News Brief: 5 Ways US Media Helps Put a ‘Humanitarian’ Spin on Gaza Ethnic Cleansing

Citations Needed | December 13, 2023 | Transcript

Citations Needed
31 min readDec 14, 2023


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Thank you all for joining us today. Of course, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show through All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated as we are 100% listener funded. And, Adam, this is actually going to be our last official release of the year 2023, we are going to be taking a little break as we often do at the end of each calendar year. And then we will be back with more full-length episodes and more News Briefs and more livestreams and maybe a Beg-A-Thon or two in the new year. But let me also say to all our listeners, we cannot thank you all enough for your ongoing support of the show. We can try, which means saying thank you, again, for your ongoing support of the show, everyone who supports the show everyone who shares the show everyone who writes something on the Apple Podcasts or Twitter or passes an episode around to someone in their family or someone else that they think might be interested, we are infinitely grateful to you. This is how we have been able to keep the show going now for six-and-a-half years.

Adam: Yes, if you can, please subscribe to us on Patreon to be very grateful. And we definitely have been very appreciative of your support in 2023. We look forward to a new and exciting second half of our seventh season when we get back. In the meantime, we’re gonna finish off the season somewhat unusually. Usually we do something that’s a little lighter to go into the holiday season. But this year, sort of–

Nima: Things aren’t so light.

Adam: It didn’t seem right, given what’s going on in Gaza and the sort of urgency around that issue. So we are going to do another News Brief on this topic because we do think it’s something that is a constant stream of bullshit. And since bullshit is the thing we are charged with dissecting on the show, this is what we’re going to be doing.

Nima: Yes. And what better topic, Adam, to talk about this holiday season, when we keep hearing about humanitarianism, right, about aid, about help, about support, this idea of the humanitarian spin that has been given to the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is perpetrating against Palestinians, primarily in Gaza, though not exclusively, Israeli violence in the West Bank has also really ramped up in the past two months. And what we are seeing so often, not only in political posturing, but also throughout our media, Adam, is this idea that what we are seeing from Israel, and the international community’s response, is really about being humanitarian.

Adam: Yeah, so something happens when people see horrific images and news items come across their feet, I think we kind of reach for language that sounds sanitized. And obviously that’s a key component of what we talk about on the show. And one thing we’ve noticed is that as Israel carries out mass killings and collective punishment in Gaza, which I think is pretty much undisputed at this point, that’s kind of, that’s the UN consensus. That’s the consensus of every aid organization, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch. It’s not our opinion, it is a sort of universal opinion for anyone who is not supporting the war financially or with arms or with intelligence, that what is going on is a form of collective punishment, very possibly ethnic cleansing, I argued, in my piece in The Nation last week, that that’s pretty textbook evidence of ethnic cleansing, if not forcible population transfers, which is one definition of ethnic cleansing. We know that northern Gaza has had a mass exodus of 1.1 million. And now, as we’ll discuss in this News Brief, they are trying to put 2.2, 2.3 million Palestinians in a series of tents that is the size of LAX airport, or Heathrow Airport, depending on how you defined the area that they’ve designated. So not very big, obviously.

Nima: As long as you use the metrics of what size airport you’re looking at.

Adam: That’s usually a bad sign. But what we’ve noticed is that many of the things that are objectively horrific are being spun as humanitarian or a way of preventing or protecting civilians. And this is something that has existed in wars since the sort of modern age, kind of Vietnam and after, but it’s been more acute in this one, because they’re sort of just being asserted, and everyone’s kind of moving on. So we’re going to do the five ways we feel like the horrific mass killing, siege and bombing of Gaza is being framed using humanitarian language when it doesn’t really work.

Nima: And of course what we are talking about here, Adam, is slaughter on a mass scale. Even conservative estimates are saying something like 18,000 people in Gaza have been killed. There are reports from human-rights monitoring groups that say between 24 and 25,000 children in Gaza have now lost one or both parents. Approximately 640,000 people have had their homes destroyed or damaged. I’m sure that’s a severe undercount. This is truly about war crimes and crimes against humanity. So when we are seeing that kind of devastation, that kind of violence visited on people, spinning that in ways that then use this language of humanitarianism, about how the very countries that are supporting this slaughter can then, you know, turn around and help people stay safe, really winds up being incredibly cynical. So we do have a top five ways that the media does this. So Adam, kick us off with number one.

