what i'm reading: 2023 wrap-up, a reading plan for 2024, and why i now create reading plans

I've finally figured out this reading plan thing. A list that will guide me but not overwhelm me. A way to make sure I read at least a few old titles that have been languishing on my Books Universe list for ages. A list that will keep me obsessively reading, but not obsessed with the list itself.

Here are the results of my 2023 reading plan.

Five current (within three years) nonfiction

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family (2021), Patrick Radden Keefe (review)

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness (2022), Meghan O'Rourke (review)

Madame Restell: the Life, Death and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Independent Abortionist (2023), Jennifer Wright (review)

The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service (2022), Laura Kaplan (review)

Galileo and the Science Deniers (2020), Mario Livio (review to follow)

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (2022), Ed Yong (currently reading; review to follow)

Five older nonfiction from my Books Universe

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (2018)Michael Pollan 

Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream (2006), Bruce  Watson (review)

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia (2019), Christina Thompson (review)

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (2010), Cordelia Fine (review)

Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement (2014), Jane McAlevey and Bob Ostertag

Ten fiction , including five (total) from authors I have not previously read: Margaret Laurence ✅, Donna Tartt ✅.

This year most of the fiction I read was for the Labour Book Club I was leading through my union. The reading wasn't particularly satisfying, but I loved LBC, so on balance that was a win. 

Of the list of authors I hadn't read but want to sample, five turned out to be too many. But I did read two of them, and in previous years read another two or three, so that is slowly happening. 

Here's the fiction I did read.

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (loved, recommend highly)

Crook Manifesto, Colson Whitehead (loved, recommend highly -- of course!)

My Notorious Life, Kate Manning (review)

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart (review)

Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart (loved, recommend highly)

In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck (LBC) (had read before, a very long time ago)

God’s Bits of Wood, Ousmane Sembène (LBC) (review)

In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje (LBC) (had read before; a very good book)

The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence (second time I've tried to read this)

The Cold Millions, Jess Walter (LBC) (had read before)

The Last Ballad, Wiley Cash (LBC) (had read before)

For the Win, Cory Doctorow (LBC) (review)

Gilded Mountain, Kate Manning (LBC)

Advance one ongoing goal ✅✅ 

Completed weekly installments of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (whoo-hoo!)

Returned to Taylor Branch's America in the King Years trilogy, and finished the final third of the final book, At Canaan's Edge, abandoned in 2007

My 2024 Plan will separate this goal into two: "advance one ongoing goal" and "one massive book to be read in weekly installments".

Also read

A First Time for Everything, Dan Santat (excellent children's graphic novel) (review)

The Secret Pocket, Peggy Janicki (children's, indigenous, excellent) (review)

Many feature-length stories in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Harpers, The Guardian, Vox, The New Yorker, and elsewhere, saved and tracked through "Reading List" on Chrome

Why do I have a reading plan? 

Sometime in the late 2000s, I realized I was spending less time reading. Or, more accurately, I was spending too much time reading a whole lot of nothing -- scrolling, reading headlines, a paragraph here and there. It was very unsatisfying, and was contributing to feelings of disconnection, lack of focus, and general dissatisfaction. I had all but lost the deep reading that I love, and have done all my life.

With this realization, I began a gradual lessening of time spent on social media, less time consuming news, and more time reading books. The more I did this, the better I felt. 

This is not only because I love and value reading. The larger issue is being intentional about how I use my time. Time is our most valuable resource. Time is our only non-renewable resource. I don't want to waste it -- and by waste, I mean using non-work time in unsatisfying ways. We're all familiar with frittering away time and not knowing where it went. That's what I'm striving to avoid.

I've always been a bit obsessive about how I use my time. I never take on a new project without first figuring out how I will prioritize it in my life, what I will reduce or move in order to fit in the new thing. The internet and social media had fractured that, and I wanted to reclaim it. 

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu was enormously helpful for this. By the time I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, it was clarifying and articulating what I already knew. If this is something you're looking for, I recommend reading both these books.

So in keeping with all of this, a reading plan has helped me focus my reading, and be more intentional with my reading time.


what i'm reading: the invisible kingdom: reimagining chronic illness

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke is a important book. I would even call it a landmark. 

For ten years, O'Rourke suffered from a debilitating condition that was either misdiagnosed or dismissed. Her search for answers forms the structure of this book. 

Although the author writes about her own experience, The Invisible Kingdom is not a typical illness memoir. It doesn't follow the familiar trajectory of illness-adjustment-recovery-lessons learned. O'Rourke uses her own story as a springboard to explore chronic illness from social, cultural, and political perspectives, intertwined with the personal story.

O'Rourke exposes how the American healthcare system, medical training, and culture conspire against chronically ill people, creating insurmountable obstacles and destroying lives. 

This book is a must-read for anyone struggling with chronic illness, but even more importantly, it's a must-read for health care practitioners. 

It's written in a US context -- a culture which worships individualism, where healthcare is not a universal human right, where both the amount and quality of care one receives is dependent on privilege. However, readers from countries with universal health insurance (that is, all other so-called "developed" countries) shouldn't dismiss this an American problem. While some conditions aren't in play, far too many still apply. At its core, this story is happening all around us, no matter where we live.

A complicated gaslighting

The Invisible Kingdom illuminates how the dynamics of conventional medicine obstruct and prevent people with chronic illness from receiving appropriate care. The issues fall into three categories.

Not being believed.

This is the one condition nearly universal to people with chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities: doctors discount and dismiss their patients' stories. When test results turn up negative, doctors -- at best -- shrug their shoulders and move on. At worst -- and frequently -- they assume that the patient is exaggerating, attention-seeking, or drug-seeking, or that their symptoms are the result of anxiety or depression. I venture to say that everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- with chronic illness has encountered this. A majority of doctors simply do not believe their patients. 

Instead of realizing or admitting that their diagnostic tests are inadequate -- that medical science is imperfect and incomplete, that it has not conquered every condition, that this patient's symptoms exceed either the doctor's own knowledge or the current limits of medical knowledge -- the doctor discounts or dismisses the patient. Rather than question the adequacy of the tests, the doctors question the validity of the individual's own experience. The Invisible Kingdom shows how one group of doctors who dealt with Lyme disease took this to extremes. They  

long seemed unwilling to acknowledge that patients were coming to them with their own knowledge. . . .  Instead of devoting compassion and energy to patients with persistent symptoms, many doctors focused on discrediting their testimony.

Hypochondria is a thing, as is Munchausen Syndrome. But those psychiatric conditions are relatively rare, and not difficult to diagnose. Most people do not seek the care of specialists for fun or out of compulsive need. It's exhausting -- physically, emotionally, and in the US, financially. The vast majority of sufferers are, in fact, suffering. Yet all too often, doctors attribute undiagnosed pain as evidence of a psychiatric condition.

More than one doctor told O'Rourke that "everyone is tired," or "it's normal to have some aches and pains as we get older". This was maddening to even read about! O'Rourke reminds us that most people have no trouble distinguishing between normal tiredness and all-encompassing, crippling fatigue. As she writes:

Just because a symptom is common -- and subjective -- does not mean a patient cannot tell the difference between a normal version of it and a pathological one, the way we experience the difference between the common cold and the flu.

I can't help but wonder why this dynamic is so common. One maverick autoimmune specialist O'Rourke interviews espouses the necessity of a personalized approach -- which is exactly the opposite of how western medicine operates.

Alongside the usual standardized protocols, [patients with unusual and persistent symptoms] clearly call for the tactics of personalized medicine, because the immune system is so complex -- and so individualized. . . . This complexity is a problem for the conventional medical system. . . . The conventional folks are very, very good at what they do. . . . But a patient with a constellation of symptoms that doesn't clearly fit a diagnosis is not somebody that they want to deal with. . . . Nothing is more threatening to who you think you are [as a doctor] than a patient with a problem you cannot solve.

Medical silos. 

As she searched for answers and relief, O'Rourke saw many specialists. Throughout, she was forced to coordinate all the results and manage her own care -- while enduring mind-bending physical pain, extreme fatigue, and the added stress of not being believed.

Insurance companies, and doctors who allow their practice to be driven by billing systems.

Insurance companies expect doctors to see patients for 10 minutes at a time, no matter what their needs, and to see massive numbers of patients every day. Chronically ill people can't fit their needs into this system, so the system shunts them to the margins. 

This is typically as true for publicly-funded systems as for private, for-profit healthcare. (BC's NDP government recently changed the provincial health authority's billing system in recognition of this barrier to care. It can be done!)

Alternative medicine may be useful, but is not a panacea

O'Rourke also sought help from practitioners of alternative or complimentary medicine. She had some good experiences, but she also brings a critical eye to this system. 

Complimentary medicine is typically very expensive, and not covered by insurance -- meaning, it is usually only available to people with privilege. Offerings run the gamut from those well supported by evidence to outright quackery. A person who is hurting and desperate, and who has been abandoned by conventional medicine, is easy prey.

