While slogans and statements by prominent Israeli political, religious and academic leaders are not in themselves state policy, they are a barometer for the prevailing views of the Israeli elite. We know of course what the average Israeli feels about the Hamas attack and Israel’s subsequent horrific response to it. But the two responses below indicate a blood-lust for revenge couched in religious tradition which serves as a huge force multiplier in Israeli society. Below, IDF Rabbi Amichai Friedman roused the troops with this blistering call for Israel to expand its borders to not only include Gaza, but Lebanon as well.
This is a sentiment that goes all the way back to the early State period, when Israeli officials mapped out their future territorial ambitions, which included all the Lebanese lands up to the Litani River, which essentially includes all of southern Lebanon. This is the same area which the IDF occupied for nearly 20 years, to devastating result.
Friedman is advocating not just reoccupying it, but claiming it as sovereign Israeli territory. There would be a few “problems” standing in the way, including Hezbollah, the most powerful military force in the country and a close ally of Iran. But this sort of Israeli messianic thinking is what now propels the Israeli state and leads to the disastrous outcomes we now see in Gaza.
💥Israel’s Military Rabbi Amichai Friedman: “This is the happiest month of my life… We’re finally realizing who we are.
All of this land is ours. The entire land, including Gaza & Lebanon… We will destroy everyone”
Soldiers clap & cheer!
Still questioning genocidal intent? pic.twitter.com/GpS3aoJy22
— Muhammad Shehada (@muhammadshehad2) November 5, 2023
נשיא אונ’ @TelAvivUni הפרופ’ אריאל פורת: “זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בצאתכם ממצרים. תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמיים, לא תשכח. כך צריך לנהוג בחמאס ואני משוכנע שכך תעשה מדינת ישראל. מדינת ישראל נשבעה להשמיד את זכר החמאס”.
ישר כוח. pic.twitter.com/113j1eFC5Q
— ישי פרידמן (@IshayFridman) November 7, 2023
Vengeance at the University
At the Tel Aviv University memorial service for the 1,400 Israelis who died in the Hamas terror attack, Tel Aviv University President Ariel Porat declared:
In the Book of Deuteronomy there is a divine command to the Children of Israel: erase the memory of Amalek: Remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt. Erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget.
So you must act toward Hamas, and I am convinced the State of Israel will do this. The State of Israel is sworn to destroy the memory of Hamas. The parallel between Amalek and Hamas flatters Hamas. Amalek didn’t do anything like what the Hamas murderers did.
Every university in the world should boycott every Israeli university. And do so immediately. If they boycott any, it should be Tel Aviv. No university, let alone a president must be allowed to advocating genocide, no matter how raw the emotion.
As I’ve written here, the reference to Amalek is an explicit appeal for genocide, as described in the Bible. It is a means to normalize mass murder in the minds of Israelis. It serves to insulate them from any criticism by “outsiders.” Because the Bible is in effect the “national book” of Israeli Jews, invoking it amplifies the impact.
Genocide: the act of erasure
Israeli media dutifully regurgitate the national narrative. In this case, the cartoon published in right-wing Israel Hayom, Israel’s most-read daily, shows an eraser with the IDF logo erasing the word “Gaza.” Yet another celebration of the act of genocide.
.@BrandeisU has just outlawed Students for Justice in Palestine. The University’s statement is a shameful tissue of lies. This is no longer a University. It is a pro Israel academic propaganda outpost of the Israel Lobby. @theCCR @pal_legal pic.twitter.com/krSnevtHyA
— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) November 9, 2023
Anti-Palestine hysteria on campus
Yesterday, Brandeis University expelled Students for Justice for Palestine from its campus. The University statement was repleted with outright lies having no resemblance to actual SJP positions. Instead, these are statements parroted to them by Israel Lobby groups like the ADL, Aipac and others. In fact, the ADL has falsely claimed the slogan is anti-Semitic. Who has ever used the ADL as an arbiter of anything concerning Israel? If you or your organization has, think again. It is a hasbara mill for Brand Israel.
