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Hamas’s War on Israel: Everything You Need to Know Alana Newhouse

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Devastation after rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel on Saturday. (Photo by Tsafrir Abayov via AP)

This piece is being co-published with Tablet

The shocking attack in southern Israel this weekend was the most deadly killing of Jews since the Holocaust. The death toll is worse than the worst day of the Yom Kippur War. It is a massacre that will transform Israel and the Middle East.

What happened? How did the most sophisticated military power in the Middle East get brought to its knees? And what will this mean for the Jewish state moving forward? The answer to those questions will be the reckoning of our lifetimes. 

But there are more basic questions that so many are asking. What follows are some answers that explain how we got here and where we might be going.

What is the extent of the attacks? Why are people calling this “Israel’s 9/11”?

More than 700 Israelis have been killed and more than 2,100 wounded in a series of coordinated surprise attacks that occurred inside Israel. The attacks began on the morning of Saturday, October 7. That’s when, according to an IDF spokesman, some 1,000 Hamas terrorists crossed the internationally recognized border between Gaza and Israel and began massacring civilians in at least 14 Israeli towns and communities, entering homes and apartments and killing men, women, and children—including nearly 300 young people who were attending a rave in the desert. 

The scenes of horror and bloodshed that resulted, including the murders of entire families, the kidnapping of small children, and rapes of young women, were seemingly intended to cause maximum anger and shock inside Israel. More than 150 people were seized by the terrorists and taken back into Gaza, where they are being held hostage. They include women, very young children, and the elderly.

To give a sense of the scale of these attacks, 700 dead in a country of 9.3 million people (where everyone knows someone’s cousin) is the equivalent of a terror attack on America in which over 25,000 people were brutally murdered. And not in a single catastrophe: imagine 25,000 Americans killed in various murder sprees across the country. 

Who carried out these attacks?

Hamas is the short answer, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and has waged what it calls a war of resistance since its inception. Its tactics over the years have evolved from the recruitment and deployment of suicide bombers to launching barrages of rockets and missiles. But Hamas had never before launched a military operation of this magnitude into Israel. 

Okay, but doesn’t Israel have settlements in Gaza, and don’t they control the lives of the Palestinians who live there?

Israel unilaterally withdrew from every last inch of Gaza in 2005, after dismantling the 21 Israeli settlements that had existed in the territory and handing them over to the Palestinian Authority. 

The rationale behind Israel’s withdrawal, carried out by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was the notion of land for peace—that Israel would hand over control of certain territories in exchange for security. The land was handed over. The peace never came.

That was 18 years ago. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip continuously since 2007, after a five-day-long military conflict with the Palestinian Authority, which was widely hated by Gazans for its corruption.

Since Israel’s withdrawal, Hamas has initiated smaller-scale military conflicts with Israel in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2018, as well as large-scale wars in 2008–09 (“Operation Cast Lead” in Hebrew), 2012 (“Operation Pillar of Defense”), 2014 (“Operation Protective Edge”), and 2021 (“Operation Guardian of the Walls”).

How could armed terrorists in Jeeps cross Israel’s billion-dollar border fence and massacre hundreds of civilians, take hostages, and bring them back to Gaza? Isn’t the Israeli army supposed to be good at this stuff? 

Excellent question. First of all, the timing is important. The attacks came during the Sukkot holiday, when many young soldiers were sent home to be with their families. Other units that were usually in the so-called “Gaza envelope”—the part of Israel that runs along the Gaza Strip—had been moved to the West Bank, in order to protect Israelis who live in Jerusalem and in West Bank communities from attacks during the holiday. 

But that doesn’t explain how Israel, one of the most advanced nations on the planet—with some of the most sophisticated surveillance technologies, much of which they invented and developed themselves specifically for these purposes—was caught so unaware. 

According to sources in Israel and America who deal with national security and technology, one possible scenario involved a cyberattack that took down Israel’s border fence, with its layers of sensors, early in the morning on Saturday October 7. The attack would also have also affected parts of the Iron Dome system that protects Israeli civilians from frequent rocket attacks by their neighbors in the Strip. 