Adam: Yeah, so number one is this idea of framing the mass expulsion of Palestinians, from northern Gaza to southern Gaza, and from southern Gaza, potentially to Egypt or other Arab countries, quote, unquote, “other Arab countries,” or even North America or Europe, as being a humanitarian corridor or humanitarian resettlement. Humanitarian corridors, especially from southern Gaza into Egypt for medical reasons and for other urgent humanitarian needs are something that Palestinian groups have asked for, but they’ve been extremely clear that they will not agree to that unless there is a very clear enforceable mechanism for people to return, because the last time there was a “humanitarian corridor,” quote, unquote, 1948, during the Nakba, they left and never came back. And the US and Israel so far have made vague claims that they have no intention of expelling people to Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer. (Shahar Azran)

But we know that Netanyahu is currently shopping a plan around using his aide Ron Dermer on Capitol Hill to resettle, this was reported in Israeli media, The Intercept did one blurb on it, but no American media has thus far since I’m speaking today, on Tuesday, December 12, has reported on this, but there’s a apparently an actual plan being written by an Israeli think tank being shopped around Congress. It’s found a passionate defender in Joe Wilson, to quote-unquote “humanitarianly resettle the Palestinians outside of Gaza.” And this is an English aggregation from an Israeli newspaper, Israel today, they wrote, quote, “The neighboring borders have been closed for too long.” This is what the proposal says. It would go on to say, “It is now clear that in order to free the Gazan population from the tyrannical oppression of Hamas, and to allow them to live free of war and bloodshed, Israel must encourage the international community to find the correct moral and humane avenues for the relocation of the Gazan population.” So that is literally textbook ethnic cleansing, which is to say you’re cleansing Palestine of Palestinians. And you’re framing it in humanitarian terms. And this is something the media’s done quite a bit with this term humanitarian corridor. Again, there are contexts in which aid groups are asking for it in good faith, but very, very, very quickly, humanitarian corridor can become effectively a trail of tears to expel Palestinians from Palestine. And this is something that many Palestinian groups have raised alarm bells about. But largely, this framing of pushing people from south Gaza into the Sinai has been framed in terms of the humanitarian corridor. And this, of course, is something that Israel pushes a lot, this idea that they had a humanitarian corridor from northern Gaza to southern Gaza, when it’s just another forcible population transfer. And of course, the corridor itself has been routinely bombed, both in shelling and airstrikes.

Nima: Yeah, this plan that’s being shopped around, which is an Israeli plan, let’s be clear, and you can also tell that it’s an Israeli plan, because they say the Gazan population, right, they’re not saying Palestinians, right, they never use the term Palestine. It’s kind of a giveaway. But the plan also does not expect Egypt alone, one of the recipients of tons of American aid, Egypt, but no, the US should also call upon other countries that it gives a lot of aid to to help shoulder the quote-unquote “burden” of resettling these refugees.

Adam: To be clear, the leverage that Netanyahu and Dermer are asking Congress and the president to use is foreign aid to other countries. So they would, they would both because a lot of these countries get 10s of millions of dollars, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. I think the examples they use were Yemen, Iraq, and they would use that aid and or IMF loan defaults to effectively bribed them into taking Palestinians. Of course, this is not popular among those countries, for obvious reasons. But it’s not through want of trying, because sometimes you’ll bring up this plan and other rhetoric, like the Minister of Intelligence, who made a similar proposal in Jerusalem Post, and other kinds of genocidal rhetoric. I’m gonna say, Oh, well, Egypt won’t allow it. Well, yeah, but that’s not the reason why it’s bad. It shows intent. And if we’re gonna send $14 billion to someone who has intent to commit genocide, whether or not it’s not feasible, it’s sort of a secondary import. Right? It’s like that Mitchell and Webb sketch where he’s like, Have you run the numbers? There at some like welfare bureau? Does it have you run the numbers to see what happens when we kill all the poor without help the economy and the guy’s like, I’m not running those numbers. And he’s like, why not just try it? And it’s like, whether or not it works is irrelevant, like whether or not it actually, you know, Egypt agrees to it, or eventually collapses under pressure is sort of irrelevant to the fact that we are sending $14 billion, just someone who is very clear, genocidal intent. This is, by the way, a report. It was a pro-Netanyahu rag that initially reported it, it was vaguely sourced because their media is very heavily censored, but it’s definitely clearly a trial balloon. And this is not a report that anyone that neither not Netanyahu nor Ron Dermer or Joe Wilson’s office and so the representative from South Carolina, who supposedly a big advocate for Word. This is not a proposal that any of them have denied exists.

