Israel continues its descent into authoritarian brutality

A Jewish history teacher in Israel, Meir Baruchin, dared to criticize Israeli action in Gaza on Facebook.

“Horrific images are pouring in from Gaza. Entire families were wiped out. I don’t usually upload pictures like this, but look what we do in revenge,” said a message on 8 October, below a picture of the family of Abu Daqqa, killed in one of the first airstrikes on Gaza. “Anyone who thinks this is justified because of what happened yesterday, should unfriend themselves. I ask everyone else to do everything possible to stop this madness. Stop it now. Not later, Now!!!”

It was the day after Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel, when the country was reeling from the slaughter of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of more than 240.

He’s made many posts in a similar vein, but that’s all he has done, to rightly criticize the excesses of the Israeli government and their genocidal actions. That’s all. He has written comments in a public forum decrying bad, counterproductive policies and demanding an end to the violence.

You can imagine how that turned out in a fascist state.

An unlikely charge of intent to commit treason landed Meir Baruchin, a grey-haired, softly spoken history and civics teacher, in the solitary confinement wing of Jerusalem’s notorious “Russian Compound” prison in early November.

The evidence compiled by police who handcuffed him, then drove to his apartment and ransacked it as he watched, was a series of Facebook posts he’d made, mourning the civilians killed in Gaza, criticising the Israeli military, and warning against wars of revenge.

I bet you didn’t know that “STOP KILLING PEOPLE” was such a dangerous and seditious thing to say.

Ten days after that Facebook message, he was fired from his teaching job in Petach Tikvah municipality. Less than a month later he was in a high-security jail, detained to give police more time to investigate critical views he had never tried to hide.

Inside Israel, veteran journalists, intellectuals and rights activists say, there is little public space for dissent about the war in Gaza, even three months into an offensive that has killed 23,000 Palestinians and has no end in sight. “Make no mistake: Baruchin was used as a political tool to send a political message. The motive for his arrest was deterrence – silencing any criticism or any hint of protest against Israeli policy,” the long-established Haaretz newspaper said in an editorial.

Yeah, I don’t think an “investigation” was necessary. He was jailed for openly saying things, not for sneaking around with treacherous view he wasn’t airing.

Finally, this might be one of the rare times when using the phrase “witch hunt” is appropriate.

“This story is much bigger than my personal story, or Yael’s personal story. It is a time of witch hunts in Israel, of political persecution,” he said. “I became a ‘Hamas supporter’, because I expressed my opposition to targeting innocent civilians.”

He said he’d received hundreds of private messages of support from fellow teachers and students who were too frightened to go public, and showed several to the Observer.

“The message is crystal clear: keep silent, watch out,” he says, adding that they strengthened his own conviction about speaking out. “I thought to myself, when I retire, I might conclude this is the most significant lesson I ever gave in civics.”

As usual, as always, one must rush to clearly state that one does not support Hamas. We can deplore the violence and genocidal intent of the terrorists and simultaneously deplore the brutal state-sponsored violence and ongoing genocidal frenzy of the retaliation. Most of us learned in kindergarten that two wrongs don’t make a right.


  1. raven says

    Most of us learned in kindergarten that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    PZ already said what I was thinking.

    When saying that killing random civilians is wrong is now a crime, Israel isn’t a democracy any more.

    I may have to support Israel’s right to exist but that has zero to do with supporting the current government of Netanyahu’s right to be authoritarian fascists and killers.

    As usual, as always, one must rush to clearly state that one does not support Hamas.

    OK. I also don’t support Hamas’s mindless terrorism and pointless killing of Israeli civilians.

    I said many times before that the Palestinian’s strategy and tactics were idiotic. I use that word because I can’t think of a better one for counterproductive resistance that goes nowhere.
    Everyone learned a long time ago that no one can defeat Israel militarily.
    So repeating military type attacks on Israel and Israelis is just doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

  2. mamba says

    This is too easy to out a liar here,one simple example out of many:

    They say they are targeting specific targets.
    They also say they are carpet bombing the areas.

    There is no such thing as a “targeted” carpet bombing.

    They don’t need investigations, their crimes are too obvious. They openly stated their desire to drive the entire population into the sea. They openly stated they will continue this “war” until every member of Hamas is dead…oh and since they don’t know who’s Hamas and who is not they are going to kill everyone who’s a “potential” Hamas member (i.e. male adult and supporters like female adults and children). They simply do not care.

  3. raven says

    When this all started, I came up with a solution so original it had only been thought of several million times before.

    Give Gaza back to Egypt.
    Gaza is a war prize that Israel took from Egypt during the 1967 war.
    Quite the war prize here. So much so that it looks like Egypt in the end won.

