“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
–George Orwell, “Notes On Nationalism” (1945)
The May 28, 2012 issue of Time magazine is a strange issue: It has on its cover a man who could reasonably be considered complicit in one of the most egregious terrorist programs in the world…yet at no point acknowledges that the man is, in fact, involved with terrorism at all. (This was unsurprising—though nevertheless exasperating to behold.)
It had been just over a year since Time had put on its cover a man who was the leader of another of the world’s biggest terrorist organizations, to celebrate his assassination. This time was different, though. The editors seemed reluctant to acknowledge the fact that the man now pictured is the leader of one of the world’s biggest terrorist States.
It is uncontroversial to say that the man in question is a right-wing ideologue—as are most impresarios of terrorist projects. As will be pointed out forthwith, he is the leader of one of the most harmful organizations on the planet. Yet—predictably—Time did not specify this rather salient point.
The irony is that on page 13 of that same issue, we are notified that another terrorist figure (Bosnian-Serb warlord Ratko Mladic) is finally being brought to justice by the International Criminal Court. We are right to celebrate that development.
YET…the transgressions of the Israeli government (IG), especially of the Likud Party, over the past generation have been more severe. This conclusion is unavoidable once we take the term, “terrorism” seriously…and then weigh the facts. Alas, like too many here in America, Time magazine fails to take the term seriously.
This need not be some pointless excursion into logomachy; this is about refraining from an abuse of language. We should take the words we use in our discourse very seriously. So, as a point of departure for this essay, let’s put forth a worthwhile definition of “terrorism”:
An on-going program to terrorize a group of people for the “crime” of being members of a particular group (i.e. of any out-group that stands in the way of the in-group’s agenda).
That is a start, yet it seems—well—woefully inadequate. Causing actual harm, it would seem, is part of what determines any terrorist program. So we must elaborate. To engage in terrorism is:
To calculatedly and systematically cause the suffering and/or death of innocent civilians (in order to intimidate them, and thus cow them into submission).
This is—admittedly—a very simplistic distillation of the concept, “terrorism”. Yet that is precisely the virtue of such a definition. Taken together, these two clauses are sufficiently general yet sufficiently precise to diagnose the phenomenon. More to the point, this is a definition of “terrorism” that most reasonable people could agree on.
We also know that terrorists (aim to) cause terror, suffering, and death: in order to make an ideological point—presumably, to compel (the leaders of) the targeted group to submit to the in-group’s interests. Therefore, we should always look for such a motive when seeking to identify instances of the phenomenon.
The degree of terrorism, then, can be assessed based on how much suffering / death of civilians the program in question intentionally causes. This seems very straight-forward. The hard part, of course, is evaluating potential cases impartially.
In this discussion, we’re addressing civilians who are non-citizens of the nation the State of which is the organization in question. Using the aforesaid barometer, Revisionist Zionism (RZ) has been the most egregious terrorist cause in the world for the past three decades. (The same barometer, of course, entails that various Palestinians have also been guilty of terrorist actions—though to a drastically lower degree, as we shall explicate here. ANY terrorism is—by definition—wrong. But not all terrorism is equal in degree.)
The IG has been dominated by RZ since 1967—making it, ipso facto, a terrorist State. The prime RZ figure (and head of that State), then, could reasonably be said to be a de facto terrorist. That man, as it happens, is currently Benjamin Netanyahu.
Revisionist Zionism has impelled a State (the IG, with the support of the U.S. government) to engage in cruelty against non-citizens to a degree that is unparalleled anywhere in the world in the last three decades. Read the above definition of “terrorism” once again, then attempt to contrive a way that such a State is NOT somehow terrorist in nature. (Note that the present discussion pertains to atrocities imposed on non-citizens. The discussion is different when dealing with domestic projects, where other States are more egregious transgressors—as I enumerate in the epilogue.)
There are 1.6 million human beings imprisoned in Gaza as I write this essay, all of them living in staggeringly inhuman conditions, making it the largest ghetto in history. (It is QUADRUPLE the size of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto—and represents just as much a crime against humanity.) Consistency of principle dictates: If it was wrong for it to be done to people of ethnicity X, it is just as wrong (and wrong for precisely the same reason) when it is done to people of ethnicity Y. Also recall that the perpetrators in the former case did much of what they did in the name of “national security”, a card that has been played by the dominating power in such a scenario in almost every instance since the Roman Empire (see U.S. invasion of Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia).
Survey Palestine since 1967 and witness the heinous treatment of an entire civilian population, designated along racial lines. Any decent human being would, without hesitation, determine the appalling policies against Palestine to be utterly inexcusable. The savagery, the cruelty, the brutality, and the inhumanity go beyond description. The flagrantly illegal occupation has no justification whatsoever outside of a deranged and preposterous (i.e. literal) reading of the Torah. The chronic suffering inflicted on millions of innocent civilians, day in and day out, year after year after year, is on par with some of the worst crimes of the past generation.
In Operation Cast Lead (carried out during the weeks leading up to Obama’s inauguration), almost 1,500 people in Gaza were pointlessly slaughtered—the vast majority of which were INNOCENT CIVILIANS. About a third of those slaughtered were children. (There were more than 430 recorded cases of child deaths from that single, horrific IDF campaign.) Another 1,500 children were seriously injured during the course of the operation.