It also seems likely, as security expert Edward Luttwak explained in Tablet, that Israel’s vaunted security services were deceived by operatives inside the Strip who have been secretly partnering with Israel for the past few years to pass information about rocket attacks by Hamas’s rival inside Gaza, the Iranian-backed terror group Islamic Jihad. As the Israelis became reliant on people they thought to be their partners, they began to imagine that they could quietly manage Hamas by increasing trade with the Strip, letting in more goods, allowing Gazans to enter Israel for free medical treatment, and issuing work permits for Gazans to work inside Israel, where a month’s income can feed a Gazan family for a year. 

Since last year, Israel has issued over 15,000 new work permits for Gazans to work in Israel, believing that this humanitarian gesture would be reciprocated by Hamas. They were wrong.

All in all, one of the most striking and terrifying things about the attacks for Israelis, and for outside observers, is that once the terrorists had crossed the border, they seemed to encounter no resistance and were able to simply drive through large swaths of Israel murdering at will. From a security standpoint, there is clearly no substitute for well-trained humans with guns. One of the lessons of this terrible day in Israel’s history is likely to be that the country’s confidence that technology is the key to solving its problems and protecting its citizens is overblown.

You’re telling me that a bunch of low-level terrorists in pick-up trucks managed to do all of this on their own? 

No. 

This was an Iranian attack carried out by Hamas terrorists. Iran is the main arms supplier and political backer of Hamas (which is also supported by Turkey). As The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, the organization and planning for the attack came directly from the Iranian regime, and was finalized at a meeting last Monday in Beirut. 

Beirut? That’s actually important. Iran backs Hamas as part of its “Axis of Resistance,” which is an umbrella alliance of the region’s worst villains—including the butcher Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who killed more than half a million of his own people; Hezbollah, the terrorist group that now runs Lebanon; militias in Iraq; and the Houthi tribal army that has torn apart Yemen. 

Over the past two decades, Iran started positioning the Axis of Resistance as a way to dominate the region. It found a receptive ear in Barack Obama, who was looking to pave the road for a quick American exit from Iraq. Obama believed the Iranians to be the only power strong enough to run the region without American help. We see now how well that turned out.

If Joe Biden strongly supports Israel, as he says, why did he send $16 billion to Iran? Help square that for me. 

When he was Obama’s vice president, Biden was a central progenitor of the Iran Deal, which he then solidified as the cornerstone of his own administration’s Middle East policy. 

By allying the U.S. with Tehran, the Iran Deal created a deadly embrace between the United States and a terror state run by corrupt medieval clerics who keep power through violence against their own people and by promoting terror and chaos abroad. As a self-proclaimed “revolutionary regime,” Iran explicitly aims to set not just Israel, but the entire region, on fire.

Giving the Iranians the backing of the U.S. was a recipe for chaos and a green light for terror throughout the region, which is exactly what has happened since Obama announced his deal. Funding Iranian terror, to the tune of $16 billion that the Biden administration sent to Iran in recent weeks, is an act of criminal negligence. As a result, it is fair to say that America has Israeli blood on its hands, too.

But why attack now? I thought Israel and Saudi Arabia were moving toward peace.

Exactly. 

What happened most recently was that an emerging Saudi-Israeli peace agreement began to take shape—which would have offered a potentially powerful counterweight to Iran’s ambitions to regional hegemony. Needless to say, the Iranians don’t like that. 

Iran’s thinking seems to have been that if the Hamas attack was brutal and deadly enough, the Israelis would have no choice but to strike back extra-hard in Gaza, generating thousands of photographs and videos of destroyed buildings, dead bodies, and crying children that will inflame the so-called “Arab Street,” making it impossible for the Saudis to publicly ally themselves with Israel and leaving Iran in control of the region.

 So if there was, indeed, a cyberattack, who did it? 

“Any hack would have had to be of multiple IDF systems in order for us to see what we saw,” one source told us. “The Gaza fence is built to be one of the most sophisticated barriers ever created, which can detect a ladder placed gently on it, and yet they were able to breach it in multiple areas before anyone had a chance to get out of bed.” 

