The NY Times just reported that Israel has taken what I thought were two off-the-wall proposals to ethnically cleanse Gaza, and turned them into official proposals it submitted to its major allies, the US and the UK, among others:
Israel has quietly tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt for the duration of its war in the territory, according to six senior foreign diplomats.
Israeli leaders and diplomats have privately proposed the idea to several foreign governments, framing it as a humanitarian initiative that would allow civilians to temporarily escape the perils of Gaza for refugee camps in the Sinai Desert, just across the border in neighboring Egypt.
“Humanitarian,” my ass. Any times I hear an Israeli official say that word, I know it conceals a sinister motive. Not to mention, the rejection of Israel’s proposal allows it to say to the world after the death toll spirals toward 20,000: we offered you a way out and you rejected it. Now don’t blame us for the results. That would be a deeply cynical and immoral perspective, but one characteristic of Israel.
Those countries encouraged to consider this proposal were rightly skeptical, even more than skeptical I would hope:
The suggestion was dismissed by most of Israel’s interlocutors — who include the United States and Britain — because of the risk that such a mass displacement could become permanent. These countries fear that such a development might destabilize Egypt and lock significant numbers of Palestinians out of their homeland, according to the diplomats, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a sensitive matter more freely.
1-million Palestinian refugees were expelled from Israel during the Nakba. Only a few hundred at most returned. The post-1948 Infiltrator Law declared that the returnees could be shot, and many were.
The reporters attribution for his story is “six foreign diplomats.” Clearly they are the ambassadors of six countries whose governments Israel approached in its campaign for support. These governments were so alarmed, they all decided together to fire a shot across Israel’s bow by leaking it to the Times. That will–Biden, Blinken and others hope–send the Israeli officials peddling a plan for ethnic cleansing tied up in a bow to look like a ‘humanitarian’ birthday gift, scurrying back to their official lairs.
Some of Bibi’s close political allies have offered similar proposals which have the false ring of sincerity:
Danny Danon…a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said he supported evacuating Gazan civilians to give Israel more room to maneuver during its ground invasion of Gaza, and to move civilians out of harm’s way.
“We’re trying to lower the level of casualties for our troops and for the civilians,” Mr. Danon said…”We expect not only the Egyptians, but the entire international community to make a genuine effort to support and accept the residents of Gaza.”
That phrase–we Israelis “expect” the world to do this or that–it’s so damn Israeli. We, a country of 9-million people, expect our Arab neighbors and the greatest superpower in the world, to make the genocidal process of war in Gaza more convenient for us.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.
The minister and the bomb
Amichai Eliyahu is the Jerusalem affairs and heritage minister in the Israeli government. He is a member of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Kahanist terror party, Jewish Power. The party name was a phrase first popularized by Meir Kahane in a deliberate borrowing from the Black liberation slogan, Black Power.
Eliyahu would, as a minister I suppose, be a frontbencher in any other government; but is a small and insignificant figure in this one. Fully a backbencher. His ministry is also insignificant, giving him playing-around-money he can spend on a few pet projects.
He does retain some luster as a protege of Ben Gvir, who plays a critical role in the current government. It was BG, after all, who secured the ministerial post for him. He surely didn’t earn it by his massive political following or natural charisma.
I thought of the Marx quotation applying to Eliyahu in two contexts. The first is Meir Kahane: he is the tragedy of late 20th century Israeli history. No one since Ben Gurion or Jabotinsky, has exerted such enormous influence on the politics and fate of the nation. He was denounced and ostracized both in the US, where the FBI threatened to charge him with terrorism crimes; and his adopted home of Israel, where his Kach Party was expelled from the Knesset for its extremism. But in death he has won every accolade and power he sought while alive.
Now Kahanism has become the state political religion. Everyone is either a Kahanist or near-Kahanist, including the so-called moderate parties. All of them, from center to far-right espouse some or all of the views of Meir Kahane. No one has had more influence in the past 65 years. Kahane is the Israeli ‘tragedy.’
Eliyahu is Kahanism as ‘farce.’ Among his other bon mots: when reporters asked for his response to the massive settler pogrom against the village of Huwara in which a Palestinian resident was murdered, homes and businesses were set ablaze with owners within them, and scores of vehicles torched–he doubted that the event had even happened. Nevertheless, he claimed there was “no such thing as settler violence.”
He also blamed Israel’s judicial coup for the country’s purported inability to stem Palestinian violence. He declared that the Supreme Court had prevented the State from expelling Palestinian terrorists who were citizens or legal residents. It had also prohibited it from stripping all state benefits from such individuals.
In short, Eliyahu is the ‘farce’ to Kahane’s ‘tragedy.’ The former is a clown. And not the kind sporting a red nose, baggy pants and a pocket full of tricks.