Imagine, for a moment, what would have happened if Hamas had done that in Tel Aviv. Even 1% of such a transgression—going in the other direction—would have been a front-page story eliciting a deafening outcry. YET…when it happens to a subaltern population, we simply hear paeans to “necessary measures” taken in the name of “national security”—the security, that is, of the group that MATTERS.
Here, “national” is ONLY allowed to mean “Israeli”, never “Palestinian”—in keeping with the view of who is valid and who is not. Valid groups are afforded prodigious license to—at their own discretion—engage in acts of aggression in the name of “security” or “self-defense”. Meanwhile, the invalid group is summarily vilified for any aggressive measures that it might take to effect ITS own security. (The “valid” party typically corresponds with those affiliated with the prevailing power structures—or those amenable to the vested interests of those in power. After all, those with the power typically control the narrative. For more on this point, see my essay, “Somebodies & Nobodies.”)
An impartial assessment tells a different story.
During Cast Lead, the relentless attacks on the civilian population included the intentional bombing of several U.N. schools and declared shelters…as well as the destruction of at least five active ambulances. In addition, more than FIFTY established medical facilities were destroyed. The operation entailed the senseless demolition of entire villages—not to mention the on-going massacres of unarmed, innocent civilians…all of it explicitly endorsed by official IG policy.
After all, IG policy routinely involves massively disproportionate responses to any Palestinian retaliation (retaliation, that is, for their predicament). For example, in 2008 alone (BEFORE Operation Cast Lead slaughtered almost 1,500 Palestinian civilians), there were 412 Palestinians killed…compared to 20 Israelis killed. That year was in keeping with the standard “You kill one of us, we’ll kill at least 20 of you” IDF protocol—a precedent that has been in place for decades. If that is not terrorism, then NOTHING can be called terrorism.
(Regarding Netanyahu, it should be noted that he was just about to be re-appointed prime minister when the operation happened, yet would not resume office until March. Fellow right-winger, Ehud Olmert, was the presiding prime minister during the attacks. But this is a moot point regarding the issue at hand. Indeed, Netanyahu is further to the right than Olmert, and openly supported the operation. Since Netanyahu has been back in office, IG policy has gone even further to the right. If anything, Operation Cast Lead would have been even more atrocious had Netanyahu secured office a few months earlier. He has been the leader of the radical right-wing in Israel for the last couple decades, and has played a role in the on-going policy decisions addressed in this essay. His culpability is demonstrable, then, in all such transgressions.)
Let’s look at the fatality proportions in Operation Cast Lead. Again, in addition to the thousands of injured Palestinian civilians, almost 1,500 were killed. How many Israelis were killed during the operation? There were FIVE reported IDF casualties (at the hands of Palestinians), and allegedly THREE non-IDF (civilian) deaths during the same period. In other words: “You kill one of us, we’ll kill TWO HUNDRED of you” was the implicit calculation. That’s 200 to 1…not to mention the thousands of severe injuries and the pointless destruction of vital infrastructure and civic facilities. (As egregiously wrong as “an eye for an eye” is for moral guidance, one would think the Torah actually said, “200 eyes for an eye” when one reviews various IG actions. The list of such examples is long.)
Keep in mind, the merciless military operation was put in effect after a decade in which the Palestinians incurred orders of magnitude more suffering / death than Israelis. Therefore, the operation could not honestly be said to be “evening the score”. (During the month leading up to OCL, no rockets were fired.) More to the point, such aggression typically only exacerbates the incipient resentments, and only serves to augment incumbent antagonisms. The heinousness of Operation Cast Lead defies words. If it was not a crime against humanity, I can’t fathom what possibly is. Regardless, it PERFECTLY fits the above definition of terrorism.
Back to the 5/28/12 edition of Time magazine:
On page 13 of that issue, we are notified that Mladic is now (finally) facing charges of genocide for his ethnic cleansing during the Balkan military conflict. Mr. Mladic’s most infamous deed was spearheading the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which his fighters killed almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys. That operation occurred during the devastating 43-month siege of Sarajevo.
How about the IG? Palestine is dealing with a decades-long siege. But let’s completely ignore the horrific decades following 1967…and just survey a more recent time-span.
The IDF record is reprehensible in the past decade alone. Between September of 2000 and October of 2008 (the eight years preceding Cast Lead), over 4,700 Palestinians were killed in Gaza—more than 1,200 of them CHILDREN. (Note: That doesn’t count the tens of thousands who suffered and/or died of preventable malnutrition and sickness due to the siege.) That’s about 3 murders for every 1,000 civilians. (Imagine if some organization killed 3 out of every 1,000 Americans over the same period, after forcing every American to live in awful privation for two generations. We might be tempted to call it a crime.)
How many Israelis were killed during roughly the same period? According to the IG’s own Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, 540 Israelis were killed between 2000 and 2007. Add to that the 412 killed in 2008, and that’s 952 casualties. (In other words, an entire decade’s Israeli casualties equals only about 60% of the Palestinians who were killed in Operation Cast Lead ALONE.)
What about the patently unwarranted IG attack on the Lebanese citizenry during the summer of 2006? During the attack, approximately a thousand Lebanese civilians were pointlessly slaughtered by the IDF. (About a third of the civilians killed were children.) 43 Lebanese army and police were killed during the attack; between 300-500 Hezbollah members were killed (depending on which reports to believe). Almost 5,000 more Lebanese civilians were severely injured. Over 16,000 buildings–almost all of them civilian–were destroyed.
