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Nan Levinson, Assessing the Flames of Protest

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From Gaza to the West Bank to the Israeli-Lebanese borderlands, it’s been a genuine nightmare. The devastation in Gaza remains surreal and almost impossible to take in. Housing, hospitals, schools, religious institutions, you name it — they’re all now a “maze of rubble” while the fighting just goes on (and on and on) with Palestinians (and far smaller numbers of Israelis) still dying daily. The normally cited death toll of Gazans now sits at 38,000 (with untold thousands more buried under the rubble or in mass graves); the death toll of Israeli soldiers is far more modest. It’s been nine months of intense war on a stretch of land that, unimaginably enough, is just 25 miles long with — despite some negotiations now underway — no end yet in sight. Having fought their way in a devastating fashion from the northern reaches of Gaza to its southern border, Israeli forces are now returning to areas they’ve already largely destroyed to do yet more damage, even as the possibility of another war on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon seems to be revving up, and conditions on the West Bank are growing far worse.

It’s all hard to take in. Had you been told that such a set of events would happen before they began, my guess is that you wouldn’t have believed it possible. Yet here we are while, in our world, the very idea of supporting a “cease fire” in Gaza, once a major focus of attention at the United Nations, seems to have more or less disappeared. And this was the world in which, as TomDispatch regular Nan Levinson explains today, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell set himself afire in protest (having made out a will leaving what money he had to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund). It’s hard to imagine a more extreme act — the decision to quite literally obliterate yourself to make a point, destroy your own life to emphasize the nightmarish acts of others while trying to end a horror beyond compare.

Let Levinson take you into just such a world (which also happens to be ours) and make some sense of it. Sigh. Tom

When Too Much Is Not Enough

Moral Passion and the Extremes of Protest

It began with Aaron Bushnell and a visceral response of mine: Why would anyone do such a thing?

Bushnell was the 25-year-old active-duty airman who set himself ablaze on February 25th in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest that country's brutal war in Gaza. The first question was tough enough, but his dramatic and deadly action also brought to mind other questions that have occupied my thinking, research, and writing in these last several years: What spurs someone to such an unyielding, ultimate commitment to a cause? What kind of political action is actually effective?

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Ellen Cantarow, A Cancer on the West Bank

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For obvious reasons, the devastation of Gaza has gotten so much of the attention recently, but life, post-October 7th, has also been a nightmare on the West Bank. Among other things, the grotesquely right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, as the Associated Press reported recently, approved the seizure of more Palestinian land on the West Bank than at any time in the last three decades. We’re talking about more than 12.7 kilometers (or 4.9 square miles) of land in an area where Israeli settler attacks have also been on the rise and those settlers have long been all too literally unsettling local Palestinians. In fact, the most recent land grab only supplemented a striking 4.2 square miles of such land taken in February and March. As Brett Wilkins of Common Dreams points out, “Combined, these are the biggest seizures of Palestinian land since the 1993 Oslo Accords.”

Only recently, as Ephrat Livni of the New York Times reported, Israeli far-right finance minister Bezalel Smotrich announced that at least five illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank would soon be legalized. That’s of the more than 100 outposts built illegally there since the 1990s that help house the more than half a million Israeli settlers now living on the West Bank. And all of this is anything but the end of the matter. It may, in fact, only be the beginning of a push by the present Israeli government to leave Palestinians in the region, whether in a thoroughly devastated Gaza or on the West Bank, as strangers in their own land.

It couldn’t be a sadder development and where it leads — and what kind of Israel it produces — remain unknown. But let TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow, who has in her own unique fashion been reporting on the unsettling of the West Bank for decades now, take you into what has indeed become a world from hell. Tom


How the Israeli Extreme Right Has Achieved Victory

In 1979, I made the first of what would turn out to be decades of periodic visits to Israel and the West Bank. I traveled there for the New York alternative publication The Village Voice to investigate Israel’s growing settler movement, Gush Emunim (or the Bloc of the Faithful). The English-language Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, then reported that settlers from Kiryat Arba, a Jewish West Bank outpost, had murdered two Palestinian teenagers from the village of Halhoul. There, in one of the earliest West Bank settlements established by Gush Emunim, a distant cousin of my husband had two acquaintances. Under cover of being a Jew in search of enlightenment, I spent several days and nights with them.

Gush Emunim: The Origin of the Settlement Movement

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Clarence Lusane, A Trumpian World of Them

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Think about it. Next time around, Donald Trump would essentially be able to do anything. Anything. As long, of course, as he’s president of these increasingly (dis-)United States. And for that version of reality, he can thank the Supreme Court, the very one he empowered with those three court selections of his. In its most recent presidential decision, that court turned a future President Trump into something new: as Justice Sonya Sotomayor suggested ominously (“With fear for our democracy, I dissent”), “a king above the law”; or, if you prefer your history to start not just before the American revolution but elsewhere, as Justice Elena Kagan suggested in her dissenting opinion on another recent decision by those six right-wing justices, that court is turning itself into “the country’s administrative czar.”

You might even consider experimenting with a new title for The Donald: Czar Trump the Great. If Sotomayor is right, he’ll even be able to order his troops to assassinate a political rival without the slightest fear of ending up in court, no less in jail. Next time around (if there is a next time and Joe Biden’s recent grim debate performance suggests that there well might be), any whim or terrible thought of his could indeed become our reality without the slightest fear of future prosecution. Thanks to “his” Supreme Court, he will essentially be able to do anything — anything — his heart (if he has one) desires with “absolute immunity.” And Donald Trump has been nothing if not grimly whimsical. The first time around, he was certainly the president of the rich and beyond-well-to-do. Next time, he would surely repeat that experience and since his election “coalition” was and remains, as TomDispatch regular Clarence Lusane makes vividly clear today, a distinctly white nationalist one, I wouldn’t count on anything he promises Black or Hispanic voters to happen, not for a second.

As Lusane explains, his next time around is certain to be a white racist presidency of the first order (even if his vice-presidential choice does turn out to be Senator Tim Scott). But let Lusane explain. Tom

Who Thinks Donald Trump Is Racist?

Other Racists, That’s Who!

Former president Donald Trump often finds himself on the defensive against accusations of racism. He regularly denies the charges, distorting his record and resorting to his “Black friends” defense, while attempting to throw the allegations back at liberals. However, he never explains why he is the favorite son of the one group in society about whose racial bigotry there can be no debate: avowed racists.

Since Trump emerged as a public political figure, they have been resolute in their loyalty to him. Are Trump’s African American allies like Senator Tim Scott or Representative Byron Donalds, or Latino ones like Senator Marco Rubio, truly ignorant of his unapologetically racist champions? Or is their blind ambition to share a ticket with him (or be close to power) simply more important to them?

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