There aren’t that many actors who could have pulled this off all on their own. The Iranians are obviously involved, and would love to take even more credit than they already have, but Iranian cyberattacks on Israeli systems are constant, and rarely very successful. Russia also makes sense as a villain in the context of their increasingly close partnership with Iran to further their war in Ukraine, and the tensions that war has caused in the Russia-Israel relationship. Still, contributing to a large-scale massacre of Israeli civilians would be a fateful departure. There is also the fact that Russia is generally quite sensitive about funding Islamic terrorist groups, after the wars it fought in Chechnya and Dagestan.

It could have been China, since dismantling Israel’s defensive systems with the press of a button would send a powerful message to Taiwan and other Asian nations that have been buying defensive systems from the U.S. And they do buy large amounts of Iranian oil. But what does China need this for? They have their own problems with Islamic radicalism, which they repress at home with an iron fist.

Finally, there are the Americans. In last week’s email dump concerning chief U.S. diplomat Robert Malley demonstrates, the U.S. rapprochement with Iran has involved more than trying to negotiate a nuclear deal. It has also involved finding people, many of them first- or second-generation Iranian Americans, who could serve as go-betweens in negotiations. Were some of those go-betweens in fact taking direction from Iran? They were. But even if this happened, it wasn’t U.S. policy. It was more like hostile espionage.

In the end, the answer is quite simple: Hamas did it.

 What should the Israelis do now?

In a perfect universe, the Israelis would be able to tend to the families of their dead and wounded while getting all their hostages back unharmed, and then sign a peace treaty with Saudi Arabia that would counterbalance the Iranian axis of terror and provide the entire region with a new horizon for hope. 

Unfortunately, none of that will happen.

In the cruel logic of the region where Israel is located, and has been located for several thousand years, Hamas’s killing spree was not a repulsive example of the depths of human barbarism. Instead, it was a huge win, and shredded Israel’s vaunted military deterrence. Millions of Arabs and other Middle Easterners, stuck in poor countries run by dysfunctional, oppressive regimes, can go to bed at night with a ray of hope: Israel can and will be destroyed. A regional war is hardly impossible, unless Israel can reestablish its deterrence, fast, and prove that it is not a paper tiger. That means war.

But war with whom? Sadly, America’s deal with Iran dictates the answer there, too. Israel can hardly strike back at Iran, even if it wanted to, because Iran is now under the protection of the United States, which feeds the regime with regular shipments of cash and has promised to protect its nuclear program. 

An Israel strike on Iran’s oil fields, or a strike on Iran’s nuclear program, or the decapitation of the Iranian regime, would likely be good for Israel, and good for the region. But since those would effectively be strikes against the regional order that was brought into being and is supported by the United States, striking Iran would put Israel in direct conflict with the United States. That is too big a risk for a divided and traumatized Israel to conceivably handle.

Israel could also strike Iran’s most valuable strategic ally, which is Hezbollah, the terrorist group that controls Lebanon. However, since Hezbollah didn’t attack Israel, and doesn’t appear to have had any direct involvement in the attacks, such a move would be harder to justify—and would involve Israel in a two-front war with a much more powerful opponent than Hamas.

Israel will therefore be obliged to do something in Gaza, though its hands are tied there, too, by the 100 hostages that Hamas took, perhaps two dozen of whom are said to be Americans. Which means that the outcome of whatever Israel does is likely to be as pointless as its previous wars in Gaza, which left Hamas in charge of Gaza.

What is clear from all of this is that Israel’s deterrence strategy of sticks and carrots and electronic barriers against Hamas has failed, and something new will need to be tried in its place.

But what about the Palestinians in Gaza? Aren’t they suffering?

Yes. They are. Ordinary Palestinians are suffering every day under Hamas’s brutal rule. But murdering grandmothers and uploading their dead bodies onto their own Facebook pages for their family to see and massacring people at a music festival are not actions taken by people looking to build, or fight for, a thriving society. And anyone insisting on asking this question on a weekend when more than 700 noncombatants were murdered, women raped, and babies kidnapped has a marked inability to acknowledge the suffering of others. Or maybe just of Jews. 

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May 27, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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The White House hosted a three-day state visit for President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto of Kenya beginning on May 23, 2024. The visit marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Kenya and is the first state visit for an African leader since President John Kufuor of Ghana visited in 2008.