Nima: Exactly. They haven’t disavowed this. They’re seeing if this can actually gain traction. And of course, you can tell how they’re trying to sell this. It’s not only through kind of foreign aid, bribes or or leverage, but also this spin of, you know, if the people in Gaza are going to, as you quoted earlier, Adam, live free of war and bloodshed, then they must be moved somewhere else, right. The being free of war and bloodshed does not include Israel, stopping the bombs falling on them visiting war and creating bloodshed. It is, of course, you know, deemed to be all Hamas fault and therefore, the leverage must be made to these other countries. The report says quote, Iraq and Yemen receive an approximate $1 billion in US foreign aid, and Turkey receives more than $150 million. Each of these countries receive enough foreign aid and have a large enough population to be able to accept refugees adding up to less than 1% of their population, and, quote, of course, the multiple billions of dollars that Israel receives every year is not mentioned here.

Adam: Number two on our humanitarian spin of horrific sub parts and components of ethnic cleansing, is the idea of humanitarian safe zone or safe zones is becoming increasingly popular in Israeli media. Many outlets such as CNN and the Wall Street Journal, repeat this term, your times at least those so called Safe Zones, they seem a little bit more skeptical, but it is used commonly in sort of centrist or center right leaning media Fox News is big fan of it. We’re gonna listen to one segment where retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, good retired Air Force Colonel name.

Nima: Bloodly McBoneater.

Adam: Colonel Bloodlover. So we’re gonna listen to this segment right here where the colonel tries to explain the safe zones in the most dystopian way possible and does so somewhat uncritically, albeit very confusingly, because he doesn’t really quite understand it himself. But he’s definitely trying to sell it. So let’s listen to that right now.

[Begin Clip]

Poppy Harlow: Okay, so perhaps going in, let’s see how this plays out. And then let’s pull up this other map, which is the evacuation zone map for southern Gaza, where I was just talking to the IDF representative about that. Where are people supposed to go, Colonel, to be safe? And why wouldn’t Hamas operatives just go with them to those safe zones?

Cedric Leighton: Well, I think that’s the biggest danger, Poppy, right here. So when you look at this map, I, and it’s very detailed, they have very small zones, either, usually three- or four-digit numbers. And so what they will dom if I understood Colonel Lerner, correctly, what they’re going to do is they’re going to tell people to evacuate, like this zone here is 2231. So if they evacuate this zone, then they can move into other zones, but they will probably be using a series of zones, that will be the area in which they’re going to be striking. So if that’s the case, they are going to basically force people to move, let’s say they’re striking in this area, they will move out of all of these different zones, and there are probably about 20 different zones here. And when they come out here, where are they supposed to go? Then theoretically, everything that is not mentioned is safe, so they could potentially go here, or here or here. But if they do that, then they have to, of course, be cognizant that this can change. And if there’s a lack of internet connectivity, then you’ve got a problem.

Poppy Harlow: Yeah.

[End Clip]

Adam: And the safe zone rhetoric is something that’s being pushed by the Israeli government. Obviously, they sort of need to give the impression that they’re only killing civilians reluctantly, even though we know they’re targeting civilians. They’ve targeted, they’ve killed 87 journalists, which is a lot of, just more than died in World War II, or of the Vietnam War. We’re gonna listen to one segment here with, this is the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotovely. And she is on Sky News explaining that, don’t worry, they can all go to Mawasi, which is the location we mentioned earlier, that is less than the size of LAX airport, where she claims that they even though by the way, they have since bombed it, because they claimed Hamas was there. So there goes your safe zone. So, but this is what Sky News found. And Sky News is usually fairly conservative, but they definitely seem skeptical on this one.

Nima: Exactly. So first, you’ll hear from Hotovely and then you will hear the Sky News commentary reacting to that. Take a listen.

[Begin Clip]

Tzipi Hotovely: There is a river, there is a place in Gaza called the Mawasi. The Mawasi is the place where they all can have the shelters. Together with international organizations we’ve created shelters for the Palestinians. So you cannot say Israel is not facilitating that, together with humanitarian–

Sky News voiceover: This is where she’s talking about, a desolate wasteland of sand dunes next to the Mediterranean Sea. There is no aid in Al-Mawasi. There are no aid agency tents. There are no food kitchens. There is no help here.

[End Clip]

Adam: Your safe zone is a vague place in the desert that they may or may not just bomb anyway, the point being is that of course every Palestinian who’s spoken to any journalist in the Gaza would say there is no safe zone. There’s no such thing as a safe zone. It’s total bullshit. If anything, it’s its own form of terrorism because you drop a bunch of leaflets, tell people to go there, they go there, and then they get bombed there. This led to a very Orwellian headline in Reuters that was sort of bordering on an onion parody. This is from December 4 of 2023, quote, “Israel orders Gazans to flee, bombs where it sends them.” You don’t typically get, I mean that is literally an Onion headline. But that is true, that was Reuters, the most, like, sober, down-the-middle, normie, right, polite Canadian news outlet gives us headlines like “Israel orders Gazans to flee, bombs where it sends them” and then you watch the report, that’s literally what happens they just send them a place, they bomb.