So what about Israeli casualties? About 120 IDF were killed during their attack. About 40 Israelis were killed (33 others were seriously wounded).
Do the math. This is not dis-proportionality; it is COLOSSAL dis-proportionality. In other words, it was textbook terrorism on the part of the IG.
But even that assessment involves apples and oranges. The IDF crimes are OFFICIAL POLICY of the (U.S.-supported) Israeli government. By contrast, the killings of Israelis by Palestinians are acts of desperation; and are typically perpetrated by a segment of rogue militants—isolated figures who are brainwashed into undertaking “jihad” by fanatics who exploit the (understandable) fear and resentment of the Palestinian population. As with the IG, malfeasance within Palestine is primarily attributable to fanatical right-wing elements. (It seems to be the prime dysfunction the two sides have in common—though with hugely un-even results.)
That said, the State-sanctioned terror is, prima facie, far more egregious than terror acts perpetrated by rogue Palestinians—especially as it comes with the imprimatur of the U.S. government and is done in significant part with American tax-money. Unfortunately, the most powerful (and their client-states) are beyond the reach of the ICC (leveraging their status to insure that they are exempt from international justice). So it goes with any transgressions perpetrated by the U.S. and Israel.
Think about it: right-wing ideologues (in the U.S. and in Israel) seem perfectly at ease positing what they call, “Islamo-fascism” …yet seem unable to recognize its analogue, “Judeo-fascism”. (In Italy and Spain during the 1930’s, it was Catholic-oriented fascism. In Romania, it was the Eastern Orthodox brand. Arabia’s Wahhabism is yet another brand. Even here in the U.S., we have proto-fascist elements: oligarchy, corporatism, anti-intellectualism, Christian theocracy, super-patriotism, and hyper-militarism. But when WE exhibit such traits, we call it “traditional values” and “patriotism” and “national security” and “spreading democracy”. It’s only when OTHERS exhibit these traits that we denounce them as “fascist”.)
There is no moral difference between a jihadi suicide bomber attacking an Israeli café and an IDF soldier bull-dozing a Palestinian family’s home while—in some documented cases—executing anyone who dares raise an eyelash during the demolition. It is terrorism in either case. The Judean Settler Movement is just as reprehensible as the jihadi who fires rockets over the (illegal) partition wall at Israeli civilians. They are BOTH despicable projects. Moreover, and here’s the key point, they are despicable for THE EXACT SAME REASON.
Unsurprisingly, Time magazine’s Richard Stengel failed to make this fundamental point. But wait a minute: How is it that thousands of Muslim civilians being slaughtered in the Balkans is recognized as a crime against humanity while thousands of Muslim civilians being slaughtered in Canaan are, well, dismissed as collateral?
Also take this into account: In addition to the 4,700 Palestinian deaths during the aforesaid 8-year period, another 5,400 innocent civilians were seriously injured by IG military actions. About HALF of those were women and children. Again: HALF of those were women and children. What’s going on here if not bona fide terrorism? (Keep in mind, ALL Palestinians live in horrible privation and chronic fear. In Gaza, EVERYONE suffers every day. So fatality numbers alone don’t capture the real dis-proportionality at hand.)
Moreover, during the period in question, HUNDREDS of homes were bull-dozed (with families living within them, often right up until minutes before the bull-dozers destroyed the house). Think about what is going on in Palestine: Two generations of forced destitution, including the suffering and death of countless civilians, as well as the ROUTINE theft and destruction of civilian homes. (Much of the suffering is attributable to needlessly blocked access to basic medical resources, to food and potable water, and to their own arable land…all due to draconian measures taken by the IG…in the name of “Israeli security”.)
It is a level of State-sanctioned inhumanity and programmatic cruelty on non-citizens that is unparalleled anywhere in the world. To top it off, the entire Palestinian population is summarily deprived of even the most fundamental civil rights—then vilified for any ensuing resentment they might harbor.
You’d be pissed off too.
So there it is: 4,700 to 952 in the eight years before Operation Cast Lead. The dis-proportionality over that period is flagrant: 5 to 1, NOT counting all the suffering and privation (which is ENTIRELY one-sided). If Hamas is a terrorist organization for the actions it implicitly endorses, then—BY THE VERY SAME MEASURE—the IG is many times over the terrorist organization for the actions it explicitly orchestrates.
…Unless, that is, we say that Palestinian lives aren’t worth as much as Israeli lives…which is precisely what men like Netanyahu propose. It seems not to occur to RZ apologists that anti-goyim-ism is just as morally repugnant as anti-Semitism. But, then again, racists generally don’t acknowledge their own racism. (Remember: It’s only bad when the OTHER guy does it.)
Therein lies the rub. All humans matter. This shouldn’t be a controversial maxim, yet we RARELY act upon it. The death of a Palestinian is just as tragic as the death of an Israeli. Alas, such a proposition—though seemingly obvious to decent people—is completely anathema in RZ. Indeed, RZ is an ideology that is based upon the calculus that the life of a Jew matters more than the life of a goy. Period. Netanyahu bases everything he believes on that maxim. (This is a mindset that is typical of terrorists of all stripes.)
