Amid the mounting horror in Gaza, Israel held municipal elections—which saw gains for the ultra-Zionist right, including in Jerusalem. But the city for the first time saw a Palestinian council candidate—Sondos Alhot, a pro-coexistence activist who ran with a new list called Kol Toshaveha (All Its Residents). Her candidacy, which came in defiance of a boycott called by the Palestinian leadership, nonetheless posed a challenge to the system of apartheid Israel has imposed in the Holy City. In Episode 215 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores what this electoral question may tell us about the prospects for an eventual just peace in historic Palestine.
A statement released Feb. 23 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of United Nations rights experts warns countries against the transfer of war material to Israel, as such transfers could constitute violations international humanitarian law if weapons are used contrary to the Geneva Conventions. The statement asserts that "states must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition—or parts for them—if it is expected, given the facts and past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law."
The internationally recognized Yemeni government on Feb. 24 issued an urgent plea to the international community following a Houthi attack on the Rubymar, a British-owned, Belize-flagged cargo ship carrying hazardous materials through the Red Sea six days earlier. The attack has raised fears of an imminent environmental disaster due to the potential leakage of ammonia fertilizer and oil from the abandoned and damaged vessel.
In a message delivered Feb. 22 to the UN Security Council, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Christopher Lockyear, said that the "illusion" of a humanitarian response in Gaza "perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws." The already low volume of aid being delivered to Gaza has collapsed in recent weeks, despite Israel having been ordered by the International Court of Justice to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance. The World Food Program announced Feb. 20 that it had suspended aid deliveries to northern Gaza—where the suffering is most extreme—because of the dissolution of public order and the absense of conditions that allow for safe distributions. A new report from the Gaza Health Impact Projections Working Group estimates that, even in the best-case scenario of an immediate permanent ceasefire, there will be more than 6,500 excess deaths in Gaza over the next six months due to the catastrophic food, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare situation in the enclave. If the status quo of ongoing bombardment continues, the projections rise to between 58,200 and more than 74,000 deaths. Reports are beginning to emerge of children dying of hunger.
In Episode 213 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes how divergent responses to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and mass internment of the Uyghurs reveal the West's shifting definition of genocide. Tragically, elements of the Palestinian leadership merely reverse the double standard, causing elements of the exiled Uyghur leadership to balk at supporting the Palestinians. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Illustrating the irony, the same corporate nexus is involved in putting in place the surveillance state that monitors the Uyghurs for China and the Palestinians for Israel. Fortunately, principled voices of dissent among both the Palestinians and the Uyghurs are calling for Palestinian-Uyghur solidarity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military on Feb. 9 to draw up plans for the "evacuation" of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel's military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, with aid operations struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
In Episode 212 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the latest escalation in the Middle East—and continues to note discrepancies in the reportage. US air-strikes on Iraq are said to have targeted the self-declared Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and its constituent militias such as Kataib Hezbollah. But some reports indicate the actual target has often been the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary network integrated into Iraq's official security services. Meanwhile, insufficiently noted media accounts report "no evidence" to back up Israeli claims of Hamas co-optation of UNWRA, which has led to a devastating cut-off of funds to the UN agency by the Western powers.
The International Court of Justice ordered Israel on Jan. 26 to "take all measures within its power" to prevent breaches of the Genocide Convention in the Gaza Strip, but declined to order a ceasefire, following proceedings instituted by South Africa. The court also directed Israel to punish calls for genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, to enable the provision of "basic services and humanitarian assistance" to residents of Gaza, to preserve evidence relating to potential Genocide Convention breaches, and to submit a report regarding its compliance with the court's order within one month. In its interim ruling, the court stressed that it is not yet determining whether Israel breached the Genocide Convention but is acting to protect the rights of Palestinians ahead of a final decision.