(Special to Informed Comment; Feature) – Over the years, the United States has endowed Israel with more than $150 billion in assistance, making it possible for the Jewish state to maintain its occupation, its ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of the land, its unremitting seizure of territory, and its settlement project, the latter of which has intentionally and drastically diminished any possibility a fair peace could ever be negotiated between the parties.
Prominent Israelis have referred to Palestinians as donkeys, crocodiles, cockroaches, snakes, psychopaths and serial killers, animals, not human, not entitled to live, shrapnel in the buttocks, they deserve to have their heads chopped off, etc., etc.1 Convinced of the truth of these slurs, Jewish settlers, protected by Israeli soldiers, have made it a practice of entering Palestinian villages where they poison wells, cut down olive trees, physically assault villagers, teach their children to throw stones at Palestinian children coming home from school, and deface buildings, mosques, and churches with slogans such as “Death to the Arabs” and “Jesus is a monkey?”
With its United Nations security council veto, the United States shields Israel from accountability to international law, thereby giving it a green light to continue and even accelerate these crimes against humanity.
Hamas’s October 7 surprise breach of the Israel-Gaza border, followed by its killing, injuring, and hostage-taking of soldiers and civilians is horrifying. American media has been following the tragedy for hours daily and has been overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel, rarely, if ever, mentioning the motivation behind Hamas’s assault, which are the generations of persecution, humiliation, and character assassination Israel has levied against its Palestinian subjects; never enunciating that it shouldn’t have come to this; not once admonishing Israel for prioritizing its lust for Palestinian land over the lives of its own citizens.
At the same time, the media has been interviewing Israeli citizens who, outraged at Hamas’s actions, likewise make no mention of the motivation behind the actions. Neither have they expressed a hint of empathy or a measure of self-reflection upon the role their attitudes may have played in the dehumanization of the Palestinian people who, for decades, have endured essentially the same horrors these Israelis are now having to endure.
On October 9, Hamas threatened to kill a Jewish hostage every time Israel bombs a civilian building without first giving its residents time to flee. Justifiably horrified and quick to excoriate Hamas, the Israelis I’ve watched have said nothing about Israel’s habit of bombing residential buildings. As prominent Israelis throughout its history have admitted, their nation always targets civilians. The implications behind the following admissions are as horrifying as Hamas’s pronouncement:
Ze’ev Schiff, Israel’s most respected military analyst (by all sides of the military spectrum): “the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously . . . the Army . . . has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets . . . [but] purposely attacked civilian targets.”2
General Yigal Allon with the approval of Ben-Gurion: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction If we accuse a family – we need to harm them without mercy, women and children
- Donkeys—David Ben-Gurion; crocodiles—Menachem Begin; cockroaches—Rafael Eitan; snakes—Ayelet Shaked; psychopaths and serial killers—Benny Morris; animals—Eli Ben Dahan; shrapnel—Naftali Bennett; heads chopped off—Avigdor Lieberman.
- Noam Chomsky, “‘Exterminate all the Brutes’: Gaza 2009,” Based on a talk at the Center for International Studies MIT, Jan. 19, 2009, chomsky.info/20090119.
included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction. During the operation there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”3
During Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Deputy Prime Minister Eliyahu Yishai urged the IDF to
“bomb thousands of houses, to destroy Gaza.”4
During Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012), Ariel Sharon’s son Gilad: “They will pay the price and will remember the same for a long time. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.”5
Israel’s past assaults on Gaza, which human rights organizations have documented in detail, are further testaments to Israel’s contempt for a defenseless civilian population.
The reaction from every American lawmaker I‘ve seen is that Hamas, not Israel, must pay for its crimes. How? By giving more weapons to Israel so it can kill even more families. That is exactly what the United States intends to do, despite its hollow assurances, past and present, that it seeks peace between the two parties; despite knowing that years of military assistance have sustained both Israel’s illegal occupation and the violence it perpetrates upon ordinary people.
In keeping with the past, and vowing to “crush and destroy” Hamas, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu warned that every Hamas member was “a dead man.” In keeping with his fellow lawmakers, President Biden condemned Hamas’s attack, again without acknowledging either its seeds or that Israel wrote the rules of the game and that Hamas is playing by those rules. Aware of the thousands of Gazan civilians, including a disproportionate number of children, whose lives Israel has snuffed out in previous operations, Biden said, “terrorists purposely target civilians, kill them.” Yes, they do Mr. President. As of the early morning of October 12, over 1,000 Gazans, mostly residents, have been killed, and 5,000 injured. Whole neighborhoods and refugee camps have been blown to smithereens, more than 120,000 displaced. And Israel has yet to commence its inevitable ground invasion. Fortunately, I’ve not seen any reports that Hamas has made good on its threat.
Israel has cut off the delivery of all fuel, food, water and medical supplies. If its assault doesn’t end soon, Gazans who survive the bombings could starve, freeze to death, or die from a lack of medicine and medical treatment. This is genocide, the Final Solution, all because “terrorists target civilians.”
The only way to stop this cycle is for the US to resist its habit of resorting to physical punishment, concede that arming Israel so it can do to Palestinians what it always does will only inflame hostilities, and demand that Israel break the cycle of violence and negotiate a fair peace. Or, at the very least, treat its subjects not as snakes and cockroaches but as human beings. Otherwise, America and Israel’s message to the world will continue to be that revenge is more satisfying than peace—the lives of Israelis and Palestinians be damned.
- Ben-Gurion‘s Diary, January 1, 1948; cited by Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (One World: Oxford, 2006). p. 69.
- Uri Avnery‘s Column, “Scoundrel with Permission,” November 14, 2009, http://zope.gush- org/home/en/channels/avnery/1258253296.
- Gilad Sharon, “A Decisive Conclusion is Necessary,” November 18, 2012, The Jerusalem Post.
Richard Forer is the author of Wake Up and Reclaim Your Humanity: Essays on the Tragedy of Israel Palestine and