Jews before the Bar Kochba Revolt, and not all Jews left after the Bar Kochba Revolt. And the Jewish idea of returning to that patch of land started because Jews weren’t free or safe in Europe—it was expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions, murders, and more that led to the yearning for a Jewish place in the first place, whatever the impact that has been. And the catalyst for the movement towards statehood was the Holocaust. Jews didn’t have anywhere else to go.

  18. But that Jews weren’t safe and free doesn’t mean that we have a right to make another people unsafe and unfree. Trauma turtles all the way down. I know Jews are not safe now, and feeling less free this week than we have in some time. And.

    We can refuse to root for the safety and lives and rights of human beings like they are sports teams.

In which there are winners and losers. In which safety is a finite resource that must be hoarded.

I don’t know what the way out is politically8, but I believe in finding the will, and in finding the way. If we choose to look for it, we can get there.

19. At the end of the day, everyone must be safe, free and allowed to flourish, because everyone is holy, created in the image of the divine.

Nobody’s children should be killed. Nobody’s.

  1. “Prayer of the Mothers”

By Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum and Sheikha Ibtisam Mahamid Translated by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

God of Life

Who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds

May it be your will to hear the prayer of mothers.

For you did not create us to kill each other

Nor to live in fear, anger or hatred in your world

But rather you have created us so we can grant permission to one another

to sanctify Your name of Life, your name of Peace in this world.

For these things I weep, my eye, my eye runs down with water

For our children crying at nights,

For parents holding their children with despair and darkness in their hearts

For a gate that is closing and who will open it while day has not yet dawned.

And with my tears and prayers which I pray

And with the tears of all women who deeply feel the pain of these difficult days I raise my hands to you

please God have mercy on us

Hear our voice that we shall not despair

That we shall see life in each other,

That we shall have mercy for each other,

That we shall have pity on each other,

That we shall hope for each other

And we shall write our lives in the book of Life

For your sake God of Life

Let us choose Life.

For you are Peace, your world is Peace and all that is yours is Peace

And so shall be your will and let us say Amen.

Life is a Sacred Text is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.



I know people to whom this happened personally. Thank God they got out. Not everyone did.


Listen, I’m not even talking about some of the more extreme reports I’ve heard. The kids of a personal contact will eventually, when school resumes, wind up going back to a classroom that’s half empty because a lot of the kids were killed by Hamas past weekend.


And yes, we can and must talk about Nakba also, please I’m so tired, not now.


I’ve had the honor of meeting him a few times and beyond what he mentions in this podcast, he talks about his time in Israeli prison—where he was incarcerated as a young teen—as a time of deep political education. His fellow prisoners introduced him to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara—as well as to hunger strikes and other forms of nonviolent protest. But prisoner hunger strikes didn’t end the Occupation, is the problem. Nonviolent resistance hasn’t moved the needle in the ways that it should have.


We sent our kids here—a joint Israeli/Arab, Hebrew/Arabic instruction school (there is a network of them) when we were in Jerusalem in 2015/2016. They do really extraordinary work (even though it is not perfect—its problems are really the structural problems with Israeli society that privilege Jews and disadvantage Arab kids—the school is full of committed faculty and staff who mean it, and they graduate kids who are committed to coexistence because they’ve been living it.) Eg beyond things like having Israeli and Arab teachers in every class and everyone learning all the languages and singing all the songs and celebrating Hanukah and Eid, all kids learn about the Nakba and color in keys (the symbol of Palestinian longing to return to the houses now part of the State of Israel) and it’s not shared in a way meant to threaten Jewish kids—just to tell another part of the story. They have a Jewish Memorial Day ceremony in one room and a Palestinian Nakba ceremony in another room, and anybody is welcome to be in either space. The holding of multiple narratives as truth. From age 3 through high school.


An anecdotal observation: The joint Israeli-Arab projects seem to—and someone check me if I’m wrong—attract much less negative attention from state powers than Palestinians protesting nonviolently by themselves. Or, say, than Breaking the Silence, which is an organization of IDF veterans who tell the truth about what happens under Occupation. Netanyahu hates them. Tried to ban them and everything.


