The fifth of Americans who want to split is far less than is needed to make it politically viable, but nonetheless shows how ever-more conservatives and liberals are fed up with sharing a country with each other.
Republican firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene says the US needs a ‘national divorce’ between red and blue states
Twenty percent of US adults — which amounts to some 66 million people — want to call it quits on the 247-year-old union
On President’s Day, the Trump acolyte was decidedly unimpressed with President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine, saying in a tweet that it was time for the US to be divided.
‘We need a national divorce,’ the Georgia Republican posted on social media.
‘We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government,’ she insisted. ‘Everyone I talk to says this.’
‘From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done,’ Taylor Greene insisted of Republican sentiment toward the opposing party.
Ipsos found that support for splitting was higher among men, people who make $50,000 or less each year, and those living in the South and West of the country.
There are no serious proposals in Washington to carve up the country, but secessionist moves in some states have gathered momentum in recent years.
A campaign to have rural eastern Oregon effectively secede from the blue state and join more conservative Idaho has gained traction, with politicians in both states express support for shifting the border.
A Texas state lawmaker this month filed a bill to set a referendum for voters to decide whether the state should explore the possibility of seceding from the US — a move known as Texit.
Americans increasingly flaunt their differences of opinion over everything from gun rights to trans surgery for kids. Pictured: A pro-choice activist argues with a pro-life counter-protester at a rally in Washington
Secession on the agenda: A general view of a sign at a local business proclaiming the need for parts of eastern Oregon to be joined with neighboring Idaho
Recent polling shows deep polarization between red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) states. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) wants a ‘national divorce’ between the two parties
Voters head to the polls to cast their vote, but do most Americans want a ‘national divorce’ as one poll indicates?
The last time the states separated based on ideology was the American Civil War which started on April 12, 1861, and ravaged the nation for more than four bloody years with an average of 500 deaths a day.
But the sheer fact that one-fifth of the country is open to the potential, shows the growing sentiment of resentment voters feel toward the opposing party.
A lot goes into deciding whether a state is red or blue — like recent elections, current leaders and historical voting records of those living in the jurisdiction.
Currently, 29 of the 50 states are led by Republican governors, and 24 states have voted for Republicans in at least three or four of the last four presidential elections. When just taking into account the 2022 Senate elections, 27 states voted red.
All in all, the country would be pretty evenly split, with a slight lean toward Republican states outnumbering Democratic states.
The population disparity would be huge, however, with the denser populated states leaning Democrat and ones with more land mass but fewer people leaning Republican.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene defended her proposal to split the US by red and blue states.
She said the US was moving closer to a civil war and ”we have to do something about it.”
She told Fox News that it’s ”a much bigger movement than most people in Washington even realize.”
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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene defended her position that the US should be split up into separate ”red” and ”blue” states by saying another civil war is looming.
The far-right Republican appeared on Fox News on Tuesday, where host Sean Hannity questioned her about her position, and how division in the US could be healed without a split.
Greene responded by saying that she doesn’t want a civil war, but that the country was moving towards one and action needs to be taken.
”The last thing I ever want to see in America is a civil war. No one wants that — at least everyone I know would never want that — but it’s going that direction, and we have to do something about it,” she said.
Greene also claimed that everyone she talks to is ”sick and tired and fed up with being bullied by the left, abused by the left, and disrespected by the left.”
”Our ideas, our policies and our ways of life have become so far apart that it’s just coming to that point,” she added.
Greene posted a message on Twitter on Monday, Presidents’ Day, calling for a ”national divorce.”
”We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government,” she said.
She described it not as a civil war but ”a legal agreement to separate our ideological and political disagreements by states while maintaining our legal union.”
Hannity on Tuesday asked Greene if she believed that there could be a working relationship between the left and right, or if there was a ”growing move” towards a split because the ”divide is so deep.”
Greene responded by saying she thinks ”this is a much bigger movement than most people in Washington even realize.”
She added that the response to her message ”should tell people a lot.”
As of Wednesday morning, her tweet had 77,000 likes and 10,400 retweets.
Greene’s initial comments were heavily criticized by Democrats and some Republicans.
”We don’t need a divorce, we need marriage counseling,” Gov. Spencer Cox said. ”And we need elected leaders that don’t profit by tearing us apart.”
White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson, meanwhile, told the Daily Beast that ”Congresswoman Greene’s comments are sick, divisive, and alarming to hear from a member of the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees.”
Guardian staff and agenciesSat 18 Mar 2023 12.51 GMT
Donald Trump has posted on his own social media platform Truth Social that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday in the criminal case in New York involving hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Earlier this year the former US president called for protests by his supporters if he was indicted in any of the numerous criminal investigations in New York, Georgia and by federal authorities into his conduct relating to allegations of illegal campaign payments, election interference, efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election and keeping top secret documents at his home after leaving office. On Saturday he posted: “Take our nation back!”
In New York, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s team is investigating the hush money case and expectations had been building that Trump could be indicted as early as next week. Witnesses have been appearing before a grand jury, including Daniels and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
But without any official confirmation of the likelihood or timing of any charges being brought, Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, posted on Truth Social a message referring to himself in the third person including the statement: “The far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”
Law enforcement officials in New York have been making security preparations for the possibility that Trump could be indicted.
There has been no public announcement of any timeframe for the grand jury’s secret work in the case, including any potential vote on whether to indict Trump.
