US and World Politics

Top Ten Ways to Soften a Genocide

By Shamus Cooke

“Gen·o·cide: 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.” —Oxford Dictionary

“Now we all have one common goal—erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” —Nissim Vaturi, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset [Israeli parliament].

“No electricity, no food, no water, no gas—it’s all closed…we are fighting human animals and are acting accordingly.”—Yoav Galant [Israel Defense Minister]

May 24, 2024—How many people have died in Gaza since October? Nobody knows for certain, though the most reliable sources estimate over 35,000 killed as a direct result of military action, with about 15,000 children murdered (not counting those “missing” in the rubble.) An additional 80,000 have been injured.

How many more have died indirectly as result of the conflict? Some experts estimate the number could climb up to 85,000, while Ralph Nader—who has much experience in the morbid science of excess death calculations—said the number is closer to 200,000.

All death estimates are in the process of skyrocketing since Israel invaded Rafah.

A UN official said that a “full-blown famine” is occurring in northern Gaza and “moving south” towards Rafah. Those families not killed directly by bombs are in the process of dying from hunger and its related diseases, which lack medical facilities to treat since Israel has destroyed most of the hospitals.

When Israel began its mass killing after October 7th, the word genocide wasn’t being widely used even while Israeli politicians were using genocidal language like the above quotes.

But since at least December it’s been obvious that Israel is in the process of committing a genocide with the intent of officially incorporating Gaza into Israel, which requires massive ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, to be pushed out dead or alive. Nearly the entire population of 2.1 million has already been displaced and few have functioning homes to return to.

The genocide
apologist movement

The world is watching Gaza in horror but in the U.S., there is “vigorous debate” about the conflict’s morality, policy, intentions, etc. Debate itself has become an ironic way to soften the Gaza genocide, since debate presumes there is still a real question being considered—is the war good or bad?—and a solution yet to be discovered beyond an immediate ceasefire.

A sane person with below-average empathy needs only to hear the number of dead children in Gaza to condemn Israel’s actions, but the U.S.-Israeli genocide apologist movement—consisting of Pro-Israel politicians, media, academics, social media personalities, etc.—has created a non-stop distraction machine that spends endless resources deflecting and deceiving about the bloody facts in Gaza.

Creating a comprehensive list of the tactics to hide or soften the genocide would require a book; below are ten among the most common.

10) Endlessly debating the legal definition of genocide

The now-obvious genocide is still a subject of debate in the U.S., where the term has become extra fuzzy, overly legalistic and just plain “complicated.” Yes, the word has legal connotations when court action is being considered, but genocide also has a common definition (see above) that is easily understood by the average person when they see it happening before their eyes.

The hardest part about genocide is proving that it’s “intentional.” This is why a chunk of South Africa’s genocide allegation against Israel relies on statements—like the quotes above—of Israeli government officials.

Did Israel “intentionally” kill 15,000 children? Or are the daily massacres a non-stop series of accidents that have also claimed thousands of women and elderly people?

When the Israeli government announced on October 9th it was implementing a “total siege” of the entire 2.1 million people in Gaza that prevented water, food, electricity, medicine and fuel from entering, were the many consequent deaths not “intentional”?

None of this stops the genocide apologist movement of relying on overly-legalistic arguments in an attempt to shield what is painfully obvious to everyone not living in the U.S. or Israel.

9) Ignore statistics or simply lie about them

The number of dead children—15,000 and rising—in Gaza says all there is to say about the Gazan genocide; it is the ultimate barometer of what’s happening to the entire civilian population. Many thousands more children have been seriously injured, while already in January over 1,000 surviving children had at least one limb amputated.

The conflict also becomes less complicated when one learns about the number of dead women—over 9,500 and rising sharply.

In the first two months of Israel’s Gazan rampage, its bombing outpaced the allied bombing of Germany in WWII which has resulted in over 35 percent of buildings in Gaza being destroyed— including hospitals, mosques, churches, universities, bakeries, and other key economic and social infrastructure.

Thus the U.S. media does its best not to mention the most hellish statistics while the UN recently started lying about them. No longer is every dead child counted, but only those who’ve been identified using more rigorous methods, thus reducing the number of dead children to 7,797, making the nightmare 50 percent more tolerable to the viewing public.

8) “War is hell”

This chilling, now-common talking point is usually deployed when someone brings up the number of dead children in Gaza. Because there is no sane justification for 15,000 dead children the pro-genocide rebuttal is to shrug their shoulders and say, “war is hell.”

Because Israel’s crimes are more hellish than the average war, the genocide apologists prove their point by comparing the war on Gaza to World War II, when the U.S. killed massive amounts of civilians in Germany and Japan during the firebombings of Dresden, Tokyo and later erasing Hiroshima and Nagasaki via nuclear bombs.

