Israel Uses Cover of US Elections to Wipe Entire Palestinian Community Off the Map, by Yumna Patel

From the Progressive International

Israeli forces demolished the entire Bedouin community of Khirbet Humsah in the northern Jordan Valley, leaving 41 Palestinian children homeless just as winter storms spread through the West Bank.

As the world was engulfed in the unfolding US elections on November 3rd, Israel quietly demolished an entire Bedouin enclave in the northern Jordan Valley, leaving more than 70 Palestinians homeless just as temperatures started to drop in the occupied West Bank.

At around 11am on Tuesday morning, the residents of Khirbet Husna were shocked to see a caravan of Israeli military jeeps, accompanied by a number of bulldozers and excavators, heading down the dirt pathway to their village.

“The soldiers often come here to evacuate us when they have military training,” Fatima Abu Awwad told Mondoweiss, as she sat amidst the rubble of what was her home just 24 hours earlier.

“But usually they give us a prior warning. This time, they came and told us to get out of our houses, they gave us just 10 minutes,” she said, adding that the soldiers were accompanied by dozens of workers from Israel’s Civil Administration, the agency responsible for enforcing things like home demolition in the West Bank.

After what felt like mere seconds, as Abu Awwad and her husband tried to empty their home of all the belongings they could, the Israeli bulldozers began demolishing everything around them, as what she described as hundreds of soldiers and Civil Administration workers surrounded them.

“They didn’t leave anything untouched,” Abu Awwad said. “Our homes, our livestock pens, our bathrooms, our water tanks, solar panels, everything. They destroyed everything.”

Just hours after Israeli forces concluded their demolition campaign in Khirbet Humsah, a cold front swept through the West Bank, leaving the families of the village scrambling to find any form of shelter.

“It was cold, windy, and rainy, and we had nowhere to go, nowhere to protect ourselves and our small children,” she said, adding that the family were forced to sleep under makeshift plastic tents, on cold wet mattresses on the soaked soil below them.

“I feel like I’m destroyed inside,” Abu Awwad told Mondoweiss. “Look around at what happened to us, how would you feel? We have nothing left.”

‘This is terrorism’

Khirbet Humsah is a Palestinian Bedouin community comprising of several tiny clusters of tents and shacks, sprawled across the al-Buqei’a plains in the northern Jordan Valley. It’s home to 11 Bedouin herding families, who have lived on the land for decades.

The families maintain a semi-nomadic way of life, relying on livestock and agriculture to sustain themselves and their families, who number 74 people, including 41 children.


According to Israel human rights group B’Tselem, in addition to 18 housing structures in the village, Israeli forces demolished 29 tents and sheds used as livestock enclosures, three storage sheds, nine tents used as kitchens, 10 portable toilets, 10 livestock pens, 23 water containers, two solar panels, and feeding and watering troughs for livestock, along with more than 30 tons of fodder for livestock, and confiscated a vehicle and two tractors belonging to three residents.

Several of the structures destroyed in the village, like the portable toilets and solar panels, were donated by the European Union and other foreign aid organizations.


Palestinian commentators, like Ali Abunimah, have been vocal in their criticism of the EU’s continued failure to take concrete action against Israel for the destruction of Palestinian homes and structures — many of which, particularly in Bedouin areas like Khirbet Humsah, are donated by the EU.

During a tour of the village a day after the demolition, Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister Walid Assaf, the head of the National Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, described the demolition as an act of “terrorism.”

Standing in front of one of the crumpled solar panels, Assaf asked “what danger does this pose to the security of a state that has the strongest of armies and nuclear weapons?” noting that the solar panels powered lights in the village, who are not connected to any electricity or water networks.

Assaf assured residents, including Abu Awwad and her husband, that they had the “full support” of the PA, who were planning on supplying a number of new tents to rebuild the village.

“Israel aims to expel us, ethnically cleanse us, and demolish our villages in preparation for annexation and the expulsion of Palestinians from the Jordan Valley,” Assaf said, adding “we will remain with you until everything is rebuilt. Even if we have to sleep here, if we have to set up tents, like we did at Khan al-Ahmar, we will not leave this area.”

‘It all comes down to annexation’

Khirbet Humsah lies in the heart of the Jordan Valley, and is part of the more than 60 percent of the West Bank that is located in Area C.

