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.
.@AndrewYang is confronted in Astoria by passersby upset over his pro-Israel tweet. He calls conflict in the Middle East “heartbreaking,” but doesn’t condemn Israeli airstrikes. pic.twitter.com/L0oAja66zR
— Emily Ngo (@emilyngo) May 11, 2021
Alexander Ocasio-Cortez also took Yang to task.
Utterly shameful for Yang to try to show up to an Eid event after sending out a chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children, especially after his silence as Al-Aqsa was attacked.
But then to try that in Astoria? During Ramadan?! They will let you know. https://t.co/r721mHyfri
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 11, 2021
Contrast Yang’s pandering with Bernie Sanders.
I am extremely concerned by the growing conflict in Israel and Palestine. Once again we are seeing how the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem can escalate quickly into devastating war.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 11, 2021
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.