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These 25 rainbow-flag waving companies donated $18 million to anti-gay politicians since the last election Judd Legum

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At the pride parade in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, accounting giant Deloitte promoted its support of the LGBTQ community:

In June 2023, Deloitte produced a report on “LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work.” In a letter accompanying the report, Emma Codd, the company’s Global Chief Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Officer, said she hoped it would enable organizations “to take the necessary steps to turn positive messaging on LGBT+ inclusion into concrete actions.” 

This month, Deloitte had its in-house designers create 10 postcards “designed to spread thousands of messages of hope, positivity and pride.”

On X, Deloitte maintains an account dedicated to its LGBTQ community, @DeloitteProud. “We are dedicated to elevating the voices, perspectives, and stories of those within our Pride community,” the company says on its corporate website. “Our social campaign #PrideIsEternal is part of our promise to elevate and celebrate the diversity of our 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues. When our people speak, we seek to listen, embedding respect in everything we do.”

Deloitte received a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index, which is produced by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s most prominent LGBTQ rights organization. Corporations can “receive up to 25 points deducted from their score for a large-scale official or public anti-LGBTQ+ blemish on their recent records.” Deloitte received no deductions.  

And yet, a Popular Information investigation finds that since November 8, 2022, Deloitte has donated at least $679,000 to vehemently anti-LGBTQ federal and state politicians. This total includes:

1. $365,500 donated by Deloitte’s corporate PAC to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 51 members of Congress that received a zero rating on the latest Congressional scorecard produced by HRC.

2. $10,000 donated by Deloitte’s corporate PACs to 13 state legislators who sponsored anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee and Louisiana. 

3. $2,500 donated by Deloitte’s corporate PACs to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R), who signed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation into law this year.

4. $301,000 donated by Deloitte to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which supports anti-LGBTQ governors and candidates. 

Deloitte is not alone. Popular Information has identified 25 corporations that are highly rated on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and collectively donated at least $17,840,761 in support of federal and state anti-gay politicians. The totals include: 

1. Contributions to members of Congress (and their leadership PACs) that received a zero rating on the latest Congressional scorecard produced by HRC.

2. Contributions to sponsors of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio and Tennessee. 

3. Contributions to the RGA, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), and the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) — national 527 organizations that support anti-LGBTQ candidates.

The list features some of the most prominent corporations in the United States.

AT&T has donated at least $1,269,650 to anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022

AT&T bills itself as “an original corporate ally” of the LGBTQ+ community. The company boasts that, in 1975, it was “one of the first major American corporations to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation.”

Still, the company acknowledges that “much work” remains, adding that it’s “committed to standing behind the LGBTQ+ community.” AT&T has signed a statement opposing anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation. In the company’s words: “AT&T’s support of the LGBTQ+ community is, in every way, year-round.”

This month, AT&T’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group – The League – is urging others to join them in the “fight to make LGBTQ rights equal nationwide.” 

“Pride is a joyful celebration of all of the beautiful identities of our LGBTQ+ community,” The League wrote. “But this is also a moment of crisis for our country and our community. Lives are literally on the line. Too many people — trans people, Black and Brown people, people living with HIV & AIDS, people being denied basic care — are facing unprecedented attacks.”

Nevertheless, AT&T has donated at least $1,269,650 to anti-LGBTQ state and federal politicians since November 2022, according to a review of campaign finance reports. This includes at least $581,500 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 97 members of Congress who received a zero rating from the HRC. 

AT&T also donated $250,000 to the RGA, $250,000 to the RSLC, $125,000 to the RAGA, and $63,050 to 74 anti-LGBTQ state lawmakers in Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio, and Tennessee. 

These donations include a $10,000 check from AT&T’s PAC to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R), who this year signed a bill that, among other things, prohibits individuals at state universities from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identities. The law, which takes effect October 1, also bans diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public institutions. Under the new rules, state agencies will have the ability to “discipline or terminate the employment of any employee or contractor who knowingly violates this act.” 

Ivey had previously signed a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, making Alabama “the first state to criminalize the use of puberty blockers and hormones to treat transgender people under age 19.” In 2022, she also signed legislation restricting trans bathroom access at public schools and prohibiting discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-5 classrooms. 

“I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl,” Ivey said at the time.

AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.

Comcast has donated at least $1,224,000 to anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022

“Pride is universal,” Comcast declared this month. The cable company says it has been “committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community” and “their unwavering resilience and pride” since as early as 1986. Like AT&T, Comcast emphasizes that its support and celebration of LGBTQ+ communities is “year-round.” The company also claims to be “a longstanding partner of the Human Rights Campaign,” having “proudly signed on to the HRC’s Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ+ State Legislation.”