The obvious point being missed here is that the world was so horrified by the atrocities of World War II—especially the Jewish Holocaust—that modern international law was born, precisely to prevent the future mass slaughter of civilians.

It’s especially dangerous to use this argument because it seeks to normalize the kind of mass atrocities against civilians that, until recently, people believed would “never again” happen.

Once mass atrocities against civilians become normalized it’s guaranteed to happen again, and soon. History will likely remember that the last remnants of international law died in Gaza.

7) Re-name Israel’s genocide in Gaza “The Israel-Hamas War.”

This clever propaganda trick relies on the fact that most Americans believe that Hamas is simply a terrorist organization, so framing Israel’s bloodbath in Gaza as a war against an evil adversary is a tidy way to sweep away mountains of dead bodies.

The “Israel-Hamas War” leads one to think of a legitimate conflict where two countries are engaged in military combat, though Gaza is not a country and thus does not have a military.

Because Gaza has long been an Israeli-controlled and occupied area—considered part of “greater Israel” by many Zionists—the “legitimate war” angle is exposed as extra cynical.

Most importantly, the label “Israel-Hamas War” intentionally hides the fact that the entirety of Gaza is being razed with the intention of driving all Palestinians out. It’s not an accident that thousands more children have been murdered than Hamas fighters, since Hamas is being “targeted” far less than the average Gazan family: Israel knows Hamas is underground while nearly every above ground building is being bombed.

The Israeli government isn’t stupid; they knew a mass bombing campaign combined with a territorial siege would push Gazans into the arms of Hamas (or any group in Gaza willing to fight Israel.) But Hamas’ increased popularity isn’t a problem for Israel because defeating Hamas alone was never the goal.

If rescuing the hostages was an actual goal, Israel could have easily accomplished this through a ceasefire deal. Instead, Israel is purposefully conducting a massive ethnic cleansing campaign via genocide in order to finally incorporate Gaza into a Jewish-majority Israel, with the hopes that the U.S. or neighboring states will accept any survivors as refugees. If there is peace tomorrow, Gaza will still be largely uninhabitable, with Israel hoping that Gazans will be accepted into neighboring Egypt or the U.S.

6) Label everyone who opposes genocide an “anti-Semite.”

U.S. politicians and the media have suddenly lost their minds, convincing themselves that after October 7th a pandemic of anti-Semitism began coursing its way through the United States. The obvious motive behind the hysteria is to quell freedom of speech, so as to prevent the truth of what’s happening in Gaza from spreading too far. This is also why Tik Tok is being banned.

Of course, real anti-Semitism exists in the U.S. and may be on the rise —alongside Islamophobia and other forms of racism—though actual documentation of antisemitism at Gaza protests has been limited to a handful of cranks.

Those screaming loudest about the post October 7th “epidemic” of anti-Semitism love to ignore a key driver of the anti-genocide protest movement are Jewish groups such as ‘Not In Our Name’ and Jewish Voice for Peace.

But while stupid and hysterical, the kneejerk accusation of “anti-Semitic” is actually quite effective in pushing people to self-censor. Consequently, it’s incredible how few people in U.S. public life have had the “courage” to condemn a live-broadcasted genocide, even if most people under 40 can see through this shallow propaganda tactic.

5) Re-center the discussion to October 7th

Many of the initial lies about October 7th have been debunked: there were no decapitated babies nor was there “systematic rape.” Around 764 Israeli civilians reportedly died on October 7th, which was initially a tragedy that the Israeli government then turned into an excuse to target all 2.1 million people in Gaza.

The U.S. media has spent months investigating and lamenting the tragedy of October 7th, even though a much larger, ongoing tragedy was happening in real time in Gaza. The best way to deflect from the present is to endlessly focus on the past.

4) Ask “What should Israel have done?”

This stupid “gotcha” question has become a staple of the genocide apologist movement. The question implies that because of October 7th Israel had to “do something,” and even if its actions may be a bit of an overreaction, it nevertheless is on the spectrum of what any self-respecting nation state should do. Thus, genocide is recast as somewhat reasonable.

The question also places Israel into the column of “respectable nations,” instead of a rogue apartheid nation that illegally occupies, blockades and indiscriminately murdered Palestinians prior to October 7th.

History books don’t pose the question “what should Hitler have done after the Warsaw Uprising?” Or “What should the southern states have done when slavery was threatened by Lincoln’s election?”

Oppressor states don’t get the privilege of being treated like rational actors until their oppressive behavior is eliminated. South Africa didn’t have “the right to exist” as an apartheid state and neither does Israel.

3) Silence or kill all journalists

The best way to soften a genocide is to hide what’s actually happening. Because journalists are a barrier to this strategy they must be removed.

