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Listen to this Article: "Exterminate all the Brutes"
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Listen to this Article: "Exterminate all the Brutes"

All settler colonial projects, including Israel, reach a point when they embrace wholesale slaughter and genocide to eradicate a native population that refuses to capitulate.
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Narrated by Eunice Wong

Text originally published Oct. 28, 2023

A Bird in the Hand - by Mr. Fish

During the siege in Sarajevo, when I was reporting for The New York Times, we never endured the level of saturation bombing and near total blockage of food, water, fuel and medicine that Israel has imposed on Gaza. We never endured hundreds of dead and wounded a day. We never endured the complicity of the international community in the Serbian campaign of genocide. We never endured Washington intervening to block ceasefire resolutions. We never endured massive arms shipments from the U.S. and other Western countries to sustain the siege. We never endured press reports from Sarajevo that were routinely discredited and dismissed by the international community, although 25 journalists were killed in the war by the besieging Serbian forces. We never endured Western governments justifying the siege as the right of the Serbs to defend themselves, although the U.N. peacekeepers sent to Bosnia were largely a public relations gesture, ineffective in halting the slaughter until forced to respond following the massacres of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica.

I don’t mean to minimize the horror of the siege of Sarajevo, which gives me nightmares nearly three decades later. But what we suffered – three to four hundred shells a day, four to five dead a day, and two dozen wounded a day - is a tiny fraction of the wholesale death and destruction in Gaza. The Israeli siege of Gaza more resembles the Wehrmacht’s assault on Stalingrad, where over 90 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed, than Sarajevo. 

On Friday the Gaza Strip had all its communications severed. No Internet. No phone service. No electricity. Israel’s goal is the murder of tens, probably hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the ethnic cleansing of those who survive into refugee camps in Egypt. It is an attempt by Israel to erase not only a people, but the idea of Palestine. It is a carbon copy of the massive campaigns of racialized slaughter by other settler colonial projects who believed that indiscriminate and wholesale violence could make the aspirations of an oppressed people, whose land they stole, go away. And like other perpetrators of genocide, Israel intends to keep it hidden.

Israel’s bombing campaign, one of the heaviest of the 21st century, has killed more than 7,300 Palestinians, nearly half of them children, along with 26 journalists, medical workers, teachers and United Nations staff. Some 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced and an estimated 600,000 are homeless. Mosques, 120 health facilities, ambulances, schools, apartment blocks, supermarkets, water and sewage treatment plants and power plants have been blasted into rubble. Hospitals and clinics, lacking fuel, medicine and electricity, have been bombed or are shutting down. Clean water is running out. Gaza, by the end of Israel’s scorched earth campaign, will be uninhabitable, a tactic the Nazis regularly employed when facing armed resistance, including in the Warsaw Ghetto and later Warsaw itself. By the time Israel is done, Gaza, or at least Gaza as we knew it, will not exist.

Not only are the tactics the same, but so is the rhetoric. Palestinians are referred to as animals, beasts and Nazis. They have no right to exist. Their children have no right to exist. They must be cleansed from the earth. 

The extermination of those whose land we steal, whose resources we plunder and whose labor we exploit is coded within our DNA. Ask Native Americans. Ask Indians. Ask the Congolese. Ask the Kikuyu in Kenya. Ask the Herero in Namibia who, like Palestinians in Gaza, were gunned down and driven into desert concentration camps where they died of starvation and disease. Eighty thousand of them. Ask Iraqis. Ask Afghans. Ask Syrians. Ask Kurds. Ask Libyans. Ask indigenous peoples across the globe. They know who we are.

Israel’s distorted, settler colonial visage is our own. We pretend otherwise. We ascribe to ourselves virtues and civilizing qualities that are, as in Israel, flimsy justifications for stripping an occupied and besieged people of their rights, seizing their land and using prolonged imprisonment, torture, humiliation, enforced poverty and murder to keep them subjugated.

Our past, including our recent past in the Middle East, is built on the idea of subduing or wiping out the “inferior” races of the earth. We give these “inferior” races names that embody evil. ISIS. Al Qaeda. Hezbollah. Hamas. We use racist slurs to dehumanize them. “Haji” “Sand Nigger” “Camel Jockey” “Ali Baba” “Dung Shoveler” And then, because they embody evil, because they are less than human, we feel licensed, as Nissim Vaturi, a member of the Israeli parliament for the ruling Likud party said, to erase “the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” 

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former Prime Minister, in an interview on Sky News on Oct. 12 said, “We’re fighting Nazis,” in other words, absolute evil.

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Hamas in a press conference with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, as “the new Nazis”.

Think about that. A people, imprisoned in the world’s largest concentration camp for sixteen years, denied food, water, fuel and medicine, lacking an army, air force, navy, mechanized units, artillery, command and control and missile batteries, is being butchered and starved by one of the most advanced militaries on the planet, and they are the Nazis?

There is an historical analogy here. But it is not one that Bennett, Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader wants to acknowledge.

When those who are occupied refuse to submit, when they continue to resist, we drop all pretense of our “civilizing” mission and unleash, as in Gaza, an orgy of slaughter and destruction. We become drunk on violence. This violence makes us insane. We kill with reckless ferocity. We become the beasts we accuse the oppressed of being. We expose the lie of our vaunted moral superiority. We expose the fundamental truth about Western civilization — we are the most ruthless and efficient killers on the planet. This alone is why we dominate the “wretched of the earth.” It has nothing to do with democracy or freedom or liberty. These are rights we never intend to grant to the oppressed.

“Honor, justice, compassion and freedom are ideas that have no converts,” Joseph Conrad, who wrote “Heart of Darkness,” reminds us. “There are only people, without knowing, understanding or feelings, who intoxicate themselves with words, repeat words, shout them out, imagining they believe them without believing in anything else but profit, personal advantage and their own satisfaction.”

Genocide lies at the core of Western imperialism. It is not unique to Israel. It is not unique to the Nazis. It is the building block of Western domination. The humanitarian interventionists who insist we should bomb and occupy other nations because we embody goodness — although they promote military intervention only when it is perceived to be in our national interest — are useful idiots of the war machine and global imperialists. They live in an Alice-in-Wonderland fairytale where the rivers of blood we spawn make the world a happier and better place. They are the smiley faces of genocide. You can watch them on your screens. You can listen to them spout their pseudo-morality in the White House and in Congress. They are always wrong. And they never go away.

Maybe we are fooled by our own lies, but most of the world sees us, and Israel, clearly. They understand our genocidal proclivities, rank hypocrisy and self-righteousness. They see that Palestinians, largely friendless, without power, forced to live in squalid refugee camps or the diaspora, denied their homeland and eternally persecuted, suffer the kind of fate once reserved for Jews. This perhaps is the final tragic irony. Those who were once in need of protection from genocide now commit it.

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The Chris Hedges Report
The Chris Hedges Report Podcast
Covering US foreign policy, economic realities, and civil liberties in American society.