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The "Genocide" Canard Against Israel
It's actually the opposite of the truth. And that matters.
The word “genocide” may be the one rendered most meaningless in our discourse. It has some steep competition, of course. “White supremacy” now means asking someone to show up on time. “Trauma” means being referred to with the wrong pronoun. And “genocide” can, among other things, mean debating experimental sex reassignment procedures for children. (Go look up #transgenocide on Twitter and weep.)
But the supporters of Hamas and of the Palestinians have seized the g-word with particular zeal. And who can blame them? There’s a real, adolescent frisson in accusing the victims of the worst genocide in modern history of being genocidal themselves. “Israel, we charge you with genocide” is a common chant in many of the pro-Palestinian protests. “Genocide Joe” has been trending on Twitter. Eight hundred artists signed an open letter calling the Israeli counteract in Gaza “a genocide.” Yale professor Zareena Grewal channeled much of the “decolonizing” left: “Israeli [sic] is a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle.”
It’s not just the activists. Congresswoman Tlaib has accused Biden of “funding Netanyahu’s genocide,” and said “We are literally watching people commit genocide” — referring to the blast next to a Gaza hospital caused by a Hamas rocket. Congresswoman Omar retweeted a photo of dead kids with the caption “CHILD GENOCIDE IN PALESTINE” — but the photo was from a 2013 chemical weapons attack in Syria. A State Department official tweeted that Biden is “complicit in genocide.” A UN official just quit his post, adding:
In just 4 weeks, Israel with US backing has cut off food, water, power & then brutally exterminated more than 10,000 imprisoned civilian men, women & children in Gaza, destroyed their homes, churches, mosques, schools & hospitals because they are Palestinians. Name it? #Genocide.
The devastation in Gaza is horrifying to watch, worse than horrifying. Anyone who isn’t deeply troubled by the mass death has lost humanity. But the UN official, and all those echoing him, are full of it. The basic definition of “genocide” provided by the State Department is “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”
The key, defining thing here is the aim. Horrifying massacres may or may not be genocidal, depending on the intention. The Hiroshima bomb, for example, was devastating, but it was aimed at ending the war, not obliterating the Japanese people as a race. And if Israel were interested in the “genocide” of Palestinian Arabs, it has had the means to accomplish it for a very long time. And yet, for some reason, the Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories has exploded since 1948, and the Arabs in Israel proper have voting rights, and a key presence in the Knesset.
This is not to exonerate Israel entirely. I’ve had strong words for the Netanyahu governments over the years. And Israeli politicians, on the far right, have used foul rhetoric and deemed the Palestinians subhuman in some respects. Bibi swiftly suspended a rogue minister for saying a nuke could be dropped on Gaza. There are anti-Arab maniacs among the West Bank settlers and in Bibi’s cabinet. But a policy of Arab genocide? Please.
The only people actively and proudly engaged in genocide are Hamas. The marchers on the streets this weekend will not be opposing genocide; they will be defending its perpetrators. It’s right there in the Hamas founding charter:
[All of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. … The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.
This is not mere rhetoric. On October 7, we saw what genocide is in practice. Hamas didn’t kill civilians as a tragic consequence of attacks on military targets. Its torture and murder of Jewish civilians was its core mission. And if Hamas had the capacity, they would gladly enact a second Holocaust, and they have proudly said so, with even more sadism than the Nazis. They would kill every Jew they could.
And real genocide is happening elsewhere in the world right now as well, but it receives a fraction of the attention. In Darfur, between 2003 and 2005, around 200,000 members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups were murdered in a clear case of genocide that has recently revived. This year, some 180,000 civilians have fled to Chad, pursued by the Janjaweed — the Einsatzgruppen of central Africa. If your view is derived from critical race theory, you should be particularly concerned about this genocide, since it is directed at black Africans by Islamist Arabs. But the campus left is uninterested.
Here’s a glimpse of the horror:
Ali Yagoub Idris recounts how from a hiding place he saw RSF fighters force eight people to lie down while shouting: “You are Masalit, you are not allowed in this town.” Then they shot all eight of them. Elsewhere people lied about their ethnicity to survive. But speaking with a Masalit accent could mean death … Zahara Adam Khamis, a women’s rights activist, weeps as she recounts how a 27-year-old university student she knows was gang-raped by five militiamen in front of her mother. “The baby will be Arab,” they said as they finished.