Did settlements and access roads for settlers continue getting built under Rabin? Yes. Was he also building a pathway to Palestinian statehood and evidently (??) thought that evacuating settlements was a problem to solve for later? It seems also yes? Or possibly he was trying to appease other factions in his government? Or was building up settlements to establish them more solidly in anticipation of trading them for other land to Palestinians later? Or d) none of the above? But the building and the pathway definitely both happened, whatever the motivation. There are no facile narratives.


Is there any hope still for the two state solution?. Should we consider a confederation system? Could a one-state solution work out? Are there other options? I don’t know. But human rights for everyone is a non-negotiable.

Read the whole story
17 days ago
Pretty much the best take.
Share this story

Early Edition: November 9, 2023

1 Share

Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.

A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news


The Israeli military fought Hamas militants in the north of the Gaza Strip today, as both sides claim to have inflicted heavy losses from the attacks. Gaza City residents say Israeli tanks are stationed around the City and that forces are moving closer to two local hospitals. Israeli soldiers claim they discovered a Hamas site, storing and manufacturing weapons, in a residential building in the Sheikh Rawan region of northern Gaza. Nidal Al-Mughrabia and Maytaal Angel report for Reuters

Israel launched intense airstrikes in Gaza City overnight and into this morning, as ground forces continue to fight Hamas in urban areas which saw tens of thousands of people fleeing this week. The director of Al-Shifa hospital in downtown Gaza said Israeli troops were around 3 miles from the hospital. Israel says Hamas’ main command center is located in a tunnel complex under the hospital, something Hamas and medical staff firmly deny and say the military is using as a pretext to a future attack. Najib Jobain, Samy Magdy and Kareem Chehayeb report for AP News.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have taken control of a Hamas outpost in Jabalia, northern Gaza, according to their post on X, formerly Twitter. The post said it took “10 hours of fighting, during which they eliminated terrorists, captured many weapons, uncovered terrorist tunnel shafts, including a shaft located near a kindergarten and leading to an extensive underground route.” BBC News reports. 

Yesterday saw 50,000 Palestinians flee northern Gaza to the south, the IDF said, as it opened a brief corridor along Salah al-Din Road, running down the center of the Gaza strip. The figure was provided yesterday in a briefing by Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson. Chantal Da Silva and Mithil Aggarwal report for NBC News.

The U.N. human rights chief accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes over the past month. “The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on October 7 were heinous, brutal and shocking, they were war crimes – as is the continued holding of hostages,” said Volker Türk, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. He also said, “The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.” Michael Rios and Jessie Yeung report for CNN.

The Rafah border crossing into Gaza was closed yesterday due to a “security circumstance” but officials were working to get it reopened, a U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson said. The Rafah crossing suspended evacuations on Saturday and Sunday following an Israeli strike on an ambulance traveling to Rafah, but the crossing reopened on Monday and Tuesday. Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis report for Reuters.


Israel’s spy agency worked with Brazil and other international agencies to thwart an attack aimed at Israeli and Jewish targets in Brazil planned by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said yesterday. Brazil confirmed they have arrested two people on terrorism charges in Sao Paulo. Israel’s spy agency Mossad said the plan “was operated by Hezbollah in order to carry out an attack on Israeli and Jewish targets in Brazil,” adding that it was “directed and financed by the Iranian regime.” Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Gabriel Stargardter report for Reuters


French President Emmanuel Macron is convening an international conference in Paris today to secure funding for humanitarian aid to Gaza and to discuss the release of hostages held by Hamas. Attendees are expected to include officials from the U.N., the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with E.U. officials and a U.S. representative. Israel is not sending a representative despite French officials coordinating the agenda with their Israeli counterparts following Macron’s talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. The French presidency said Paris is planning on significantly increasing its financial contributions and is also working on how European countries could take in wounded Palestinian civilians. Aurelien Breeden reports for the New York Times


U.S. officials say Hamas is discussing the conditional release of a small number of hostages, including some Americans, in return for a three-day pause in Israel’s fighting in Gaza. The terms negotiated are said to include the release of up to 15 hostages for a pause in the fighting which would bide time for humanitarian aid to be shipped into Gaza and hostages to be transported out of the enclave. Details of the hostages, including specific numbers, were not provided, but C.I.A. director William J. Burns facilitated the talks, according to officials. Lisa Friedman, Julian E. Barnes and Edward Wong report for the New York Times.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that Gaza should be unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority once the war ends. He said there must be “affirmative elements to get a sustained peace…these must include the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza…it must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” Blinken did not expand further, although national security council spokesperson John Kirby said, “we don’t have it all figured out right now…but we know that it has to be something different than what it was under Hamas.” Michael D.Shear reports for the New York Times.

