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The Coming Anarchy in Gaza

by moneylab

If you want to make a place truly unlivable, you don’t just bomb it and starve it. You also go after the human infrastructure — the people who can keep order, get things running after setbacks and nurture hope.

I don’t want to believe that Israel is systematically targeting the human infrastructure of Gaza, but the repeated attacks on aid workers who have reported their locations to the Israeli military make it impossible not to wonder what exactly Israel is doing. There’s a pattern here, and Israel owes the world a better explanation.

The deadly attack on the World Central Kitchen aid convoy, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called a tragic mistake, came after the March 8 death of Mousa Shawwa, the head of logistics for American Near East Refugee Aid, known as Anera, an aid group that has operated in Gaza for 56 years. Shawwa was killed in an airstrike just days after the Israeli military confirmed the coordinates of the organization’s warehouses and safe houses.

On Feb. 5, the Israeli military fired on a U.N. aid convoy trying to make a delivery, stopping it in its tracks, according to Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, even though its movements were coordinated with the Israeli military. Israel has accused the group, which operated as a de facto government, of sympathizing with Hamas, which the group denies.

The question of which institutions can keep Gaza from descending into chaos needs an immediate answer. Private aid groups like Anera appear to be the last thread keeping Gaza from falling apart; now Anera, World Central Kitchen and other groups are suspending their work.

Without food aid or any institution capable of keeping order, what will happen to two million Gazans? Once the human infrastructure of a place is gone, that place risks sinking into chaos.

One right-wing Israeli, Daniella Weiss, a settler leader, predicted that if Gazans got no humanitarian aid, other countries would take pity on them and allow them in as refugees, leaving Gaza for Israelis to resettle. That would be a crime against humanity, and I hope it’s not the playbook that Israel is using.

Kristen Cruzata

April 3, 2024, 12:36 p.m. ETApril 3, 2024

April 3, 2024

Opinion Chief of Staff

This Basketball Season, Root for the Women


Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

One chilly evening late last month, I visited my favorite bar in Bloomington, Ind., my hometown, and the conversation turned to March Madness. Hoosiers always love college basketball, but this year everyone wanted to talk about the women: Sara Scalia of Indiana University, Angel Reese of L.S.U. and, yes, Caitlin Clark of Iowa. In Indiana, as in much of the country, fans are showing up for women’s basketball, and — crucially — they’re buying tickets.

I saw it myself just a few days earlier. I was in the stands at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall as the Hoosiers beat Oklahoma and won their place in the Sweet Sixteen. As the players rushed the student section after the game, locals and students alike hung back to watch them revel. Though the architects of Title IX, Representative Patsy Mink and Senator Birch Bayh, are no longer around to see it, I can imagine this is exactly what they were hoping for when President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1972. But good policy takes time.

It’s thanks to Title IX that the entire country is now talking about Caitlin Clark, who deserves her obsessive following. Clark is a fantastic shooter, a disciplined player and a fierce competitor. She’s the all-time leading scorer in Division I history, men or women. And she’s not afraid to act like it. She’s very likely going to be the first pick at the W.N.B.A.’s draft on April 15. And there’s a good chance that she’ll end up playing for the Indiana Fever.

My hope is that wherever Clark ends up, her star power fuels the W.N.B.A. There’s already an indication that “Clarkenomics” — her unique ability to fill stadiums and even raise ticket prices — is real. She definitely sold out stadiums when Iowa was on the road.

Women’s basketball deserves devoted fans, and more of them. Professional women’s basketball is ripe for the groundswell that has come for the college teams. Whether I’m watching the Fever take on the Liberty at Barclays Center later this spring or sipping beers at a local dive with the game on TV, I’ll be cheering on the women. That’s where the real fun and, yes, drama is happening this year.

Ross Douthat

April 3, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ETApril 3, 2024

April 3, 2024

Opinion Columnist

Scotland’s Censorship Experiment Threatens Free Expression


A photograph of a frayed Scottish flag. Storm clouds swirl in the background.
Credit…Philartphace/Getty Images

In 2002, the English journalist Ed West penned an essay entitled “Britain Isn’t a Free Country.” His evidence was straightforward: Through the aggressive enforcement of laws against hate speech, Britain was harassing, investigating and sometimes imprisoning its own citizens, effectively consigning the right to free expression to the dustbin of history.