Messages left on Saturday with the district attorney’s office were not immediately returned. Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
Trump did not provide any details on social media about how he knew about the expected arrest. In his postings, he repeated his lies that the 2020 presidential election that he lost to Democratic US president Joe Biden was “stolen” because of voter fraud, and he urged his followers to “Protest. Take our nation back!”
That language evoked the message from the then-president that preceded the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, when thousands of his extremist supporters invaded Congress in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to prevent the official certification of Biden’s victory.
Since leaving the White House, Trump has resided at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and moved his residency status to Florida, from New York, where he was born and made his name and fortune before running for president and winning the 2016 election.
David Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach country in Florida, told CNN in an interview on Saturday morning that if Trump was indicted in New York “there will be protests here” and added: “You have to worry about potential violence.”
He noted that there would be questions about whether Trump would surrender to the New York authorities or face extradition from Florida, adding that the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, a former ally of Trump but now a potential rival for the 2024 Republican nomination and a target of Trump’s ire, “has to sign off [any] extradition orders”.
Eli Hopstein, left, gazes over his neighborhood in Mykolaiv, Ukraine; Alexey Shkurat, right, smiles upon arrival in Israel, a year after the rest of his family left Odessa. Both men have been aided by Jewish nonprofits. (Deborah Danan)
JTA — Most of the passengers on the flight from Chisinua, Moldova, to Tel Aviv earlier this month were subdued.
Some had just witnessed scenes of hardship on a tour of war-torn Ukraine organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Others, about 90 in all, were Ukrainians in the process of moving permanently to Israel, talking in hushed tones about being on a plane for the first time, their uncertain future and the loved ones they left behind.
Alexei Shkurat was not subdued.
Bespectacled and bearded, he was standing in his seat, making wisecracks that caused the elderly woman in the seat next to him to guffaw despite herself.
“I like joking and communicating. It’s my life, why waste it being nervous?” Shkurat told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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“And anyway, I’m happy, happy, happy I will soon see my sons again,” he added, speaking in English.
Switching to Russian, Shkurat’s brow furrowed and his voice lowered when he recounted how, on February 28, 2022, he had risked his life to transport his sons, 14 and 12, to the border with Poland with their mother and grandmother. From there they would move to Israel.
Shkurat could not go with them. The borders were closed for military-aged men, so Shkurat was forced to drive back to his hometown of Odesa. What happened next, as he recounts it, was harrowing: As he passed an empty field near Lviv, he encountered two Ukrainian soldiers, their AK-74 rifles trained on him. Shkurat raised his hands and was told to step out of his vehicle. He knew that if he made one false move, he would be shot.
The soldiers searched the car and interrogated him, asking him why he was traveling alone after curfew and even asking if he was a Russian spy. Shkurat later learned that 40 Russian paratroopers had recently landed in the area and had stolen ambulances and police cars. He answered the soldiers in Russian, which only raised their suspicions. Ukrainian is the dominant language in western Ukraine, but as a Jew from Odesa, Shkurat’s native tongue is Russian.
“I was terrified. I know that they were only doing their job, but the situation was so scary. Everything I ever knew in life had changed,” he said.
By a considerable stroke of luck, Shkurat, a street artist, was able to prove his identity by showing the soldiers his Instagram page, filled with posts of his art in locations all over Odesa.
Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office, at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
But according to Shkurat, the story was far from over. The next chapter of his life was far more hair-raising, he said. Pressed on the details, Shkurat grinned and switched back to English.
“I can’t tell you a thing,” he said. “I want to sell the story to Netflix.”
Whatever cinematic experience Shkurat might have had, his fellow passengers surely had made-for-the-movies stories of their own. They had made it through nearly a year of war before deciding to move to Israel, making them the latest of 5,000 new immigrants from Ukraine facilitated by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), working in collaboration with Israeli government entities such as Nativ and the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption. Approximately 15,000 Jewish Ukrainians in total have immigrated, or made aliyah, in the last year.
According to IFCJ’s vice president, Gidi Schmerling, if there is any upside to the war from Israel’s perspective, it’s that many middle-class Ukrainians — doctors, engineers and high-tech employees — who wouldn’t have otherwise made aliyah are now choosing to do so.
But IFCJ’s mandate also includes the Jews who stayed behind. Since Russian tanks first rumbled across the border a year ago, the group has raised more than $30 million dollars — primarily from evangelical Christians from North America and Korea — for the main Jewish organizations in Ukraine including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, or JDC, and Chabad. (Both groups do extensive fundraising of their own.) This week, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, it announced another $4 million in planned spending.
Ukrainian Jewish refugees are seen in a newly opened kosher camp on the southern shore of Lake Balaton in Balatonoszod, Hungary, on July 29, 2022. (Peter Kohalmi / AFP)
In Odesa, more than 7,000 people currently receive aid from IFJC via local Jewish groups. The Jewish community, once 50,000 strong, now stands at 20,000, according to the city’s chief rabbi, Avraham Wolff. Seven thousand food packages are distributed every month in Chabad centers. Many of the beneficiaries are older — among them some 187 Holocaust survivors — but not all. Several hundred are people who were displaced from surrounding cities, such as Mykolaiv, which was hit much harder by Russian shells, and some are the so-called new poor, those for whom the war has plunged into poverty from loss of income and rising inflation.
Ala Yakov Livne, an 86-year-old widow, is one of many who lined up recently to receive a box with oil, flour and other basic necessities. For Livne, the part that stings most about the last year is the sense of betrayal.
“[The Russians] were our neighbors. Many of them were our friends,” she said.
