Israel appeals to the made-up atrocities of October 7th to justify the real atrocities of October 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31; November, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24; and the 75 years before that. It’s wildly asymmetrical, like carpet bombing a concentration camp because the inmates dared break out. Which is exactly what happened.
There’s this strange logic that Israel has the right to self-defense (it doesn’t) while Palestine doesn’t (it does). To expand my parentheses, under international law Israel as an occupying power has no right to ‘self-defense’ against the people it is occupying. Meanwhile the Palestinians have every right to self-defense, including taking up arms. Unfortunately, international law itself is just a theoretical construct. We actually live under imperial rule most foul.
The (entirely theoretical) point of law is that it applies equally to everyone, which is obviously not what’s going on internationally. The International Criminal Court only prosecutes Africans and the US has a law on the books to invade the Hague if they’re ever held accountable.
This is what America calls the ‘rules-based order.’ Can anyone see these rules? No, fuck off. As Arnaud Bertrand says (citing this paper), rules-based order is a term “meaning a system outside of international law that essentially defends whatever the US judges is in its and its allies’ interests at any moment in time.” As the paper he cites (by John Dugard) goes on,
First, the United States is not a party to a number of important multilateral treaties that constitute an essential feature of international law… Second, the United States has placed interpretations on international law justifying the use of force and the violation of international humanitarian law that are controversial and contested… Third, the United States is unwilling to hold some states, such as Israel, accountable for violations of international law.
The rules-based order can be accurately summed up as‘we rule.’ This is not international law, it’s Mafia law. America is the capo di tutti capi, some countries are ‘made members,’ and everyone else is just sheep to be shorn. Democrats and Republicans are just rival crime families within one (war) criminal enterprise. I’ve tried to explain this with words and metaphors, but why when a meme will do:
International law is thus shorn of all meaning, as the Middle East is shorn of bodies, the planet of resources, and don’t even get me started on the sheep and all our living relatives. Note that I’m no stickler for laws. Leo Tolstoy said, “Laws are rules made by people who govern by means of organised violence,” but we somehow have something even worse than that. We have the rules-based order, which is just violence with receipts. They make up the justification after the fact and just throw it on the pile of corpses, while they steal the oil or whatever they find underneath.
This abomination is not new, they just keep changing the words. America was founded on the principle of theft and genocide, and so it continued across the globe, fossil fueled. The only honest part of the US Declaration of Independence is the line,“He [the British King] has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Here, the founding oligarchs of America scold the colonizing king for not being colonial enough. That’s America in a nutshell.
What’s honest here is the openly genocidal intent of the whole endeavor, and the ‘white framing’ to blame the victims, saying they had it coming. With colonizers, every accusation is a confession. The colonizers always accused of us of being savages, to unleash untold savagery upon us. As Mackay and Feagin write in “Merciless Indian Savages”: Deconstructing Anti-Indigenous Framing:
Racialized colonization of the Americas began in the 1400s and persists in today’s racialized neocolonialism... European colonialism necessarily included a subtler, subversive, emotional, and aggressively persisting element — the rationalizing white-framed language of racial domination and oppression. Past and present colonization involves wars of conquest, bio-wars of disease spread, and constant application of a dramatic language-framing component wherein Indigenous peoples are dominated, marginalized, and redefined through intense and obsessive language of white colonizers and their descendants.
After America thoroughly genocided Turtle Island, the ruling oligarchs still needed more resources, especially oil, so new ‘savages’ had to be invented wherever it was found. Mackay and Feagin tracked the use of phrases like ‘merciless Indian savages’ across 200 years, but around the late 1970s, the term ‘terrorists’ takes over (my observation).
What happened around the late 1970s? The 1970s Oil Crisis. This wasn’t actually a crisis for the Arab world, it was an opportunity for them to control their oil. That rebellion had to be put down, mercilessly, so the merciless Muslim terrorist had to be invented to justify the violence required. As I wrote inWhat The 1970s Oil Shock Can Tell Us About Today:
Of the original five OPEC members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), two are sanctioned, one has been invaded, and the others are occupied with American military bases. They get paid for their troubles, but they’re still paid in imperial coin. Hell, the headquarters of OPEC is in Austria now. The Empire struck back hard.
Thus America was able to coup, corrupt, or just invade most places in the Middle East, but it still couldn’t fundamentally trust them. The Arab satraps were still, fundamentally, natives, and one revolution away from being thrown out (a la Iran). Empire needed a loyal colony in the region, populated with many of its citizens, and fully dependent on the mothership. Luckily they already had such a colony ready, inherited from Britain. That colony was Israel.
As the then Senator for the credit card industry Joe Biden said, in 1986:
It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.
As Biden said later (and many times):
Israel is the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East. I always say, imagine our circumstance in the world, were there no Israel. How many battleships would there be? How many troops would be stationed?
Israel is America’s colony in the Middle East, an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ kept there in a classic divide-and-conquer tactic, splitting the region. Israel serves as Empire’s Sepoy guards near the gas station, ready to level anybody with (illegal) nukes without Empire having to get its hands dirty. Unlike the corrupted Arab satraps, Israel is also guaranteed to be loyal. Without American arms and diplomatic cover, they couldn’t sustain the constant violence they require to exist. They are bound in blood. In order to sustain this constant violence, of course, new savages had to be invented, and so America did. Savages became terrorists, an epithet now applied to the entire Palestinian population — men, women, and children.
