Hong Kong — Sitting in this peaceful city on the far side of world from the United States can put some things in perspective. For one thing, the local papers, both Chinese-language and the English-language South China Morning Post today featured front-page images of dead Palestinian protesters lying on the ground in Gaza. Accompanying articles focused on the latest day’s slaughter of over 50 unarmed Palestinians (later upped to 61, six of them children) and the deliberate maiming, often with high-velocity fragmentation bullets that reportedly shatter bones and tear huge holes in their victims, of another 1000 or more, including children. Meanwhile, the international edition of the New York Timesfor two days following the shootings has yet to carry such a photo, and has yet to feature a leading article about the latest IDF massacre in Gaza. Instead page one featured a piece about the risks to Israel posed by the US opening of an Israeli embassy in the supposedly international city of Jerusalem.
The slaughter of protesters in Gaza was a minor point in that article.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong readers are elsewhere seeing and reading about the true horror of what has been happening in Gaza.
The killers and maimers there are soldiers of the Israeli army, all of them sitting safely on earthen berms themselves behind three rows of security fence inside of Gazan territory that keep the protesting Gazan “inmates” at bay, way too far off to even pose a threat by throwing stones. Yet the IDF snipers still kill and maim, often, as the viral videos below shows, laughing at the results or their target practice.
This one-sided violence is not a case of self-defense, though the Israeli government ludicrously tries to claim that because Palestinians are throwing rocks or attempting to, David like, use slings to toss them further, and are flying burning kites over the border in hopes if igniting Israeli farmers’ fields, they pose a serious threat. Nor is it a case of deterrence, as there’s no way Gazans can push through the walls confining them and enter Israeli territory. It is purely a case of asserting authority and attempting to cow a captive population — for Gaza is in reality the world’s largest prison camp, a place where food, medicine, fuel and even water are strictly controlled and limited by the prison owner and operator, Israel. Close to two million Gazans cannot leave this ghetto except with Israeli permission or by stealth — the former a rarity and the latter a deadly project. Recently the IDF even bombed a tunnel that was used to allow a few Gazans to slip into Egypt, and that had also allowed small amounts of scarce goods to be slipped into this hell-hole of Israeli’s making.
This month, the people of Gaza have been engaged in an ongoing and deliberately unarmed protest near the wall that constrains them from leaving their prison. They have continued to do so even as IDF soldiers continue to shoot them with impunity using high-powered rifles, and also to fire tear gas cannisters and rubber bullets at them.
Let’s be clear: What the IDF is engaged in is exactly what Nazi troops were doing in the early days of the notorious Warsaw Ghetto, when Jews from captured Poland were herded into a walled-off part of the city and left to starve in its confines. If the captive Jews in that ghetto in the early days of its existence had chosen to mass in protest at their wall, they would have been mowed down in the same way that the IDF is slaughtering Palestinian protesters. Instead they tried to survive as best as they could by paying to have food smuggled in to them. Only later, as their captivity dragged on and as the Nazi mass extermination campaign began, did some organize a heroic campaign of armed resistance against their captors.
True, Israel is not actively exterminating the Palestinians (though there are voices in this increasingly religio-fascist state who are calling for just such a thing, referring to Palestinians in the same dehumanizing terms — snakes and vermin — that the Nazis applied to Jews, and calling for their expulsion and even death). But Israel is doing the next worse thing to extermination: slow starvation and the crushing of the spirit. And what it is doing, including the killings, is the very thing that the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe under their control: penning them into ghettos and then starving them and denying them the basic essentials of life…and killing those who dare to protest. This is especially the case in Gaza, where the state of Israel has full control over all entry and egress to and from the little sliver of territory.
Israel, which at least in the US has lobbyists and supporters who tout it shamelessly and dishonestly as the Middle East’s “only democracy,” is not a democracy at all. It is an apartheid state in which people defined as Jews (not a religious term in this case, but a tribal one) are the rulers, and people whose roots go back in that same land at least as far and in many cases many generations farther than the Israelis who rule the land, have little or no power. Gazans, for example, are not Israeli citizens. They are stateless people — people who were themselves, or whose parents or grandparents were residents of Palestine before the founding of the state of Israel, and who were driven from their homes in the Nakhba 70 years ago by the Zionist newcomers, and herded into the Gaza ghetto, where they and their progeny remain trapped.
Israelis themselves bear the most guilt for this horror, but the United States bears plenty of the blame too. It’s not just the Trump administration, which has sucked up to Israel’s right-wing apartheid government shamelessly, most recently with the decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US has since Isreal
s founding underwritten it, and has helped create this wretched situation. The US currently provides Israel, a first-world nation that could easily pay its own way, with a US taxpayer gift of $3.8 billion a year (a rate of support upped by nearly a third by President Obama) to buy arms and other military equipment. This steady and rising backing has made Israel the most powerful military nation in the Middle East and also the largest single recipient in the world of US military aid.