The Biden administration has worked to develop ties to African nations, whose people are leery of the United States not only because of what Biden called the “original sin” of colonists importing enslaved Africans to North American shores, but also because while the Soviet Union tended to support the movements when African nations began to throw off colonial rule, the U.S. tended to support right-wing reaction. More recently, during the Trump years the United States withdrew from engagement with what the former president allegedly called “sh*thole countries.”

In contrast, officials from the Biden administration have noted the importance of the people of Africa to the future of the global community. Currently, the median age on the continent is 19, and experts estimate that by 2050, one in four people on Earth will live on the African continent. 

Saying that Africans must have control over their own countries and their own future, U.S. officials backed the admission of the African Union to the Group of 20 (G-20), welcoming the organization’s 55 member states to the intergovernmental forum that focuses on global issues, and pledged more than $55 billion to the continent to aid security, support democratic institutions, and advance civil rights and the rule of law. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, First Lady Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have all visited the continent, where they have emphasized partnership with African countries for economic development rather than a competition with China and Russia for resource extraction. 

In March 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia to emphasize the connections between Africa and North America, focus on the importance of democracy as Russian disinformation in Africa is driving pro-Russian and anti-U.S. sentiment, and announce U.S. investment in the continent as well as calling for more. 

But in July 2023, those efforts appeared to take a step back when a military coup in Niger deposed elected president Mohamed Bazoum. A few months later, the ruling junta asked the forces of former colonial power France to leave the country and turned to Russia’s Wagner group for security. In March, U.S. diplomats and military officials expressed concern about the increasing presence of Russia in Niger, and a few days later, officials told close to 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country to leave as well. Russian troops moved into a military base the U.S. has been using. 

The U.S. says its troops will leave by mid-September and has pledged to continue negotiations. Niger was a key ally in the U.S. antiterrorism efforts against armed forces allied with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Neighboring Chad has also asked the 100 U.S. troops in the country to leave.

Meanwhile, in the year since her trip to Africa, Vice President Harris has focused on digital inclusion in Africa, recognizing that the spread of digital technology has the potential to promote economic opportunity and gender equality and to create jobs, as well as open new markets for U.S. exports. Last week, she announced that the African Development Bank Group and Mastercard have launched the Mobilizing Access to the Digital Economy Alliance (MADE), which is working with public and private investors to provide digital access for 100 million individuals and businesses in Africa over the next ten years, focusing first on agriculture and women. 

Kenya’s President Ruto won election in 2022, promising voters that he would champion the “hustlers,” the young workers piecing together an income informally. U.S. ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, former chief executive officer of eBay and Hewlett-Packard and unsuccessful 2010 Republican candidate for governor of California, has supported this idea of economic development. Focusing on “commercial diplomacy,” she has worked with Ruto to encourage business investment in Kenya.  

At a state luncheon with President Ruto last week, Harris reiterated her belief “that African ideas and innovations will have a significant impact on the future of the entire world—a belief driven in part by the extraordinary creativity, dynamism, and energy of young African leaders” and by the continent’s young demographic. She reiterated the need to “revise and upgrade the U.S.-Africa narrative, which is long overdue; and to bring fresh focus to the innovation and ingenuity that is so prevalent across the continent of Africa.” She warned: “Any leader that ignores the continent of Africa is doing so at their own peril.” 

While Kenya’s main economic sectors are agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism, it is also a technology hub, and Harris called out its “Silicon Savannah,” a technology ecosystem that produced the cellphone-based money transfer system M-PESA, as well as startups making biodegradable plastics, creating drinking water from humidity, and so on. 

Ruto thanked Harris and Biden “for helping us reshape, reengineer, and write a new narrative for our continent.” Africans “are going to write our own story,” Ruto said, adding that the narrative of “this continent of conflict, trouble, disease, poverty” is “not the story of Africa.” “Africa is a continent of tremendous opportunity,” he said, “the largest reserves of energy—renewable energy resources; 60 percent of the world’s arable, uncultivated land; 30 percent of…global mineral wealth, including those that are necessary for energy transition; the youngest continent, which will produce 40 percent of the world’s…workforce by 2050 and where a quarter of the world’s population will be living, providing the world’s biggest single market. In short,” he said, “Africa is a rich continent and a continent of opportunity.”  