Columbia University joined Brandeis as the latest campus to fall prey to anti-Palestine hysteria. To reinforce how ludicrous the decision was, it was publicly released by the chair of the “campus safety committee.” It reinforces the mendacious notion that Pro-Palestine activism is a menace to campus safety. That Jewish students are afraid for their lives because of slogans and legitimate public protest. This is the campus lapsing into a hysteria provoked by a Zionist movement that is rapidly becoming toxic in national discourse.
University presidents cower in fear from Billionaire Boys Club of pro-Israel donors who have pulled their gifts because the campuses are insufficiently obeisant to their ideological proclivities. Among them are Paul Singer, Len Blavatnik, Henry Swieca, Mark Rowan, Ron Lauder, the Wexner Foundation, Leon Cooperman, and Bill Ackman. That is the only reason schools are reacting in this way.
Instead of standing up for values of academic freedom and free speech, they have betrayed those values. Students and professors will now censor themselves for fear of losing their jobs, scholarships, and even being doxxed by pro-Israel bullies, funded by the very billionaires spearheading the drive for Zionist purity on campus.
In truth, it is Palestinians both in Gaza and abroad who are not only in fear for their lives, but dying by the ten thousands. It is a 6-year-old Palestinian boy murdered in his home by a homicidal Islamophobe.
SJP is the leading national student group advocating Palestinian solidarity. It is a non-violent group which has never engaged in violence. Pro-Israel groups on campuses and throughout the country legitimize Israeli genocide with the claim of “self-defense.” This is the perspective that constitutes genocide and should be proscribed on campuses.
Demonization of Muslims in mass media
The following cartoon, by two-time Pulitzer-Prize winner, Michael Ramirez, is a vile, Islamophobic, racist graphic image of hate personified. Titled “Human Shields,” is a dehumanization of an entire people and an entire religion.
Note the bulbous “Arab nose” of the Hamas leader (presumably Yahya Sinwar, in a badly conceived likeness). Israeli babies are tied to his body, which he is purportedly using as human shields. Hiding behind the Hamas leader is a cowering woman who symbolizes the purported misogyny of Arab society. In the background there is an Aladdin’s lamp, another racist stereotype. On the wall, is a picture of Al Aqsa mosque with the profile of Sheikh Ahmed Yassine. He founded Hamas and was assassinated in his wheel chair by Israel. Clearly, this an Islamophobic attempt to link Hamas terrorism to the third-holiest site in Islam. [thank you to the commenter who pointed out my error]
This cartoon is worthy of the most vile anti-Semitic portrayals in Der Shturmer, Goebbels propaganda organ. As of now, the Post has offered this non-apology from David, Shipley, its opinion editor. It is wholly inadequate:
As editor of the opinion section, I am responsible for what appears in its pages and on its screens. The section depends on my judgment. A cartoon we published by Michael Ramirez on the war in Gaza, a cartoon whose publication I approved, was seen by many readers as racist. This was not my intent. I saw the drawing as a caricature of a specific individual, the Hamas spokesperson who celebrated the attacks on unarmed civilians in Israel.
However, the reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that. Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.
In this spirit, we have taken down the drawing…We will continue to make the section home to a range of views and perspectives, including ones that challenge readers. This is the spirit of opinion journalism, to move imperfectly toward a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed, listening and learning along the way. —David Shipley, Opinion Editor
Shipley says “many readers” saw the cartoon as racist, but this wasn’t his “intent.” His intent doesn’t matter. He saw something in the image worth publishing. That is all that matters. If he couldn’t see the overt orientalist stereotyping, then he shouldn’t be an editor, let alone a journalist.
Instead of acknowledging the cartoon was explicitly racist, he calls it “divisive.” No, that is not satisfactory. It was far worse than divisive. In fact, in a time when a 6 year old Palestinian-American boy can be stabbed to death, we’ve gone way beyond “divisive.” Images like this incite hate, they incite violence, they incite massacres. That’s what David Shipley’s poor editorial judgement has done.