Nima: That’s why it was, you know, ‘Clear out of northern Gaza go to Khan Younis,’ which is kind of in central Gaza. And then people went to Khan Younis and so they started bombing Khan Younis. And now they’re saying go to Al-Mawasi and they bomb Al-Mawasi, and then they’ll say go to Rafah, and then they bomb Rafah. And then that’s when the Netanyahu plan kicks into action, and Egypt opens its borders and Palestine is permanently cleansed of Palestinians to create, whether it’s a buffer zone or vacation resorts on the Mediterranean for Israeli tourists. Who knows? I don’t know. But what keeps happening, whether it is a humanitarian corridor leading to a humanitarian safe zone, is that actually none of these are humanitarian, and they are all in service of more ethnic cleansing and more bombing.

Adam: Number three is “humanitarian pause,” which was a very popular alternative presented by the quote-unquote “serious” people, when they were calling for a ceasefire said ‘No, no, we need humanitarian pause,’ because it sort of sounded better. It was early on in the war immediately calls for a ceasefire, because initially, people forget Tony Blinken issued a statement calling for a ceasefire and immediately deleted the tweet. Because that’s kind of pro forma, because he clearly got a call from Israel that says, oh, no, no, no, we’re going for broke on this one. And sort of adult version of that promoted by everybody from the New York Times, to Bernard Sanders, to the president to other kind of think tanks aligned with the President was No, no ceasefire, is you can negotiate with Hamas, you know, they’re, there’s a popular line because they want to destroy Israel. Never mind the fact that the party that runs Israel has been very clear they want to destroy Palestine, and believes in Israel from the river to the sea.

But setting that aside, it became the kind of serious way you did it, and then in and of itself, right, humanitarian pause is sort of not bad, right? It’s sort of better than bombing. But it became the horizon and the main ask, because of exactly what happened, which is what we feared was going to happen, which is what happened, which is that it was used as a way of getting, trying to slow down activist pressure to kind of get people off their back, to give Biden some sort of superficial humanitarian win to sort of placate the liberal base. Israel takes a cigarette break, and then goes back to bombing six days later. Now they exchanged hostages, which is good, of course, Israel ended up arresting this exact same amount, roughly, of people in the West Bank, as they freed in the hostage exchanges, because they can sort of do that and you know, indefinitely, because they have military occupation over two and a half million people in the West Bank, to say nothing of how many people they killed in Gaza and the West Bank. And so this humanitarian pause ended up becoming a propaganda win for Israel. And because they had to do something, they couldn’t just let all the hostages die, they needed kind of a token, some sort of freedom, because they freed almost 100 hostages, and Palestinian hostages and Israeli prisons were also freed. Most of them, many of them were minors, or women. And then they went right back to bombing. And in fact, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, which is a European Human Rights Organization, they found that in the first week, after the quote-unquote “pause” ended, that the death rate was actually 40% higher than previous to the pause. So the death rate, the amount of people died per day, increased 40% increased from roughly I think, about 350, to about 500.

Nima: We’re supposed to just thank our lucky stars, Adam, that there was a pause at all.

Adam: Yeah, so Israel appears to have been just simply making up for the time they lost during the pause, which again, if somebody said, ‘I support a ceasefire, but in the meantime, I’ll take a pause,’ that would have been one thing, but people like Biden, Sanders, CIP, some of these other organizations that were pushing a pause, they weren’t saying that. They were saying, we need a humanitarian pause, because what they didn’t want to say is ‘Oh, actually, I support Israel’s war of regime change,’ which is really just a war to destroy Gaza.

Nima: Because when you support a pause, you then unpause right. It’s not a stop. I mean, like, there’s a reason why it’s that word. Like, it’s not arbitrary.

Adam: Correct. There’s a reason why electeds were being threatened by J Street and AIPAC if they said ceasefire, and there’s a reason why they were being promoted, boosted and patted on the back when they said humanitarian pause, because everybody knew exactly what it meant, which is Israel takes a break for a little bit, and then uses it to prepare for invading South Gaza. And this was sort of framed as a humanitarian gesture. And this is how you kind of market it because it’s not enough to you know, what you don’t want to say is, ‘Oh, we’re gonna send in some flour and water then go back to bombing.’ that sounds bad. So you keep it nebulous, you say humanitarian pause. Now, the hope was that that pause would sort of last indefinitely. But Israel is very clear from the beginning that that was not the case, that they had committed to overthrowing Hamas or whatever. Of course, they’re not, that’s not really their goal. Their goal is just to destroy Gaza and make it uninhabitable, as they’ve already done for one half of Gaza. According to The Economist, northern Gaza will not be habitable for years. And then that sort of frames it as this humanitarian gesture. And then of course, they can then say, ‘Oh, well, Hamas broke the ceasefire,’ which of course they were going to say even I think that 20 minutes prior to running out of time anyway, and in Israel, preparing for an invasion of the South anyway, and also shooting people and killing people in the West Bank anyway, this was kind of by design. Again, it’s good hostages are exchanged. It’s good that there was seven days without killing, but then Israel just made up for lost time anyway. And there was nothing particularly humanitarian about it.