“Times have changed but some things never change,” Livne went on. “Back then, we were under occupation under the Nazis, back then, they tried to kill us, and now again, we are under occupation and they are trying to destroy us.”
It was a refrain that would be repeated several times over the ensuing days. In a trembling voice, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Yelena Kuklova, who as a child was hidden by her non-Jewish neighbors in a suitcase in a closet, echoed the sentiment.
Yelena Kuklova survived the Holocaust by being hidden by non-Jewish neighbors. “We started our lives in war and we’re finishing them in war,” she said. (Deborah Danan)
“They killed us then because we were Jews. They are killing us today because we are Ukrainian,” she said, a slow cascade of tears spilling over her cheekbones. “We started our lives in war and we’re finishing them in war.”
And so it was in battle-scarred Mykolaiv, 140 kilometers northeast of Odessa. “What the Germans never managed to do, the Russians did,” said Eli Ben Mendel Hopstein, standing in front of his building, pockmarked from the shrapnel of a Russian missile.
Inside his home, Hopstein rifled through decades-old photos of himself in the navy. “I know danger,” he said, “and I don’t feel it now.” He describes himself as a proud Jew. “First, I am a Jew, then I am Ukrainian, and I never once hid this from anyone.”
Mykolaiv, pro-Russia before the war and now a vanguard of the south, has become a source of pride for its residents because of Russia’s failure to occupy it. Even before the war, Mykolaiv was a desperately poor city. But now, following eight months of daily explosions, destruction is everywhere and the city’s critical infrastructure has been badly damaged.
Damaged buildings are a common sight in Mykolaiv, which Russian troops pummeled during the first year of the war. So are people lining up for potable water. (Deborah Danan)
Like Odesa, the city has no electricity for up to 22 hours a day. For more than half a year, large swaths of the city had no water at all. Today, residents can turn on the tap and get a murky brown liquid known as technical water, but it is far from potable. For drinking and cooking, they are forced to collect safe water in plastic gallon bottles at water stations all over the city, many of which were installed by the Israeli nonprofit IsraAID.
Scenes of people placing buckets outside their houses in the hope of catching rainwater became ubiquitous in Mykolaiv. For its Jewish contingent, Chabad provides truckloads of bottled water. Hopstein credits the IFCJ and Chabad for keeping him alive.
“If it wasn’t for their help, I would have nothing,” he said.
Across the road from Hopstein, 82-year-old Galina Petrovna Mironenko, who is not Jewish, is not so lucky. A Russian S300 missile that appeared to be targeting a nearby university missed its mark and struck Mironenko’s home, decimating all of her possessions. Mironenko said the only help she gets is a weekly loaf of bread from the government. Standing in her charred kitchen, her red and blue checkered headscarf offering the only color, Mironenko’s expression is almost childlike — a jarring contrast to the words she utters.
“I have died three times in my life,” she said. “Once when my father died, again when my son died and a third time after the 20 minutes it took for my house to burn.”
Galina Petrovna Mironenko stands in the wreckage of her home in Mykolaiv, destroyed by a Russian missile. Her Jewish neighbor credits aid from Jewish organizations for keeping him alive. (Deborah Danan)
Back in Odesa, the sun has set and the city is cloaked in darkness, a cue that soon it will be time to head indoors for the nightly curfew. But first, a visit to the Orlikovsky family who are packing their suitcases ahead of their emigration the next day. On the couch in the tiny living room sit four generations of Jews: Alina; her daughter, Marina; her grandson Andrey; and Andrey’s wife and daughter Viktoria and Sofiya.
Andrey recalls February 24, 2022. “I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. I heard a terrible blast and grabbed my daughter and told my wife, ‘Let’s get out!’ I thought my house was going to collapse like a doll’s house.”
But it would take nearly a year to finally make the move, because of Viktoria’s late mother who was sick and because, in Andrey’s words, “you get used to the bombs.”
“We live without power, we live without heating, very often there is no hot water. We are living like insects,” Alina said. “My children told me, mama, we need to go.”
When the family finished speaking, the electricity came back and the lights turned on. Sofiya, 5 years old, laughed into her mother’s chest.
The first anniversary of the war marks two weeks since Shkurat and the other 89 new arrivals were greeted on the tarmac of Ben Gurion Airport by Israel’s new immigration minister, Ofir Sofer. Shkurat is on the lookout for a permanent home in a place where he can sell his art.
“I am getting to know the country and looking for new friends,” he said. “I want to do a lot of beautiful and bright projects. I want to draw a lot,” he said.
He deeply misses Odesa, which he called an amazing city, but being reunited with his sons has soothed the pain.
“Meeting with my children was the best event of the last year,” he said.
Settlers pray the evening service, as cars and homes they torched burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A Palestinian man walks by scorched cars, including some that been taken off the road for spare parts, in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
A Palestinian man sits outside a torched house on February 27, 2023, in the town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
A picture taken early on February 27, 2023 shows daylight flooding through the window of a torched house in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
Cars and homes are torched by settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Burned cars are seen through a broken window in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
This picture taken on February 27, 2023, shows a view of torched cars and a building in the town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
There was a tense quiet in the Palestinian town of Huwara on Monday morning, with images posted to social media showing dozens of burnt vehicles and sooty buildings after what appeared to be the worst outburst of settler violence in decades.
“It was mortal danger. You couldn’t leave home, you feared getting a bullet to the head at any moment,” an unnamed resident of Huwara told Army Radio on Monday morning, recounting the events of the previous night.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said one man was shot dead by Israeli fire during the riots in the town of Za’tara, south of Huwara and near the settlement of Kfar Tapuah.