West’s list of examples, which included some cases involving deeply unsympathetic racists and others that looked more like the criminalization of cultural conservatism, is worth revisiting now that Scotland has passed an especially expansive hate speech statute.

The new Scottish law criminalizes public speech deemed “insulting” to a protected group (as opposed to the higher bar of “abusive”), and prosecutors need only prove that the speech was “likely” to encourage hatred rather than being explicitly intended to do so. One can offer a defense based on the speech in question being “reasonable,” and there is a nod to “the importance of the right to freedom of expression.” But a plain reading of the law seems like it could license prosecutions for a comedian’s monologue or for reading biblical passages on sexual morality in public.

The law has attracted special attention because J.K. Rowling responded to its passage with a series of social media posts about transgender individuals that seemed to fall afoul of the law’s dictates. If they do, she wrote, “I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

My prediction is that neither Rowling nor any figure of her prominence will face prosecution. Rather, what you see in West’s examples is that the speech police prefer more obscure targets: the teenage girl prosecuted for posting rap lyrics that included the N-word or the local Tory official hauled in by the cops after posting to criticize the arrest of a Christian street preacher.

Which is, of course, a normal way for mild sorts of authoritarianism to work. Exceptions are made for prominent figures, lest the system look ridiculous, but ordinary people are taught not to cross the line.

Europe is often depicted as caught between an embattled liberal order and a post-liberal form of populism. But the reality is that there are two incipient European post-liberalisms, both responses to the challenges of managing aging, anxious societies being transformed by mass migration. One is the right-wing politics of national identity; the other is a more technocratic attempt to maintain social peace through a regime of censorship.

Scotland is experimenting with the second option. Both could usher out the liberal age as we have known it.

Lydia Polgreen

April 2, 2024, 5:16 p.m. ETApril 2, 2024

April 2, 2024

Opinion Columnist

Ramy Youssef’s ‘S.N.L.’ Monologue Was a Love Letter to Muslim America

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

Nicholas Kristof

April 2, 2024, 1:37 p.m. ETApril 2, 2024

April 2, 2024

Opinion Columnist

Israel’s Attack on Aid Workers Can Only Make Hunger in Gaza Worse

The Israeli strikes that killed seven aid workers overnight as they tried to avert famine in Gaza will be much debated, but three points seem clear to me.

First, the killings reinforce the widespread criticism that Israeli forces often appear to act recklessly in Gaza, with too little concern for civilian casualties. The latest deaths were unusual in that they included foreigners, even an American, but there is nothing new about Israeli strikes killing aid workers in Gaza: At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since the war began in October, the United Nations says.

Second, the tragedy will compound the hunger crisis in Gaza that is already leading to deaths from starvation and risking both famine and epidemics. The result is that just as famine looms and children are dying, international efforts to ease it may be reduced, not amplified.

Third, Israeli credibility will take another hit, and America’s with it. Some elements of the Israeli narrative are entirely accurate: Hamas started the latest round of fighting and uses civilians as human shields. But Israel also argues that it is doing everything possible to reduce civilian casualties, and that is hard to argue in this case — and this is also an embarrassment for the Biden administration, which provides an endless flow of weaponry for airstrikes like these (although the origin of the particular weapons that killed these seven workers is unclear for now).

The seven people worked with World Central Kitchen, a charity founded by chef José Andrés, and were in clearly marked vehicles. The nonprofit group, which has now suspended its aid efforts in Gaza, said that it had cleared its movements with Israeli forces, and The Financial Times reported that the vehicles were hit over a two-kilometer stretch, implying targeting by multiple strikes rather than a single errant missile. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has promised an investigation.

The killing of humanitarians puts aid groups in an impossible situation. The organizations focus on easing suffering, yet they also must look after the safety of their own people. If Israel continues to kill aid workers at such a pace, it will be very difficult to distribute aid to the people who need it.

And increasingly, it may be essential to have trained aid workers to provide special emergency foods to children with severe acute malnutrition. All that is now uncertain.