This month, Comcast released “new interviews spotlighting LGBTQ+ community champions” as part of its Pride programming. Interview guests included employees at the Trevor Project and The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.

Another interview was with a senior director at GLAAD, the world’s largest queer media advocacy group. On June 3, GLAAD’s CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called on “corporate leaders” to “lead and respond to hate with undeterred support for the LGBTQ community.” A 2024 Fact Sheet published by GLAAD cites 2021, 2022, and 2023 as “record-setting years for anti-LGBTQ legislation.” 

Yet, Comcast has donated at least $413,000 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 73 members of Congress who received a zero rating from HRC since November 2022. Comcast has also donated $255,000 to the RGA, $292,500 to the RSLC, and $237,500 to the RAGA – all three of which back anti-LGBTQ+ politicians across the country. 

On the state level, Comcast gave $26,000 to 15 anti-LGBTQ lawmakers in Louisiana and Tennessee. About three-fourths of these donations – $19,000 – went to nine anti-LGBTQ+ legislators in Tennessee who co-sponsored legislation that criminalizes helping trans youth receive gender-affirming care out-of-state without their parents’ consent. Under the state’s kidnapping statute, it is already a felony to transport a minor out of state without parental permission. 

Comcast also backed Tennessee State Senator John Stevens (R), who is behind a new law that “allows the Department of Children’s Services to place foster transgender youth with legal guardians who do not accept or affirm their gender identity.” 

Comcast did not respond to a request for comment. 

Walmart has donated at least $965,000 to anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022

Walmart is ringing in Pride Month with LGBTQ-themed merchandise. The collection, “Pride Always,” features a range of products: rainbow-colored attire, canvas bags that read “totes gay,” pronoun pins, and more. In May, the company published a post promoting the collection with the caption: “Not just a slogan. #PrideAlways is a reminder to lead with love.​”

On its website, the retail titan highlights that it’s “[o]ne of 15 companies to earn top scores on three of Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality measures.” Walmart’s “Careers” page, meanwhile, features a video of store associates participating in the San Francisco Pride Parade. At the end of the video, a message flashes on the screen that says “Pride in our customers, our associates, and our communities. Always.”

Since November 2022, however, Walmart has donated at least $965,000 to anti-LGBTQ state and federal lawmakers. This amount includes $280,500 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 79 members of Congress who received a zero rating from HRC. Walmart also donated $535,000 to the RGA, $135,000 to the RSLC, and $14,500 to state legislators in Louisiana, Ohio, and Tennessee behind anti-LGBTQ legislation.

In Ohio, Walmart’s contributions bankrolled the campaigns of eight lawmakers who successfully pushed a law this year that bans gender-affirming care for trans youth. The law, which was scheduled to go into effect in April, is currently enjoined by the courts. 

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment. 

UnitedHealth has donated at least $1,028,750 to anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022

“[W]e proudly celebrate and embrace diversity and an inclusive culture,” UnitedHealth Group said this month. 

The health insurer claimed its “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just a one-month endeavor; it’s part of every conversation and interaction in our workplace.” UnitedHealth Group also said that it was “honored” to have earned the distinction of being a “Leader in LGBTQ+ Workplace Inclusion” by HRC.

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group advised employers to “create a culture that supports the LGBTQ+ community.” Providing comprehensive health benefits to LGBTQ+ employees, UnitedHealthcare argued, “is an important step employers can take to demonstrate their commitment to this population.”

But an analysis of campaign finance reports from November 2022 to the present day shows that UnitedHealth Group has donated at least $188,000 to 35 federal lawmakers who received a zero rating from HRC, $650,000 to the RGA, and $150,000 to the RSLC. UnitedHealth Group has also donated $40,750 to lawmakers in Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio, and Tennessee who have championed anti-LGBTQ laws. 

In Idaho, UnitedHealth Group backed the co-sponsors of H. 668, a bill that bans the use of public funds for gender-affirming care. Signed into law in March, the measure impacts nonbinary and trans residents who receive coverage through Medicaid or state insurance policies. The Idaho Capitol Sun reports that nearly 300,000 Idahoans are on Medicaid, and about 62,000 state employees – not including family members – are on state insurance plans. 

Advocates have called the law discriminatory, with many pointing out that trans people are more likely to live in poverty. A 2023 survey by KFF found that “[a] larger share of trans adults have incomes below $50,000 per year than non-trans adults.” Trans people are also more likely to be uninsured than non-trans adults. 

UnitedHealth Group did not respond to a request for comment. 