However, alternative practitioners offer two things that conventional medicine does not: they believe their patients, and they have time for them. This is a powerful combination, and that power makes it a potentially dangerous (and incredibly expensive) path.

The mind-body link: a confusing picture

Complicating this picture is the undeniable link between the neurological system and the immune system. Simply put, our state of mind does impact our health. As everyone with chronic illness knows, stress can trigger and exacerbate symptoms. Yet this doesn't mean the illness is caused by stress, and it certainly doesn't mean our symptoms are psychosomatic or imagined.

It's a conundrum. Positive thinking will not make illness go away, yet negative thinking actually does make it worse. With some autoimmune conditions, hopefulness has been correlated with a lessening of symptoms. This confusing and seemingly contradictory reality can bolster the disbelieving doctor's suspicions. As O'Rourke's husband said at one point, "This seems like one of the hardest things about being sick in the way that you're sick: being sick makes you stressed. But being stressed makes you sicker."

O'Rourke writes about the growing field of psychoneuroimmunlogy: a new, greater understanding of the interactions between the nervous system and the immune system -- between body and mind -- is beginning to emerge.

One glimmer of hope is the emergence of autoimmunity centres, modeled on cancer centres -- a multidisciplinary approach, with same-day specialist appointments in the same facility, and cases discussed in a team setting. In her research (but unfortunately, not in time for her own illness), O'Rourke finds an automunine centre boasting 17 disciplines and a commitment to streamlined continuity of care. In this setting, physicians may spend hours meeting with patients and with one another, searching personalized answers.

Practitioners in this emergent field acknowledge that diagnostic tools are limited -- as they have been throughout medical history -- and that there is much medical science does not know. The research arm searches for more tools, while doctors from the clinical arm listen, believe, and brainstorm creative solutions.

Another sign of hope is the conventional medical community's recognition of long covid. Long covid has proven that medicine's understanding of viruses is flawed and incomplete. Many doctors are suffering from long covid, and this has apparently brought an ah-ha moment to treatment of viruses and autoimmune disease.

Social determinants of health

O'Rourke also reminds readers that systemic racism, substandard housing and nutrition, food deserts, intersectional bigotry, and other social determinants of health are always in play. As she fights for care, she is always aware that as a white, cis, educated, middle-class woman, she has access to care that so many others do not. Suffice to say that if the author found it nearly impossible to access appropriate care, we can assume that many others are left behind at the outset.

A story known to many

Meghan O'Rourke lost ten years of her life to this struggle -- ten years that should have been her most productive professional years, and her best childbearing years, as she did want to have a baby. She was in nearly constant pain, and subject to fatigue that made it impossible to function, with no way to predict or control when a cycle would strike. 

It's no wonder that O'Rourke became severely depressed, and at least one point, lost hope. That she continued to search for answers and function to whatever extent she was able is testament to remarkable inner strength, grit, resilience, and determination. Reading The Invisible Kingdom, I often thought of the original meaning of the Finnish word sisu (not the current, pop-culture meaning). Sisu is used to describe the Finns' national survival in the face of multiple Russian invasions. Meghan O'Rourke did the same.

I have never faced an illness as debilitating and mysterious as the one that O'Rourke writes about. But although my experience was more mild by comparison, the elements and the trajectory were very familiar. I believe most people with chronic illness, especially women, will also recognize the pattern.

I frequently say "I was misdiagnosed for seven years." But actually, my original diagnosis was correct. For insurance reasons, I had to see a different family doctor, and he threw out that initial, correct diagnosis, pronouncing it a "garbage can diagnosis" for a nonexistent syndrome. He decided I had a different condition. When my bloodwork did not confirm his diagnosis, he ignored the results. He supposedly knew of a cutting-edge treatment that was getting good results, and applied that to me. I now realize I was used in a long-term, nonconsensual treatment experiment. 

For seven years, I took the wrong medication, while my symptoms worsened and expanded. The medication negatively altered my digestive system and my metabolism. 

As my symptoms worsened, I became less active; eventually the joint pain became so severe that I was nearly sedentary. The wrong medication, inactivity, and stress-eating led to weight gain -- at which time my doctor declared that my joint pain was caused by my weight. In reality the cause and effect were exactly the opposite.

This doctor refused to refer me to a specialist, claiming a specialist would only confirm what we already knew. Of course, the insurance scheme included financial disincentives for doctors to make referrals.

I felt like I was falling apart. I felt desperate. Friends urged me to insist on a referral. When the doctor said I appeared to be anxious and stressed, and suggested I go on anti-depressants, that was the last straw. Once again, he was reversing cause and effect. I was anxious and stressed -- because I was in so much pain, and because he wouldn't help me. Not the other way around.

I insisted on my right to see a specialist, and the doctor finally wrote a referral. In one visit, the specialist made a diagnosis: the original diagnosis I had gotten seven years earlier, the one the family doctor threw out. I never returned to that family doctor, and I began the long road back to health. (If you are interested, the whole story is here. I share that link only in that it may help someone.) 

A vow of honesty

Meghan O'Rourke teases out the many threads that are woven into this story -- how an invisible, chronic illness impacts friendships, relationships, work life, family life, and worst of all, our very sense of self. O'Rourke is also a poet, and some of her metaphors and descriptions were too esoteric for me; other readers might find them exactly on point. Regardless, she brings a unique and compelling storytelling style to the issue. 

The Invisible Kingdom contains many reflections on illness, pain, and suffering from a wide spectrum of sources -- Susan Sontag, William Styron, Elaine Scarry, Barbara Ehrenreich, Alexander Pope, Bernie Siegel, Alice James, and Norman Cousins, among others, and a wealth of complex medical information rendered in plain language.

The book is equally notable for what it doesn't contain: there's no bright-siding. O'Rourke rejects "the wisdom narrative", where "illness is a vehicle for self-improvement and hard-won acceptance". She writes:

There is a razor-thin line between trying to find something usefully redemptive in illness and lying to ourselves about the nature of suffering.
It is difficult to look at the shadows of physical suffering clearly, because to do so, I know, is to risk inviting depression, or a terrifying apprehension that the world is made of pain. But when I was at my sickest, I resolved that if I got well enough to write about my experience, I would not give false assurances. I would not write letters reassuring those I loved that my life had not been utterly compromised. Now that I am somewhat better, I can tell you the truth: When I was at my sickest, my life was utterly compromised, and my very sense of self was gone. When I was less sick -- and there were periods of relief in my illness -- I could step back from the experience and take pleasure in the vividness of the blue sky from my bedroom window. But I will not repeat falsehoods; I will not say that wisdom and growth mean I wouldn't have it any other way. I would have it the other way.


write for rights 2023: my fifteenth year #w4r2023

2023 marks the fifteenth year that I have participated in Amnesty Interntional's Write for Rights.

Fifteen years ago, I chose one case, one person. I wrote to officials about them, and wrote to them as well. 

I upped the ante a bit more every year, until the year (date unknown!) when I challenged myself to write a letter for every featured case. Since then I've written at least one letter for each of the 10 featured cases, and at least one letter of support.

In 2014 I also joined Amnesty's Urgent Action Network. Urgent Action sends you cases on an occasional basis; you write to officials on their behalf if you can. I respond to about half the emails I receive, depending on what's going on in my life. 

There is one more piece I want to add: I want to organize a virtual letter-writing group event. This is an obvious step for me, but so far I haven't been able to get it off the ground. But I haven't let go of the idea. Eventually I'll figure it out.

I'm not sharing this to win praise or admiration. I'm sharing it to encourage you to write with me.

It's very easy

My annual W4R letter-writing takes about an hour -- and that's because I choose to write for every case, 10 global cases plus one from Canada. You could easily do the whole thing in 15 or 30 minutes.

The only cost involved is international stamps, as I like to send paper mail when possible. I consider this part of my end-of-year charitable donations (albeit not the tax-deductible kind). If postage money is a barrier, you can easily choose only cases that can be contacted by email.

Amnesty offers tons of support. There are sample letters, toolkits, case cards. If you're intimidated by doing this on your own, there are groups you can join to help motivate you. There are also resources for educators and organizers. 

This year there was even an option to receive a paper kit by postal mail. That's a lot of paper, so I didn't order a kit, but if it would help motivate you, sign up for Write For Rights and Amnesty will send you one.

It works

Amnesty has developed Write For Rights because it works: go here and scroll to "success stories".

Last year, people in more than 200 countries took over 4.6 million actions -- letters, emails, tweets, petitions. They helped individuals in dire circumstances, while exposing conditions and highlighting urgent issues.

Write For Rights saves lives. It gives comfort and support to people who are suffering for their activism. It shows families of these heroes that they are not alone. 

W4R 2023: this year's global cases

This year's global cases focus on these individuals, countries, and human rights.

➤ Maung Sawyeddollah, in Myanmar, is exposing Facebook's role in the murderous campaign against people from the Rohingya ethnic group. 

➤ In Australia, two Indigenous people known as Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul are fighting to save their ancestral lands from the ravages of climate change. To save a culture that has been passed down through generations for thousands of years, they have gone to court to demand Australia take immediate and meaningful action against climate change.

