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War on Gaza: How the US is buying time for Israel's genocide

As the US ambassador to the UN recently made clear in a rare moment of honesty, Washington is fully committed to facilitating Israel's destruction of the Palestinians
US President Joe Biden on the South Lawn as he departs the White House on 20 February, 2024 (AFP)

There are times when it makes sense, for the sake of one’s mental health, to simply ignore the boilerplate platitudes of politicians and official representatives, and other times when strict attention must be paid.

In the case of the US, given the truly dismal level of its official discourse at this point, it has become harder to tell the difference.

As the president himself is unsure of whether Ukraine, Iraq, Mexico or Egypt might be in question on any given day, or on those very rare days when he actually takes a question or two from a mostly stenographic and domesticated press corps, it has become easier and easier to just stop paying attention and simply write all of it off as subterfuge and nonsense meant to add yet another layer to the iron wall protecting Israel’s genocidal actions.

And yet, there are those rare moments when one official or another actually says what they mean and reveals how policies intend to proceed.

Following discussion and the scathing response by Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, to last week's reprehensible and criminal US veto of the Algerian resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the US's ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, offered a very brief press conference. 

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In conclusion, she stressed the importance of  “direct diplomacy on the ground until we reach a final solution”. The thrust of this, of course, is that there could be no “immediate ceasefire”, since the delicacies of “direct diplomacy” might be disturbed.

In other words, let the horrors continue, come what may, and let the rest of the world be damned, as the US and its few remaining allies buy more time for Israel to achieve its purported goals.

Through the fog of propaganda, disinformation and all kinds of coercion (not to mention the huge UN veto stick wielded by the US), can there still be any doubt about what those goals actually are?

As the Overton window of what has become normalised continues to expand exponentially on the ground in Gaza, it would be difficult not to understand the intent of Thomas-Greenfield’s phrase, "final solution", and the whiplash sense of cognitive dissonance it was meant to inflict. 

Unfathomable cruelty

The Gaza weapons testing, population control and surveillance laboratory, open to global consumers since at least 2007 and the Israeli imposition of a total blockade on the Gaza Strip, has clearly moved into a new phase.

While there are instrumental political implications of great import in this "new phase”, there is, as well, a direct affront to our very sense of what it still might mean to be human in the digital age of immediate global communication and the almost full lockstep consolidation and docility of mainstream western media sources.

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What are we to make of the US enabling of the relentless Israeli killing and destruction machine, along with the almost unfathomable daily cruelty accompanying it? Is it simply in order to kill and terrorise as many Palestinians as possible, particularly children and women?

Is it to destroy all existing institutions and structures? Roads, water systems, power stations, agricultural capacities, homes, schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, mosques, churches, bookstores, bakeries, pharmacies and even so-called designated “safe zones” to the point of making Gaza completely uninhabitable?

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Or is it in order to take over and exploit the offshore gas fields that Palestinians have a right to benefit from but have never been given access to? Might there also be other messages directed at the world?

In the days immediately following Thomas-Greenfield’s delaying tactic of yet another US veto to a ceasefire resolution, and her “final solution” utterance, Israeli occupation forces built a road cutting northern Gaza off from the south, while bombing Unrwa facilities and a Doctors Without Borders staff shelter.

Food and medicine supplies continue to be blocked and stalled by Israeli occupation forces. Following one of the first recorded cases of an infant dying from starvation, 10,000 more children are in imminent danger of starving from malnutrition, and after them, of course, many more children and elderly are likely to follow. 

Some half-a-million people are close to famine in northern Gaza, even as Israeli snipers strafe Palestinians desperately trying to reach the little aid that trickles in.

With a precise level of genocidal cruelty that becomes ever more evident, Israeli forces carried out precision strikes in Beit Lahia and Jabalia to destroy rescue and sanitation machinery and vehicles.

This has increased the chance of disease spreading in those areas, while forcing residents to search through the rubble for survivors or the bodies and body parts of loved ones with only their hands and basic tools, even further exhausting the already malnourished.

Cynical US policy

At the same time, Egypt - inexplicably not yet having torn up its peace agreement with Israel - continues apace in building some vaguely referred to “area” in the Sinai Desert at the border with Rafah. Most recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released his first sufficiently vague post-assault “plan” for control of Gaza.

Meanwhile, many Israelis remain displaced, the economy has taken a serious hit, and - other than pure destruction and death - things are not going so well on the ground regarding Netanyahu’s purported “aims” of the assault: repatriating Israeli hostages and destroying Hamas.

