What we talk about when we talk about genocide
On 1 August, a Times of Israel blog entry titled “When Genocide is Permissible” suddenly disappeared from the website. The Jerusalem Post explains that the entry had “provoked an avalanche of criticism and outrage on social media, prompting the news outlet to dismiss its author,” Yochanan Gordon, son of the founder of the New York-based 5 Towns Jewish Times, where the problematic dispatch also ran. The elder Gordon recently objected to the notion that there are “innocent civilians” in Gaza.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems. In his own post, Gordon junior suggests that all Palestinians maintain terror tunnels and store rocket launchers in their homes, and deftly converts the call for genocide into a he-started-it kind of a thing: “We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people.”
Never mind Gordon’s own assessments regarding the enemy’s “propensity to lie” and the fact that “falsehood and deceit is [sic] part of the very fabric of who they are and that will never change.”
More important, perhaps, are certain assessments made by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad. At the start of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day massacre that eliminated approximately 1,400 persons in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, Halevy was quoted in The Independent as acknowledging that Hamas were “ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.” Furthermore, he argued, Hamas were aware that they would “have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals.”
Referencing the ceasefire that was supposedly in effect prior to the onset of hostilities (but that, as usual, had already been violated by the Israelis - a factoid that is almost always excised from mainstream media analysis of Cast Lead), Halevy remarked: “Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas.”
Gordon’s astute take on the logic of ceasefires is presented as follows: “I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war? An NBA Basketball game allows six timeouts for each team during the course of a game, but last I checked this is a war!”
Contending that “nothing… can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live,” Gordon reasons: “Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealises death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?”
Since we’ve already established that Hamas = Gaza, it appears Israel’s only hope for a continued celebration of life is a “defensive” obliteration of the human contents of the Gaza Strip.
Gordon concludes his piece with a “question for all the humanitarians out there:”
“…[I]t is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”
The question would seem to have already been answered by the essay’s headline.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the “public fury touched off by Gordon's post” led to an announcement by the editors of The Times of Israel declaring themselves “angry and appalled” and insisting that “we will not countenance blog posts that incite violence or criminal acts.”
Obviously, this pledge hasn’t resulted in a similar recall of Times articles excusing Israeli military attacks on Palestinian hospitals and the like.
Meanwhile, other expressions of public fury have been directed elsewhere. Writing at FrontPage Magazine - official peddler of the notion that Islamophobia is an Islamofascist invention meant to criminalise any criticism of Islam and facilitate a Muslim takeover of the world - Daniel Greenfield voices his indignation that outlets like Vice and the Daily Beast have “falsely describe[d] ‘When Genocide Is Permissible’ as an article or an Op-Ed.” These descriptions are “false and dishonest,” because the dispatch “was a post.”
Additional egregious journalistic infractions include references to The Times of Israel as a newspaper rather than a website. No matter that the website advertises itself as an “online newspaper”; it’s useful to have other things to quibble over aside from the morality of slaughtering Palestinian children.
Greenfield’s efforts to downplay the reach and influence of Gordon’s musings are contradicted by Gordon himself in an apology he subsequently issued, in which he described his post as having been “tweeted and shared the world over.” Indeed, in the age of social media, you don’t need to appear on the pages of a traditional print publication to warp people’s minds.
Furthermore, it’s not like Gordon was expressing a totally marginalized and extremist viewpoint. In early July, for example, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked advocated on Facebook for the mass killing of Palestinians and rapidly accrued an obscene number of “likes.”
Not fair, Greenfield might say; this is a Facebook post, not an official decree. But the widespread dissemination of such sentiments is reinforcing a lethal discourse that nonetheless does its best to avoid the nasty G-word.
It’s no secret that Israel’s goal from the get-go has been to make the Palestinian identity - the very idea that there is a Palestinian people- disappear. This goal is in its essence genocidal, and, although it doesn’t require that the Israelis physically kill every Palestinian in existence, their performance on the killing front hasn’t been poor, either.
In the end, perhaps some of the discomfort and anger over Gordon’s post stems from the fact that he wasn’t being “false and dishonest” - and that he was willing to call a spade a spade.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.
This views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo credit: Papers litter the ground at Gaza's Islamic University, bombed on 1 August (AA)