➤ Thapelo Mohapi, in South Africa, is in hiding and fears for his life. Thapelo is a leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a grassroots movement working to improve the lives of people in South Africa. Members of the group are being targetted and murdered.

➤ In Tunisia, Chaima Issa speaks out against an autocratic government. She has been arrested, detained, and banned from meeting with others or speaking in public. She remains defiant, despite facing decades in prison.

➤ Rocky Myers is an intellectually disabled Black man in the US state of Alabama. He is on death row for murder, despite there being no evidence linking him to the crime. His trial was a riddled with issues, including a witness who has since admitted that they lied. After nearly 30 years on death row, Rocky could be executed at any time. 

➤ Justyna Wydrzyńska, in Poland, has been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for helping women access safe abortions.  

➤ In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor is being held in an isolation cell. Ahmed's "crime" is speaking the truth about the UAE, providing the world with a very rare glimpse of the rampant human rights violations in that country -- including fake trials, and the detention and torture of dissenting voices. For more than a year, no one knew where Ahmed was being held. Now he faces a decade in prison.

➤ Thulani Maseko, in the southern African nation of Eswatini, endured more than a year in prison, until he was executed in his own home. Thulani's "crime" was defending human rights in a country ruled by an absolute monarchy.

In Brazil, the son of Ana Maria Santos Cruz organized "Walks of Peace", where people would speak out against police abuses. He was repeatedly threatened, and then murdered. Ana continues to fight for justice for her son.

➤ In Kyrgyzstan, Rita Karasartova leads the Institute for Public Analysis and is a member of a democracy movement. For her peaceful work against poverty and injustice, Rita was arrested, detained, and denied access to healthcare. She is now under house arrest, charged with attempting to "violently overthrow the government".

Human rights abuses in our own backyard

In the list of annual cases, Amnesty reserves one spot for the letter-writer's country. I love this idea. It reminds us that urgent human rights issues don't happen only in faraway lands. The cases in Canada usually involve Indigenous peoples, and are often taking place in my own province -- still known as "British Columbia".

➤ The Wet'suwet'en First Nation is under threat from a huge pipeline being constructed through their traditional and unceded territory. Wet'suwet'en land defenders have been harassed, intimidated, forcibly removed, and criminalized by the RCMP, Canada's national police force. They need our support.


five years on: reflections on the big life change

The Port Hardy skyline
Since starting this blog in 2004, I've experienced three Big Life Changes. 

The first, of course, was emigrating to Canada. 

The second was becoming a librarian. More than a career change, this was a huge shift in lifestyle and identity. 

The third Big Life Change was moving west, to a small, remote community on Vancouver Island.

So this feels significant: five years ago today, we arrived in Port Hardy.

27 November 2018

We started the day in Delta, took the ferry, then drove north, the final day of our seven-day road trip. We were driving our little Kia, our big boy Diego in the back seat. Behind us, my brother was driving the truck; my sister-in-law had joined us in Calgary. (They travelled from Oregon to do this with us!)

As we left Campbell River, it was dark, and it was raining, and it felt like we were driving forever. Every time we passed a sign showing kilometres to Port Hardy, we cheered. And then: the welcome sign, and some lights. And finally, our rental home, which we thought would be our permanent home for many years, and turned out to be a brief pitstop.

Professionally, a rocky start

Only days later, I drove down to Nanaimo, for two weeks in both Nanaimo, my employer's headquarters, and Campbell River. I always say, "I had a rocky start", but that's a euphemism. My first few days were a disaster. When I finally started working in Port Hardy, my confidence was in shreds.

My job was a newly-created position; I was (am) the only professional librarian in all five of my branches. Early on, I had many good experiences, but for every one of those, there were two or three (or five or ten) uncomfortable or disturbing ones. 

I had never seen such under-resourced libraries. The conditions that were accepted as normal were shocking to me. I had to fight the bureaucracy just to get basic supplies. Most of my tech didn't work. 

Managing people remotely, by phone and email, was a new challenge. Some of my staff were unaccustomed to being supervised. Some were suspicious of outsiders and sought to undermine me whenever possible. Much of my experience didn't translate easily, or at all. I made many wrong turns, hit many dead ends.

In addition, and unbeknownst to me, there was a systemic barrier between the library and the local Indigenous communities, and between the library and the public schools. Both had suffered dismal, disrespectful experiences with our library, and wanted nothing to do with us. 

There was much reason to be hopeful

Luckily for me, sprinkled amid all that frustration, there were lovely exchanges with customers, and some staff who welcomed me and were eager to work together. My professional colleagues, although geographically distant, were incredibly welcoming and supportive, and so engaged with our union -- far more so than I had experienced in Ontario. 

There was also an upside to things being in such bad shape: I was making improvements all the time. There was so much room for growth.

Personally, a magical beginning

While the professional situation was challenging and frustrating, the personal end was simply wonderful. We instantly loved the quiet, simple life. Allan loved working from home, and I loved my five-minute "commute".

There was so much natural beauty all around us. Down the street we could see the bay, fringed by distant snow-capped mountains. Driving anywhere meant winding "country roads" (known here as a highway) through the rainforest. We saw eagles every day. Ten minutes away, we could take the dogs to a magnificent beach, mountains on the horizon, eagles overhead.

Diego needed surgery, and was near the end of his life. That was as horrible as we knew it would be, but we very quickly found a whole new pack. Then we did something completely unexpected, another massive change: we bought our home. About ten minutes later, housing prices skyrocketed. Timing is everything!

Five years on

Fully understanding my new library role and the organization I work for took longer than I expected. It's been extremely rewarding. It's never boring -- which is fortunate, since I intend to stay in this job until I retire.

Becoming part of the community of service providers took much longer. When I share this observation with other professionals in our town, everyone remembers the same experience. Working in the North Island region is often a career stepping-stone; people come for two or three years, then move on. Because of this, whether consciously or no, locals are reluctant to invest. People are waiting to see if you mean business. It took the better part of three years to get past this. 

It's wonderful to feel at home, both personally and professionally.

Of course there are limitations and annoyances of living in a remote region, but everything's a trade-off. There are plenty of annoyances about living in New York City, but I wouldn't have traded my years there for the world. It's great to feel that way again.


My moving to BC post are here. Allan was sharing his reflections and observations in comments on those posts -- now lost.


an obvious life hack: how to make streaming more affordable and still enjoy ad-free viewing

Much ink is being spilled, metaphorically speaking, about the changing trends in subscription-based streaming services. Headlines scream that shows on Netflix and Prime will now include ads, implying that users will pay the same rates plus see ads, as we did with cable TV. 

But that's not true (at least not yet). So far, most streaming services have started offering a tiered system, with a less expensive, ad-supported level, and a more expensive level without ads.

For Netflix, the difference is substantial: $5.99 vs. either $16.49 or $20.99 for the two ad-free options. Disney also has three tiers: $7.99 with ads, $11.99 or $14.99 without. Amazon's deal is worse: in order to avoid an upcoming price increase for Prime Video, you'll need to pay an additional three dollars a month. (These are Canadian prices only, of course.)

No ads. Ever.

No one likes price increases, and I'm no exception. But for me, ads are a deal-breaker. I'd go back to watching on DVD before I'd subject myself to advertising during shows. No question.

The only time we see ads are on YouTube. We've opted not to subscribe to YouTube Premium -- me, because I don't use it often, and Allan, because he's more motivated to keep expenses down. (The apps that block ads on YouTube can't be used on our streaming devices.) But I don't watch full movies or series on YouTube, so it's not a big deal.

Up until now, I've enjoyed the convenience of subscribing to multiple platforms at the same time. With the price increases, the convenience feels more like a luxury. 

Streaming on rotation

So I'm using a simple solution: rotate monthly subscriptions according to what we want to watch. 

As my thrifty partner points out, you can only watch one show/series/movie at a time. (Even if you follow several series at a time, your eyeballs are only one at any given moment.) So when you're watching something on one platform, you're still paying for all the other service that you're not currently watching. 

Like most people, I find the movies and series I want to watch scattered across different platforms, and there's a limited number of shows that interest me from any one service. Take AppleTV+ as an example. When we first got Apple's streaming service, I thought it was amazing -- so many great shows! Then we saw five or six really good shows*, a few others...  and that was it. There was nothing else we were interested in.

So why not rotate?

Subscribe to Netflix to watch specific titles, then after you've seen what you're there for, find something that appeals on a different service, subscribe to that one, and cancel Netflix. Keep an eye on what other services are offering, cancel and subscribe, mix and match. 

It will take a bit more planning, for sure. I'll put reminders on my calendars for the monthly renewals. That's not a big deal, plus if I miss one, it's not a disaster. (I acknowledge this is challenging for some people. I have many challenges, but staying organized is not one of them.) 

Current streaming lineup

Right now, I'm subscribing to Disney and Crave on annual plans. I fell for what appeared to be a better value, imagining I would want to continue indefinitely. When those annual subscriptions run out, I'll put those on rotation, too. 

