As the missiles explode and the buildings turn to dust and the children are slaughtered in their thousands, you will be asked to believe that it is somehow justified.
Our tribe is fighting their tribe. This has happened before and it will happen again.
As refugee camps and hospitals are decimated, your mind will need to withstand both the onslaught of real world horror and the assault on reality that is the world’s most sophisticated propaganda networks – systems telling you subtly, over and over, that this is ok. It will shape your thoughts and feelings, and you will only notice it some of the time. Because it is ubiquitous: in the air, in speeches, in memes, in jokes, in Instagram posts from pop stars fishing for dopamine. It is deeply embedded in the neural pathways of our conditioned, colonial minds. It is in the think tanks and political parties as they unleash a sea of blabbering, callous dipshits preaching the gospel of war, the holy book of vengeance, the creed of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. It is in the armies of hashtag wielding bots that embolden hate, seed justification for the unjustifiable, and desensitise us to all the death. All the killing. It is in states dunking on each other on Twitter in performative acts of violence that grease the gears of the real thing; it is in TikTok trends that encourage us to mock the innocent and powerless, making it ok to hate, to laugh at, to feel superior to the victims.
Most heinously, you will be told Palestinian lives do not matter in the framing of mainstream news, all across the Western world, from the nightly broadcasts to the daily front-pages – passive voices for their deaths, adjectives for ours.
You wouldn’t know it from the New York Times’ headline, but another word for the “dense Gaza neighbourhood” that Israel bombed in this news alert is “refugee camp”. Yesterday, more than 50 people were killed in the Jabalia refugee camp. Nowhere is safe. There is no shelter.
Palestinians nestled in rubble and blood will be called upon by the BBC, CNN and The New York Times, again and again, to condemn Hamas’ horrific actions while they are grieving their own children, while they are struggling to survive the next wretched day; these outlets will only afford mourning Israelis the dignity everyone deserves.
Since the dawn of war, the dehumanisation of the others has paved the way for acts of staggering violence, be it: religious, political or cultural purges; acts of terrorism; revolutions; conflicts fought over ideology, resources and territory; or enduring acts of colonial conquest. In these bleak moments when history unfurls apace, it is language that dresses up domination, supremacy and slaughter in fashionable disguises. It takes words to sell the unsellable; it takes stories, myths, and deeply embedded cultural narratives to incite the demons within us all. There can be no genocide without the language of genocide, and that language is being spoken loud and clear today while far too much of the world is pretending not to hear it.
“We are fighting against human animals,” said Yoav Gallant, Israeli Defense Minister, a man helping oversee the carpet bombing and ground invasion of an open air prison housing 2.3 million trapped people, people just as real and just as human and just as innocent as you and I.
“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using,” said Joe Biden, US President, sowing just the correct amount of doubt to allow prejudice and the fog of war to fill in the blanks – a fog thickened by cutting Internet connectivity for 36 hours for all of Gaza as tank treads began rolling over the weekend.
On Wednesday last week, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning all violence against civilians and urging humanitarian aid be sent to Gaza. The motion was overwhelmingly supported globally: 121 nations in favour, 14 against, and 44 abstentions, including Australia. “International rules based order” is another of these dehumanising language devices – it is propaganda, and means simply what the United States wants it to mean at any given moment. The world is not seeing this one as Western leaders want us to.
“This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, in a now deleted tweet posted after a hospital in Gaza was blown up, ending the lives of nearly 500 Palestinians.
Describing people in these terms has never, ever preceded good things. Especially then, but also especially now.
When the language of genocide is being spoken this clearly, it is not enough for the world to pretend not to hear it, it is not enough for Prime Minister Albanese of the US vassal state Australia to pretend he cannot perceive the crimes against humanity unfolding in Gaza. When words are this powerful, silence is complicity, and those 44 abstentions at the UN are the votes of moral cowardice.
There are one million children trapped inside Gaza. They have nowhere to go, nothing to eat, and no hope of not being severely damaged by their daily experience of trying not to get blown up while members of their families and friends die randomly all around them. Despite Netanyahu’s proclamations, they are not children of “darkness”, or even the “light” – they are just children.
More than 3450 Palestinian kids have been killed in IDF attacks on Gaza in the three weeks since Hamas’ October 7 day of terror. Western political leaders around the world do not seem to have noticed. Which is staggering because even fucking Piers Morgan can see it.
