Genocide in Gaza

Where to begin? Let’s start with the oft-cited justification for the atrocities Israel has committed in Gaza since the Hamas attack of last October 7: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” What does that actually mean?

In practice, it seems to mean whatever the Israeli government says it should mean. It means well over 30,000 Gazan deaths so far (over 32,000, according to Al Jazeera), including a shocking number of children. It means indiscriminate bombing and reducing homes to rubble. It means mass displacement and it is beginning to mean starvation.

Yazan Kafarneh, 10, died of severe malnourishment on March 4. Photo: Hatem Ali/Associated Press.

Many Western figures, in government and media alike, seem to accept this “anything goes” rationale as a logical extension of Israel’s “right to defend itself.” President Biden basically endorsed this stance after October 7, before his more recent cosmetic, slow-moving retreat. And David Brooks, a supposed compassionate conservative, exemplifies the tortured logic behind Israel’s supposed need to obliterate Gaza in the process of defeating Hamas in a recent column entitled, “What Would You Have Israel Do to Defend Itself?”

“So where are we?” Brooks asks. “I’m left with the tragic conclusion that there is no magical alternative military strategy.” The rest of the column duly notes Israeli discrimination against Palestinians and the need for a more equitable future (but without endorsing a two-state solution).

Let’s illustrate this thinking in blunt terms. Mr. Brooks, do you believe it was necessary for Israel to kill more than 32,000 people, including more than 13,000 children; to destroy more than half of Gaza’s homes (some 360,000, Al Jazeera estimates); to implement mass displacement and withhold shipments of aid to create starvation for use as a weapon, in order to defeat Hamas? Answer: yes (tragically).

More than half of Gazan homes have been destroyed. Photo: Mohammed Hajjar/AP.

By this same rationale, it was necessary for Hamas to attack Israel on October 7 and kill more than 1,100 Israelis in order to fight injustice, strike a blow for freedom and underscore the Palestinian cause. If you’ve been oppressed for more than 70 years, had your land stolen and your rights taken away, doesn’t the end justify the means? Many American college students believe exactly that, which is why the leaders of Harvard and Penn were deposed, after a self-righteous and hypocritical hearing in the House.

The truth, it should be obvious, is that no one has the “right” or the justification to murder innocents. Yet Israel and its defenders insist on precisely that right. At times, they employ the memory of the Holocaust or Shoah, to underscore their need to have this right. If you’d like to take a closer look at how the Holocaust is employed in service of Israel’s murderous policies, this article in the London Review of Books does just that.

South Africa has brought a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, arguing that Israel is committing genocide. Most Western countries will reject this claim, but it appears Ireland is about to file an argument in support of South Africa’s case.

We believe genocide is occurring in Gaza, and that Israel and its leaders have committed numerous war crimes. We also believe Israel’s current actions have provoked a spike in antisemitism worldwide and have imperiled the country’s future security.

Ideally, an ICJ verdict in support of the genocide charge would be a first step toward justice and, hopefully, change. But change remains unlikely, especially if the U.S. continues its unequivocal military and financial support of the rogue Israeli state.

Ceasefire Now!

This page has been silent for most of 2023. In part, this has been due to work on a sizable project. In larger part, though, our silence reflects a stunned reaction to the ever-growing cascade of dire news around the world. What to say? Where to even begin?

Now, however, with 2024 on the horizon, it’s time to speak out again. We could address Trump’s possible (likely?) return to the White House next year … the world’s pathetic efforts to combat climate change … the hopeless situation of gun violence in America. Instead, we’ll focus on the most conspicuous bit of bad news on our screens at the moment: the incredibly disproportionate and criminal violence Israel continues to inflict on civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Gaza destruction.
Bombing survivors. Image source: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images.

Yes, Hamas did commit atrocities against Israeli citizens on October 7. Horrendous atrocities. There’s no argument there. The argument is against the scale of Israel’s response. As always, far more Palestinians have died than Israelis, thanks in part to America’s long-term, continuing military support. And the Palestinians who have died are overwhelmingly civilians (many of them children), not Oct. 7 attackers. When called out on this, Israelis have pointed to America’s own disproportionate sins, namely Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We should specify that we do not believe our anti-Zionist stance is antisemitic, though Israel and right-wing U.S. supporters would claim that it is. Rather, our condemnation of Israel’s long-term behavior, and its atrocious behavior right now, is a straightforward matter of observation. In addition to the vast destruction and the indiscriminate killing Israel is currently perpetrating, officials in that country’s government have been outspoken in calling for the blood of the “human animals” they are murdering in Gaza. Within the far-right Israeli government, there is not even a pretense of concern over civilian deaths.

Both Amnesty International and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), two groups noted for trying to stop violence and bloodshed around the globe, are calling for an immediate ceasefire. That is but a minimal first step. It’s a contemptible shame that Western governments, including our own, lack the courage to support even that.

By the way, Amnesty International also notes, correctly, that Israel operates an apartheid state, and has done so for decades.

If any of the above resonates with you, write to your government officials. Do something to counter the blind, pro-Israel support dominating our government. Say something! Donate to Amnesty and MSF. And if you want to push Israel harder, consider supporting BDS. (Note that this last step may entail personal risk at some point.)