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Our Best Stuff on the War in Israel—And How It Might Affect the 2024 Election
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Our Best Stuff on the War in Israel—And How It Might Affect the 2024 Election

Plus: ‘Sandwich shop monopolies’ and some thoughts on the Constitution.

Demonstrators hold posters reading "UN Women, your silence is loud" along pictures of Israeli women being held hostage in Gaza during a rally in London on December 3, 2023 to protest against what they consider a conspiracy of silence over alleged rapes and other sexual crimes committed by Hamas militants during the October 7 attacks. (Photo by Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello. This past week saw some rare good news out of the war in Gaza, as more than 100 hostages were released by Hamas—including 85-year-old Yafa Adar, the oldest hostage; 9-year-old Emily Hand, whose father initially expressed relief that she was believed to have been killed on October 7 rather than being taken by Hamas; and several groups of mothers and their children. 

But it seems like every day we get more evidence of the horrific depravity that was visited upon Israelis by Hamas terrorists—depravity that goes so far beyond violating the laws of war that it is hard to put into words. The accounts are hard enough to read about that I can’t bring myself to share them, but they are numerous and available. (You can Google.)

And yet, with few exceptions, the same people who laudably and vocally condemn sexual violence everywhere from Hollywood to college campuses to other war-torn nations—from individual progressive women all the way up to international organizations like the United Nations—have been pretty quiet. Of all the depressing responses to the war we’ve seen in the West—the pro-Hamas rallies, the virulent antisemitism—this is probably the most depressing to me.

On the one hand, it’s reasonable to wait for evidence of specific claims—particularly in the fog of war. We saw what happened when media outlets rushed to judgment on the al-Ahli hospital explosions. Journalists should be skeptical of everything they hear from official sources in times of war—especially so for institutions like the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry. 

But in the case of October 7, there was photographic evidence in the first days following the attack, including in videos taken by first responders of female victims. There is haunting eye-witness testimony from survivors of the attack on the Nova music festival. And some of the terrorists even recorded video of their attacks.

U.N. Women, the U.N. organization that bills itself as “delivering programmes, policies and standards that uphold women’s human rights and ensure that every woman and girl lives up to her full potential,” did not publicly condemn Hamas for the violence it perpetrated against women on October 7 until … Friday. It had issued a similar statement on Tuesday but quickly deleted it, and that same day, an official from U.N. Women refused to answer a direct question on the matter, saying only that “U.N. Women always supports impartial, independent investigations into any serious allegations of gender based or sexual violence.”

Yes, the United Nations has a terrible record on Israel in general, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But the silence of important groups like these—for nearly two months—created a void that has fostered denialism everywhere. At an Oakland City Council meeting (that Nick wrote about in Boiling Frogs), at least two citizens who commented on the council’s proposal to call for a ceasefire denied that rapes occurred. 

Our polarization has generated no shortage of hypocrisy in recent years. GOP lawmakers spend like drunken sailors when a Republican is in the White House, but threaten to shut down the government with a Democrat in office in service of budgetary cuts that do little to address our actual debt problems. Democrats campaigned in 2022 on the existential threat of Donald Trump and his minions, and then backed those minions financially in primary elections so they’d have easier general election campaigns. (I could go on for hours.) 

But the Israeli women and girls who were tortured and killed that day were not candidates or policies or ideologies. They were innocent victims. You can believe that Palestinians deserve their own territory—and that the Israeli government has acted unjustly over the years—without tolerating or downplaying atrocities against civilians.

The fact that so many cannot see that—or at least cannot admit to themselves that it happened—might be the most depressing sign of how stark our polarization has become. 

Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me on an uncomfortable subject.

