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      “The Squad,” Part 1: The Rise and (First) Fall of Bernie / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 5 December - 11:00 · 1 minute

    When Bernie Sanders launched his first presidential campaign in early 2015, the political world could not have been more different than it is today. His run set in motion a movement — or, really, a series of movements that clashed and blended over the ensuing years, reshaping both the Democratic Party and the country. On today’s episode of Deconstructed, we’re trying something new: Host Ryan Grim narrates the audio version of his new book “ The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution .” Macmillan Audio has allowed Deconstructed to run edited excerpts. But we’ve spliced Grim’s audiobook with interviews, speeches, and newscasts, making it into an audio documentary for the podcast. Our first episode takes you inside the first Sanders campaign, where we explore the tension between the right wing of the Democratic Party and Sanders’s “political revolution.” Part 2, coming out later this week, will look back at the historical forces that pushed members of the Squad into politics — and the spotlight. And Part 3, coming out next week, jumps further into the book, exploring the big-money pushback against the new insurgent energy.

    Transcript coming soon.

    The post “The Squad,” Part 1: The Rise and (First) Fall of Bernie appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Leading News Outlets Are Doing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Greenwashing / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 5 December - 10:00 · 13 minutes

    In a recent episode of the podcast “Powered By How,” award-winning journalist Nisha Pillai leads a discussion on the energy transition. Over the course of 25 minutes, the guests — a business psychologist, a renewable energy investor, and the head of an innovation lab — describe the challenges of scaling new technologies to combat the climate crisis. The casual listener could easily miss the first five seconds, when Pillai, a former BBC World News presenter whose voice instills instant confidence, announces that the podcast was produced by Reuters Plus in partnership with fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco. Pillai never explains that Reuters Plus is the publication’s internal ad studio, nor does she remind listeners of the show’s sponsor when the head of the innovation lab, an Aramco executive, touts the benefits of unproven, industry-backed technologies.

    Reuters is one of at least seven major news outlets that creates and publishes misleading promotional content for fossil fuel companies, according to a report released today. Known as advertorials or native advertising, the sponsored material is created to look like a publication’s authentic editorial work, lending a veneer of journalistic credibility to the fossil fuel industry’s key climate talking points.

    In collaboration with The Intercept and The Nation, Drilled and DeSmog analyzed hundreds of advertorials and events, as well as ad data from MediaRadar. Our analysis focused on the three years spanning October 2020 to October 2023, when the public ramped up calls for media, public relations, and advertising companies to cut their commercial ties with fossil fuel clients amid growing awareness that the industry’s deceptive messaging was slowing climate action.

    All of the media companies reviewed — Bloomberg, The Economist, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Politico, Reuters, and the Washington Post — consistently top lists of “most trusted” news outlets. They also all have internal brand studios that create advertising content for major oil and gas companies, furnishing the industry with an air of legitimacy as it pushes misleading climate claims to trusting readers. In addition to producing podcasts, newsletters, and videos, some of these outlets allow fossil fuel companies to sponsor their events. Reuters goes even further, creating custom summits for the industry explicitly designed to remove the “ pain points ” holding back faster production of oil and gas. (Disclosure: Co-author Matthew Green was formerly a Reuters climate correspondent.)

    With United Nations climate talks underway in the United Arab Emirates, oil and gas companies have been sponsoring even more advertorials and events with media partners than usual, primarily designed to portray the industry as a climate leader.

    “It’s really outrageous that outlets like the New York Times or Bloomberg or Reuters would lend their imprimatur to content that is misleading at best and in some cases outright false,” said Naomi Oreskes, a climate disinformation expert and professor at Harvard University. “They’re manufacturing content that at best is completely one-sided, and at worst is disinformation, and pushing that to their readers.”

    Chevron is the exclusive sponsor of “Politico Energy,” a daily podcast bringing listeners “the latest news in energy and environmental politics and policy.”
    Screenshot: Amy Westervelt

    Spokespeople for Bloomberg, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Washington Post told us that advertorial content is created by staff members who are separate from the newsroom, and their journalists are independent from their ad sales efforts (Politico and The Economist did not respond to requests for comment). But the independence of these outlets’ journalists is not in question; what’s important is whether readers understand the difference between reporting and advertising. And according to a growing body of peer-reviewed research, they do not.

    “It tarnishes the reputation of that news outlet. So it’s baffling to me why newsrooms are continuing to pursue this.”

    A 2016 Georgetown University study, for example, found that advertorials are confused for “real” content by about two-thirds of people . Another study, conducted in 2018 by Boston University researchers , found that only one in 10 people recognized native advertising as advertising rather than reporting.

    Michelle Amazeen, the lead author on the Boston University study, found that those who did recognize sponsored content for what it was thought less of the outlet they were reading. “It tarnishes the reputation of that news outlet,” Amazeen said. “So it’s baffling to me why newsrooms are continuing to pursue this.”

    COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a press conference at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 4, 2023. The Emirati president of the UN's COP28 talks said on December 4 he respects climate science, after a leaked video showed him declaring that no science says a fossil fuel phaseout will help achieve climate goals. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images) COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a press conference at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Dec. 4, 2023.
    Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

    Crafting “Climate Narratives”

    This year’s 28 th annual U.N. climate negotiations — known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP28 — are currently being held in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s top oil-producing countries. Presided over by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the head of the UAE’s state-owned oil company, Adnoc, it is the most industry-influenced COP yet.

    Fossil fuel companies are seeking to preserve their business models by promoting carbon capture and storage, hydrogen power, and carbon offsets as viable climate solutions, even though the technologies are on track to do little more than extend the life of the fossil fuel industry. As COP28 president, Al Jaber backed these technologies in the leadup to the summit.

    The enormous influence oil and gas executives are wielding at COP28 has thrown commercial partnerships between media outlets and the fossil fuel industry into sharper focus. Climate reporters at every outlet we analyzed have diligently covered the challenges that the industry’s so-called solutions face, but when that reporting is placed alongside corporate-sponsored content touting the technologies’ benefits, it leaves readers confused.

    In addition to the Reuters Plus podcast produced this year for Aramco, the New York Times’s T Brand Studio created “ the Energy Trilemma ,” a 2022 podcast for BP about how high-emitting industries are decarbonizing — but not by reducing the development or use of fossil fuels. Bloomberg Media Studios, meanwhile, created a video for Exxon Mobil touting hydrogen power and carbon capture and storage, or CCS. In the video, Exxon CEO Darren Woods says the company is “ready to deploy CCS to reduce the world’s emissions” but leaves out the fact that the company also plans to increase annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece — news Bloomberg’s own climate reporters broke .

    Reuters Events offered to help corporations hone their “climate narrative” at COP28 via opportunities to secure “exclusive interviews,” seats at high-level roundtables, coverage on the Reuters website, exclusive dinner invites, and a Reuters presence in corporate pavilions at the Dubai expo center where negotiations are held.

    The media plays a fundamental role in shaping both policymakers’ and the public’s understanding of climate issues, according to Max Boykoff, who contributed research and analysis to the most recent climate mitigation report from the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “People aren’t picking up the IPCC report or peer-reviewed research to understand climate change,” he said. “People are reading about it in the news. That’s what shapes their understanding.”

    Reuters Events marketing email sent to reporter Matthew Green on July 3, 2023.
    Photo: Matthew Green

    “Vast Sums of Money”

    The fossil fuel industry’s attempts to extend its social license by buying friendly advertorials and other sponsored content date back to 1970, when Mobil Oil Vice President of Public Affairs Herbert Schmertz worked with the New York Times to create the first advertorial. The company proceeded to run these pieces, which Schmertz described as “political pamphlets,” in the Times every week for decades — a program that Mobil Oil extended to dozens of other outlets. A peer-reviewed 2017 study of Mobil and then Exxon Mobil’s New York Times advertorials found that 81 percent of the ones that mentioned climate change emphasized doubt in the science.

    The advent of “brand studios” inside most major media outlets over the past decade has supercharged such content programs. Now many publications have staff dedicated to creating content for advertisers, and the outlets market their ability to tailor content to their readership. These offerings come at a higher cost than traditional ad buys, making them increasingly important to for-profit newsrooms facing a crisis in the traditional revenue models. And fossil fuel companies have been happy to pay.

    “They wouldn’t be spending vast sums of money on these campaigns if they didn’t have a payoff, and it’s well documented that for decades, the fossil fuel industry has leveraged and weaponized and innovated the media technology of the day to its advantage,” said University of Miami researcher Geoffrey Supran, a co-author of the 2017 advertorial study with Oreskes. “It’s sometimes treated as a historical phenomenon, but in reality, we’re living today with the digital descendants of the editorial campaigns pioneered by the fossil fuel industry — the old strategy is very much alive and well.”

    “It’s well documented that for decades, the fossil fuel industry has leveraged and weaponized and innovated the media technology of the day to its advantage.”

    As their content marketing about the journey to net zero continues to get bigger and better, oil majors’ investments in fossil fuel development have only increased. A peer-reviewed study comparing oil majors’ advertising claims and actions, published in the journal Plos One in 2022, found that while the companies are talking more than ever about energy transition and decarbonization, they are not actually investing in either. “The companies are pledging a transition to clean energy and setting targets more than they are making concrete actions,” the study’s authors wrote.

    Reporters at the publications we reviewed often cover this disconnect between advertising and action. Their employers, however, then sell the space next to those stories for industry-sponsored takes that research shows many readers take equally as seriously.

    Screen capture of WP Creative Group’s “Our Work” page, taken on Nov. 20, 2023.
    Screenshot: Amy Westervelt

    Taking a page from Schmertz’s book, the WP Creative Group — the Washington Post’s internal brand studio — describes on its website how it goes about “influencing the influencers.”

