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The players may change, but the game remains the same: The use of racism to justify the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza

on 34 Comments
(Image: YouTube)

(Image: YouTube)

Israel continues its aerial bombardment of Gaza, which at the time of this writing has resulted in about 100 Palestinian deaths and many more injured.  Yet surely all who remain informed about this subject have heard the oft-repeated phrase from American politicians about Israel’s “right to defend itself,” and have seen the comments on various news site and social media networks blaming the Palestinians for the deaths and destruction in Gaza.   In the digital age where a wealth of information is available at the tap of a keyboard documenting background facts that are disputed by no serious historian—the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land, and the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians–it is difficult to understand how otherwise reasonable, fair-minded people can continue to support and justify Israel’s aggression against this helpless group of human beings.  While the reasons underlying this anomaly are many and complex, ultimately Israel uses the same tool that has been used for centuries to justify various forms of oppression of an ethnic group, from enslavement of blacks and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans in the United States to apartheid in South Africa: the dehumanization of the oppressed by portraying them as inherently inferior in some aspect, and the insistence that, regardless of its acts, the oppressor is morally superior and therefore justified.

According to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israelis are different from Palestinians because “they sanctify death, we sanctify life, they sanctify death, they sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion.  That is the secret of our strength.”    Netanyahu is hardly alone in harboring these sentiments, and, in fact, his statement is more restrained than many other Israel supporters, including politicians, religious leaders and the general public.   To read the comments section of New York Times articles about the aerial bombardment of Gaza over the last several days without knowledge of the conflict’s background, one would come away with the impression that Hamas is a nuclear power that is occupying and dispossessing Israelis.   One comment, for example, designated a “New York Times pick” and fairly representative of comments supportive of Israel’s military action in Gaza, reads: “ Do you think a people that elect a terror organization as its government deserve a state? People that blame everyone but themselves for their troubles?”  Another comment, a “reader’s pick,” claims that “[a]s long as the Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields while they continue to fire rockets into Israel, they are getting exactly what they deserve.”   A third commentator, who received 172 “recommends” for his remark which is also designated a “reader’s pick” (presumably based on the number of “recommends”) writes: “What does Hamas/Fatah/Palestinian Authority DO with the billions of dollars annually in international aid? Why is the single priority to destroy Israel rather than create and build a civil society? To what end?”  Having read all 1200 comments to this article, I can say with confidence that these are representative of about fifty percent, and that other articles on the topic received similar comments in about equal proportion.

The callousness and casual racism in these comments can hardly be overstated.  All three commenters, along with many others, entirely disregard the background of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  This in itself is an insidious form of racism because by removing the context, what is in reality a reaction to decades of oppression appears to be an act of aggression.  Consider the situation in which a black slave kills his white owner who has beat him mercilessly for years, and a commenter who, without addressing the relationship between the parties or the reason behind the killing, declares the slave obviously deserves his lot due to his inherently aggressive nature.   Ignoring the enslavement and physical abuse is a form of racism because it removes these actions from their context, and then uses the reaction as evidence that the black slave was inferior in the first place.  Of course, in this situation, where the Palestinians are being slaughtered left and right with not a single casualty on the Israeli side, a more apt example would be one in which a slave strikes back at his owner who has been beating him for years, the owner then kills the slave and his family, and publicly justifies the murderers by declaring the slave had a violent nature and was incapable of living in peace with his white “neighbor,” and suggesting that his family, being black, possessed a similarly violent nature and therefore deserved to die.

Another form of racism, exemplified in the second and third comments above and repeated countless times in the comments section to this article, is equating Palestinians with Hamas and thereby justifying use of violence against all Palestinians, including children.   Indeed, one commenter urges Israel to bomb everything in Gaza, including day care centers.   Assuming arguendo that Hamas promotes some undesirable policies, and ignoring the fact that Palestinians have few options in elections and that not all Palestinians voted for Hamas, it is racism, pure and simple, to suggest that it is appropriate to kill otherwise innocent Palestinians because they voted for Hamas, or to equate Palestinians with Hamas.   Advocating or justifying wholesale slaughter of civilians because they voted for a group with some unsavory policies is  deplorable and would be widely recognized as absurd and condemnable in any other context. A similar and common form of justification for Israel’s brutal massacre of civilians in Gaza is the claim that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”  Again, assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, it is illogical to argue that this somehow vindicates Israel from responsibility for bombing in the first place.   While the sort of racism discussed above may not be at play in this so-called “reasoning,” it is worth pointing out how unconvincing this rationale is.

