The latest flareup in the Middle East

Once again, we have a flare up in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. As of yesterday, 65 Palestinians, including 16 children have been killed, and at least 365 people have been wounded, while six Israelis have been killed.

And once again we have the US reacting in predictable ways, with most of the political establishment repeating the myth of Israel being the plucky little underdog facing a huge sea of enemies, the David battling the Goliath of Arabs, when in reality it is Israel, possessing one of the most powerful military machines in the world, that is not only the Goliath that arrogantly throws it weight around but is backed up by an even bigger Goliath in the US, that supplies it with massive amounts of military and other aid and protects it diplomatically. Biden has repeated the ritualistic statement of unwavering support for whatever the hell Israel does, couched in the language that it has the ‘right to defend itself’, coupled with the usual call for all sides to end the violence, which ranks right up there on the scale of uselessness with the calls for ‘thoughts and prayers’ after every mass shooting in the US.

We are repeatedly told by establishment politicians and media that Israel has every right to defend itself from rocket attacks even if that includes massive barrages with all the sophisticated weaponry that the US provides them. When have you heard any mainstream politician in the US say that Palestinians have the right to defend themselves from the apartheid policies of the Israeli government and the onslaughts of the Israeli military?

On his show two nights ago, Trevor Noah had I think one of the most thoughtful reflections on what is going on,. Yes, we have to depend on a comedian for a nuanced yet incisive look at what is happening. He rightly says that it is useless to pick a particular starting point to determine who is to blame for any specific eruption of violent conflict because that point can be shifted to make either side justified. He says that what we need to do is look at the balance of power and how that power is used. Israel has overwhelming military superiority, thanks to the US and other western nations supplying it generously with arms and aid. Israel seems to feel that it is justified in using any amount of that power to punish Palestinians for anything just because it can, and Noah says that that is the problem. His reflections are well worth listening to.

Robert Mackey writes about the video of religious Zionists celebrating efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem so that they can be occupied by Jewish settlers, one of the favors that has led to the current fighting.

Another video clip of ultranationalist Israelis in ecstatic celebration in front of the Western Wall, as flames near the Aqsa mosque leapt into the night sky above, unsettled and appalled many Palestinian and Jewish critics of the 54-year-old Israeli occupation of the city.

While the video evidence is far from clear, it seems possible that Palestinian protesters did accidentally start the fire. But this focus on who started the fire, and whether the Israeli extremists were celebrating the blaze, is a distraction from what is most disturbing about the video shared by Odeh.

That’s because, as several Israeli journalists, as well as activists and scholars who speak Hebrew, pointed out, what was most horrifying about the scene was the song the ultranationalists were singing along to as a fire raged in front of them near Islam’s third holiest site.

It was, as Yair Wallach, a senior lecturer in Israeli Studies at SOAS University of London, explained, a 1990s Hassidic rock tune associated with the far-right Jewish supremacist movement of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

“Hard to capture how deeply horrifying this video is,” Simone Zimmerman, the U.S. director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, wrote on Twitter of the clip Odeh shared. “Thousands of Israeli Jews singing about revenge, chanting ‘Yimach shemam (may their names be erased),’ dancing as a fire burns on the Temple Mount. This is genocidal animus towards Palestinians — emboldened and unfiltered.”

“The song is not only genocidal, it’s also suicidal — from the story of Samson, who kills himself while getting revenge on the Philistines,” she added.

New York is in the process of having an election campaign for mayor and we are seeing the candidates engage in the usual pandering to Israel in an effort to garner support from the city’s right-wing Jewish population in the city, especially the ultra-Orthodox. The current mayor Bill de Blasio has long been a pandering PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine). In the wake of Israel’s massive bombing campaign in Gaza, one of the candidates Andrew Yang got an earful from some New Yorkers for his tweet supporting the bombing with not a word about the many Palestinians, including children, who have died under the barrage. But his pandering was obvious long before that.

Alexander Ocasio-Cortez also took Yang to task.

Contrast Yang’s pandering with Bernie Sanders.

The behavior of the Israeli government has been getting steadily worse and worse with the world ignoring it. It takes these recurring flareups to remind the rest of the world how bad things are.


  1. Holms says

    Israel seems to feel that it is justified in using any amount of that power to punish Palestinians for anything just because it can

    A belief that is heavily supported by the fact that they have yet to lose America’s backing and so have yet to suffer a consequence for their atrocities. And so the slow genocide grinds on.