He doesn’t name the specific Hamas leader he believed was caricatured. But most likely Ramirez was referring to Yahya Sinwar (it’s a very bad likeness) who is not Hamas’ spokesperson, but its leader. Nor has any Hamas spokesperson been seen or heard from in weeks. So where Shipley finds anyone celebrating Hamas’s attacks is a mystery.
Shipley’s appeal to listening and learning is also hollow and even insulting. What are we supposed to be hearing in the opinion page he edits? “Commonalities?” “Bonds that hold us together?” What utter hypocrisy. His statement does not examine the hurtful stereotypes offered of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians. It does not take responsibility for the hate it personifies, and was published there.
The cartoon originally appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the hometown newspaper for Sheldon Adelson, who bought it several years before he died. It’s no surprise that this pro-Israel tabloid published this garbage. But it’s shocking to the point of disbelief that the Washington Post slapped this on one of its pages.
As well as justifying the killing of Palestinians, this cartoon, published in the Washington Post is racist, Islamophobic, dehumanising & anti-Palestinian. This, right here, is also an example as to why so many Arab journalists are feeling frustrated, exhausted & targeted. pic.twitter.com/Yzu7tKqIWo
— Hind Hassan (@HindHassanNews) November 8, 2023
Social media and messages of hope
There are a few glimmers of hope on social media platforms. The following is a Facebook post by Israeli peace activist, Shiri Eisner, rebuts made by a US president, US university presidents, and amplified by the pro-Israel troll army :
Public service announcement: “From the river to the sea” is NOT a call for ethnic cleansing of [or genocide against] Jews. It is a call to end the Occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing that exists in the State of Israel. And for the creation of a state of all its citizens.
If a “state for all its citizens sounds like “throw the Jews into the sea,” I urge you to examine why that is.
[I’m writing here in order to anticipate responses. This is the consensus interpretation of this phrase among activists themselves within the Palestinian and Israeli anti-Zionst groups.]
I know this phrase as well as you know your own mothers, for as many years. If you have only heard it in negative contexts, I guarantee it is because of the way you need to see it and the way it is represented, rather than the way in which it is meant by those who use it.
Criminalizing calls for freedom
“From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” has been a slogan of the Palestine solidarity movement for decades. While Jews have objected to it as a call for a one-state solution, no one has ever considered this phrase genocidal. Such a calumny has been introduced into political discourse for one reason alone. People throughout the world are seeing Israeli genocide at a level of fury never experienced before. This is a powerful emotion. It has aroused revulsion toward Israel around the globe.
Israel desperately needs an ‘antidote’ against the protests. It has glomed onto this slogan and distorted its actual historical meaning. It has nothing to do with genocide. There is only one genocide happening and it is not one with Israeli victims.
Ironically, the historical origin of the slogan again reverts back to a nationalist poem penned by Jabotinsky. It was: shtey gadot la’Yaden, zo shelanu, zo gam ken (there two banks of the Jordan, both are ours.”). This is a maximalist territorial claim of the Zionist movement. A claim that deliberately wipes out any Palestinian claim. As such it is an even more explicit for of erasure and genocide than “from the river to the sea,” which makes no territorial claim.
Further evidence of this is the current Likud Party platform, which is a modern updating of the Revisionist slogan. It says: “Between the [Mediterranean] sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.” The statement is fifty years of such genocidal erasure of Palestinians, both Israeli citizens and those under Occupation during Likudist rule and another fifty years as the vision of the Zionist (Revisionist) fascist movement.
Those arguing that “from the river to the sea” constitutes a Palestinian call for Israeli genocide, are trying to invoke the hoary old hasbara talking point that “Arabs” want to “throw the Jews into the sea.” But from the river to the sea has nothing to do with violence, genocide, etc. It is a call for freedom and rights. It is the call of a people under Occupation. A people deprived of rights, of land, of life. It is a cry for a state that offers them full rights just as citizens of all democratic countries have. Democracy is not genocide. Only in the fevered imagination of pro-Israel apologists is it so.