In a conversation with Vice President Harris and Ambassador Whitman, President Ruto said that the young population of Africa is “tech hungry” and that technology “is the instrument that we can use to leapfrog Africa from where we are to…catch up with the rest of the world.” The digital space, he said, is the space that will create the greatest output from young people and women. To that end, he said, Kenya is investing 30% of its annual budget in education, training, knowledge, and skills. 

As part of his reach for global leadership, Ruto has put Kenya at the front of an initiative backed by the United Nations for a multinational security intervention in Haiti, where officials have asked for help restoring order against about 200 armed gangs in the country, coalitions of which control about 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 exacerbated political instability in Haiti by creating a power vacuum, while weapons flowing into the country, primarily from straw purchases in the U.S., fed violence. Last year, then–prime minister Ariel Henry had pleaded with the United Nations Security Council to bolster Haitian security forces and combat the gangs.

The U.S. declined to lead the effort or to provide troops, although it, along with Canada and France, is funding the mission. On Thursday, Biden explained that “for the United States to deploy forces in the hemisphere just raises all kinds of questions that can be easily misrepresented about what we’re trying to do…. So we set out to find…a partner or partners who would lead the effort that we would participate in.” Kenya stepped up, although Kenyan opposition leaders, lawyers, and human rights groups are fiercely opposed to deploying Kenyans to the Caribbean nation. 

The Haitian gangs oppose the Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS), which is supposed to consist of 2,500 troops, 1,000 of whom are Kenyans. The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Chad, and Jamaica have officially notified the United Nations secretary-general of their intent to send personnel to the mission. Other nations have said they will support the mission, but as of May 20 had not yet sent official notifications. The MSS was supposed to arrive by May 23, but a base for it in Port-au-Prince is not yet fully equipped. Experts also told Caitlin Hu of CNN that Haitian authorities have not done enough to explain to local people how the mission will work, and Haitian police say what is most necessary is more support for local police.  

Kenyan news reported that the advance team of Kenyan police officers who went to Haiti to assess conditions for their deployment there will recommend a delay in deployment.

Notes:

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/media-advisory-state-visit-president-william-ruto-and-first-lady-rachel-ruto-the-republic

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/02/16/statement-from-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-on-the-state-visit-of-president-william-ruto-and-first-lady-rachel-ruto-of-kenya/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/02/16/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-at-the-munich-security-conference-munich-germany/

https://apnews.com/article/biden-g-20-summit-politics-africa-china-04ce188209d1fac0c4f9e946825e3c2f

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/20/us-set-to-evacuate-illegal-troops-from-niger

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/02/politics/us-russian-forces-niger-base/index.html

https://apnews.com/article/niger-chad-us-troops-withdrawal-russia-aa852a79bac39aaa679af3663b56deaa

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/05/24/fact-sheet-vice-president-harris-announces-public-and-private-sector-commitments-to-advancing-digital-inclusion-in-africa/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/05/24/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-and-president-william-ruto-of-the-republic-of-kenya-at-a-state-luncheon/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946

4/background-press-call-previewing-the-vice-presidents-trip-to-ghana-tanzania-and-zambia/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-23/putin-s-mercenary-prigozhin-shifts-focus-after-ukraine-setbacks

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2023/mar/25/harris-heads-to-africa-amid-bidens-courtship-of-co/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-64451376

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/africa-worlds-future-touring-us-090551181.html

https://apnews.com/article/kamala-harris-africa-ghana-tanzania-zambia-china-a1ecb70d87bfecf3b983d15afc498379

5/fact-sheet-u-s-africa-partnership-in-promotin-peace-security-and-democratic-governance/

https://www.csis.org/analysis/prioritizing-partnerships-africa

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/05/21/whitman-ruto-kenya-cabinet-consideration-00159251

https://academic.oup.com/afraf/article/122/487/205/7133587

https://blog.prif.org/2022/11/08/have-the-tables-turned-what-to-expect-from-kenyas-new-hustler-president-william-ruto/

https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15432.doc.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/05/24/haiti-kenya-security-force/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/13/who-are-haitis-gangs-and-what-do-they-want-all-you-need-to-know

