Hafta letters: Climate policy, COP28 and Zionism

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I would like the panel’s views on the following:

Why are Modi and the BJP able to get away with things that the Congress or any other party cannot? 

A glaring example is of how Modi asked for votes in the name of Pulwama martyrs. Even a Congress spokesperson on the news channel said that if it was a PM from Congress, they wouldn’t have been able to walk on the streets. It seems that Modi and BJP have bucket loads of goodwill of the people. Why is that so?



Hi there,

I saw Newsance 234 and I thought I should send this to Hafta as a story pitch as well as NL Sena recommendation. Something that Manisha said touched a chord.

The profile of the five Parliament trespassers is a brilliant sample size to judge the state of the nation.

It would make a great story to look at the states the five trespassers (that is all that they did in Rang de Basanti style) are from and the 15-20 MPs who gheraoed them and beat them up. A deep dive analysis on each of the MPs and the state of unemployment in their constituencies. This would be a great public interest piece.  

The idea is to just bring the facts out. Nothing more, nothing less. I am sure there will be enough subscribers ready to contribute both in resources and in the data crunching (I can help).

Best Wishes,

Dhiraj Krishna Kumar


Satshriakal ji,

I have been following Newslaundry since 2018. I landed my first job this October. First expenditure was buying my grandmother’s salwar-suits and second was Newslaundry's Game Changer subscription. My village’s elders follow your election coverage and now listen to Charcha on my subscription. Writing this to let you know that there are enough of us who support and love you. Whenever need arises, we will be there by your side in capacities that we can.

Our sath (baithak) sent Manisha ji asees.

Chadhdi kala!

Bhisiana, Punjab


I work as a climate policy researcher. In the last episode, I thought the discussion on COP was pretty inadequate. For me, I thought the one lesson that the world must learn from COP28 is understanding the importance of the ‘conflict of interest’ principle. The presidency in COP shares a significant responsibility in putting forward the text that’s then negotiated upon. The weaker text then just sets a low benchmark. We can say that at least we made some progress with ‘moving away from fossil fuels’ but that’s not the pace we need.

On markets, we need a more nuanced discussion. Markets are eventually putting a price on emissions that should be charged from the emitter because we are paying for them when there are natural disasters. There are different types of carbon markets (compliance and voluntary) and maybe we do need to break down the jargon for the audience. On Manisha’s remark of economic suicide, we need to find new models of development because the older ones are obsolete.



For an organisation that promotes independent media and critiques mainstream media, you don’t seem to follow any of your American and Israeli counterparts on their war coverage, primarily consuming mainstream media like NYT and WaPo. When you try to think of a left-wing Jewish voice and the best you can come up with is Ezra Klein, the slant really shows.

In a country with lobbying so strong that organisations are penalised for boycotting Israel, university chancellors are forced to quit for platforming pro-Palestinian voices and the only Palestinian Congresswoman gets censured, can you imagine the scale of self-censorship happening in newsrooms? Remember, a lot of your ad-driven model talking points are derived from Chomsky’s work, most of his analysis being on America.

I encourage you to check out the work by independent media like +972 Mag, Democracy Now, The Nation, and The Intercept among others.

I’m glad Jayashree is back to add better perspective, Masha Gessen piece was a great read.

I also wanted to add to Gautham’s point in last week’s letter. Some people differentiate between labour, Zionism and Revisionist Zionism and Revisionist being the more radical strain, and labour being the “good guys”.

Early labour Zionists like Ben Gurion exhibited awareness that what they were doing was ethnic cleansing and hoped Palestinians will forget about it with time. This comes up in the Balfour episode of the Empire podcast.

Rabin said he would give Palestinians “less than a state” in Parliament a month before his assassination. Lavon affair happened under Labor leadership. Oslo was a result of a quid pro quo deal with Egypt.

All this gives rise to the question of how much Israel was really willing to concede in the peace talks. Arafat is often blamed for rejecting peace offers but the details of what was on the table would be worth discussing in the proposed podcast. Was a sovereign state ever acceptable to them or would it have been an autonomous region in Israel in practice?



Hello Abhinandan, as I mentioned in my last letter last week, I am quite eager to share my perspective on the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. I would like to point out that it is perhaps a good idea to have separate podcasts, one with interested subscribers and one where you interview the subject experts. You mentioned Gideon Levy. I think he has done stellar reporting on this subject from the Occupied territories, but he provides one piece of a very large and diverse jigsaw puzzle. I would also recommend Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim who provide more context to different arguments. Context is the key here. I hope somebody from your team will reach out to me and other interested subscribers for a scheduled conversation on this burning issue.



I've seen Meghnad and you guys as well do a good job in explaining the Telecommunication and Broadcast bill. Isn’t this bill terrifying for you guys? We've all seen what the Great Man can do. Newsclick’s top brass is still in jail and who the hell knows when, and if they will get bail. While you guys are doing your job ably, don’t you think a bigger call to action needs to be there? Something that mobilises the masses?