    In 2022 alone, Exxon Mobil sponsored more than 100 editions of Washington Post newsletters. Throughout 2020 and 2021 , the Post also ran a series of online editorials for the American Petroleum Institute, the most powerful fossil fuel lobby in the U.S., including a multimedia piece that argued renewable energy is unreliable and fossil gas is a needed complement — talking points that the paper’s news reporters often debunk. During this time, the Washington Post editorial team published Pulitzer Prize-winning climate reporting and expanded its climate coverage .

    Over the past three years, the Financial Times has also created dedicated web pages for various fossil majors, including Equinor and Aramco , along with native content and videos , all focused on promoting oil and gas as a key component of the energy transition. In that same period, Politico has run native ads more than 50 times for the American Petroleum Institute; organized 37 email campaigns for Exxon Mobil; and sent dozens of newsletters sponsored by BP and Chevron, the latter of which also sponsors Politico’s annual Women Rule summit.

    According to data from MediaRadar, the New York Times took in more than $20 million in revenue from fossil fuel advertisers from October 2020 to October 2023 — twice what any other outlet earned from the industry. That number is due largely to the paper’s relationship with Saudi Aramco, which brought in $13 million in ad revenue during that three-year period, via a combination of print, mobile, and video ads, as well as sponsored newsletters.

    The revenue figure does not include creative services fees paid to the Times’s internal brand studio. New York Times spokesperson Alexis Mortenson said that the studio creates custom content for fossil fuel advertisers in print, video, and digital, including podcasts, and promotes it to the New York Times audience via “dark social posts”: advertisements that cannot be found organically and do not appear on a brand’s timeline. Mortenson noted that the Times also allows fossil fuel companies to sponsor some newsletters, provided they are not climate related.

    “I feel like it’s really important not to beat around the bush and to just recognize these activities for what they are, which is literally Big Oil and mainstream media collaborating in PR campaigns for the industry,” said Supran. “It’s nothing short of that.”

    “Gross,” “Undermining,” and “Dangerous”

    Of all the outlets we reviewed, only Reuters offers fossil fuel advertisers every possible avenue to reach its audience. Its event arm even produces custom events for the industry, despite counting “freedom from bias” as a core pillar of its “ trust principles ,” which were adopted to protect the publication’s independence during World War II.

    Since Reuters News, a subsidiary of Canadian media conglomerate Thomson Reuters, acquired an events business in 2019, the distinction between the company’s newsroom and its commercial ventures has become increasingly blurred . Reuters’ in-house creative studio produces native print, audio, video, and newsletter content for multiple oil majors, including Shell , Saudi Aramco , and BP , while Reuters journalists routinely take part as moderators and interviewers and propose guest speakers for Reuters Events.

    In a media kit for “content opportunities in the upstream industry,” Reuters Events staff offers to produce webinars, white papers, and live-event interviews for those hoping to get in front of its “unrivalled audience reach of decision makers in the oil & gas industry.” For its Hydrogen 2023 event, Reuters Events produced a companion white paper on the top 100 hydrogen innovators, which it then used to market the event in various other outlets. Topping the list of innovators were key event sponsors Chevron and Shell.

    Reuters Events also stages fossil fuel industry trade shows aimed at maximizing production of oil and gas, and it creates digital events and webinars for vendors in the fossil fuel supply chain looking to connect with oil and gas companies. In June, Reuters Events convened hundreds of oil, gas, and tech executives in Houston for Reuters Events: Data Driven Oil & Gas USA 2023 , a conference held under the banner “Scaling Digital to Maximize Profit.”

    “Time is money, which is why our agenda gets straight to key pain points holding back drilling and production maximization,” the conference website said.

    In December 2022, Reuters ran an event sponsored by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative , a lobby group that includes many of the world’s largest oil companies, to discuss the “major part” fossil fuel companies “play in ensuring a sustainable energy transition.” During the event, industry talking points were tweeted directly from the Reuters Events Twitter account.

    Other news outlets, including the Financial Times, The Economist, and Politico, have held their own climate-focused events, sponsored by petrochemical majors like BP, Chevron, Eni, and Shell.

    “Business-to-business publishers always had an events revenue stream, but consumer-facing news publications didn’t really get into the events business until digital advertising became commodified,” media analyst Ken Doctor said. Now events represent 20 to 30 percent of revenue for some publications. Doctor called them a “thought-leader exercise” for the advertisers. “There are only a few top media brands out there, and if you are associated with any of them, there is a lot of tangential brand building benefit to that.”

    “How can we expect people to take our climate coverage seriously after everything these oil companies have done to hide the truth?”

    Climate reporters at the outlets we reviewed, who requested anonymity to avoid professional repercussions, described the practice of selling advertorials and event sponsorships to fossil fuel companies as “gross,” “undermining,” and “dangerous.”

    “Not only does it undermine the climate journalism these outlets are producing, but it actually signals to readers that climate change is not a serious issue,” one climate reporter said.

    Another journalist at a major media organization said the outlet had undermined its credibility by striking commercial deals with oil and gas companies with a long history of casting doubt on climate science. “Where is our integrity? How can we expect people to take our climate coverage seriously after everything these oil companies have done to hide the truth?”

    This article was reported in partnership with DeSmog and The Nation .

    Additional reporting: Joey Grostern.

    The post Leading News Outlets Are Doing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Greenwashing appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Shock Poll Shows Independent Nebraska Union Leader Beating Republican Senator / TheIntercept · Monday, 4 December - 22:28 · 4 minutes

    A Nebraska labor leader running for the U.S. Senate as an independent could best the Republican incumbent, according to a recent poll of voters in the Cornhusker State.

    Dan Osborn, a 48-year-old military veteran who helped lead the 2021 strikes against food giant Kellogg’s, launched a challenge against 72-year-old Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer in October. A poll commissioned by Change Research, a liberal research firm, shows Osborn leading Fischer by a margin of 2 points. Nebraska has voted for a Republican president every year since 1964, and the survey, conducted in November, shows that respondents favor former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden by a margin of 16.

    Osborn’s slight edge in the poll — 40 percent to Fischer’s 38 percent — comes despite 59 percent of respondents saying they had never heard of him before. Fischer, meanwhile, has represented Nebraska in the Senate for a decade and sits on the influential Armed Services and Agricultural committees. In response to a question that described both Osborn’s and Fischer’s backgrounds, 50 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Osborn, while only 32 percent said they’d vote for Fischer.

    “Nebraskans have had it with Washington. We’ve been starving for honest government that isn’t bought and paid for,” Osborn told The Intercept. “This poll shows that Nebraska’s independent streak is alive and well.”

    Democrats have so far not fielded a candidate in the Senate race. In October, shortly after Osborn’s announcement, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said state Democrats were considering supporting his bid. Kleeb told The Intercept that the state party would make an endorsement decision in February and that Osborn could win if “the money is there.”

    He could appeal to populists and progressives, Kleeb said, with many Nebraska voters tired of one-party control in the state. “Makes politicians lazy when you have only one party in control and more beholden to corporate interests since they don’t have to answer to voters,” she wrote.

    Osborn’s candidacy comes as Democrats face a challenging battle next year to retain their razor-thin Senate majority. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has announced that he will not run for reelection, all but guaranteeing a Republican pickup in West Virginia, while Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, are vying to defend seats in states Trump won in 2020.

    Democrats are also defending seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona (where Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego seeks to beat Kyrsten Sinema, who recently changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent, and Republican Kari Lake in a three-way race), while Republicans are playing in defense in Florida and Texas, where they have had strong showings in recent statewide elections.

    Osborn has focused his campaign on labor and economic issues and the cross-partisan coalition he aims to build. “I will bring together workers, farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across Nebraska around bread-and-butter issues that appeal across party lines,” he pledged when he announced his candidacy.

    His platform spans from raising pay for servicemembers and taking on agricultural consolidation to legalizing medical marijuana and pledging to “never supporting handing huge pharmaceuticals a blank check.” The independent also calls to reform railroad safety, with measures like requiring two-person crews and increasing fines for violating rail safety laws — mirroring some of the reforms that were floated after the disastrous Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this year.

    Osborn’s platform appears to be popular among would-be voters in Nebraska. Pollsters asked a series of questions regarding his policy platform, after which 53 percent of respondents said they’d vote for him, compared to 30 percent for Fisher. Thirty-three percent of poll respondents were Democrats, 14 percent independent, and 53 percent Republican; 53 percent said they voted for Trump in 2020, while 35 percent said they voted for Biden.

    “This poll shows that Nebraska’s independent streak is alive and well.”

    Osborn has served as the president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 50G and garnered national attention two years ago when he helped lead workers in a strike against Kellogg’s that lasted more than two months and also included factories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

    “It’s exciting to be a part of something bigger than yourself, knowing that we’re not alone,” the 18-year Kellogg’s veteran said at the time.

    In his campaign launch video, Osborn spoke about the strike. “Two years ago, I successfully led the strike to preserve 500 middle-class jobs here in Nebraska,” he said. “It didn’t matter what party you belonged to. We came together to find solutions and move forward.”

    During the strike, the company had threatened to replace all 1,400 workers. At its conclusion, workers won an agreement that included a $1.10 per hour raise, a new cost-of-living pay increase, and a pathway for lower-tier workers to “graduate” into a higher tier of pay.

    As an independent, Osborn has no party structure to tap into for campaigning or fundraising. As of September 30, Fischer had $2.6 million on hand; Osborn announced raising $100,000 in two months as of November 16.

    The post Shock Poll Shows Independent Nebraska Union Leader Beating Republican Senator appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Correcting the Record on My Book / TheIntercept · Monday, 4 December - 19:09 · 4 minutes

    This article was originally published as a newsletter from Ryan Grim. Sign up to get the next one in your inbox.