Nima: Right. People still don’t have food, they still don’t have water, they still don’t have shelter. So what exactly was humanitarian?

Adam: I guess it sounded good. And I guess truce, or like, temporary pause sort of didn’t have that sort of faux-progressive appeal. So that’s why it was framed that way.

Nima: Israel’s reloading time. Anyway, on to number four. And, you know, I hate to pick favorites here between five disgusting tropes, Adam, but this might be my favorite, the notion that Israel’s actions in Gaza are liberatory, that kind of a rerun of some of the arguments made before the invasion of Iraq, that there is a bringing freedom to the oppressed aspect of destroying someone’s country, of murdering their family of potentially killing them in the name of liberation.

Adam: Yeah, so this is it took a while for this one to really come out, because it’s kind of the neoconservative playbook, which is any time you want to bomb a country, you say you’re actually freeing it from some kind of hostage situation. And there’s a sort of gradient, right, on the one end of the spectrum, you have legitimately loathed or hated governments. And then the US will come in and kind of exploit that discontent for their own cynical use. The other end of the spectrum, you sort of don’t really have that many divisions, that the country is kind of largely unified against an enemy. The example I use in my article, I wrote an article on this in The Real News, on December 12, entitled “Bombing Palestinians Is Good for Palestinians, Say America’s Elite Pundits,” where I sort of run down, although pundits have been making this argument. The example I started off with is the war in Iraq, because we actually look at immediately postwar polls and fall of 2003. Because not much polling of Iraqis is really available, but there was a poll done by Pew in fall of 2003, after the invasion, that roughly 70% of Iraqis opposed the invasion after the invasion. So it turns out, we were not greeted as liberators. But a slight majority of Kurdish Iraqis did support it, because Saddam Hussein had long tortured and committed war crimes against the Kurds in Iraq. So there was sort of a, there was some legitimate, like, constituency who supported that invasion. The majority of Iraqis did not, but there are some percentage, right, they’ll say, sort of 20, 30%, right. And this in Palestine is pretty much zero. There’s no one, there’s no Palestinians, at least none that I’ve heard or seen or could ever, like if they existed, they would have been found by now. But virtually no, or statistically insignificant number of Palestinians who would ever support an Israeli bombing of Gaza to like freedom from Hamas, because they know very well, that is not a quote-unquote, “hunt for Hamas.” It is a collective form of punishment against all Palestinians in Gaza. And of course, there are military occupying power of both the West Bank and, despite what they tell you, definitely Gaza.

Nima: Right. And it’s not even about playing that game of, Oh, well, if they don’t oppose it, then they support Hamas. Like, that’s not even, like, don’t even have to play that game here. Like, people don’t want their homes bombed and their children murdered and their grandparents murdered, and be starving, and have no water and have to constantly run for your life. That really that’s what it comes down to, right. That, this idea that, Oh, well, you know, I guess I’m being bombed out of existence for my own good. Thank you, Israel, for freeing us from this oppression.

Adam: Yeah, so that just doesn’t exist. And most conflicts, like you can find, you can find some version of that a lot of conflicts, right? You can find that in Yemen, Venezuela, where you can find a sort of group of people who will align with the US national security state because they hate, and then the government goes in and exploits that and gives them all bags of money and and then it gets a little bit dicey. That, like, literally doesn’t exist in Palestine. But that didn’t stop bleeding-heart humanitarians like Eli Lake who said in response to Jeremy Corbyn calling for a ceasefire, quote, “No permanent ceasefire until Hamas is permanently destroyed. If you cared about Palestinians, you would agree, but they are just props in your masochistic morality tale.” Unquote.

Nima: Yes, Eli Lake, famous carer about Palestinians.