The death of a Jew is unacceptable…but, according to Netanyahu’s vulgar calculus, the death of a Palestinian is just a means to realize a divinely-ordained end. Get it? Were the suffering and death of ANY human being seen as unacceptable, RZ would be seen in the same lights as any other terrorist movement.
Such an insight is pending. Ergo, Netanyahu enjoys boundless impunity.
This is what happens when one thinks that one is doing god’s work. But what more could we expect from a man so ignorant of history that he insists—with a straight face—that his “chosen group” has had a divinely ordained entitlement to a designated piece of real estate for 4,000 years—1,500 years longer than his coveted dogmatic system has actually existed? After all, he takes the Pentateuch literally. A 4,000-year claim on a parcel of land, Ben? Really?
Netanyahu seems not to be aware that the more reasonable elements of the original “Zionist” movement understood the conception of “Israel” to pertain to the preservation of a cultural tradition more than to some forced appropriation of a specific plot of land as a racially pure Valhalla. (For more on this point, see my essays on the vital distinction between Humanitarian Zionism and Revisionist Zionism.)
So, from that issue of Time magazine, we have two cases of terrorist programs to contrast: The Bosnian-Serb atrocities mentioned on page 13 vs. the atrocities perpetrated by a State of which the man on the magazine’s cover is currently the head. The former case is (rightfully) recognized by Time magazine as terrorism; the latter is not. Such a glaring discrepancy begs for an explanation.
Though both programs are horrific to contemplate, which is the more guilty of crimes against humanity: Mladic’s program or the RZ program? Even if we deem it a rough parity, we must wonder why the leaders of the Likud Party are not sitting where Mladic is now seated. What’s going on here? Isn’t terrorism terrorism?
Apparently not. Alas, we find that the ICC is only allowed to prosecute certain KINDS of people…keeping others immune.
One can’t help but wonder: How could the IG—insofar as it is Revisionist Zionist—possibly NOT be considered a terrorist organization by America’s most popular news magazine? And, more to the point, how could that State’s RZ leader not be considered a proxy for terrorism?
Let’s look at Mr. Netanyahu a bit more—based solely on what we learn in that (shamefully sympathetic) Time article about him:
We can start with Netanyahu’s (preposterous) demand that the world recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”—a peculiar stipulation that has only been put on the table in the last decade. Here, Palestinians must not only endure relentless persecution, horrific oppression, and being violently evicted from their land, but they must accept the internal RZ narrative in the meantime. Thus, Palestinians must kow-tow to the Torah’s story-line if the IG is to let them out of their prison.
Put another way: The Palestinians must recognize fundamentalist Jewish dogma if the IG is to stop inflicting endless death and suffering upon them.
What if Israel’s predominant religion were Scientology? Would that change things? Or are certain religion’s exempt from universal moral principles? Imagine if North Korea put all of Thailand under brutal siege, and swore to continue attacking Thailand (and keeping its population imprisoned in inhumane conditions) until the Thai government officially recognized P’yong-Yang as the official regime of Juche and pure Korean bloodlines.
Logically, the RZ demand is no different.
The Palestinians only want to be recognized as a sovereign State. Barring a few rogue fanatics (primarily, those operating under the Salafi charter of Hamas), they broker no demands to be recognized as an “Arab” or “Islamic” State. Now all Palestinians are Salafis, let alone Hamas.
The typical Palestinian just want to be treated as a nation—replete with all the dignity and rights of any other nation. Sovereign nations, we should note, are recognized by the international community as, well, sovereign nations. Period. How they opt to view themselves ideologically / ethnically is their own affair—an INTERNAL affair. So Netanyahu’s odd pre-condition (that Palestinians must swallow their pride and recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”) is utterly inane—a perverse stalling tactic designed only to prevent a viable resolution.
(Note: Even most totalitarian theocracies don’t demand that other nations recognize them as X States, where X is their anointed creed. Not even the Vatican predicates its diplomacy on interlocutors recognizing its Catholicism per se. Why not? Quite simply: Its internal creed is its own affair.)
In a two-state solution, BOTH Palestine and Israel are entitled—equally entitled—to recognition as sovereign nations, with internationally recognized boundaries (i.e. the pre-June 1967 boundaries, with mutually agreed land swaps).
In the Time article, we also learn that Netanyahu “believes that the Israelis and the Palestinians have competing and incompatible narratives.” Indeed, Netanyahu is a hard-core Providentialist—a Jewish supremacist, to be exact—and thus an Israeli exceptionalist. (Note that, in the mind of ANY kind of racial supremacist, calls for racial purity are only bad if OTHER people do it. It’s only “ethnic cleansing” when OTHER people do it. Killing innocent civilians is “national security” when we do it, but terrorism if THEY do it. All tribalism is predicated on double-standards, a.k.a. “exceptionalism”.)
What hidebound ideologues (and hyper-tribalists) like Netanyahu don’t seem to understand is that ANY diplomacy, ANY peace, ANY trans-cultural agreement, must be predicated on that which transcends internal tribal narratives. In other words, a way forward must be based on a common purpose, on categorical universals, on HUMAN solidarity, on a shared project that is not a function one’s own (exclusive) narrative.