In the end, these comments, like Netanyahu’s quote above, reflect an age-old attempt to differentiate the “other” and thereby justify inhumane treatment, including in this case dispossession, occupation, oppression, and collective punishment.   While to so many it is simply “obvious” that Palestinians and particularly Palestinian Muslims are simply violent and deserving of such treatment, it would behoove those promoting this view to remember that it was always “obvious” to those justifying oppression that the other was inferior.  Those justifying slavery in the United States truly believed that those of African descent were morally and intellectually inferior.  The Holocaust was justified by the “knowledge” that Jews posed an existential threat to the Aryan race.  The ethnic cleansing of Native Americans was justified due to their ostensible inherently violent nature, and moral and intellectual inferiority.  Unfortunately, history provides us too many examples and clearly, too many fail to learn.


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34 Responses

  1. just on July 12, 2014, 8:52 am

    Golda Meir started this pitiable filth:

    “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” (wiki)

    She and her brothers in arms did this very bad thing.

    • seafoid on July 12, 2014, 11:47 am

      Peace will come when zionism is understood to be a mental illness.

      • American on July 12, 2014, 12:53 pm

        Peace will come when they and their minons in US congress are locked up.

      • Kay24 on July 12, 2014, 1:12 pm

        Peace will come when the stupid US government stops being Israel’s doormat, and stops the aid, weapons, and protecting Israel at the UN.
        These disgusting war criminals need to be cut off from any US help, taken to the ICC, and isolated. Then BDS should be imposed on them, the finally nail.

        Until that happens, there is no chance for peace. Our leaders especially the Congress are in bed with these butchers.

      • Daniel Rich on July 12, 2014, 9:35 pm

        @ Kay24,

        I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a PP routine.


    • Citizen on July 12, 2014, 12:59 pm

      Golda Meir never suffered any anti-semitism in the USA, yet she decided she would support violent racism against the Palestinian people because of Russian pogroms against Jews in Russia when she was very young, before her parents moved to USA. She’s a perfect example of the Zionist spirit.

    • seafoid on July 12, 2014, 1:34 pm

      I can’t see how indoctrinating kids to hate Palestinians classes one as a good parent.

    • Talkback on July 13, 2014, 3:59 am

      Yeah, Jews will never forgive Palestinians for the ongoing Nakba.

  2. ckg on July 12, 2014, 9:18 am

    In This Time We Went Too Far, Norman Finkelstein devotes an entire chapter to debunking the claim that Hamas used human shields in Cast Lead. No human rights organizations accused Hamas of using human shields. Rather, they accused the IDF of this war crime.

    • a blah chick on July 12, 2014, 12:49 pm

      The IDF is the only organization that has a documented record of using people, usually young kids, as human shields. Their own courts have told them to stop it but they just keep on doing it.

      Israel and Zionism can be summed up in two words: No Accountability.

  3. justicewillprevail on July 12, 2014, 11:17 am

    Ignorance, prejudice, hysteria – all powerful weapons in the hands of Israel’s legions of propagandists. It is sobering how much and how easily you can manipulate public opinion – most of these people have never been there, have no idea of what is actually going on, and have been subject to a constant stream of completely false propaganda. The tragedy is their willingness to believe it, and then repeat it, as if it was some knowledge they had themselves. How the manipulators must smirk when they read this pathetic regurgitation of their banal lies.

  4. Boomer on July 12, 2014, 11:52 am

    “In the digital age where a wealth of information is available at the tap of a keyboard documenting background facts that are disputed by no serious historian—the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land, and the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians–it is difficult to understand how otherwise reasonable, fair-minded people can continue to support and justify Israel’s aggression against this helpless group of human beings.”

    Well said.

  5. seafoid on July 12, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Obviously this is super important for the people of new york. What will israel do when schumer’s generation passes on and Dick and jane turn away?
    Zionism needs America. America doesn’t need Zionism.

  6. FreddyV on July 12, 2014, 1:39 pm


    Awesome catch with the casual racism thing. I love the way you unpack it. I’m putting that in my debating toolbag.

  7. Donald on July 12, 2014, 2:42 pm

    “The callousness and casual racism in these comments can hardly be overstated. ”

    That’s for sure. One person wrote after a story today that Hamas used civilians as human shields and then ended by saying that he (or she) had no sympathy whatsoever for the Palestinians. So Hamas is bad for using civilians as human shields, and all the civilians deserve to die. It’s like whatever passes for a logic circuit in that person’s brain was shorted out.

    • seafoid on July 12, 2014, 5:40 pm

      That human shields argument is designed to deflect attention from israeli bombing of densely packed residential areas. International law no longer applies to people in Gaza. Mrs Frankel went to the UN over her son. Jews still have the protection of international law. I don’t get it.