More than 100 Israeli hostages were returned during the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that ended late last week. The Biden administration has credited Qatar—which has ties to the U.S. but also to Hamas and other recognized terror groups—with helping facilitate the releases. Charlotte reports on the “uncomfortable reliance on the Persian Gulf emirate” by the U.S. and Israel, noting that, although the emirate’s constitution calls for fostering such negotiations, sources tell her that Qatar’s not serving as a mediator merely out of a sense of responsibility. According to Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies,  Qatar’s efforts to pause the fighting are “ensuring the survival of Hamas slowly but surely.” While the hostage mediation made Qatar an asset to the U.S. and other Western nations, Schanzer says, “Qatar wants the war to end on Hamas’ terms, not Israel’s terms. They are essentially the advocates against the defeat of violent Islamist movements.”

Did you see the video of the Oakland City Council meeting that went viral this week? The council was considering a measure calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and during public commenting, various citizens spoke in defense of Hamas, with some claiming Israel killed its own people on October 7 and that Israeli women weren’t raped. The incoherence and terrorist sympathizing is bad enough on its own, but in Boiling Frogs, Nick notes that the sentiments have significance for the 2024 presidential election. Young people skew Democratic, and, although Joe Biden has backed Israel in this war against Hamas, polling shows the youth have come to overwhelmingly support the Palestinians over Israel. “Biden … endured a pro-Palestinian protest outside his home recently that resulted in graffiti dubbing him ‘Genocide Joe’ being left on the White House gate,” Nick writes. “The term has begun to creep into some young voters’ criticism of him, even occasionally trending on social media. Which seems suboptimal for a guy who’ll be dead in the water electorally in less than a year if he doesn’t have those voters turning out for him en masse.”

What with the aforementioned war and tensions percolating in a few places around the world, a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the planned purchase of Subway by a private equity firm that owns Jimmy John’s, McAlister’s Deli, and Schlotzky’s is hardly the most serious matter. But we all need a laugh, and Jonah treats Elizabeth’s Warren’s hyperbolic warnings of a coming “sandwich shop monopoly” with the lack of respect it deserves. He saves his serious gripes with progressive antitrust policy for a sidebar, giving him room to mock the idea that consumers will be harmed by the deal. “The genie of sandwich-making know-how is out of the bottle now,” he writes. “It’s an open-source technology that has really shattered the barrier to entry for sandwich-making: Buy some bread and some stuff to put between two slices of it. Boom! You’ve achieved sandwichness. … And, if you widen your conception of bread—buns, pita, brioche, tortillas, even some lettuces—the possibilities really are endless. I mean, Americans eat an estimated 300 million sandwiches per day (that’s collectively, not individually). No federal sandwich czar, or earl, can dictate to America its sandwichy desires or habits and neither could some private sector sandwich baron.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Some people are just clamoring to change the Constitution these days, but it’s not like it’s easy to amend. Jay Cost argues that we have plenty of tools to fix things like the Electoral College without going through the daunting amendment process.
  • Speaking of the Constitution, Kevin’s latest Wanderland (🔒) dives into whether our system of checks and balances calls for the three branches of government to be co-equal or for one—the legislative—to stand above the rest: “We do need to understand the Constitution invests a very mighty share of national governing power in Congress compared to the other two branches—and why it does that.” 
  • In Stirewalt on Politics, Chris previews the final Republican primary debate scheduled for Wednesday by looking at the disarray in Ron DeSantis’ campaign: “A reasonable question for DeSantis to be asking himself now is about his own exit strategy.”
  • While you’ve been getting ready for the holidays and going about your lives, Donald Trump has been saying some truly unhinged things—and many of them offer a hint of how he would use a second term in office to exact revenge on his enemies and critics. The Dispatch Politics team catches you up on anything you might have missed.
  • One of the recurring themes in Capitolism (🔒) is that globalization is good. This week, Scott Lincicome traces the evolution of the pineapple from a symbol of wealth and opulence to something you can pick up—year-round—at your local supermarket for a couple bucks.
  • The pods! The pods! On The Dispatch Podcast, Jamie interviews former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about what a President Christie’s foreign policy might look like. The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta has a new book out, about the politicization of the evangelical movement, and he joins Jonah on The Remnant to discuss it. On Advisory Opinions, come for the nerdy Supreme Court analysis and stay for the sweet love story about two listeners.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.