    Pushing a book into the world is a disorienting experience. It’s at once exhilarating — years of reporting, writing, and revising finally turned into something real — and terrifying. Will it get shredded by haughty reviewers? Or worse, ignored?

    The place of a book in our ecosystem of knowledge production and distribution remains unique. No other medium can have so much intellectual and cultural influence with so few people actually consuming it. Nobody buys books, and ever fewer people read them, yet they still can shape the way we understand the world. Most people who have their views of the world shaped by a book do so by a form of media osmosis, listening to podcasts, reading reviews, excerpts, or news reports about the book. As an author, you hope that your themes and your message are clear enough that they land with some semblance of their original meaning by the time they’re refracted through so many mediated channels.

    And then, the Murdoch empire steps in.

    This weekend, the Daily Mail published a story based on an early copy of my book — called “ The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution ” — which they somehow acquired. Reading it is a surreal experience, as it misquotes the book, attributes things to me that are said by people I interviewed, and shears it of all context in the pursuit of a wildly sensational and flat-out wrong read. Next, the also-Murdoch-owned New York Post and Fox News followed suit, relying heavily on the faulty Daily Mail article, and then so did the conservative Washington Examiner. Last night, a salacious story on the book was even leading the Post’s website.

    Initially, I decided that ignoring it would be smarter than drawing more attention to it. There’s an argument that all press is good press, but I don’t buy that because A) those folks aren’t going to bother to buy or read the book anyway, so the publicity isn’t worth anything and B) the more fake noise injected into the public consciousness there is about the book, the less chance there is that the public will take away a reasonably accurate message. But ignoring it isn’t really an option once a lie starts to pick up major steam, and this one now has. So I figured it was worth sending an email not just to correct the record — those outlets don’t care — but to talk about the way the right-wing media ecosystem is so good at blotting out reality.

    In one example, the Daily Mail writes, and the other outlets generally repeat, “Grim claims that AOC’s signature achievement, the Green New Deal, was a ‘total s***show disaster.’” Except I do not at all claim that. In fact, in the book, Sunrise Movement’s political director, Evan Weber, describes one part of the Green New Deal rollout — an FAQ that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office put together — using those words. I also describe the Green New Deal, despite the flaws of the rollout, as an achievement that reshaped the climate debate on a global scale, but that doesn’t get mentioned.

    The articles, and even some headlines, say I call AOC “arrogant,” which I simply don’t. “Grim explains that her arrogance led her to become ‘closed off’ to meeting donors,” the Daily Mail tells its readers. In fact, I celebrate the fact that she was closed off to major donors because she was able to rely on small donors, not because of some arrogance, but because she had confidence that her politics resonated with a broad grassroots base that would continue to power her and the other members of the Squad. Shutting out major donors is a good thing, if that needs to be explained.

    The book is not without criticism of AOC and other members of the Squad, but man did they miss the mark. And yes, I know that “miss the mark” implies they actually tried to get it right and simply made a mistake, which we all know isn’t the case.

    What the Murdoch world might not be able to understand is that the book’s criticism isn’t aimed at cynically tearing down a movement that represents one of the few rays of hope we have left in this dark world, but is instead aimed at assessing what lessons can be learned in hindsight from the people who were directly involved in the decision making.

    I write in the book about the 24/7 right-wing media operation that was aimed at making AOC and the Squad toxic, one that gave her higher name recognition among Republicans her first year in office than Democrats, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see my book used as grist for that mill. But it’s still jarring. So I guess all I can say is that you should ignore the right-wing coverage of the book, and if you do actually read it, one way to counter the disinformation is to review it online somewhere. And if you see anybody in your circle getting fooled by it, tell them to read the book itself, or listen to a conversation about it on my podcast, or read an excerpt , or send them this newsletter, or really, do anything but get your news from the ghost of Rupert Murdoch. The book officially launches tomorrow, but you can preorder it now .

    The post Correcting the Record on My Book appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Netanyahu’s Goal for Gaza: “Thin” Population “to a Minimum” / TheIntercept · Sunday, 3 December - 19:39 · 2 minutes

    This article was originally published as a newsletter from Ryan Grim. Sign up to get the next one in your inbox.

    On this week’s episode of Deconstructed , I spoke with “Breaking Points” co-host Krystal Ball about my new book, “ The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution .” You can listen to it on whichever podcast platform you use, and the video has been posted on Krystal’s channel .

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasked his top adviser, Ron Dermer , the minister of strategic affairs, with designing plans to “thin” the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip “to a minimum,” according to a bombshell new report in an Israeli newspaper founded by the late Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

    The outlet, Israel Hayom, is considered to be something of an official organ for Netanyahu. It reported that the plan has two main elements: The first would use the pressure of the war and humanitarian crisis to persuade Egypt to allow refugees to flow to other Arab countries, and the second would open up sea routes so that Israel “allows a mass escape to European and African countries.” Dermer, who is originally from Miami, is a Netanyahu confidante and was previously Israeli ambassador to the United States, and enjoys close relations with many members of Congress.

    The plan to ethnically cleanse Gaza of Palestinians faces some internal resistance from less hard-line members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, according to Israel Hayom.

    Israel Today and other Israeli media are also reporting on a plan being pushed with Congress that would condition aid to Arab nations on their willingness to accept Palestinian refugees. The plan even proposes specific numbers of refugees for each country: Egypt would take one million Palestinians, half a million would go to Turkey, and a quarter million each would go to Yemen and Iraq.

    The reporting relies heavily on the passive voice, declining to say who put the proposal together: “The proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. Longtime lawmaker, Rep. Joe Wilson, has even expressed open support for it while others who were privy to the details of the text have so far kept a low profile, saying that publicly coming out in favor of the program could derail it.”

    To underscore how absurd the refugee resettlement plan is, the de facto Houthi government in Yemen claimed an attack today on a U.S. ship as well as commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

    Back on October 20, in a little-noticed message to Congress, the White House asked for $3.495 billion that would be used for refugees from both Ukraine and Gaza, referencing “potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.”

    “This crisis could well result in displacement across border and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving programming requirements outside of Gaza,” the letter from the White House Office of Management and Budget reads. The letter came two days after Jordan and Egypt warned they would not open their borders to a mass exodus of Palestinians, arguing that past history shows they would never be able to return.

    The post Netanyahu’s Goal for Gaza: “Thin” Population “to a Minimum” appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Two Months That Shook the World: The First Phase of the Gaza War / TheIntercept · Saturday, 2 December - 11:00 · 47 minutes

    On Friday morning, Israel resumed its bombing campaign against Gaza, and the civilian death toll is once again rising. Both Hamas and Israel accused the other of violating the temporary truce . Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has promised, “We will fight in the entire [Gaza] Strip.” Despite meekly worded suggestions from Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel make an effort to reduce civilian deaths, the U.S. position remains one of full-throttled support for a military campaign that has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of them children and other civilians.

    In this special episode of Intercepted, political analyst Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of the Arab Studies Institute’s ezine Jadaliyya, offers a provocative analysis of the current situation. In a discussion with Jeremy Scahill and Murtaza Hussain, Rabbani suggests that behind the belligerent rhetoric and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proclamations he will eradicate Hamas, Israel may already be heading for a bloody quagmire it is unlikely to transform into an accomplishment of its stated goals. “We’re now well into the second month of this war, and the most Israel has been able to achieve is to raise the Israeli flag on a hospital. It’s not exactly Iwo Jima,” Rabbani says. The “Israeli military is a very effective killing machine when it’s dropping 2,000-pound bombs from the air, but a rather mediocre fighting force when it comes to ground operations.” Rabbani describes the evolution of Hamas’s strategy and tactics over the past decades and maps out several scenarios that might emerge in the coming period. “The idea that you can wipe [Hamas] out, even if you fully succeed in conquering every last square inch of the Gaza Strip, is an illusion,” he says. “It is effectively impossible to resume this war without regional escalation.”

    Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

    Welcome to Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill.

    Murtaza Hussain: And I’m Murtaza Hussain.

    JS: Maz it seems like the hardliners in Israel are getting their way. On Friday morning the temporary truce was shattered. Israel claims that Hamas fired rockets. Hamas is saying that Israel broke the truce. Regardless of how it happened, we are now back to a situation where Israel has resumed heavy bombardment. Early indications are that they’re increasing their campaign in the south of Gaza. And Israel began its military operations literally as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was taking off to depart Israel.

    Antony Blinken : Well, good evening everyone and thanks for bearing with us through a long day. So this is my fourth trip to Israel since the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7th.

    JS: And it really seems like every time Blinken goes to the region or goes to Israel, it’s then followed by an intensification of Israeli military tactics. And you know Blinken has been trying to publicly sell this talking out of both sides of the mouth from Washington. On the one hand giving full-throttled support to Israel and on the other hand saying, well, we want to try to put some guardrails on Israel’s operations. And one of the things that Blinken said is:

    Antony Blinken : But Israel has the most sophisticated — one of the most sophisticated — militaries in the world. It is capable of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas while minimizing harm to innocent men women and children.

    JS: All we’ve seen from Israel since this started was the opposite. We’ve seen that Israel clearly wants to maximize the terror being felt by civilians in Gaza. And part of it seems aimed at saying we’re gonna force them through merciless bombing to somehow overthrow Hamas. But it shows a kind of fundamental misunderstanding of the lens of history that many Palestinians are viewing this through and also the history of Hamas itself.

    MH: Well, if you look at the satellite footage and even statements from Israeli officials, it is clear that their campaign is not aimed at minimizing damage to the Palestinian people or civilian infrastructure, or civilians themselves. They’ve been carrying it out in such a way to punish the population and you’ve seen this in the death toll as well too.