The Biden administration is issuing tougher statements about the situation, but President Biden still seems unwilling to use his leverage to press Israel to ease up. Politico reported on Monday that the U.S. government is considering a major new weapons sale to Israel.

Michelle Cottle

April 2, 2024, 11:21 a.m. ETApril 2, 2024

April 2, 2024

Opinion Writer

An Abortion Rights Vote May Not Be Enough for Biden in Florida

Just when you thought it was safe to ignore Florida politics, up pops the state Supreme Court with an abortion-rights decision seemingly designed to provoke electoral turmoil this year.

The court allowed a six-week abortion ban to go into effect while ruling that Floridians can vote in November on a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion access before fetal viability (around 24 weeks). The combined rulings immediately shoved reproductive rights to the political front lines. But how will things shake out in this increasingly red state? And not to make everything about the presidential race, but how much could it help President Biden?

The issue of reproductive rights has been a boon to Democrats pretty much everywhere it has appeared on the ballot, directly or otherwise, since the death of Roe v. Wade. And there’s reason to be optimistic that Florida’s amendment will succeed as well. Though passage requires at least 60 percent support, a November poll by the University of North Florida put support at 62 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans. And that was before things got real with the court ruling.

But can this new wrinkle save Biden there? I mean, this is Florida. The state didn’t show him the love in 2020, and more generally, its Democratic Party has been a hot mess for several years. Registered Republicans now outnumber Democrats by nearly one million. In 2022, Floridians re-elected Gov. Ron DeSantis with almost 60 percent of the vote. Ron. DeSantis.

More troubling, Republican state lawmakers have shown themselves happy to thwart the will of the public to tilt the field in their team’s favor. (See: voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences.) And it is the adopted — and spiritual — home of perhaps the ultimate Florida Man, Donald Trump. (When thinking of the MAGA king kicked back in his so-called Southern White House, I like to picture him with a state-appropriate mullet.)

With the proper mix of sweat and strategy, abortion rights advocates and Dems should be able to save reproductive rights in the state — not to mention force Republicans to burn time and cash there. But pry it away from Trump? That feels like a reach.

Zeynep Tufekci

April 2, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ETApril 2, 2024

April 2, 2024

Opinion Columnist

A Farm Worker With Avian Flu Means a Rapid Response Is Urgent


Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

The discovery of the country’s second human case of H5N1 avian flu, found in a Texas dairy farm worker following an outbreak among cows, is worrying and requires prompt and vigorous action.

While officials have so far said the possibility of cow-to-cow transmission “cannot be ruled out,” I think we can go further than that.

The geography of the outbreak — sick cows in Texas, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio and New Mexico — strongly suggests cows are infecting each other as they move around various farms. The most likely scenario seems to be that a new strain of H5N1 is spreading among cows, rather than the cows being individually infected by sick birds.

Avian flu is not known to transmit well among mammals, including humans, and until now, almost all known cases of H5N1 in humans were people in extended close contact with sick birds. But a cow outbreak — something unexpected, as cows aren’t highly prone to get this — along with likely transmission between cows, means we need to quickly require testing of all dairy workers on affected farms as well as their close contacts, and sample cows in all the dairy farms around the country.

It is possible — and much easier — to contain an early outbreak when an emergent virus isn’t yet adapted to a new host and perhaps not as transmissible. If it gets out and establishes a foothold, then all bets are off. With fatality rates estimated up to 50 percent among humans, H5N1 is not something to gamble with.

Additionally, H5N1 was found in the unpasteurized milk of sick cows. Unpasteurized milk, already a bad idea, would be additionally dangerous to consume right now.

Public officials need to get on top of this quickly, and transparently, telling us the uncertainties as well as their actions.

The government needs to gear up to potentially mass-produce vaccines quickly (which we have against H5N1, though they take time to produce) and ensure early supplies for frontline and health care workers.

It’s possible that worst-case scenarios aren’t going to come true — yet. But evolution is exactly how viruses get to do things they couldn’t do before, and letting this deadly one have time to explore the landscape in a potential new host is a disastrously bad idea.

Michelle Cottle

April 1, 2024, 5:14 p.m. ETApril 1, 2024

April 1, 2024

Opinion Writer

Mike Johnson Is Trying to Explain Simple Math to the Far Right

I come today not to bury Mike Johnson, but to praise him.