      • Naftush on July 13, 2014, 2:37 am

        To get it, take a look at real international law. When belligerents fire at civilians from “densely packed residential areas” even once, a fortiori thousands of times over, the affected population’s lawful armed forces may respond proportionately to the effort needed to terminate the unlawful hostile activity.

      • seafoid on July 13, 2014, 6:05 am

        Wasn’t that the Nazi rationale for the razing of the Warsaw ghetto? asymmetric warfare and the invalidity of the geneva conventions as jews were subject to a turkey shoot. Such a dismal ideology you have.

      • talknic on July 13, 2014, 12:15 pm

        Naftush “To get it, take a look at real international law. “

        OK. The Palestinians are permitted to operate under the exact same rules are Israel. Some proportional collateral damage by both sides is permissible. The IDF Memorial site confirms the fact that far more Israeli military are victims than Israeli civilians. One only has to look at the casualty figures for civilians to see which is disproportionate.

        The Palestinians have never taken any Israeli territory or created any illegal facts on the ground in any Israeli territory. They have taken nothing of Israel’s. They have not invaded or illegally annexed or illegally settled in any Israeli territory. They have not illegally sold any land in illegally acquired, illegally annexed or non-annexed territory to illegal settlers.

        Israel has for 66 years been creating illegal facts on the ground in territories which on May 22nd 1948 the Israeli Government claimed, were “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”, long before Hamas existed.

        Israel has since illegally acquired non-Israeli territory by war. Illegally annexed. Illegally settled. Illegally sold land in illegally acquired territory to illegal settlers. Illegally transported Palestinian civilians including children out of Israeli Occupied Territories and imprisoned then in Israeli territory. Illegally prevented Palestinians from fleeing the war zone by having all crossings closed incl by agreement as the Occupying Power, those with Egypt

        Israel has ignore the hundreds of opportunities it has been offered to adhere to the law and is in breach of those hundreds of UNSC resolutions reaffirming and emphasizing International Law and the UN Charter, both of which ARE binding!

        Israel is NOT permitted to attack Palestinian homes, towns, villages unless THEY ARE DEFENDED! Laws of War, Art. 25. “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.” The Palestinians have no defense capability against Israeli war ships, Israeli fighter bombers, Israeli missiles, helicopter gun ships, drones…

        ” the affected population’s lawful armed forces may respond proportionately to the effort needed to terminate the unlawful hostile activity. “

        I see… So, until Israel gets out of ALL non-Israeli territory, takes ALL its illegal settlers, compensates for 66 years of illegal facts on the ground OR accepts Palestine’s generous offers of non-Israeli territory for peace, the Palestinians may respond proportionately to the effort needed to terminate the unlawful hostile activity, even if it results in collateral!

      • jenin on July 13, 2014, 1:13 pm

        first, this sort of reasoning does not apply in a context where the people you call “belligerents” are in fact occupied and oppressed by the other group. Yes, I know Gaza technically is not occupied, but no one serious historian or analyst (as opposed to propagandists for the Israeli government) disputes that Gaza is so under Israeli control that it is effectively occupied.

        Second, I notice the mention of “proportionality” in your comment. Apart from Israelis occupied and oppression of Gazans, by what stretch of the imagination is the aerial bombardment of Gaza proportional?

      • pjdude on July 13, 2014, 5:08 pm

        the population density of the gaza strip is 13000 people per a square mile. not gaza city the entire strip. to put that in prespective jerusalem has a population density of 17000 people a square mile. there is not areas away from civilians in the gazan strip. new york city is 3 times the size of the gazan strip. the idea that there just empty land in gaza to conduct military operations from is just insane.

  8. jenin on July 12, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Yes, I have had several friends say that to me over the last couple days, which is part of what inspired me to write this piece.

  9. Blownaway on July 12, 2014, 5:12 pm

    Lately NYT readers have been more prescient calling out the times when they take their usual pro Israel slant in the news. However under these circumstances the hasbarists trolls come out to deliberately “support” Israel. One need to look no further than pictures of Israelis watching the bombing from hilltops on lawn chairs like it’s a fireworks show cheering the death of women and children to see the true nature of gods chosen people

  10. Bob_Salad on July 12, 2014, 9:42 pm

    Great piece. The digital narrative that’s emerged these past few days is frequently incomprehensible, especially the comments section of the NYT and on the social media platforms. Thankfully, as both the facts and international condemnation increase, it’s going to get much, much harder for the pro-Israeli groups to defend both their positions and their ignorance over the days ahead.

  11. biorabbi on July 12, 2014, 9:53 pm

    Is it racism to listen to the actual words of Hamas spokesperson regarding Palestinians in targeted homes to stay inside, ignoring Israeli warnings? By this definition, I’m a certified racist. See the Jake Tapper interview(not linked here)for more.