The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said two other people were shot and wounded, a third person was stabbed and a fourth was beaten with an iron bar.
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But in a media blitz Monday morning, coalition MK Zvika Fogel of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit party — the chairman of the Knesset’s National Security Committee — was unequivocal in his backing for the rioters and his denunciation of the government his party leader Itamar Ben Gvir is a member of.
This picture taken on February 27, 2023 shows an aerial view of a scrapyard where cars were torched overnight, in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
“I want to restore security for the residents of the State of Israel,” Fogel told Galey Israel Radio. “How do we do that? We stop using the word ‘proportionality.’ We stop with our objection to collective punishment [just] because it doesn’t fly with all sorts of courts. We take the gloves off.
“Yesterday, a terrorist came from Huwara. A closed, burnt Huwara — that’s what I want to see. That’s the only way to achieve deterrence. After a murder like yesterday’s, we need burning villages when the IDF doesn’t act.”
Committee head and Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel leads the Knesset’s National Security Committee meeting in Jerusalem, February 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
He lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, saying he was ashamed that a coalition he is a part of was “stuttering” in its response to Palestinian terror.
In a separate interview with Army Radio, Fogel said he viewed the result of Sunday night’s rampage with “much favor,” adding: “They have understood in Huwara that there is a balance of terror that the IDF doesn’t manage to achieve.”
In both interviews, Fogel claimed the settler riots had achieved deterrence against Palestinian terrorism the likes of which nothing has achieved since Operation Protective Shield in 2002, a major IDF operation in the West Bank that helped quell the Second Intifada.
Fogel later tweeted that his comments had been “distorted,” without explaining how.
“I said the state is the one that should act to deter the terrorists, definitely not civilians. We mustn’t arrive at a situation in which civilians take the law into their own hands,” he said in remarks that directly contradicted his earlier comments. “The job of the government and the IDF is to supply the necessary protection — by offensiveness and determination, not restraint.”
Meanwhile, at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, fellow Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Kroizer drew intense condemnation by likening the settler rampage to minor violence occasionally seen on the fringes of mass demonstrations against the government’s plan to overhaul the justice system.
A Palestinian man walks past burned cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. Scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in the northern West Bank, setting cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman. Palestinian officials say one man was killed and four others were badly wounded. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
“I’m sure these folks [the settlers] drew inspiration from a month and a half of protests here,” he said, to a chorus of condemnation from opposition lawmakers.
After maintaining notable silence for hours on Monday morning, party leader Ben Gvir said at the newly populated Evyatar illegal outpost: “I want to be clear regarding the images from Huwara. I understand the pain, but we cannot take the law into our own hands. The one who needs to deal with terror and deter it is the government and not civilians.” Ben Gvir has taken a much tougher stance against anti-government protesters, branding them “anarchists.”
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid was quick to respond to the interviews, tweeting: “This isn’t a fully right-wing government [as its supporters have proudly called it]; it’s a full-blown anarchy government. MK Fogel should go to prison for incitement to terror.”
MK Mickey Levy of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party urged the coalition to oust Fogel from his role as head of the National Security Committee.
Settler groups had called for demonstrations to avenge the Palestinian shooting attack in Huwara earlier in the day, in which two Israeli brothers from the nearby Har Bracha settlement, aged 19 and 21, were killed.
Brothers Hallel (left) and Yagel Yaniv, who were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)
The terror attack left brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv dead after they drove through Huwara, a Palestinian town regularly traversed by Israeli motorists and often a flashpoint of tensions.
The Israel Defense Forces said the Palestinian gunman opened fire from close range on the Yanivs’ car on the Route 60 highway, then fled the scene, apparently on foot. He was still at large as of Monday morning.
The victims, who had been studying at a Hesder yeshiva program that combines military service with Torah studies, were set to be buried at 2 p.m. at Jerusalem’s military Mount Herzl cemetery.
Shortly before the arson attacks began, hundreds of settlers began marching toward Huwara chanting “Revenge,” Army Radio reported.
In the riots that followed, Palestinian medics said one man was killed and four others were badly wounded in the Palestinian town of Huwara and other villages near Nablus.
Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched. Photos and video on social media showed large fires burning throughout Huwara and lighting up the sky.
Ghassan Douglas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlements in the Nablus region, said that settlers burned at least six houses and dozens of cars in Huwara, and reported attacks on other neighboring Palestinian villages. He estimated around 400 Jewish settlers took part in the attack.
Israeli security forces failed to contain the violence for hours despite the early warnings of a planned protest in the Palestinian town. Troops were also preoccupied with searching for the gunman who killed the Israeli brothers.
In one video, a crowd of Jewish settlers stood in prayer as they stared at a building in flames.
Hebrew-language media reports said eight settlers were detained over the rioting, although some reports suggested six of them had already been released. There was no confirmation from police on the arrests.
The riots were condemned by the United States, European Union and United Kingdom, among others, as well as by many Israelis.
A Palestinian man walks past burned cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called “the terrorist acts carried out by settlers under the protection of the occupation forces” Sunday night.
“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible,” he added, claiming that the settlers had taken their cue from “the positions of some ministers in this extreme right-wing Israeli government.”
On Monday morning, 14 local settler leaders published a joint call on residents to “calm the spirits,” urging them to “let the IDF win and not take the law into your own hands.”