    The idea was to just give Gaza and the 2.3 million Palestinians there back to Egypt.

    Which won’t work.
    It turns out that Egypt doesn’t like Gaza and the Gazaians any more than Israel does.
    Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood and the current Egyptian government took power by deposing the…Muslim Brotherhood.
    To the Egyptians, the 2.3 million Palestinians of Gaza are 2.3 million additional problems they don’t want to deal with.
    Egypt itself has some huge problems that they aren’t dealing with very well. Notably, an expanding population while they are running out of water.

    No one has any better ideas right now.
    The Israeli solution of destroying half of Gaza and killing a few tens of thousands of random civilians isn’t any better.

  4. stuffin says

    Israel sounds more like Russia than America. Please explain why we support Israel and not Russia.

  5. raven says

    I also said when this all started that the usual exchange rate is 10 Palestinians dead for every Israeli dead.
    Since Hams killed 1200 Israelis, that would be 12,000 Palestinians.

    Daily death rate in Gaza higher than any other major 21st …
    Oxfam America › press-releases › daily-death-r…

    4 days ago — According to UNOCHA, there were 23,074 reported deaths in Gaza between 7 October 23 and 7 January 24, an average of 250.8 per day and 330 deaths …

    They have long since passed the 10:1 exchange ratio.

    It’s now up to 20 Palestinians dead for every Israeli dead at 24,000 dead Palestinians. Many of those are children since half the Gaza population are children.

    Which brings up the question.
    How many dead Palestinians are enough for revenge here?
    We now know it isn’t 20:1.
    We have no idea how many dead civilians is enough for the Netanyahu government.
    Next up is 30:1.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    raven @1:

    I said many times before that the Palestinian’s strategy and tactics were idiotic. I use that word because I can’t think of a better one for counterproductive resistance that goes nowhere.

    It’s not the Palestinians’ strategy. It’s Hamas’ strategy. They care about Palestinians as much as Netanyahu cares about Israelis; i.e. not at all. Hamas and Netanyahu need each other. Netanyahu and Hamas each have a fascist’s dream; a permanent state of war, in which their respective populations will support them unless they wake up and realize they are being used.

  7. boba1 says

    A couple of ironies….about a month ago, Chanukah was celebrated. It recognizes the victory of a small group of Jews over a more powerful oppressor in their land (the Seleucid Empire) in the second century BCE. Now Israel is the oppressor.

    Recently, S. Africa is accused Israel of violating the international convention on genocide. This was established in response to the Holocaust.

  8. christoph says

    I’m sure others have drawn this parallel-the Nazis did similar things to Jews and other minorities in the ’30’s and 40’s, now the Israelis are doing the same to the Palestinians. Something about a historical precedent for becoming what you hate…

  9. christoph says

    @ stuffin, # 4: “Please explain why we support Israel and not Russia.”

    The rationale I heard recently is that nations don’t have “friends.” They have interests.

  10. microraptor says

    stuffin @4: Because Israel’s mention in the Book of Revelation means that evangelicals think that Israel existing is an important thing in order for it to be destroyed so that the Rapture begins.

  11. anat says

    Israel’s declaration of independence states, among other things:

    THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

    Unfortunately its Supreme Court has ruled the declaration itself has no legal status. There was an attempt to compose a constitution for the country, but it was given up in 1950. Instead it was decided to introduce constitution-like laws one by one, in the form of ‘Basic Laws’. The strongest protection of individual rights is in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and <a hred=”>Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. Note that the right to freedom of speech is not stated explicitly, and it is a matter of legal opinion whether it is or isn’t included in the right to dignity. There was once an attempt to write a Basic Law explicitly protecting the right to freedom of speech in Israel, but they couldn’t find a formula that was accepted both by those who wanted to protect freedom of speech and by those who wanted to protect people’s religious sentiments.

  12. ardipithecus says

    @ 9

    “@ stuffin, # 4: “Please explain why we support Israel and not Russia.”

    The rationale I heard recently is that nations don’t have “friends.” They have interests.”

    To maintain their influence in the Middle East, (regardless of reasons why) the US needs allies in the region. The only other one they have is Saudi Arabia. They need Israel and they need the Saudis, no matter how shitty those governments are. They lost Iran in 1979, so now they are stuck.

  13. anat says

    raven @5:

    The reasons for the indiscriminate carpet bombing are only partly revenge. Yes, the Israeli public wants revenge. But the thinking of the military leadership is more cynical. They realized that fighting a ground war in a built environment (especially one riddled with tunnels) would be so costly in lives of Israeli soldiers that the Israeli public would demand them to stop. (Recall the demonstrations in front of Begin’s home with the updating signs showing the number of soldiers killed in Lebanon, until he couldn’t take it and resigned.) Hence carpet bombing.