Adam: Right. Tammy Duckworth when confronted by activists on October 27, demanding that she call for a ceasefire, she said, quote, “I am not willing to call for a ceasefire at this point, because that would not help the residents of Gaza.” Unquote. So clearly, this would be news, I think, to people in Gaza. But that, yeah, even though the universal call from all the Palestinian civil society in diaspora and organizations and aid groups and human rights groups uniformly is a call for a ceasefire, but no, no, no. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois knows better. This was also a line used by Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts who said after her sort of concern trolling about civilian deaths, said, quote, “Israel has a responsibility to take out Hamas. You cannot have peace with Hamas and power. Hamas isn’t good for Palestinians either.” Unquote. And so he is telling them that Israel needs to continue this war of extermination DBA, Hunt for Hamas, whatever that means anymore. And it’s also good for Palestinians. So it’s and it’s not just by the way, Nima, it’s not just the bombing and siege of Gaza that’s good for Palestinians and Palestinians, the actual ethnic cleansing, the literal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, is good for Palestinians. So John Bolton, very famous, genuinely psychotic neoconservative made this argument and a Hill op-ed, where he said, quote, “The real future of Gazans is to live somewhere integrated into functioning economies.” He would go on to say that in his mind, it is, quote, “a viable long-term solution that receives little attention.” This is forcing Palestinians out of Palestine, arguing that they need to be resettled elsewhere. Quote, “that is the only way to realize the promise of a decent life and stability for people who have been weaponized for far too long.” Then he would write in a December 2 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal demanding that Palestinians be quote-unquote “resettled,” which is to say removed from Palestine. He would write, quote, “The only long-term solution is to deny Hamas access to the concentrated hereditary refugee populations by resettling Gazans in places where they can enjoy normal life.” So John Bolton’s heart bleeds for the Palestinian people. He wants to ethnically cleanse them for their own sake.

Nima: For everyone’s good, right. I mean, the whole world’s good. I love this idea, Adam, of you force all the Palestinians in Gaza who you haven’t killed yet out of Gaza, and then what you’ll be left with is something called Hamas looking around for all those Palestinians that they were just like, you know, oppressing and whose lives they were, they were busy ruining and threatening, and they’ll be left there, Hamas will just be wandering around an empty Gaza Strip, ready to be brought to justice, bombed or paraded around naked by noble Israeli military, as if this is in any way a thing, right? That is not the reality of what is happening here. But this idea that Palestinians need to be un-Palestinized to then be safe and to live quote-unquote “normal lives” and quote-unquote, “integrated economies” is some of the sickest talking around genocide and ethnic cleansing that we’ve seen recently.

Adam: Yeah. And Jennifer Rubin, a dopey columnist for the Washington Post and huge Biden fan, sort of a Never Trumper turned tedious, sort of resident neoconservative at The Washington Post. She would write a column on November 28, entitled, quote, “Why backers of a Palestinian state should oppose an immediate ceasefire,” unquote, in which she details how a ceasefire would actually harm the Palestinian cause, quote, “as long as Hamas, a sworn enemy of the Palestinian Authority, held power, there would be no chance for a unified Palestinian state coexisting with Israel.” Unquote. See otherwise, they would have had a Palestinian state by now, but it’s that pesky Hamas that have gotten in the way.

Nima: Right.

Adam: I mean, come on. Again, she doesn’t cite any actual Palestinians. That ceasefire is actually not good for the Palestinian people. This is someone who got into trouble in 2011 for approvingly tweeting out an article saying that Palestinian children should be fed to sharks. This is someone who obviously supported the Iraq war, has been a hardened Zionist and anti-Arab racist for years and has gotten in trouble to that extent, several times for The Washington Post, and somehow managed to keep her job.

Nima: Right, but now she’s a backer of a Palestinian state, or at least she is giving generous advice to those who are, even if it’s not her, even if it’s not her.

Adam: Naturally. And they asked, and the Palestinians are sitting around Gaza as they’re, again as their roofs are caved in and as they don’t have access to water or medical facilities, which are also being raided, shot with snipers and sniper drones. And they said, I want to know what Jennifer Rubin thinks about what’s good for the Palestinian state, whatever the fuck that means anymore.

Nima: How do we get a Palestinian state? How do we get a state? Oh, it’s not by having a ceasefire. It’s by continuing to be murdered.

Adam: It’s by dying.

Nima: Got it.

Adam: And to be expelled into Egypt and the other quote-unquote “Arab countries,” which Israel views as being interchangeable with Palestinians who they believe are not real, but are in fact made up.

Nima: So to round out our top five horrendous humanitarian aid tropes regarding the Israeli attacks on Gaza, we have this one, the idea, Adam, that sending humanitarian aid is what we need to do while we are also supporting the very country and the very military that is creating the humanitarian crisis.