Blinken escalated his opposition to a cease-fire saying yesterday that “those calling for an immediate cease-fire have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable result that would likely bring.” He said humanitarian pauses “would advance key objectives” but reiterated that “Israel has repeatedly told us that there is no going back to … before the barbaric attacks by Hamas – we fully agree.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.


South Africa will deploy 3,300 army personnel to help combat illegal mining across all provinces, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said today. The South African National Defense Force deployment is expected to cost $26 million and will maintain law and order under “Operation Prosper.” Tannur Anders and Nelson Banya report for Reuters

China expressed strong disagreement with the China-related comments made by G7 ministers, a statement issued by its embassy in Japan said today. The statement issued by the G7 ministers urged China not to support Russia in the Ukraine war, as well as encouraging Beijing to address its non-market policies, allow autonomy for Hong Kong, and maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait. “China will resolutely counter any smear campaigns from external forces,” the embassy said. Albee Zhang, Ryan Woo and Ben Blanchard report for Reuters


Leaders of the G7 group insisted yesterday that their support for Ukraine “will never waiver” despite the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The foreign ministers said they agreed on the need to impose sanctions on Russia and that they would continue to provide economic and military support for Kyiv “even in today’s international situation,” a statement from the Japanese foreign ministry confirmed. Ido Vock reports for BBC News

Ukraine is ready to begin the process of joining the European Union, according to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Speaking yesterday, she said, “the Commission recommends that the Council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova.” The comment came on the same day that the Commission published a report recommending that accession talks should commence, nearly 18 months since they accepted Ukraine as a candidate. Responding to the announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Ukrainians have always been and remain part of our common European family. Our country must be in the European Union. Ukrainians deserve it both for their defense of European values and for the fact that even in times of full-scale war, we keep our word and develop state institutions.” Luke McGee reports for CNN.


Two U.S. fighter jets conducted an airstrike in eastern Syria on a weapons storage facility in “a clear message to Iran” that they “hold it accountable for the attacks on U.S. forces,” a senior defense official said yesterday.  In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the facility was being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups. The anonymous senior military official said that he is “pretty certain there were some secondary explosions that indicated the facility was housing weapons,” which he believes “are likely used in many of the strikes that have taken place” against U.S. forces so far. He also said that he is “very certain” the strike “did not involve civilian loss” or any casualties. The strike is the second time the United States has hit facilities utilized by Iranian-backed groups, following the near daily attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian proxies since October. Haley Britzky and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.

Iranian-backed Youthi militants shot down a U.S. military drone off the Yemeni coast, as tensions increase between Washington and the Iran-backed groups in the wake of the war. Both a U.S. official and a Houthi military spokesperson confirmed the incident. The United States recently moved military assets to the Middle East and just last month, a U.S. navy warship intercepted missiles and drones launched by the Houthis toward Israel. Oliver Slow reports for BBC News.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today that he shares concerns with South Korea over the growing military relationship between North Korea and Russia, which he labeled as a “two-way street” of support. Blinken is currently on a visit to South Korea and said the supply of military equipment by North Korea in exchange for Russian technical support is “a real concern for the security of the Korean Peninsula, a real concern for global non-proliferation regimes, it’s a real concern for the Russian aggression of Ukraine and a real concern for the violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.” Blinken said he discussed deterrence strategies, including the use of nuclear forces for projection from attacks, with South Korean foreign minister Park Jin. Soo-Hyang Choi and Ju-min Park report for Reuters


Ivanka Trump, daughter of the former President Donald Trump, testified in his civil fraud trial yesterday, saying she had “no involvement” in Trump’s statement of financial condition and that she did not know “the valuations were taken into account.” She is the fourth and final member of Trump’s family to testify. NBC News reports.


Republican presidential candidates all declared support for Israel but disagreed over Ukraine and China during their first debate since the Israel-Hamas war broke out. Among the five candidates was Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, who said she would end trade relations with China “until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl.” The candidates also responded to why they should beat former President Donald Trump, and discussed topics such as abortion rights. Michelle L.Price and Jill Colvin report for AP News.

The post Early Edition: November 9, 2023 appeared first on Just Security.