No. Seriously. I mean it.

Johnson, the House speaker, sat down with Trey Gowdy of Fox News over the weekend to discuss “realistic expectations” for Republicans in this era of narrowly divided government.

Quipping that he was there as an “ambassador of hope on Easter Sunday,” Johnson offered “three simple things” his party should be focusing on: No. 1, “Show the American people what we’re for. Not just what we’re against.” No. 2, “We have to unite. We have to stand together.” And No. 3, “We’ve got to drive our conservative agenda and get the incremental wins that are still possible right now.”

Nos. 1 and 2 are the sort of meaningless boilerplate politicians are forever blathering about. But No. 3 was clearly the core message of his mission, and he really leaned in, repeatedly noting that his team’s right-wingers — with whom he has long identified, mind you — need to come to terms with the political reality of holding “the smallest majority in U.S. history.”

“We got to realize I can’t throw a Hail Mary pass on every single play,” he said, with that mild manner and beatific smile that makes him seem thoughtful and genial even when he’s speaking harsh truths. “It’s three yards and a cloud of dust. Right? We’ve got to get the next first down. Keep moving.”

Southerners do love their football metaphors.

When asked about Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to remove him, he acknowledged that she is “very frustrated” with how certain negotiations have gone of late, especially when it comes to spending. “Guess what? So am I,” he said. But with Republicans clinging to the majority by their fingernails, “we’re sometimes going to get legislation that we don’t like.”

This kind of squish talk isn’t very MAGA. And working with Dems is what got the previous speaker kicked to the curb. (Poor Kev.) But Johnson is in some ways in a better spot than was Kevin McCarthy. A smattering of Democrats have suggested they would save Johnson from a coup attempt, especially on a key issue such as funding Ukraine. Plus, ousting another speaker so soon would only lock in House Republicans’ rep as a bunch of hopeless chaos monkeys — not a shrewd move in an election year.

This is not to say that Johnson is shaping up to be an effective or competent speaker. But it takes a certain courage to talk reality — and math — to today’s House Republicans. Kudos to him for going there.

David French

April 1, 2024, 2:42 p.m. ETApril 1, 2024

April 1, 2024

Opinion Columnist

There’s Valuable Speech on Social Media, Even for Kids

Last week I wrote a rather long column arguing that blanket bans on social media for children are a bad idea, even if you are persuaded (as I am) that smartphones and social media are a significant reason for increasing childhood mental health struggles. My basic point was simple: The First Amendment rights of children and adults are too precious to diminish, especially when there are less restrictive alternatives for combating the problem.

I received an enormous amount of helpful feedback, but I want to briefly highlight one response. The American Enterprise Institute’s Brad Wilcox posted a thread on X that began like this: “Could not disagree more w/ @DavidAFrench here, partly because he doesn’t fully ack how much the teen problem w/ social media is not just about the message(s) but the *medium* itself. Social media does not function like some debating society for teens.”

I respect Wilcox greatly, and he’s got many valuable things to say about kids and social media, but he’s wrong in one key respect: Social media is, in fact, a debating society for teens, just as it is for adults. It’s often a miserable and contentious debating society, but social media is where an immense amount of our nation’s substantive debates takes place. Kids debate one another, and they read adult debates.

Protecting political speech is a core purpose of the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court held in Garrison v. Louisiana, “Speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.” One reason children enjoy First Amendment rights is that they are essentially citizens in training. They have to learn how to engage in political debate.

There are certainly issues with the medium itself, and there are ways to combat the pernicious effects of the medium without obliterating access to the content. The First Amendment, for example, permits reasonable and content-neutral restrictions on the time, place and manner of freedom of expression, and it’s easy to see a valid ban on smartphones during school hours. It’s also worth considering whether certain features of social media — such as infinite scroll — could be limited.

But it’s important to note that time, place and manner restrictions can’t function as a form of disguised content discrimination. If you’re looking for reasons to ban social media because of what’s on the platform, then you’re playing a dangerous constitutional game.