    • Donald on July 12, 2014, 11:31 pm

      “Is it racism to listen to the actual words of Hamas spokesperson regarding Palestinians in targeted homes to stay inside, ignoring Israeli warnings?”

      No. I don’t know what is passing through the Hamas person’s head giving that advice, but there’s no particular reason why I would want to defend the decisions Hamas makes. Israel is still the one doing the bombing, and the warnings are a cynical form of public relations theater for all the people who pay no attention to the conflict except when it heats up like this.

    • talknic on July 13, 2014, 12:35 pm

      @ biorabbi
      “Is it racism to listen to the actual words of Hamas spokesperson regarding Palestinians in targeted homes to stay inside, ignoring Israeli warnings?”

      (Excuse me folks, apt description deserved at this juncture…)
      What a vile filthy lying sick sack of stinking fetid ziopoop you show yourself to be! The the Jake Tapper interview eventually leads to this ..

      First, the ministry calling all our people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens, and the lack of response for each of these means, which aims to weaken the domestic front in light of great steadfastness of our people to face the aggression.

      You’re a little weasel worded failure pal! Keep up th’ good work!

  12. traintosiberia on July 12, 2014, 10:32 pm

    Label has to change with new or old actors but label has to change. New war can’t be fought with old familiar name. Neoconservative was forced out of fashion by those hapless citizen because they supplied with the neocon lies also got ” mugged with the reality” . These poor souls also found the wallet vacuumed by the wars based on labels -Axis of Evil, incubating terrorism,sleeper cells ,mushroom cloud, islamofascism ,,self radicalization, Arab Street , and WMD – the most famous abbreviations since YHAWH , coming from the neoconservative factory ready and fit for consumption . But now people have got wiser. Kristol must have shared the problem with the tribes . His son in law has the newer . He likes to be called freedom conservative . Hopefully that will bring the reality back to Americans averse to intervene ,hopefully they will . There is still Iran standing in the way of broader Middle East dismemberment .Gaza is the reflection of the future war . Old game same script,different handwriting and rearranging of the letter by the new actors who all hail from the same extended family . No one will question their family values .That much is certain.

  13. DICKERSON3870 on July 12, 2014, 11:27 pm

    RE: “The players may change, but the game remains the same: The use of racism to justify the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza”

    MY COMMENT: On a positive note, I am thankful that Likudnik Israel (along with many other things, including the typo-inducing keyboard I am currently using to type this) makes the prospect of inevitable death (the state of no longer being/existing) really not seem so bad.
    Always look for the silver lining!

    • traintosiberia on July 12, 2014, 11:41 pm

      I hope you are right. But I have doubts.. US is tired of war ( in saner situation it would be called no money , no money, no money ) and like British wants to withdraw from ME. Israel is already stepping in .It has got Egypt cornered, saudi arab dependent and good relation with a lot of salafist . It can make life miserable for Basher and King of Jordan more for more concession .Kurds is angry with everybody excepting Israel. Morocco and Libya wont mind to improve the relation for weapons . Pakistan according to Telegraph (UK) has been buying arms to the chagrin and impotent disgust of India. Israel can always play the terrorism card ,taking a leaf out of the western playbook, in Inida and China and support the terrorists and these countries alike . It will ensure that withdrawal of US or its money will not affect the financial and diplomatic survival of Israel. Israel has good relations with central Asian despot .
      If Israel implodes , it will be from the internal issues not from the fight of some Caliphate seeking thugs .

    • DICKERSON3870 on July 13, 2014, 12:28 am

      Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, 2000, R, 1hr 55m
      Average of 526,791 ratings: 3.6 stars
      Inner-city dweller Ghost Dog rises above the chaos that surrounds him by adopting the strict lifestyle of the samurai in Jim Jarmusch’s crime drama.
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      This movie is: Understated, Dark
      Netflix listing –
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      Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) — Official Trailer [VIDEO, 01:19] –

  14. DICKERSON3870 on July 12, 2014, 11:47 pm


    MY COMMENT: Omg, that photo of Netanyahu so reminds me of Peter Sellers playing Peter Sellers playing Dr. Stangelove. And, of course, Dr. Strangelove was partly modeled after the Rand Corporation’s military strategist and former physicist Herman Kahn (who was also a founder of the neoconservative Hudson Institute).

    P.S. Personally, I think Netanyahu is an über-sadist (like Dick Cheney).
    ● Psychopath Netanyahu Lies Again to Lead Us into World War III [VIDEO, 01:30] –

  15. Talkback on July 13, 2014, 4:06 am

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