On Israel, satire in The Onion gets closer to the truth than the news media

Israelis and their supporters in the US celebrated the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem even as the Israeli armed forces killed dozens of unarmed protestors in Gaza. Jeremy Scahill writes about what happened and Norman Finkelstein’s new book about the harrowing conditions in Gaza.

ISRAEL HAS ONCE again conducted a premeditated, full-scale massacre in broad daylight, in front of the cameras of the world. Once again, it took place in Gaza.

On May 14, Israeli snipers and other forces gunned down more than 60 Palestinians, and wounded thousands of others, including civilians, journalists, and paramedics. “You try nonlethal means and they don’t work,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “So you’re left with bad choices. It’s a bad deal. You know, you try and you go for below the knee, and sometimes it doesn’t work, and unfortunately these things are avoidable.”

It appears that the only way not to be killed, according to Netanyahu, is to meekly accept imprisonment inside the prison of Gaza. Among those killed by Israeli forces was an 8-month-old infant. Her name was Laila al-Ghandour. They also killed at least seven other children and a man in a wheelchair, and that man had lost his legs after they had to be amputated following an earlier Israeli attack.

Israel has made it clear that it believes that it has the right to systematically murder Palestinians for the crime of continuing to exist. There is no defense for what Israel has done. None.

But that has not of course stopped the propaganda machinery of Israel and its apologists from rushing to the defense of the IDF actions, even to the extent of describing it as restrained and blaming all the violence on the protestors. The US ambassador to the UN played as usual what seems like its main role, protecting Israel from any repercussions for the atrocities it commits.

On Tuesday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley brought plenty of blame to pass around at the Security Council for the deaths of unarmed Palestinians. She blamed Iran. She blamed Hamas. She blamed the Palestinians who protested. But Nikki Haley placed no blame on Israel. “This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake — Hamas is pleased with the results,” she said. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

After Nikki Haley blamed the Palestinians for murdering themselves with Israeli snipers, she wouldn’t even listen to the Palestinian delegation at the U.N. She walked out when they began speaking.

It was fitting that this latest Israeli massacre in Gaza took place as the United States celebrated its official opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. It was fitting that President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were celebrating and enjoying fine dining and partying with Israeli war criminals and religious American zealots while Palestinians were being murdered.

You have to leave it to The Onion to use satire to capture the cruelty of the Israeli government’s actions and its rationalizations.

IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child

JERUSALEM—Describing the terrifying yet valiant experience to his fellow battalion members, Israel Defense Forces soldier Yossi Saadon recounted Tuesday his harrowing, heroic war story of killing an 8-month-old Palestinian child during a violent attack against protesters. “It was a heart-pounding experience—there was smoke and gunfire all around me, and I made a split-second decision to hurl that canister of tear gas at the encroaching infant cradled in her father’s arms,” said Saadon to the group of awed soldiers, describing the chills that went up and down his spine as he realized that all he had was his M16 assault rifle and some tear gas to defend himself against the unarmed Palestinian family standing only dozens of yards away. “I could see the whites of the baby’s eyes and hear her terrifying cries, and I knew it was either her or me. And this wasn’t some newborn infant, you know? This was a baby who could probably sit up independently. I was scared, but I acted quickly to throw that tear gas at her and her older sister. And who knows how many lives I saved when I shot the women trying to help her?” At press time, Saadon’s battalion commander informed him that he was submitting his name for the Medal of Valor, the IDF’s highest honor.

While The Onion is generally progressive, the severity of this particular piece of satire has aroused comment.

For the left, which is often frustrated by the pro-Israel tone of mainstream media coverage of the region, The Onion’s stance feels like a small win. “The Onion’s scathing, relentless mockery of Israeli propaganda reflects a radical shift in US political discourse,” journalist Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept explained in an email. “Even as recently as ten years ago, it was only a small fringe willing to denounce Israeli aggression, militarism and increasing devotion to apartheid.”