Until fanatics on BOTH sides of a conflict—any conflict—realize this elementary point, a resolution will remain untenable. One can’t use different standards for oneself than one does for others and expect everyone else to play along. (Netanyahu can’t expect the Palestinians to leave the Koran at the door if he’s not willing to leave his Torah at the door.)
The primary thing that participants and advocates of the Judean Settler Movement have in common with jihadi suicide bombers is religious fanaticism: each takes the (often preposterous) claims in his own holy book way, way, way too seriously…resulting in the SAME KIND of mindset. That is crux of the problem. The conflict, after all, is a conflict OVER land BASED ON race- and religion-based tribalism. Therefore, it is (the basis of) the tribal division that must be overcome—lest an impass remain.
Most tellingly, we learn from the Time article that, during his time at Boston Consulting Group, Netanyahu “took away…Bruce Henderson’s idea that every company must find its competitive advantage if it is to succeed over its rivals.” So goes business: It’s all about beating the other guy (the competitor) in a zero-sum contest. But here’s the kicker: Netanyahu “says he has applied the same strategy to Israel.”
Think about this for a moment, and you should be terrified. Netanyahu can’t seem to understand that it is the “us vs. them” mentality that is at the root of the current feud. Such a divisive approach can only lead to protracted antagonism—to mutual demonization. This may make sense for Nike vs. Reebok; but not for international relations. This isn’t about selling more consumer-products than the other guy; it’s about co-existence in a global community, where people’s lives are at stake. NO group of humans—qua humans—should ever “lose”.
The issue, we may care to note, isn’t about growing market-share; it’s about preserving human life. It’s not about maximizing profit on a balance sheet; it’s about human rights. Alas, Netanyahu is not a humanitarian; he’s a BUSINESSMAN. For him, it’s all just business—by his own admission. Like a venture capitalist, the ultimate end is the aggrandizement of his own enterprise. (Such is the modus operandi of fascists: treat people as commodities.)
Beating the other player in the marketplace is fine. After all, nobody literally suffers if everyone opts to use Mac OS instead of Windows. Only stock values and profits “suffer”. Insofar as Apple wins; Microsoft loses; and vice versa. Human lives, though, have no place in a business strategy. In Canaan, these are humans we’re dealing with, not products—mere items on a balance sheet.
Diplomacy is, for Netanyahu, a business plan for his own tribe’s enterprise. As is usual with tribal conflicts, the “we win, they lose” paradigm is the crux of the problem. That Netanyahu is mapping the “competing businesses” approach to international affairs is horrific—and it tells us much of what we need to know about what makes him tick. After all, the entire point of RZ is to “put the Palestinians out of business”. Who needs universal human rights when you have Bruce Henderson’s business model?
Someone as pathologically obstinate and self-righteous as Mr. Netanyahu can’t seem to grasp that a resolution to the present conflict can only come from the IG COOPERATING WITH Palestinian leaders, not by “defeating” them. To approach political issues as an actuary is, well, basically to treat human lives as capital in a business venture: “We killed more of you than you of us, so we win.” (This is why slick businessmen usually make horrible statesmen.)
(Note: Other than an MBA, Netanyahu got a degree in architecture—thus making him the only architect in the world who specializes more in destroying peoples’ homes than building them. He has become more an architect of pogroms than of houses.)
Finally, we learn that the “real” concern for the IG is that any recognition of Palestine as a sovereign nation would (finally) give Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court—thereby opening the IG up to a vast number of prosecutions for (well-documented) crimes against humanity. Revisionist Zionists KNOW this, so they are hell-bent on preventing Palestine’s sovereignty. (If you were a war criminal, you’d want to avoid your day in court too!)
Read the above definition of “terrorism” one more time, then look at the facts—abstracting, for a moment, from the ethnic identities of the groups involved (as any non-racist would). Then, as a thought experiment, try to avoid the conclusion that, given the massive disparity of transgressions AND the gigantic power asymmetry, terrorism is not involved on one side FAR more than it is on the other.
When doing this, keep in mind that moral culpability is a function of said disparity. Moreover, the onus to cease and desist in aggression is a function of said asymmetry. Radicals on both sides of this conflict ruin things for everyone else, but—in this case—the responsibility is drastically skewed.
How would leaders of the Likud Party, including Netanyahu, fare in the International Criminal Court—in the samp;maname court that Mladic is now forced to face? Perhaps next time Netanyahu is in Time magazine, he will be mentioned on page 13 in a strident denouncement of his despicable ideology…instead of being featured on the cover as “King Bibi”.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the text, information in this essay was gleaned primarily from three books:
- “Eyes In Gaza” –Mads Gilbert, Erik Fosse (including a 3 hour lecture by Gilbert at Columbia University in April of 2012)
- “Gaza In Crisis” –Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe
- “This Time We Went Too Far” –Norman Finkelstein
1) The kind of terrorism being discussed:
I was very careful to specify that I’m not addressing DOMESTIC terrorism. That’s also a serious problem—warranting is own discussion. Since 1967, domestic terrorism would include obvious examples:
- Designated “subversives” in Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, etc. (all with the backing of the U.S. government)
- The Kurds (in Turkey and in Baathist Iraq)
- The Hutus, then the Tutsis (in Rwanda)
- Non-Muslims in Darfur (in Sudan)
- Victims of the Khmer Rouge (in Cambodia)
- Victims of the regime in the Ivory Coast
- Victims of Idi Amin (Uganda) and pogroms of various other African “Big Men”
Each of these cases arguably involved as much (or even more) suffering / death as is found in Palestine—though for much shorter periods of time. (Tibetans in China, Afghanis under the Taliban, Libyans under Gaddafi, and Syrians under Assad are other cases—though the suffering / death in Palestine has been more severe.) We may also include the most obvious victims of domestic terrorism in the world today: the entire civilian population of North Korea.