Hence the President of Israel says “It is an entire nation who are responsible. This rhetoric about civilians supposedly not being involved is absolutely untrue. We will fight until we break their backs.” Or a Major General of the Israeli Occupation Force says, “Animal humans will be treated accordingly.” Or as a former Major General wrote (via), “The international community warns us of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza and of severe epidemics. We must not shy away from this, as difficult as that may be. After all, severe epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip will bring victory closer and reduce casualties among IDF soldiers.”
This is the same genocidal incitement as in the American Declaration of Independence where they say “merciless savages... whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Now — as then — they lie about the resistance of indigenous populations in in order to actually commit an ‘undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.’ Every accusation is a justification. So they did across America, and so again it is done in Palestine. The mask is off and they’re even using the old words again. Palestinian resistance is openly called ‘savagery’ as here in Canada’s National Post (which really has no place to talk):
Israel is able to just say the word ‘Hamas’ and western populations —coded by centuries of racism against ‘savages’ and decades against ‘terrorists—immediately knows what to think. They’re Pavlovian dogs, salivating for blood. Do these audiences know anything about Hamas, or will they bother to find out? Who cares? Even though most western people don’t actually support this genocide, the place is an oligarchy, they just need a minority to create the semblance of debate in the Cable-TV Colosseum. Forget manufacturing consent, it’s enough to just manufacture doubt.
The words they introduce (terrorist, savages, dead babies) are all part of the language of indigenous oppression, which western audiences speak instinctively. Their nations were literally founded on it. As Mackay and Feagin write:
We term this the language of Indigenous oppression. It includes specific words, phrases, and linguistic metaphors wherein racist meanings behind a central metaphor are understood by speakers and listeners. Such expressions are more than just racist language, but crucial components of centuries-old white obsession with counterposing racialized and virtuous “white”-ness against the alleged dangers of racialized and unvirtuous “red”-ness and “black”-ness.
All I would add is that racialized brownness has been deeply encoded as something to hate in the Middle East, despite the obvious fact that whiteness (in the Ignaetiv sense) is the invasive problem there (quite literally). Westerners keep talking about ‘conflict in the Middle East’ as if it’s endemic to the region and it’s not. War is brought and kept there by the colonizing White Empire and it’s colony, Israel. Why? For the same reason they colonize anything. To take the stuff.
Not Hierarchy, Hypocrisy
Maitreya Bhakal said ‘it’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy’, and that explains a lot. When Israel supporters say the violence of October 7th justifies war, it seems hypocritical. If it’s war, why can’t the other side fight back? Given Israeli’s ongoing violence for decades, don’t they deserve much worse? It seems strange that self-defense is reserved for Israelis while Palestinians should shut up and die, until you understand what Bhakal was saying. ‘It’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy.’ Violence is racialized, it’s something only indigenous people can be accused of, and which only colonizers can do. It’s heads I win, tails you lose. That’s the ‘rules-based order’. That’s the rule.
This is the asymmetry of atrocity we live under. We must believe lies about ‘40 beheaded babies’ while watching 6,000+ children actually be killed in front of us. Where The Guardian, talking about a hostage exchange, says “The hostages to be freed are women and children, and the Palestinian prisoners are also women and people aged 18 and younger, both sides have confirmed.” Israelis get to have children, while Palestinians have ‘people aged 18 and younger’. The BBC reports that Israelis are ‘killed’ while Palestinians just ‘die’. Even the UN condemns Israeli acts without ever naming the actor. That’s how deep the language of indigenous oppression goes. That’s how deep the racism is encoded. And this is precisely how colonial ultra-violence is conducted and excused. From the savages of yore to the terrorists of now. This is the world of asymmetrical violence we live in, which is just a mathematical way of saying it’s unfair and completely bullshit. This is what we must completely turn over in revolution, by any means necessary, as the brave Palestinian resistance is showing us.
The Empire will never believe us and always accuse us, but every accusation is a confession. The White Empire is guilty of the worst violence in human history, and the mask is off now. They’re killing children in Gaza, they killed millions during a pandemic, they’ve been killing millions for decades, not to mention stealing all of our stuff and destroying the whole planet. It’s not just the state of Israel that has to go, it’s the whole wretched White Empire, from the capital of America to its franchisees across Europe, Australia, and Canada.
These colonizers seemed unassailable for centuries, but they’ve been losing every war for decades, and the Al Aqsa Flood showed that they are fundamentally weak as a spider’s web. Now is the time for resistance, as the Palestinians are showing us, by any means necessary, including armed. It is precisely the monopoly of imperial violence that needs to be overturned, and the monopolization of language that goes with it. And there’s no way around it. There will be blood.
I have, of course, used a lot of words to get to this point, so let me conclude with the wise words of two young women from Lebanon who survived Israeli bombing and came to the streets of New York. When they were confronted by an American supporting Israel (the personification of Empire) they put it all of this together in one pithy response.“Fuck Israel and fuck you too, bitch.” I couldn’t say it better. Fuck Israel, and if you don’t like it, fuck you too, bitch. It’s been a long time coming, but Empire’s time has come.