    So Blinken’s statement that Israel has the capability of minimizing the toll to civilians may be true per se but the implication is that they’re not taking that because they have the technology, they have the weaponry and so forth. But we would not be seeing these massive death tolls of 15-plus thousand people by some estimates — total destruction of Gaza City — were Israeli leaders taking, prioritizing and minimizing civilian harm or just focusing on Hamas per se. And we can see that they’re not just focusing on Hamas, not just by the toll on Gaza, but also by the actions of the West Bank recently, where Hamas is not in control and where Israel is still ramping up its suppression of Palestinians killings and the treatment of Palestinians in jail too, which is also deteriorated in recent weeks by many reports.

    So it’s very, very clear that Israel is not behaving in the way that Blinken is portraying them as behaving or… This good cop bad cop attitude that the U.S. is taking towards Israel is really not very convincing, even on those terms. It’s clear that Israel is engaging in tactics which we condemn very thoroughly when done by Russia or Syria or other countries that we’re opposed to. But when we’re seeing them in real time by [a] U.S. ally, we’re getting at very minimum defense from the U.S. administration of Israeli actions.

    JS: You know, now we’re about two months into this acute aspect of the war. Of course, this war has been going on a lot longer and started far, far earlier than October 7th, of course. But we thought it would be good and worth it to look at these two months that have shook the world, and to do so we’re joined by Mouin Rabbani. He’s a researcher, analyst, and commentator specializing in Palestinian affairs, the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the contemporary Middle East. He is the co-editor of Jadaliyya and contributing editor of Middle East Report.

    Mouin thank you so much for being with us here on Intercepted.

    Mouin Rabbani: It’s a real pleasure to be with you. Thanks for inviting me.

    JS: Let’s start with the very beginning of this acute aspect of the war. Of course, you can say this has been going on for a very, very long time, but… October 7th. First, talk about what you understand were the strategic objectives of Hamas in what they called “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”

    MR: Well, I think we’re probably going to have to wait, and perhaps wait a long time, to get a definitive answer to that question. But the strategic objective, as I understand it, was to shatter the status quo, and to shatter it irrevocably.

    It was a situation in which the Gaza Strip had been under blockade for 16, 17 years, the occupation was well into its sixth decade. Of course, there was also the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. And, in addition to that, what we had also seen was a number of escalating Israeli measures.

    First of all, of particular interest to Hamas as an Islamist movement, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem, the growing settler pogroms, and dispossession and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley.

    So, on the one hand, you have those developments. On the other hand, you had a situation where Israel was increasingly seeking to unilaterally resolve the core issues of the question of Palestine, without any reference to either Palestinian rights or Palestinian interests, or even negotiations with those Palestinians who were most amenable to the Israeli agenda; here, I’m referring to the Palestinian leadership, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

    And the reason it was able to do this is because Israel had, on the one hand, the active support of the Americans. And, secondarily, the passive acquiescence of the Europeans, a passive acquiescence that has turned increasingly into active support as well. And I think the reason that Hamas decided it needed to do something, for lack of a better term, genuinely spectacular on October 7 th , is because they had attempted to shatter the status quo on two separate occasions, at least.

    The first was the Great March of Return in 2018, when very large numbers of Palestinians went to the boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel to demonstrate, on the anniversary of Nakba Day. And Israeli snipers shot and killed numerous Palestinians, wounded many more, medics were killed, and so on. And the world shrugged and, the following day, things returned back to what they were.

    More recently, in 2021, represented the first time that an Israeli-Palestinian armed confrontation took place at the initiative of Hamas, rather than Israel. And, just as importantly, was initiated by Hamas for reasons that had nothing to do with conditions in the Gaza Strip. It was a response to growing Israeli incursions, and repression, and other measures in East Jerusalem; you may remember the attempted settlement expansion in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. And then specifically, also the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And even then, that lasted for a few weeks, that was a so-called “Unity Intifada,” where you had Palestinians rising up in the West Bank within Israel, and then this confrontation between Palestinians and Israel in the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire was eventually established and, once again, things went back to their usual pattern.

    I think, when you look at the scale of what we saw on October 7th, it can’t be seen as a response to the policies of the current far-right government in Israel: Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir, and Smotrich, and so on. Sure, that was a factor, but the planning for an operation of this size, scale, and scope must have started before — perhaps even well before — this government took office.

    And so, I know there is a tendency to blame anything and everything on Netanyahu — it’s kind of a Netanyahu derangement syndrome, if you will — but the current government is more of a change in scale and intensity, rather than a change in policy. And the issues that I was discussing previously were more or less policies of previous Israeli governments, rather than the current one. In addition, of course, you had the prisoner file, which is of central importance, not only to Palestinians generally and to Hamas, particularly, but also to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and seen as an architect of the October 7th attacks, personally.

    So, if you take all of these issues together, my sense is that if you were to summarize Hamas’ strategic objective in one phrase, it would be to irrevocably shatter the status quo. Did they have very clear ideas of what they wanted beyond that? At the tactical level, yes. It’s quite clear that the reason they took so many Israeli soldiers captive and civilians hostage is because they wanted a comprehensive prisoner exchange, including people who they were unable to get released in the 2011 agreement, that led to the freedom for about a thousand Palestinian prisoners. They wanted changes with regard to the blockade, and so on.

    But did they have a clear — and what they consider achievable — political objective? I haven’t really seen the evidence for that. My sense is they did not think that far ahead.

    One last point is that I think we also need to recall that, on October 7th, the Israeli military and intelligence services not only failed but, at the first sign of contact, they collapsed like a house of cards. So, we have to consider it quite likely that the scale of the October 7th attacks far exceeded Hamas’s initial planning for that event, and that they ended up basically operating in a geographical area that’s larger than the Gaza Strip itself. I don’t know to what extent Hamas planned for that. I suspect they didn’t think they would be able to, and I suspect that many of these expanded operations were decided, and implemented, and conducted in the heat of the moment, simply because the Israeli defensive measures evaporated into thin air.

    MH: Mouin, in the wake of October 7th, the Israeli government has said that its goal is to eradicate Hamas; in various terms, it said that. And it’s reiterated that goal now, over a month into the operation. Despite that, Hamas, by all accounts, still seems to have considerable command and control inside Gaza. The recent prisoner exchange suggests as well that they’re still very well entrenched, and Israel is still very, very far from achieving those stated military objectives.

    From your sense, how realistic is this goal of destroying Hamas, or eradicating Hamas, as the Israeli government has put it. Is it an actually achievable objective for Israel? And, if so, what would it take to accomplish that?

    MR: I don’t think it’s achievable at all, and I think we should view this primarily as a rhetorical aspiration, rather than a serious policy. It’s quite possible that, on October 7th, Netanyahu Defense Minister Gallant, Chief of Staff, and their biggest champions in Washington — Biden and Blinken — believed that this would be, to use a phrase that was introduced in 2003, “a cakewalk,” and could be easily achieved.

    But even before this Israeli offensive started, let’s look at the facts. Hamas and a number of other armed groups are also present in the West Bank. Hamas is a fairly modest militia, even if you compare it to other paramilitary organizations in that part of the world, and especially if you compare it to conventional state armies, and overwhelmingly, if you compare it to the nuclear power that is Israel, that is armed to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry in the U.S. arsenal. So, Hamas is already, in military terms, a quite modest outfit. That’s referring to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

    Then, when you talk about Hamas and other groups in the West Bank, they’re not just modest. I mean, they’re very lightly armed. Most of their weaponry consists of, at best, automatic weapons and explosives. Nevertheless, for the past two years, Israel has been conducting regular intensive raids, particularly in the northern West Bank, to wipe these organizations out. It has had the full cooperation of the Palestinian Authority in this campaign. And, if anything, the attacks emanating out of the West Bank — and Northern West Bank in particular — have been escalating.

    So, if you can’t eliminate an exceptionally poorly-armed series of militias that are, in many respects, not even a coherent military force from the West Bank where you have total control, and you have the cooperation of the Palestinian authorities, how can you expect to achieve that objective against a much better armed, more coherent, much larger and well developed Palestinian armed group in a territory that it has controlled for almost two decades? That would be my first answer.

    Secondly, Hamas is not just a militia or an armed group. It is a deeply rooted movement that exists wherever Palestinian communities exist today, very much, like used to be the case — and in many respects still is a case — with the PLO and its constituent factions. So the idea that you can wipe this group out, even if you fully succeed in conquering every last square inch of the Gaza Strip, is also an illusion. You have the civil service, you have the social services, you have the political movement. It’s a whole network of agencies, organizations, and institutions, and so on.

    And so, I think the most that Israel could hope to attain would be to wipe out the existing leadership and to severely degrade the military capabilities of Hamas, but only in the Gaza Strip. And even that has been a total failure. We’re now well into the second month of this war, and the most Israel has been able to achieve is to raise the Israeli flag on a hospital. It’s not exactly Iwo Jima.

    And not only that, I think there’s another point worth making, as your question implied: At the very outset of this war, Israel and the United States vowed, as you said, that they would eradicate Hamas, that there would be no truce until this objective was achieved, and that there would absolutely be no negotiations with this group. Well, if you look at the situation today, there has now been approximately a week of a truce, a whole series of exchanges of captives, and these have been the result of Qatari- and Egyptian-mediated negotiations between the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Hamas on the other. And the person who was leading the negotiations on behalf of Hamas is Yahya Sinwar, the very architect of the October 7th attack.

    So, Israel and the United States have already climbed down pretty far from the tree they jumped into. They’re negotiating, they’re accepting truces, they are implementing agreements that overwhelmingly reflect the conditions initially proposed by Hamas, rather than by them. So, how can you eradicate an organization you’re negotiating and reaching agreements with?

