The World is Watching: Gaza, Israeli Crimes, and American Complicity
The world is watching as Israeli jets and artillery lay waste to the Gaza strip, targeting hospitals and bombing buses full of Palestinian refugees. Coming in the wake of a violent incursion by the jihadist group Hamas into Israel the weekend before last that claimed the lives of 1400 Israelis, the now week-long reprisal has already killed nearly 3000 Palestinians, 1000 of whom were children, as of this writing. While the initial terror attacks generated shock and outcry across the world, reactions to the brutal Israeli response have been far more muted despite their far greater death toll.
In one sense, it’s understandable: no responsible person wants to support radical Islamists (some irresponsible ones, on the other hand…) But in another, much truer sense, it’s not: American tax dollars don’t go to Hamas and we don’t send billions in weapons to them. We didn't vote for Hamas and we don't support them in any meaningful way. In other words, America isn’t responsible for the actions of Hamas or any other Palestinian faction. To the extent that we are responsible for anyone’s actions, it’s Israel’s.
The biggest recipient of US foreign aid since the end of World War II, it’s no secret that this curious little country - a liberal democracy explicitly founded as a homeland for a specific ethnoreligious group and on the expulsion of its original inhabitants - has always enjoyed a special relationship with Washington. It’s difficult to pinpoint one reason why. Lingering guilt over the Holocaust, Christian End Times prophecies revolving around the Holy Land, or the strategic windfall of having a loyal, semi-European client state in the heart of a predominantly Arab and Muslim Middle East: we could debate the exact role each of these play but the end result has been all the same. President after president have gone out of their way to stress their affection for Israel, with many using America’s UN Security Council veto to block countless resolutions censuring its occupation of Palestine and the current incumbent, Joe Biden, even once proclaiming himself a “Zionist” (his Irish Catholic background notwithstanding) when he was still a senator.
The depth of this relationship showed in our leaders’ response to the Hamas attacks. The day of, Biden showed his Zionist stripes, saying his support for the country was “rock solid and unwavering” and trotting out the old reliable “Israel has a right to defend itself” line. Similarly, his predecessor, George “I mean Ukraine” Bush, emerged out of retirement to grace us with his sage wisdom, prattling on about "democracy" and other delusions and opining “My view is one side is guilty. And it’s not Israel." But the most extraordinary responses came from two of Bush’s fellow Republicans. Senator (and the warmongering Waldorf to the late John McCain’s Statler) Lindsey Graham solemnly intoned on Fox News that he is “with Israel” and we’re now in a “religious war” while presidential contender Nikki Haley declared “This is not just an attack on Israel, this is an attack on America”. These are extraordinarily unhinged statements (not least of all because they come from American, not Israeli, politicians) that recall the hysteria that overtook the nation after 9/11 and during the early years of the subsequent War on Terror.
It wouldn’t be a rerun of the War on Terror without a wave of jingoistic propaganda to get even the most tolerant, Coexist bumper sticker-having peaceniks on board. The most potent example so far has to be Biden’s shocking claim that he saw pictures of Hamas fighters decapitating Israeli infants. To reiterate: the President of the United States went on national TV and lied to the American people - to the world - about seeing Palestinians behead babies. And it was such an egregious lie that his own staff had to come out after the fact and quietly clarify that he did not, in fact, see Palestinians behead babies. But as is almost always the case with the worst misinformation (that is, the kind spread by our own government) the damage was already done. With many still howling for Palestinian blood on the basis of this now-debunked lie, it’s bound to be remembered as one of the most infamous instances of atrocity propaganda alongside George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War claims that Iraqi soldiers ripped Kuwaiti babies from their incubators (an episode that Biden himself would favorably cite as the kind of messaging Bush’s son, W., would need to build support for his own, much worse Iraq war.)