Jessica Grose

April 1, 2024, 12:58 p.m. ETApril 1, 2024

April 1, 2024

Opinion Writer

The Christians Who Aren’t Buying Donald Trump’s Sales Pitch

Last week, former President Donald Trump hawked his “God Bless the USA Bible” in a video posted to social media, stating “we must make America pray again.” In a story published today, The Times’s Michael C. Bender notes that Trump — despite a background few would call pious — “is framing his 2024 bid as a fight for Christianity, telling a convention of Christian broadcasters that ‘just like in the battles of the past, we still need the hand of our Lord.’”

A new report on religious change in the United States from The Public Religion Research Institute suggests that Trump’s attempts to tie Christianity tightly to a particular set of Republican political values may be turning some Americans away from Christianity.

P.R.R.I. surveyed Americans who left their childhood religions to become “unaffiliated,” a group that includes people who call themselves atheists, agnostics and nothing in particular. The vast majority of people who become unaffiliated are Christians. While the largest percentage say they left religion because they no longer believe the religion’s teachings, 47 percent of those who became unaffiliated say they did so because of negative treatment or teaching about L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, and 20 percent say they became unaffiliated because their church or congregation became too focused on politics.

“Among white Christian groups, the largest decline in the past decade took place among white evangelical Protestants, whose numbers saw a 3 percentage point decrease, from 17 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2023. In 2023, the percentages of white mainline/non-evangelical Protestants (14 percent) and white Catholics (12 percent) remain largely similar to those of 2013,” according to P.R.R.I.’s survey. Trump has frequently and closely aligned himself with white evangelical Christians.

P.R.R.I.’s findings align with what I learned last year when reporting on those leaving religion. As one woman I spoke to put it, she became less religious “because evangelicals became apostates who worship Trump, nationalism and the Republican Party.” Trump promoting a Bible is just another example of his modus operandi: He may make a quick buck, but at what cost to the institution in the long run?

Whether it’s a political or religious institution, the outcome always appears to be the same.

Patrick Healy

April 1, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ETApril 1, 2024

April 1, 2024

Deputy Opinion Editor

Have Swing Voters Stopped Listening to Joe Biden?


Pedestrians in Washington on Sunday as President Biden’s motorcade passes by.Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • One of the worst things that can happen to a president seeking re-election is to have voters stop listening to you. As the campaign unfolds this week, I’m curious whether President Biden says or does things that really command attention from voters, and in particular might be persuasive to swing voters.

  • My curiosity stems from reading the latest polls and my colleague Nate Cohn’s article on Saturday. This is how Nate summed up Biden’s standing in the race since his strong State of the Union speech on March 7: “It has gotten harder to see signs of any Biden bump. Taken together, new polls from Fox, CNBC and Quinnipiac suggested that the presidential race was essentially unchanged, with Mr. Trump still holding a narrow lead nationwide. The president’s approval rating doesn’t seem discernibly higher, either.”

  • Now, State of the Union speeches themselves rarely produce a bump. But Biden was a new man in March, with a sharper message, lots of campaigning, strong ads and any number of Trump comments to whack. Yet we enter April with Trump in a narrow lead.

  • Something is not working for Joe Biden right now. Trump is behind him in campaign money, tied up in court, making crazy comments and posting videos showing Biden hogtied. For all that, Biden doesn’t seem to have changed large numbers of minds. Are voters still listening to the president?

  • Previous presidents who lost re-election, including Trump, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, struggled to persuade voters they were effective and sympathetic. In their own ways, the three men were seen as all talk, no action, and that’s what some progressive Democrats and young voters think about Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. While his administration is talking tougher about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the bombs keep falling on Gaza (and more American bombs are on the way) and the aid keeps being blocked from reaching starving people.

  • And it’s not just Gaza: It’s immigration, abortion rights and, especially, the economy. Nate Silver had a striking chart last week showing how “even as consumer and investor sentiment has improved, President Biden’s approval rating hasn’t, or at least it hasn’t by much.”

  • Right now, Biden doesn’t have the same galvanizing, persuasive political narrative for swing voters that he had in 2020 — I think Trump nostalgia is very real — nor does he have the results enough voters want. Some voters have already written him off because of his age. But I think the bigger threat to re-election is that more voters will stop listening to him if he doesn’t offer a stronger narrative and stronger results.

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