In This Episode
- At least 1,500 people have been killed in the days since Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza, launched a surprise attack against Israel. Israel has since declared war, and vowed to launch a “total” siege on Gaza. Meanwhile, the U.S. and other global powers are working to stop it from becoming a conflict with multiple fronts.
- Parts of West Maui reopened to tourists this weekend for the first time since this summer’s deadly wildfires were extinguished. State officials maintain that allowing visitors to return to the area is necessary for the island’s economic recovery. But many residents, including those from the town of Lahaina, say their community isn’t ready.
- Council on Foreign Relations: What is Hamas? – https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-hamas
- Maui Medic Healers Hui – https://mauimedichealershui.org/
- ‘Āina Momona: Maui Relief Efforts — https://www.kaainamomona.org/maui
- Hawai’i Public Radio, “Native Hawaiians grapple with generational trauma in wake of Maui fire” — https://tinyurl.com/mr2nc3hb
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Juanita Tolliver: It’s Tuesday, October 10th. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. [sounds of bombs and expolsions] That is how parts of Israel, and eventually the rest of the world woke up early Saturday morning. Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza, launched what it called Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, its largest attack against Israel in years. The group said it was in response to Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and they named the operation for the religious complex in Jerusalem that’s been the site of multiple clashes between Israeli ultranationalists, police, and Palestinians. The initial strike was carried out at Israel’s southern border as Hamas fired thousands of rockets from the air, sea and ground. That led to hours of fierce gun battles between Hamas and Israeli security forces and officials say that Israeli soldiers and civilians alike have been taken hostage.
Juanita Tolliver: Israel has since retaliated with a series of intense air raids on Gaza, flattening buildings in the densely populated territory to target Hamas before formally declaring war against the group on Sunday. As of Monday evening, Israeli airstrikes have killed nearly 600 Palestinians. The attacks from Hamas have killed at least 900 Israelis, including at least 260 people attending a techno music festival held outside Gaza. So by the time we sat down to record this show, that’s added up to nearly 1500 people dead, both Palestinian and Israeli civilians and soldiers alike. Thousands more have been wounded. Officials on both sides of the conflict warn that the death toll will most certainly rise in the coming days.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and let’s turn our attention now to how the rest of the world has responded to this escalating crisis.
[clip of President Joe Biden] The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. We’ll make sure that they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves.
Tre’vell Anderson: That, of course, was President Biden speaking from the White House on Sunday. He condemned the attack, calling Hamas a quote unquote, “terrorist organization.” The State Department has since confirmed that at least nine U.S. citizens were killed in that initial attack on Israel, with an unknown number of Americans still unaccounted for.
Juanita Tolliver: Meanwhile, the U.S. has moved a fleet of aircraft carriers closer to Israel, and the Biden administration is also gearing up to send extra military assistance in the days ahead. And just a reminder, Congress still does not have a House speaker right now. Normally, whoever is in that role would get briefed on a situation like this, and that would lead to discussions about whether or not to approve additional funds to help Israel. But that’s not going to happen right away. Instead, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries received the briefing on Saturday and is working on a briefing for all members of the House this week, according to reports. And members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have drafted a bipartisan resolution affirming U.S. support for Israel and condemning Hamas’s attack. The U.S. also called on the United Nations to formally condemn Hamas during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council late Sunday. But there wasn’t enough consensus to issue a joint statement on the conflict, though the U.N. is expected to hold more deliberations soon.
Tre’vell Anderson: Over in Europe, several countries have already pledged their support for Israel. In the meantime, Israel announced a, quote, “total blockade” on Gaza as of Monday, meaning that it will not allow food, fuel or other supplies into the territory. Human rights groups have already warned that cutting off access to vital resources, including electricity and clean water, will have dire consequences for the nearly two and a half million people who live in Gaza. And because of the intense shelling from Israel, many families who weren’t already in refugee camps are now homeless, leaving them no place to take cover.
Juanita Tolliver: Now we want to keep this update going with some context about how many news outlets here in the U.S. have framed their coverage. By the time you hear this show, you’ve probably heard the conflict described in a few different ways. That the offense by Hamas was, quote unquote, “unprovoked” or that it was a surprise attack. That’s because Israel’s military intelligence apparatus, which is considered one of the best in the world, apparently failed to anticipate the initial strike from Hamas. And allies of Israel, including the U.S., continue to insist that Israel has a right to defend itself against these acts.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I think here is where we mention some greater context, right? Which is that others, including Palestinians, feel like they have a right to resist, right, this decades long occupation of their land. Now, we’re not going to get into all of that today, but we will have more kind of reporting and information about all of that context in the days to come. Instead, we want to begin our focus this week by looking at what has happened in the region over the past year. If you listen to this show enough, you’ll remember that we’ve covered the growing tension between Israel and Hamas for several months as Israel’s far right government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has become bolder and more forceful in reestablishing settlements in the occupied West Bank. That has led to periodic and increasingly violent clashes between the Israeli military, settlers, and Palestinians.