I'll continue to subscribe to Prime, to get free shipping on Amazon.

I want to get Paramount, to finish "Yellowstone," then watch the two Yellowstone prequels; I've been waiting for the second half of Yellowstone S5 to drop. Now I'll also wait for a good break from some other service, cancelling something before I get Paramount. 

There is one Canada-only snag: when licensing runs out, shows disappear. With this mix-and-match approach, I may miss something I wanted to see. But that's what downloads are for.

Many people will choose lower prices over ad-free, because paying less or "saving" money is more important than not seeing advertising. And for some people, Netflix may suddenly become affordable. But I can't imagine that many people will go back to cable -- expensive, tons of ads, limited viewing options, scheduled (as opposed to on-demand), and for the most part, crappy shows.


* Best: Bad Sisters, Shining Girls, Slow Horses, The Morning Show (S1 and S2 only). 

Very good: Severance. 

Good: Ted Lasso (S1 only, emphatically!), Truth Be Told (S1-S2), For All Mankind (S1-S2), Shrinking.


11.11: as genocide continues in gaza

The Palestine Project
I almost missed my annual Remembrance Day post. While a handful of countries commemorate the most pointless and horrific of wars to end all wars, a genocide against the Palestinian people is being perpetrated by the State of Israel.

In the English-speaking world, people are being punished for condemning it. 

Many American Jews continue to rationalize it, or worse, defend it.

When I was a child, I would frequently hear: "How did the world let the Holocaust happen? Did they not know it was happening? Was there no way to prevent it?" Now, today, we can never say, We didn't know

The sight of the Star of David flag turns my stomach now, like the swastika. 

There's no coming back from this. Any possibility of peace, justice, and coexistence has been destroyed. 

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we instead choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? I appeal as a human being to human beings: remember your humanity, forget the rest.

Bertrand Russell

The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine


achievement unlocked! what i'm reading: gotham: a history of new york city to 1898

Ta-da! I finished! 

I've been reading Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 in weekly installments, since March of 2022. And now I have finished it.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and the reading experience. I have a list of doorstoppers that I'd like to approach the same way. I'm thinking of reading one giant tome each year, in addition to everything else I'm reading.

An absolutely brilliant book

Gotham is a marvel. Authors Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace write history from a progressive point of view, and in a lively, entertaining style. The book brings to the surface the histories that have been hidden from the mainstream. It's honest and refreshing, and naturally full of myth-busting.

Although the book is organized chronologically, it is also organized topically. The authors periodically check in on the status of women, the lives of Black Americans, and the progress of the labour movement, along with religion, politics, media, entertainment, social attitudes toward poverty, the lives of the elite, and other areas that bring each period to life.

I have so many notes -- in more than one notebook, and in the camera on my phone, and the book itself is bristling with yellow sticky notes -- that it feels exhausting and pointless to try to encapsulate even a small portion of them. I have a huge number of notes on socialism, unions, the rights of women, Black Americans, the media, the theatre, sports... and more. 

Many New Yorks

Gotham is divided into five sections. 

The first part looks at the geological formation of the island now known as Manhattan, and its original inhabitants, the Lenape and other Indigenous peoples: "Lenape Country and New Amsterdam to 1664". We visit New Amsterdam and meet the Dutch colonists. New Amsterdam was undeveloped and very short-lived, although the Dutch legacy lives on in the modern era in dozens of place-names, in the City and throughout New York State. 

Almost immediately, an oft-repeated origin story disintegrates into dust: no one "sold" Manhattan for $24. This sets the overall tone: almost everything I thought I knew about New York was wrong. Not that I believed the racist myth of the $24 purchase. But again and again, I found that the scraps of history I had received over the decades were misreported, distorted, or just plain wrong. 

Part two looks at "British New York" (1664-1783). For women, Blacks, Indigenous people, and anyone without money and a family lineage, this was a painful transformation. Dutch women enjoyed a high degree of independence and many rights: they were able to own property, which remained theirs after marriage, and could enter into their own legal agreements -- status Englishwomen would not see until the 1920s. Dutch women could live independently without becoming social outcasts. The British brought an end to all that, and much more. 

This is also the time leading up to the American Revolution. And let me tell you, if you learned (as many Canadians have) that the American colonists break with England was did not constitute an actual revolution, you are wrong. (I've had a post in drafts about this for years. Maybe it's time to bust it out.)

The third part is called "Mercantile Town" (1783-1843) and part four is "Emporium and Manufacturing City" (1844-1879). Now the City is expanding, mushrooming, ballooning. And of course, it is utterly unprepared for this rapid growth, both physically and culturally. Immigration, labour, the Civil War, so-called race riots (anti-Black pogroms), massive building projects, machine politics -- everything is rapidly changing. The City is being transformed from a mostly English, Protestant city into a giant polyglot of languages, traditions, and cultures.

The final section is called "Industrial Center and Corporate Command Post" (1880-1898). In this era, the robber barons and another tsunami of immigration are remaking New York yet again. Entertainment and sports begin to look vaguely recognizable to modern eyes. Industry, technology, and imperialism are transforming the country, and New York is leading the way in everything, assuming its place as a powerful global city, and the most important city in the country.

So much I didn't know

One topic that was particularly fascinating and surprising was slavery, and how utterly integral it was to New York City. Indeed, the entire northern economy completely relied on slavery. Although as an adult I've always known that slavery and racism were not exclusively Southern, I didn't know how enormous extent that New York City profited from slavery. Whether directly from free labour (and there was plenty of it), or indirectly through the shipbuilding industry that literally kept the slave trade afloat, the massive importing and exporting industries that revolved around sugar and cotton, or the financial institutions that supported the whole horrendous enterprise, New York City was as much of a slave power as Atlanta and Richmond.

German immigrants played a huge role in the development of the City, far earlier and far greater than I knew -- forming unions, agitating for socialism, and generally influencing culture at every turn.

Anti-Catholic bigotry was virulent and rampant for decades, as the Catholic Church, at first reviled and feared, gained a toehold, then a seat at the table, before becoming a major power in the City. 

I knew about the struggles of Irish and Eastern European Jewish immigrants -- why they left their home countries, and what they found in their new world. But I was ignorant of the struggles of Italian immigrants, and what motivated so many people to leave southern Italy in the 1880s.
Where the Jews were trapped in the shtetls, southern Italians were mired in the isolated valleys and lowlands formed by the mountain chains into which the mezzogiorno was divided. Within these provincial pockets, society was frozen into a quasi-feudal mode. A handful of aristocrats owned the bulk of the land and exacted profit and prestige from peasant tenants as their forebears had done for centuries. With the higher clergy and professionals, they formed a tiny ruling elite, utterly uninterested in agricultural improvements. As a result, the contadini (peasants who leased land or owned small plots) and the giornalieri (day laborers) worked the soil essentially as their Roman ancestors did, with wooden plows. . . . 

The area also suffered from primitive housing conditions, illiteracy (perhaps the highest rate in Europe), microdivision of farm plots, an absence of public welfare programs, limited diet, earthquakes, deforestation, soil erosion, malaria, and harsh sirocco winds blowing up from North Africa. The result was La Miseria -- a miserable, impoverished way of life.

. . . The northerners dominating the new nation [after Italian unification] considered southerners little better than African barbarians, and just as available for colonial plundering. The authorities failed to provide roads or schools, which could help eliminate backwards conditions, but siphoned off in taxes what capital and resources existed. 
Another revelation of something I thought I knew: Coney Island! 

Both my parents grew up in Brooklyn, my father in Coney Island (which is not an island at all, just a section of Brooklyn), and my grandparents and other relatives lived in Brooklyn their entire lives. We visited the Boardwalk off and on throughout my childhood, and I even went to Coney Island a few times on day outings in the 1980s. So I had always heard stories about the old days: Luna Park, Steeplechase, the Cyclone. But what did I really know about Coney Island? Next to nothing. 

In its heyday in the late 1880s, Coney Island was divided into four "wildly diverse communities". Each area offered entertainments catering to people of different socioeconomic levels, from rough brothels and gambling dens, to raucous but harmless music and dancing, to elite opulence.
Coney Island, in the space of a decade, had leapt from marshy obscurity to preeminence among the world's beach resorts. It was remarkable for its size and its segmentation -- the way its component parts were sorted and sequenced by class, from "low" to "high," with each zone governed by its own conventions. Even more remarkable -- and alarming, to guardians of the traditional order -- was the way West Brighton encouraged unconventional behavior. Reformers called it "Sodom by the Sea." They were upset by the doings in the Gut, of course [brothels, peep shows, gambling, opium], but also by the spooning on the beach, the frolicking in the waves, the way people acted (said one shocked observer) "precisely as if the thing to do in the water was to behave exactly contrary to the manner of behaving anywhere else." 
One of my favourite historical novels about New York is Peter Quinn's The Banished Children of Eve, which includes the horrific 1863 draft riots. This, too, turned out to be more complex than I knew. 