It was big lies like this that manufactured consent for Israel going full I.S.R.A.E.L. Halting the flow of water, fuel, and electricity into Gaza, the Israel Defense Force launched a bombing campaign that has already proven deadlier than Israel’s month-long war against the Palestinian enclave in 2014. With 2 million residents long subjected to conditions that figures like former Republican congressman Ron Paul and Jewish-American academic Norman Finkelstein have compared to a "concentration camp”, the siege has been nothing less than a disaster for the population. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that this disaster is “only the beginning" of Israel’s retaliation, but this ominous warning sounded relatively restrained compared to the rest of the noise coming out of his cabinet. President Isaac Herzog has cast doubt on the innocence of Palestinian civilians, arguing that “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible” for the Hamas attacks, while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant went even further and said Israel is fighting “human animals” and will “act accordingly”. Such dehumanizing language is chilling but telling of the mindset in Tel Aviv right now. “Is there any difference at all,” as the great Jewish libertarian Murray Rothbard once asked in the aftermath of another Israeli war, “between this kind of attitude and that of the Nazi persecutors of the Jews”?
Yet as dire as the situation already is, it has the potential to become even more horrific. On October 13th, the IDF ordered all 1.1 million Palestinians living in northern Gaza to leave their homes and evacuate to the south before they launch a ground operation to wipe out Hamas. The stated intention was to clear out civilians before the invasion, but the above rhetoric from Herzog, Gallant, and others indicates they will treat any Palestinians remaining in the area as enemy combatants or human shields. On top of being a possible prelude to genocide, the UN and other observers have warned that the evacuation itself constitutes an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children - a population bigger than San Francisco’s - forced to flee for their lives in one of the most densely-populated places on Earth within less than a week as bombs and shells fall around them: how else could you describe that? The only other description I can find that conveys the magnitude of this crisis comes from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds:
“...this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede—a stampede gigantic and terrible—without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind.”
People like President Herzog talk about collective guilt and responsibility, mostly in the context of Palestinians “voting for Hamas” (despite the fact that Gaza hasn’t held elections since 2006). But what about the responsibility of Americans, of us, for this utter failure of humanity unfolding before our eyes? I’d like to turn that question on you, my fellow Americans:
To you America First MAGA conservatives, who claim to oppose wasting American blood and treasure in endless, unnecessary wars and believe that Biden is a globalist lizard person: where are you as his administration pledges undying allegiance to a foreign power and treats their security interests as our own? Where are you as this same administration sends billions in taxpayer dollars and weapons to this country as it runs the risk of dragging us into a war that’s not our own?
To you God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians, who believe in the sanctity of life and lament the “persecution" of believers by gay people kissing in public and people saying “Happy holidays”: where are you as a government whose atheist prime minister you say prayers for turns a blind eye to extremist violence against your coreligionists? Where are you as this same government drives Palestinian Christians to seek shelter in some of the oldest churches in the world as it unleashes its fury upon them?
To you woke liberals and leftists, who pat yourselves on the ass for doing land acknowledgements and canceling people for saying dumb things on the Internet: where are you as a nuclear-armed ethno-state openly declares its intent to ethnically cleanse its neighbor and its leaders call the people living there “animals” on TV for all to hear? Where are you as the man many of you voted for in order to “stop fascism” sends arms and money to this same state as it prepares to commit what's shaping up to be one of the worst acts of genocide of our era?
It’s too late for some. Biden will be forever remembered as the man who stood side by side his old friend Bibi as he carried out his butchery. Nor will history be kind to the nameless haters who felt emboldened by their government and media to publicly call for the extermination of an entire people. But it’s not too late for the rest of us. So what’s it going to be? Where will you be as Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians? What will you do? Proceed carefully: the world is watching and someday, someone - your own children perhaps - might ask you.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.
Reggie Peralta is a native of Santa Ana and UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. In addition to helping out as Blog Editor for the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he has volunteered and written content for local arts and cultural organizations like The Frida Cinema, Makara Center for the Arts, and LibroMobile.