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/longform/2024/3/25/a-criminal-economy-how-us-arms-fuel-deadly-gang-violence-in-haiti

https://www.npr.org/2024/05/19/1252380146/us-troops-leave-niger

https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/24/americas/haiti-gang-mss-kenya-explainer-intl/index.html

https://www.state.gov/un-security-council-authorizes-multinational-security-support-mission-to-haiti/

https://www.citizen.digital/news/kenyan-police-advance-team-returns-from-haiti-as-deployment-faces-delay-n342868

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/05/24/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-and-president-william-ruto-of-the-republic-of-kenya-during-a-moderated-conversation-on-digital-inclusion-in-africa/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/05/23/remarks-by-president-biden-and-president-william-ruto-of-the-republic-of-kenya-in-joint-press-conference/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149831

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I Helped Make Standing Rock Go Viral. Now I Regret It. Lucy Biggers

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Lucy Biggers poses at Standing Rock in December 2016, after she went live from the camp on the NowThis Facebook page. (All photos courtesy of the author)

Eight years ago, I was in my mid-20s, and like many of my colleagues at NowThis News, I was completely aligned with the company’s left-wing content. As a social video producer, each day I logged on and searched my newsfeed for stories and videos that would appeal to our millions of Facebook followers. I called myself a journalist but really I was an early social media influencer, pushing a very specific point of view. 

The stories that got the most engagement were ones that elicited strong emotions, either happiness or anger. A “happy” story was one in which the good guys—LGBTQ activists, BLM protesters, climate change warriors, and the like—won some battle against greedy capitalists, cops, or (insert white authority figure here). An “angry” story was one in which those oppressors screwed over the good guys. When I came across a story I thought could go viral, I quickly edited the video and added subtitles and music. Then I’d sit back and wait for the reaction from our like-minded followers.

So, in October 2016, when the actress Shailene Woodley popped up on my computer screen, I knew she was going to generate a whole lot of views.

The clip showed her speech after she won an award from the Environmental Media Association. For months, she had been deeply involved in trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Flanked by several members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, she spoke emotionally about the importance of stopping the oil pipeline.

“What we are seeing right now at Standing Rock is that thousands of people are committed to fighting and winning a battle against corporate greed with nothing but love and compassion, prayer, and ceremony,” she said. “I’m calling out to everyone in this room tonight, show up. Don’t just tweet about it. . . Go to Standing Rock. Go to Standing Rock.

I quickly did my thing: I ran the video through my editing software, moving the best moments to the beginning. I added emotional music by searching “heartfelt” and “somber” in our music library. I wrote some subtitles. Then I posted it.

Within 24 hours, the video had over 1 million views. By December, that number was up to 17 million. 

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposed the pipeline because it was going to be routed underneath Lake Oahe, where the reservation gets its water, which they consider sacred. Even though the pipeline would be 95 feet below the lake, the tribe feared a leak could contaminate it. The protests began in April 2016, when some 60 members of the tribe rode on horseback for miles to set up the Sacred Stone Camp, which soon became known as Standing Rock. They vowed to stay until the pipeline was stopped.

Over the next few months, thanks to the viral clips shared by NowThis and other left-leaning social media sites, hundreds and then thousands of people joined the camp. The Native Americans led the protests, sometimes locking themselves to pipeline machinery or trespassing on the construction sites. Every day, protesters uploaded videos of these “acts of resistance” to Facebook. 

Woodley was a regular at Standing Rock, often livestreaming on Facebook. In one grainy video, she talked about the evils of capitalism, the threat of climate change, and out-of-control corporate greed. She talked about her vegan diet and the increasing difficulty of finding nontoxic foods. In my mind, all of these issues were connected. Late-stage capitalism, colonialism, commercial agriculture, and corporate greed were all part of the mindset that was leading a greedy pipeline company—Energy Transfer Partners—to desecrate Native American land.

For months leading up to Woodley’s speech, I had watched videos of the Standing Rock protests every day, all day long. The term doomscrolling hadn’t been invented yet, but that’s what I was doing. In mid-October, I had watched footage of the police clashing violently with Standing Rock protesters. I quickly edited the footage for NowThis. The next day, Senator Bernie Sanders reshared my video to his millions of followers. Talk about validation!