Netanyahu issued a statement Sunday night calling on those seeking to avenge the earlier terror shooting to not resort to vigilantism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discusses the Huwara terror attack, February 26, 2023 (screenshot/PMO)
“I am asking, while blood is boiling and winds are high — don’t take the law into your hands,” he added. “I ask that you allow the IDF and security forces to do their work.”
President Isaac Herzog issued similar remarks. “Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting, and committing violence against innocents — this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation,” he said in a statement.
Ta’al party head Ahmad Tibi shared a picture of fires burning, labeling it “Kristallnacht in Huwara,” and others also referred to the bloody riot as a pogrom.
MK Ofer Cassif of the allied Hadash party wrote that the violence was the work of “settler terror militias” working under the protection of the “occupation regime” to carry out “war crimes.”
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Israeli security forces secure the scene of a shooting attack in Huwara, in the West Bank, near Nablus, February 26, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
A string of Palestinian terror attacks in Jerusalem in recent weeks left 11 people dead and several more seriously hurt.
Over 60 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
There has also been a noted rise in settler attacks against Palestinians in response to recent terror attacks. On Saturday, Israeli settlers torched a number of Palestinian-owned cars in the village of Burin, close to Nablus.
The terror attack on Sunday came as Israeli and Palestinian officials, including al-Sheikh, sat down for a US-sponsored meeting in Jordan in a bid to restore calm to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The parties issued a joint communique in which Israel committed to temporarily hold off on advancing “unilateral measures” for the next three to six months. Netanyahu and other members of the government were quick to deny Jerusalem had agreed to any settlement construction freezing.
Jacob Magid, Emanuel Fabian, AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
The renowned theoretical physicist isn’t alone with this thought.
“[AI] scares the hell out of me,” Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk once said at the SXSW tech conference. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone knows, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”
Whether it’s the increasing automation of certain jobs, gender and racially biased algorithms or autonomous weapons that operate without human oversight (to name just a few), unease abounds on a number of fronts. And we’re still in the very early stages of what AI is really capable of.
RISKS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Automation-spurred job loss
Algorithmic bias caused by bad data
8 Dangers of AI
Questions about who’s developing AI and for what purposes make it all the more essential to understand its potential downsides. Below we take a closer look at the possible dangers of artificial intelligence and explore how to manage its risks.
IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE A THREAT?
The tech community has long debated the threats posed by artificial intelligence. Automation of jobs, the spread of fake news and a dangerous arms race of AI-powered weaponry have been mentioned as some of the biggest dangers posed by AI.
“The reason we have a low unemployment rate, which doesn’t actually capture people that aren’t looking for work, is largely that lower-wage service sector jobs have been pretty robustly created by this economy,” futurist Martin Ford told Built In. “I don’t think that’s going to continue.”
“If you’re flipping burgers at McDonald’s and more automation comes in, is one of these new jobs going to be a good match for you?” Ford said. “Or is it likely that the new job requires lots of education or training or maybe even intrinsic talents — really strong interpersonal skills or creativity — that you might not have? Because those are the things that, at least so far, computers are not very good at.”
Even professions that require graduate degrees and additional post-college training aren’t immune to AI displacement.
As technology strategist Chris Messina has pointed out, fields like law and accounting are primed for an AI takeover. In fact, Messina said, some of them may well be decimated. AI already is having a significant impact on medicine. Law and accounting are next, Messina said, the former being poised for “a massive shakeup.”
“Think about the complexity of contracts, and really diving in and understanding what it takes to create a perfect deal structure,” he said in regards to the legal field. “It’s a lot of attorneys reading through a lot of information — hundreds or thousands of pages of data and documents. It’s really easy to miss things. So AI that has the ability to comb through and comprehensively deliver the best possible contract for the outcome you’re trying to achieve is probably going to replace a lot of corporate attorneys.”
A 2018 report on the potential abuses of AI lists social manipulation as one of the top dangers of artificial intelligence. This fear has become a reality as politicians rely on platforms to promote their viewpoints, with a recent example being Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., wielding a TikTok troll army to capture the votes of younger Filipinos during the 2022 election.
TikTok runs on an AI algorithm that saturates a user’s feed with content related to previous media they’ve viewed on the platform. Criticism of the app targets this process and the algorithm’s failure to filter out harmful and inaccurate content, raising doubts over TikTok’s ability to protect its users from dangerous and misleading media.
Online media and news have become even murkier in light of deepfakes infiltrating political and social spheres. The technology makes it easy to replace the image of one figure with another in a picture or video. As a result, bad actors have another avenue for sharing misinformation and war propaganda, creating a nightmare scenario where it can be nearly impossible to distinguish between creditable and faulty news.
“No one knows what’s real and what’s not,” said Ford. “So it really leads to a situation where you literally cannot believe your own eyes and ears; you can’t rely on what, historically, we’ve considered to be the best possible evidence… That’s going to be a huge issue.”
3. SOCIAL SURVEILLANCE WITH AI TECHNOLOGY
In addition to its more existential threat, Ford is focused on the way AI will adversely affect privacy and security. A prime example is China’s use of facial recognition technology in offices, schools and other venues. Besides tracking a person’s movements, the Chinese government may be able to gather enough data to monitor a person’s activities, relationships and political views.
Another example is U.S. police departments embracing predictive policing algorithms to anticipate where crimes will occur. The problem is that these algorithms are influenced by arrest rates, which disproportionately impact Black communities. Police departments then double down on these communities, leading to over-policing and questions over whether self-proclaimed democracies can resist turning AI into an authoritarian weapon.
“Authoritarian regimes use or are going to use it,” Ford said. “The question is, How much does it invade Western countries, democracies, and what constraints do we put on it?”