    Of course, at some point, I do expect the Israeli offensive to resume, but I think we’re now in a stage where most likely we’ll see one, maybe one or two, furious Israeli attempts to inflict as much damage as they can. And then, I think the clock will start winding down pretty quickly.

    JS: Mouin, these scenes that we have seen play out over the course of the exchanges of Israeli captives and Palestinian captives are surreal on a number of levels. On the one hand, Hamas is putting out fairly sophisticated video production on its side of the handovers. Sometimes they have drone photography that they’re using to show the vehicles, we’ve also seen these scenes of several Israeli prisoners smiling at them, shaking their hands, waving at them, speaking to them.

    And Hamas has what I think is a fairly sophisticated information operation that they’re running. They also, in one of the exchanges, decided to do it right in the center of Gaza City…

    MR: Twice, actually.

    JS: Twice, right? The first time that it happened, I would have paid serious money to watch Netanyahu’s face as that was happening.

    But you also have Yahya Sinwar acting as a sort of commander-in-chief in battle, and reportedly went down into tunnels where some of the Israelis were being held, and had interactions with them. One of the released Israelis, an 85-year-old woman who identifies herself as a peace activist, has been telling Israeli media that she had an exchange with Yahya Sinwar, where she kind of shamed him for attacking them and said, “we’re peace activists.”

    But what I’m getting at is that you have a much more sophisticated public imaging operation going on from Hamas, and I want to get your take on what’s at play there, and how this is being received in the broader Arabic language public in the world.

    MR: Yes. Well, I would start by saying that Hamas propaganda in the early days was very crude and very ineffective. And what appears to be the case is that they’ve taken a page out of Hezbollah’s playbook. And here, I’m referring to the experience of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant movement, in the 1990s, when it was launching increasingly successful attacks on Israeli occupation forces, and on their local collaborators, the so-called South Lebanon Army.

    And every time Hezbollah would claim, “we attacked this and that base or outposts, we can confirm that we inflicted X casualties,” the Israeli military spokesman would come out and say, well, the Arabs are lying again. And this is propaganda, we’ve got everything under full control.

    Then, with the technological developments that we saw in the 90s, Hezbollah began recording their attacks on video, and then broadcasting them on its television station, Al-Manar. And, pretty soon, what you had is not only their own constituency in Lebanon — and people in the Middle East, more broadly — realizing that this is an organization whose claims had a lot of credibility. But, also, that its increase in credibility was because it was telling the truth, it was being honest. And it wasn’t inventing and exaggerating achievements that didn’t exist.

    And, most importantly, it got to a point where the Israeli public began to trust Hezbollah propaganda more than the propaganda of their own military and their own government. And what I think we’ve seen here is broadly similar.

    I know your question was specifically about the release of captives, but what we’ve seen is a whole series of statements by Hamas’s military spokesperson, Abu Obaida, who’s now become perhaps the single most popular figure in the Middle East; that’s not Mahmoud Abbas, as Biden and Blinken would like you to think. And he not only makes statements, but backs them up with video that substantiates those statements.

    My sense is that Hamas propaganda is directed — or, at least in the initial stages — was directed primarily at Palestinian and Arab public opinion, and also at Israeli public opinion. But then, when you began to get all these statements coming out of the Israeli leadership, out of the U.S., particularly from European capitals also, saying Hamas is ISIS, Hamas is worse than ISIS, Hamas are Nazis … And it got to the point where people have actually been downplaying the Nazi Holocaust in order to suggest that the real issue here is not Adolf Hitler, but Yahya Sinwar, and so on.

    Then Hamas also began, I think, trying to influence global, and particularly Western public opinion, which is, I think, a quite new arena for them. And the way they have tried to do this is to put out videos trying to demonstrate, whether you believe it or not, that they are treating their captives humanely, that they don’t consider attacking civilians a strategic goal, and so on.

    Of course this is propaganda and political theater, such things always are, whether it’s by Hamas or anyone else. But I would nevertheless compare and contrast the image Hamas is trying to project in relation to its treatment and release of captives that it holds with those of Israel.

    I mean, look at the difference. In these Hamas videos, they are handing over their captives to the International Committee of the Red Cross, pushing old ladies in wheelchairs, handing water bottles to their released captives, waving goodbye and giving them a friendly send-off. Political theater, propaganda? Of course.

    But what do we see at Ofer Prison in Beituniya, just outside Ramallah, where Israel is releasing Palestinian captives? Well, you have, first of all, clouds of tear gas being fired by the Israeli forces at gatherings of Palestinian well-wishers. You have actually live ammunition being fired at these people, and several have been killed. Israeli police have been raiding the homes of captives who are about to be released, and literally warning their families that any expressions of joy are verboten. And intimidating journalists, evicting journalists from the homes of released captives.  So, it’s not only what Hamas has been doing, it’s also the contrast between Hamas and the Israelis.

    And one more contrast is that — and this is less of a Hamas policy, of course, because it doesn’t really have much or any control over these situations in the West Bank — but the Palestinians have been very eager for their released prisoners to describe the conditions of their captivity, which have been horrific. And to discuss their experience of achieving freedom, and so on. Remember, so far, at least, we’re talking about children — or what I think The Guardian calls “individuals under 18,” because Palestinians aren’t children — and women, many of whom, were never charged with a single offense, let alone tried, even, by a military court for any offense.

    So, you have the Palestinians very eager to expose their released captives to the media and to tell their stories, and then you have Israel which, under the pretext of medical checkups, is holding its own released captives incognito, because they’re terrified that these people will say, well, actually, no, we weren’t beheaded and burned alive, and no, it wasn’t quite, the ISIS story that you’ve been trying to convey to the world.

    JS: On that specific issue, I think we just have to say clearly that the Israeli civilians who were taken hostage, including very young children, witnessed utterly horrifying acts where their parents were killed, or their neighbors were killed. And you then had the Israeli military come in on October 7th, and there’s serious questions about how many Israelis and foreign workers — Thai workers and others — that were killed by the Israeli response to the attacks orchestrated by Hamas. But I’m saying that because I think it’s important to remember that, no matter what, the people who then were taken hostage by Hamas already went through unspeakable terror as human beings.

    Now, having put that on the table, I want to ask you something about the two camps of stories we’re starting to hear emerging from Israelis who were held hostage, and their family members. Several Israelis have described being treated with respect while in Hamas captivity. They described difficult conditions, they talked about how they were eating the same food as the guards or the people that were holding them captive, and that sometimes the food was dwindling, and sometimes it was OK. Same situation with medication.

    On the other hand, you’re starting to have family members of children who were held hostage describing things like, the child was made to watch videos of the October 7th attacks. And if they were crying, they had a gun pointed at them. And some of the Thai workers saying that some Israelis were being beaten with electrical cords; not with live wire electricity, but with electrical cords. And these are the two sorts of narratives that have started to bleed out in the Israeli media. And, of course, some are promoted more than others.

    But what I wanted to ask you is somewhat of a granular-level question, and that is: do we know that all of these hostages were being held by the same entity? Because we did see, in some of the exchanges, members of Hamas, and members who were identified as Islamic Jihad handing over certain prisoners. We also know that there are, I think, credible reports that some of the people taken hostage that day in Israel were taken by what appeared to be sort of freelance gangs, or people that maybe were not necessarily operating under the umbrella of Hamas, or under the direction of Mohammed Deif, the head of the Qasim brigades.

    I know you don’t have inside information, but what is your sense of how different hostages were held, and how Hamas has had to sort of figure out where all of them are, and whether there may be different layers of treatment based on who was holding the Israelis inside of Gaza?

    MR: It’s a very good question, and let me start by repeating your point, that no civilian deserves or should be placed in captivity without due process by a legitimate court of law that convicts them for a specific crime. I think the difference between us and many other people is, in this context, we feel that that is a criteria that applies not only to Israelis, but to any human being, and even includes Palestinians.

    Secondly, yes, for both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, particularly children, the initial seizure of these people was of course traumatic, can often include violence and brutality. And now I’m speaking specifically about the Israelis and Gaza; there’s several unanswered questions to me, because I think that the main objective of Hamas on October 7th was to knock out The Gaza Division, which is a division of the Israeli military responsible for maintaining the Gaza concentration camp, and launching periodic attacks on it.

    I think it’s more or less established that they also sought to attack and, at least temporarily, control a number of population centers in the so-called Gaza envelope. To what extent seizing Israeli civilian captives was part of the initial plan, I don’t know, but it did happen. And we also know — and this is according to both Palestinians, Israelis, the Qatari and Egyptian mediators, and the United States — that the captives are being held not only by Hamas but, as you said, a number are also held by Islamic Jihad. And there are others who are being held by … I don’t know if it’s gangs or ordinary civilians who … Because, you know, once Hamas breached the barrier on October 7th, a lot of people started streaming into nearby Israeli settlements, whether it was simply to experience a taste of freedom, or to engage in looting, or to engage in acts of revenge, or a combination of the above, is not clear. But some of the people who were seized and taken into the Gaza Strip were by those groups.

    And we’ve gotten a lot of propaganda. I think this week we heard a story of testimony — I believe it was a seven-year-old child — saying that he was being held by an UNRWA teacher; UNRWA is the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees that has been under systematic U.S. and Israeli and European attack for decades. And we’re expected to believe that the seven-year-old child not only knows what UNRWA is, but also that the first thing his captor said to him is, the most important thing you need to know about me is that I’m an UNRWA teacher, and, if you don’t believe me, here are my pay stubs, because I’m desperate to get fired from my job. You know, it just defies imagination.

    I also think that the inconsistencies in the stories of treatment are a little too contradictory for my liking. I would find it believable if the general pattern was abuse, or the general pattern was humane treatment, but the idea that similar people under identical circumstances are treated very differently, I just don’t find it very convincing.