CVS has donated at least $1,079,485 to anti-LGBTQ politicians since 2022

This month, CVS customers can shop from a curated selection of “LGBTQ+ owned or founded brands.” For years, the company has received a perfect score from the HRC. CVS was also a signatory of the HRC’s Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation, and said that its decision to sign “builds on our history of support for the LGBTQ community.”

In May, the company announced that it became an “inaugural member” of the Trevor Project’s new Corporate Ally Network. “Joining the Corporate Ally Network and continuing to work with The Trevor Project to provide life-saving support for LGBTQ+ young people is integral to our efforts to reduce suicide among our Aetna members,” CVS’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cathy Moffitt said. “Through our collective efforts, we can build a brighter, more inclusive future for all.” 

CVS, however, has donated $127,000 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 23 members of Congress that have received a zero rating from HRC since November 2022. The company has also donated $550,000 to the RGA, $125,325 to the RAGA, $260,000 to the RSLC, and $17,250 to state politicians in Louisiana, Ohio, and Tennessee who helped enact anti-LGBTQ laws in 2024. 

CVS did not respond to a request for comment. 

Other major corporations supporting anti-LGBTQ politicians

Microsoft sent the following statement in response to Popular Information’s request for comment: “We recognize that to make progress on the issues that matter to our customers and to our business, we must engage with candidates who hold a range of views. Given the breadth of our policy agenda, it’s unlikely we’ll agree with any candidate on every issue, but we’ve learned that engagement—even when individuals hold different positions—is an essential part of achieving progress.”

The other companies did not respond to a request for comment. 

 

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The Old Evil Chris Hedges

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Which Genocide Are You On? – by Mr. Fish

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RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestine: It comes back in a rush, the stench of raw sewage, the groan of the diesel, sloth-like Israeli armored personnel carriers, the vans filled with broods of children, driven by chalky faced colonists, certainly not from here, probably from Brooklyn or somewhere in Russia or maybe Britain. Little has changed. The checkpoints with their blue and white Israeli flags dot the roads and intersections. The red-tiled roofs of the colonist settlements — illegal under international law — dominate hillsides above Palestinian villages and towns. They have grown in number and expanded in size. But they remain protected by blast barriers, concertina wire and watchtowers surrounded by the obscenity of lawns and gardens. The colonists have access to bountiful sources of water in this arid landscape that the Palestinians are denied

The winding 26-foot high concrete wall that runs the 440 mile length of occupied Palestine, with its graffiti calling for liberation, murals with the Al-Aqsa mosque, faces of martyrs and the grinning and bearded mug of Yasser Arafat — whose concessions to Israel in the Oslo agreement made him, in the words of Edward Said, “the Pétain of the Palestinians” — give the West Bank the feel of an open air prison. The wall lacerates the landscape. It twists and turns like some huge, fossilized antediluvian snake severing Palestinians from their families, slicing Palestinian villages in half, cutting communities off from their orchards, olive trees and fields, dipping and rising out of wadis, trapping Palestinians in the Jewish state’s updated version of a Bantustan.

It has been over two decades since I reported from the West Bank. Time collapses. The smells, sensations, emotions and images, the lilting cadence of Arabic and the miasma of sudden and violent death that lurks in the air, evokes the old evil. It is as if I never left.  

I am in a battered black Mercedes driven by a friend in his thirties who I will not name to protect him. He worked construction in Israel but lost his job — like nearly all Palestinians employed in Israel — on Oct. 7. He has four children. He is struggling. His savings have dwindled. It is getting hard to buy food, pay for electricity, water and petrol. He feels under siege. He is under siege. He has little use for the quisling Palestinian Authority. He dislikes Hamas. He has Jewish friends. He speaks Hebrew. The siege is grinding him, and everyone around him, down.

“A few more months like this and we’re finished,” he says puffing nervously on a cigarette. “People are desperate. More and more are going hungry.”

We are driving the winding road that hugs the barren sand and scrub hillsides snaking up from Jericho, rising from the salt-rich Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the earth, to Ramallah. I will meet my friend, the novelist Atef Abu Saif, who was in Gaza on Oct. 7 with his 15-year-old son, Yasser. They were visiting family when Israel began its scorched earth campaign. He spent 85 days enduring and writing daily about the nightmare of the genocide. His collection of haunting diary entries have been published in his book “Don’t Look Left.” He escaped the carnage though the border with Egypt at Rafah, traveled to Jordan and returned home to Ramallah. But the scars of the genocide remain. Yasser rarely leaves his room. He does not engage with his friends. Fear, trauma and hatred are the primary commodities imparted by the colonizers to the colonized.