That year, in the midst of the bloody Civil War, the National Conscription Act went into effect. In response to "heavy losses, dwindling recruitment, and soaring desertion rates," Congress had passed a sweeping draft law which included a "crude assertion of class privilege": $300 could buy your way out of service. This at a time when workers were paid around $1 a day.

The Irish were the poorest and most despised of all the immigrant groups. There was only one group "beneath" them on the socioeconomic ladder: Blacks. Employers could hire Black people for wages even lower than what they paid Irish workers, stoking Irish belief that Black people were "stealing their jobs". Now poor Irish immigrants would be drafted into a war to "free the slaves". 

This much I knew. 

What I didn't know: thousands of federal troops normally stationed in New York City had been deployed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to defend the country against General Lee's advancing Confederate Army. This left New York City "virtually stripped of defenses" -- which is why the rampaging mobs easily overwhelmed the police prescence, and the extreme violence raged unchecked for three full days, and into a fourth.

Four thousand troops were pulled out of Gettysburg to contain the violence in New York, and it would take another two days to bring the pogrom to an end. (The Zinn Education Project is a good place to read more about this.)

And this is how it went, as I read. I knew a little, but the reality was so much more complex and fascinating than I knew. Or I knew nothing. Or whatever I knew was wrong.

Some things change, some not so much

There were many parallels to our contemporary world. Foremost among them is probably the boom-and-bust, uncontrolled cycles of capitalism. The economy was wholly unregulated, and crashes occurred with regularity. People like John Jacob Astor made fortunes during good times and bad, while workers were pushed into poverty, and those already in poverty died off in the streets. Poverty was generally blamed on bad breeding or moral failure. Government corruption was a given. The police were little more than a gang with fancy uniforms and permanent immunity. 

Did you know that in the earliest days of electrification, having electricity at home was a luxury enjoyed by only the wealthiest citizens? Power monopolies scooped up the means of production and delivery, often operating under different names to give the appearance of competition. Even for the wealthy, prices soared while service sank. Only government regulation transformed electricity into a basic public good, albeit one laced with many layers of profit. Sound familiar? It's the same pattern we've seen with telcos and internet providers, heaping profit and controlling access to what should be a public utility.

And the people!

The sheer number of fascinating individuals -- writers, revolutionaries, organizers, politicos, entertainers -- in this book is breathtaking. Many became household names -- Joseph Pulitzer, P.T. Barnum, Teddy Roosevelt, Nellie Bly, Alexander Hamilton, Walt Whitman -- but dozens were unknown to me, yet no less fascinating. 

Madame Restell shows up, as does her nemesis Anthony Comstock. I fell in love with Fanny Wright, a feminist, socialist, abolitionist who founded (be still my heart) a utopian community. With George Henry Evans, Wright formed the Workingman's Party, known as "the Workies". I discovered Langton Byllesby, who wrote Observations on the Sources and Effects of Unequal Wealth: With Propositions Towards Remedying the Disparity of Profit in Pursuing the Arts of Life, and Establishing Security in Individual Prospects and Resources. Gotta love those Victorian-era titles.

In a chapter called "White, Green, and Black," I learned more about Black resistance to slavecatchers and kidnappers, which was thrilling.
With young girls being snatched on trips to the water pump, black parents began keeping their children off the streets after dark. Then, with white abolitionists on the defensive or concentrated on their national campaign, the city's African Americans formally organized for their own protection. On November 20, 1835, David Ruggles led in setting up a New York Committee of Vigilance. Ruggles, a migrant from Norwich, Connecticut, had opened a bookshop and circulating library at 67 Lispenard Street, specializing in antislavery publications. Now he became the eyes and ears of the black community.

Ruggles identified slavecatchers by name in the Emancipator. He pointed them out to blacks on the street. He publicized descriptions of missing Afro-Americans. He went door to door in fashionable neighborhoods inquiring as to the status of black domestics, implenting a New York law that freed any imported slave after a residence of nine months. . . . He boarded incoming ships, to see if slaves were being smuggled in, and on one occasion won an indictment against a French man from Guadeloupe. (Such actions were denounced by the New York Express, a militant Whig organ, as an embarrassment to trade.) Ruggles had to change lodgings repeatedly to foil efforts at kidnapping him
The Vigilance Commitee also aided those they called "persons arriving from the South." They explained to fugitives their rights, protected them from blackbirders, and established them in new locations. 

At one point, Ruggles hid the young Frederick Douglass for two weeks, before sending the "penniless fugitive" on to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Ruggles' work became a cornerstone of the developing Underground Railroad.
The Vigilance Committee was not always successful. On July 23, 1836, George Jones, a "respectable" free black man, was arrested at his workplace, an attorney's office at 21 Broadway, supposedly for assault and battery. At first he refused to go along with his captors, but his employers advised him to submit, promising they would help. However, once in custody, Jones was whisked before Recorder Riker*, where several notorious blackbirders declared him a runaway, a propostion to which Riker assented. Less than three hours after his arrest, Jones, bound in chains, was dragged through the streets of New York "like a beast to the shambles" and carried south. Ruggles described the kidnapping in the Sun. The piece, widely reprinted, helped Ruggles win public support for granting accused "fugitives" a trial by jury -- a right secured five years later.
I also learned more about the violence faced by abolitionists, fanned by a lying nativist (anti-immigrant) press that hurled bizarre racial and sexual accusations at activists. The southern states, with help from the federal government, successfully blocked the flow of abolitionist pamphlets and letters. People in the movement faced intimidation and violence on a regular basis, but they had plenty of company. There were riots against Irish immigrants and riots against Catholics. Then the victims of those riots would turn around and do the same to Blacks.

1,236 pages and not a wasted word

Gotham took 20 years to write. Burrows and Wallace unearthed an enormous amount of published research, and synthesized it into a narrative that reads like a novel. They illustrate history with the perfect details about both ordinary, everyday life, as well as the outsized people who influenced the development of the City.

This is one time where it's fun to read reader reviews on Amazon: one unqualified rave after the next.

Having read this book feels like the nerdiest thing in the world, but it shouldn't be. Don't be put off by the length and weight: if you love history and you love cities, this book will delight you. Sometime in the future, I will definitely read the second volume, Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1989-1919.

I think my next year's weekly read will be Visions of Jazz: the First Century by Gary Giddins, a birthday gift from my esteemed partner some years ago.


* Yep, that's who Rikers Island, New York City's main jail complex, is named for: a notorious anti-abolitionist who sent kidnapped Black people (both fugitives and free-born Blacks) into enslavement at every opportunity. Irony upon irony, given the demographics of the US prison population. It's time to change the name.


from the archives: my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew (a three-part story)

This seems like a good time to re-post this three-part series. It remains one of the best pieces I've written. 

Part one, my Jewish identity: my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew

Part two, my awakening: my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 2

Part three, my response to typical anti-Palestine and pro-Zionist arguments: my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 3 and final.

There were many interesting comments on the original posts, now gone. I'll make commenting available on this post, with the caveat that this blog is not a forum for debate, nor for racism, anti-Semitism, or Islamophobia.


a genocide is happening right now and nations are doing nothing to stop it

Right now the State of Israel is committing genocide against the people of Gaza. Many humans around the globe are horrified, grieving, raging. But people with the power to stop it are either defending it or remaining silent. And as we know, silence equals complicity.

In this post, I have collecting my Facebook posts from the past weeks, saving them here for my own reference, in reverse chronological order. 

I have turned off commenting on this post. 

29 October

Blaming victims for their own deaths is different than seeing actions in context. Or: providing political context is not victim-blaming.

"The left" was supposedly insensitive and morally bankrupt about the deaths of the Israelis terrorized and killed on October 7. I can't speak for "the left" (obviously), but I can say this. What happened on October 7 was mind-boggling, terrorizing, murderous, horrendous, and absolutely undeserved -- because no human beings deserve to be slaughtered. And I can say that Israeli apartheid, imperialism, and the continuing subjugation of Palestinians stoked Paliestinian hatred, put Israelis at risk, and led directly to terrorist violence. Both of these things are true.

I don't see anti-Semitism in that sentence, and the idea that there's a "fine line" between denouncing apartheid and hating Jews is bullshit. Maybe some who speak out against apartheid do hate Jews -- I've never encountered it, but of course it may exist, since Jew-hating is a popular pastime -- but that doesn't mean the two are the same or even similar. (I've encountered plenty of antisemitism, but none of it was connected to the anti-apartheid movement.)

It's important to write and talk about these things, and I'm glad that is happening, but meanwhile the world is debating these concepts WHILE GENOCIDE IS TAKING PLACE.

* * * *

Between 200 and 300 people were arrested in Grand Central Terminal two days ago, in a demonstration organized by Jewish Voices for Peace. I know that there were huge protests all over the world, but this, in my hometown, from Jewish people... it makes me weep. A feeling so profound, I cannot name it.

28 October

My friend Beth reports: 

There is now no land or cell phone service in Gaza, no power, no water, no internet.  Henceforth the people can be obliterated in a vaccuum.  And no government cares.

Jews who have wondered how the world let the Holocaust happen, where are you now?? What can possibly justify this slaughter???