  14. KG says

    I also don’t support Hamas’s mindless terrorism and pointless killing of Israeli civilians. – raven@2

    The October 7th attack was atrocious and vile, but it was neither mindless nor pointless. Indeed, thanks to Israel’s response, it has gone a considerable way toward achieving what Hamas undoubtedly hoped for: disrupting the process of “normalisation” by which Arab and Muslim states increasingly accepted Israel and its indefinite suppression of Palestinian aspirations for an independent state, and undermining support for Israel internationally. It may also yet draw Hezbollah and its backer Iran into outright war with Israel, forcing the latter into a serious division of its forces. And it has led to perhaps the starkest exposure of western hypocrisy to date, which is saying something: rightly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine while supporting the even bloodier Israeli assault on Gaza, and mewling about the Houthis breaking international law while arming Israel to carry out far worse breaches of the same.

  15. Nemo says

    raven @1:

    I may have to support Israel’s right to exist

    Countries don’t have rights. People do. Israelis have the right to exist, as do Palestinians. But the state itself? No. That’s just another phrase that’s frequently used to shut down criticism (not your intent, I realize). “Israel’s right to exist” is offered as unrebuttable; self-evident. But since it’s really the people who have the rights, we can ask how those rights are best served. Is Israel’s continued existence the way to do that? Less self-evident.

  16. wzrd1 says

    Nemo, your statements and assertions fly in the face of the UN charter, which acknowledges the rights of nations and only belatedly acknowledged human rights.
    Both people and nations have an innate right to self-defense. That right can be enjoyed, if one wishes to use such a term in such a context, within reason. One defends oneself, but also universally recognized is the duty of self-restraint. If someone punches me in the face and is winding up for another, I have the right to defend myself from further attack. I don’t have the right to stomp the one punching to death, that is excessive force and well, murder.
    Israel has the right to self-defense, they do not have the right to commit genocide. One would expect the Israeli people to know the difference, given what was done during WWII and is being emulated today by them.
    Of course, Israel will then point to who Hamas forces preferentially killed in their attack as justification. And one would then simply ask what would’ve been justification for what the Waffen SS did, since one seems to desire to justify anything and everything, then remind the objector that many of the SS were executed for war crimes and rightfully so.
    Leave the implication hang right there, then observe that they’re averaging about 100 My Lai’s per day currently.

    When you have to resort to the color of the hats to tell the good from the bad, one needs to question one’s moral compass.

  17. anat says

    If anyone wants to get an idea of how Israeli hawks think, see Israel’s Man in Black – it’s a hagiography of Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defense Minister. (FYI the literal translation of his position is actually ‘Security Minister’). The gist: Rabin was fine until he agreed to Oslo, Sharon was absolutely wonderful and the Messiah, until he decided to evacuate Israeli forces from Gaza, Ehud Barak and Netanyahu are either corrupt or cowardly, also too influenced by American Military thinking. The only policy Israel should ever adopt wrt Palestinians or anyone else that attacks it is go crazy and respond multiple times as hard as the attack. Never compromise, because that’s a show of weakness. Never cede land, because that’s a show of weakness. (And hardly ever think about the consequences to Israeli society.)

  18. Hemidactylus says

    All I can say because he or his fanboys might point to this thread as an example of “woke” is that Coyne needs to deal with Hitchens’ long arc views on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I would say the same about folks here who might otherwise keelhaul Hitchens. Yeah.

  19. Hemidactylus says

    anat @18
    As for Arik I don’t think he started off as Revisionist Zionist but wound up with Sabra and Shatilla. So fuck him for that!

    If you dare(!!!) watch Waltz with Bashir. The creators also did the controversial graphic novel of Anne Frank:

    Scarring depiction per Beirut. The Anne Frank issue was because Florida.

    Arik and Bibi hated each other. Arik’s reasons for quitting Gaza were far from noble. There was the demographic thing and to freeze out the peace initiatives in the air at the time.

    That pragmatism resulted in him having to create Kadima because the Israeli right wing nutters lost their shit. As much as Arik was a POS I have to wonder how different things would be if he hadn’t stroked out and allowed Bibi uncontested access to the understandably scared Israeli electorate. IMO as bad as Arik was Bibi is far worse.

    Regardless the one thing that unites Israeli policy in the long arc is deliberate Palestinian erasure. Given today is MLK Day, may I point out many who have found themselves in the forefront of a Palestinian frontal stance haven’t been helpful with that? Oct 7th was a horrific attack on innocent people. Full stop. Suicide bombings were likewise own goals and shit optics.