Just this month, 800 black Africans from the Masalit tribe — mostly teenagers but women and the elderly as well — have been massacred for their race. Here’s a video of genocidaires wearing cowboy hats as they whip, yes whip, a group of cowering black bodies, before, one assumes, taking them to the slaughter. It’s a blend of Nazi Germany and the antebellum South. Any mass demos in the West? Any open letters from literary poobahs? Nah.
And have you noticed what has happened in Azerbaijan this past month? Persecution of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has led to a mass exodus:
Azerbaijan, a predominantly Turkic Muslim state in the South Caucasus, launched a blitzkrieg against Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave inside the country the size of Rhode Island that is home to 120,000 Armenian Christians. For months, Azerbaijan had blockaded the Karabakhi Armenians, closing off the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting them to neighboring Armenia and the outside world.
The starved population, armed only with small weapons, and with the Russian peacekeepers refusing to intervene, was no match for the onslaught. An exodus of Armenian Christians has begun. The Lachin Corridor is blocked again, now by thousands of Armenians fleeing for their lives, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Almost the entire enclave is now deserted, its capital a ghost town, after 100,000 Armenians, already subjected to genocide in their history, have fled their own homes forever.
Farther east, the Han Chinese assault on the Uyghurs, and the Burmese junta’s genocidal expulsion of the Rohingya, also stand out. The Chinese have labor and re-education camps, as well as mandatory birth control for the minority. Classic genocide. The Burmese attack on the Rohingya has been just as brutal, with close to a million expelled from their homeland since 2017:
Over 730,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh in 2017 now live in sprawling, overcrowded camps under growing restrictions by the authorities and spiraling violence by armed groups. About 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar, effectively detained by junta authorities under a system of apartheid.
If you have missed American college students bringing their campuses to a halt or cities holding mass rallies in the West demanding an end to genocide against the Muslim Uyghurs in China or the Muslim Rohingya in Burma, it’s because they’ve been small, scattered, if noble, affairs — simply nowhere near the scale of the anti-Israel rage now spreading across the Western left, and far right. The glaring double standards force us to ask: Why?
Is it because the US has such involvement in Israel’s security and success? That’s obviously salient. We don’t have much leverage over Azerbaijan, or the Burmese thugs, or the Janjaweed. But when you actually ask yourself how much leverage the US has over Israel, it’s not that different. We may be a critical international backer, key economic ally, intelligence and military partner, investor — but no student of history would conclude that Israel is the junior partner in the relationship. Ask presidents George HW Bush and Barack Obama. The Democrats’ Jewish donors and the GOP’s evangelical base ensure that Israel dictates the terms of the relationship, and not any given US president. The demonstrations may be a way of venting rage at Israel’s unique status in US foreign policy, but they have no chance of changing it.
So is it simply anti-Semitism that singles out Israel for the current hostility? I don’t know how you can deny that it has played a major role. On today’s American left, especially among the indoctrinated young, anti-Semitism has been turbo-charged by critical race theory. Israelis, you see, are deemed “white” and the Palestinians “POC” — so no moral restraints bind Hamas, the oppressed, and no excuses are allowed for Israel, the oppressor. This is what the students and their professors mean by “context.” The context is a global war between whiteness and the rest. Because individuals are merely representatives of the power of their racial group, killing them doesn’t have the salience it does in liberal societies where the individual is primary. In wokeness, the collective race is primary; and some individuals may need to be sacrificed for racial justice.
Never mind that only 30 percent of Israelis are “white” Ashkenazi Jews, and most of the others are actually “POC” Mizrahi Jews — who tend to vote for the right-wing parties — and Ethiopian Jews. If you’ve thought wokeness was irrelevant campus posturing, I hope you can now see it for the deadly serious, racist, and inherently violent movement that it is. When social justice activists they say they want to end the occupation, they’re not talking about 1967; they’re talking about 1948. And when they chant “From the River to the Sea,” they mean the end of Jewish protection from the kind of horrors we just witnessed on October 7.