“I still live in Gaza,” Atef tells me later. “I am not out. Yasser still hears bombing. He still sees corpses. He does not eat meat. Red meat reminds him of the flesh he picked up when he joined the rescue parties during the massacre in Jabalia, and the flesh of his cousins. I sleep on a mattress on the floor as I did in Gaza when we lived in a tent. I lie awake. I think of those we left behind waiting for sudden death.”

We turn a corner on a hillside. Cars and trucks are veering spasmodically to the right and left. Several in front of us are in reverse. Ahead is an Israeli checkpoint with thick boxy blocks of dun colored concrete. Soldiers are stopping vehicles and checking papers. Palestinians can wait hours to get past. They can be hauled from their vehicles and detained. Anything is possible at an Israeli checkpoint, often erected with no advance warning. Most of it is not good.

We back up. We descend a narrow, dusty road that veers off from the main highway. We travel on bumpy, uneven tracks through impoverished villages.

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It was like this for Blacks in the segregated south and Indigenous Americans. It was like this for Algerians under the French. It was like this in India, Ireland and Kenya under the British. The death mask — too often of European extraction — of colonialism does not change. Nor does the God-like authority of colonists who look at the colonized as vermin, who take a perverse delight in their humiliation and suffering and who kill them with impunity. 

The Israeli customs official asked me two questions when I crossed into occupied Palestine from Jordan on the King Hussein Bridge. 

“Do you hold a Palestinian passport?” 

“Are either of your parents Palestinian?” 

In short, are you contaminated?

This is how apartheid works.

The Palestinians want their land back. Then they will talk of peace. The Israelis want peace, but demand Palestinian land. And that, in three short sentences, is the intractable nature of this conflict.

I see Jerusalem in the distance. Or rather, I see the Jewish colony that lines the hills above Jerusalem. The villas, built in an arc on the hilltop, have windows intentionally narrowed into upright rectangles to double as gun slits.

We reach the outskirts of Ramallah. We are held up in the snarl of traffic in front of the sprawling Israeli military base that oversees the Qalandia checkpoint, the primary checkpoint between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is the scene of frequent demonstrations against the occupation that can end in gunfire.

I meet Atef. We walk to a kebab shop and sit at a small outdoor table. The scars of the latest incursion by the Israeli army are around the corner. At night, a few days ago, Israeli soldiers torched the shops that handle money transfers from abroad. They are charred ruins. Money from abroad will now be harder to get, which I suspect was the point.

Israel has dramatically tightened its stranglehold on the more than 2.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, who are surrounded by more than 700,000 Jewish colonists housed in some 150 strategically placed developments with their own shopping malls, schools and medical centers. These colonial developments along with special roads that can only be used by the colonists and the military, checkpoints, tracts of land that are off limits to Palestinians, closed military zones, Israeli-declared “nature preserves” and military outposts form concentric circles. They can instantly sever the flow of traffic to isolate Palestinians cities and towns into a series of ringed ghettos.

“Since Oct. 7 it is hard to travel anywhere in the West Bank,” Atef says. “There are checkpoints at the entrances of every city, town and village. Imagine you want to see your mother or your fiancée. You want to drive from Ramallah to Nablus. It can take seven hours because the main roads are blocked. You are forced to drive through back roads in the mountains.”

The trip should take 90 minutes.

Israeli soldiers and colonists have killed 528 Palestinian civilians, including 133 children, and injured more than 5,350 others in the West Bank, since Oct. 7, according to the UN human rights chief. Israel has also detained over 9,700 Palestinians — or should I say hostages? — including hundreds of children and pregnant women. Many have been severely tortured, including doctors tortured to death in Israeli dungeons and aid workers killed upon their release. Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for the execution of Palestinian prisoners to free up space for more. 

Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, was in the past spared the worst of Israeli violence. Since Oct. 7, this has changed. Raids and arrests take place almost daily in and around the city, sometimes accompanied by lethal gunfire and aerial bombardments. Israel has bulldozed or confiscated more than 990 Palestinian dwellings and homes in the West Bank since Oct. 7, at times forcing owners to demolish their own buildings or pay exorbitant fines.

Heavily armed Israeli colonists have carried out murderous rampages on villages east of Ramallah, including attacks following the murder of a 14-year-old colonist on April 12 near the village of al Mughayyir. The colonists, in retaliation, burned and destroyed Palestinian homes and vehicles across 11 villages, ripped up roads, killed one Palestinian and wounded more than two dozen others. 

Israel has ordered the largest West Bank land seizure in more than three decades, confiscating vast tracts of land northeast of Ramallah. The extreme rightwing Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in a Jewish colony and is in charge of colonial expansion, has promised to flood the West Bank with a million new colonists. 