Read the whole story
26 days ago
Share this story

Instagram Hid a Comment. It Was Just Three Palestinian Flag Emojis.

1 Share

As Israel imposed an internet blackout in Gaza on Friday, social media users posting about the grim conditions have contended with erratic and often unexplained censorship of content related to Palestine on Instagram and Facebook.

Since Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza after the October 7 Hamas attack, Facebook and Instagram users have reported widespread deletions of their content, translations inserting the word “terrorist” into Palestinian Instagram profiles, and suppressed hashtags. Instagram comments containing the Palestinian flag emoji have also been hidden, according to 7amleh, a Palestinian digital rights group that formally collaborates with Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, on regional speech issues.

Numerous users have reported to 7amleh that their comments were moved to the bottom of the comments section and require a click to display. Many of the remarks have something in common: “It often seemed to coincide with having a Palestinian flag in the comment,” 7amleh spokesperson Eric Sype told The Intercept.

Users report that Instagram had flagged and hidden comments containing the emoji as “potentially offensive,” TechCrunch first reported last week. Meta has routinely attributed similar instances of alleged censorship to technical glitches. Meta confirmed to The Intercept that the company has been hiding comments that contain the Palestinian flag emoji in certain “offensive” contexts that violate the company’s rules.

“The notion of finding a flag offensive is deeply distressing for Palestinians,” Mona Shtaya, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy who follows Meta’s policymaking on speech, told The Intercept.

“The notion of finding a flag offensive is deeply distressing for Palestinians.”

Asked about the contexts in which Meta hides the flag, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone pointed to the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy, which designates Hamas as a terrorist organization, and cited a section of the Community Standards rulebook that prohibits any content “praising, celebrating or mocking anyone’s death.”

It remains unclear, however, precisely how Meta determines whether the use of the flag emoji is offensive enough to suppress. The Intercept reviewed several hidden comments containing the Palestinian flag emoji that had no reference to Hamas or any other banned group. The Palestinian flag itself has no formal association with Hamas and predates the militant group by decades.

Some of the hidden comments reviewed by The Intercept only contained emojis and no other text. In one, a user commented on an Instagram video of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Jordan with green, white, and black heart emojis corresponding to the colors of the Palestinian flag, along with emojis of the Moroccan and Palestinian flags. In another, a user posted just three Palestinian flag emojis. Another screenshot seen by The Intercept shows two hidden comments consisting only of the hashtags #Gaza, #gazaunderattack, #freepalestine, and #ceasefirenow.

“Throughout our long history, we’ve endured moments where our right to display the Palestinian flag has been denied by Israeli authorities. Decades ago, Palestinian artists Nabil Anani and Suleiman Mansour ingeniously used a watermelon as a symbol of our flag,” Shtaya said. “When Meta engages in such practices, it echoes the oppressive measures imposed on Palestinians.”

Faulty Content Moderation

Instagram and Facebook users have taken to other social media platforms to report other instances of censorship. On X, formerly known as Twitter, one user posted that Facebook blocked a screenshot of a popular Palestinian Instagram account he tried to share with a friend via private message. The message was flagged as containing nonconsensual sexual images, and his account was suspended.

On Bluesky, Facebook and Instagram users reported that attempts to share national security reporter Spencer Ackerman’s recent article criticizing President Joe Biden’s support of Israel were blocked and flagged as cybersecurity risks.

On Friday, the news site Mondoweiss tweeted a screenshot of an Instagram video about Israeli arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank that was removed because it violated the dangerous organizations policy.

Meta’s increasing reliance on automated, software-based content moderation may prevent people from having to sort through extremely disturbing and potentially traumatizing images. The technology, however, relies on opaque, unaccountable algorithms that introduce the potential to misfire, censoring content without explanation. The issue appears to extend to posts related to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

An independent audit commissioned by Meta last year determined that the company’s moderation practices amounted to a violation of Palestinian users’ human rights. The audit also concluded that the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy — which speech advocates have criticized for its opacity and overrepresentation of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asians — was “more likely to impact Palestinian and Arabic-speaking users, both based upon Meta’s interpretation of legal obligations, and in error.”

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Meta recently dialed down the level of confidence its automated systems require before suppressing “hostile speech” to 25 percent for the Palestinian market, a significant decrease from the standard threshold of 80 percent.