Juanita Tolliver: To put things into perspective, according to the Palestinian Health Authority, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in those clashes since the beginning of this year. And that number doesn’t include the deaths from over the weekend. The United Nations, which has kept track of fatalities in the area since 2006, recently noted that 2023 was the deadliest year on record for Palestinians. And that same U.N. count showed that at least 29 Israelis were killed as of August of this year, nearly all of them in the West Bank. Again, neither of these figures includes the number of people killed over the past few days.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And of course, we’re only talking about the toll of a single year. But as I mentioned, this is a conflict that has stretched out over the course of decades. And it involves multiple players here, not just Hamas and not just Israel. Obviously, there are many, many questions about how this will all unfold and whether this will lead to a much wider and potentially deadlier war.
[clip of Antony Blinken] I was on the phone yesterday and many others were on the phones yesterday with counterparts from Egypt, from Saudi Arabia, from Jordan, from Qatar, from the United Arab Emirates, from Turkey, Lebanon, and many European countries as well, to make sure that, first of all, people had heard very clearly what the president said about others in other places not taking advantage of the situation uh and to use the influence that they have with different groups to make sure that that they don’t do that precisely so that we don’t have um a broadening of this conflict to other places.
Tre’vell Anderson: You just heard Secretary of State Antony Blinken on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday answering a question about whether the State Department has been in touch with Iran or other countries in the Middle East about the conflict. The concern is very real because also on Sunday in northern Israel, IDF soldiers briefly clashed with members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese military group that’s backed by Iran. So the Biden administration is really trying to keep this from turning into a war on multiple fronts. And another critical point here is that the State Department confirmed that some of the hostages taken over the weekend are, in fact, American citizens.
Juanita Tolliver: So we’re going to take this day by day y’all, and we’ll be here to report on what we know and acknowledge what we don’t know. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after a short break for some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Welcome back WAD squad for the rest of our show today. We also wanted to bring you a piece we put together to mark Indigenous Peoples Day. I’m joined now with our co-host Josie Duffy Rice, to tell you that story. On Sunday, two months after the outbreak of the deadly Maui wildfires, visitors were given the green light to return to the western part of the island. At least 97 lives were lost in the flames, making it the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history. And dozens of people are still missing. And homes, businesses, museums and cultural centers with generations of history in Lahaina were burnt to the ground in a matter of days, displacing over 7000 residents.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it was absolutely devastating. And it’s been a very rough few weeks for people in Lahaina. So where do recovery efforts stand right now?
Tre’vell Anderson: Last week, some residents were allowed to return for the first time since the fires broke out. FEMA and other federal officials have been working since August to remove the toxic debris left behind by the flames and to clear the way for folks to assess what’s left. As you can imagine, it was a very emotional moment for them. They were given protective equipment and escorted by officials to safely guide them through the burn zone. And journalists were also required to, you know, stay back and give these folks the space that they need to grieve and process what they saw. More residents will be welcomed back to the area to survey the damage in the coming weeks once it is safe for them to do so. But needless to say, the community still has a long way to go. Though FEMA is providing emergency aid, and mutual aid groups are working tirelessly to fill in the gaps. The fires have left thousands of people unemployed with no source of income. Some families don’t have child care and their children aren’t in school because their classrooms have burned down. So at the end of the day, many people just don’t have housing. Thousands of displaced Lahaina residents are currently living in temporary housing. Some are in hotels, others are in shelters. And it’s unclear how long they’ll be allowed to stay. There have also been reports of officials evicting evacuees from temporary housing if they don’t meet certain eligibility requirements for federal relief.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so clearly, things are still in like a state of major disruption, major flux, major impact from this horrible wildfire. And with so many people still reeling from this devastation, there’s also been some tension in the community, right, Because there’s a real push back on whether to allow tourists to return. Can we talk a little bit about that? Can you tell us some about that?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So you’ll remember that state officials, locals and native Hawaiians were all very clear in the immediate aftermath of the fires. They told tourists to stay away until the community completely recovers. Full stop. But now officials are basically begging tourists to come back after it was estimated that Hawaii’s economy will lose nearly $2 billion dollars in the next year due to the damage from the Maui fires. Hawaii Governor Joshua Green’s decision to reopen West Maui this week is part of that push.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that seems really fast. I mean, after what you just described as the current situation for people in the area, it seems real quick. I’m wondering how residents have responded to that news. I personally have some guesses, but tell us anyway.