Adam: Yeah, this one’s the probably the most perverse because it requires some really aggressive and cynical cognitive dissidence on the part of so-called humanitarians like, frequent subject of criticism on the show Samantha Power, whose hypocrisy has been completely 100% exposed as she has been totally exposed as a phony, as she is the head of USAID. You know, while she was the ambassador to the UN under Obama, and she routinely defended Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia’s position on the Human Rights Council at the UN, and supported Saudi Arabia and defended Saudi Arabia’s bombing and destruction of Yemen, I thought that would pretty much exposed her but then she wrote the self-serving memoir, which we did a whole show on with with Jon Schwarz, where she kind of like said away ‘Trust me, I was changing things from the inside,’ whatever the fuck that means. But this, the last two months have completely exposed, this is the sort of Problem from Hell, this alleged genocide scholar, she’s been running past block and doing PR for this so-called humanitarian effort, she rushes to the Egyptian border and writes a tweet that says, quote,

In Egypt today I announced $21M in new money to address mounting humanitarian needs in Gaza, including for setting up a new NGO-run field hospital in Gaza.

But with the UN flash appeal for Gaza only a third funded, all countries must do more.

In which she implores other countries to help fund the humanitarian aid. This came out literally the same day the White House announced they were selling more 2,000 pound bombs to Israel, which are the things that are leveling entire apartment buildings, killing entire families. And of course, they later circumvented Congress and sold thousands of our tank artillery shells to Israel. They’re sending in more weapons, more spare parts for planes, all that stuff every day. And so they Samantha Power to give a bunch of smug press conferences about how they’re giving humanitarian aid to Gaza. This is a playbook we’ve talked about in the context of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia routinely announces these large donations to Yemen while they’re destroying and bombing Yemen.

Nima: Yeah, for instance, in May of 2015, just a few months after Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen, the Associated Press had this article, that was syndicated all across the country, headlined “Saudis proposed five-day truce in Yemen.” The subhead read “Ceasefire would allow influx of humanitarian aid if rebels also halt fighting.” And this was, of course, during still the Obama administration. And so in this article, you get a number of quotes from then US Secretary of State John Kerry, who uses the term, Adam, in this article, 2015, “humanitarian pause.” The article reads this, quote,

Kerry said the humanitarian pause wouldn’t start for several days, enough time for diplomatic efforts to persuade the rebels and their backers to accept the terms of the deal. He said eight organizations needed a time to coordinate a strategy for getting food, fuel and medicine into the country.

End quote. Also this idea of sending humanitarian aid as a way to kind of force a deal, right, this like, Oh, well, you know, it’s basically you’re just our hostages, because we can bomb you anytime you want. But we can kind of tease this humanitarian aid thing, even though we are exactly the people who are arming those who are killing you. If not, we’re the ones who are killing you directly. But don’t worry. We have humanitarian aid on the way, just do what we say.

And then a few years later, this is from early 2018 in the Los Angeles Times, we have this headline: “Saudis pledged $1.5 billion in aid to Yemen.” This is after they’ve been bombing for nearly three years. It says this, quote,

In a gesture inspiring both praise and scorn. Saudi Arabia announced Monday that it would donate $1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid to Yemen, where almost three years of war has devastated the country’s infrastructure, tanked the economy, and caused widespread hunger and disease.

End quote. Yes, disease, hunger and bloodshed caused by Saudi Arabia itself, but now they’re offering aid.

Adam: In November of 2017, I wrote a piece for FAIR entitled, quote, “Ignoring Washington’s Role in Yemen Carnage, 60 Minutes Paints US as Savior,” unquote. 60 Minutes did a profile of US aid work in Yemen. So the piece was a glowing profile on American David Beasley, who was the director of the UN’s World Food Programme, who was coordinating aid in Yemen. And he talked about how magnanimous the United States for donating all this aid to Yemen and how an American was leading the way to feed Yemen, which was on the brink of starvation and not once, not once did they mention the USA support of the Saudi bombing of Yemen. They mentioned Saudi Arabia briefly but did not mention the US was backing it. If you read this report, one would think the US was an aid organization that was kind of bumbling into Yemen to help them out that had no role in the conflict itself.

This is a trope. We saw again, of course with Afghanistan, and we saw that with Iraq, any time you want to destroy a country, kill a bunch of people and occupy it but you want to look like you sort of make your domestic audiences, especially liberal, support the war, you act like it’s a humanitarian aid project. And this has been difficult to do in Gaza because it is so cartoonishly one-sided and so cartoonishly violent, and not even sort of remotely close to resembling anything quote-unquote “targeted.” It is just a massive form of collective punishment. So for Samantha Power to sort of parachute in and come to the border with Egypt, and give some saccharine speech about how she’s there to help humanitarian aid and other countries need to pitch in, it’s pretty Jokerfying, I think for a lot of people, right? Because you would say, Well, you know, the easiest way for you to help the humanitarian cause in Gaza would be to stop giving Israel bombs and take munitions to shell hospitals and schools.