The audit also faulted Meta for implementing a software scanning tool to detect violent or racist incitement in Arabic, but not for posts in Hebrew. “Arabic classifiers are likely less accurate for Palestinian Arabic than other dialects … due to lack of linguistic and cultural competence,” the report found.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, we have received hundreds of submissions documenting incitement to violence in Hebrew.”

Despite Meta’s claim that the company developed a speech classifier for Hebrew in response to the audit, hostile speech and violent incitement in Hebrew are rampant on Instagram and Facebook, according to 7amleh.

“Based on our monitoring and documentation, it seems to be very ineffective,” 7amleh executive director and co-founder Nadim Nashif said of the Hebrew classifier. “Since the beginning of this crisis, we have received hundreds of submissions documenting incitement to violence in Hebrew, that clearly violate Meta’s policies, but are still on the platforms.”

An Instagram search for a Hebrew-language hashtag roughly meaning “erase Gaza” produced dozens of results at the time of publication. Meta could not be immediately reached for comment on the accuracy of its Hebrew speech classifier.

The Wall Street Journal shed light on why hostile speech in Hebrew still appears on Instagram. “Earlier this month,” the paper reported, “the company internally acknowledged that it hadn’t been using its Hebrew hostile speech classifier on Instagram comments because it didn’t have enough data for the system to function adequately.”

The post Instagram Hid a Comment. It Was Just Three Palestinian Flag Emojis. appeared first on The Intercept.

Read the whole story
38 days ago
Share this story

Daniel Radcliffe Joins ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Doc About His Stunt Double David Holmes

1 Share
Daniel Radcliffe and David Holmes in The Boy Who Lived

Daniel Radcliffe has signed on to serve as executive producer of David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, a documentary about the actor’s Harry Potter stunt double. Holmes served as Radcliffe’s double for all the Harry Potter films before suffering a tragic accident on set that left him paralyzed.

Holmes wasn’t just Radcliffe’s stunt double; he was also his friend. The pair became very close during their work on Harry Potter, and their bond persisted after the series concluded. They’ve even collaborated before on the podcast Cunning Stunts, which raises awareness for the risks that stunt doubles face in their career. The work of stunt performers is underappreciated in Hollywood, even though these individuals have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and routinely risk their lives so that actors won’t have to. Most award shows don’t even have categories devoted to recognizing stunt work. While danger is a part of the job, there are definitely concerns about stunt doubles’ inability to refuse particularly unsafe stunts for fear of losing their jobs and directors and other executives forgoing safety for the sake of nabbing the perfect shot.

The post Daniel Radcliffe Joins ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Doc About His Stunt Double David Holmes appeared first on The Mary Sue.

Read the whole story
41 days ago
Share this story

Unconfirmed ‘Beheaded Babies’ Report Helped Justify Israeli Slaughter

1 Share


i24: Horror Scenes at Kibbutz Liberated From Hamas

Nicole Zedek (i24, 10/10/23) reports from the scene of the alleged mass decapitation.

There’s perhaps no more serious a time for journalists to do their jobs responsibly than during a war.

But corporate media have not been, as evidenced by their repetition of the shocking, unsubstantiated claim that Hamas had beheaded 40 babies in its violent attack on a kibbutz in southern Israel on October 7.

It all started with television reporting by journalist Nicole Zedek, who works for the 24-hour Israeli cable news channel i24, now embedded with the Israeli Defense Forces. In one October 10 report, she said, “I’m talking to some of the soldiers, and they say what they’ve witnessed…babies, their heads cut off.” In another report later that day, she says, “About 40 babies at least were taken out on gurneys,” prompting the host to interject: “Nicole, I have to cut in—that’s such a shocking, jarring statement there…. You’re saying 40 babies, dead babies?”

Zedek’s reporting was cobbled together into the viral claim that 40 babies were beheaded, despite that, by her own account, she had not seen the bodies herself, and relied solely on Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers as her sources. This might not have mattered as much if she were reporting on a less inflammatory subject, or had a more reliable source, but the IDF is known for misleading journalists.

The next day, Zedek told a podcast (Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 10/11/23) that “it’s sickening” that people were scrutinizing her reporting of alleged baby beheadings closely: “We have these soldiers confirming what they’ve seen of the mutilation of these children.”

The claim remains up on i24’s website, as of October 18. Israel’s largest newspaper Ha’aretz (12/2/19) found in a 2019 investigation that i24 had compromised its integrity years earlier by becoming more pro-Netanyahu in order to obtain a broadcast license. It also reputedly has close ties to the Israeli military (Anadolu Ajansi, 10/11/23).