Smotrich has vowed to obliterate the distinct areas in the West Bank created by the Oslo accords. Area A, which comprises 18 percent of the West Bank, is under exclusive Palestinian control. Area B, nearly 22 percent of the West Bank, is under Israeli military occupation, in collusion with the Palestinian Authority. Area C, over 60 percent of the West Bank, is under total Israeli occupation.

“Israel realizes that the world is blind, that no one will force it to end the genocide in Gaza, and no one will pay attention to the war in the West Bank,” Atef says. “The word war is not even used. This is called a normal Israeli military operation, as if what is happening to us is normal. There is no distinction now between the status of the occupied territories, classified as A, B and C. The settlers are confiscating more land. They are carrying out more attacks. They do not need the army. They have become a shadow army, supported and armed by Israel’s rightwing government. We have lived in a continuous war since 1948. This is simply the newest phase.” 

Jenin and its neighboring refugee camp are assaulted daily by Israeli armed units, undercover commando teams, snipers and bulldozers, which level entire neighborhoods. Drones equipped with machine guns and missiles, as well as warplanes and Apache attack helicopters, circle overhead and obliterate dwellings. Medics and doctors, as in Gaza, are assassinated. Usaid Kamal Jabarin, a 50-year-old surgeon, was killed on May 21 by an Israel sniper as he arrived for work at the Jenin Governmental Hospital. Hunger is endemic.

“The Israeli military carries out raids that kill Palestinians and then departs,” Atef says. “But it returns a few days later. It is not enough for the Israelis to steal our land. They seek to kill as many of the original inhabitants as possible. This is why it carries out constant operations. This is why there are constant armed clashes. But these clashes are provoked by Israel. They are the pretext used to continually attack us. We live under constant pressure. We face death daily.”

The dramatic escalation of violence in the West Bank is overshadowed by the genocide in Gaza. But it has become a second front. If Israel can empty Gaza, the West Bank will be next.

“Israel’s objective has not changed,” he says. “It seeks to shrink the Palestinian population, confiscate larger and larger tracts of Palestinian land and build more and more colonies. It seeks to Judaize Palestine and strip the Palestinians of all the means to sustain themselves. The ultimate goal is the annexation of the West Bank.”

“Even at the height of the peace process, when everyone was mesmerized by peace, Israel was turning this peace proposal into a nightmare,” he goes on. “Most Palestinians were opposed to the peace accords Arafat signed in 1993, but still they welcomed him when he returned. They did not kill him. They wanted to give peace a chance. In Israel, the prime minister who signed the Oslo accords was assassinated.”

 “A few years ago, someone daubed a strange slogan on the wall of the U.N. school east of Jabaliya,” Atef wrote from the hell of Gaza. “‘We progress backwards.’ It has a ring to it. Every new war drags us back to basics. It destroys our houses, our institutions, our mosques and our churches. It razes our gardens and parks. Every war takes years to recover from, and before we’ve recovered, a new war arrives. There are no warning sirens, no messages sent to our phones. War just arrives.”

The Jewish settler colonial project is protean. It changes its shape but not its essence. Its tactics vary. Its intensity comes in waves of severe repression and less repression. Its rhetoric about peace masks its intent. It grinds forward with its deadly, perverted, racist logic. And yet, the Palestinians endure, refusing to submit, resisting despite the overwhelming odds, grasping at tiny kernels of hope from bottomless wells of despair. There is a word for this. Heroic.

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The Old Evil Chris Hedges

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Which Genocide Are You On? – by Mr. Fish

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RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestine: It comes back in a rush, the stench of raw sewage, the groan of the diesel, sloth-like Israeli armored personnel carriers, the vans filled with broods of children, driven by chalky faced colonists, certainly not from here, probably from Brooklyn or somewhere in Russia or maybe Britain. Little has changed. The checkpoints with their blue and white Israeli flags dot the roads and intersections. The red-tiled roofs of the colonist settlements — illegal under international law — dominate hillsides above Palestinian villages and towns. They have grown in number and expanded in size. But they remain protected by blast barriers, concertina wire and watchtowers surrounded by the obscenity of lawns and gardens. The colonists have access to bountiful sources of water in this arid landscape that the Palestinians are denied

The winding 26-foot high concrete wall that runs the 440 mile length of occupied Palestine, with its graffiti calling for liberation, murals with the Al-Aqsa mosque, faces of martyrs and the grinning and bearded mug of Yasser Arafat — whose concessions to Israel in the Oslo agreement made him, in the words of Edward Said, “the Pétain of the Palestinians” — give the West Bank the feel of an open air prison. The wall lacerates the landscape. It twists and turns like some huge, fossilized antediluvian snake severing Palestinians from their families, slicing Palestinian villages in half, cutting communities off from their orchards, olive trees and fields, dipping and rising out of wadis, trapping Palestinians in the Jewish state’s updated version of a Bantustan.

