Things that may not be said about the Israeli atrocities

Jan 4, 2024
Flags-of Palestine and Israel painted on the concrete wall with soldier shadow. Gaza and Israel conflict.

Despite a reputation for violent over-reaction in Palestinian affairs, the Israeli reaction has astonished and confused the world.

The atrocities committed on 7 October 2023 by the military wing of Hamas, exceed in scale, intensity and barbarity anything previously done in Israel or Palestine.

Despite its enduring cruelty, nothing in the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians since 1948 justified the monstrous behaviour.

In the unfathomable outrage perpetrated on that day of infamy, the terrorists chose to step outside any principles of morality, resistance, or war.

Nevertheless, despite a reputation for violent over-reaction in Palestinian affairs, the Israeli reaction has astonished and confused the world.

A civilised and sophisticated society is in its 4th month of aerial, land and sea bombardment and siege of the civilian population of Gaza.

It has killed over 21,000 women, children and men, entombed uncounted thousands more in ruins, injured or maimed tens of thousands, destroyed the medical facilities required to treat such casualties, levelled the infrastructure needed to sustain the future of 2.5 million people, and shut off access to food, water, power and medicine causing starvation and disease.

The naïve might have expected the West, and the US in particular, to have taken decisive action to stop atrocities being committed against an impotent and impoverished civilian population that was not responsible for the triggering debauchery.

The international community had available a myriad of diplomatic steps – recall and expulsion of respective ambassadors, embargoes on supply of war materiel, trade and financial embargoes, sanctions on Israeli government and IDF members, and creation of no-fly zones over Gaza.

None of these things happened. Indeed, their very absence is a licence for the continuation of the atrocities.

But such commentary is not available in mainstream media. A self-censoring practice, akin to British D-Notices, is evident. A D-Notice was a government request to editors not to publish particular material that might affect national security. There was no legal compulsion – it was a self-denying ordinance observed by those of common outlook.

What is at work now is similar – not as a government request but in a combination of two inter-connected forces. First, pro-Israeli sentiment, not unrelated to the fact that many Israelis are of European descent.  Secondly, and particularly affecting the more liberal or progressive media, is fear of being accused of anti-Semitism, ironically by the same people who are prosecuting the war in Gaza. That fear means that certain matters will not be reported or published.

For example, one must not refer to any of the 21,000 civilian dead in Gaza as having been “murdered” by the Israeli air force. Their deaths were accidental, not intended.

One must not refer to the fact that many of the IDF pilots bombing civilians in Gaza must be known to air force personnel in the US, the UK, and probably Australia, because of training and other exchanges.

One must not mention that the Israeli air force and armour have been supplied, virtually for free, by the Americans.

While outright comparisons are likely to be ill-informed, illustrative allusions to anything done by the Germans during the Second World War must not be made. Although Netanyahu has cited the dropping of atom bombs on Japan in 1945, and the earlier carpet bombing of Germany, as moral comparisons.

It must not be said that the Israeli attempt to starve the population of Gaza evokes the German Siege of Leningrad, an allusion that Putin made almost immediately – that too must not be reported.

Nor may allusions be made to the revenge levelling of Warsaw after the Uprising, nor to the decimation of Stalingrad, nor to the widespread practice, right up until the end of the war, of Sippenhaft – the collective punishment and murder of families, clans, communities and villages.

One must not mention that fewer people were killed in the London Blitz than have died, so far, in the bombing of Gaza.

One must not say that the Israeli government and the IDF have set out to de-house the population of Gaza, and spill its 2.5 million ill and starving people into its shattered streets to live under plastic sheets.

One must not say that the Egyptian, Jordanian or Saudi Arabian governments could have used clearly telegraphed transport aircraft to drop UN humanitarian supplies on Gaza – which is not a part of Israel – regardless of Israel.

One must not say that, instead of useless rhetoric comparing Netanyahu to Hitler, Turkey, more powerful than those others, and a member of NATO, could have done so. What would the Israelis have done – shot them down and declared war on NATO?

Nor may it be said that Netanyahu’s war aims are tragically absurd – the total destruction of Hamas in order to save the 129 remaining Israeli hostages. Those who kidnapped the hostages and have held them in unspeakable conditions of misery underground for months will have no compunction about murdering every one of them if or when they themselves are about to be expunged.

It must not be said that the only thing that will save the lives of the hostages is a cease fire and a political settlement with international guarantees and enforcement.

And hence, it must not be said that, however galling, however enraging, the terrorists, and others accused of war crimes, will then walk free in the interests of those less enraged, and more desperate for peace and an end to terror and bloodshed.

A peace deal is the only way out for Israel and Palestine, and for the shamefully quiescent West.


In memory of John Pilger, who would have said it all, and more. 

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