That is all domestic terrorism, though—a topic other than the one being addressed in the present essay. (Governments doing horrible things to their own people involves a different dynamic than the dynamic involved with the IG. For starters, one involves domestic policy; the other is a matter of foreign policy.)
The current essay concerns terrorism against NON-citizens. On that scale, the IG gets the gold medal for the period since 1967 (the three possible exceptions being the genocide in Eastern Congo, the U.S. invasion of Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia, and the U.S. backed genocide in East Timor by Suharto…if we opt to categorize those atrocities as instances of State terrorism.)
The IG is—in general—very good to its own citizens…even when they are Goyim (though there is certainly routine, blatant discrimination perpetually afoot). So the nature of the IG’s transgressions are of an entirely different sort than the kinds of iniquities we find with tyrannical regimes such as the ones just mentioned.
A few weeks prior to the aforementioned Time magazine issue, President Obama announced the creation of an “Atrocities Prevention Board” (to be operated in the West Wing)–the mission of which would be to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to humanitarian atrocities around the world. If he truly means it, Obama might start with his own government’s complicity in IG atrocities. After all, crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity. Actions speak louder than words, and Obama has proven himself a maestro at lofty lip-service towards noble causes without actually following through. Perhaps this time will be different.
2) The Warsaw ghetto comparison:
- Gaza is a ghetto.
- It is four times larger than was the Warsaw ghetto.
- 99.99% of the civilian population now imprisoned there did not attack Israel. (Yet ALL are being viciously punished in the name of “Israeli security”.)
UN-like with Gaza, a large percentage of the Warsaw ghetto was later executed. But that’s beside the point at hand: If a smaller percentage from Warsaw had been killed (later on) than had been, would that have made the Nazi siege of Warsaw any more acceptable?
Note that I’m addressing the moral nature of the ghetto-isation ITSELF. Not to what happened later (a crime that was an atrocity unto itself—independently of the initial ghetto-isation). It is the ghetto-isation per se that I am referring to in this comparison.
Keep in mind the eerie parallels between the perpetrators in the two scenarios–replete with calls for racial purity and claims of divine ordinance.
There is a pathological self-righteousness involved that prevents one from seeing his own iniquity, as when Netanyahu said in a 1/7/02 Chicago Sun-Times op-ed about terrorism: “No grievance, real or imagined, can ever justify terror.” Really, Ben? A case of a man refusing to adhere to his own maxim has never been so blatant. (One imagines a KKK member denouncing bigotry.) As Orwell said, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
2) The illegal settlements:
Didn’t the IG acquire land in Palestine legitimately—as it was a result of the military feuds in 1967 and thereafter?
Taking land seized in a “defensive” war is illegal. The entirety of the international community (barring right-wing radicals in the U.S. and in Israel) concurs on this point: Any and all land seized past the 1967 boarders by the IG is illegal under all internationally recognized standards of engagement. Military attacks can only be done in self-defense, never to conquer land.
Alas, the “good if we do it, evil if you do it” mentality is the basis of RZ. Consequently, those like Netanyahu proclaim, “Our security matters; yours does not.” (After all, there can only be one “god’s chosen group”.) This way, the annointed group may contravene the subaltern’s basic rights in order to promote its own interests. And so it goes: The U.S. government gives the IG carte blanche to commit atrocities–license to perpetrate crimes against humanity with impunity…all in the name of “Israeli security”. Comparable Palestinian security is never mentioned.
In the Israel-Palestine conflict, attacks on civilians from BOTH sides have been wrong—a point that I was careful to make. Indeed, two wrongs don’t make a right…and NO act of violence against civilians is tolerable (no matter who does it). ALL attacks on civilians must therefore be denounced—and denounced FOR THE EXACT SAME REASONS.
That said, the grievance driving the essay is the hypocrisy demonstrated in said edition of Time magazine. The issue hit the newsstands during a time when the MSM was (rightfully) up in arms about the (domestic) atrocities committed by the Syrian monarchy (terror against its own citizens).
So this begs the question: If we are up in arms about a project that has killed thousands of Syrian civilians, should we not be at least as incensed with a project that has killed thousands in Palestine (in that case, terror against non-citizens)?
The double standard could not be more glaring. Surely, if Assad visited Capitol Hill, he would not be met with repeated standing ovations. And for good reason.
Amnesty International estimates that between 1967 and 2003, the IG destroyed more than 10,000 homes in Palestine—often killing family members in the process—and often doing so just hours before giving the families notice that their house would be demolished by IDF bull-dozers. Since 2003, the demolition of homes has accelerated.
The IG has now controlled the West Bank and Gaza for forty years, rendering the former into a collection of cantons and the latter into a horrific open-air prison—making it the longest official military occupation in modern history.
Like most brutal occupations, the IG’s theft of the subalterns’ land was executed based on brute force, unmitigated cruelty, vicious persecution, relentless oppression, and the indiscriminate massacre of civilians along racial lines. The process has involved systematic crimes against humanity, constant intimidation, chronic humiliation, and merciless pogroms—all racially based. This is tribalism-gone-haywire.