  2. blf says

    (Reconstructed cross-post from PZ’s [Pandemic and] Political Madness All the Time thread here at FtB…)

    Two snippets from To understand why Joe Biden has shifted left, look at the people working for him:

    The young Democratic staffers who dominate the White House and Capitol today have never known a Republican party worth negotiating with. They are tired of the Republicans and are convincing their principals [the president, the senators and the cabinet secretaries] to join them. And so a huge, popular stimulus package that includes child tax credits, increased health care subsidies and direct relief payments made its way through the Senate within two months of Biden’s inauguration, without a single Republican vote. When Washington pundits howled that the package was too large and not bipartisan, White House staff simply pointed to public opinion polling demonstrating the overwhelming popularity of the bill, marking a generational shift away from the centralised gatekeepers of Washington’s “Sunday shows”, the political talkshows that have represented and defined the mainstream current of Washington opinion for decades.

    This generation of staffers haven’t just got different tactics: their ideological commitments are different too. Many of them lived through the Great Recession, have accumulated significantly less wealth than their baby boomer and gen X elders, and therefore have a much more positive view of how government action can improve people’s lives.

    [… T]he Biden administration’s clear-sighted, progressive vision for domestic policy doesn’t extend to foreign policy. Unlike the numerous former Warren staffers running around the National Economic Council and treasury departments, the Situation Room doesn’t have leftwing Senate staffers moving through its doors.

    Still, some good signs are perhaps emerging. The Democrats who now staff the White House came of age knowing that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were failures, and that Washington’s foreign policy “blob” — from the state department to the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies — led us astray. And the agreement on what went wrong has paid some immediate dividends, with Biden overriding the national security apparatus to announce that the United States will leave Afghanistan this year after two long, largely pointless decades spent in the country.

    This insight — younger domestic staff who know there’s no point to engaging with or waiting for the thugs, combined with long-time military-industrial profiteering staff for foreign affairs — is an interesting way of looking at the current administration. As the opinion column notes, things like reallocating funds spent on police for non-policing purposes (“defund the police”) haven’t made much traction (yet?), at least in part due “the principles” seemingly-ingrained thinking. Seemingly-ingrained, perhaps, but not necessarily rigid or frozen.

    The author, “Joel Wertheimer is a civil rights attorney and was formerly associate staff secretary for Barack Obama”.

  3. seachange says

    Yes, it is about power. Power is power. Let’s talk realpolitik then.

    Many words in the english language have more than one meaning and also there is polysemy. the word “fight” is being used in two different ways by him and pretty much everyone who has commented here. Men tussle and fight in non-earnest ways for status. Women fight a game of a thousand cuts with words for status. Nations fight to kill and win. Stacy Abrams fights for the right to vote. Different meanings of fight. Not the same “fight”.

    Scientific study shows that people feel injured more by an action than a neutral observer would think. The people who do the injury feel it is less severe than a neutral observer would think. This is wired into the human brain. Scientific study also shows that those injured remember it the longest. Study also proves that a person doing a boon sees it as greater than, and remembers it longer than a neutral observer, and the neutral observer remembers it longer and sees the boon as greater than the person who recieves it.

    There is NO SUCH THING as a proportional response.

    Palestine is pretending to be a nation and is playing that game whether or not it’s violently-subjected-by-them people agree, much like the people of the US are getting fucked over by our own representatives opposing President Joseph Biden’s very popular legislative agenda. This happens. Presumably not so much in a nation that is pretending it’s a democracy and not-at-all-a-shithole-country like the US, but it happens.

    “they could crush Gaza like that” …but they didn’t.

    If any native peoples of the United States fired that many missiles at any city, they’d get squashed flat. Heck Caine showed us that even if all you do is protest you will get badly hurt, and another native friend of mine showed me a video of a beating from a whole slew of National Guard on a native american woman that looked to me exactly like what a beating would look like if the Aryan Nation hated you (as opposed to beating you for fun, or if you gave one of your junkies a discount. Yes there is a difference)

    If BLM had fired 200 missiles, former-president Draftdodger would still be in office. I always say UNARMED Black men. If a person actualy has a knife and it’s not just the lying criminal gang of apple-police saying that, I would prefer it if the knife-wielder didn’t get shot. Killing people is not the purpose of law enforcement, and if they do shoot they are not acting-for-purpose. But I don’t care if knife-weilders do get shot.