Tre’vell Anderson: Even though Lahaina Town itself will still be off limits to visitors, Green has faced heavy backlash for this decision. Last Tuesday, Lahaina residents and activists gathered at the state capitol on the island of Oahu to deliver a petition to Green, demanding that he delay the reopening of West Maui. Take a listen to Maui resident and native Hawaiian activist Paele Kiakona. He spoke about how victims of the fires were not fairly consulted or even included in the decision to reopen.
[clip of Paele Kiakona] While the Ashes may have settled, our hearts still ache. Visitors coming to Lahaina is adding insult to injury. Our grief is still too fresh and our losses too profound. We have always prided ourselves in that a lost spirit, right, welcoming visitors with open arms. But right now, our arms are wrapped firmly around our families and the little bit of hope we have left.
Tre’vell Anderson: Another moving testimonial was given by State Senator Angus McKelvey. He represents West Maui, and he joined community leaders outside the governor’s office with tears in his eyes.
[clip of Angus McKelvey] We have no schools. We have no daycare. We have no grocery stores just opening up. The hierarchy of needs has been turned on its head, and we as a government and the community owe it to this very small group of people to give them the immediate need they have and to reassert the hierarchy of needs so that that is addressed first and foremost before any floodgates are open. How can we as a state, look ourselves in the mirror and say we can’t take care of 7000 people? What does that say for the rest of us? I thank the members of the community for being here. I thank our Lahaina families who have flown here with nary a dime in their pocket to be here. They’re the voices in need, the victims should be always front and center. Not politicians. Not pundits. The victims. And I’m just going to leave you with this all. I’m sorry. [?] Lahaina. Long live the people of Maui. [cheers and applause]
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, Green was not at his office when all of this happened, but shortly after he appeared on Hawaii News Now, basically defending his decision to reopen. He told the outlet that he supports the people’s right to protest and sympathizes with those who showed up. But he maintained that West Maui needs to reopen so folks who are unemployed can go back to work, which, you know, is a very interesting take, to say the least.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, hearing those really moving testimonials and then hearing the governor say people need to go back to work like but there are no schools, there’s no daycare, there’s no infrastructure, just is such a tone deaf and awful response. I think it’s important to remind people that Native Hawaiians or Kānaka Maoli, have always been vocal about the negative impact tourism has had on them, like even before the fires. We’ve talked about this on the show plenty about the impacts of Western contact, of U.S. imperialism on Native Hawaiians right to self-govern. I mean, the last thing that they need or want right now is to compete with tourists for what are already very limited resources.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right. And we know how tourists, especially those from the rest of these United States, can be when they go to areas that are, you know, populated by folks of color that might be, you know, lower income folks. It’s not a great thing most of the time.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely. So to learn more about how native Hawaiians are feeling in this moment, we recently got in touch with community organizer and activist Noelani Ahia. She’s a co-founder of the Mauna Medic Healers Hui, one of the many mutual aid groups that have been working tirelessly to support the local community as it rebuilds. And she joined us from one of her organization’s posts in West Maui. We started by asking her about the resources her organization provides to the community. Take a listen.
Noelani Ahia: We initially set up in some of the hubs that had organically formed by the community in some of the parks and neighborhoods, and we’re still in those spaces now. We’re also working with the county to do the reentry where families are going back in to see their homes. So we’re kind of we kind of have our hands in a lot of things. But our basic premise is to meet people where they’re at and provide low barrier care. Our wellness faction and our mental health have been really one of the most important pieces of what we’re doing. We want to make sure that people feel safe, that it feels culturally appropriate to people to share their stories. We’re really just meeting people where they’re at, helping the community be empowered and know that we together can be who we need. We don’t need outside saviors. We are who we need, and we’re doing it every day.
Tre’vell Anderson: I love that. What are some of those stories that you’re hearing from folks in the community about how the fires have impacted them.