It has been over two decades since I reported from the West Bank. Time collapses. The smells, sensations, emotions and images, the lilting cadence of Arabic and the miasma of sudden and violent death that lurks in the air, evokes the old evil. It is as if I never left.  

I am in a battered black Mercedes driven by a friend in his thirties who I will not name to protect him. He worked construction in Israel but lost his job — like nearly all Palestinians employed in Israel — on Oct. 7. He has four children. He is struggling. His savings have dwindled. It is getting hard to buy food, pay for electricity, water and petrol. He feels under siege. He is under siege. He has little use for the quisling Palestinian Authority. He dislikes Hamas. He has Jewish friends. He speaks Hebrew. The siege is grinding him, and everyone around him, down.

“A few more months like this and we’re finished,” he says puffing nervously on a cigarette. “People are desperate. More and more are going hungry.”

We are driving the winding road that hugs the barren sand and scrub hillsides snaking up from Jericho, rising from the salt-rich Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the earth, to Ramallah. I will meet my friend, the novelist Atef Abu Saif, who was in Gaza on Oct. 7 with his 15-year-old son, Yasser. They were visiting family when Israel began its scorched earth campaign. He spent 85 days enduring and writing daily about the nightmare of the genocide. His collection of haunting diary entries have been published in his book “Don’t Look Left.” He escaped the carnage though the border with Egypt at Rafah, traveled to Jordan and returned home to Ramallah. But the scars of the genocide remain. Yasser rarely leaves his room. He does not engage with his friends. Fear, trauma and hatred are the primary commodities imparted by the colonizers to the colonized.

“I still live in Gaza,” Atef tells me later. “I am not out. Yasser still hears bombing. He still sees corpses. He does not eat meat. Red meat reminds him of the flesh he picked up when he joined the rescue parties during the massacre in Jabalia, and the flesh of his cousins. I sleep on a mattress on the floor as I did in Gaza when we lived in a tent. I lie awake. I think of those we left behind waiting for sudden death.”

We turn a corner on a hillside. Cars and trucks are veering spasmodically to the right and left. Several in front of us are in reverse. Ahead is an Israeli checkpoint with thick boxy blocks of dun colored concrete. Soldiers are stopping vehicles and checking papers. Palestinians can wait hours to get past. They can be hauled from their vehicles and detained. Anything is possible at an Israeli checkpoint, often erected with no advance warning. Most of it is not good.

We back up. We descend a narrow, dusty road that veers off from the main highway. We travel on bumpy, uneven tracks through impoverished villages.

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It was like this for Blacks in the segregated south and Indigenous Americans. It was like this for Algerians under the French. It was like this in India, Ireland and Kenya under the British. The death mask — too often of European extraction — of colonialism does not change. Nor does the God-like authority of colonists who look at the colonized as vermin, who take a perverse delight in their humiliation and suffering and who kill them with impunity. 

The Israeli customs official asked me two questions when I crossed into occupied Palestine from Jordan on the King Hussein Bridge. 

“Do you hold a Palestinian passport?” 

“Are either of your parents Palestinian?” 

In short, are you contaminated?

This is how apartheid works.

The Palestinians want their land back. Then they will talk of peace. The Israelis want peace, but demand Palestinian land. And that, in three short sentences, is the intractable nature of this conflict.

I see Jerusalem in the distance. Or rather, I see the Jewish colony that lines the hills above Jerusalem. The villas, built in an arc on the hilltop, have windows intentionally narrowed into upright rectangles to double as gun slits.

We reach the outskirts of Ramallah. We are held up in the snarl of traffic in front of the sprawling Israeli military base that oversees the Qalandia checkpoint, the primary checkpoint between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is the scene of frequent demonstrations against the occupation that can end in gunfire.

I meet Atef. We walk to a kebab shop and sit at a small outdoor table. The scars of the latest incursion by the Israeli army are around the corner. At night, a few days ago, Israeli soldiers torched the shops that handle money transfers from abroad. They are charred ruins. Money from abroad will now be harder to get, which I suspect was the point.

Israel has dramatically tightened its stranglehold on the more than 2.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, who are surrounded by more than 700,000 Jewish colonists housed in some 150 strategically placed developments with their own shopping malls, schools and medical centers. These colonial developments along with special roads that can only be used by the colonists and the military, checkpoints, tracts of land that are off limits to Palestinians, closed military zones, Israeli-declared “nature preserves” and military outposts form concentric circles. They can instantly sever the flow of traffic to isolate Palestinians cities and towns into a series of ringed ghettos.

