Ralph welcomes Craig Mokhiber, who just resigned his post as the director in the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations over the UN response to the bombing of Gaza. Then, we are joined by CODEPINK peace activist, Medea Benjamin, who was recently arrested at a hearing on Capitol Hill, featuring Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for protesting the weapons bill for Israel moving through Congress.
Craig Mokhiber is lawyer and specialist in international human rights law, policy and methodology, and he has served the UN since 1992. Until his recent retirement, Mr. Mokhiber served as Director in the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He has also served as the UN's Senior Human Rights Advisor in both Palestine and in Afghanistan, led the team of human rights specialists attached to the High Level Mission on Darfur, headed the Rule of Law and Democracy Unit, and served as Chief of the Economic and Social Issues Section, and Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch at OHCHR Headquarters.
What was really at the center of my letter was a sense that in the United Nations, international law had been subverted or pushed aside in favor of an approach to political expediency. That, first of all, ignored the norms and standards of human rights and humanitarian law. And secondly, it’s failed miserably to improve the situation in Palestine and Israel.
Hamas is not just Hamas's armed wing. Hamas is also effectively a local government that provides services. Hamas is not supported by everyone in Gaza by any means. Palestinians who belong to many different parties have many different perspectives from liberal to conservative. And so, I think this continuous focus on Hamas and an effort to depict Hamas as ISIS, with all sorts of fantastical stories, is an intentional distraction away from the reality—which is the 2.3 million interned civilians in Gaza who have no say over what happens in their lives and who are on the receiving end of the Israeli bombs.
[This $14.5 billion in military aid to Israel] is being called the genocide tax on the American people— who I think if they were polled would say, “Let Israel pay for its own blunders on October 7th.”
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK and the co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange. Her most recent book, coauthored with Nicolas J.S. Davies, is War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict.
Many of us, for weeks, have been going into their offices, doing sit-ins in their offices, joining in with the constituents in their districts, and trying to get them to come out for a ceasefire— to no avail.
It's incredible the level of insanity of giving more money to Israel that could create a regional war there, continuing to fund (to the tune of $61 billion) the war in Ukraine that could lead to a regional war there, and then tacking on some more money to provoke China.
Congress is behaving like an autocracy. It is blockading itself from the American people. It is putting its own power up for sale. It is ignoring the facts abroad. It's alienating huge portions of the world, and they don't care.
In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis
1. President Biden is facing a collapse in his 2024 polling related to his blind support for the Israeli military. A Gallup poll shows Biden’s disapproval rating among young people has hit nearly 60%, rivaling the collapse in support for LBJ as the Vietnam war dragged on. According to the same poll, Biden has dropped 11 points with Democrats overall since September. Among Muslim Americans, Time reports only 17% say they now plan to vote for Biden in 2024 – a steep decline from the 59% who voted for him in 2020.
2. Many Democrats are sticking with Biden despite his deeply unpopular position on Gaza, but not Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian and represents a significant Muslim American population in her Michigan district. In a recent video made with Means TV, Tlaib signals “There is no excuse for Joe Biden's support of Israel’s genocidal campaign in Palestine. Don't count on our vote in 2024.”
3. On Monday, October 23rd, the AFL-CIO held a tense meeting of its executive council regarding Gaza. The New York Times reports “Mark Dimondstein, the president of the postal union, argued that Israel and…Palestin[e]…should be combined into a single state [and] called for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to demand a cease-fire, according to four people familiar with the contents of the meeting.” He also described himself as “[an] anti-Zionist Jew.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, asserted “Israel’s right to defend itself, [and] said she backed establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Noting “That has been part of the Democratic platform for as long as I can remember.” Mr. Dimondstein, responded that he is “not part of the Democratic Party.”
4. The International Federation of Journalists reports that the West Bank shrine venerating Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh – murdered by an Israeli sniper who was never brought to justice in May 2022 – has been desecrated. IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said “I have visited this site myself and know firsthand how important it had become to those who mourn Shireen’s loss. It is hard to see this destruction as anything other than a cruel act of vengeance, of a kind that can only exacerbate tensions in Palestine. The sooner the ICC gives this case the attention it deserves, the better.”
5. Anti-war sentiment is even taking hold in Israel itself. Israeli journalist Oren Ziv reported on an Israeli anti-war protest on October 28th, highlighting that this was the first such demonstration and that the protesters blocked roads near the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. This comes as the situation within Israel grows increasingly tense, with reports of Palestinian students being trapped in a dorm at Netanya Academic College as an Israeli mob outside changed “death to Arabs,” per the Middle East Eye.
6. Even the Pope has weighed in on the growing violence, joining calls for a ceasefire. The pontiff issued a statement reading “Let the arms cease. Stop, brothers and sisters: war is always a defeat — always, always!”
7. In major domestic news, the United Auto Workers union has triumphed in their strike against the Big Three automakers. On October 30th, UAW and General Motors reached a deal, following similar agreements being reached with Stellantis and Ford. Axios reports that details of these deals include “25% wage hikes over four and a half years…cost-of-living adjustments…[bringing top wages] over $42 an hour by 2028…[and eliminating the] despised two-tiered wage scale for newer hires,” all key demands of the striking workers. These deals also provide “permanent jobs for temp workers and boosts retirement income, including 401(k) contributions,” and protections for EV workers. Reuters quotes UAW President Shawn Fain saying “We wholeheartedly believe our strike squeezed every last dime out of General Motors…They underestimated us. They underestimated you."
8. The Washington Post is out with a blockbuster new report on how payday loan firms have gone to war with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to the report, “Powerful financial firms that offer high-cost, short-term loans to poor Americans have blocked at least five federal investigations into their business practices since the start of last year, part of a broad and aggressive campaign by payday lenders to neuter or eliminate their chief watchdog agency in Washington.” These firms have fought the CFPB tooth and nail in the courts, successfully bringing a case to challenge the existence of the Bureau itself to the Supreme Court. As that case winds its way through the legal system, these firms have “cited the pending Supreme Court decision to slow ongoing CFPB investigations or fight off the agency’s recent punishments.” Lisa Gilbert, the executive vice president of Public Citizen, which filed a briefing with the Supreme Court in defense of the CFPB, noted that “The really big-picture implication is all of the rules of the last 12 years could be called into question.”
9. Finally, the Intercept reports progressive House Democrat Jim McGovern and conservative House Republican Thomas Massie are circulating a letter calling on President Biden to end the judicial persecution of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. This letter emphasizes that “Deep concerns about this case have been repeatedly expressed by international media outlets, human rights and press freedom advocates,” and noted a previous letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland which stressed that “[e]very day that the prosecution of Julian Assange continues is another day that our own government needlessly undermines our own moral authority abroad and rolls back the freedom of the press under the First Amendment at home.” Hopefully this left-right coalition in favor of press freedom will prevail.
This has been Francesco DeSantis, with In Case You Haven’t Heard.