Why won’t the Jews just let themselves be killed?

Nothing better captures the moral decay of our woke elites than their haughty disdain for the State of Israel.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics World

So let me get this right. If Israel bombs Hamas targets in Gaza, it is recklessly endangering civilian life. But if it gives civilians fair warning to move away from certain areas, it is engaging in ethnic cleansing. If it drops bombs in built-up suburbs, it is committing a war crime. But if it advises civilians to leave those built-up suburbs before the bombs come, it is also committing a war crime. If it attacks northern Gaza, that’s genocide. Yet when it tells the civilians of northern Gaza to leave first, that’s ‘forced transfer’, which is to say: genocide.

Everything Israel does is a war crime. Everything. Killing civilians – war crime. Trying not to kill civilians – war crime. Bombing populated areas – war crime. Giving a population time to leave before dropping bombs – war crime. The surrealism of these screams of ‘genocide!’ every time an Israeli soldier so much as picks up his gun was brought home by two headlines in the Independent last week, published just 10 hours apart. Israel is engaged in ‘collective punishment in Gaza’, claimed the first. ‘Israel accused of “trying to ethnically cleanse Gaza Strip” as one million ordered to evacuate’, said the second.

Got that, Israel? ‘Punish’ Palestinians and you’re a criminal. Do everything in your power to avoid ‘punishing’ Palestinians and you’re still a criminal. I’m starting to wish the Israel-haters would just say what they mean with their entire chest: ‘Let yourselves be killed, Jews. Don’t fight back. Don’t do anything at all.’

The twists in the public discussion of Israel’s military response to Hamas’s recent act of unspeakable barbarism have been extraordinary. It was predictable, given the Israelophobic myopia of the West’s cultural elites, that Israel would be damned the minute it took action against the neo-fascists who had just executed the worst act of anti-Semitic savagery since the Holocaust. All the usual accusations were made. Israel’s missile strikes add up to ‘collective punishment’. Israel is using ‘genocidal language’. It is committing ‘war crimes’. It is ‘breaking international law’. Etc etc. One is forced to wonder what kind of messed-up law prevents the victims of racist slaughter from pursuing their killers.

This time, what’s been most striking is that even Israel’s efforts not to hit civilians, not to ‘collectively punish’ Gazans, have been rebranded as war crimes. Consider its advice that the people of northern Gaza should evacuate their homes so that they won’t be injured or killed in bombings. This is being called ‘ethnic cleansing’. One Palestinian politician says it is further proof that Israel is waging a war of ‘annihilation’. This is linguistic contortionism of an Orwellian degree: in trying to avoid annihilating the people of northern Gaza, Israel is being annihilationist. War is peace, freedom is slavery, evacuation is annihilation. Ash Sarkar says the evacuation is a ‘Second Nakba’. Norway’s Refugee Council damns it as ‘forced transfer’, which – you guessed it – is a war crime. It must be. Israel’s doing it.

We need to say how unhinged this discussion has become. Evacuation is a part of every war. Wars always cause waves of refugees. You probably have a few, from Ukraine, in your neighbourhood. And yet when it’s a war involving Israel, evacuation becomes ‘forced transfer’. The inevitable creation of refugees becomes ‘ethnic cleansing’. The movement of people away from destruction becomes the attempted destruction of those people. This is where we’re at: not killing people is genocide now, if the state not killing them is Israel.

It is a straight-up lie to say Israel is enacting ethnic cleansing in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing is the violent expulsion of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority determined to enjoy homogeneity across the realm. There is not one shred of evidence this is Israel’s intention with its evacuation of northern Gaza. Nothing exists – literally nothing – to suggest Israel will never allow these people back again because it wants to imprint its own supremacist ideology on their old towns and villages. There’s a ‘sneaky Jew’ feel to the idea that under the cover of a fairly normal wartime evacuation, Israel is really erasing an entire ethnic group. It is a vile calumny against a nation that just lost more than a thousand of its citizens to a genuinely genocidal movement to describe its response to that horror as genocidal.