How, at this point, can anyone doubt that mass expulsion is not only possible but plausible? And, as both occupation and settler marauders continue their deadly rampages throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, can anyone still seriously doubt the possibility of the actual destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, something constantly alluded to and even gleefully taught in some Israeli schools?

Clearly, the surround-sound blather spouted by various political figures is one of the prime means to contain our imagination, to refer to things only within certain parameters, making other things unthinkable, unimaginable, even as they stare us directly in the face.

On the broader geopolitical front, the continuing expansion of Nato as a means to maintain US hegemony in the face of Brics and the multi-polarity championed by the Russian-Chinese alliance has put the US into panic mode.

The continuing expansion of Nato as a means to maintain US hegemony in the face of Brics and the multi-polarity championed by the Russian-Chinese alliance has put the US into panic mode

The utterly cynical US policy of paying for a proxy war in Ukraine as a means of effecting regime change in Russia has proven to be an utter failure, and seen so by more and more US taxpayers, asked to foot the massive bill, even as allegiance to this same war policy impoverishes Europe as well.

In the minds of neocon policymakers and the war-mongering uni-party alliance in Washington, this failure - and the geographic imperative to maintain control of certain shipping routes to assure US dominance - has almost made the opening of a new front in the Middle East inevitable, and it is the expendables, the Palestinians, who are being forced to pay the price. 

Add to all this the fact that, following years of orchestrated cognitive dissonance in the US across a myriad range of issues - from purported Russian collusion, election fraud, Covid treatment, vaccination mandates, the summer of George Floyd, 6 January 2021, the war in Ukraine, the Twitter Files, to so many others - an ideal situation for those in power has been created.

Those once outraged at being censored or shadow-banned for views identified with the right are now all too ready to ban pro-Palestinian speech. And those now harassed, doxxed or even fired for airing their views can’t understand what all the fuss was about when Twitter banned President Donald Trump. 

We now have an evenly divided population, at each other’s throats over almost every issue, with little or no ability left to stand on principle about anything. This can be seen most clearly in questions centred on free speech, and through the media and social media landscape, the very realms through which the atrocities taking place daily in Gaza are filtered or presented. 

Information saturation

We have moved far from the courageous revelations of Julian Assange, who is now appealing against a court ruling to extradite him to the US, where the same political and media class crying crocodile tears for recently deceased Russian dissident Alexei Navalny utter not a word in favour of Assange.

While the work of Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and others involved the exposure of information held in secret from the citizenry, we are now at the stage of unending information saturation in which secrecy no longer seems to matter.

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With almost everything out in the open and available, the task has become about verifying, rather than uncovering, reality. And in doing so, “narratives” are built. 

Despite various forms of censorship and disinformation, we have never lived through such a genocidal attack in which so much information is not only readily available but can often be seen in real-time. How, then, as both consumers and producers of information, as well as political constituents, can we respond to the present situation?

From this perspective, it is hard not to see the prolongation of this agony delivered upon a particular people, the Palestinians, and its broadcasting of their most vulnerable moments, as some kind of further testing ground of the very category of the human and humans, and it also  brings into sharp relief just how limited our political powers are, even in ostensibly representative democracies.

The significance of South Africa bringing the charge of genocide against Israel to the International Court of Justice, along with the ICJ’s initial findings, cannot be underestimated, but it remains only a tool that we must learn how to use in order to expand the grounds upon which we think and act in the world.

As we watch the core institutions in our societies rot and disintegrate from within, due to an inability to name what is happening in Gaza and the world, positions once deemed principled ring more than hollow. 

With every minute that passes, new lessons in cowardice and cruelty are given by the Israelis and their US enablers

As mothers in Gaza can barely give birth or feed their babies, as fathers cannot protect their children, as doctors cannot heal, and as many cannot even retrieve the bodies of their loved ones for burial, we can only conclude that this poisonous cruelty is aimed at the very idea of being a child, a mother, a father, a healer, a mourner. 

We are up against a regime that has taken direct aim at humanity. With every minute that passes, new lessons in cowardice and cruelty are given by the Israelis and their US enablers. At the same time, we must stand in humble awe of the resistance and humanity shown by the people of Gaza.

But in continuing to expose this genocide, we must ask more of ourselves. We must find ever more useful ways to resist and stay human in pursuit of a just political solution to one of the world’s most exposed and festering wounds, whose time for healing has long been evident.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Ammiel Alcalay is a poet, novelist, translator, essayist, critic and scholar. He is the author of more than 20 books including After Jews and Arabs, Memories of Our Future and the forthcoming Controlled Demolition: a work in four books. He is Distinguished Professor at Queens College, CUNY, and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.
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