“Since Oct. 7 it is hard to travel anywhere in the West Bank,” Atef says. “There are checkpoints at the entrances of every city, town and village. Imagine you want to see your mother or your fiancée. You want to drive from Ramallah to Nablus. It can take seven hours because the main roads are blocked. You are forced to drive through back roads in the mountains.”

The trip should take 90 minutes.

Israeli soldiers and colonists have killed 528 Palestinian civilians, including 133 children, and injured more than 5,350 others in the West Bank, since Oct. 7, according to the UN human rights chief. Israel has also detained over 9,700 Palestinians — or should I say hostages? — including hundreds of children and pregnant women. Many have been severely tortured, including doctors tortured to death in Israeli dungeons and aid workers killed upon their release. Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for the execution of Palestinian prisoners to free up space for more. 

Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, was in the past spared the worst of Israeli violence. Since Oct. 7, this has changed. Raids and arrests take place almost daily in and around the city, sometimes accompanied by lethal gunfire and aerial bombardments. Israel has bulldozed or confiscated more than 990 Palestinian dwellings and homes in the West Bank since Oct. 7, at times forcing owners to demolish their own buildings or pay exorbitant fines.

Heavily armed Israeli colonists have carried out murderous rampages on villages east of Ramallah, including attacks following the murder of a 14-year-old colonist on April 12 near the village of al Mughayyir. The colonists, in retaliation, burned and destroyed Palestinian homes and vehicles across 11 villages, ripped up roads, killed one Palestinian and wounded more than two dozen others. 

Israel has ordered the largest West Bank land seizure in more than three decades, confiscating vast tracts of land northeast of Ramallah. The extreme rightwing Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in a Jewish colony and is in charge of colonial expansion, has promised to flood the West Bank with a million new colonists. 

Smotrich has vowed to obliterate the distinct areas in the West Bank created by the Oslo accords. Area A, which comprises 18 percent of the West Bank, is under exclusive Palestinian control. Area B, nearly 22 percent of the West Bank, is under Israeli military occupation, in collusion with the Palestinian Authority. Area C, over 60 percent of the West Bank, is under total Israeli occupation.

“Israel realizes that the world is blind, that no one will force it to end the genocide in Gaza, and no one will pay attention to the war in the West Bank,” Atef says. “The word war is not even used. This is called a normal Israeli military operation, as if what is happening to us is normal. There is no distinction now between the status of the occupied territories, classified as A, B and C. The settlers are confiscating more land. They are carrying out more attacks. They do not need the army. They have become a shadow army, supported and armed by Israel’s rightwing government. We have lived in a continuous war since 1948. This is simply the newest phase.” 

Jenin and its neighboring refugee camp are assaulted daily by Israeli armed units, undercover commando teams, snipers and bulldozers, which level entire neighborhoods. Drones equipped with machine guns and missiles, as well as warplanes and Apache attack helicopters, circle overhead and obliterate dwellings. Medics and doctors, as in Gaza, are assassinated. Usaid Kamal Jabarin, a 50-year-old surgeon, was killed on May 21 by an Israel sniper as he arrived for work at the Jenin Governmental Hospital. Hunger is endemic.

“The Israeli military carries out raids that kill Palestinians and then departs,” Atef says. “But it returns a few days later. It is not enough for the Israelis to steal our land. They seek to kill as many of the original inhabitants as possible. This is why it carries out constant operations. This is why there are constant armed clashes. But these clashes are provoked by Israel. They are the pretext used to continually attack us. We live under constant pressure. We face death daily.”

The dramatic escalation of violence in the West Bank is overshadowed by the genocide in Gaza. But it has become a second front. If Israel can empty Gaza, the West Bank will be next.

“Israel’s objective has not changed,” he says. “It seeks to shrink the Palestinian population, confiscate larger and larger tracts of Palestinian land and build more and more colonies. It seeks to Judaize Palestine and strip the Palestinians of all the means to sustain themselves. The ultimate goal is the annexation of the West Bank.”

“Even at the height of the peace process, when everyone was mesmerized by peace, Israel was turning this peace proposal into a nightmare,” he goes on. “Most Palestinians were opposed to the peace accords Arafat signed in 1993, but still they welcomed him when he returned. They did not kill him. They wanted to give peace a chance. In Israel, the prime minister who signed the Oslo accords was assassinated.”

 “A few years ago, someone daubed a strange slogan on the wall of the U.N. school east of Jabaliya,” Atef wrote from the hell of Gaza. “‘We progress backwards.’ It has a ring to it. Every new war drags us back to basics. It destroys our houses, our institutions, our mosques and our churches. It razes our gardens and parks. Every war takes years to recover from, and before we’ve recovered, a new war arrives. There are no warning sirens, no messages sent to our phones. War just arrives.”