Speaking out against this horror is scary for some reason, and I will never say this again as long as I live, but well done Piers Morgan. There is a part of me, I need to confess, that wanted to back out of publishing these words – I ultimately decided that in itself meant I needed to.
Even as Jewish people, many Rabbis included, protest the atrocities being committed by Israel in their name, blockading New York’s Grand Central Station in the most striking example, their calls for peace are disingenuously slandered as “anti-semitism” in the conservative press. Anti-semitism is itself a language of genocide, one of the most abhorrent and prevailing forms of hate speech, and to cynically invoke it to cover up yet more genocidal killing is fucking depraved.On Twitter, UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote: “The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the horrific attacks by Hamas. Those horrendous attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” This statement led to Israel calling for Guterres’ immediate resignation. This will not end anytime soon. The silence in the air is almost as chilling as the white phosphorus.
Israel is comparing the horrific Hamas attacks of October 7 to 9/11. It is true, there are many similarities. The coordinated horror and soul-shattering death tolls echo that tragic day 22 years ago. The pain and sorrow and hurt and loss is devastatingly familiar. As are the modes of terror: the brutal spectacle of it, designed to elicit as much fear as possible; the cruel randomness of the innocent lives taken from their loved ones.
And as with 9/11, questions surrounding who knew what, who warned who, and why it was “allowed” to happen have begun flying around the Internet; if the pattern holds, and it will, conspiracy theorists will gorge themselves on this for decades to come.
But if there are familiarities, then there must also be lessons. In the wake of Al Qaeda’s terrorism, the United States lashed out violently following 9/11, and the world today is a more dangerous, less stable place because of it. ISIS was borne of America’s “War on Terror”; I shudder to think of what demons will be summoned as Gaza is eviscerated. The response to October 7 must not also be an echo of 9/11.
In the 20 years following the September 11 attacks, almost a million people were killed in the Middle East as a direct result of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That figure is far, far higher if you include deaths that would not have otherwise occurred because useful things like hospitals and roads have been blown up and don’t exist any more.
These wars that claimed a million lives were launched as retaliation to Al Qaeda’s murders of almost 3000 innocent American civilians. The US eventually found Osama Bin Laden a decade later. He was in a home filled with porno in Pakistan. His body was dumped at sea.
Today, it’s fairly universally accepted that the “War on Terror” was a clusterfuck of the highest order, Lockheed Martin the only real winner. At the time, though, criticism of these wars was unpopular; the media whipped hordes into a bloodthirsty frenzy and anything resembling concern for the million Arabs about to lose their lives needlessly over the next two decades at the hands of the American war machine was deemed traitorous and massively sus. Peace advocates took to the streets in large numbers, nonetheless – as they are doing today – and the media derided them as scruffy communists, as idealistic students, as traitors. Nothing is better for ratings than war, nothing gets the stock ticker moving like a Crusade, and the Western press will sell it to you like civilian casualties are going out of fashion.
During the “War on Terror”, cynical and bigoted politicians cast aspersions that Osama Bin Laden represented all of the Islamic world. Hate crimes intensified as the decades of war rolled on, and countless future jihadis were given more fuel for their fires. They said things like Peter Dutton is saying today, and has always said.
Or how Israeli TV is describing all Palestinians as terrorists.
This is the dehumanisation of the language of genocide. Humanity has eternal patterns it has not yet worked out how to escape, and with the world in this state, every word is a weapon. It behoves responsible reporters and editors to resist this slide into tribalism. Into us versus them.
Because you cannot carpet bomb an idea. Terrorism is a nebulous concept that cannot be exterminated or occupied. You can, however, create environments for it to flourish in. Humanity has been doing that relentlessly, and we need to try something new.
As anti-war protestors of all backgrounds prove eternally, no one ever needs to cheer on the slaughter.
But if you are going to cheer on the slaughter – and people will – at least don’t be a coward about it. Don’t mentally deny the humanity of those you are wishing and sanctioning genocide upon. That’s the easy way out, and it should be beneath every educated, loved, healthy mind. Palestinian children are just as real as yours, just as real as mine. Powerful forces are working diligently to strip the Palestinian people of their humanity – do not let them take yours as well.
If you find yourself cheering on the massacre of thousands of children, you’ve already lost.