The steady killing by Israel of the entire population of Gaza continues with their total blockade of the territory that prevents anyone from entering and leaving while denying them the basic essentials of life such as water, food, medicines, and fuel. At the same time, we see the Israel lobby in the US spring into action to try and control the narrative here to limit any criticism of the actions of the Israel government and. military. Norman Solomon writes that right from the beginning, Israeli spokespersons have laid the groundwork for creating a massive death toll among the Gazans.
When Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations spoke outside the Security Council on Sunday, he said: “This is Israel’s 9/11. This is Israel’s 9/11.” Meanwhile, in a PBS NewsHour interview, Israel’s ambassador to the United States said: “This is, as someone said, our 9/11.”
While the phrase might seem logical, “Israel’s 9/11” is already being used as a huge propaganda weapon by Israel’s government — now engaged in massive war crimes against civilians in Gaza, after mass murder of Israelis by Hamas last weekend.
On the surface, an analogy between the atrocities just suffered by Israelis and what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 might seem to justify calls for unequivocal solidarity with Israel. But horrific actions are in process from an Israeli government that has long maintained a system of apartheid while crushing basic human rights of Palestinian people.
What is very sinister about trumpeting “Israel’s 9/11” is what happened after America’s 9/11. Wearing the shroud of victim, the United States proceeded to use the horrible tragedy suffered inside its own borders as a license to kill vast numbers of people in the name of retaliation, righteousness and, of course, the “war on terror.”
It’s a playbook that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is currently adapting and implementing with a vengeance. Now underway, Israel’s collective punishment of 2.3 million people in Gaza is an intensification of what Israel has been doing to Palestinians for decades. But Israel’s extremism, more than ever touting itself as a matter of self-defense, is at new racist depths of willingness to treat human beings as suitable for extermination.
On Monday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant described Palestinians as “beastly people” and said: “We are fighting animals and are acting accordingly.”
Imagine the reaction if anyone had used that language about Israelis.
In the US, anyone commenting on the events are expected to follow certain rules, one of which is that it is not enough to have condemned the attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians and the taking of hostages. One must repeat the condemnation every single time that one criticizes, however mildly, the actions of Israel so that those actions are seen as justified. However the situation changes if one criticizes the actions of Hamas. Then one is not supposed to mention the decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people in what is now an apartheid state. When the secretary general of the United Nations Antonio Gutteres said that the actions by Hamas did not occur in a vacuum, a statement that is utterly unconroversial to anyone who knows the long and ugly history of the region, Israel reacted with predictable outrage and called for his resignation. Gutteres’s statement in response emphasizes this point.
Guterres responded to the Israeli criticism, telling reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that he was “shocked” at the misinterpretation of part of his statement to the council, “as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas.”
He reiterated the start of his statement on Tuesday: “I have condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented 7 October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel. Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians — or the launching of rockets against civilian targets.”
The secretary-general said he spoke of the grievances of the Palestinian people and also stated: “But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.”
But that kind of balance or nuance is never enough for the apologists for Israel. The Onion, is its usual satirical way, accurately captured the way that the discourse is framed.
GAZA CITY, GAZA—The complicity of each and every Palestinian in the violent actions of their militant ruling authority was reportedly on full display Friday morning when dying Gazans received justified criticism for not using their last words to condemn Hamas. For example, instead of issuing a full-throated denunciation of the violent attacks by Hamas that have left over 1,300 Israelis dead, one dying woman holding her 6-year-old son who had just been killed in a bombing is said to have doubled down by telling her child she loved him. According to reports, such barbarism on the part of Palestinians was on full display across the Gaza Strip, where many men of fighting age could not muster a single world of reproof for Hamas’ actions while they coughed up blood. In war-ravaged Gaza City, a dying reporter was heard blatantly begging for help instead of labeling Hamas a terrorist organization. At press time, the Israeli Defense Forces Twitter account underscored the massive surge of contempt they were contending with by posting a video that featured the shocking savagery of a Palestinian corpse that refused to condemn Hamas even when kicked.
The actions of Israel have horrified people around the world. But in the US, any statement calling for the humane treatment of Palestinians and humanitarian aid to a dying population results in people being attacked and losing their jobs and other positions.
A rising number of prominent US figures have faced discipline over controversial public comments they have made about the Palestinian cause, as attacks by Israel on Gaza after the 7 October massacre of Israelis by Hamas fighters intensified.
David Velasco, the editor in chief of Artforum magazine, was reportedly fired after the magazine published an open letter in response to the war.
Celebrated US photographer Nan Goldin and other artists have said they will no longer work with Artforum after the magazine’s termination of Velasco, the New York Times reported.