The Jewish settler colonial project is protean. It changes its shape but not its essence. Its tactics vary. Its intensity comes in waves of severe repression and less repression. Its rhetoric about peace masks its intent. It grinds forward with its deadly, perverted, racist logic. And yet, the Palestinians endure, refusing to submit, resisting despite the overwhelming odds, grasping at tiny kernels of hope from bottomless wells of despair. There is a word for this. Heroic.

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TGIF: President Putin and Vice President Trump Edition Suzy Weiss

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Alex Soros and Huma Abedin arrive at the Booksellers Room of the White House on May 23, 2024. (Saul Loeb Getty Images)

Apparently, aunts don’t get parental leave in this country. Here I am, babysitting a two-year-old, blowing endless raspberries, sneaking illegal candy into tiny palms day and night, putting on the Moana soundtrack again and my thanks is. . . more deadlines? 

And for my other aunts out there, who, like me, always seem to show up after the diaper change and disappear before the bedtime meltdown, I see you. 

But here I am. And for my sister-in-law Nellie, and only for her, I’ll endure the wrath of the commenters.

Let’s get to it.

 → He’s answering every question: The leader of the free world had an important task on Thursday night. It would be a decisive moment for his presidency. According to Rachel Maddow, “the fate of the world” hung “in the balance.” What did Joe Biden have to do? Answer a few questions from the press without the help of a teleprompter in a manner that suggested he was of sound mind. The bar was set very, very low.  

Did he clear it? Well, at another event a few hours before his “big boy” press conference, he introduced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “President Putin.” That’s the geopolitical equivalent of calling the teacher “Mom.” And at the press conference itself he referred to Kamala Harris as “Vice President Trump.” 

In the end it was better than expected and worse than we deserve. But you know who thought Joe crushed it? His press guy. “To answer the question on everyone’s minds: No, Joe Biden does not have a doctorate in foreign affairs,” said Andrew Bates on X, answering a question on absolutely no one’s minds. “He’s just that fucking good.”  

When pressed on his health, Biden said his main issue is that after he broke his left foot, he didn’t wear the boot. Uh, relatable king check! A 20-year-old staffer clutched a microphone in front of each reporter’s face as they asked the president a bunch of variations of “So you’re really going to do this?” Biden says, after a few coughs and three seconds of silence: Yes. 

Best-in-Show-in-Chief: Apparently, most of the president’s movements, Cabinet meetings, public comments, and private comments—but like, only that stuff!—are being choreographed down to the minute. CNN reports that the president’s aides provide him with talking points and diagrams for where to walk and require advisers to submit questions ahead of meetings. He’s also not really having many Cabinet meetings—in fact, there hasn’t been a full Cabinet meeting since last October—and is seen less and less by staffers. 

Biden’s rare performances even come with stage direction, per Axios, which obtained pictures of an event prep document with two full pages dedicated to “Walk to podium” with pictures taken from the wings. Staffers claim this is part of their “advance work” and a sign of meticulous prep. I’m sure the latest OPEC data was right on the other side of the “Walk to podium” page. 

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reports that the “acting chief of staff” and presidential “gatekeeper” is none other than Hunter Biden. So if you see a new executive order next week detailing penalties for hookers who steal your crack, that’s just that enduring Biden legacy of serving the American middle class. A Dem who worked for Biden said the whole arrangement “is more of a family thing than a political thing.” And I get that. It’s basically how we run TGIF. Give the crackhead Kennedys their privacy. 

Just a routine checkup with the Parkinson’s guy: Last week it came out that Dr. Kevin Cannard, a neurologist and Parkinson’s expert, has visited the White House at least eight times since last summer and met with the president’s personal physician. Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden’s press secretary, said on Tuesday that the meeting had nothing to do with the president. I guess the two doctors who treat the president just chose a weird place to hang out? Then later that same day, she confirmed that indeed the meeting was about the president and that she got confused about the dates and misspoke. 

There was a discrepancy too on whether Biden was treated by a doctor after the debate for his “cold,” which is a new word for “probably Parkinson’s.” (Tired means dementia and jet-lagged means it’s malignant.) Last Wednesday Jean-Pierre said he wasn’t checked out by his doctor, but Biden said in a meeting with Democratic governors a few hours later that he was. Jean-Pierre then corrected things and said that the appointment after the debate was not a full work up, but a “check-in,” which apparently happens a couple of times a week. A couple of times per week! That seems like a lot of times per week to go to the doctor for a routine annual checkup. 


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