That is one of the most troubling things in the tortured discussion about Israel’s pursuit of the racist terrorists who murdered so many of its people: the flagrant and sometimes even taunting misuse of the terminology of ‘genocide’. We live under a cultural elite that sees genocidal intent where it doesn’t exist, and ignores it where it does. Very few of the woke commentators and agitators who are gnashing their teeth over Israel’s ‘genocide’ in Gaza would openly condemn the truly genocidal nature of the Hamas ideology. Even though Hamas is a group whose founding charter committed it to a ‘struggle against the Jews’. Whose officials have goaded people to ‘cut off the heads of Jews’. Whose terrorists – yes, BBC, terrorists – slaughtered more than a thousand people on Saturday 7 October for the crime of being Jewish in Israel. Yet when the Jewish State says, ‘We will not tolerate this racist savagery’, it is branded genocidal.

And so are the victims of racist terror rebranded as racist terrorists. The people whose kibbutzim were ethnically cleansed are insulted as ethnic cleansers. The nation that witnessed the annihilation of entire families is defamed as the annihilator. The cruelty of our cultural elites in the face of the worst act of anti-Jewish violence since the 1940s is bone-chilling. I see all those newspaper headlines and academic musings on the sneakiness and wickedness of Israel as a mildly more sophisticated version of the utterances of the scumbags who have gathered in public to say ‘Aww, are your people dead?’ or who’ve said we should ‘Rejoice’ over Hamas’s slaughter. In both instances, morality and solidarity are violently elbowed aside by a peculiar loathing for Israel that long ago crossed the line from reasoned critique into blind bigotry.

There is something really grim in the marshalling of the rules of war to shame Israel. Many of these rules – the Geneva Conventions, human-rights law – were introduced in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Nazis’ attempted destruction of the Jews. And yet now it is the Jewish State more than any other – more than the warmongers of the Saudi regime, the bomb-happy Turks, the destructive imperial powers of America, Britain and France – that has these postwar rules barked in its face. ‘We will protect you from genocide’, the Western world said to Jews, yet now it wags its postwar officious finger in Jews’ faces because they dare to hunt down men who committed an act of genocidal terrorism against them. The cant and perfidy of the postwar order have rarely been so starkly exposed. There is a concerted effort to quasi-criminalise Israel’s desire to protect its people from racist torment and murder.

The West’s anti-Israel elites seem utterly bereft of the essentials of morality. Consider their insistence on moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Israel kills children too, they say, so is it really any better than Hamas? The moral infantilism of such hollow platitudes is difficult to comprehend. If you cannot tell the difference between people killed as a consequence of war and people killed because they are Jews, then you are beyond help. Everyone – including Israel – regrets the collateral damage of the war in Gaza, especially if the victims are children. But such tragedy cannot be compared to Hamas’s murder of children in southern Israel for being Jewish. That is of an entirely different order to war. It is the conscious, willing destruction of innocent life from the standpoint of venomous racial hatred. To kill a child on account of its race is the most unconscionable act a society can commit. It is an act of unforgiving eugenicism that brings shame on our species. Nothing – including the accidental deaths of civilians in conflict – comes close to the mindset that would erase a child as an expression of its deeper desire to erase a people.

It is horrendous that children in Gaza have died. Which is why some of us believe the US, the UK and the UN should be putting enormous pressure on their tyrannical allies in Egypt right now to construct well-resourced, Red Cross-approved refugee camps in the Sinai to which Gazans might flee. However, it is a warning sign to civilisation itself that Jewish children have been killed for being Jewish children. That in this new millennium the genocidal execution of Jews has returned. The Western world fails to recognise at its peril what a vast moral challenge this poses to the enlightened values we claim to hold dear.

Israel’s Western haters cannot see what is at stake. This is about more than the Middle East. It is about whether we are willing to stand against the forces of unreason and anti-Semitism, and for the values of liberty and decency. Are you for civilisation or barbarism – that is what the horrific events of last Saturday demanded of us all. Far too many are giving the wrong answer.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

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Topics Politics World


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