According to activists, the demolition of the entire community is one of the largest demolition operations carried out by Israeli forces in years.

B’Tselem noted that with the demolition of Khirbet Humsah, 2020 has so far become one of the worst years for Palestinians in terms of home demolitions, with more Palestinians losing their homes in the first 10 months of this year alone than in any other year since 2016.

“As a result of Israel’s policy, 798 Palestinians have already lost their homes in 2020, including 404 minors who lived in 218 homes – compared to 677 Palestinians in all of 2019, 397 in 2018 and 521 in 2017,” the group said.

Though the land of Khirbet Humsah is not owned by the Bedouin inhabitants themselves, it is privately-owned by a number of local Palestinian landowners who reside in the nearby city of Tubas and its surrounding villages.

One of those landowners, Moataz Bisharat, is a local activist in the Jordan Valley. He told Mondoweiss that despite having the deeds to the land proving his ownership of it, the state of Israel also considers the land to be state land, which they use for active military training.

“Israel designates these lands as active ‘firing zones’ and ‘closed military zones’, and use these as a pretext to consistently evacuate and displace these Palestinians who are living here,” Bisharat said.

While these ‘firing zones’ have impacted Palestinian herding communities in the Jordan Valley for decades, Bisharat says that activists have seen a surge in recent years of a disturbing trend being employed by the state in these areas.

“The army will come in and demolish these communities or displace them from their homes, claiming that they cannot be in these military areas,” he said.

“But after the Palestinians have been expelled, the army will turn over the land to the settlers,” he continued. “We have seen this in the al-Mzuqah, Abu al-Qanduh, al-Farsiyeh, and Khirbat al-Sweid areas, all in the past few years.”

The process of expelling Palestinians and turning over lands to the settlers, Bisharat says, is indicative of Israel’s agenda in the Jordan Valley region: “It all comes down to annexation.”

Bisharat emphasized that while Israel did not officially enforce annexation as planned on July 1st this summer, it has continued to change facts on the ground, all with what he says is the “full support and backing of normalizing countries” like the UAE and Bahrain.

“Israel has a clear goal: expel Palestinians from this land, replace them with settlers, and annex the land into Israel,” he said. “And they are doing it all in plain view of the international community.”

US elections serve as ‘cover’

Moataz Bisharat, along with several other local and international activists, condemned Israeli forces for using the US elections as a “cover” for their demolition campaign in Khirbet Humsah.

“While the international community has rejected annexation, the [Israeli] occupation wanted to do it quietly behind the international community’s back,” Bisharat said. “What is happening right now is annexation of the Palestinian lands, quiet, silent annexation.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh tweeted “As the attention is focused on #USElection2020, Israel chose this evening to commit another crime/ cover it up: to demolish 70 Palestinian structures, incl. Homes.”

Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch also took to Twitter to write “enough is enough,” adding that the “war crime” took place while the world was distracted by the US election.

Bisharat blamed the Trump administration for giving Israel’s “right-wing extremist government” the green light to commit such crimes in the Jordan Valley, calling the demolition of Khirbet Humsah, “organized international terrorism against the Palestinian existence and Palestinians.”

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

Photo: Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss

Cuba Responds to Pandemic, Blockade, and New Economic Troubles, By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Buffeted for six decades by the U. S. economic blockade and recently having had to cope with restrictions on daily life and work due to COVID- 19, Cuba’s already shaky economy is deteriorating. Government leaders recently outlined remedial steps leading to what they call a “new normal.”  

The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) reported in October that the region “is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a century” and that Cuba’s GDP this year will be down at least eight percent. Tourist income, remittances, foreign trade, and tax collections have fallen. Oil and gasoline shortages, the result of U.S. sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, have stressed the economy.

Public spending on health care, unemployment compensation, and pensions is up; I50 000 state workers and 250,000 private sector workers have been idle. Effects of the U.S economic blockade compound matters with restrictions affecting the tourist industry, foreign imports, and access to foreign currency and loans.   

Responding to the pandemic, Cuban officials excluded foreign visitors (tourism resumed in July) and instituted vigorous case-finding, strict isolation of the infected and their contacts, and hospitalization for people infected with COVID-19 who have symptoms. For eight months officials led by Cuba’s president, and always masked, have provided the public with daily televised updates on the pandemic. Vaccines and treatment products are being developed. Health workers have treated pandemic victims in 39 countries.