    The only explanation that I would have for this, if it is indeed correct, is that there may have been abuse, torture of military prisoners in order to extract information from them by their captors.The other possibility, as you said, is that it may be that you had certain individuals seized by ordinary citizens, or other groups that decided to treat their captives very differently.

    But the idea that you have ten people in the same room, five were treated humanely, and five were constantly abused… There’s too much contradiction in there for my liking, unless there are other factors that help explain that.

    A final point — and again, no one deserves to be held captive unless they’re convicted of a specific crime by a legitimate authority — having seen these images of these Israeli captives being released, I have to say, and I think it needs to be said, they looked in better condition than many of the Palestinian civilians who were there to witness their release and departure. I think that’s an important point to make.

    MH: Mouin, it seems very clear now that the Israeli military and Israeli government embarked on this conflict in Gaza without a clear plan for how they’d like to proceed throughout the course of the conflict, and also, very importantly, after it’s over, whether they achieved their objectives or not. And the U.S. government also has cosigned and encouraged this conflict, again, without really having an idea of what they want to happen, ultimately.

    I’m very curious, because I’ve heard Blinken, and Biden, and others say that their ideal situation is that, at the end of the war, the Palestinian Authority will be in charge in Gaza. But it seems like the Palestinian Authority has not been very relevant, and it’s decreased in popularity since the conflict began.

    Can you talk a bit about how realistic or unrealistic you see that outcome being?

    MR: This is primarily a U.S. project, because Israel’s strategy, of course, has been to keep the Palestinians divided and fragmented. And one reason that Hamas has been able to remain in power in the Gaza Strip all these years is because Israel — its distaste for Hamas notwithstanding — has preferred a situation in which the West Bank — or those parts of it under Palestinian administration — and the Gaza Strip are ruled by separate and rival entities, rather than by a unified entity.

    And Netanyahu, for example, has spoken out very clearly against any return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip, and I think he speaks for the consensus of the Israeli leadership, and not just this leadership, on that issue. So, again, it’s primarily a U.S. project.

    And this has a long history, the crux of which is basically that it is the U.S. and not the Palestinian people who will determine who represents them, who leads them, who rules them. It’s [that] the right of Palestinian representation belongs to Washington, and not the Palestinians.

    The thing about the Palestinian Authority is that it is, in fact, a disintegrating entity. Israel, particularly since the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000, has systematically implemented measures to weaken the Palestinian Authority, to transform it, essentially, into a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, whose main function is kind of as an adjunct to the Israeli military and intelligence services in the West Bank. This has been quite systematic and, again, it’s not something that has ever been substantively opposed by those who claim that the Palestinian Authority should be empowered so that it can participate in a political resolution of this conflict.

    So, you have the Americans kind of actively supporting this Israeli policy, while saying that they want the PA to be strengthened, and you have the Europeans effectively doing the same. Every time there’s a new Israeli outrage, how does the European Union respond? Well, it launches yet another investigation of Palestinian elementary school textbooks. I mean, that’s kind of the extent of European opposition to Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, and its efforts to weaken the Palestinian authority.

    So, you have a Palestinian Authority that can’t even impose its authority over those areas of the West Bank which are formally under its administration. And, in this crisis, what you’ve had — as is often the case when Israel tries to eradicate the Palestinian organization — Hamas’ stature has been skyrocketing while the PA is primarily present through its absence in the public consciousness. I mean, Mahmoud Abbas is kind of trotted out every other week to make a meaningless statement. The guy is completely AWOL.

    Another thing is, Hamas is far from universally popular in the Gaza Strip. There’s actually been quite a bit of opposition towards its continued rule over the Gaza Strip over the years, perhaps even increasing in recent years. But, that notwithstanding, one thing virtually all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip agree upon is that they detest the Palestinian Authority.

    So, opposition to Hamas does not translate into support for the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority has played a very, very pernicious role in punishing the people of the Gaza Strip, by participating in the blockade, by doing nothing to … Because the Palestinian Authority — or, rather, Mahmoud Abbas in particular — sees not only Hamas as its enemy, as his enemy, but sees the entire Gaza Strip as an enemy, and has treated it as such over the years.

    You have a former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad — who also has a very low popularity ratings, but that’s a different question — he is one of several who I believe are on the record as saying that they received instructions from Mahmoud Abbas to further turn the screws on the Gaza Strip, and refused to do so.

    And so, the Palestinian Authority is seen by the majority of Gazans as part of the problem — particularly Mahmoud Abbas — and not part of the solution. Now, the Americans, nevertheless … Again, we’re talking about the Washington echo chamber, so you can say anything provided it has no relationship to reality. They’re under this illusion that they are going to resuscitate the Palestinian Authority, perhaps even appoint a new leader in Washington’s image who will be lionized by the Palestinian people. That they will then bring him into the Gaza Strip on the back of an Israeli tank, and that he will be received with rice and flowers by every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip.

    I mean, there’s only one problem here, putting aside all these political issues. If the PA can’t even administer territories under its jurisdiction in the West Bank, and if the U.S. can’t even challenge Israel’s systematic efforts over the years to weaken the Palestinian Authority, how are you going to get a strengthened PA that is actually going to rule the Gaza Strip?

    And there’s one other point here, which is that all these scenarios have as a prerequisite the successful eradication of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If Hamas remains, not even as a coherent movement, but retains residual military capabilities, these scenarios are all pie-in-the-sky and off the table.

    JS: The final area we wanted to cover was about the Biden administration, and how Joe Biden, and Antony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan, and this administration have handled the events of October 7th and beyond. And what we saw at the beginning, and for anyone that knows anything about Joe Biden’s career, it was no mystery how he was going to respond. He was all in with full support for scorched earth bombing and ground operations on the part of the Israeli state. So, that shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. And that was sustained as just the public messaging, also, for the first several weeks of this.

    And then you had this kind of moment of schizophrenia from the messaging from the White House where, on the one hand, that was still going on, but then you had primarily Antony Blinken running around starting to say, oh, we need to deal with the humanitarian crisis now in Gaza. And they start planting stories with unnamed officials talking about how Biden is so concerned about the fate of the innocent civilians of Gaza.

    And now, we’ve hit a point where this is now, it’s almost like the dominant messaging now from the White House is, this has to stop at some point. And then they’re leaking stories about how they’re trying to put a leash on Netanyahu, and sort of draw a line about what’s going to happen in southern Gaza.

    Make sense of this, from your perspective. Like, give us an overview of how you have seen the response from Biden and his brightest guys in the room.

    MR: Well, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me to do some Kremlinology here, but I’ll give it my best shot.

    Look, I don’t take any of these statements seriously. I think your characterization of Biden is entirely correct, and it applies equally to Blinken who, certainly when it comes to the Middle East, is somewhat of a clueless airhead. He genuinely believed that the 2003 Anglo-American invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq would create a century of peace and security and stability in the Middle East. I think one thing we need to understand about Blinken is there’s never been a war in the Middle East that he hasn’t fully embraced. The guy just loves war.

    To give one example, the one difference he’s had with Biden on Middle East policy was Libya, where Biden had some misgivings. Blinken was all in, because he was sure it would turn out as well as Iraq. Blinken is someone who was opposed to U.S. policy in Syria during the Obama administration, because it didn’t result in war. So, you know, this guy, he just loves war. I think maybe he played too many video games as a kid or something? I really don’t know.

    But I think the real issue here is not the growing pressure of public opinion in the U.S., which tends to come first and foremost from what the Democratic Party would consider its natural constituency. I think Biden genuinely doesn’t give a damn about this. He’s got more important things, like supporting Israel. Blinken, for his part, I don’t think has a clue. The point I’ve been making is Biden doesn’t care, Blinken doesn’t know.

    Then you have a third faction, which I think is represented by CIA director Bill Burns, who knows the Middle East very well, and understands its politics. And I would argue, also, probably Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and much of the top brass in the Pentagon.

    And if I could just rewind a bit here, I was earlier referring to the conflict of 2021. And what you had then was not only this uprising by Palestinians throughout Mandatory Palestine — in other words, in the West Bank within Israel and the Gaza Strip — but it also began to spread in the region. Palestinians in Jordan, and Syria, and Lebanon were demonstrating, and then you started getting larger and larger demonstrations by growing masses of people in the Arab countries. And, at a certain point, the Chief of Staff at the time, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley was giving congressional testimony, and he said — I’m paraphrasing here — that if this goes on for much longer, it’s going to begin having a serious impact on our interests in the region. And, next thing you knew, the conflict was over, and a ceasefire was achieved.

    So, what I think is going on here is not a response to the growing outrage of public opinion, or even a response to a slight change of tone among some U.S. allies in Europe, particularly, or even a realization that the Western-constructed rules-based international order is effectively past tense. What I think you have — and here is my Kremlinology — what I think you’re seeing is that you have an ascendant faction within the U.S. leadership, represented, I believe, by Burns and Austin, who are looking at this not in terms of civilian casualties or its political consequences for Biden’s reelection campaign, but looking at it from the point of view of U.S. interests in the Middle East.

    And what they’re seeing is that it is effectively impossible to resume this war without regional escalation, and their priority is to prevent this regional escalation, because further regional escalation increases the prospect that the U.S. will get directly involved. Particularly at a time when you have certain Israeli leaders who, in view of the U.S. commitment to get directly involved if Hezbollah in Lebanon launches an all-out offensive against Israel, view this as a golden opportunity to enmesh the U.S. in a direct conflict with Iran. In other words: for Israel to fight its enemies to the last American.

    And this is what I think is uppermost in the minds of those who want to find an off ramp. And it’s no coincidence, in my view, that the real diplomacy here is being conducted not by Blinken, but by Burns, who’s been in Doha for the past several days, along with a director of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, in Qatar, of course. Oh, and the head of Egyptian intelligence. So, I think that’s where the real discussions are taking place. And Blinken is being allowed to play diplomat, here and there.