“A.I. researchers are primarily people who are male, who come from certain racial demographics, who grew up in high socioeconomic areas, primarily people without disabilities,” Russakovsky said. “We’re a fairly homogeneous population, so it’s a challenge to think broadly about world issues.”
The limited experiences of AI creators may explain why speech-recognition AI often fails to understand certain dialects and accents, or why companies fail to consider the consequences of a chatbot impersonating notorious figures in human history. Developers and businesses should exercise greater care to avoid recreating powerful biases and prejudices that put minority populations at risk.
5. WIDENING SOCIOECONOMIC INEQUALITY AS A RESULT OF AI
If companies refuse to acknowledge the inherent biases baked into AI algorithms, they may compromise their DEI initiatives through AI-powered recruiting. The idea that AI can measure the traits of a candidate through facial and voice analyses is still tainted by racial biases, reproducing the same discriminatory hiring practices businesses claim to be eliminating.
Widening socioeconomic inequality sparked by AI-driven job loss is another cause for concern, revealing the class biases of how AI is applied. Blue-collar workers who perform more manual, repetitive tasks have experienced wage declines as high as 70 percent because of automation. Meanwhile, white-collar workers have remained largely untouched, with some even enjoying higher wages.
Sweeping claims that AI has somehow overcome social boundaries or created more jobs fail to paint a complete picture of its effects. It’s crucial to account for differences based on race, class and other categories. Otherwise, discerning how AI and automation benefit certain individuals and groups at the expense of others becomes more difficult.
6. WEAKENING ETHICS AND GOODWILL BECAUSE OF AI
Along with technologists, journalists and political figures, even religious leaders are sounding the alarm on AI’s potential socio-economic pitfalls. In a 2019 Vatican meeting titled, “The Common Good in the Digital Age,” Pope Francis warned against AI’s ability to “circulate tendentious opinions and false data” and stressed the far-reaching consequences of letting this technology develop without proper oversight or restraint.
“If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good,” he added, “this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest.”
Some fear that, no matter how many powerful figures point out the dangers of artificial intelligence, we’re going to keep pushing the envelope with it if there’s money to be made.
“The mentality is, ‘If we can do it, we should try it; let’s see what happens,” Messina said. “‘And if we can make money off it, we’ll do a whole bunch of it.’ But that’s not unique to technology. That’s been happening forever.’”
7. AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS POWERED BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
As is too often the case, technological advancements have been harnessed for the purpose of warfare. When it comes to AI, some are keen to do something about it before it’s too late: In a 2016 open letter, over 30,000 individuals, including AI and robotics researchers, pushed back against the investment in AI-fueled autonomous weapons.
“The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” they wrote. “If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”
This prediction has come to fruition in the form of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, which locate and destroy targets on their own while abiding by few regulations. Because of the proliferation of potent and complex weapons, some of the world’s most powerful nations have given in to anxieties and contributed to a tech cold war.
Many of these new weapons pose major risks to civilians on the ground, but the danger becomes amplified when autonomous weapons fall into the wrong hands. Hackers have mastered various types of cyber attacks, so it’s not hard to imagine a malicious actor infiltrating autonomous weapons and instigating absolute armageddon.
If political rivalries and warmongering tendencies are not kept in check, artificial intelligence could end up being applied with the worst intentions.
8. FINANCIAL CRISES BROUGHT ABOUT BY AI ALGORITHMS
The financial industry has become more receptive to AI technology’s involvement in everyday finance and trading processes. As a result, algorithmic trading could be responsible for our next major financial crisis in the markets.
While AI algorithms aren’t clouded by human judgment or emotions, they also don’t take into account contexts, the interconnectedness of markets and factors like human trust and fear. These algorithms then make thousands of trades at a blistering pace with the goal of selling a few seconds later for small profits. Selling off thousands of trades could scare investors into doing the same thing, leading to sudden crashes and extreme market volatility.
Instances like the 2010 Flash Crash and the Knight Capital Flash Crash serve as reminders of what could happen when trade-happy algorithms go berserk, regardless of whether rapid and massive trading is intentional.
Men look at currency exchange rates at an exchange shop in Tehran on Feb. 21, 2023. Iran’s currency plunged to new lows on Jan. 20 amid fresh European Union sanctions, crossing the psychologically important rate of 500,000 rials to a dollar in foreign exchange markets. – ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images
TEHRAN — At the closure of Iran’s foreign exchange market on Thursday, the country’s national currency, the rial, nosedived to a new record low. A US dollar was traded for 52,650 rials, according to the currency monitor website Bonbast.
The sharp decline occurred despite the latest government measure announced earlier this week to contain the depreciation that has been increasingly worsening since September.
Under the country’s command economy, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) inaugurated on Tuesday what it called a currency and gold exchange center with the stated aim of managing the retail market for foreign currencies. The plan allows the state to no longer provide currency to ”sarrafis,” or private exchangers, leaving currency buyers with the sole option of the government-controlled market.
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The measure was the latest introduced by the CBI’s new governor, Mohammad Reza Farzin, who took the helm in December to bring calm back to the market. His tenure has already seen the rial plummet by more than 15%.
In another step to tame the market, the government cut down rations of foreign currencies for travelers embarking on foreign trips. According to the new regulations, they are allowed to buy no more than $500 per trip, leaving many with no option but to return to the free or black market to supply the cash they will need abroad.