Data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center show that, as of October 21, COVID-19 has infected 6305 Cubans; 127 of them died. Deaths per 100,000 persons for the United States, Cuba, China, and Vietnam are, respectively: 67.28 (11th highest), 1.12, 0.34, and 0.03. 

In public presentations in October, Cuban leaders outlined plans for managing the multi-faceted crisis. Summarizing, Alejandro Gil Fernández, Minister of Economy and Planning, pointed out that “We’ve never had this dilemma between health and the economy. Obviously the restrictive measures we’ve adopted … have had an economic impact but there’s no room for doubt that health comes first.” 

Health Crisis

The officials reported that the intensity of viral transmission was down, that fewer new cases were being diagnosed, and that more COVID-19 patients were leaving hospitals than being admitted.  Outbreaks have cropped up recently in Havana, Ciego de Avila, Pinar del Río and Sancti Spíritus provinces, while no new cases have appeared in Cuba’s 11 other provinces.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel on October 8 discussed on television with Cubans the government’s plan to expand economic and social activities, partially ease isolation and  social distancing – especially in provinces where the virus is quiescent – and “strengthen prevention and treatment protocols.” He referred to “a new normality with a minimum of risk.”

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz the next day presented elaborate protocols aimed at securing a safe transition. Efforts to prevent spread of the virus transmission would proceed together with “mitigation of both the social and economic impact of COVID-19 and the [U.S.] blockade.” New cases would trigger local measures for limiting further infection while activities of daily life would continue with little alteration.

Stages and phases of the pandemic’s evolution figure into how the intensity and reach of preventative measures are determined. Local authorities will participate in decision-making. Under new isolation protocols, infected persons with only minor symptoms will be monitored in the community and no longer in hospitals. The seriously ill will enter specially designated hospitals, allowing other hospitals to be able to resume full care of illnesses other than COVID-19.

Cubans are being asked to take personal responsibility for preventing infection. Many will continue working at home via computer or telephone. Students have been attending school throughout Cuba since September, except in Havana, where schools open on November 2, and except for temporary closings elsewhere due to local clusters of infection.

The impression here is that, without question, explanations provided by multiple officials and the protocols presented by Prime Minister Marrero Cruz testify to a process of planning and analysis marked by rigor, comprehensiveness, and respect for human life.

Economic crisis

For more than 10 years, the government has been working to transform Cuba’s economy. Land-tenure arrangements changed in 2008. The Communist Party’s “Economic, Political, and Social Guidelines,” approved by the Party’s Sixth Congress in 2011, established the framework for change that has been evolving since.  The current crisis is a jolt demanding recalibration.

Priority areas include: production and distribution of food products, enhanced export capabilities, overhaul of state-owned businesses, support for self-employed workers, and monetary reform – in other words, unification of Cuba’s dual currency and exchange rates.

Steps along the way are many. Newly efficient “productive chains” will extend from raw materials, to processing and manufacture, to sales. They will involve state and non-state enterprises and affect both foreign and domestic trade. State businesses will receive incentives for good management. State-owned agricultural marketing enterprises will receive new support.             

Cubans will lose subsidies but some goods and services will be available cost-free. Consumers will have access to more Cuban-produced goods and fewer imported items. Export sales are prioritized. Monetary reform will entail price regulation, currency devaluation, elevated wholesale prices, savings and salary uncertainties, and risk of inflation.

“[E]limination of the dual currency and exchange rate … constitutes the process that is most decisive to the updating of the Cuban economic model.” That was former President Raúl Castro speaking in 2017. Now that change process, anticipated for many years, is in the hands of “14 working subgroups.”

Cuba’s two currencies are the “Cubano peso nacional” (CUP) and the “peso convertible Cubano” (CUC), which is set for elimination. As regards institutions, businesses, and wholesalers, the two are assigned the same value – one US dollar. In retail situations or in transactions among individuals one CUC is also valued at one U.S. dollar, but in those settings it’s worth 25 CUPs.  

To illustrate the problem: a Cuban milk producer selling directly to Cubans receives 4.50 CUP ($4.50) per liter, which equals 450 centavos per liter. But milk produced abroad and sold to a Cuban purchaser yields $3000 (or 3000 CUC) per ton. To cover that cost, the selling price to Cuban consumers need only be 30 centavos per liter. Pity the plight of the Cuban dairy farmer.