    My dad thought the Soviets would bomb us and the Chinese would invade, so I learned how to shoot a rifle and was prevented from going to play and doing homework until I demonstrated sufficiency. He also had my sisters, mom, and me taught karate. I was much more powerful than children my age. Did that stop constant attacks on my because of my expressed femininity despite a male phenotype, or percieved-by-them gayness? No. Running away, telling someone, and shutting up like my parents directed me to do, did not work. Turning the other cheek like my church teaches me to do, it did not work. Using defensive moves only encouraged them to attack more, because…it is about power, power is power, and a large group of conforming people who hate those who don’t conform will think themselves more powerful and will always test you. Children don’t have any filters and the attacks continued until I gave out some concussions and broken bones.

    Then, they fucking stopped. Because power is power.

    The word genocide is being overused. The population of Palestine is 5.2 millions.
    It’s true that I started this post talking about how words have different meanings and nuance. I think the word genocide deserves a special place. If you use the word genocide in regards to any amount that is not statistically significant compared to 5, 200, 000, your words no longer matter to me.

    Genocide is where you wipe out a significant portion of a percieved ethnicity.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    The word genocide is being overused

    I did a quick search. The word “genocide” is used exactly once on this page before you used it, in comment #1: “the slow genocide grinds on”. I’m not sure if you can describe as “genocide” something that has been going on for basically my entire life and still has in excess of five million potential victims still knocking about.

    However, I am sure you can use the word “genocidal”, as it is used twice in the original post to talk about hardcore Jew animus against Palestinians, and the specific sentiments of their song. They really do WANT to erase Palestinians. They’re not shy about making that fact absolutely clear. That they haven’t done so is really more about the fact that the especially rabid ones are not actually in power. That’s all. “Genocidal” is absolutely the right word to use about what those fuckers would like to do though. I don’t think it’s overused at all. In fact, I think if you asked them, they’d own it, and entirely without appreciation of the irony.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    seachange @ # 3: Palestine is pretending to be a nation …

    We generally draw the line between “pretending to be” and “actual” nations by whether other existing nations recognize them. Palestine has passed that hurdle.

    I would prefer it if the knife-wielder didn’t get shot. … But I don’t care if knife-weilders do get shot.

    Consistency counts -- and not just in spelling.

  6. says

    The term “settler” is propaganda and needs to be excised from the discussion. The word implies that no one was living on the land when Israel illegally annexed it, and denies the reality of the Nakba. It’s a word of ethnic cleansing and erases Palestinian existence.

    They live illegally on Palestinian land. Squatter is a more honest word.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Intransitive @7: I disagree that ‘settler’ implies first habitation. There’s hardly a habitable square foot on the planet, outside Antarctica, which hasn’t been occupied for thousands of years. So ‘settler’ actually implies colonialism, unless the settlers have been welcomed (maybe that has happened, but I can’t think of an example). And haven’t most of our ancestors been squatters/settlers at some point?

    The question of legality is also fraught. Do you mean established international law at some moment in time? Was Chinese settlement of Taiwan ‘legal’? Since I’m not aware of any international laws at the time, I guess so, but I doubt it was with the consent of the indigenous people.

    All that said, there is no doubt that Palestinians have been, and continue to be, driven off their ancestral lands, and effectively confined to ‘bantustans’ in deplorable conditions. So legal, schmegal. The Palestinians have suffered grave injustices by any reasonable moral standards.

  8. Silentbob says

    I watched a good French Canadian movie about the conflict last night. I mean it’s not about the conflict per se, it’s a slice of life drama within the conflict. But the protagonist is an outsider trying to stay neutral and finding it impossible. I don’t know what service it’s on, you’d have to check, but highly recommended. It’s harrowing viewing, so don’t expect no light entertainment.

    Here’s a trailer.

    (Oh and this is a subtitle movie, so you need to be okay with subtitles. There’s about two lines of English in it; it’s mostly French, Arabic, Hebrew. Authentic, in other words.)

  9. Holms says

    #3 About 40% of the Palestinian population is currently imprisoned, and subjected to -- among other things -- intentional food and water shortages. Does that nudge the needle any? But more to the point, genocide is also used when the thing being exterminated is a culture and/or sense of national identity; see Australia’s Stolen Generations for an example of this approach.

  10. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    We generally draw the line between “pretending to be” and “actual” nations by whether other existing nations recognize them. Palestine has passed that hurdle.

    That’s a silly definition. By that definition, Taiwan is not a nation. A nation is a government that has a monopoly of decisions of use of force. Israel and Taiwan are nations. Palestine is not.

  11. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The only sensible definitions are a shared culture or ethnicity, or an effective government. What a majority of countries find politically expedient to recognize, thats not a workable definition. That’s the shit that China pushes to argue that Taiwan is not a nation.

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