This was taken in Grand Central Terminal, NYC, on Friday October 27. Lots of arrests. I'm heartened to see so many people willing to get arrested for peace.

27 October

Join Amnesty, the world's conscience, in demanding a ceasefire.

From The Globe and Mail:

Aid convoys to Gaza were ‘set up to fail,’ UN official says, as humanitarian crisis worsens

By Geoffrey York, Mark MacKinnon

With aid convoys stalled and dwindling, and Gaza on the verge of civil disorder, a senior United Nations official says the Palestinian territory and its humanitarian workers are victims of a system that was “set up to fail.”

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, told The Globe and Mail that some of Gaza’s two million people will soon be dying from Israel’s siege of the territory, not just from the relentless bombardments that have reportedly killed thousands. Water, food, fuel and medicine are all nearly exhausted.

Mr. Lazzarini described a riot that erupted Thursday in a southern district of Gaza after people were falsely told in text messages that the UN would be distributing food there. “Civil order is breaking down,” he said. “People are just completely desperate.”

Aid agencies were able to get 40 trucks of relief supplies into Gaza from Egypt last weekend, and Western leaders said that was just the beginning, with an increase in the daily number of trucks expected. Instead, the number has dropped, with only 34 trucks entering the territory over four days this week. Aid trucks have routinely been held for many hours at Israeli inspection zones, with Israel saying it must ensure that no weapons or fuel are reaching Hamas fighters.

Before this war, Mr. Lazzarini noted, Israel was able to inspect about 500 trucks daily at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza. “So why does it take so long now for a handful of trucks?” he asked.

“It’s a very good question. There is certainly a lack of will. If there was a will, we would have much more. … The system in place today is set up to fail.”


“Everything is crumbling and collapsing,” Mr. Lazzarini said. “People are struggling the entire day to try to find some clean water. Sooner or later, under our watch, we will see people dying not just because of the bombardment but also because of the impact of the siege being imposed on the population of Gaza. How is this possible, when this is unfolding live, 24 hours a day, on all possible media, social media and television?”

The world’s focus on a small number of aid trucks is “almost disgraceful” when it is abundantly clear that the convoys are a tiny percentage of what is needed to avert deaths from starvation or dehydration, he said. The siege has resulted in the “collective punishment of an entire population.”

“You have a weakened community of the people. They are completely exhausted after two weeks of war. Many of them are displaced two or three times. They don’t find clean water or proper food.”

UNRWA had warned that it would have to halt its humanitarian operations in Gaza if it did not receive fuel supplies by Wednesday night. It was able to push the deadline back by tightly rationing its use of fuel, he said.

“We have given less to hospitals, given less to bakeries, and that has allowed us to go one or two more days. Maybe we will decide not to go to our shelters every day, just to add one day or two. But we are coming to the end. We’ve done all possible to ration our limited remaining resource. We have agonizing decisions all the time. We are on the edge of a breakdown of our operations.”


He added that the situation in the West Bank, the other half of the Palestinian Territories – which he characterized as “already boiling” before Oct. 7 – was also deteriorating rapidly. He described a dangerous mix of economic pain, as Palestinians who work in Israel have lost their jobs since the Hamas attacks, alongside a rising number of attacks on Palestinians being carried out by Jewish settlers who live in illegal settlements in the occupied territory.

“All this is a recipe for more violence,” Mr. Lazzarini said, pointing out that October has already seen the highest death toll among Palestinians in the West Bank in two decades, since the height of the last intifada. More than 90 West Bank Palestinians have died in clashes with Israeli security forces since the start of the war in and around Gaza.


Mr. Lazzarini said the hardest part of his job has been managing the organization while 43 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff members have been killed over the past three weeks, a number he said roughly correlated with an overall situation that has seen more than 7,000 Palestinians killed, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Just like the rest of Gaza, UNRWA staff have lost homes and families, and many have become aid recipients themselves.

“It’s deeply distressful to see so many colleagues, not just our staff [who have died] but all the other staff who have lost kids, have lost relatives. It’s just endless,” he said. “You feel powerless. Your word is not enough any more. Being UN is not enough any more to bring safety. You feel that Gaza is definitely a place where there is no safe place for anyone.”

* * * *

25 October

Please read this powerful, honest, heartbreaking essay by Hala Ayan, a Palestinian American writer, psychologist, and professor. 

Why Must Palestinians Audition for Your Empathy?

Oct. 25, 2023 

By Hala Ayan

I’ve moved back to the United States twice since my birth. Once as a child, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Then again for graduate school. I’d had the privilege of a youth — adolescence and young adulthood — in countries where being Palestinian was fairly common. The identity could be heavy, but it wasn’t a contested one. I hadn’t had to learn the respectability politics of being a Palestinian adult. I learned quickly.

The task of the Palestinian is to be palatable or to be condemned. The task of the Palestinian, we’ve seen in the past two weeks, is to audition for empathy and compassion. To prove that we deserve it. To earn it.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve watched Palestinian activists, lawyers, professors get baited and interrupted on air, if not silenced altogether. They are being made to sing for the supper of airtime and fair coverage. They are begging reporters to do the most basic tasks of their job. At the same time, Palestinians fleeing from bombs have been misidentified. Even when under attack, they must be costumed as another people to elicit humanity. Even in death, they cannot rest — Palestinians are being buried in mass graves or in old graves dug up to make room, and still there is not enough space.

If that weren’t enough, Palestinian slaughter is too often presented ahistorically, untethered to reality: It is not attributed to real steel and missiles, to occupation, to policy. To earn compassion for their dead, Palestinians must first prove their innocence. The real problem with condemnation is the quiet, sly tenor of the questions that accompany it: Palestinians are presumed violent — and deserving of violence — until proved otherwise. Their deaths are presumed defensible until proved otherwise. What is the word of a Palestinian against a machinery that investigates itself, that absolves itself of accused crimes? What is it against a government whose representatives have referred to Palestinians as “human animals” and “wild beasts?” When a well-suited man can say brazenly and unflinchingly that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people?

It is, of course, a remarkably effective strategy. A slaughter isn’t a slaughter if those being slaughtered are at fault, if they’ve been quietly and effectively dehumanized — in the media, through policy — for years. If nobody is a civilian, nobody can be a victim.


In 2017, I published a novel about a Palestinian family. It was published by a respectable publisher, got a lot of lovely press, was given a book tour. I spoke on panels, to book clubs. I answered questions after readings. There was a refrain that kept coming up. People kept commenting on how human the story was. You’ve humanized the conflict. This is a human story.

Of course, literature and the arts play a crucial role in providing context — expanding our empathy, granting us glimpses into other worlds. But every time I was told I’d humanized the Palestinians, I would have to suppress the question it invoked: What had they been before?

A couple of weeks ago, in a professional space, someone called Palestinians by name and spoke of the seven decades of their anguish. I sat among dozens of co-workers and realized my lip was quivering. I was crying before I understood it was happening. I fled the room, and it took 10 minutes for me to stop sobbing. I didn’t immediately understand my reaction. Over the years, I’ve faced meetings, classrooms and other institutional spaces where Palestinians went unnamed or were referred to only as terrorists. I came of professional age in a country where people lost all sorts of things for speaking of Palestine: social standing, university tenure, journalist positions. But in the end, I am undone not by silence or erasure but by empathy. By the simple naming of my people. By increasing recognition that liberation is linked. By spaces of Palestinian-Jewish solidarity. By what has become controversial: the simple speaking aloud of Palestinian suffering.

These days, everyone is trying to write about the children. An incomprehensible number of them dead and counting. We are up at night, combing through the flickering light of our phones, trying to find the metaphor, the clip, the photograph to prove a child is a child. It is an unbearable task. We ask: Will this be the image that finally does it? This half-child on a rooftop? This video, reposted by Al Jazeera, of an inconsolable girl appearing to recognize her mother’s body among the dead, screaming out, “It’s her, it’s her. I swear it’s her. I know her from her hair”?


Take it from a writer: There is nothing like the tedium of trying to come up with analogies. There is something humiliating in trying to earn solidarity. I keep seeing infographics desperately trying to appeal to American audiences. Imagine most of the population of Manhattan being told to evacuate in 24 hours. Imagine the president of [ ] going on NBC and saying all [ ] people are [ ]. Look! Here’s a strip on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. That’s Gaza. It is about the same size as Philadelphia. Or multiply the entire population of Las Vegas by three.

This is demoralizing work, to have to speak constantly in the vernacular of tragedies and atrocities, to say: Look, look. Remember? That other suffering that was eventually deemed unacceptable? Let me hold it up to this one. Let me show you proportion. Let me earn your outrage. Absent that, let me earn your memory. Please.

I don’t hesitate for a second to condemn the killing of any child, any massacre of civilians. It is the easiest ask in the world. And it is not in spite of that but because of that I say: Condemn the brutalization of bodies. By all means, do. Condemn murder. Condemn violence, imprisonment, all forms of oppression. But if your shock and distress comes only at the sight of certain brutalized bodies? If you speak out but not when Palestinian bodies are besieged and murdered, abducted and imprisoned? Then it is worth asking yourself which brutalization is acceptable to you, even quietly, even subconsciously, and which is not.

