Welcome to Tuesday, October 31, 2023; it’s Halloween! It’s also National Caramel Apple Day, a great holiday treat that will destroy your dental work. And of course there are pumpkins afoot; here’s one from The Dodo Pet:
Today’s Google Doodle (click on the link) goes to an 11-frame animated Halloween poem with music:
It’s also National Magic Day, Carve a Pumpkin Day, National Increase Your Psychic Powers Day (remember, any multiple of zero is still zero), Girl Scouts Founders Day, the first day of the Day of the Dead, in Mexico, World Savings Day, and, of course the observances related to Halloween, which include these:
Halloween (Ireland, Canada, United Kingdom, United States and other places)
Hop-tu-Naa (Isle of Man)
Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere, Beltane in the Southern Hemisphere; begins on sunset of October 31 (Gaels, Welsh people and Neopagan Wheel of the Year)
I happened to be in Mexico city for the inaugural Mexican Atheist Society meeting in early November of 2012, which coincided with the Day of the Dead. The Zocalo, or central plaza, was filled with weird floats; here’s a photo:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the October 31 Wikipedia page.
Two Halloween cartoons sent by readers; this first one from Pliny the In Between’s Far Corner Cafe:
And this one, a Mike Lukovich cartoon, sent in by Linda Calhoun:
Finally, we’ll have a Cat Halloween Contest. Send me a photo of your cat IN HALLOWEEN COSTUME with a few words about it (and its name), and I’ll post the first two here:
CAT #1 GOES HERE
CAT#2 GOES HERE
*War news from the NYT this morning. The invasion is clearly underway, though the IDF doesn’t use the “i-word”:
When Israeli ground forces advanced en masse into the Gaza Strip on Friday evening, just after the Jewish Sabbath began, they did it so secretly that it was hours before the outside world understood what had happened.
In the three days since the long-anticipated invasion began, Israel’s military has operated with a similar ambiguity, defying expectations by carrying out a more incremental ground operation than was initially anticipated. While it has continued to decimate Gaza and its people with aerial bombardments, much of the ground force appears to have hung back from Gaza City, Hamas’s stronghold in northern Gaza, and stayed instead in the countryside on the city’s fringes.
Under U.S. pressure to temper their response to the Hamas killing of more than 1,400 people on Israeli soil, Israel has even avoided describing the operation as an invasion. The loss of life, though, in Gaza continues to rise, with the Palestinian death toll so far over 8,000, according to Hamas officials.
“Everything is happening in darkness,” said Andreas Krieg, a war expert at King’s College, London, adding that “there’s a very small group of people who actually know what’s going on, even inside Israel.”
The goal of such strategic ambiguity is threefold, analysts say.
First, it keeps Hamas uncertain about Israel’s next steps. And, at least for now, it allows Israeli soldiers to maintain a siege of Gaza City, where Hamas has dug a network of underground tunnels and fortifications. By doing so, Israel avoids — or at least puts off — bloody urban combat inside the city.
The fog may also buy Israel some time.
Not only may it help put off scrutiny from both internal and external critics, it gives Israel a chance to assess the plans of Hamas allies like Hezbollah, a militia in Lebanon that has exchanged fire with Israel in recent days. Israeli officials fear the militia may be weighing a more forceful attack of its own.
. . .On Friday morning, medical teams were told to hold an hourslong rehearsal to prepare for how they might deal with the release of scores of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to a senior medical official. For some, that fostered the impression that Israel was on the verge of a major breakthrough in back-channel negotiations to free the hostages, rather than making last-minute arrangements for an invasion.
Once the operation began, army spokesmen stopped answering their phones. The information blackout was complete.
I have a lot of anxiety connected with this war, lots of it connected with whether Israel can a). really depose Hamas, b). really free the hostages, and c). not kill a lot of civilians, though that of course, is what Hamas wants and has planned. Still, they’re civilians.
*Tom Friedman’s new NYT op-ed, “Please Israel, don’t get lost in Hamas’s tunnels,” urges caution for Israel, as usual, but he does have a point in noting that Israel doesn’t seem to have a viable plan that will destroy Hamas, rescue hostages, and not leave all of Gaza in ruins.
As I said, Israel is not India, and there is no way that it could be expected to turn the other cheek — not in that neighborhood. But what is Netanyahu’s plan? The Israeli officials I speak with tell me they know two things for sure: Hamas will never again govern Gaza, and Israel will not govern a post-Hamas Gaza. They suggest that they will set up an arrangement similarly seen in parts of the West Bank today, with Palestinians in Gaza administering day-to-day life and Israeli military and Shin Bet security teams providing the muscle behind the scenes.
This is a half-baked plan. Who are these Palestinians who will be enlisted to govern Gaza on Israel’s behalf? What happens the morning after a Palestinian working for Israel in Gaza is found murdered in an alley with a note pinned to his chest: “Traitor,’’ signed “the Hamas underground.”