I know this leaves me in another agonizing pretzel: defending Israel even in its deep, moral failings. Israel is far from perfect, and has made some hideous mistakes alongside its spectacular achievements. But Israel is not committing genocide in any way, and the accusation, given History 101, is a knowingly despicable one. If you want to organize a march to protest genocide, you don’t have far to find it in 2023 — in Darfur, Azerbaijan, Xinjiang, and Burma. Or better still: march against Hamas, not in defense of it. “Free Palestine — from Hamas!” would be a nice sign to see. But it would take a long, long time to find one.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: my take on the leak of the Nashville manifesto; my talk with foreign correspondent Graeme Wood on Hamas and Greater Israel; more dissents over the war; seven notable quotes from the week in news; an Yglesias Award for none other than Judith Butler; 20 pieces we recommend from Substack on a variety of topics; a Mental Health Break of David Fincher’s style; a stunning window from Zurich; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a “long-time reader”:
I stumbled upon this in an old issue of Harper’s magazine. Hope you are doing better after the loss of Bowie.
It does get better. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I miss her every day, and find myself, before I go to sleep at night, just remembering her, and feeling extreme pain inside. When I get back to DC next month, I’m going to the shelter.
That Trans Manifesto
When Audrey Hale gunned down and killed three children and three adults in a mass shooting in Nashville, she left a manifesto explaining her massacre. I can see why releasing it right away would have been troubling to the victims and risk glorifying Hale. But months and months later, the public has a right to know more about the motives of the case. Was it a hate crime, for example? Or was it just a crazy person?
But we are forbidden to see it.
(Read the rest of that piece here, for paid subscribers.)
New On The Dishcast: Graeme Wood
Graeme is a foreign correspondent, and one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met. He’s been a staff writer at The Atlantic since 2006 and a lecturer in political science at Yale since 2014. He’s also been a contributing editor to The New Republic and books editor of Pacific Standard, and he’s the author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. Graeme was in Israel when we spoke earlier this week. It’s — shall we say — a lively conversation, covering every taboo in the Israel/Palestine question.
Listen to the episode here. There you can find two clips of our convo — on the ways Hamas is more evil than even ISIS, and on the ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. That link also takes you to commentary on our episodes with Pamela Paul, David Brooks, Yossi Klein Halevi, Peter Beinart, and the Femsplainers, along with ongoing dissent over the Mideast war, including my responses. Plus a few dissents from trans readers.
Browse the Dishcast archive for another convo you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: David Leonhardt on his new book about the American Dream, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira on Where Have All the Democrats Gone?, Cat Bohannon on Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, Matthew Crawford, and Jennifer Burns. Please send any guest recs, dissent and other comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dissent Of The Week
A reader quotes me:
What the fuck could “cancel culture was pioneered by the Greater Israel lobby” possibly mean? We had Red Scares in this country, for example, before the State of Israel even existed. Are you talking about Norman Finkelstein not getting tenure in 2007? Seriously, name a time when the “Greater Israel lobby” orchestrated a cancellation (nefarious puppetmasters that they are) and I’ll show you ten earlier instances of cancelation that had nothing to do with Israel. Your ludicrous yet casually tossed off claim is reminiscent of all those right-wing antisemites who blame Jews Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith for the Iraq War when gentiles George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, etc. etc., obviously deserve a far greater share of the blame.
Lovely to have an accusation of anti-Semitism against me again, which somewhat proves my point! But “pioneered” does suggest the Greater Israel Lobby started such a tactic, which is obviously untrue, so I stand corrected. A better formulation would be that it “honed” or “perfected” the ancient American practice of public shaming by insinuation. I watched it being done; it was done to me. The Internet loosened the gatekeeper function of the MSM thereby allowing a wider debate, but in my adult lifetime, the most assiduous cancelers before the woke were the Israel stans.
Many more dissents are over on the pod page. As always, keep the criticism coming: email@example.com.
In The ‘Stacks
This is a feature in the paid version of the Dish spotlighting about 20 of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers subjects such as this week’s midterms, the latest GOP debate, and the stalemate in Ukraine. Below are a few examples:
Noah Smith observes a trend about the Middle East that’s “generally overlooked”: it’s mellowing with age.
“No,” says Freya India, “not everyone needs therapy.”
You can also browse all the substacks we follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? (The cartoon beagle is hiding the national flag.) Email your guess to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The deadline for entries is Wednesday night at midnight (PST). The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a free month subscription if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you’re new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for this week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today. A note from a recent winner:
I got the VFYW book! In return, this is beagle #3, Dougal, wondering why the book is on his spot, and not perhaps feeling the same delight I did on opening the envelope:
In passing, previous sofas were micro-fibre, which is about as good as it gets for dog hair. I was persuaded that this fabric was similarly resistant to dog hair. They lied.
See you next Friday.