Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Racial and Moral Hypocrisy of The Wall Street Journal's Essay 'Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy'

Israel's butchery and campaign of mass punishment against the people of Gaza continues.

Israel has now started using flechette rounds, white phosphorous, and DIME munitions, against the civilians in Gaza. The American people's tax dollars are subsidizing wanton cruelty. And again, when the retaliation and blowback comes, the ignorant and the stupid will say, "why do they hate us so much!" American politicians, complicit agents in a civic culture where the masses have been made into asses, will reply, "they hate our values and way of life!"

To tell the truth--that America subsidizes Israel and her meanness, and that American made and supplied helicopters, artillery, planes, and other armaments deal out death to the civilians in Gaza and the other occupied territories--would mean the end of one's political career. Truth is almost always punished. Thus, there are few of us who practice parrhesia as a life mantra. Most will retreat from Socrates's virtuous death.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal's Thane Rosenbaum suggested that the civilian population in Gaza is complicit with their own misery.

He has indicted a whole population as "terrorists" and an existential threat to Israel.

Thus, the rules of war do not apply, because by definition there are no innocents or children in Gaza: the rank-and-file denizens of Gaza share responsibility for the actions of their political leaders.

Consequently, Israel's total war strategy is made valid by the objectification and dehumanization of a whole population.

Salon's Matt Bruenig has done an excellent job highlighting the hypocrisy of American war hawk jingoistic conservatives who were aghast and enraged when the same logic was used by Osama bin Laden and those others who "defended" his attacks on September 11, 2001:
When people — whether bin Laden, Rosenbaum, Churchill, or others — defend slaughtering civilians, they rarely intend to apply their arguments universally. Do you imagine, for instance, that Rosenbaum thinks that it would be legitimate to bomb his house, killing him and his family, because he is a loyal of the American government that fought an unjust war of aggression in Iraq? I suspect not. Do you imagine that he thinks Israeli civilians are legitimate targets of war because they continue to vote for the parties that they do? Again, one suspects not. 
People who push the Rosenbaum-Laden argument do not seek to make a serious plea for a new category of quasi-combatant that it is legitimate to brutalize in war. Few if any people are willing to take any such argument to its logical and grisly conclusion. Instead, they seek simply to provide one-off cover to specific instances of civilian killings that they want to justify for other reasons. The “those civilians deserve it” point almost always comes unsheathed as a desperation move when the side you are deeply loyal to has done the indefensible.
Bruenig is essentially correct. American exceptionalism deems that the lives of Americans are more valuable than the lives of any other people. Moreover, American Exceptionalism means that all of the United States' actions abroad and at home are noble, righteous, and good. Rules of moral, ethical, or philosophical consistency are upended by American Exceptionalism and nationalism.

The argument made by "Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy" is supported by a scaffold of problematic assumptions about personhood, culture, and race that will be familiar to anyone who has reflected on, studied, or through lived experience, had to navigate the American and global color line.

Rosenbaum's logic is also an example of the white racial frame applied on an international scale.

To point:
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.

It also calls your parenting skills into serious question. In the U.S. if a parent is found to have locked his or her child in a parked car on a summer day with the windows closed, a social worker takes the children away from the demonstrably unfit parent. In Gaza, parents who place their children in the direct line of fire are rewarded with an interview on MSNBC where they can call Israel a genocidal murderer.
Questioning the parenting skills of those who you oppress and target for violence is a way of making them ultimately responsible for their own suffering. Children are made into adults because they are not allowed the innocence that "proper" home training would have given them. In the United States, we see the logic of "good" and "bad" parenting as a type of moral claim that is used to justify violence against the black and brown body by White people and those others who are overly identified with Whiteness as power, privilege, and normality.

When white vigilantes, police, and other agents of the white racial state shoot and murder unarmed black and brown teenagers and children, the first move by the defenders of Whiteness in their framing of black life as criminality is to question the parental training and upbringing of the victim.

Trayvon Martin was "asking for it" because he was a "thug" whose parents couldn't control him. Jordan Davis and his friends were "disrespectful" to Michael Dunn.

The adultification and niggerization of black children and their families is legitimated and circulated by the racist logic of the American media and other forces of political and cultural socialization.

Borrowing from the great historian Alexander Saxton, if "racism is a theory of history", then the claims by Rosenbaum in support of Israel's mass punishment of the people of Gaza are an extension of the white racist logic that was used to support colonization, imperialism, and Apartheid.

The white racial frame has blinded Rosenbaum to how his suggestion that, "On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations" also applies to the United States.

He is describing the slave regime in the United States where white slavers and their allies were engaged in a tyrannical relationship based on war and terror against African-Americans. The regime of Jim and Jane Crow, and its KKK thugs and other white racial terrorists, were also supported by and embedded throughout white society.

By Rosenbaum's logic there were/are no innocents in white society. If there had been a series of rebellions by black Americans in which they rose up and killed white people en masse across the South and elsewhere during the Slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim and Jane Crow regimes, would Rosenbaum, and by extension The Wall Street Journal, have supported their actions? What about Nat Turner? Would Rosenbaum and The Wall Street Journal have backed Turner's attacks on "innocent" white "civilians"?

Thane Rosenbaum is no John Brown. As offered by "Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy", I doubt that he would apply his logic to armed resistance by people of color against a white racist society.