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Rashida Tlaib Speaks at Detroit Conference Tied to Terrorist Group Francesca Block

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at the People’s Conference for Palestine last Saturday. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Over the weekend, while most Americans were barbecuing and honoring our fallen soldiers, U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was in Detroit, speaking at a conference alongside two people with links to a U.S. designated terrorist organization. 

Tlaib was a surprise speaker Saturday at the three-day “People’s Conference for Palestine.” Minutes before she took the stage at the Huntington Place convention center, hundreds of attendees, many dressed in keffiyehs, danced and sang along to music, which one of the organizers told the crowd was a “medley of songs from the first Intifada.” Then he introduced Tlaib, who walked up to the podium with her fist in the air as the audience stood and cheered.

In her 15-minute talk, the Michigan congresswoman accused Israel of “war crimes” and called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “murderous war criminal.” She also appeared to threaten Joe Biden’s election prospects in her state. Referring to the campus protesters, Tlaib stated: “It is disgraceful that the Biden administration and my colleagues in Congress continue to smear them for protesting to save lives no matter faith or ethnicity. It is cowardly. But we’re not gonna forget in November, are we?” 

Wissam Rafidi, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist terrorist group founded in 1967, also addressed the conference. The PFLP, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, is not as prominent as Hamas or other terrorist groups. But has, among other things, claimed responsibility in 2019 for exploding a device that killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl in Dolev, a settlement in the West Bank.

At the conference on Friday, Rafidi said, “These Zionists lie like they breathe. I want to assure everyone that there is no longer a place for a two-state solution for any Palestinian. The only solution is one democratic Palestinian land which will end the Zionist project in Palestine.” He also said: “Hamas is part of the resistance of the Palestinian people.” 

Another speaker at the conference was Sana’ Daqqa, the wife of a PFLP terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 abduction and murder of an Israeli soldier. Speaking on both Friday and Sunday, Daqqa praised the anti-Israel movement on U.S. campuses. She then referenced the Hamas massacre on October 7, called the al-Aqsa Flood, as the response to Israel. “The only thing that can stop this is a flood,” she said. “This is what the resistance intended, that the flood would become floods throughout the entire region.” 

The conference was organized by over a dozen pro-Palestine groups, including The People’s Forum, which owns the conference’s website domain. As a recent Free Press investigation showed, The People’s Forum is funded by multimillionaire Marxist Neville Roy Singham, who was born and became wealthy in America but now lives in Shanghai where he funds a number of propaganda sites boosting the Chinese Communist Party. People’s Forum’s executive director Manolo De Los Santos also spoke at the conference, calling for the end of America. “We have to bring down this empire with one million cuts, and those one million cuts have to come from every sector of struggle in this room,” De Los Santos said.

The group’s involvement in the conference “underscores foreign influence efforts into destabilizing U.S. institutions through grassroots activism,” said Alex Goldenberg, lead intelligence analyst at the Network Contagion Research Institute, which researches the spread of “hostile ideological content.”

“The rhetoric from speakers, including those with direct ties to terrorist organizations, glorifies violent resistance and revolutionary actions,” Goldenberg added. “This, coupled with the call for sustained and intensified direct action, raises the alarming possibility that individuals are being indoctrinated to embrace and participate in violence.”

The People’s Forum and its partners, including the Palestinian Youth Movement, are now organizing a rally in D.C. on June 8, calling on protesters to serve as a “red line” and to “surround the White House.” 

“Their explicit objectives are to organize and mobilize protests over the summer, which should raise significant national security concerns,” Goldenberg said.

In February, Tlaib’s sister helped organize a protest vote in Michigan’s Democratic primary against Biden’s policy of supporting Israel in the Gaza War. More than 100,000 Michigan voters cast their ballot for “uncommitted,” including Tlaib herself. As of press time, Tlaib’s spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment from The Free Press

Francesca Block is a reporter for The Free Press. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @FrancescaABlock. Eli Lake is a Free Press columnist. Follow him at @EliLake

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