The internet mirrored the events in the world this week and it was terrible. Things that happened: Mourning the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Hamas, War, War Crimes, Misinformation, but also: Derecka Purnell, Banned Books, Drake, Jada and Will, and Aliah Sheffield doesn’t like people.
On October 7th, Hamas “launched an unprecedented invasion across Israel’s southern border with Gaza, storming Israeli towns and killing Israeli soldiers and civilians alike… Nothing like this has happened in the modern history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Published October 7, Zach Beauchamp outlines why Hamas initially invaded Israel, discussing how we got to this point, the conflict’s perpetual instability, and “who is suffering the greatest consequences: not the extremist leaders on either side, but ordinary Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict in the US has always been filled with bias. Both news media and social media have a huge impact on conflict in the area, and global movements for liberation. “One week into the war between Israel and Gaza, social media is inducing a fog of war surpassing previous clashes in the region — one that’s shaping how panicked citizens and a global public view the conflict.” Videos and images from past attacks have been presented as new attacks, and “a volatile, months-long fight over Israel’s democratic future has primed conspiracies and false information to spread within its borders.” Now “activists in the region warn that viral horror stories that turn out not to be true may lead people to further distrust authority figures — and could spark hate, violence and retaliation against innocent people.”
The U.S. has long been an ally to Israel providing aid totalling “$158 billion (not adjusted for inflation) since World War II — more than the US has given to any other nation.” Under international law, the legality of war “hinges on two primary criteria. The first concerns a military campaign’s goals: States are generally forbidden from using force against those beyond their borders for any purpose except self-defense. The second criteria concerns the war effort’s means. States may not deliberately target civilians nor disproportionately harm them in service of their war aims.”
Eric Levitz explains how Israel meets the first criterion as “Israel exercises effective sovereignty over Gaza, controlling the movement of its people, barring them from a portion of its territory, and regulating its import and export of goods. Nevertheless, when a militant group murders more than a thousand of a state’s people, that state has cause for war against the militant group.” However, “Israel’s means of war against Hamas runs afoul of international law. Israel has imposed a complete siege on Gaza, denying its 2 million inhabitants access to electricity, food, water, and fuel.” Levitz argues that “The United States has the power to deter the worst excesses of Israel’s present campaign. Exercising that power would be in the best interests of not only Gazans, but the U.S. and Israel. It was cycles of retributive violence that birthed our current nightmare. If we help Israel to perpetuate those cycles, then the arc of the region’s history will bend back toward hell.”
This is not a link to one specific article, but to Al Jazeera’s “Israel-Palestine conflict” page, which provides historical context of how the conflict got to this point. Some things cover the overall history of Israeli occupation, and others provide updates on specific parts of the occupation and conflict.
The Nation: The War on Gaza Must Not Be Waged in Our Name
The Nation has fantastic coverage of a broad range of voices about this conflict. Dave Zirin writes that “being a Jew for a free Palestine is not easy. It’s also never been more necessary to stand in solidarity.” He writes of the pain he feels “over the killings of Israeli civilians. Every last one. But it is chilling that so many people ostensibly on the left are effectively arguing that Palestinian lives matter less than Israeli ones. We are being instructed to feel Israeli suffering personally—but ignore Palestinian suffering.”
Comparing the mood of the country now to that right after 9/11, today “doesn’t just feel worse because finding allies to help prevent the carnage is proving so difficult. It doesn’t just feel worse because young people are getting named and shamed in dangerous fashion for calling for a free Palestine. It feels worse because this crackdown on dissent—whether people want to admit it or not—is laying the groundwork for the coming military massacres of the civilians of Gaza.”
“Supporting a liberation struggle—or any political struggle—is not the same as uncritically supporting every action of that struggle.” The fact of the matter is “innocent people are dying in Gaza in massive numbers. The liberals currently baying for war will wring their hands once it is too late. The Israeli leadership will dismiss concerns by calling the dead ‘human animals’ again. And those of us who dared to point out that we need unity with a brutally oppressed people will pay a price. But one thing they are right about is that this is personal.”
Derecka Purnell, author of Becoming an Abolitionist and Columbia Law fellow, offers insightful observations about the conflict over this past week. In one thread, Purnell counters the claims that “‘the left’ celebrated the killing of Israeli Jews,” and shares numerous anecdotes of conversations she’s had with Palestinian organizers over the past few days, and statements that counter that claim. In another thread Purnell reflects on an event at Busboys and Poets. “The event had “no blacklisting nonsense, no ‘you support slaughter,’ or ‘you don’t care about Jewish people.’ There were moments of intense disagreement and curiosity. Monologues, book readings, tears. Preachers, organizers, journalists, residents, so many kinds of people spoke.”
Fascist regimes are rising all over the world, and one of the ways it is presenting itself in this country is through book bans. While many states have banned books, Florida is leading the charge with its conservative governor Ron DeSantis. Banned Books USA is an initiative providing “books that have been banned and/or challenged in Florida sent to someone in Florida for free + the cost of shipping.” Currently the limit is one book per person, and books will distributed as long as funds last. The project is “conceived of and sponsored by Paul English and Joyce Linehan, in partnership with Bookshop.org and Electric Literature.” This is a necessary project, and I hope it can expand to other states, and regions impacted by book bans.
While the internet and news cycle was consumed with updates on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, a few other things happened on the internet too. Mostly, the usually pop cultural mess. Sometimes a moment of reflective reprieve is needed, and Aliah Sheffield’s, of ‘Earth is Ghetto’ fame, new EP provided that for me. ‘I Don’t Like People’ is one of the singles (or at least it is the song I’m seeing the most) from These Songs Are For Anyone Sick Of Earth, and it is so pensive, reflective, and refreshing. Sheffield beautifully captures the dark humor of the times, and I’m so excited for her!
The fallout from Drake’s most recent album was predictable. I have never been one to listen to Drake, but last week his “14th project in 14 years” For All the Dogs, was released to much criticism. In addition to coming for Esparanza Spalding for no reason and his normal misogyny, the album is demonstrative of “the middling creative returns that happen when you operate at such a massive scale.”
Maybe more than a musician, “[Drake] the head of a multimillion-dollar enterprise saddled with the type of bloat that comes with having too many stakeholders. A global, intergenerational, multi-genre fan base is rarely where artistic ambition thrives. It’s hard to stay adventurous and nimble when your competitors are the Beatles and not Meek Mill. It’s even harder to be the arbiter of youth when you’ve become the system.”
So apparently Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been separated since 2016. While not legally divorced, they are functionally divorced. This revolution has gone absolutely viral, and “while this news seemingly impacts nothing in the near future, it does carry enormous historical implications, shedding new light on plenty of the couple’s moments in the past—including the infamous slapping incident.” Nadria Goffe does an excellent job guiding us “through what this latest plot twist means for one of Hollywood’s biggest mainstays.”