Moreover, who is going to pay for Israel’s control of, health care for and education of Gaza’s 2.2 million people? Please raise your hand if you think the European Union, the Gulf Arab states or the substantial progressive caucus in the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives will fund an indefinite Israeli oversight of Gaza — while Netanyahu and his band of Jewish supremacists are pledged to annex the West Bank without equal rights for the Palestinians there. The cost of occupying Gaza could overstretch the Israeli military and economy for years to come.
On top of it all, how is Israel going to manage such a complex operation when there is — for good reason — scant trust in Netanyahu? Just on Saturday he pointed to the heads of Israeli military intelligence and Shin Bet as responsible for missing the Hamas surprise attack while excusing himself of any blame. A day later, an outraged Israeli public forced the prime minister to retract his wartime recriminations against his colleagues. But the damage was done.
So here’s Friedman’s first plan soon after the war started.
. . . I immediately advocated a much more targeted, fully thought-through response by Israel. It should have called this Operation Save Our Hostages and focused on capturing and killing the kidnappers of children and grandparents. Every parent could understand that.
But that won’t stop Hamas from running the West Bank, and terrorism will continue. So Friedman has elaborated his plan:
. . . Israel should keep the door open for a humanitarian cease-fire and prisoner exchange that will also allow Israel to pause and reflect on exactly where it is going with its rushed Gaza military operation — and the price it could pay over the long haul.
A prisoner exchange will be this: all 230 hostages will be offered in return for every terrorist—4500 of them—in Israeli prisons. Is that a fair exchange?
A pause could also allow the people of Gaza to take stock of what Hamas’s attack on Israel — and Israel’s totally predictable response — has done to their lives, families, homes and businesses.
. . . I want to see Hamas’s leaders come out from their tunnels under hospitals and look their people, and the world’s media, in the eye and tell everyone why they thought it was such a great idea to mutilate and kidnap Israeli children and grandmothers and trigger this terrible blowback on the children and grandmothers of their Gaza neighbors — not to mention their own.
I don’t think a pause will do this. The Gazans already know, by and large, how Hamas has cheated and impoverished them, but are afraid to speak up. Again, how do we get rid of Hamas? As for the last paragraph, it’s Aristophenes’ cloud cuckoo land.
*From the Washington Post, we hear about a new appeal—nay, DEMAND—for release in a video made by Hamas featuring three women hostages. It’s a rebuke to Netanyahu for being responsible for their capture and also not getting them freed yet. It’s not clear whether this video was made voluntarily or is pure Hamas propaganda created at the point of a gun, nor have I been able to find the video online. Here’s the first inkling I got of it:
Hamas, the militant group that controls the besieged enclave, also released a chilling video of three of its hostages delivering a harsh statement addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with one woman almost screaming at the Israeli leader, “Free, free us now. Free their civilians, free their prisoners, free us, free us all, let us return to our families now. Now! Now! Now!”
The NYT says “Most Israeli news outlets have chosen not to air the video.” As I said, I’ve not found the video online; perhaps readers can help. Here’s a BBC news clip featuring a man who has seen and transcribed some of the video, describing its contents.
Here’s a screenshot of the video from the Times of Israel, including its caption with including the hostages’ names,
*In his latest newsletter, Tom Gross confirms the death of the first hostage taken alive but subsequently killed. Her name was Shani Louk and she was but 23. She was driven around Gaza in the back of a truck half naked (I won’t show that photo), but will put one of her alive below. Apparently she was raped, tortured by having her limbs broken, and may have still been alive when she was driven around. But now this vivacious woman is gone:
GERMAN CHANCELLOR CONDEMNS “BARBARISM” OF HAMAS AS SHANI LOUK IS CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN BEHEADED
[Note by Tom Gross]
The 22-year-old German-Israeli woman Shani Louk (pictured above earlier this year), who was paraded naked in Gaza by terrorists on the back of a truck on October 8 (which I wrote about In my dispatch that day – photo below) has this afternoon been confirmed to have died.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said she had been beheaded by Hamas.
Israel has recovered the base of her skull, which has been identified through genetic tests. Without the bone from the base of a skull a person cannot survive.
Louk had been at the peace and nature party in southern Israel when Hamas-Isis mowed down attendees with gunfire and grenades, killing some 270 people and raping and kidnapping others in their October 7 onslaught.
Her German mother Ricarda first raised alarm about her daughter after she recognized her tattoos and dyed hair in videos circulating online.
Louk’s Israeli father told Israeli Channel 13 that he was glad to receive the news because the alternative would have been worse. “I cannot bare to think what they would have been doing to her. At least we know that a minute before the murderers came she was dancing, she was happy, she with all her friends around her, and she had fun,” he said.
Louk’s body remains in Gaza making a funeral impossible at the present time.