At the end of the day, we’re reaching a point where democracy is as good as dead. We’ve seen what goes on in the Parliament. Heck, a couple of my sikh friends have been confronted with random strangers asking “Aap Khalistan ko support karte ho?”

On my part, I've deleted anything I've written against the Great Man on social media and have made a concerted effort to keep my head down, but for you guys it’s your work and livelihood, how do you guys manage?

PS: Pardon me if this was too negative :)



Dear Abhinandan,

Animal's success was dismissed and condescendingly reduced to "losers" & "Misogyny". I believe ultra violence movies which feature exploited female characters can be Great (Blue Velvet, Oldboy, Bandit Queen etc.). 'Animal' is not one of them. Audiences were shocked by the graphic violence, unapologetic sexuality & the main characters' moral ambiguity towards crime, further exposing their spiritual & cultural bankruptcy. I would recommend a video by Acharya Prashant on the same topic that helped me shape my opinion.

Finally the "Peterson Fellow" has co-authored 100s of publications, received 18000 citations in the fields of personality, conscientiousness, creativity etc. & was one of the first person to stand against the Authoritative Trudeau Govt. So, yes he's an INTELLECTUAL in every sense of the word.



Note: Sorry, couldn't keep it small because Climate Change is such a complicated topic and we will only be doing it justice by accepting it the way it is.

Biases: Environmental Activist, Socialist, Degrowth(er), Anti-Capitalist

I disagree with Aruna’s recommendation - “The Price of Whale”. It is relying on solving Climate Change with the same Market Mechanisms that brought us into this mess in the first place, ie Capitalism.

Capitalism is fundamentally inapt to solve the Climate Crisis. While solving the Climate Crisis, it is inevitable that you will run into problems from which you can’t make money out of. Take example of our Forest Conservation Act Amendments, you just can’t make money out of saving forests but if you chop it off and start mining, it's literally a black gold mine for companies.

Just look at the number of how many fossil fuel lobbyists there were in COP28 to dilute the language of the final text.

This is why if we really want to stop Climate Change, we have to get rid of Capitalism first. Degrowth is way better suited for solving Climate Change. Degrowth is the active scaling down of useless industries (like Fashion, Cosmetics, Packaged Fast Food) and focus on scaling up industries that serve some meaningful purpose (like Education, Healthcare).

Won’t it reduce Job opportunities? No, it should not. In Degrowth, workdays should be reduced without reduction in pay and to fill for the remaining work, more people should be hired. Along with a lot more Social Safety Nets. Degrowth isn't a simple topic so I would link something below.


Cost of growth centric economy & how Degrowth can help tackle it

The Problems with "The Price of Whale"

Record number of fossil fuel lobbyists granted access to COP



Apology for the longer mail, I won't mind if not read in Hafta given the time constraints.

The entire episode of Hafta 463 seemed to me as a quest in “Understanding” – be it the election results, or why the movie Animal is attracting such fascination within the masses.

There seems to be a conviction that the way to understand things is through “scientific studies” and data driven analysis.

This notion that seems to be a generally accepted principle needs a bit more reflection.

There is a conflation of the terms such as Knowing/Knowledge/Understanding, and all are used interchangeably without too much thought.

Understanding is not the same as knowing.

Understanding, distinguished from knowing, is a bit more complex and it is not going to produce unequivocal results. In understanding, there is a human element by which we try to reconcile ourselves to the reality and the world we live in.

This by its very nature is an unending process which goes through constant changes and variations.

Organised research, that is, the combined efforts of the historical, social, and psychological data alone can never produce any true understanding.

Neither scientific evaluation of data, interviews, or Statistics can produce understanding (Mr Verma seems to have pointed this out).

Trying to understand human affairs or minds through these methods can lead to cliches, where happenings will be subsumed under the categorizing structures of research.

If the goal is to “Understand” as distinguished from “Knowing” using organised research methods might lead to an illusion of understanding which might ease our minds for a short duration and when an unexpected event happens, it will either break through the structures of research or every unexpected event will be subsumed into the research to fit within its categorising paradigms, resulting in losing any newness that the event might have brought about.

Such methods do not advance efforts to understand, because they submerge whatever is unfamiliar and needs to be understood in a welter of familiarities and possibilities.

In both these cases actual understanding will not occur.

Understanding can make knowledge meaningful but knowledge cannot produce understanding.

Understanding won't lead you to knowledge, it would lead you to meaning and depth that is required to make sense of the world.

We seem to live in an era, where thinking and understanding are being reduced to science, and the idea that only things that matter are things that can be proven or disproven. And since understanding is deeply tied with the idea to make meaning to reconcile ourselves within the world, this unique human faculty is being sidelined.

Understanding in the broadest sense will not perhaps lead to persuasion but it will broaden the perspective of the world, it would expand the understanding of the uniqueness, complexity and plurality of our world.

True understanding will always return to judgements and prejudices which normally precede and guide the initial scientific inquiry.



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