Noelani Ahia: The way that this disaster is being handled by larger government entities and nonprofit organizations. It’s caused so much frustration and lack of trust that a lot of folks haven’t really even begun to heal, haven’t even begun to grieve, really, because the folks that are staying in the hotels, they’re getting constant um notifications that they’re going to be kicked out soon or that they have to redo their paperwork or that they have to check in every 48 hours. And it’s really hard for people to find normalcy and stability in that kind of situation. And I think it’s frustrating for us because especially as Kānaka Maoli, you know, like we had a highly functioning system of taking care of each other and taking care of our people. We lived here for a thousand years without contact. And ever since occupation, we’ve been forced to be subjugated to um U.S. government’s policies. There’s already this history of, you know, dispossession and forced assimilation. And it’s not unlike Indigenous people on Turtle Island or our African descent relatives that were brought over and enslaved. It’s this sort of white supremacy ideology that they know what’s best for us, it’s that patriarchy and that paternalism. And that’s what we’re experiencing here with the Red Cross that’s come in and, you know, even the federal government, to a certain extent and the state government, like they’re trying to tell us what we need and they have all these funds and these block grants that um, you know, go to the Red Cross for housing. But I feel like if they would just give us the money that they raised on our behalf and let us do it ourselves, we could have been far more efficient and prevented a lot of the trauma that they’re actually creating.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Thank you so much for also articulating the post traumatic incident trauma of a state that is not actually providing what you need. I do want to talk about the last thing felt by native Hawaiians, specifically. You spoke to Hawaii Public Radio for a piece about the generational trauma that the Native community is experiencing right now as they grieve what was lost in the fires. Can you talk a little bit more for people who are listening, who aren’t as familiar with the history, or who may only know of Lahaina as this tourist spot. Like, what is the significance of Lahaina for native Hawaiians?
Noelani Ahia: To share the history you know, Hawaii was a highly functioning Indigenous civilization. So we traversed the oceans for, I think the data shows, possibly 8000 years we were navigating by the stars. We were a self-sufficient people that were highly intelligent, highly connected to our environment. We have a very deep and rich history of abundance and brilliance, and we have a very painful history of settler colonialism, illegal occupation, forced dispossession from our lands and theft of our waters and resources. As well as loss of culture and loss of identity as Kānaka Maoli. Those pieces of imperialism and colonial violence live inside of our bodies, and they get passed from generation to generation to generation and to now have this kind of trauma from the fires, it’s more than some people can handle. Lahaina town, when we first had our Constitution written in 1893, it was written here in Lahaina town. Its original name is [?] Lele. It as another name, [?]. It has all these old names um in Hawaiian, the names have significance and they tell you the story about the place. And you know, that’s been erased. Some of the pieces that were so significant are gone. Um. You know, historical buildings gone. But the Lahaina families are so deeply connected to this place. My family got disconnected and dispossessed, and we’ve been gone from Lahaina for a long time. But some of the families are still here. The same original families, generation after generation after generation, and they’re embedded in the Aina. When we pass away, we put our bones back in the Aina and they become the nourishment. They become the [?] for the next generation. And this level of tragedy on top of the historical trauma, has overwhelmed our community, but it has also spurred everyone to come together and show a different way. Because Lahaina has always been that way. They always took care of their own and they always will.
Tre’vell Anderson: Governor Joshua Green announced last month that West Maui would reopen to visitors on October 8th, and even though the town of Lahaina would remain off limits, we know that natives, their allies and even some elected officials have spoken out about how this kind of feels too soon for that. What are you hearing from Native folks on the ground, folks who’ve suffered, you know, these unimaginable losses about how they feel about visitors, you know, being welcomed back right now?
Noelani Ahia: Nobody wants visitors back. It is way too soon. Tourism is part of the settler colonial violence against our people to begin with even before the tragedy, for tourists to come now, at this time when our people are suffering, they’re in pain. They haven’t even been able to grieve yet with their getting constantly moved around from hotel to hotel and not have any security about where they’re going to live or whether they’ll have a roof over their head or whether their kids can go back to school. To bring tourists in now is pouring salt in a very open and painful wound. For Kānaka Maoli, I would say it’s genocidal. For the state to prioritize outsiders enjoyment and leisure and pleasure over our basic needs and safety is absolutely not okay. We have already had tourists coming here saying things like they don’t care about the local people, they’re on vacation. They are showing up at our community mutual aid hubs asking for resources. There is very little sensitivity from many of the tourists. And while there may be a handful that might be lovely and want to help, it’s not the majority. It is not right to send in tourists at this time and maybe even ever.
Noelani Ahia: Can you tell us what the community needs moving forward? What can folks who aren’t there on the island do to support Native people’s needs, Native Hawaiians needs, especially as we observe Indigenous Peoples Day this year?
Noelani Ahia: The biggest thing that I would say is hold your government accountable for the crimes against Kānaka Maoli people. Write letters, rally if you have to, educate yourselves. The more people that know and the more empowered the larger community is to speak up for what is Pono, for what is right. The better off we all are. We need solidarity. Really put your intention towards Maui and Lahaina, especially being able to restore itself to its glory and its people to abundance. Hold that vision for us of Hawai’i being what Hawaiians need it to be, not what tourists need it to be, not what industry needs it to be, not what corporations need it to be. Not what government needs it to be, but what the people need it to be.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was our conversation with Noelani Ahia. We’ll link to the Mauna Medic Healers Hui and other resources for folks who want to show their support for locals as they continue their long term recovery. [music break].
Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. [music break]
Lita Martínez: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our senior producer is me, Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.