Israel’s Gaza Massacres Rock the U.S. and the World

Peace Advocate November 2023

Photo: Mohammed Ibrahim / Unsplash
Photo: Mohammed Ibrahim / Unsplash

By Jeff Klein

As this is being written (November 24) Israel has agreed to a temporary truce brokered by Qatar to allow for the partial exchange of prisoners.  This is a pause in Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, with little indication that it is willing to allow a longer-term, permanent cessation of its attack on Gaza. Hamas had proposed something like this a month ago, but Israel refused to limit its bombing and instead launched a ground attack on Gaza, which together has taken the lives of more than 14,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. 

It is a lasting shame that it has taken the shedding of so much blood in Gaza to put the issue of Palestine back into the international spotlight.  Much of the tiny coastal strip has been made uninhabitable for years to come as entire neighborhoods have been turned to rubble. Fleeing Gaza residents have squeezed into an ever-shrinking enclave in the south of the Strip. There too they have come  under Israeli bombardment.

It’s old news that generations of Palestinians have been dispossessed, expelled and murdered to make way for a Jewish state in their land. Until recently, most of the world has been willing to look the other way. But now people everywhere are waking up to demand not only an end to the Israeli slaughter in Gaza but also for the realization of long-delayed freedom for Palestinians. In city after city across the globe, millions are marching repeatedly in solidarity with Palestine.

Meanwhile, the US government supports Israel’s war on Gaza to the hilt – not only politically but also with a constant shuttle of weapons. US-made bombs go straight from cargo planes arriving in Israel to the US-made aircraft that are destroying Palestinian homes, schools and hospitals. The Biden administration has already asked Congress to appropriate $14.3 billion for Israel on top of the standing annual $3.8 billion. For all this, the US is becoming ever more isolated diplomatically. 

By a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States ofMicronesia, Nauru, United States) with 18 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the ...Nov 9, 2023
By a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 18 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the …Nov 9, 2023

After the US twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in the General Assembly, even supported by some US allies; others abstained. A subsequent resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements and upholding the Palestinian right to self-determination passed by even more lopsided majorities. (Later, a condemnation of the US embargo against Cuba was opposed only by the US and Israel.)

Increasingly, people in the US are also saying no. Massive solidarity rallies have rocked many US cities, with a protest in Washington numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Direct actions on streets and campuses are often led by a mobilized youth representing a generation that is everywhere rejecting the old pro-Israel status quo. Polls indicate that large majorities of Americans, especially Democrats, are demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Israel and its supporters are in a state of panic. Long accustomed to addressing a captive audience of true believers, ill-informed US journalists and a pliant Congress, pro-Israeli messaging has now been failing utterly with an engaged and informed public. Israel’s once vaunted propaganda machine has fallen completely flat in the face of the brutal reality of its assault on Gaza that is visible for all the world to see. Its information war has even become the object of ridicule as its video messages have been repeatedly debunked and removed from social media. Even mainstream reporters are now asking uncomfortable questions.

With its propaganda failing, Israel partisans in the US have increasingly turned to open repression and censorship. Waving the bloody shirt of supposed antisemitism, influential US supporters of Israel have threatened the funding of universities and other institutions, gotten pro-Palestinian student groups banned, cancelled academic talks and even made sure that people with inconvenient opinions have lost their jobs or are being blacklisted. Actual antisemites, who are primarily situated within the US rightwing, get a pass if they are otherwise supportive of Israel.

Expressions of solidarity with Palestinians and their aspirations for freedom are routinely labelled as calls for Jewish genocide – even as a real-time genocide by Israeli weapons is unfolding before our eyes in Gaza.  And openly genocidal language toward Palestinians is heard almost daily in Israel – not just on the fringe but from high officials and in the mainstream Israeli media. Israeli leaders are voicing the hope that the Palestinian survivors will be permanently removed from the Gaza strip to open the way for renewed Israeli settlements.