There is good news. The Paris Club is a group of European and U.S bank officials who try to ease poor countries’ difficulties with debt-repayment.  On October 15 they agreed to suspend Cuba’s obligation to make a payment by November 1 on debt worth $5.2 billion. How long the delay would be is unknown. 

Speaking to the Cuban people on October 8, President Díaz-Canel pointed out that, “Our socialism excludes the political maneuver of applying shock therapy to the workers. Here, therefore, no one is going to be left helpless. It’s preordained that if someone ends up in a vulnerable situation with the reorganization project, he or she will be helped and supported. We are responsible and promise that the fundamental conquests of the Revolution such as health and free education will be preserved.”

Cuban report says U.S. blockade still causing immense economic loss, By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry every year prepares a report on Cuba’s experience with the U.S. economic blockade of the island, in force since 1962. On October 22 Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presented this year’s report at a press conference in Havana. The Ministry releases the reports ahead of an annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on a Cuban resolution calling for an end to the blockade.  Usually the vote takes place in early November, but because of uncertainties relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will take place next in May, 2021.

The Report is supposed to inform the General Assembly delegates and the public as to the nature of the blockade and its impact on Cuba and the Cuban people. The blockade is the principal tool the United States uses to undermine Cuba’s government.  A State Department official in the Eisenhower administration, in 1960, expressed counter-revolutionary purpose. In recommending a blockade, Lester D. Mallory sought “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

The 53-page Report, covers U.S. measures taken against Cuba and effects experienced in Cuba and elsewhere during the twelve months between April 2019 and March 2020. It summarizes the U. S. legislation and administrative decrees used to authorize the blockade’s rules and regulations and details U.S. and worldwide opposition to the blockade. 

The authors of the Report condemn the blockade as cruel and as illegal under international law. They speak of genocide, Cuban sovereignty endangered, and Cuba’s economic and social development under assault. The entire report is accessible here.

According to the Report, the Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) levied penalties against dozens of U.S. and third-country entities. Examples are listed. OFAC derives its authority mainly from the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, which stipulates that third-country companies face penalties on exporting goods to Cuba that contain at least 10% U.S. components. In October, 2019 the U.S. government applied that rule also to goods exported to Cuba by a country that had imported them from another country.

In September, 2019, OFAC sharply limited the dollar amount of remittances Cuban Americans may send to families on the island. On October 23, 2020 – not within the period covered by the Report – the U.S. government ruled that Financiera Cimex SA, Cuba’s sole agency for distributing family remittances to Cubans, was no longer eligible to receive them from the United States. Remittances constitute one of Cuba’s major sources of foreign currency. 

The Report devotes much attention to the plethora of fines levied against foreign banks and other financial institutions after they handled transactions involving Cuba and the U.S. dollar. It cites dozens of individual examples.  Intimidation is now so widespread as to have persuaded many such institutions to avoid dealing with Cuba altogether.

The document highlights U.S. implementation of Title III of the Helms Burton Law that, beginning in May 2019, has led to law suits against foreign businesses brought before U.S. courts on behalf of former owners of nationalized property in Cuba. They are seeking damages. The resulting anxiety among foreign investors has led to “cancellation of commercial operations, cooperation actions and foreign investment projects.”

Detailing specific examples, the Report condemns U.S. penalties imposed on ships, companies and individuals involved in shipping oil to Cuba. The Report’s authors regard that new phase of the blockade as “a qualitative leap in the intensification and implementation of non-conventional measures in times of peace.”

Additionally, the U.S. government has threatened thousands of Cuban doctors working abroad in various ways. Many of the doctors working abroad generate income for the government. The Report records the prohibition on cruise ships arriving in Cuba.

The fallout is considerable, especially for the healthcare sector.  Dozens of U.S. companies, on being asked, refused to sell medical equipment and drugs to Cuban importers. When purchased through a third-country agent, they are more expensive. And supplies and medications manufactured in third countries may not be readily available on account of the aforementioned ten-percent rule.  

Cuba’s fight against COVID-19 took one hit when blockade regulations prevented the unloading in Cuba of a Chinese shipment of donated anti-pandemic supplies, and another one when Swiss manufacturers refused to sell ventilators to Cuba.  Cuban food imports are expensive in part because of extra expenses involved with the purchase of U.S. food products, allowed through congressional action in 2000. Blockade-related fuel shortages hamper agricultural production by interfering with planting, transportation, and storage.