Yesterday, Eliyahu gave a radio interview in which the interviewer asked for options he would pursue against Hamas in Gaza. Perhaps seeking the sort of lurid headline he succeeded in getting, the radio host asked, for example, would he drop an atom bomb on Gaza? Definitely a possibility, the smart-as-a-whip minister replied. He neglected any consideration that a nuclear weapon dropped on Gaza would incinerate a quarter of Israel’s population as well. Not to mention the imapct of the radiation dose. But these are matters far to complex for someone of Eliyahu’s ilk to understand.
I wanted to return to the Marx quote: while Eliyahu’s comment borders on the farcical, it originates in a very real tragedy, the Gaza War. Just as Kahane became a great Israeli tragedy, this War has become the world’s tragedy. Clowns like Eliyahu follow in their wake, milking the tragedy for all it’s worth.
Netanyahu, who is used to these antics from his mouth-flapping far-right ministers, has a regular routine: wait to see how hot the temperature in the media. When it reaches the boiling point, he releases a statement of mock outrage: nothing could be farther from the truth; this government respects the law and would never do anything contrary to it, etc. Beyond this wrist slap, he rarely does anything further.
But this time, Eliyahu went so far off the reservation that Bibi was forced to actually discipline him. Did he fire him as minister? Did he demand the Knesset expel him? Did he demand that Ben Gvir expel him from his party? None of the above. Instead, the poor lad will be sent to the woodshed where Daddy Bibi will give a smack on the ass and be done with it.
His punishment? He is suspended…not from the cabinet or Knesset; but from “government meetings.” That’s like telling the Biden pet dog, Commander, who is known for biting White House Secret Services agents, that he will no longer be able to sit at his master’s feet during cabinet meetings. The dog never played a role in those meetings, and I’m sure Eliyahu didn’t in his either.
Even Israeli lunatics, like clocks, can be right (twice a day, at least)
In writing the above, I didn’t mean to say we shouldn’t take the substance of his comments seriously, no matter how bumptious the fool who made them. We should be as serious as a heart attack. This government is built on fascism laced with a heavy dose of genocide. There is no idea, no matter how criminal or outrageous it isn’t willing to entertain. Herman Kahn “thought the unthinkable” about using nuclear weapons. The Netanyahu regime is “large and contains multitudes,” not of a boisterous bountiful humanity as envisioned by Whitman, but of ghouls filled with blood lust. They are thinking the unthinkable in the same way Hitler did when he devised the Final Solution.
Popular Israeli artists echo the strains of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Here a religious Mizrahi pop singer leads a song which can only be described as Nuremberg set to music:
Judeo-Nazi performer rouses her audience to paroxysms of adoration and blood lust as she sings: “We get rid of Gaza [i.e. Palestinians], we resettle it [with Jews], we are a light unto the nations.” This is Nuremberg set to music. https://t.co/8lj6iVjv70
— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) November 6, 2023
For example, one minister proposed Israel expel 2.5-million Gazans and dump them in the Sinai–not before giving them tents, of course. Another MK, who was a former deputy director of the Shin Bet, suggested divvying up Gaza’s 2.5-million into increments of 25,000. Then asking 100 countries to accept them as refugees. Sounds like farce right? Wrong, this is close to what Israel did to the 1-million indigenous Palestinians it expelled during the Nakba. The only difference between the two is that in 1948 Israel dumped them on neighboring Arab states without any request and certainly without the tents promised by the minister.
Biden: take this very seriously or you will live to regret it
If I were a US president or diplomat I would not do precisely what I predict they would do if they paid the atomic bomb statement any attention at all (they won’t): I would take it extremely seriously. Not for the person who said it. But rather for what it signifies about the state of Israeli discourse. Such statements are not made in a vacuum. They spring from a sentiment in the minds and hearts of a significant portion of Israeli society.
NOTE: The following was written just before I learned of the NY Times story covered above.
Every time I report on plans like those above I think: someone is going to claim this is all delusional rantings of yet another messianist lunatic; then reality smacks me in the face. In this case, it turns out the ethnic-cleansingest of governments has actually lobbied its allies to expel (it didn’t use that term, obviously) hundreds of thousands of Gazans to Egypt as a–ahem–humanitarian gesture. Better they be refugees in Egypt, then sitting ducks in Gaza, I suppose the thinking (if there is any) goes.
Gaza is already an act of genocide, no matter how obtuse Biden and his hear-no-evil, see-no-evil gang may be. They think they can deny this. Perhaps they can for some period of time. But Israel has ripped off any restraints imposed by civilization or international norms. It is like the Hulk, the giant swelling with uncontrolled rage against Gaza. It stomps through the world trashing all it sees, leaving nothing but rubble in its wake.
In this environment true evil stalks the world. It is the genie you cannot stuff back in the bottle. Israel will serve as a model for dictators and genociders around the globe. They will realize they are now limited only by their own murderous imaginations. Why restrain yourself? Israel got away with it. My country surely can as well. There are generals and dictators, the Milosevics and Pol Pot’s of today’s world, watching Gaza closely. Biden and Blinken ought to consider that.
Heine famously said “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” To which I would add, where they talk of nuclear war, they will end in doing it (or something equally horrible). Instead of merely thinking the unthinkable, they will do the unthinkable.