Moreover, the assault on Gaza is led by a government that openly proclaims its intention to rule all of historic Palestine for Jews alone. Prime minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party proclaims that “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty” and more recently reaffirmed that “the Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” As the slaughter in Gaza continues, violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli military and their settler allies have also escalated. 

Meanwhile, the ongoing slaughter in Gaza and its political fallout are shattering several commonly held myths about Israel and its politics in the US.

“Liberal Israel”: Earlier this year, large anti-government protests in Israel were reported as a fight for “Democracy.” Of course, it was actually for a Jewish democracy in an ethno-supremacist state. Since the start of the current assault on Gaza, Israeli society has largely united in support of the war. The Israeli military – the most respected institution among Jewish Israelis – is determined to seek bloody revenge for its humiliation on October 7; only 3% of Israeli Jews have expressed support for a ceasefire. The non-Zionist Jewish left in Israel remains marginalized and its Palestinian citizens are facing repression and intimidation.  A few months ago the “liberal” Israeli Airforce pilots threatened to boycott training maneuvers; now they are dropping bombs on Gaza.

“Normalization” with Arab neighbors at the expense of the Palestinians: The autocratic Arab regimes that have signed peace treaties or normalization agreements with Israel are retreating in the face of the boiling wrath of their populations who are watching the slaughter in Gaza. Even the leaders of US dependencies or clients in the region are voicing solidarity with the Palestinians and are refusing to be part of any US or Israeli plan for postwar Gaza.

JVP photo
Jewish Voice for Peace rally at the Statue of Liberty Nov. 6.  Photo: JVP

American Jewish unity behind Israel: While the established Jewish communal and political organizations continue to express unswerving support for Israeli war aims — and as they cynically mobilize charges of “antisemitism” to stifle expressions of solidarity with Palestinians – tens of thousands of progressive American Jews, especially Jewish youth, are joining or even spearheading solidarity protests in the streets and on college campuses. This has the heads of leading Jewish organizations wringing their hands in despair – and it reinforces the view that the future of pro-Israel US politics lies with the Republican Party and Evangelical Christians, rather than liberal Jews. 

Congress and the White House remain the bastions of uncritical pro-Israel US politics. Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken have long identified as staunch Zionists, while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) continues to wield enormous influence on Capitol Hill. The Israeli government receives unconditional support from the US government even though its aims are flatly opposed to stated US policy and international law. Biden seems willing to jeopardize his re-election bid by unreservedly backing Israel’s war on Gaza.

Meanwhile, deep-pocketed and mostly Republican megadonors are threatening to spend unprecedented millions to defeat the small number of Democratic members of Congress who refuse to toe the line in unquestioning support for Israel. Not incidentally, this target group, “the Squad,” is made up exclusively of House representatives of color. 

Photo: Rep. Ilhan Omar
Members of Congress stood on the Capitol steps to support Rep. Cori Bush’s Ceasefire Now bill Nov. 8. Photo: Rep. Ilhan Omar/ Facebook

It is clear that the effort to change one-sided US policy toward Israel and Palestine is also a necessary struggle for democracy at home.

There is cause for some optimism, at least in the long run. Demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine in US cities and towns show no sign of abating. And angry constituents are besieging the offices of Congress members who refuse to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. There is vocal opposition even within the US Federal bureaucracy, the State Department and among progressive political campaign staffers. The Biden administration is expressing alarm over Israel’s maximum war aims and the fear of a widened military confrontation in the broader Middle East.

It remains hard to predict exactly how the struggle for freedom in Palestine will play out. The whole world now understands that there can be no just solution to the conflict imposed through military force by Israel or its US backers. A peaceful outcome in Palestine-Israel, which upholds the human and political rights of both Palestinian and Jewish inhabitants, is for the people there to determine, eventually through negotiations and within the framework of international law.

But, if history teaches us anything, it is that Apartheid and oppression, whether in South Africa or Israel, cannot last forever,. And so, we can say with confidence — alongside those Muslims, Jews and Christians who wish to live in a land of peace and equality — that sooner or later “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”