More to the point: It is also the textbook definition of terrorism.
The IG’s violent response to the second “Intifada” uprising (from 2000 to 2005) lead Ha’aretz to declare that “the IDF…is turning into a killing machine whose efficiency is awe-inspiring, yet shocking.” Of course, the staggeringly disproportionate response was perpetrated in the name of “national security” (for the people who matter). During the course of the uprising, the IDF slaughtered 3,386 Palestinians, mostly civilians. (992 Israelis were killed, mostly military.) Among the Palestinians slaughtered, 676 were children. (Just over a hundred Israeli children were killed during the uprising.) If the Palestinian-on-Israeli transgressions are “terrorism”, then the Israeli-on-Palestinian transgressions must be demed “terrorism” based on the exact same criteria. The disproportionality involved makes this point all the more urgent.
We routinely hear paeans to “Israeli security”, yet rarely hear about the equally valid concern for “Palestinian security”. Of course, such consistency would require recognizing that ALL humans deserve security–a recognition King Bibi adamantly refuses to countenance.
As mentioned in the main essay, a similar pattern of gargantuan disproportionality was demonstrated when the IDF attacked Lebanon in 2006. What prompted that massacre? In June, TWO Israeli soldiers were killed and a third imprisoned by Hamas. The IG’s response for this episode? Re-occupying all of Gaza, murdering hundreds of civilians in the process—many of the children.
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the IG launched unrelenting air strikes against the civilian population, entailing the destruction of most of the public infrastructure in the area. The onslaught prompted Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to proclaim that “the violation of human rights in this territory…is massive.” (To reiterate: all this was done because TWO Israeli soldiers were killed.)
When Lebanese forces captured two IDF soldiers in July while killing a handful of other solders in the process (as a response to the unprecedented IDF attacks), the disproportionality became even worse. The IDF promptly unleashed a bombing campaign that was explicitly designed to inflict massive punishment on Lebanon’s civilian population and destroy critical infrastructure. As mentioned in the main essay, more than a thousand Lebanese civilians were slaughtered during that horrific military campaign.
If that is not terrorism, then what is?
We rightfully indict iniquitous groups like Al Qaeda for their terrorist acts. How many innocent civilians has that organization killed since 9/11/01? Indeed: far, far too many. Consequently, we are rightfully outraged–and appropriately deem Al Qaeda to be a terrorist organization. Therefore, should we not call an organization that has killed FAR MORE innocent civilians than Al Qaeda “terrorist” as well?
Indeed, only if we claim that ALL human life matters.
The death of ANY innocent civilian, especially a child, is unacceptable. To bring about such casualties is unconscionable. So we must ask ourselves: If we should mourn the pointless death of a hundred Jewish children, should we not mourn the pointless death of 676 Arab children? In either case, are they not fellow humans? How could it possibly be that we should call the former “terrorism” yet consider the latter collateral damage? How is it that we deem the former a travesty…yet when our client state kills almost SEVEN-FOLD the number of children, we declare it to be…well…a legitimate measure carried out in the name of “national security”? What sort of perversion of semantics is this?
How is the death of a child of one ethnicity more tragic than the death of a child of another?
Let’s revisit our definition of terrorism:
To terrorize a group of people for the “crime” of being members of a particular group. To intentionally cause the suffering and/or death of innocent civilians (in order to make an ideological point or to cow them into submission).
All terrorism is wrong. Period. We must therefore apply the definition universally—indicting all applicable cases.
EPILOGUE: “Vital Interests”?
A general moral principle is: One does not redress grievances by killing innocent civilians; and one does not cause the suffering of an entire tribe because some of its members have done bad things. This principle sounds splendidly reasonable when applied to “the other”…yet is often treated as patently unacceptable when applied to one’s own tribe. Of course, principles only really matter when adhering to them entails not being able to pursue one’s own interests.
(Says the Machiavellian: “I’ll obey the principle…unless I find it inconvenient.”) But a hallmark feature of morality is being willing to apply the exact same standards to oneself as one applies to all others. Anything variation from this is typically called “hypocrisy”.
After the conclusion of the military operation, “Pillar of Defense”, in November 2012, the IG proceeded with demolition of Palestinian homes in order to make way for yet more illegal settlements. This particular expansion activity was being done in the heretofore protected “E1” section of the West Bank–a seizure that would essentially cut the West Bank in two–and thus complete a Jewish encirclement of Jerusalem, thereby precluding any hope for a two-state solution.) The ENTIRE WORLD deemed this activity criminal…except–as usual–for RZ elements in Israel and the U.S. (This audacious land-grab may well render a two-state solution an intractable endeavor.)
The timing of this new settlement announcement was symbolic. At the conclusion of “Pillar Of Defense”, the U.N. general assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-voter member of the U.N. (Non-member so that Palestine still doesn’t have access to the International Criminal Court.) Israel promptly retaliated by announcing that it would build 3,000 additional housing units in the most contentious area imaginable: E1.