The perceived inefficiency of the government measures has drawn criticism even from among loyalists. ILNA reported on Wednesday that at least 50 lawmakers from the Iranian parliament, which is packed with loyalists of President Ebrahim Raisi, were in a push for a formal session to grill him on the parliament floor over the currency crash.
The plummeting of the rial has seen many Iranians rush to the market in an attempt to protect the value of their savings. This, however, has also led to debates that the cash-strapped government could be indeed manipulating the market. Under those arguments, the government — which is losing hope in sanctions relief expected in the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal — is intentionally lowering the rial value, and exploiting the public panic buying of the greenback to earn profit and thus fix its fast-widening budget deficit. The speculation has been rejected by Iran’s Minister for Economic Affairs Ehsan Khandouzi.
Business uncertainties prompted by the soaring prices and their severe impact on daily livelihoods saw at least two protests in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and at the Alaeldin cell phone market on Wednesday. Videos on social media showed protesters chanting against the government as they complained that their incomes were in rials while prices were calculated based on the dollar value.
While rising prices have over the years turned into a daily routine for middle-class Iranians, a sharp increase in food prices has been particularly biting in recent months. The latest to be hit by the official 47% inflation are meat products, which have witnessed a near doubling in a matter of a fortnight.
One of the few pro-reform and mildly critical papers, Sazandegi, which had managed to still operate under Iran’s stifling media censorship environment, highlighted the skyrocketing meat prices above the fold in its last Saturday edition.
It took a government media supervisory body less than 24 hours to close down the newspaper over ”disturbing the public opinion.”
An Egyptian Coptic Christian boy shouts slogans while holding a crucifix during a protest outside the Egyptian state TV building following sectarian clashes, Cairo, Egypt, March 10, 2011. – Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images
Almost three decades into their childless marriage, Amal Ibrahim, 50, and Farouk Fawzi Boulos had resigned themselves to the fact that they would never be parents.
Then a miracle happened. Ibrahim — a Coptic Christian — found in 2018 an abandoned newborn in the washroom of the Saint Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, located in Cairo’s predominantly Christian district of Shubra.
After consulting with senior clerics at the church, the couple decided to adopt the baby who was only a few days old at the time. They thought their prayers for a child had been answered.
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The boy, who was named Shenouda by his adoptive parents, was baptized and had a cross tattooed on the inner wrist of his right hand to depict his faith.
In the predominantly Muslim society in Egypt, Christian names and tattoos of a cross distinguish Coptic Christians from the rest of the population.
Egypt’s Christians, who make up around 12% of the population, often complain of discrimination and exclusion from high-level public posts. Incidents of sectarian violence are not uncommon and perpetrators of attacks on Christians are rarely held to account.
“Adopting Shenouda enriched our lives,” Ibrahim told Al-Monitor. “We treated him as if he were our own biological child, enrolling him in the church choir and in karate classes.” She hoped the boy would grow up to serve in the church.
The couple was grateful to have Shenouda in their lives; decades of anguish and distress inflicted on them by a social stigma around infertility were finally over. In the conservative patriarchal society, girls are raised to be mothers. While the societal pressure to bear children is greater on women, men, too, are conditioned to believe their manhood is incomplete until they have a child to carry on the family name.
The family lived happily for four years; nothing could ruin their happiness, or so they thought. But things changed in February 2022 when Boulos’ niece filed a report with the police accusing the couple of kidnapping what she alleged was a Muslim child. Ibrahim believes that envy and concerns that Shenouda would inherit his adoptive father’s possessions in the event of the latter’s death were behind the complainant’s “reckless” act that “turned our lives upside down.”
DNA tests taken by Shenouda and his adoptive parents confirmed that they were not the boy’s biological parents; the boy was subsequently placed in an orphanage at the behest of Ministry of Social Solidarity officials and has since been denied visits by his adoptive parents — save for one brief, emotional visit on Dec. 31, 2022.
For 10 months, the couple’s repeated pleas to see Shenouda fell on deaf ears. But in late December, ministry officials had an abrupt change of heart as they granted the couple permission to see their adopted son at the orphanage.
Boy had his name changed
Much to their despair, they found the child “confused” and “slightly distant.”
“There was something off about him,” Ibrahim told Al-Monitor.
The boy had had his name changed to Youssef, after being registered as a Muslim by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Any unidentified child is classified as a Muslim in the eyes of the state.
Egypt’s family law is based on Islamic Sharia that forbids adoption. The Ministry of Social Solidarity introduced the “kafala” (guardianship) system, whereby a family can take in an orphaned child — or a minor who has been abandoned by his parents — and voluntarily commit to providing for his/her needs and education. Unlike in adoption cases, however, kafala parents can neither give the child their name nor is the latter entitled to inheritance from the family.
A security source who refused to be named told Al Monitor, that this is not an isolated incident.
”Christian girls that get pregnant out of wedlock, abandon their newborns in or outside the church ; it is not uncommon for priests to then give the babies away to childless couples or families they know will look after them,” the source said.
In Shenouda’s case, he argued the priest gets big part of the blame. “The priest that handed the baby over to the couple ought to have informed the [Egyptian] police prior to the adoption.”
Once a report is filed, security agencies launch a probe to find out the faith of the child’s biological father: if the latter is Muslim, the child is registered as a Muslim and the law prohibits his/her adoption by a Christian couple.
Najeeb Gabriel, the couple’s defense lawyer, has filed a petition with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, requesting that Shenouda be reunited with his Christian family on grounds that Christianity does not forbid adoption. He told Al-Monitor that eyewitnesses — including the pastor of the church where the boy was found — had given firsthand testimonies in court of the moment the baby was discovered at the church. “Therefore, he is undoubtedly a Christian,” Gabriel said. “There has been no evidence to the contrary, so I cannot understand why the verdict has been delayed.”