The violence by Israel against the people of Gaza, and the rhetorical strategies which are being deployed by the "mainstream" American and global media to justify it, should be familiar to anyone would has lived in a slum, ghetto, Bantustan, or other "occupied territory".

It must be stopped. "Not in my name" should be a slogan of action across the global color line.


D. Wright said...

I've nothing to add but praise for this thorough evisceration of lynch mob apologetics.

chauncey devega said...

Just trying to state the obvious in a plain and direct way.

Lkeke said...

youre not alone in feeling absolutely horrified at what Israel is doing in Gaza. might as well sit back and wait for the chickens to ,inevitably come home to rost. This is a hoorro that the American people helped to make and we will pay for it.
This keeps happening over and over and over. Funding and creating future terrorist states (ironicall,y against ourselves.) We never learn, do we?

Buddy H said...

Jimmy Carter wrote a whole book on the subject. When was the last time you saw Jimmy Carter being interviewed on the subject? They're too busy talking to Dick Cheney.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Israeli military and politicians knew that bombing "key" targets, despite killing innocent civilians, would not be effective. They wanted to kill as many Palestinians as they could to put pressure on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks.

Most people in Israeli politics criticized this move by Netanyahu as ineffective. However, they preferred the more extreme route which was an invasion/military occupation.

Excellent commentary by you and Matt Bruenig about the collective guilt and punishment meted out to people of color by an insane and racist society.

Courtney H. said...

Here is an interesting article ...


kokanee said...

True you are. But some people will talk JC:

kokanee said...

I thought this 6 minute video was pretty good although maybe a tad biased in favor of the Palestinians:

Ish said...

This is how Netanyahu dehumanizes Palestinians, it's classic racism. He says, "They sanctify death, while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion." He says this while absurdly trying to shift blame for the actual killing Israel is doing to the Palestinians themselves.

from http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/terror-lies-israel-unleashes-brutal-pogrom-against-gaza

sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we
sanctify compassion.” - See more at:
sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we
sanctify compassion.” - See more at:

SabrinaBee said...

I wonder what Rosenbaum would say about the image included in this article, where Isrealis are camping out as if in a drive in theater watching their country rain down bombs on children.


Courtney H. said...

Thank you for posting this.

Courtney H. said...

Thank you for posting this video. It was very informative and easy to understand.

chauncey devega said...

Well, we obviously have to talk to the parents of those Israelis about how they are raising their children. The logic cuts both ways.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I remember The Police singing a song, probably in the 1990s, maybe earlier, about hoping that the Russians "love their children, too." CDV is correct to point out the dehumanization of Palestinians. Once dehumanized, you can slaughter them at will.

CDV is also correct to note the logic of bin Laden and Netanyahu--the one who thought Hamas was looking for "telegenic dead." We are slaughtering innocent Muslims around the globe with nary a word in the mainstream media. By the logic of bin Laden, Netanyahu, and Rosenberg--all Americans are legitimate targets in a retaliatory terrorist attack.

We may have entered the "Age of Herem Warfare." Philip Jenkins in his book (a must read) Laying Down the Sword, wrote that "herem" "usually interpreted as 'utter destruction' is the single most frightening term in the whole Bible." Jenkins noted that, "Where God has given lands as part of the Hebrew patrimony, all current residents must be subject to the law of herem--that is, of extermination." He also noted that "this type of genocidal warfare was associated with some of Israel's greatest heroes, including Moses, Samuel, and Joshua." (pages 33-34)

The extermination, Jenkins pointed out, must be preceded by an offer of peace. If the eventual victims of God's divine wrath do not accept the peace, then they are slaughtered. (page 32)

Literalist, biblically inerrant, fundamentalist/evangelical Christians have absorbed and defended this type of herem warfare, according to Jenkins (pages 40-47). See also his chapter 4, "Sons of Joshua" where he discusses Protestant support for herem warfare from Calvin onwards. In a point CDV has made, "by the 1860s, Protestant preachers were regularly framing their arguments in biological or medical terms," in essence, in terms of white supremcacy. One of the most influential archaeologists from the 1930s to the 1960s and "a committed Zionist," supported herem warfare in terms of non-white peoples and the "Arab peoples of Palestine."

The American Christian Right has for decades imbued its followers with the theology/ideology of America as a Christian nation, white Americans as God's chosen, America as the new Israel, and the idea that God's law trumps the Constitution and man-made law. That is combined with zealous Christian Zionism which even threatens Jews and the Jewish state.

That is why it is vital to keep emphasizing the violations of land warfare and universal human rights--to combat on the moral plane of conflict--this almost subconscious acceptance of herem warfare--that there are no innocents and all civilians can be killed because they are all terrorists or potential terrorists, even if they are infants. Similarly, it is vital to oppose Hamas's use of rockets against Israeli civilian targets.

And, CDV and others have pointed out that "stop-and-frisk" and "stand-your-ground" are micro-level, almost subliminal policies making the arrest and/or killing of black and brown folks appear normal.

joe manning said...

There's no shortage of super smart Jews that are calling for Netanyahu's head but there protestations are being systematically ignored by the media.

SabrinaBee said...

Yeah. Nothing sadistic here. I'm sure the children will grow up to be well-rounded persons. who like to wander to the edge of town with lawn chairs and watch bombs fall on people.