Name the discrepancy and own it. If you can’t be equitable, be honest.

There is nothing complicated about asking for freedom. Palestinians deserve equal rights, equal access to resources, equal access to fair elections and so forth. If this makes you uneasy, then you must ask yourself why.


Here is the truth of the diasporic Palestinians: They are not magically diasporic. Their diaspora-ness is a direct result of often violent, intentional and illegal dispossession. One day a house is yours; one day it is not. One day a neighborhood is yours; one day it is not. One day a territory is yours; one day it is not. This same sort of dispossession is grounded in the same mind-set and international complicity that is playing out in Gaza.

I’m a poet, a writer, a psychologist. I’m deeply familiar with the importance of language. I’ve agonized over an em dash. I’ve spent afternoons muttering about the aptness of a verb. I pay attention to language, my own and others. Being Palestinian in this country — in many countries — is a numbing exercise in gauging where pockets of safety are, sussing out which friends, co-workers or acquaintances will be allies, which will stay silent. Who will speak.

Here’s another thing I know as a writer and psychologist: It matters where you start a narrative. In addiction work, you call this playing the tape. Diasporically or not, being Palestinian is the quintessential disrupter: It messes with a curated, modified tape. We exist, and our existence presents an existential affront. As long as we exist, we challenge several falsehoods, not the least of which is that, for some, we never existed at all. That decades ago, a country was born in the delicious, glittering expanse of nothingness — a birthright, something due. Our very existence challenges a formidable, militarized narrative.

But the days of the Palestine exception are numbered. Palestine is increasingly becoming the litmus test for true liberatory practice.

In the meantime, Palestinians continue to be cast paradoxically — both terror and invisible, both people who never existed and people who cannot return.

Imagine being such a pest, such an obstacle. Or: Imagine being so powerful.

Hala Alyan is a clinical psychologist and professor in New York City. She is the author of the novels “Salt Houses” and “The Arsonists’ City,” and several collections of poetry, including the forthcoming “The Moon That Turns You Back.”

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21 October

20 October

Headline of Nicholas Kristof's column: "We must not kill Gazan children in order to protect Israel's children." I'm glad he's writing this but WHY DOES THIS EVEN NEED TO BE SAID????? WTF people??? And seriously, if you believe for one moment that Israel did not bomb that hospital, you need a crash course in the history of imperialism.

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The Onion: Dying Gazans Criticized For Not Using Last Words to Condemn Hamas

19 October

Gabor Mate: The Beautiful Dream of Israel Has Become a Nightmare

As a Jewish youngster growing up in Budapest, an infant survivor of the Nazi genocide, I was for years haunted by a question resounding in my brain with such force that sometimes my head would spin: “How was it possible? How could the world have let such horrors happen?”

It was a naïve question, that of a child. I know better now: such is reality. Whether in Vietnam or Rwanda or Syria, humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does. In Gaza today we find ways of justifying the bombing of hospitals, the annihilation of families at dinner, the killing of pre-adolescents playing soccer on a beach.

In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?

There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.

The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.

I have visited Gaza and the West Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us — Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work, education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.

One could debate details, historical and current, back and forth. Since my days as a young Zionist and, later, as a member of Jews for a Just Peace, I have often done so. I used to believe that if people knew the facts, they would open to the truth. That, too, was naïve. This issue is far too charged with emotion. As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has pointed out, the accumulated mutual pain in the Middle East is so acute, “a significant part of the population finds itself forced to act it out in an endless cycle of perpetration and retribution.”

“People’s leaders have been misleaders, so they that are led have been confused,” in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The voices of justice and sanity are not heeded. Netanyahu has his reasons. Harper and Obama have theirs.

And what shall we do, we ordinary people? I pray we can listen to our hearts. My heart tells me that “never again” is not a tribal slogan, that the murder of my grandparents in Auschwitz does not justify the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, that justice, truth, peace are not tribal prerogatives. That Israel’s “right to defend itself,” unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.

A few days ago I met with one of my dearest friends, a comrade from Zionist days and now professor emeritus at an Israeli university. We spoke of everything but the daily savagery depicted on our TV screens. We both feared the rancour that would arise.

But, I want to say to my friend, can we not be sad together at what that beautiful old dream of Jewish redemption has come to? Can we not grieve the death of innocents? I am sad these days. Can we not at least mourn together?

* * * *

Bomb and death threats prompt major Muslim group to move annual banquet

A national Muslim civil rights group said Thursday it is moving its annual banquet out of a Virginia hotel that received bomb and death threats possibly linked to the group's concern for Palestinians caught in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, canceled plans to hold its 29th annual banquet on Saturday at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The group, which has used the hotel for a decade, will imove the banquet to an undisclosed location with heightened security, the group's statement said.

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18 October

You claim your point of view is righteous and just. Then why is it necessary to silence opposing views? Job offers pulled, academic admissions rescinded, books removed from prestigious conference. Hiding behind specious claims of anti-Semitism -- while pretending that all Palestinian people are terrorists. Jewish people should know better, and should do better.

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Canadians, you can make tax-deductible donations to humanitarian aid to Gaza through the CJPME Foundation

As I'm sure you know, Facebook posts are being blocked, job offers are being rescinded, people have been fired, novels (longlisted for the Booker Prize!) dropped from international book fairs -- all for showing support to the Palestinian people. And in at least one instance, for being Palestinian. 

This week Israel dropped bombs on a hospital -- and we're being censored for supporting the victims. 

17 October

I hope American Jews who are still defending Israel's actions in Gaza will read and heed this column by Michelle Goldberg. She is a Jewish person who supports Israel and who sympathizes with Jews who equate Hamas' attacks in Israel with genocide. I hope that any of my American Jewish friends who are still seeing my feed (i.e. have not yet un-followed me) will read and share this with their own communities.

Piling Horror Upon Horror

Michelle Goldberg
New York Times
October 16, 2023

Watching from afar as people race toward an abyss, I find it hard to know what to write except “no,” over and over. In the face of massacres that for Jews around the world brought back memories of genocide, the language of some Israeli leaders has, in turn, become murderous. On the cusp of a likely ground invasion of Gaza, many people I’ve spoken to, Jewish and Palestinian alike, are terrified that this rhetoric will become reality.

Isaac Herzog, Israel’s president, said that the “entire nation” of Gaza was “responsible” for the attacks at a news conference on Friday, telling reporters, “It is not true, this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved.” Herzog later clarified that civilians are not legitimate targets, but his words, coming from a member of Israel’s center-left Labor Party, were still chilling, suggesting a broad political consensus that Gazans are collectively to blame for the horror that befell Israel. “All gloves are off,” Ron Prosor, a distinguished Israeli diplomat, told Politico.

In such an environment, the ruling Israeli right, some of whose members spoke of forcing Palestinians out of Israel even before Hamas’s latest rampage, has little to restrain it. Tally Gotliv, a member of the Knesset from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, urged the use of “doomsday weapons” on Gaza. Another member of Likud called for a second nakba, the Arabic word referring to the mass expulsion of Palestinians at Israel’s creation in 1948.

I can empathize with liberal Jews both in Israel and throughout the diaspora who feel too overwhelmed, at this moment of great fear and vulnerability, to protest the escalating suffering inflicted on Palestinians. It is not fair that events are moving too quickly to give people time to grieve the victimization of their own community before being asked to try to prevent the victimization of others. Nevertheless, as atrocities are piled on atrocities, I hope Jews will attend to what is being threatened in our name. And all Americans should pay attention, given how much our country underwrites Israel’s military.

In Gaza, mass death has already begun. Last week the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, announced that Israel was cutting off Gaza’s water, electricity, food and fuel. There was hopeful reporting over the weekend that at the urging of President Biden’s administration, water to a town in Gaza’s south had been turned back on, but for many, drinking water is still unavailable. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that clean water has run out in U.N. shelters across Gaza. On Saturday, UNICEF reported that, according to local sources, more than 700 children in Gaza had been killed. The number by now is surely higher.

Some readers, I suspect, will respond that while this is all terrible, it is also all Hamas’s fault. In many ways, I agree. Hamas’s terror is clearly the immediate cause of the hell raining down on Gaza; most countries attacked as Israel was attacked would respond with war. That does not, however, license Israeli indifference, or worse, to the lives of civilians. Israelis have a right to their rage; I imagine that if I were Israeli, I would share it. But incitement against Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas terrorism, is leading us toward somewhere even darker than where we are right now.

Influential voices in America are intensifying the bloodthirsty atmosphere. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas dismissed worries that mass civilian casualties in Gaza will work to Hamas’s advantage on the world stage. “As far as I’m concerned, Israel can bounce the rubble in Gaza,” he said. That phrase, “bounce the rubble,” is a reference to a Winston Churchill quote about apocalyptic military overkill. To Cotton’s right, the language is even more incendiary. “If it comes down to ethnic cleansing — you want to cleanse my people, I’ll cleanse yours first,” said Joel Pollak, a senior editor at large at Breitbart News, on the webcast of the leading young conservative Charlie Kirk.