Some on the left take these jokes very seriously: “While media critics have blasted U.S. media for using their reporting to whitewash and otherwise sanitize by deflection and word choice what human rights groups say are Israeli war crimes,” Jon Queally wrote on Common Dreams, “The Onion‘s approach goes to the heart of the issue by obliterating the logic that unarmed protesters demanding an end to their own subjugation should be met with deadly force or somehow deserve to be killed.”

“The internet, and social media in particular, has made it impossible for Israel to maintain its stranglehold over information,” Greenwald told me. “Israeli propaganda has collapsed, and its mask has fallen.” In his view, “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu single-handedly destroying support for Israel as a bipartisan policy by openly aligning with the Republicans against Obama” was one of the biggest political mistakes of the last several decades.

As a result, Greenwald said, there is now a space “to talk about Israel as what it really is rather than the fairy tales we were forced for so long to recite. The Onion has rested comfortably in that space with its Israel satire.”

Of course, satire by itself is not enough. But it is a start.


  1. says

    Any time a group believes (or pretends) that a god has given them something evil ensues.
    The Holocaust was so horrible that one might have expected the Israelis not to model themselves after the guards.

  2. Mobius says

    Following the ’67 and ’73 wars (I was 17 at the time of the latter) I had a lot of sympathy for Israel. But by the late ’80s the apartheid tactics of Israel toward the Palestinians became more and more apparent and I lost that sympathy. Since then I have come to despise the traditional Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. Israel seems much more interested in maintaining the status quo and not seeking peace.

  3. jrkrideau says

    I lost all sympathy towards the Israeli gov’t at the time of the Dayton Accords. It was plain that Israel had no intent in bargaining in good faith and that the USA was not an impartial mediator.

  4. says

    I covered a bit of the “act.il” app and how it’s being used to coordinate pro-Israel troll farms… uh, excuse me, “self expression not at all from sockpuppets.” [stderr]

    When I signed up for act.il the first “mission” I was given was to flag for removal an image that I thought was pretty well done, and which I had “liked” on Facebook.

  5. says

    Any time a group believes (or pretends) that a god has given them something evil ensues.

    Good thing the native Americans don’t believe god gave them the land, huh?
    God actually is on the side of the big battalions. Because god likes big battalions. And genocide. And black holes.

  6. wereatheist says

    The Holocaust was so horrible that one might have expected the Israelis not to model themselves after the guards

    How much I hate this kind of reasoning! You know, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, and the gorge of Babiy Yar were not educational efforts of us benevolent Germans, but full-fledged attempts at extermination.

  7. wereatheist says

    god likes big battalions. And genocide. And black holes

    And neutron star mergers: how else will you get the good Uranium (and Gold)?

  8. busterggi says

    “The Holocaust was so horrible that one might have expected the Israelis not to model themselves after the guards.”

    Yeah, ask the Amalekites, Elamites, Moabites and other OT peoples the ancient Hebrews bragged about exterminating about that.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    Satire caught up with this some time ago. There used to be a show on the BBC called Not The Nine O’Clock News, which starred, among others, Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson. They released a tie-in book in the form of a calendar called “Not 1982”. It is notable for featuring entries “from the Oxtail English Dictionary”, a feature cooked up by two of the authors of the book, John Lloyd and Douglas Adams, who later developed the idea into another book, The Meaning of Liff.

    Anyhoo, I mention it because a running gag in the “calendar” is “Ten Years Ago It Was Still Possible To…”, followed by humourous observations on how the world has changed. “Bribe a policeman for a pound” is one. “Admit the Israelis have a point” is another.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    thanks for this, Mano.

    It has actually motivated me to write my own piece about the uses of satire, and to vainly quote myself engaging in similar satire about 4 years ago. It will be up in a couple hours, but in the meantime let me say that I heartily endorse

    Of course, satire by itself is not enough. But it is a start.

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ack, sorry about the double quote. it was obviously supposed to occur only at the end. The first “thanks” was supposed to be for the entire piece, not just your conclusory statement.

    [I removed the extra quote -- Mano]

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