Israel, courtesy of the US taxpayer, boasts the largest fleet of F-16 fighter-bombers outside of the US Air Force. The country also gets top-of-the-line military equipment, not the “dumbed-down” equipment offered to other countries supplied with such US weapons.
When Israel commits war crimes and atrocities, whether it’s the open-seas assault in on a peace flotilla of civilian ships sailing from Turkey to Gaza in 2010 which included the IDF murder of an unarmed Turkish-American youth (a US citizen), or the bombing of schools and hospitals in Gaza in 2014 or some other outrage, the US stays silent, or should there be an effort to pass a UN Security Resolution condemning Israel, as there was this week, the US vetoes it.
True to form, the US government has failed to condemn the current atrocities in Gaza — the killing of well over a hundred unarmed Gazans in the current crisis, and the deliberate targeting of Palestinian journalists. In fact, by participating in a celebration of the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem, even as Palestinians were being murdered 40 miles away, it effectively endorsed the mass killings.
The silence about these Israeli crimes in the US Congress, in the US media, and among the US public is deafening — indeed there is far more protest against them in Israel and more critical reporting in the Israeli media than in the US — and this silence is reminiscent, I’m sorry to say, of the US silence that greeted the vicious attacks on European Jews by the Nazis in the years before the actual start of World War II, not to mention the refusal of the US government to accept Jewish refugees from the Holocaust even after the war was underway.
Now it’s not Jews who are the victims. Now it is the self-described Jewish State of Israel that is the victimizer, with Palestinians put in the position of the beleguered, harassed, brutalized and murdered Jews of Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
I’ll conclude here with the comments of Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a veteran peace activist and staunch advocate for Palestinian rights who heads the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. I don’t know how Rabbi Waskow would feel about my characterization of Israel’s current government and its military as a kind of reincarnation of the Germany’s Nazis, but his own description of of the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza under the Israeli jackboot makes the case powerfully by itself:
“While in Jerusalem the Netanyahu government and the Designated Daughter of his brother-in-tyranny Trump were drinking champagne to celebrate the new US embassy there, in Gaza, the Netanyahu government was getting drunk on blood.
“And poisoning the bloodstream of Torah as if, God forbid, its Teaching were filled with hatred and contempt.
“Why are thousands of Palestinians willing to risk death? Because especially in Gaza, death is preferable to despair. Despair over the blockade of Gazan goods from being sold abroad; the blockade preventing Gaza’s fishermen from catching the sardines that swarm just outside the line drawn in the Mediterranean where Israelis sink the fishing boats of Gazans; the blockade that prevents the import of goods; the blockade that results in a devastated electrical power system; the blockade that has resulted in an unemployment rate of 40%, the highest in the world.”
As for us in America, let’s engage briefly in one of those Chomsky/Herman mental exercises. Imagine if you will what the reaction of the US government, the US corporate media, and the US public would be if Chinese soldiers of the PLA were, next week, to mow down hundreds of protesting Tibetans, killing hundreds and maiming thousands? Imagine what the reaction would be if Russian Red Army troops, rather than Moscow police, instead of simply arresting anti-Putin protestors on Red Square, massacred hundreds of them and maimed thousands. Imagine for that matter if French gendarmes, instead of busting up a refugee camp in the port of Calais, shot and killed hundreds and maimed thousands more. Even then, in the case of a US ally, I’m certain the outcry in America would be enormous, and yet in the case of Israel’s violent, murderous repression of Gaza’s protesters, we get mostly silence or at best a gentle tut-tutting.
That’s not good enough, especially when the US is financing Israel’s repressive military so lavishly.
The United States to be sure has much to answer for in its own dark history of Native American genocide and African-American slavery, and even today, as racial oppression, overt and indemic, continues against people of color. But what the US is doing in slavishly supporting Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinians is beyond reprehensible. Even from a selfish point of view, in supporting Israel’s obscene and criminal behavior towards its captive Palestinian population, the US is inviting the righteous fear and loathing of a huge part of the world. How can that support remotely be considered to be in America’s interest? It’s time to call Israel what it is — a repressive religio-fascist state as toxic and violative of acceptable international norms as was the apartheid white regime of South Africa.
Israelis who support such fascist behavior will have only themselves to blame when an inevitable day of reckoning comes, which it surely will someday. But for the US, as Israel’s primary backer, the only answer is to cease being Israel’s enabler, to cancel all military aid, and to demand an end to the repression of Palestinians.