It’s just horrific that her father was glad she was dead instead of alive and still in the hands of Hamas. But given what happened to her, his statement is not crazy.
And if her body is in Gaza, I wonder how they recovered part of her skull. Did Hamas hand it over?
A 23-year-old German-Israeli woman who was kidnapped from the Nova music festival by Hamas militants on October 7 has been found dead, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.
“We are devastated to share that the body of 23 year old German-Israeli Shani (Louk) was found and identified,” the ministry posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.
Louk was kidnapped at the festival and “tortured and paraded around Gaza by Hamas terrorists,” the foreign ministry statement said, adding that she “experienced unfathomable horrors.”
“May her memory be a blessing,” the statement said.
That last sentence is a Jewish phrase that I find touching. Gross adds this:
I don’t have time to write more now, but you may want to watch this one-minute video. [below]. YouTube sent me a warning this morning saying they were threatening to remove it “for violating their policy guidelines.” God knows why.
This Hamas hostage is a world-famous agricultural expert who helped millions of poor Muslims
Watch the video (you’ll have to click on “watch on YouTube”) and see what policy guidelines it could possibly violate. It’s a moving plea from a guy whose mother was kidnapped by Hamas and is still held hostage. Gross adds that many of his videos like this have been taken down, and says that we should watch others on his channel before they’re taken down.
*News from Across the Pond by Jez:
Some interesting developments here in the UK:
The prime minister has sacked a ministerial aide who called for a ceasefire, which is against Conservative Party policy. The decision was made on the basis that the aide’s comments “were not consistent with the principles of collective responsibility”.
This throws down the gauntlet to the Labour Party leader, Sir Kier Starmer, who hasn’t disciplined his shadow cabinet ministers who have called for a ceasefire despite the Party’s own policy rejecting one.
That said, a senior Labour MP has just been suspended for making a speech with the “river to the sea” trope.
The home secretary, Suella Braverman, has called recent pro-Palestinian marches in London “hate marches”.
Not to leave out our third-biggest party: a Lib Dem councillor has been offered anti-semitism training after making TikTok videos that seem to question the extent of atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very alert, and for good reason:
Hili: Finally something positive.A: What?Hili: Małgorzata is unpacking the bags with groceries.
Hili: Nareszcie coś pozytywnego.Ja: Co takiego?Hili: Małgorzata rozpakowuje torbę z zakupami.
We have TWO cartoons about the world’s worst candy that was celebrated yesterday. This Bizarro Strip by Wayne and Piraro is from Tom:
. . .and this one’s from Divy. Note that both strips have the same theme (this is cartoon convergence): real corn rejects its faux imitator:
From some forgotten niche on Facebook:
From Su: a cartoon by Charlie Hanken:
From Masih, Armita Geravand, killed at 17 because she didn’t wear her hijab on the subway, was buried today. It’s a 1:17 video.
Armita Geravand, the young innocent girl killed by the morality police, was buried today. Even in grief, her family members faced arrest. The islamic regime’s reign of terror is expanding beyond its borders. The world must isolate this anti-woman regime.pic.twitter.com/sDDURWmSUo
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 29, 2023
From Jez: I think this is a nefarious trick to get the dog to bite a DURIAN!
I'm not falling for your trick, hooman…🐶🐾🎈😅 pic.twitter.com/2giKQoUv0t
— 𝕐o̴g̴ (@Yoda4ever) October 24, 2023
From Larry the cat via Simon:
Wishing all my friends in the US a very happy National Cat Day. All American cats should strut around like we own the place, so exactly the same as every day.
— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) October 30, 2023
From Barry: check out the hamster’s sandals!
I don't know what does it for me more, the crossbody bag or the sandals!😆
Ok. It's the damn sandals!!!😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/sS9YZ0mbeY
— ♒😺☮🌊Ms. Caramel Rhapsody & Jesse 👑🧓🏾We ❤️YOU! (@CaramelRhapsody) October 26, 2023
From Malcolm, some impressive cat jumping:
— Animal Cuteness (@ViralistMemes) October 26, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 14-year-old girl gassed upon arrival:
31 October 1930 | A German Jewish girl, Ruth Helene Henriette Lilienfeld, was born in Kalkar. She emigrated to The Netherlands.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 31, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. Jew-hating Russians search for Jews arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv to the Russian republic of Dagestan:
In 🇷🇺 Makhachkala, locals storm the airport after a plane from Tel-Aviv arrives. They check passports, looking for Israelis. The police don’t interfere. #Israel #IsraelPalestine pic.twitter.com/2mnTBiq1kK
— olexander scherba🇺🇦 (@olex_scherba) October 29, 2023
They even looked for Jews hiding in the plane’s engines!
your periodic reminder that Borat was not a comedy https://t.co/jo1iDwDVNJ
— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) October 29, 2023