“I have never lived through a more chilling period,” Goldin, who is Jewish and had signed the open letter, said to the Times. “People are being blacklisted. People are losing their jobs.”
At least four editors have resigned in response to Velasco’s dismissal, the Times reported.
Zack Hatfield, a former senior editor for the magazine, announced online that he had left Artforum and called Velasco’s firing “unacceptable”.
“David Velasco’s firing is unacceptable and bodes ominously for the future of the magazine,” Hatfield wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
On 19 October, the top art magazine posted a letter entitled: “An open letter from the art community to cultural organizations”. The letter, signed by thousands of artists and cultural workers including Goldin, called for an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid into Gaza and broader Palestinian liberation.
Behind the scenes, however, powerful art dealers and gallerists who control the cultural and monetary tides of the art world began a private campaign to force some of the biggest names on the letter to retract their support, according to a half dozen sources, including letter signatories as well as others informed about the influence campaign.
Soon after the letter was posted, Martin Eisenberg, a high-profile collector and inheritor of the now-bankrupt Bed Bath & Beyond fortune, began contacting famous art world figures on the list whose work he had championed to express his objections to the letter.
In a statement to the New York Times, Velasco said, “I’m disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure.”
The pressure campaign against the letter echoes a wave of repercussions faced by writers, activists, and students who have spoken out for Palestinians. Right-wing groups lobbying for Israel, as well as donors to prominent institutions and various other wealthy interests, are condemning open letters and using the lists of signatories as blacklists across cultural, professional, and academic spheres.
“Anecdotally, I know that a majority of people in the art world are devastated by the genocide in Gaza but many are scared to speak out or even join the call for a ceasefire,” said Hannah Black, an artist and writer who signed the Artforum letter but was not pressured to remove her signature. “It is absolutely McCarthyite and many of the dogmatic anti-Palestinians within the art world have, as Joseph Welch said of McCarthy, ‘no sense of decency.’ They are willing to destroy careers, destroy the value of artworks, to maintain their unofficial ban on free speech about Palestine.”
“We support Palestinian liberation and call for an end to the killing and harming of all civilians, an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes,” the letter read, in part.
Such nuance is unacceptable to the Israel lobby. Once again, it is The Onion that accurately captures the goals of this pressure campaign, which is to eliminate any such nuance.
The past week has shown humanity at its worst: A horrific terrorist attack left at least 1,300 Israelis dead, among them peace activists and even innocent children. The fates of many more kidnapped civilians still lie in the balance. Meanwhile, statements from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggest retaliation against Palestinians in Gaza will be swift and merciless. More than 1,500 Gazans are already dead, and 338,000 others have been displaced. In moments of turmoil such as this, some believe it is the responsibility of a newspaper of record like The Onion to delve fully into the nuances of a complex and multifaceted conflict that stretches back not just decades but centuries. These people are wrong.
Instead, this editorial board wishes to take this opportunity to declare its full and unequivocal support for Israel because, frankly, it seems like you get in way less trouble for that.
Joe Biden has unequivocally supported the hardline Israeli position, even flying to Israel and literally embracing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the face of the huge death toll in Gaza and criticism from the left of his party, he has tried to walk back some of that, and again The Onion describes the cynical calculus at play in his administration.
WASHINGTON—Saying civilian casualties were the “price of waging a war” and that so far the price had not been high enough, President Biden spoke to reporters Thursday about the conflict in Gaza and expressed doubts that enough Palestinians had died. “I have no confidence that the death toll provided by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health is as high as it should be,” the president told a PBS correspondent who asked about reports that Israeli airstrikes had now killed more than 7,000 Gazans, with Biden then stating that conditions on the ground were too chaotic to say with any certainty whether enough of the 2 million people living on a small strip of land they are not allowed to leave had been slaughtered. “Obviously, statistics from Gaza are subject to bias, so we can’t use them to determine when the number of dead Palestinians has reached a sufficient level. Perhaps when the fog of war has cleared, we’ll realize Israel has killed more Gazans than was necessary, but now is not the time to ease up.” Biden went on to reiterate his position that Israel had a right to defend itself against the 1 million children in Gaza who have spent their entire lives in captivity with no access to clean drinking water.
It says something about the state of the media in this country that when it comes to Israel, the subtext has to be revealed in satire.
But there have been changes over the years. It used to be that any criticism of Israel would result in accusations of being self-hating Jews (if made by Jews) and anti-Semitism (if made by. others). But the wide overuse of that charge has weakened it and it has lost its potency. The protests by so many people in the US and elsewhere (including Jews in the US and around the world) at Israel’s behavior shows that the veil of immunity Israel used to enjoy is being steadily eroded.