The blockade has hit education, sports and cultural development in Cuba. Supplies and fuel are frequently in short supply and transportation and travel are often unavailable.  Cuba’s manufacturing and service sector lost an estimated $610.2 million, 7.7 % more than during the previous year, according to the Report. Losses incurred in the bio-pharmacological industry exceeded $160.3 million. U. S. restrictions interfere with Cuba’s export of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests.

The Report indicates that during the 12-month survey period, Cuba’s tourist industry lost $1.9 billion. Losses stemmed from new U.S. travel restrictions and from prohibitions on tourist services, particularly hotels. OFAC has now prohibited U.S. airlines, or airlines with U.S. connections, from flying into Cuba, except to the Jose Martí Airport in Havana. That action deprived Cuba of an estimated $1.8 billion. OFAC regulations affecting the communications, construction, and transportation sectors made for additional Cuban losses. Cuba’s hobbled foreign trade, both imports and exports, registered losses of $3,013,951,129, of which export losses accounted for$2,475,700,000. 

According to this Report, the workings of the U.S. blockade deprived Cuba of $5,570,300,000 between April 2019 and March 2020 – some $1.2 billion more than during the previous year. Among estimates figured into the amount are expenses incurred in buying materials at inflated prices in distant places, losses from foreign sales that never happened, and revenues the crippled tourist industry might have generated. The human cost in lives lost or blunted is not part of the calculation.

Cuba has lost $144.4 billion over the course of almost six decades.  Dollar depreciation over the period puts the total up to $1.098 trillion. Why, one asks, does the blockade continue?

The U.S. blockade, with moving, interlocking parts that may be at cross purposes, looks like a machine dangerous to human well-being. It could well have provoked the U.S press and politicians into loud complaints. But near silence has reigned.  The absence of real debate signifies overall acceptance of the blockade such that expressions of dissent, even President Obama’s dissent, have gained little support.

Silent acceptance marked other horrors abroad helped along by U.S. agents, especially as they were unfolding, or immediately thereafter. These were killings usually associated with regime change. One recalls Guatemala (1954), Iraq (1963), Brazil (1964) Dominican Republic (1965), particularly Indonesia (1965-1966), Chile (1973), Operation Condor in South America (1975-1976), and Colombia (sporadically from 1964 on).

Anti-Communism became the pretext for these situations in which U.S. emissaries abroad characteristically stopped at nothing. In his recent book The Jakarta Method (Public Affairs Press, 2020), Vincent Bevins connects U.S.-induced atrocities throughout the Global South, anti-Communism, and the installation of neo-liberal governments.  

Reasonably enough, public officials do maintain silence when their governments are complicit with crimes like these. The assumption here is that the U.S. anti-Cuban blockade represents one more instance of resort to extremes in the name of anti-Communism, which, once more, is surrounded by silence.  

The anti-Cuban blockade is a substitute for military action. U.S. strategists evidently perceived that military intervention or provocation of an internal coup wouldn’t work to ensure counter-revolution in Cuba. They perhaps realized that well-heeled, entrepreneurial Cubans friendly to the United States wouldn’t be there to help out, most of them having departed the island. Elsewhere in the Global South, as reported by Bevins, their kind stayed put and were able to collaborate with U.S. facilitators to instigate violence.

They are still there, in their various countries, as are their neo-liberal regimes.  Their staying power validates the U.S. strategic goals pursued in the post- World War II era that were energized by anti-Communism. Perhaps political leaders in Washington associated with both major political parties see continued backing of the Cuban blockade as a way of reassuring their far-flung neoliberal colleagues, and the ones nearby, that their old cause is still intact.  

Women in the Pandemic Economy, by Anita Waters

Economic downturns have devastating consequences for workers, but those consequences are not equally felt by everyone. Because paid and unpaid labor is divided by gender, women and men often have very different outcomes during economic hard times. In recessions caused by the cyclical crises that capitalism generates, like the Great Recession of 2008, occupations where men typically work, like construction and manufacturing, are usually hit especially hard. One study, for example, estimates that 74% of the jobs lost in the 2008 recession were held by men.

