In DepthColumnsIsrael has only begun to kill children


Posted on Monday, 11 August 2014 11:01

Israel has only begun to kill children

Quincy Saul

Quincy Saul describes the two kinds of hopelessness at play in the Israeli-Palestinian war, and why the politics of unfounded optimism must be swapped for the politics of anti-colonialism.

This is a horrible, hopeless thing to say. But this does not make it false. Israel has only begun to kill children. You may say that they started way back in 1948; that it began long ago. But whether we measure murder by numbers or by brutality of the method, we can say that still, Israel has only begun.

our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians - Nelson Mandela

It is more comfortable to appeal to the moral conscience of Israelis, to search for the humanity in IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers, the compassion in settlers. It is reassuring to center hope in our discourse of outrage, to tirelessly express our optimism for a better future, to repeat platitudes about the dawn coming after darkest night, and the silver lining in the clouds of white phosphorous. It is far more uncomfortable and unsettling to recognize that the state of Israel and its defenders, from the IDF and AIPAC to the Hillel Houses and Zionist synagogues of the world, are beyond hope.

Two kinds of hopelessness are at play here: the hopelessness which arises from having no cause for or feeling of hope, and the hopelessness that descends when something is unworthy of hope. To understand this hopelessness - why Israel is killing children and why it won't stop - and to move towards the genuine possibility of hope, we must abandon the politics of unfounded optimism, and take up the politics of anti-colonialism.

As Gazans are told to run between the surgical raindrops, trapped in the planet's largest and most overcrowded prison, the world is outraged. Where I live in the USA, indignation is mostly expressed in appeals to conscience, urging everyone to sign declarations and petitions, to come out into the streets to protest, for the first or hundredth time. We should be moved.

But we have not been moved, or at least not enough. All the calls for peace and human rights seems so limited in the face of what is happening. Why? Because they don't reckon with the possibility that there is no hope, in either sense, for Israel and its defenders.

The discourse of moral outrage has run out of vocabulary for this conflict. As Alfredo Bonanno wrote a decade ago, "the fact that Palestinian people are still dying every day no longer makes news anywhere in the world." (Palestine, Mon Amour, 2003) What is there left to say?

From Zionist historians like Benny Morris to scholars descended from Holocaust survivors like Norman Finkelstein, the 'facts on the ground' could not be expressed more clearly. Do we need to repeat statistics about the settlements, about the wall, about the number of olive trees uprooted? Do we need to see more pictures of dead Palestinian babies, or of the graffiti in Hebron which reads "Gas the Arabs"?


Instead of the politics of moral outrage, I would like to suggest the politics of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. The differences and the consequences are big. One appeals to the powerful to be more just. The other overthrows the powerful as the only possible path to justice. Let's take a page out of Steve Biko's book here, with some Frank Talk about apartheid and settler colonialism:

My premise has always been that black people should not at any one stage be surprised at some of the atrocities committed by the government. This to me follows logically after their initial assumption that they, being a settler minority, can have the right to be supreme masters. If they could be cruel enough to cow the natives down with brutal force and install themselves as perpetual rulers in a foreign land, then anything else they do to the same black people becomes logical in terms of the initial cruelty. - Fear – an Important Determinant in South African Politics - 1971.

We should not be surprised that Israel is killing children. In fact it is logical that they continue to do so. Israel is a state founded on ethnic cleansing – not only is their current behavior in Gaza predictable, it will quite definitely get worse. There is nothing they will not do. "They almost have a duty to themselves and their 'electorate' to show that they still have the upper hand," Biko continued in the same essay.

Should we be any more surprised at the unanimous support for Israel's mass murder by the US Congress? They too are only carrying out the logic of a conquest begun centuries ago, they too have not exhausted the inertia of their initial cruelty.

What do you think Israel will do when Gaza runs out of water, in a only a handful of years? What do you think they will do when the sea level rises, a handful of years after that, and the most dense population throws itself up against the walls? - And what do you think zombie movies like World War Z have been not-so-subtly preparing us for? - Israel has only begun to kill children. Let's stop hiding from it. There is no intelligence in an optimism which dares not face its enemy.

So let's face it! "We must reject the beggar tactics that are being forced on us by those who wish to appease our cruel masters." Biko tells us. ("Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity," 1975) How many children have to die before we stop sending petitions to their executioners and their financiers? Hunter Thompson describes this predicament and his conclusion with a language it's time for...