    Yeah. So, my sense is, I think you very well characterized the initial U.S. response. Then it became clear that this omniscient, omnipotent, unbeatable Israeli military is a very effective killing machine when it’s dropping 2,000-pound bombs from the air, but a rather mediocre fighting force when it comes to ground operations. That it can only make further progress in a context where further regional escalation is a certainty, and I think that those who are most worried about the scenario appear to now have the upper hand.

    And it’s because of that, that, all of a sudden, you’re hearing, 15,000 corpses later concern about civilian casualties.

    MH: With the caveat that we still don’t know what dimensions this war ultimately may take, there may be a regional implication to it as well, as you said. But I’m curious, in terms of the next day after this conflict’s over, how do you see the political horizon of the Israel-Palestine conflict changed by October 7th, and everything that’s happened since then?

    Obviously, the level of death and destruction in such a small time frame is unprecedented, even in this long conflict, and it’s going to have lasting impacts on both Palestinian, Israeli, regional, and, also, Western opinion for many, many years to come.

    I’m curious, how do you see politics after this conflict? And what may we actually expect, if anything, in terms of seeing a political resolution any time in the foreseeable future?

    MR: Well, I’ll start by getting back to your first question, which is that, on October 6th, the Palestinians were completely marginalized, and Israel and its sponsors in the U.S. and Europe had come to the conclusion that the Palestinians could be safely ignored. And that Israel [can] basically have its way with the Palestinians, and resolve the whole issue unilaterally because, on the one hand, no one cared anymore, and, on the other, the Palestinians were too powerless to do anything about it. That changed on October 7th.

    An optimistic scenario would be to recall an incident from the 1970s. In 1971, Israel’s then-defense minister, Moshe Dayan, who was the hero of Israel’s decisive military victory in 1967, was giving a speech and, still full of hubris, he said, you know, if I have to choose, between Sharm El-Sheikh without peace, or peace without Sharm El-Sheikh, and he was referring to a resort in what was then the Israeli occupied Sinai Peninsula. If I have to make this choice, he said, I choose Sharm El-Sheikh without peace.

    Two years later, Egypt and Syria launched their joint offensive against Israel to recover their occupied territories, and it caused such a shock within Israeli elites that, by the end of that decade, the Israeli government, then led by the much more radical Likud Party, negotiated a peace agreement with Egypt, part of which gave not only Sharm El-Sheikh, but every last grain of sand in the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. And who was a main negotiator of that agreement? Moshe Dayan.

    And again, I don’t want to get into the details, but an important reason that Israel concluded its peace treaty was to get a freer hand with the Palestinians, and the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to remove the main Arab military force from the conflict, and so on, but that’s not the point I’m making here.

    Then you have Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which is known as Operation Peace for Galilee, but its real name was Operation Big Pines. And there, Israel had a very well-developed strategy: you invade Lebanon, you eradicate the PLO, you install Bachir Gemayel, the leader of the fascist Phalangist Party as head of state in Lebanon.

    He concludes a peace treaty with Israel, he expels all the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to Jordan. There is a revolution in Jordan, and it’s transformed from a Hashemite monarchy into a Palestinian republic. That becomes the Palestinian homeland, and Israel can then proceed with the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And, eventually, not only the West, but the international community will recognize this.

    Well, first of all, Israel eventually proved incapable of seizing West Beirut by military force. It was only able to do so after the U.S. sent a mediator to Beirut to negotiate the orderly withdrawal of the PLO from Beirut. And then, it only took one bomb — an Operation Valkyrie-type operation — to knock off Bachir Gemayel, and the whole plan collapsed.

    And then you had, a few years later, the popular uprising, the Intifada, from 1987 to 1993, and the PLO that was supposed to be eradicated in Beirut ended up leading the Palestinians from the occupied territories. And again, this is without getting into any analysis of the Oslo Agreements, but I think the broader point is clear.

    But in 1973 there was also another dynamic, which is that Israel — or those Israelis who were most committed to the permanent retention of the occupied territories — began to see the threat of a potential Arab-Israeli peace, and you had groups like Gush Emunim and others that began to very strongly intensify — with full government support I should add — settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. So, you have these different dynamics at work.

    How will this play out? It’s very difficult to say. On the one hand, I think, when you hear Biden, and E.U. Foreign Affairs Commissioner [Joseph] Borrell, and others, talking about a reinvigorated initiative to achieve a two-state settlement, you can take all that with a grain of salt. Not because a two-state settlement is no longer on the table, but because you can’t have a two-state settlement without an end to the occupation. And, since 1967 — so, now, for over half a century — there is literally not a single instance in which either the United States or Europe have confronted Israel with a single consequence for any of its actions in the occupied territories.

    So, this whole process of creeping and now leaping annexation has proceeded without challenge, and has been enabled by, for example, the U.S. and Europe making these settlements economically viable, by allowing them to export their illegal products from their illegal settlements into the European and American markets.

    Yes, there have been verbal condemnations and statements, and so on, but in terms of practical consequences? Literally zero. And a world in which Washington or Brussels challenge Israel and take measures to compel Israel to end its occupation, that doesn’t exist, any more than the moon is made out of cheese.

    So, my view, and I’m perhaps in a minority here, is that, at least as a theoretical matter, a two-state settlement is entirely achievable, because I don’t believe there is such a thing as a point of no return.

    If you compare the West Bank to Algeria, Algeria was internationally recognized as an integral part of the French homeland until 1954 by the entire international community as it existed then. That’s never been the case for Israel and the West Bank. And all it would take is a phone call from Washington and the occupation would end. Again, that’s never going to happen, but you can think of ways in which Western interests in the Middle East are sufficiently challenged, that the U.S. and Europe may begin to change their policies.

    So, the issue is not whether there can be a two-state settlement. I think one question we need to ask ourselves in view of what we’ve seen in the past month is whether there should be peace with Israel. And here’s what I mean by that.

    If you look at Europe in the 1940s, at a certain point, a conclusion was reached that there could be no peace in Europe without the dismantling of the Nazi regime, because it was a rabid, lunatic, irrational state with whom peace was simply impossible. No one talked about exterminating or expelling the German people, but about dismantling the state and its key institutions.

    You go to Southeast Asia in the late 1970s, and a conclusion was reached that, in addition to the expulsion of American forces, peace in Southeast Asia could not be attained without dismantling the rabid, lunatic, thoroughly irrational Khmer Rouge regime. You go to Southern Africa in the 1990s and, similarly, it became apparent that, unless you dismantle the white minority regime in South Africa, peace in Southern Africa would remain a pipe dream.

    Now, you look at Israel today. It’s a state that has reached such a degree of irrational, rabid lunacy that its government routinely accuses its closest allies of supporting terrorism. And, in the last week or two alone, Israel has accused the leaders of Spain, Belgium, and Ireland of supporting terrorism for having even the slightest disagreement with it.

    You have Israel’s clownish representative to the United Nations, who attends security council meetings wearing a concentration camp outfit, or at least the yellow star, and demanding the immediate resignation of the U.N. Secretary General, whose position … He hasn’t named Israel once as responsible for anything. But he demanded his immediate resignation simply because he made the obvious factual observation that the attacks of October 7th were not the beginning of the history of this conflict, and is demanding resignations left and right.

    For Israel, slaughtering 15,000 people in a month, conducting the most intensive bombing in the history of the Middle East — and we’re talking about the Middle East, not Scandinavia — has become perfectly normal. It is a state that has become thoroughly incapable of any form of inhibition. I would argue that the Israeli regime is a clear and present danger to peace in the Middle East, and, rather than drawing any conclusions, rather than or in addition to having a discussion and debate about how Israeli-Palestinian peace might be achieved, we should also be asking ourselves, should that peace be achieved? Or, rather, can it only be achieved by dismantling a regime and its key institutions the way that was done in Europe in the 1940s, in Southeast Asia in the 1970s, in South Africa in the 1990s, Southern Africa in the 1990s, and I’m sure there are other examples as well.

    And, just to be clear, I’m not talking about expulsion of Israeli citizens or whatnot. I’m talking about a regime and its institutions. Again, let’s not jump to conclusions, but let’s ask the difficult questions.

    JS: On that note, Mouin Rabbani, we want to thank you very much for being with us. And I know it’s not popular to give out people’s Twitter — or they call it “X” — handles right now, but I really recommend to people to give you a follow on whatever we’re calling Twitter these days. It’s @MouinRabbani . We’ll also link to it.

    But, Mouin, thank you very much for sharing your analysis with us.

    MR: Thank you. And, just on your last point: I don’t block trolls, because they always help me substantiate my argument.

    JS: All right. Thanks so much, Mouin. We really appreciate it.

    MR: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure being with you.

    MH: That was Mouin Rabbani, the co-editor of Jadaliyya. He also has his own podcast called, Connections . We’ll link to that on our website.

    JS: And that does it for this episode of Intercepted. We won’t have an upcoming episode this upcoming Wednesday but we’ll be back the following week as usual.

    Intercepted is a production of The Intercept. José Olivares is the lead producer. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. Roger Hodge is Editor-in-Chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed our show. Legal review by David Bralow and Elizabeth Sanchez. This episode was transcribed by Leonardo Faierman. Our theme music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.

    MH: If you want to support our work, you can go to . Your donation, no matter what the size, makes a real difference. And, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to Intercepted, and definitely do leave us a rating and review whenever you find our podcasts. It helps other listeners to find us as well.

    JS: If you want to give us additional feedback, email us at

    Thank you so much for joining us. Until next time, I’m Jeremy Scahill. MH: And I’m Murtaza Hussain.