  20. silvrhalide says

    @3 The problem is that no one in the region wants the Palestinians. Literally.
    Every Islamic country that has taken them in has regretted it, mostly because the Palestinian leaders have a tendency to stage coups, notably Black September, in which the PLO and the PFLP tried to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy by murdering the entire royal family. King Hussein drove them across the river to the West Bank, which really, does not seem like an extreme reaction to people who tried to intentionally murder your entire family’s they could take over your country.

    The expelled PLO members went to Lebanon, in exile, and fomented the Lebanese Civil War.

    After they lost Lebanon as an operating base, the PLO moved to Tunisia. Tunisia got pretty tired of all the retaliatory raids by Israel against the PLO terrorist attacks, so the Palestinians aren’t exactly welcome in Tunisia either.

    Egypt doesn’t want them either. Hamas, as you pointed out, is the Muslim Brotherhood, which the current Egyptian regime got rid of (who knew that the Mubarak regime, as awful as it was, would become “the good old days”? Seriously, that region is fucked up) and Hezbollah is Iranian & Syrian backed (ie., Shia), both of whom are on the outs with Egypt, which is predominantly Sunni. Also, having normalized relations with Israel, I don’t think Egypt is so eager to accept Islamic problem children into the fold, only to have Hamas start shit with Israel from within the Egyptian border.

    While I’m sure the bulk of the Palestinian people just want to be left alone to live their lives, the truth is that they always come with a lot of baggage, ie., their batshit crazy leadership, whether that’s the PA, Fateh, Hezbollah or Hamas.

  21. John Morales says


    @3 The problem is that no one in the region wants the Palestinians. Literally.

    Um, the Palestinians in the region presumably want the Palestinians. Literally.

    So, you are evidently and analytically wrong.
    Worse, you are effectively saying they are no one, whether or not you realise it.


    (The actual problem is that Israel stole their land, and keep stealing their land)

  22. John Morales says

    Ah, right: an example.

    Site of some of the (to some) inexplicable atrocities by Hamas.

    “The modern city is named after the ancient seaport of Ascalon, which was destroyed in 1270 and whose remains can now be seen at the archaeological site on the southwestern edge of the modern metropolis. The modern urban development of the area began approximately 4 km inland from the ancient site as the Palestinian town of al-Majdal (Arabic: الْمِجْدَل, romanized: al-Mijdal; Hebrew: אֵל־מִגְ׳דַּל, romanized: ʾĒl-Mīǧdal). Its inhabitants were exclusively Muslims and Christians; on the eve of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the inhabitants numbered 10,000 and in October 1948, the city accommodated thousands more Palestinian refugees from nearby villages.[2][3] The town was conquered by Israeli forces on 5 November 1948, by which time much of the Arab population had fled,[4] leaving some 2,700 inhabitants, of which 500 were deported by Israeli soldiers in December 1948[4] and most of the rest were deported by 1950.[5] Today, the city’s population is almost entirely Jewish.”

    Stolen land.


    Anyway. Another generation of Palestinians has been traumatised and radicalised by Israel’s cruel tactics.

    (Hosea 8:7)

  23. John Morales says

    (I’m sure the conquest was every bit as gentle and careful about civilians as the current action in Gaza)

  24. says

    But let’s all remember, the existence of Israel guarantees the safety of the Jewish people.
    At least the ones who agree with the government.

  25. wzrd1 says

    Ian King @ 27, whatever are you talking about?! Why, Israel is seeing especially well to the safety of their dissident population, keeping them nice, safe and secure in stout buildings with fine steel bars for additional security and for their own safety, not allowing them to leave.
    Or something.
    Much akin to the Lefortovo special resort in Russia…
    Oh, was that my outside voice? My bad…

  26. robro says

    boba1 @ #7 — The success of the Maccabean/Hasmonean uprising at overthrowing Seleucid control of Judaean territory might be greatly overstated in the sources. They did succeed in ousting their real enemy the old high priest family, the Zedokites, who settled in Egypt. However, the leaders of the revolt largely died in battles against Antioch or at each other’s hands later. They were still wrangling with Antioch, and sometimes Egypt, when the Romans came on the scene.

    And I put the miracle of Chanukah right up there with the miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus rising from the dead.

  27. rorschach says

    “Is Israel like the USA or is the USA like Israel?”
    It’s worth reading Sarah Kendzior on this. Biden has been an outspoken Zionist since at least the 1970s. Blinken was influenced by his stepfather, who was the lawyer and best mate of Robert Maxwell, Mossad agent, father of Ghislaine, herself pedo partner of Epstein. He fell off a yacht in the 90s and drowned.
    Zionism is a transnational crime enterprise, there was much attention on the junkets to Israel made by Australian journalists not so long ago. In the US, this is systemic, and has been for decades.