On the other hand, the recession that has been caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic and aggravated by corporate-centered policies is a different story. Women, especially low-income women, have been particularly devastated by the 2020 economy. In fact, The Guardian calls our current crisis a “pink collar recession.” Women have lost jobs, income, and savings at significantly higher rates than men. At the same time, women were burdened with increased demands for their unpaid labor.

Economists from the Bureau of Labor Statistics explain these disparities in a study published relatively early in the pandemic. While men are overrepresented in the manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries, women are more likely to be employed in retail, education, hospitality, and caregiving, all areas hit hard by the pandemic economy. The impact on women’s livelihoods in the “feminized” sectors of the global economy have affected women worldwide. The United Nations estimates that 135 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty as a result of Covid-19, and many more of these will be women than men.

More women than men, and especially Black and Latinx women, report having trouble paying their bills.

The effects of loss of jobs and income are severe and may well reverberate for years to come. Women and their families face food insecurity, utility shut-offs, and eviction. According to a Pew Research Survey, about a quarter of all adults in the U.S., and one in every three low-wage workers, lost their jobs. More women than men, and especially Black and Latinx women, report having trouble paying their bills, and are more likely than men to have borrowed money, used savings that had been set aside for retirement, and gotten food from a food bank. Women are also less likely than men to have a job in which telecommuting is an option.

Fifteen million households in the U.S. are comprised of single women with children. Two-income families have some cushion if one parent loses employment because of job loss or having to stay home to do child care. Single mothers, especially those who work at low-wage jobs, are already struggling. Besides the income loss that they face, they have sole responsibility for one in five children in the U.S., which leads us to the second big impact that the pandemic economy has on women’s lives: the growing “Second Shift.”

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild popularized the concept of the “Second Shift” in a 1989 book of that name. The Second Shift refers to the unpaid labor that women in the labor force do when they return home to their families at the end of their day of paid employment. There they are expected to cook and serve meals, manage the household, and care for the children. The UN report on the pandemic economy calls the second shift women’s “time poverty.” In the pandemic economy, schools and day-care centers were among the first closures, and households’ child care and even home-schooling responsibilities grew suddenly and exponentially. Even when there is another adult in the household, women spend many more hours than men engaged in these tasks, and the added burdens of the pandemic economy fall hardest on women. A recent report revealed that 1.5 million women left the workforce because of childcare responsibilities owing to the pandemic. For the 15 million single mothers, it is especially difficult. Even informal child-care arrangements (think grandmas) are disrupted by the stay-at-home and social-distance mandates.

This fall, as the pandemic worsens to a third peak, these added Second Shift burdens are not abating. More women than men are giving up paid employment to care for children at home. There is one positive note: researchers find that men in two-parent households are reportedly taking on a greater share of child care and household labor, and these changes may well carry on after Covid recedes.

Behind the alarming national statistics, women are struggling with real-life daily challenges. Take, for example, Marie, a drug addiction counselor outside Dayton, Ohio, with three children. Although her job is secure, she has personally struggled with the added responsibilities of running errands for her elderly parents and parents-in-law. She reported that the schools that her children attend are not honest with parents about potential exposures to the virus, and when students or teachers are quarantined, it is for a week at most, much less time than the Centers for Disease Control recommends.

Not only are many students mimicking the cavalier attitude toward Covid-19 that is modeled by the current president, even some teachers are downplaying the virus and removing their masks in the classroom. Children’s lives are stressed by the pandemic as well as the divisive political climate. When Marie’s son needed urgent mental health care last spring, none of the counseling centers were open. “I doubt I’m the only mother going through this.” Her daughter needed a social security card to apply for a driver’s license, but the social security offices are closed, and the office requires original documents to be sent by mail to them, adding yet another stress to the burdens of the pandemic.

Women are experiencing a “huge up-tick in abuse, a lot of verbal and some physical abuse.”

Marie reported that her clients, who are in medically assisted rehabilitation for opioid addiction, are facing very difficult times, and relapses are at an epidemic proportion. Many have lost full-time jobs when a large manufacturer in the area shut down and have turned to the gig economy to try to pay bills. Some of her clients are in relationships with other recovering addicts, and these households, she said, are especially stressed. Clients have lost jobs and are confined at home with spouses who have lost their jobs and with children whose schools are closed. Marie has seen a “huge up-tick in abuse, a lot of verbal and some physical abuse. A lot of these men aren’t used to being home with children, and that’s been a problem.” With libraries closed, access to the internet is limited, and clients have a hard time applying for medical assistance and other services.