Nima: Yeah, maybe not provide the intelligence that is then allowing them to murder more people.

Adam: Right. But again, this is the double game that’s been played in conflicts for many years. Of course, in Vietnam, the way they originally brought in weapons to the anticommunist forces was through, was the humanitarian aid, it was called Operation Hard Rice, and they would sneak weapons in through aid trucks. Of course, we did this in Venezuela, when the Trump administration hired neoconservative previously discredited war criminal, Elliott Abrams, who was actually caught in the 1980s using aid to send weapons to Contras. And then in 2018 and 19, Elliott Abrams led a humanitarian corridor where they were going to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela, which was very obviously a transparent attempt to overthrow the Maduro government. In fact, that 2021 audit by USAID themselves found that leaders were using aid as a form of regime change. And the agency’s own leaders told officials to, quote “align decisions towards reinforcing the interim government’s credibility.” That is the interim government of Juan Guaido versus the Maduro government, who was in charge at the time. And they sort of admitted that they were using aid as a weapon of war, as a way of sort of trying to prop up regime change. So this weaponization of aid, both in terms of PR, and also to kind of shore up the sort of moral case of whatever regime change operation the US is doing, is a very classic mode of imperial meddling. And Gaza, this kind of, you know, they constantly talk about all this aid they’re giving. Tony Blinken is always sort of rushing to get in front of a camera to talk about aid. It’s deeply cynical, because it’s obviously bullshit. Because if you really cared, you would just stop bombing these people.

The Tienditas Bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela, blocking “aid” coming from the US in 2019. (Edinson Estupinan/AFP/Getty Images)

Nima: Yeah, exactly. Maybe just don’t bomb people. Like you don’t have to call it a pacification campaign like in Vietnam. Like, you know, when they had the civil operations and revolutionary development support or courts, it was all this kind of, you know, way of cynically using humanitarian aid and other such tactics to quell dissent, but really is just about PR because you’re meanwhile completely destroying an entire population and that is your main goal. You’re just somehow doing this PR gambit where you’re supposed to look like heroes in the meantime.

Adam: And everybody does this. From TASS news agency though, the Russian state news agency in April of 2022, quote, “Russia delivers nearly 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine,” unquote. So the Russian media constantly reports are they giving aid to Ukraine. Again, this is kind of, everybody does this. When you’re looking bad in the press and you want to look like you care. And it’s totally meaningless because it’s, it’s far more efficient to just not be displacing them, killing them and maiming them in the first place.

Nima: So that will do it for this five ways that US media puts a humanitarian spin on its ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza, from a humanitarian corridor to the safe zones to the pause to the liberatory effects of bombing people to death to send a humanitarian aid, Adam, we see these things all the time, we will continue to, sadly, as we continue to see so much horror and violence and pain going on. Still. And those who have the power to immediately stop this are not choosing to do that, clearly showing what they think should be happening there is happening there.

Adam: So that wraps up this News Brief. Just want to say thank you everyone for listening this year. Again, I’m sorry, we had to end on this note, we wanted to do something lighter, but we ended up not doing it because we thought this was more important.

Nima: We had to get all Citations Needed on this.

Adam: We did, we had to depress everyone, sorry, but this is important. Again, keep following, keep talking about it. It’s possible there may not be a lot more time left to talk about this. So we just wanted to try to do some more on it to the extent we could, so, sorry to leave on a bleak note.

Nima: Yes, indeed. And thank you all for listening. Thanks to all of our guests this past year, we had over 30 amazing guests on the show. This past calendar year, we’ve done a ton of News Briefs and live shows, we had plenty of full-length episodes, as we usually do, of course, and just cannot thank everyone who is listening and who has been listening to us for the past six-and-a-half years. We cannot thank you all enough for your ongoing support. And of course, certainly to our supporters on Patreon. We’re just so grateful to you for letting us do this for yet another year. We will be back in January of 2024 with more full-length episodes, more News Briefs, more live shows, live streams, etc. So stay tuned for that until then, of course you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and if you are not already a supporter of the show, we urge you to become one if you are able to. You can do that through All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated as we are 100% listener funded. But that will do it for this year 2023 of Citations Needed. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. A very special thanks again to Morgan McAslan for being our transcriber for almost all of the time that we have been doing this podcast for many, many, many years. Thank you again, Morgan. Of course, the music is by Grandaddy. Happy holidays.

Adam: Happy holidays. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas.

Nima: Happy New Year. We’ll catch you in 2024.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.