Israel’s butchery and campaign of mass punishment against the people of Gaza continues.
Israel has now started using flechette rounds, white phosphorous, and DIME munitions, against the civilians in Gaza. The American people’s tax dollars are subsidizing wanton cruelty. And again, when the retaliation and blowback comes, the ignorant and the stupid will say, “why do they hate us so much!” American politicians, complicit agents in a civic culture where the masses have been made into asses, will reply, “they hate our values and way of life!”
To tell the truth–that America subsidizes Israel and her meanness, and that American made and supplied helicopters, artillery, planes, and other armaments deal out death to the civilians in Gaza and the other occupied territories–would mean the end of one’s political career. Truth is almost always punished. Thus, there are few of us who practice parrhesia as a life mantra. Most will retreat from Socrates’s virtuous death.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal’s Thane Rosenbaum suggested that the civilian population in Gaza is complicit with their own misery.
He has indicted a whole population as “terrorists” and an existential threat to Israel.
Thus, the rules of war do not apply, because by definition there are no innocents or children in Gaza: the rank-and-file denizens of Gaza share responsibility for the actions of their political leaders.
Consequently, Israel’s total war strategy is made valid by the objectification and dehumanization of a whole population.
Salon’s Matt Bruenig has done an excellent job highlighting the hypocrisy of American war hawk jingoistic conservatives who were aghast and enraged when the same logic was used by Osama bin Laden and those others who “defended” his attacks on September 11, 2001:
When people — whether bin Laden, Rosenbaum, Churchill, or others — defend slaughtering civilians, they rarely intend to apply their arguments universally. Do you imagine, for instance, that Rosenbaum thinks that it would be legitimate to bomb his house, killing him and his family, because he is a loyal of the American government that fought an unjust war of aggression in Iraq? I suspect not. Do you imagine that he thinks Israeli civilians are legitimate targets of war because they continue to vote for the parties that they do? Again, one suspects not.
People who push the Rosenbaum-Laden argument do not seek to make a serious plea for a new category of quasi-combatant that it is legitimate to brutalize in war. Few if any people are willing to take any such argument to its logical and grisly conclusion. Instead, they seek simply to provide one-off cover to specific instances of civilian killings that they want to justify for other reasons. The “those civilians deserve it” point almost always comes unsheathed as a desperation move when the side you are deeply loyal to has done the indefensible.
Bruenig is essentially correct. American exceptionalism deems that the lives of Americans are more valuable than the lives of any other people. Moreover, American Exceptionalism means that all of the United States’ actions abroad and at home are noble, righteous, and good. Rules of moral, ethical, or philosophical consistency are upended by American Exceptionalism and nationalism.
The argument made by “Hamas’s Civilian Death Strategy” is supported by a scaffold of problematic assumptions about personhood, culture, and race that will be familiar to anyone who has reflected on, studied, or through lived experience, had to navigate the American and global color line.
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
It also calls your parenting skills into serious question. In the U.S. if a parent is found to have locked his or her child in a parked car on a summer day with the windows closed, a social worker takes the children away from the demonstrably unfit parent. In Gaza, parents who place their children in the direct line of fire are rewarded with an interview on MSNBC where they can call Israel a genocidal murderer.
Questioning the parenting skills of those who you oppress and target for violence is a way of making them ultimately responsible for their own suffering. Children are made into adults because they are not allowed the innocence that “proper” home training would have given them. In the United States, we see the logic of “good” and “bad” parenting as a type of moral claim that is used to justify violence against the black and brown body by White people and those others who are overly identified with Whiteness as power, privilege, and normality.
When white vigilantes, police, and other agents of the white racial state shoot and murder unarmed black and brown teenagers and children, the first move by the defenders of Whiteness in their framing of black life as criminality is to question the parental training and upbringing of the victim.
Trayvon Martin was “asking for it” because he was a “thug” whose parents couldn’t control him. Jordan Davis and his friends were “disrespectful” to Michael Dunn.
The adultification and niggerization of black children and their families is legitimated and circulated by the racist logic of the American media and other forces of political and cultural socialization.
Borrowing from the great historian Alexander Saxton, if “racism is a theory of history”, then the claims by Rosenbaum in support of Israel’s mass punishment of the people of Gaza are an extension of the white racist logic that was used to support colonization, imperialism, and Apartheid.
The white racial frame has blinded Rosenbaum to how his suggestion that, “On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations” also applies to the United States.
He is describing the slave regime in the United States where white slavers and their allies were engaged in a tyrannical relationship based on war and terror against African-Americans. The regime of Jim and Jane Crow, and its KKK thugs and other white racial terrorists, were also supported by and embedded throughout white society.
By Rosenbaum’s logic there were/are no innocents in white society. If there had been a series of mass rebellions by black Americans in which they rose up and killed white people en masse across the South and elsewhere during the Slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim and Jane Crow regimes, would Rosenbaum, and by extension The Wall Street Journal, have supported their actions? What about Nat Turner? Would Rosenbaum and The Wall Street Journal have backed Turner’s attacks on “innocent” white “civilians”?
Thane Rosenbaum is no John Brown. As offered by “Hamas’s Civilian Death Strategy”, I doubt that he would apply his logic to armed resistance by people of color against a white racist society.
The violence by Israel against the people of Gaza, and the rhetorical strategies which are being deployed by the “mainstream” American and global media to justify it, should be familiar to anyone would has lived in a slum, ghetto, Bantustan, or other “occupied territory”.
It must be stopped. “Not in my name” should be a slogan of action across the global color line.
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