Rationalizing Genocide

Outrage over what has been alleged to be interference by a foreign power in the affairs of this country has led to a profound deterioration of relations with Russia and the unfortunate and tragic renewal of the Cold War. The mainstream media, despite the fact that the investigation is ongoing and conclusive evidence has yet to be released, is rife with criticism and condemnation of what it seems convinced are, or wishes to portray as, Russian attempts to influence, if not to undermine, the 2016 elections. But yet, in May of 2015, there was nary a whimper, neither the appointment of a special prosecutor or much debate and discussion in the MSM, when Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, was invited by Republicans to speak to a joint session of Congress in an attempt to undermine not just Obama’s efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, but his presidential authority over foreign policy. In fact, not only did relations between the U.S. and Israel remain unaffected by this unprecedented interference with the American political process, but in September of 2016, the U.S. agreed to increase its military assistance to Israel to $38 billion, the largest such aid package in U.S. history. Any rational observer may understandably question the disparity in reaction between these two cases, the outrage at a yet to be substantiated claim regarding alleged Russian meddling, and the complete lack of concern regarding Israel’s move to undermine diplomacy and the authority of a sitting American President.

This unwillingness of the U.S. Government to hold Israel accountable for its actions is clearly indicated as well in the 1967 Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, a Navy research vessel in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, during which 34 American Servicemen were killed. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and in defiance of the protestation of USS Liberty survivors, President Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry be concluded and the incident declared an accident.

If yet unconvinced of Israeli malevolence and American complicity, consider the recent civilian protests at the Gaza "border" instigated by the Trump Administration’s provocative and ill advised decision to move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As Trump family members and Israeli officials celebrated the opening of Embassy, just 40 miles away Israeli snipers killed 59 unarmed and nonviolent Palestinian protesters and injured more than 2,700, including several hundred children. In response many nations, including American allies Great Britain, Kuwait, Turkey, etc., outraged by this unconscionable slaughter of civilians, called for an "independent and transparent" investigation. As has been the case on 43 previous occasions when the United States used its veto power against U.N. resolutions concerning Israel, the US ambassador, Nikki Haley, blocked the Security Council’s statement calling for an investigation blaming Hamas for the killings and describing the Israeli response as "restrained." However one interprets these occurrences, the killing of 59 human beings can hardly be described as a restrained response. Prominent Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard agrees,

"It seems to me that the huge number of casualties we have seen in recent weeks . . . contradicts the most fundamental principles of laws governing the use of force, which adhere to the formula that endangering the lives of civilians can only be done to defend life – and nothing else."

As a consequence of what many perceive as Israeli war crimes and the realization that the United States, for reasons yet to be determined, is more concerned with justifying Israeli behavior than with the well being of those it victimizes, even its own citizens, demands for Israeli accountability and justice for the Palestinian people have increased substantially both within the United States and around the world.

Predictably, the response in the United States has been swift and severe with apologists even willing to sacrifice precious constitutionally guaranteed human rights. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), self-described as "America’s Pro-Israel Lobby, " and the many politicians from both political parties under it’s influence, many of whom who hold dual Israeli-American citizenship, e.g., Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, John Bolton, have stepped up their protectionist agenda by instigating and supporting legislation which stifles free speech and makes illegal any criticism of and demands for Israeli accountability. New York State, for example, passed a series of bills in 2017 that prohibited the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses and described its advocacy as hate speech. Not to be outdone, the South Carolina Legislature recently passed a Bill equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

This tactic by Israeli apologists’ of equating, even defining, any and all criticism and response to its crimes as anti-Semitism and hate speech conflates, whether implicitly or explicitly, and then exploits for its advantage, Israel’s status as a nation state or as a religion. This equivocation is clearly intended to suppress moral and legal evaluation of its behavior. Further, it allows the Israeli government to play the perennial victim by offering well-timed references to something we all regret, the Holocaust, even while Israel itself is engaged in the genocide of Palestinian people. I know some will object to a characterization of Israeli action against the Palestinians as genocide, but according to Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who first coined the term, it seems quite appropriate. Lemke writes.

More often [genocide] refers to a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups so that these groups wither and die like plants that have suffered a blight. The end may be accomplished by the forced disintegration of political and social institutions, of the culture of the people, of their language, their national feelings and their religion. It may be accomplished by wiping out all basis of personal security, liberty, health and dignity. When these means fail the machine gun (or sniper fire) can always be utilized as a last resort. Genocide is directed against a national group as an entity and the attack on individuals is only secondary to the annihilation of the national group to which they belong (Raphael Lemkin, Genocide – A Modern Crime, 4 Free World 39, 1945). (italics mine)

Interestingly, many of the same actors who are quick to conflate the state of Israel and Judaism, and enthusiastically utilize this equivocation to condemn criticism of the former as anti-Semitic and as hate speech seem perfectly willing to criticize, sanction, even threaten war against the Islamic Republic of Iran without similar concern that such criticism and threats are anti Muslim or hate speech. Nor has this Iranian antagonism, much of it Israeli instigated, spawned a flurry of protectionist bills and resolutions.

It’s time I think, probably long past time, for Israel be held accountable for its actions. It’s time as well for the United States to end its complicity with Israeli war crimes and genocide by ending its military aid and obstruction of attempts by the United Nations to censure, sanction, and prosecute Israel as a rogue state, and its leaders as war criminals, a designation and effort based not upon it’s claim of affiliation with Judaism but for its refusal to conduct itself according to its tenets.

Dr. Camillo Mac Bica is an author, activist, and Professor of Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His focus is on Social and Political Philosophy and Ethics particularly as it applies to war. Mac is former Marine Corps Officer, Vietnam Veteran, longtime activist for peace and social justice and coordinator of Veterans For Peace Long Island.