    The post Two Months That Shook the World: The First Phase of the Gaza War appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Krystal Ball and Ryan Grim on the Squad / TheIntercept · Friday, 1 December - 11:00

    Ryan Grim has a new book out called “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution.” This week on Deconstructed, Grim’s “Breaking Points” co-host Krystal Ball, a former MSNBC host, interviews him about his latest book. The conversation was held at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. Like we did earlier with our Naomi Klein interview, we’re running the conversation here as today’s episode. The event included a brief reading and a wide-ranging conversation that touched on the Squad’s relationship to Democratic leadership, criticism of its willingness to stand up to Democratic Party bosses, and the big-money operation launched by pro-Israel super PACS, organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to oust members of the Squad and purge the party of Democrats who agree with them. You can preorder the book here .

    Transcript coming soon.

    The post Krystal Ball and Ryan Grim on the Squad appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Members of Israel’s Ruling Likud Party Once Planned to Assassinate Henry Kissinger / TheIntercept · Thursday, 30 November - 23:25 · 3 minutes

    Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died on Wednesday at the age of 100 — though if the predecessors of Israel’s ruling Likud party had their way, he may not have made it even halfway to the century mark.

    Despite his reputation as a geopolitical kingmaker, Kissinger was never able to fully impose total U.S. authority upon Israel, but he did seek to leverage U.S. influence — sometimes against what the right-wing Likud party viewed as its interests.

    In the 1970s, Kissinger was so hated by the Likud party, which now controls Israel’s far-right coalition government, that some of its members tried to have him assassinated, according to a news report from the time.

    “A die-hard clique of Israeli right-wingers has put out a $150,000 ‘contract’ for the assassination of Secretary of State Kissinger,” the New York Daily News reported in 1977, citing senior State Department officials. When reports of a possible hit on Kissinger first came out, it was believed to be the work of Palestinian militants, but senior officials told the paper that they were certain that the threat was emanating from the Likud party.

    The Likud hard-liners who put up the money — described as “a small, radical splinter faction within Israel’s Likud opposition bloc” — were reportedly upset at Kissinger’s diplomacy around the end of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War. Kissinger had been instrumental in disengagement agreements with Egypt and Syria that saw Israel withdrawing from territories it had conquered. On the Israeli side, Likud’s rival Labor Party had worked with Kissinger to agree to the compromises.

    The 1973 war had also led to a damaging oil embargo by Arab states against the U.S., and Kissinger was said to be willing to cut any deal necessary to turn the spigot back on — which the 1974 disengagement deals accomplished.

    Of the hit, the Daily News reported, “The motive was said to be revenge against Kissinger for allegedly selling out Israel during his Mideast shuttle diplomacy.”

    The Likud strongly denied the allegation at the time, as did the State Department . (The reported plot to assassinate Kissinger is just one of several instances in which Israelis displayed intense hostility toward their strongest ally, including a 1967 attack on an American spy ship and an espionage operation in the 1980s.)

    While Kissinger succeeded in his short-term goal of ending the oil embargo and returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, his efforts at statesmanship intentionally obstructed efforts to find a long-term solution to the permanent occupation of Palestine.

    As my colleague Jon Schwarz wrote today , Kissinger went against Richard Nixon’s own directive to find a way for lasting peace when everything and anything was on the table. Kissinger believed that a constant state of conflict and instability granted America an upper hand in the Middle East. “My assessment is a costly victory [for Israel] without a disaster is the best,” Kissinger told his subordinates at the onset of the Yom Kippur War.

    Despite his Jewish heritage, Kissinger showed little regard for the Israeli state or Jewish people beyond their utility to the American empire. Helping Soviet Jews escape to the United States to avoid the Russian crackdown was “not an objective of American foreign policy,” Kissinger told Nixon in 1973, “and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

    Whatever animosity once existed between the Likud party and the former secretary of state was long past them. Today, the party is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was first elected to the post in 1996. (That election was prompted by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who many believe was the last great hope for enduring peace in Israel.)

    Netanyahu has taken a page out of the Kissinger playbook, using unending conflict to cling to power and inviting ever more extremist politicians into the Likud coalition. In September, just weeks before Israel launched its all-out war on Gaza, the pair had an affectionate meeting in New York.

    Israel’s bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip in recent weeks rivals the concentrated bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia that Kissinger oversaw decades ago.

    The post Members of Israel’s Ruling Likud Party Once Planned to Assassinate Henry Kissinger appeared first on The Intercept .

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      On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Mideast / TheIntercept · Thursday, 30 November - 19:52 · 5 minutes

    JERUSALEM - SEPTEMBER 1:  (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES)  U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the King David Hotel September 1, 1975 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images) U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Sept. 1, 1975.
    Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

    The encomiums have flowed voluminously for Henry Kissinger, and there have been some condemnations too. But even in the latter, little attention has been paid to his efforts to prevent peace from breaking out in the Mideast — efforts which helped cause the 1973 Arab–Israeli War and set in stone the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This underappreciated aspect of Kissinger’s career adds tens of thousands of lives to his body count, which is in the millions.

    Kissinger, who died at 100 on Wednesday, served in the U.S. government from 1969 to 1977, during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations. He began as Nixon’s national security adviser. Then, in Nixon’s second term, he was appointed secretary of state, a position he held on to after Ford became president following Nixon’s resignation.

    In June 1967, two years before the start of Nixon’s presidency, Israel had achieved a gigantic military victory in the Six-Day War. Israel attacked Egypt and occupied Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, and, following modest responses from Jordan and Syria, also took over the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

    In the following years, the ultimate fallout from the war — in particular, what, if any, of the new territory Israel would be able to keep — was still fluid. In 1968, the Soviets made what appeared to be quite sincere efforts to collaborate with the U.S. on a peace plan for the region.

    The Soviets proposed a solution based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 . Israel would withdraw from the territory it had conquered. However, there would not be a Palestinian state. Moreover, Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War would not return to Israel; rather, they would be resettled with compensation in Arab countries. Most importantly, the Soviets would pressure their Arab client states to accept this.

    This was significant because at this point, many Arab countries, Egypt in particular, were allies of the Soviets and relied on them for arms supplies. Hosni Mubarak, who later became Egypt’s president and/or dictator for 30 years, started out as a pilot in the Egyptian air force and received training in Moscow and Kyrgyzstan, which was a Soviet republic at the time.

    When Nixon took office in 1969, William Rogers, his first secretary of state, took the Soviet stance seriously. Rogers negotiated with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., for most of the year. This produced what American diplomat David A. Korn, then assigned to Tel Aviv, Israel, described as “a comprehensive and detailed U.S. proposal for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

    One person prevented this from going forward: Henry Kissinger. Backstage in the Nixon administration, he worked assiduously to prevent peace.

    This was not due to any great personal affection felt by Kissinger for Israel and its expansionist goals. Kissinger, while Jewish, was happy to work for Nixon, perhaps the most volubly antisemitic president in U.S. history, which is saying something. (“What the Christ is the matter with the Jews?” Nixon once wondered in an Oval Office soliloquy . He then answered his own question, explaining, “I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists.”)

    Rather, Kissinger perceived all the world through the prism of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Any settlement at the time would require the involvement of the Soviets, and hence was unacceptable to him. At a period when it appeared in public that an agreement with the Soviets might be imminent, Kissinger told an underling — as he himself recorded in his memoir “White House Years” — that was not going to happen because “we did not want a quick success [emphasis in the original].” In the same book, Kissinger explained that the Soviet Union later agreed to principles even more favorable to Israel, so favorable that Kissinger himself didn’t understand why the Soviets acceded to them. Nevertheless, Kissinger wrote, “the principles quickly found their way into the overcrowded limbo of aborted Middle East schemes — as I had intended.”

    The results were catastrophic for all involved. Anwar el-Sadat, then Egypt’s president, announced in 1971 that the country would make peace with Israel based on conditions in line with Rogers’s efforts. However, he also explicitly said that a refusal of Israel to return Sinai would mean war.

    On October 6, 1973, it did. Egypt and Syria attacked occupied Sinai and the Golan Heights, respectively. Their initial success stunned Israeli officials. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was convinced Israel might be conquered. Moreover, Israel was running out of war matériel and desperately needed to be resupplied by the U.S.

    Kissinger made sure America dragged its feet, both because he wanted Israel to understand who was ultimately in charge and because he did not want to anger the oil-rich Arab states. His strategy, as another top diplomat put it , was to “let Israel come out ahead, but bleed.”

    You can read this in Kissinger’s own words in the records of internal deliberations now available on the State Department website. On October 9, Kissinger told his fellow high-level officials , “My assessment is a costly victory [for Israel] without a disaster is the best.”

    The U.S. then did send huge amounts of weaponry to Israel, which it used to beat back Egypt and Syria. Kissinger looked upon the outcome with satisfaction. In another high-level meeting, on October 19, he celebrated that “everyone knows in the Middle East that if they want a peace they have to go through us. Three times they tried through the Soviet Union, and three times they failed.”

    The cost to humans was quite high. Over 2,500 members of the Israeli military died. 10,000-20,000 were killed on the Arab side. This is in line with Kissinger’s belief — recorded in “The Final Days” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — that soldiers are “dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns in foreign policy.

    After the war, Kissinger returned to his strategy of obstructing any peaceful settlement. In another of his memoirs, he recorded that in 1974, just before Nixon resigned, Nixon told him to “cut off all military deliveries to Israel until it agreed to a comprehensive peace.” Kissinger quietly stalled for time, Nixon left office, and it didn’t come up with Ford as president.

    There’s much more to this ugly story, all available at your local library. It can’t be said to be the worst thing that Kissinger ever did — but as you remember the extraordinary bill of indictment for him, make sure to leave a little room for it.

    The post On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Mideast appeared first on The Intercept .

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