Palestinians have no possible means of committing genocide against Israeli Jews even were they to want to do so. They have no army, they have nothing more deadly than a missile. They cannot steal Israeli lands or water. They cannot drive any Israeli from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, let alone into the sea. They don’t even have an ideology calling for genocide. Israel, on the other hand, has engaged in all these crimes. It is committing an actual physical genocide before the eys of the world.
The claim that the Palestinian slogan is anti-Semitic or genocidal is pure unadulterated hypocrisy. It is a vain attempt to blame the victim. It is the genocider throwing back the claim upon the martyred Palestinian people.
Tlaib and Congressional Manufactured Outrage
Rep. Rashida Tlaib is the latest example of this Zionist Scare (evoking the 1950s Red Scare). Like the McCarthy era, we have cries of Hamas terrorists crossing the southern border, terror-sympathizers on campus, loyalty oaths, firings, and general mass hysteria.
Tlaib has become a poster child of sorts, a sacrificial victim of pro-Israel forces in Congress and the country. She is the first Palestinian-American in Congress. Her constituency is largely Arab-American. In the past few weeks, she has offered strong support for the victims of Gaza genocide. She has also invoked the slogan above. The Lobby and its poodles in the House understood what was required of them to keep the campaign cash flowing. Not to mention that the GOP caucus saw this as a means of embarrassing the Democrats.
At first, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene proposed a censure motion (an earlier one two weeks earlier had failed). Republicans realized she was toxic so they had a different milquetoast member table the motion. This time, Democrats who had taken huge amount of pro-Israel cash (must of it provided during primaries to fend off progressive challengers willing to buck to Lobby agenda) betrayed their Democratic colleague. 22 pro-Israel Democrats voted against her and the motion passed. But not before Tlaib delivered an impassioned defense. It was a clarion call for justice and a shaming of those who would silence here. It will ring in the ears of progressive Democrats disgusted with the Biden pro-genocide agenda:
I am the only Palestinian American serving in Congress, and my perspective is needed here now more than ever. I will not be silenced and I will not let anyone distort my words.
I’m from Detroit, where I learned to speak truth to power, even if my voice shakes. pic.twitter.com/bXhGPCcKat
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) November 7, 2023
Michigan’s pro-Israel attorney general demanded Tlaib “retract” her “river to the sea” statement. This was yet another pandering to the Lobby, who campaign largesse she depends on in her own political races. The Republican state senators, acting like the automatons they are, demanded Tlaib’s resignation.
But she will not be deterred. In fact, the censor motion will increase her national stature. It will add millions to her campaign coffers from progressive Democrats who see her as the standard-bearer for their values. It will add yet another nail in the coffin of Biden’s doomed genocide approach to Gaza. All together, it will add to the anti-war
Never Again for anyone
This slogan has generated controversy though it has become a rallying cry for American Jews opposed to the Gaza war. It has a checkered history starting with the Revisionist movement founded by Zeev “Vladimir” Jabotinsky. In full, it said sheynit Masada lo tipol (Masada will not fall again”). The historical reference is to the now disputed account by the historian, Josephus, that the last 900 Judean rebel holdouts from the Roman rebellion retreated to a Herodian fortress called Masada. They fought for months against a Roman legion, which eventually overwhelmed their defenses. Rather than be captured, the rebel leader decreed that they should all commit suicide.
Though most archaeologists and historians now dispute the account, it became a rallying cry for Zionist nationalists seeking to create a new national identity. Now, all IDF new recruits travel to that mountaintop and repeat the oath en masse. They swear allegiance to what Baruch Kimmerling called the culture of martyrdom, promising to give their lives to ensure the State lives though they may fall in its “defense.” It is part and parcel of the myth inculcated in Israelis from their earliest years. That the world is against them; that it seeks their destruction; that they only have themselves to defend themselves; and that any compromise of the national consensus is an existential threat; and that any Israeli citizen (Jew or Palestinian) who diverges from the national will is also a threat to the whole.