We Need to Talk about Israeli Genocide

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It’s probably natural that, after the month of genocide we’ve seen carried out by Israel in Gaza, people would want to shift their focus elsewhere. Over and over again, we’ve seen images of Palestinians wandering shell-shocked through the wreckage of Gaza: Palestinians holding their slaughtered infants, Palestinians murdered playing soccer on a beach, Palestinians simply staring blankly at their viciously, needlessly destroyed homes.

It’s important to note, right now, that there are no comparable images of murdered Israeli children circulating on social media, in the press, or anywhere else in the universe. That’s because those images don’t exist. Those images don’t exist because what’s happened in Gaza over the last month isn’t war between Israel & Hamas. It’s a genocide being executed out by Israel against the Palestinian people.

I’ll take the statistics from CNN because no sane person could argue that CNN is pro-Palestinian or anti-semitic:

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza stands at more than 1,800, with nearly 10,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday. More than 300 children have died, the ministry has reported, as the United Nations repeatedly raises concerns about the high number of deaths in Gaza.

On the Israeli side, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died since fighting began more than three weeks ago.

Again, this is not a war; it’s a slaughter. It’s brutal and disturbing and I can understand why people might want to think about other things.

Jewish Americans (like myself) might be particularly desperate to find other things to talk about. Growing up Jewish in the U.S. meant, for me and for many of us, aggressive indoctrination into militaristic, xenophobic Zionism. No matter how many soccer-playing kids the Jewish state’s military murders, a part of me still wants to think they’re the good guys.

But the reality is, there are no photos of dead Israeli children on the beach. There are no Israeli universities bombed into oblivion. No schools sheltering Israeli civilians have been obliterated by Hamas’s rockets.

And while I find anti-semitism frightening and abhorrent, I’m confused about the recent spate of cautionary articles about prejudice against Jews in the U.S. media at a time when the Jewish state is carrying out genocide against the Palestinians with direct, aggressive U.S. support– and when the Anti-Defamation League reports that U.S. anti-semitism is at a low point. Fantastic hypotheticals wherein Palestinian forces have the resources to dominate the Israeli military don’t seem particularly helpful at the moment. Make-believe violence isn’t my primary concern at the moment; there’s more than enough actual violence to deal with.

Right now, it seems like we might want to follow the lead of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide (and their descendants) who have stated, unequivocally, that during this slaughter, their concern is for those who are actually victims, rather than those who might be:

As Jewish survivors and descendents of survivors of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world. We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia…

We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!

This is all we need to talk about: end the genocide and end the occupation. As these Holocaust survivors say, “never again” means “never again for anyone.”


It’s Okay to Shout When Your Children are Being Slaughtered

gazaThe Daily Show ran a segment last week titled “We Need to Talk about Israel.” Apparently an attempt to illustrate the difficulties journalists face when covering the ethnic cleansing Israel’s military is carrying out in Gaza, the segment showed Jon Stewart getting alternately shouted down by Zionists and opponents of ethnic cleansing. The shouting was so aggressive that Stewart never actually got to talk about Israel which was, apparently, the punch line.

The sketch was notable because it was a rare instance where supporters of the Israeli military were portrayed by American media as aggressive and irrational. The obvious takeaway, however, was that journalists can’t get into Israel/Palestine because people on both sides of the slaughter won’t just keep calm and carry on. If only they’d stop shouting, we could actually start to understand what’s happening over there, and why.

The idea that American journalists are the beleaguered victims here is absurd. American journalists– Stewart included– have never had any problem ignoring supporters of the Palestinian cause before, no matter how loud their voices were. For decades, mainstream media in the U.S. have offered uncritical support of the violence waged by Israel against the Palestinians. They’ve had no problem demonizing the Palestinians and regurgitating the Israeli government’s justifications for its crimes against humanity.  But that’s not the main problem here.

The problem here is the idea, which I’ve heard more and more as the slaughter has continued, that both sides are behaving equally irrationally– and that this inability to behave rationally is what keeps the conflict going. The truth is that calls for calm in the face of slaughter always serve the interests of those in power, those doing the slaughtering. As Tom Whyman argued in his recent essay on contemporary fascism:

“The injunction to behave properly, to smile and get on with it, is precisely a way of shutting down any form of social resistance…To be nice, to ‘behave properly,’ is simply to behave like an infantilized middle-​class subject. Thus every marketing campaign or government public service announcement that passive-​aggressively preaches niceness is really a violent enforcement of reactionary values that serves to preserve a crisis-​stricken status quo.”

Right now, the Israeli government is pursuing its stated aim of eradicating the Palestinian population of Gaza to clear the area for Israeli settlement and America’s political leaders on both sides of the aisle are vocally defending the rightness of Israel’s cause. In the face of this insanity, calls for calm seem, well, insane.

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