Amplifying the claim

Business Insider: IDF says Hamas fighters killed and decapitated babies at one kibbutz near the Gaza border

Business Insider (10/10/23): “A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told Insider on Tuesday that its soldiers found the decapitated corpses of babies…although he hadn’t seen images or videos himself.”

But Zedek and i24 alone could not have produced the flood of social media posts about 40 decapitated babies. That took other outlets amplifying her “reporting” within hours, lending it further credibility and helping it go viral. Some typical headlines:

  • “IDF Says Hamas Fighters Killed and Decapitated Babies at One Kibbutz Near the Gaza Border” (Business Insider, 10/10/23)
  • “Hamas kills 40 Babies and Children—Beheading Some of Them—at Israeli Kibbutz: Report” (New York Post, 10/10/23)
  • “Israeli Forces Say They’ve Uncovered Evidence of Brutal Killings: ‘They Cut Heads of Children’” (The Hill, 10/10/23)

The British Daily Mail (10/10/23) got it all into the headline:

Hamas Terrorists “Beheaded Babies During Kibbutz Slaughter Where 40 Young Children Were Killed”: IDF Soldiers Reveal Families Were Killed in Their Bedrooms—”Not in War, Not a Battlefield… a Massacre'”

Later in the day, a Turkish news outlet (Anadolu Ajansi, 10/10/23) did what Zedek and others should have done in the first place, reporting the story rather than just repeating the sources’ claims. It called the Israeli Defense Forces and found that the military would not confirm the account—a minimal step that Zedek and the many outlets that repeated her claims should have taken, given the gravity of the charges.

But the damage had been done; by Wednesday, nearly a dozen British newspapers ran the i24 claims on their front pages. The Israeli government picked up the story and ran with it too, even as it wouldn’t confirm it. Eventually, US President Biden was caught saying that he had seen photos of decapitated infants when he had not; the White House was forced to issue an embarrassing “clarification.”

Why does it matter?

Reuters: Israel releases images of slain children to rally support

Reuters (10/13/23): “There were no images to suggest militants had beheaded babies—a particularly explosive accusation that first emerged in Israel’s media and initially confirmed by Israeli officials.”

So we have a story, and that story was generated in a grossly irresponsible way, and then repeated over and over. But what proof do we have that the story is false? After all, even if it was reported badly, and repeated without additional substantiation, it might be true.

Aside from the questionable nature of the sourcing, there is circumstantial evidence that it is false. The Israeli government released horrific images of dead infants over social media (Reuters, 10/13/23). None of the photos showed any evidence of decapitated infants. If the Israeli government had proof that such a horrifying crime had been committed, and was willing to release other traumatic photos of dead infants, surely it would have also released the ones that backed up its claims?

Even with all this said, why does it matter? After all, other horrific crimes were committed in southern Israel. It matters because the war in Gaza was already underway when i24 reported on the “decapitated babies” story—about 260 children were killed in the Gaza Strip as of October 10 (AP, 10/10/23). To maintain lockstep international support, the IDF needed to differentiate its mass slaughter from Hamas’s violence–which it could only do by painting Hamas as sadistic, savage, subhuman. The claim about beheading babies was ideal for the job: a shocking story that served to turn off logic and critical thinking. Who wouldn’t want to avenge murdered, desecrated infants?

Such stories have worked in the past; when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, George H.W. Bush repeated the claims of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti teen that she had seen Iraqi soldiers take babies in Kuwait out of incubators and leave them to die (Democracy Now!, 12/5/18). The teenager later turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, and her claims to be fabrications orchestrated by a DC public relations firm hired by the Kuwaiti government.

In addition, the Israeli government explicitly attempted to draw an equation between Hamas and ISIS, noted for their use of decapitation as a tactic. This aspect of the claim evokes stereotypes of “barbaric” Muslims.

By credulously repeating the soldiers’ claims and Zedek’s reporting on them, countless outlets around the world have contributed to these harms. And the people who have suffered the most in the process are the million-plus children of Gaza.

The post Unconfirmed ‘Beheaded Babies’ Report Helped Justify Israeli Slaughter appeared first on FAIR.

Read the whole story
45 days ago
Share this story
Next Page of Stories