A better world is possible. We must demand relief, in the forms of extended unemployment benefits and replacement pay for workers who must leave their jobs for child-care responsibilities. In contract negotiations, employers need to be pressed to provide better accommodations for workers, given these new demands on their lives. The hours of unpaid labor that is demanded of women in our society need to be recognized and compensated, and systemic gender inequity and misogyny recognized and opposed at every level.

Image: Elvert Barnes (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Israel carries out largest West Bank demolition operation in a decade, by Ahmad Al-bazz and Oren Ziv

Israel demolished over 70 structures in the Humsa al-Fuqa community in the occupied West Bank, displacing 11 Palestinian families.


In the largest West Bank demolition operation in a decade, Israeli military authorities on Tuesday razed around 70 structures in the Jordan Valley’s Humsa al-Fuqa community in the occupied West Bank. Locals reported that six bulldozers, accompanied by around 100 Israeli soldiers, carried out the demolitions, leaving 11 Palestinian families homeless.

Among the demolished structures were those seemingly funded by the European Union and other European governmental and non-governmental institutions.

“They startled us with no prior notification,” says Abdul-Ghani Awawdeh, 52, who lost every residential structure on the land where he lives, including animal shelters, water tanks and solar system units. Israeli forces also confiscated his car.

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Awawdeh’s wife, Fadwa Abu Awwad, noted that the demolitions were happening at the “worst time of the year” in terms of the weather. She said she spent the first night following the demolition trying to protect her family’s furniture from rain, after sending her children to a nearby community.

“We slept on the ground covered with a plastic bag,” Awawdeh added.

The Awawdeh family said they have been renting the land from Palestinian owners for over 60 years in order to herd animals, and confirmed this was the first time they witnessed an Israeli demolition. However, they remained uncertain as to whether it was a one-off or a sign of things to come.

A little over a mile away from Awawdeh’s family, 11 members of Abu al-Kebash family also saw all of their structures and animal shelters razed. Ahmad Abu al-Kebash, 23, said the family has been renting the land from another Palestinian family for around 70 years, and that this was not the first time the Israeli military had conducted demolitions, confiscations or evacuations at the site.

“This demolition is like no other. They left nothing,” said Ahmad, while sheltering in a tent provided by the Palestinian Red Crescent following the demolition.

Dafna Banai, an Israeli who has been active in the Jordan Valley for the past 13 years, called it the “worst demolition” she’d seen during her time in the area.

Israel insists that Humsa al-Fuqa’s residents do not have property rights on the land where they live, and claim that evacuation orders are for residents’ safety due to the area being a firing zone — which Israel designated it in 1972. The military has declared around 18 percent of the West Bank a firing zone, according to UN statistics, affecting thousands of Palestinians.

The Palestinian community of Humsa al-Fuqa, in the occupied West Bank, following an Israeli demolition operation, November 4, 2020. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Declaring Palestinian land as a firing zone is just one of many justifications Israeli authorities give for issuing demolition and evacuation orders in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military and administrative control. Frequently, demolitions are also carried out on structures built without permits, although Israel’s military government in the West Bank only approves between 1 and 3 percent of Palestinian building permit requests.

Israeli demolitions and displacement of Palestinians in Area C form “a strategy that has been applied here for years,” said Aref Daraghmeh, a Jordan Valley-based researcher with Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. These tactics predate Israel’s mooted plans to annex parts of Area C, he added.

At the same time, Daraghmeh noted, Israeli settlers have been increasingly active in the area, appropriating land by fencing it off and establishing three new outposts.

Israeli demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are at a four-year high, according to UN data — despite the COVID-19 outbreak. Israel has demolished almost 690 structures in the West Bank so far this year, displacing around 870 Palestinians; 46 of those demolitions took place last month. Also in October, within the Green Line, Israel demolished the Bedouin village Al-Araqib in the Naqab/Negev for the 179th time.

Fadwa Abu Awwad Awawdeh walks among the debris of an Israeli demolition in the Palestinian community of Humsa al-Fuqa, in the occupied West Bank, November 4, 2020. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority’s Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission delivered tents to Humsa al-Fuqa residents, and called on international organizations to provide immediate assistance in order to fight“mass demolition and ethnic cleansing.”