A trial hearing at the beginning of February was adjourned until March 18 to give prosecutors time to review all the documents. On hearing the judge’s decision, Ibrahim, who was in the courtroom at the time, broke down sobbing. She had earlier taken to social media to ask supporters to join her in court to show their solidarity. The courtroom was packed with dozens of sympathizers and rights advocates who are closely following the case.
In recent days, Ibrahim’s despair has turned to anger. “They [the authorities] talk about human rights, yet they took my son away from me and placed him in an orphanage,” she said.
Ibrahim has appealed to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to intervene to bring back Shenouda, according to Copts United, a website that covers the issues of Copts in Egypt.
Shenouda’s case has caused uproar on social media in recent weeks. Christians and Muslims alike have expressed their solidarity with the couple, with some urging the authorities to prioritize humanity over religion.
The case has also provoked impassioned debate in the media on children’s rights, particularly the right of a child to live within a safe and secure family environment. It also placed Egypt’s adoption laws under scrutiny.
In an op-ed published on the English-language Ahram Online website at the end of December, Moushira Khattab, the head of Egypt’s National Human Rights Council and former secretary-general of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, spoke of the country’s commitment to protecting its children. ”Egypt was among the first countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she said.
Khattab noted that research in various countries had shown the harmful consequences of placing children in foster care institutions and urged the government to return Shenouda to his family.
The National Council for Human Rights announced that it would join the couple’s defense team and released a statement reiterating Khattab’s call and denouncing the boy’s forced separation from his family as a flagrant violation of both the constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
While Al-Azhar has yet to issue an official statement on the case, Ahmed Tork, a prominent Islamic scholar interviewed on El Balad TV in October, argued that Shenouda’s case was “not a religious matter.”
“Humanity dictates that any newborn found abandoned should be taken off the streets and cared for without his faith being questioned,” he said. “No child is born Muslim; religious identity should be determined at puberty, not before.”
But the sheikh’s words appear to have been overlooked by the authorities. Ehab Ramzy, a Coptic Christian member of the parliamentary Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, told Al-Monitor that the fact that Shenouda had already been registered as a Muslim by the authorities complicates the situation. “As a Muslim, it is forbidden by law to be adopted by a Christian family, which leaves us with little or no hope that he will be reunited with his adoptive parents in the future,” he said.
A long-awaited Unified Personal Status Law for Egypt’s Christians drafted by the Coptic Orthodox Church along with representatives of Anglican, Protestant and Catholic churches has been reviewed by the Ministry of Justice. The latter has submitted the bill to the Council of Ministers for review and endorsement before it is put to a final vote in the House of Representatives and signed into law. While the law’s provisions will regulate matters related to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance for Christians, it lacks provisions regulating adoption, according to Ramzy.
“Shenouda’s case has shown our dire need [as Christians] for an adoption law,” he said. “The next trial hearing on March 18 will not only determine Shenouda’s fate, it will also determine the fate of the entire country, signaling whether Egypt is on its way to becoming a secular state or a theocratic country, one where Sharia is imposed not just on Muslims but on all citizens.”
Explosions seen in the Iranian city of Karaj on February 24 2023 (Screencapture/Twitter: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A series of blasts, followed by anti-aircraft fire, was seen overnight Thursday-Friday in the Iranian city of Karaj, which has previously been targeted in a drone strike blamed on Israel.
Online videos showed explosions and anti-aircraft fire in the city, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. Tracer rounds lit up the night sky, with the thud of blasts heard in the videos.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency later attributed the activity to an unannounced drill at a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
The attack reportedly hit the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA. The TESA factory was tasked with replacing damaged centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site and also reportedly produces more advanced centrifuges that can more quickly enrich uranium.
While Iran maintained that the Karaj facility is used for civilian purposes, it has been subjected to United Nations, European Union and American sanctions since at least 2007 for being involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The US lifted those sanctions under the 2015 nuclear deal, but then reimposed them in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord.
Last year Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it had stopped production at Karaj and transferred work to another site.
The move responded to a “security concern” following the attack, with the new site “better protected,” a European diplomat said at the time.
The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The incident comes amid increasing concern in Israel over Iran’s nuclear program.
According to a Channel 12 report on Tuesday, the premier huddled five times in recent weeks with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Mossad head David Barnea, Military Intelligence chief Aharon Haliva and other military brass to discuss readying for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
The report, which was not attributed to any source, included few other details about the discussions, and may itself be designed to telegraph the seriousness of Israeli threats to resort to military action in order to shut down Iran’s suspected drive toward a nuclear weapon, which Netanyahu has described as an existential threat.
The report said the result of the meetings — that Israel will act alone if the international community does not step in — had been shared with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Israeli F-15 fighter jets escort an American B-52 bomber through Israeli airspace en route to the Persian Gulf on February 14, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Netanyahu on Tuesday night repeated his stance that the international community needed to back its promises to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions with serious threats to take military action or actually putting bombers in the air.
“The only thing that has ever stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action,” he told a national security conference. “A necessary condition and often a sufficient condition is credible military action. The longer you wait, the harder that becomes. We’ve waited very long.”
On Sunday, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said it was in talks with Iran after a report indicated that the country had begun enriching uranium to 84 percent — just a small step away from the 90% enrichment level required to create weapons-grade material.