We can already see where the total dehumanization of Palestinians leads. This weekend, a 6-year-old boy in Illinois was allegedly stabbed to death by his landlord, who is also accused of gravely injuring the boy’s mother. According to the local sheriff’s office, the victims were targeted “due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

If this is the atmosphere in parts of the United States, it is exponentially more fevered in Israel. On Monday morning I spoke to Diana Buttu, a Canadian Palestinian lawyer in Haifa who once served as a legal adviser for the Palestine Liberation Organization. “I can understand what my grandmother felt in 1948 when she fled” from a town near Nazareth, Buttu said. “Because it’s a climate of total fear that you’re next. And this isn’t just in the Gaza Strip; it’s also spread to the West Bank.” Already, according to Al Jazeera, at least 55 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed, some by soldiers and others by settlers. Haaretz reported that five Palestinians were shot dead by settlers in the village of Qusra. A message to the village on WhatsApp said, “We have no red lines. We’ll punish you in order to make an example out of you.”

Buttu sent me a link to a mostly Hebrew-language Telegram group with over 82,000 subscribers in which people had posted celebratory photographs of dead and injured Palestinians. “The people of Gaza are not innocent!” said an introductory message for English speakers. If and when those who believe this act on it, we can’t pretend we weren’t warned.

16 October

I stand with Fred. I stand for peace and justice for all people, including Palestinians. I also believe in the right of every person to express their views. Thank you Fred Hahn for being a voice for truth and justice. Please share and tag CUPE Ontario.

13 October

"Israel has a right to defend itself." That's what the Zionists say. 

Any Jewish person who defends or rationalizes this has lost their way.

12 October

As per usual, anything less than 100%, unequivocal, lockstep support for Israel meets accusations of antisemitism and support of terrorism. I am so friggin sick of that. I hope Fred Hahn does not apologize for anything he has said.

Sharing this oldie but goodie from wmtc (with all the great comments gone: a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies

11 October

Here's something to think about. Every Israeli attack on Gaza -- every single bomb, every blockade, every shooting, every bulldozing, every siege -- and there have been many -- for years and for decades -- have been attacks on civilians. ALL OF THEM. This does not justify the Hamas attacks in any way. It does, however, make me wonder at all the horror and sadness being poured out for Israeli dead -- all the shock over civilian targets. I've never heard that kind of shock and horror when Israeli bombs drop on the civilians of Gaza.

Is it really so shocking that after a country isolates, abuses, and subjugates a people, that some of those subjugated people will strike back with violence? Is it shocking that Israel's imperialism has put its own people at risk? Not only isn't it shocking, it's inevitable.

10 October

Does "Never Again" mean never, for all the world's peoples, or does it only mean never again *to us*? Because if you don't support freedom and independence for Palestine, if you support Israel's apartheid state, you're not concerned with humanity. You're only concerned with your own kind. How does that square with the rest of your values? 

Hearts are breaking for the deaths of Israelis, and rightly so. But for the deaths of Gaza? Silence.

Israel Can’t Imprison Two Million Gazans Without Paying a Cruel Price

Gideon Levy

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Oct 9, 2023

Behind all this lies Israeli arrogance; the idea that we can do whatever we like, that we’ll never pay the price and be punished for it. We’ll carry on undisturbed.

Behind all this lies Israeli arrogance; the idea that we can do whatever we like, that we’ll never pay the price and be punished for it. We’ll carry on undisturbed.

We’ll arrest, kill, harass, dispossess and protect the settlers busy with their pogroms. We'll visit Joseph’s Tomb, Othniel’s Tomb and Joshua’s Altar in the Palestinian territories, and of course the Temple Mount – over 5,000 Jews on Sukkot alone.

We’ll fire at innocent people, take out people’s eyes and smash their faces, expel, confiscate, rob, grab people from their beds, carry out ethnic cleansing and of course continue with the unbelievable siege of the Gaza Strip, and everything will be all right.

We’ll build a terrifying obstacle around Gaza – the underground wall alone cost 3 billion shekels ($765 million) – and we’ll be safe. We’ll rely on the geniuses of the army's 8200 cyber-intelligence unit and on the Shin Bet security service agents who know everything. They’ll warn us in time.

We’ll transfer half an army from the Gaza border to the Hawara border in the West Bank, only to protect far-right lawmaker Zvi Sukkot and the settlers. And everything will be all right, both in Hawara and at the Erez crossing into Gaza.

It turns out that even the world's most sophisticated and expensive obstacle can be breached with a smoky old bulldozer when the motivation is great. This arrogant barrier can be crossed by bicycle and moped despite the billions poured into it and all the famous experts and fat-cat contractors.

The Gaza Palestinians are willing to pay any price for a moment of freedom. Will Israel learn its lesson? No.

We thought we’d continue to go down to Gaza, scatter a few crumbs in the form of tens of thousands of Israeli work permits – always contingent on good behavior – and still keep them in prison. We’ll make peace with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinians will be forgotten until they’re erased, as quite a few Israelis would like.

We’ll keep holding thousands of Palestinian prisoners, sometimes without trial, most of them political prisoners. And we won’t agree to discuss their release even after they've been in prison for decades.

We’ll tell them that only by force will their prisoners see freedom. We thought we would arrogantly keep rejecting any attempt at a diplomatic solution, only because we don’t want to deal with all that, and everything would continue that way forever.

Once again it was proved that this isn’t how it is. A few hundred armed Palestinians breached the barrier and invaded Israel in a way no Israeli imagined was possible. A few hundred people proved that it’s impossible to imprison 2 million people forever without paying a cruel price.

Just as the smoky old Palestinian bulldozer tore through the world’s smartest barrier Saturday, it tore away at Israel’s arrogance and complacency. And that’s also how it tore away at the idea that it’s enough to occasionally attack Gaza with suicide drones – and sell them to half the world – to maintain security.

On Saturday, Israel saw pictures it has never seen before. Palestinian vehicles patrolling its cities, bike riders entering through the Gaza gates. These pictures tear away at that arrogance. The Gaza Palestinians have decided they’re willing to pay any price for a moment of freedom. Is there any hope in that? No. Will Israel learn its lesson? No.

On Saturday they were already talking about wiping out entire neighborhoods in Gaza, about occupying the Strip and punishing Gaza “as it has never been punished before.” But Israel hasn’t stopped punishing Gaza since 1948, not for a moment.

After 75 years of abuse, the worst possible scenario awaits it once again. The threats of “flattening Gaza” prove only one thing: We haven’t learned a thing. The arrogance is here to stay, even though Israel is paying a high price once again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bears very great responsibility for what happened, and he must pay the price, but it didn’t start with him and it won’t end after he goes. We now have to cry bitterly for the Israeli victims, but we should also cry for Gaza.

Gaza, most of whose residents are refugees created by Israel. Gaza, which has never known a single day of freedom.

9 October

I can see how if a person sees only US or Canadian mainstream sources, it could seem like Hamas attacked Israel out of the blue, unprovoked. That's how one-sided the coverage is. There's no context. Occupation, pogroms, blockades, deliberate power and water outages, settlers claiming more and more land, a denial of the very right to exist. The daily brutality that Americans and Canadians are rarely, if ever, exposed to. When a colonized people lash out, it is never out of the blue.

8 October

When the oppressed rise up against their oppressor, they are not starting a war.

Israeli lawmaker blames pogroms against Palestinians for ‘terrible’ attacks

Ofer Cassif says he warned the situation would ‘erupt’ if Israel did not change its treatment of Palestinians.

By Eliyahu Freedman

8 Oct 2023

An Israeli lawmaker has told Al Jazeera that his party warned about events like Saturday’s Hamas attack on Israel if the country’s government continued its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

Hamas launched a multipronged assault at dawn on Saturday with thousands of rockets fired at Israel, and the Gaza-based group’s fighters infiltrating Israeli towns and illegal settlements.

The attack left at least 600 Israelis dead, including dozens of soldiers, with bodies strewn on roads. Meanwhile, at least 313 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 others wounded in Israeli bombardments of the besieged Gaza enclave.

Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset and leftist Hadash coalition, said he warned the situation would “erupt” if the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not change its policies towards Palestinians. Hadash has four seats in the 120-member Knesset.

“We condemn and oppose any assault on innocent civilians. But in contrast to the Israeli government that means that we oppose any assault on Palestinian civilians as well. We must analyse those terrible incidents [the attacks] in the right context – and that is the ongoing occupation,” Cassif said.

“We have been warning time and time again… everything is going to erupt and everybody is going to pay a price – mainly innocent civilians on both sides. And unfortunately, that is exactly what happened,” he said.

“The Israeli government, which is a fascist government, supports, encourages, and leads pogroms against the Palestinians. There is an ethnic cleansing going on. It was obvious the writing was on the wall, written in the blood of the Palestinians  – and unfortunately now Israelis as well,” he added.