Will We Act To Prevent Genocide In Gaza?
Israel has told us what it intends. It's high time we listened.
Before I get to today’s article, I want to let you all know about an important new report I wrote with Prof. Sahar Aziz that was released by Rutgers University Center for Security Race and Rights. It is called Presumptively Antisemitic: Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine–Israel Discourse. It traces the influence of Islamophobia on US policy and goes a long way toward explaining why the United States is behaving as it is right now. You can find the report here.
Now on to today’s newsletter…
If there has been one constant in Palestine and Israel, it has been mythology. No conflict, no historical encounter is so replete with multiple narratives, misinterpretation, and outright fiction. Israel, in particular, has managed to create a virtual reality that encompasses its history, its founding, and its present. One can argue that this alternative reality is the single biggest impediment to creating any political momentum for change.
It’s an impediment that can no longer be tolerated. We, particularly in the United States, need to abandon our collective fictions and start dealing with reality. There is a genocide being carried out, and we have to mobilize to stop it.
Those are not words I use lightly. Over the years, I have gotten into many debates, even arguments, with Palestine solidarity activists because I would not use the word “genocide” for what Israel was doing.
But what is happening now is a genocide. It is as clear as something like this can ever be. And, as things stand now, we in the United States are facilitating a genocide; protecting Israel with our warships and giant aircraft carriers as it carries it out arming Israel; paying for it; and weaving a careful narrative to blame anyone but the actual culprits, the Netanyahu government.
Someday, every one of us will have to look at our children and grandchildren and answer them when they ask us what we did about it. Most of us are going to lie, because what most of us are doing is either nothing or cheering it on.
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave us perhaps the clearest evidence to date that this war is about a lot more than Hamas; it is about destroying the Palestinians as a people and as a national movement. No, Israel is not building death camps or anything of the sort, and they are not planning to completely wipe every Palestinian off the face of the earth. But genocide does not require that, and Netanyahu has made it clear that is what is in the offing.
Genocide, so we are clear on terminology here, is defined under international law thus:
Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Israeli leaders have made numerous statements over the past eight weeks that speak to genocidal intent, which is unusual for states that are accused of genocide. Intent is usually the hardest thing to prove. But Netanyahu and his government, feeling comfortable in their impunity—for good reason, thanks to Joe Biden and Antony Blinken—are letting us know just what they intend.
At a press conference Saturday, Netanyahu laid it down. This war is not about Hamas, because Netanyahu is defining many other Palestinians as Hamas equivalents. Speaking of the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu launched well-worn accusation, but in harsher language.
The Palestinian Authority, he said, “pays murderers” and “educate[s] their children to hate Israel and, to my sorrow, to murder Jews, and ultimately for the disappearance of the State of Israel.”
Lest there be any confusion about what he was saying, Netanyahu continued by positing that the Palestinian political movement had “split into two, but the ideology, to my sorrow, that rejects the existence of Israel is common to both those factions. So I won’t repeat the mistake and put that entity into Gaza, because we’ll get the same thing.”
He has vowed that Hamas will be wiped out, like the biblical Amalek whom God commanded the Israelites to erase from the earth completely, even their children, slaves, and animals. If the PA and Fatah are the same, as he stated, then Netanyahu can no more tolerate their presence in the West Bank than he could Hamas in Gaza. And we have already seen how Netanyahu addresses that concern.
When this week’s brief pause ended, Israel killed 178 Palestinians and injured 589 in the first three hours. While death counts are no longer as consistent as they were, by even conservative calculations, over 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, including over 6100 children and over 4000 women. 1.8 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, a staggering figure.
Israel promises that warfare will continue for weeks or months. It is, therefore, inevitable that far more people will die from exposure, disease, lack of medication for chronic conditions, malnutrition, and thirst.
As was revealed in an investigative report by Yuval Abraham at +972 Magazine, Israel has, as a matter of policy, removed the restraints from the military regarding civilian casualties, with appalling results. As I pointed out in a recent article, “[Israel] has rendered the north uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, even by the already diminished standards of the besieged Gaza Strip. During that time, Israel has reported the killing of only a handful of leading Hamas figures. Indeed, during the bombing portion, they were clearly targeting civilian sites.”
Usually, the proof of a genocide is not this clear until after the killing is done, and often not even then. Israel, in its cruel hubris, has given us all the warning we need. In Gaza, the situation is already dire, but we are seeing the beginning of a parallel process on the West Bank, where Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 241 Palestinians, including 63 children since October 7.
We ask how people could have allowed genocide to happen in the past. In 2023, we get to see it as it happens. We know it is happening, and we in the U.S. know it is our government that enables it, allows it, facilitates it, and is also the one entity that can stop it. Joe Biden and Antony Blinken have had to back off from the full-throated support they gave Israel in the first few weeks of this onslaught by protests, letters, and other forms of protest domestically as well as increasing pressure internationally. Pushing them harder is the only way we will get them to take real action to stop this genocide before it becomes the defining tragedy of this century.
We either act or we live with our inaction forever. Which is more than an awful lot of Palestinians will be able to do.
Presumptively Antisemitic: Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine–Israel Discourse.
Once again, check out the new report from Rutgers University’s Center for Security Race and Rights by me and Prof. Sahar Aziz, It goes a long way toward explaining U.S. policy in Palestine and Israel and why the Biden administration has been unable and unwilling to stop Israel’s onslaught thus far.
Biden Mideast agenda comes crashing down in Gaza
The Gaza massacre has complicated many of Biden’s other foreign policy objectives, proving once again that Israel is a liability for the United States, not an asset.
Wrong Man for the Job: Biden and the Sukkot War, Part I and Part II
In a two-part special feature for The Battleground, I took a deep dive into what is driving Joe Biden’s policy choices, supporting Israel’s genocidal campaign and possibly endangering his own re-election bid in doing so.
Bernie Sanders' refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza is alienating his base
One might have expected Bernie Sanders to take the lead, at least in the Senate, in pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza, but this has not been the case. I examined this for Middle East Eye.
Israel wants to pull the U.S. into a regional confrontation, but Biden remains reluctant
Some in the Biden administration are concerned that Israel will try to pull he U.S. into a regional war with its escalating clashes with Hezbollah. I looked at the possibilities.
MKs from a wide spectrum of the Knesset call for mass transfer of Palestinians
Some of the more radical figures in the Israeli government, including some from Netanyahu’s own Likud party, are calling for the mass expulsion of Palestinians. Yet the responses form the US and Europe have been sheepish at best.
Blind support for Israel in US not working for anybody – Israel/Palestine expert
I had the distinct pleasure of discussing the current situation with Lester Kiewit on CapeTalk in South Africa.
Biden works to create plausible deniability as he backs Israel’s assault on Gaza
While many are buzzing about Biden and Blinken trying to restrain Netanyahu, the President also made it clear that he will not put any material pressure on Israel. So it’s really all just theater.
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