A willingness to Argue, however violently, implies a faith of some basic kind in the antagonist, an assumption that he is still open to argument and reason, and if all else fails, then finely orchestrated persuasion in the form of political embarrassment... it took a while to realize that there was simply no point in yelling at the fuckers. They were born deaf and stupid." - Kingdom of Fear, p81-2.

Yes, this is a time for profanity, for expletives, for a language that doesn't disguise our feelings. We have no faith in the antagonist. Israel is a lunatic state, the most blatant and brutal embodiment of colonialism and apartheid in the world today. This is not just about the IDF or about crazy extremist settlers – the whole of Israel's liberal democratic society is caught up in this murderous hatred, from Amos Oz, to the person who recently accosted my refusenik friend; he wrote to me that this woman "recognized me from an anti-war demo and kicked me out of a falafel place saying there is no entrance to lefties and that I should go before she stabs me in the eye."

Measuring hope

This is not the time or place for sound bites and platitudes about peace and reconciliation, about dialogue and the equivalence of all suffering. And no amount of dead baby photographs will turn the tide, unless we understand what must be done to end the killing.

It's not about pessimism, it's about colonialism. The Israeli state is not something that it's possible to be optimistic about, and until we understand this we will not be able to stop the violence. All the nonsense about supporting Palestine AND Israel must go. We don't have all the time in the world. Israel is doing its job. Will we do ours? Listen to the Gaza Youth Manifesto from 2011:

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. ... Gazaybo

I believe that there is some kind of hope. But in order to find it we must clean house of all the false hope, which has polluted hearts and minds especially since Obama intoxicated the world with his empty promises. What can give us cause for hope? And what is worthy of hope?

In some ways hope is impossible to measure. Many have condemned the commodification of the keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian resistance which is now sold major retail outlets in the United States. But from the perspective of symbolic anthropology, I see hipsters and celebrities who've never heard of Palestine (let alone the city of Kufa) wearing the symbol of the Arab revolt of the 1930s, and I see the arc of history bending towards justice, sneaking consciously and unconsciously through the cracks of settler society and preparing a denouement....

In other ways hope is easier to measure – when 40,000 people filled the streets of Cape Town, South Africa to condemn Israel, and the ANC Parliament moved to expel the Israeli ambassador. In South Africa they know apartheid when they see it. As the late great terrorist-turned-Nobel peace prize winner Nelson Mandela said, "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians."

Hope can be measured these days in almost every city of the world, where hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to condemn Israel and support Palestine. And when the Arab world – particularly Egypt, Jordan and Syria (Israel's gatekeepers, poorly disguised as adversaries) joins them, then that will be cause for hope indeed.

Hope can be measured all over the world perhaps most of all in the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which has cost Israel billions of dollars over the last decade. For those who support Palestine, for anyone who doesn't like to see children murdered on the beach, for anyone who wants to act against colonialism and apartheid now and forever, there is a clear path ahead: Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel.

Palestine is united in appealing to the world to join them in this nonviolent path to liberation. While others call for and/or prepare armed insurrection against Israel, BDS is now what Martin Luther King Jr called his movement in 1969: "the last chance for nonviolence." For anyone living outside of Israel and Palestine who is still on the fence about BDS, this is your last chance. Now, or maybe never.

And for the youth of Gaza? Dare we look them in the eyes, and tell them that there is hope? Steve Biko might, and he might say to them something strange yet true, that "being an historically, politically, socially and economically disinherited and dispossessed group, they have the strongest foundation from which to operate." - White Racism and Black Consciousness, 1972.

Thanks to Kanya D'Almeida and Joel Kovel for comments and critique. Any and all errors in analysis or discernment are my own.

Quincy Saul

Quincy Saul

Quincy Saul is a writer, organiser and musician. He is a columnist for Capitalism Nature Socialism and a co-founder, editor and organiser for Ecosocialist Horizons. His reports from COP 17 in Durban can be read online. Some of his writings can be found on his blog, Yo No Me Callo. He is the author of Reflections of Crisis: The Great Depression and the 21st Century, and the co-producer of The Music of Cal Massey. He is a member of Scientific Soul Sessions and now resides in the "occupied territories of the United States."

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