At least 105 journalists have been killed in Gaza since October 7th with dozens more imprisoned, injured, or having their families murdered. This is also why a record number of UN staff (at least 254) have been killed by Israel in Gaza—they report too accurately on the bloodshed.

Israel has barred outside journalists from entering Gaza, since killing is best done in the shadows, especially when the murder victims are women and children.

Fortunately, enough video has emerged from Al-Jazeera and other outlets that show the true scope of the Israeli-created apocalypse in Gaza.

2) Talk About aid in order to continue the killing

Israel’s siege in Gaza that started on Oct 9th ended regular delivery of food and basic supplies. The world’s outrage at Israel preventing food and other basic necessities from entering has created a valid and needed demand to resume normal border delivery of food and medicine.

But from a U.S. government perspective the topic of aid has been used to deceive and distract, especially when Biden has the power to immediately end Israel’s genocide. On March 7th Biden bragged during the State of the Union address that the U.S. would immediately build a port in Gaza to deliver aid, at a time when starvation was well on its way (the pier was reportedly completed over two months later and has delivered very minimal aid.)

A lot of time has been spent debating ports and air drops and other aid delivery schemes that have amounted to naught; all the meanwhile the killing has continued and is now increasing again. In this way aid has been more distraction than substance, a way to hide Biden’s critical role in the genocide where he is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of children.

1) Talk endlessly about a two state solution and “the plan after the conflict.”

This highbrow distraction ploy has been in place since October 9th. What is Israel’s goal? Is their policy “sustainable?” Who will rule Gaza after Hamas is destroyed?

Some of these questions seem sensible on their face, but ultimately, they ignore the genocide today in favor off “the plan” tomorrow, all the while pretending not to understand that Israel’s plan is to ethnically cleanse Gaza of a super-majority of Palestinians, requiring genocide.

Which is why any discussion of a “two state solution” is the most cynical and cruel of all the distractions meant to keep our eyes away from the present horror. It’s the favorite tactic of The New York Times and other establishment media.

For decades many have sought Palestinian statehood in the form of a two-state solution.

It’s difficult, however, to debate the formation of a Palestinian state when a key piece of its territory is being actively expelled of Palestinians.

Gaza cannot be a core part of a Palestinian state if all the Palestinians in Gaza are dead or forced out, even if their migration is “voluntary”—meaning their death is guaranteed if they “choose” not to leave.

The West Bank too is undergoing an orgy of violence, where Israeli settlers have been armed and emboldened by the government and are stealing land in droves. If Gaza is ethnically cleansed the West Bank will become prioritized next, with the goal of officially erasing any future discussion of a two-state solution, growing Israel’s borders via Palestinian bloodshed for the third time in Israel’s short history as a nation.

The Biden administration cynically expressed his support for a two-state solution midway during the genocide he is funding, arming and propping up politically. But when the UN recently voted for Palestinian statehood, Biden again voted “no,” just as he has used his UN vote to veto multiple ceasefire attempts. Biden is not merely an accomplice to the crime; he is a full partner in the enterprise of genocide.

How history will judge

Sometimes you don’t have to wait for events to become “history,” as they are so obviously inhumane and can be judged using plain common sense.

For months young Americans had correctly judged Israel’s actions, though only recently has the International Criminal Court announced intentions for arrest warrants for top Israeli politicians. This has sent chills up the spine of the U.S. establishment, since they know Biden could be next—as his bloody fingerprints cover the Gazan crime scene.

Likewise, the many salesmen of genocide will spend the rest of their lives being reminded of the role they played in a historic crime.

The Gazan genocide has become a watershed moment in U.S. politics, radicalizing a new generation of young people against U.S. imperialism. Likewise, millions living in the Middle East under dictatorships sponsored by the U.S.—especially Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—have been exposed to their governments’ criminal role as accomplices in the genocide, which promises to play a sizeable role in regional politics for years, just like the first Nakba did in 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967.

The 600,000 already-famished children fleeing from Rafah are living in an actual apocalypse. Israel’s final solution to the “Palestinian problem” is well underway, and the above tactics will be re-deployed until every last Gazan is dead or expelled, unless social-political forces intervene very soon. Nobody knows for certain what factors will dominate in the coming weeks and months, since history is moving fast at the moment.

Regardless of the immediate outcome, the many thousands of dead in Gaza have already become political martyrs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as their tragic deaths have jarred students and many others into action.

Ultimately the seemingly endless support of apartheid Israel from the U.S. government has a much shorter lifespan than it did six months ago. This Imperialist project has been undermined by every child killed in Gaza, as growing numbers of financially struggling and overworked Americans are fed up with their taxes being used for killing children in Gaza and for war in general.

Shamus Cooke is a member of the Portland branch of Democratic Socialists of America.

CounterPunch, May 24, 2024