The Commission also announced that a further three Jordan Valley had received evacuation notices on Wednesday morning, ahead of Israeli army training next week.

In response to an inquiry from +972 Magazine, inquiry, the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank, stated that it had “carried out law enforcement activities against structures established illegally in a firing zone in the Jordan Valley.”

A version of this post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Oren Ziv is a photojournalist, a founding member of the Activestills photography collective, and a staff writer for Local Call. Since 2003, he has been documenting a range of social and political issues in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories with an emphasis on activist communities and their struggles. His reportage has focused on the popular protests against the wall and settlements, affordable housing and other socio-economic issues, anti-racism and discrimination struggles, and the struggle to free animals.

Votes still being counted as Trump falsely claims victory, by John Wojcik


President Trump is falsely claiming victory in his race for re-election even as Democratic candidate Joe Biden is pulling ahead in several of the key states not yet fully counted.

Trump, at a mini-rally at the White House early this morning, with no authority to do so, demanded a halt to the counting of millions of votes that seem to be coming in for Biden.

He said he was taking his demands to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The national popular vote already shows a clear win for Biden, so Trump’s only hope to hold onto the White House is to engineer enough Electoral College votes to overcome the American people’s decision.

His absurd claims aside, the final results will come down to what the people say in Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina.

In Pennsylvania, where the president is ahead by 600,000, there are more than 1 million uncounted ballots from the Philadelphia area that are expected to be overwhelmingly Biden votes. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said this morning that Trump “is no better than an internet troll when he claims he has won Pennsylvania.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak to supporters, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del., as Jill Biden looks on. | Paul Sancya / AP

When Biden addressed the nation early this morning, he reiterated that “it is not me or Trump who will decide who wins this, it is the American people.”

In both Michigan and Wisconsin, Biden has pulled ahead of Trump slightly with only small amounts of votes yet to be counted and those are votes from heavily Democratic areas.

Biden has pulled ahead in Nevada, too, and if those states hold, he wins 270 electoral votes even without Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, thousands of voters are pouring into the streets in major U.S. cities coast to coast today to demand that the results be protected and that every last vote be counted. They are determined to block any efforts by Trump to steal the election.

Nevertheless, the false victory claims by Trump are testing democracy in the U.S. in a way they have never been tested by a sitting U.S. president.

Democrat Tom Wolfe, the governor of Pennsylvania, went on national television this morning to assure the nation that the vote and democracy itself will be protected in his state. He called Trump’s claim of victory “a partisan attack on Pennsylvania’s elections, our votes, and our democracy.” He vowed to resist any attempt to halt the ballot counting.

Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, said the election went smoothly in her state and that everyone can rest assured there will be accurate totals from the state as soon as possible.

It is clear that Trump’s call to stop the counting of votes and disrupt the election is directed at Black voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, because those are the overwhelming majority of the outstanding votes. In Wisconsin, the Republicans specifically decided to count mail-in votes last because they, too, were largely the votes of Black voters.

The Biden campaign’s reliance on safe mail-in voting during a pandemic is something the GOP wanted to disrupt from the beginning, starting with the push by Trump’s Postmaster DeJoy to cripple mail delivery at the USPS by removing processing machines and mailboxes and by slashing work hours for staff.

Demonstrations demanding that the vote be protected at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., in the early morning hours. | John Minchillo / AP

Trump also falsely claimed he’d won Georgia even as ballots are still being counted in some of that state’s largest and most Democratic counties.

The president also falsely claimed victory in North Carolina, which is still listed as a toss-up.

“They can’t catch us,” the president falsely stated about Democrats’ chances.

Votes are still being counted in all these states, so it is premature for either candidate to declare victory in the nationwide race.

“We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4:00 in the morning and add them to the list, OK?” Trump declared. He claimed to be “solidly” leading in many key states, implying his early advantage was “magically disappearing” because of supposed “surprise ballot dumps.” There have been no such ballot dumps; rather, his lead has shrunk simply because more votes were being counted.

The demonstrations across the country today are being fueled by Trump’s expected but nevertheless outrageous attacks on the right of the people to determine who occupies the White House.

At a press briefing this morning, the Biden campaign expressed confidence that it is on a path to victory. Democratic lawyers said that Trump will be on his way to the most embarrassing defeat in history for a U.S. president if he tries to go to the Supreme Court to block vote counting.