This latest act of settlement expansion seems to have been an expression of spite. Presumably, it was born of resentment stemming from the U.N.’s (overwhelming) decision to recognize Palestine as a State the previous week. We know all-too-well that seething resentment (especially from wounded pride) is a primary saboteur of our capacity to recognize our shared humanity (i.e. with those of another tribe). Ergo the defiant announcement of an E1 settlement project by the Likud-lead IG.
In response to international protest to this reprehensible maneuver, Benjamin Netanyahu simply declared: “Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure. And there will be no change in the decision that was made.”
You heard that right: Illegal, counter-productive land-grab = vital interests. “Vital interests”? WHOSE vital interests? Well, god’s chosen tribe, of course. (We might recall other horrific states in world history that did what they did for their “vital interests”.) With such pronouncements, Netanyahu takes Israeli Exceptionalism to new heights.
Revealingly, Netanyahu then said: “I feel a deep mission to protect the Jewish people.” Not “to protect human beings”. Not “to protect innocent civilians”. To protect ONLY those of a certain ethnicity. This is racism in its baldest form. The most duplicitous aspect of this vile strain of racism is the accusation that any anti-racism is itself a form of racism. (Picture a KKK member accusing Klan critics of being racist against WASPS.) Alas, this Netanyahu’s favorite card to play: If you don’t like our brand of racism, then you must be anti-Semitic.
Not only is this despicable man a flagrant, unapologetic racist; he is a pathological liar. Here is a head of state that adamantly refuses to embark down a road that every honest person on the planet concurs is the only road to peace…and then accuses his VICTIMS (who have been groveling for justice and peace for decades) of being THEMSELVES the impediment to peace. Psychologists call this “reaction formation”. It’s like the rapist accusing his victim of causing all the violence–even as he continues to viciously assault her. “Leave me alone!” he demands as he persists with the rape.
The Likud party seeks to eradicate the Palestinians…and as they carry out their violent pogroms, they insist that it’s the Palestinians who want to eradicate THEM. It’s a rhetorical Mobius strip–in which the major perpetrator insists that he needs to protect himself from his subdued victim.
In the same interview, Netanyahu elaborates on his thinking: “We had no defenses before the establishment of the Jewish state. And so the Jewish state was established…to give [people with a Jewish ethnic background] the capacity for self-defense.”
Allowing the IG to do whatever it wishes–no matter how horrific–is the only way that Jews of the world can be safe? The ONLY way Jewish people ANYWHERE can defend themselves is by allowing the IG to viciously oppress the Palestinians (and perpetually steel Palestinian land)? If we persecute the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the IG, we would be depriving the Jews of security?
So says Benjamin Netanyahu.
The man is, perhaps, clinically insane. What else could possibly explain his conduct?
Think about it: Here is a man that is claiming that the IG should be allowed to perpetrate humanitarian atrocities…WITH IMPUNITY…because that’s the only way to ensure people of a particular ethnic background can be safe from persecution. Bull-dozing the out-group’s gardens and homes to make way for new houses for the in-group is necessary to protect the in-group from the out-group.
Could this contorted logic possibly make sense on any sane person? Without a doubt, Benjamin Netanyahu is a sociopath. The world must stop pretending that he is anything other than this. For U.S. citizens IN PARTICULAR to turn away from these humanitarian atrocities is to be passively complicit in them, as it is the U.S. government (and the U.S. government ALONE) that supports this horrific project.
In an astonishing display of projection, Netanyahu then stated: “We are the only country threatened with genocide.” Read that again. He actually said this. After “Cast Lead” and “Pillar of Defense”, THAT is what the Prime Minister of Israel wants the world to believe. “WE are the ones threatened with annihilation by THEM,” says the maniac of his victims…even as he is ACTUALLY CARRYING OUT a programmatic annihilation of those very victims.
Fascinatingly, Netanyahu then asks his interviewer: “What is our great crime? What is it we are doing?”
Is this guy serious? One can’t help but wonder: Does he really pretend to be that staggeringly aloof? In his fanatical exaltation of those of a particular ethnic lineage, is he really so inclined to feign obliviousness about how deranged that ideology really is?
Yes, apparently Ben is so inclined. And so: “What is our great crime? What is it that we’re doing?” he pretends to wonder. The answer to his question is so obvious, it is impossible to believe that he honestly doesn’t know the answer. He’s being coy…or playing dumb. “What? Who, me?” He must know, on SOME level, how horrible the IG’s crimes against humanity have been.
Ben pretends he has no idea that his government viciously oppresses and systematically slaughters an entire population of people on explicitly racial lines–causing untold suffering. He then claims to be the “real” victim…and hopes that the world will sympathize with him.
Moreover, Ben openly admits–without batting an eyelash–that he is planning on KEEPING ALL THE ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS. “We’re building in the areas that will remain in a final peace settlement of Israel,” he announced. “This is not some foreign land. This is the land on which the Jewish people have been for close to 4,000 years.”
Netanyahu thus concluded the interview by declaring that Palestinian land (a.k.a. land that is obviously not Israel’s) is “not some foreign land”. In other words, if Revisionist Zionists SAY that it’s Israeli land, then–by fiat–it magically BECOMES Israeli land. Get it?
We won’t even comment on the absurdity of the “4,000 year” proclamation–a claim that Netanyahu routinely makes. Suffice to say: Anyone who claims that Bibi is not a Biblical literalist has obviously never listened to anything he has said.
4,000 years? Really, Ben? Was that before or after Moses parted the sea?