On 1 August, the Internet erupted in outrage at The Times of Israel for publishing a blog post titled “When genocide is permissible.”
Authored by Yochanan Gordon, the piece suggests that genocide against Palestinians is an acceptable price to pay for protecting Israel from rockets.
The Times of Israel quickly removed the piece following a wave of condemnations on social media. The editors claimed it was published because of an oversight and insisted they have zero tolerance for “blog posts that incite to violence or criminal acts.”
That very same day, Times of Israel blogger Irwin Blank wrote a piece likening Palestinians to Amalekites, the Biblical enemies of the Jewish people who had to be exterminated as commanded by God.
Describing Palestinians as “a hateful, hypocritical cabal barking like angry dogs” comparable to “modern day Amalekites,” Blank, a settler living the occupied West Bank, explained that “God had demanded that Saul (or the ‘prime minister’) enter into battle with the Amalekites (Hamas and its savage partners) and destroy them utterly even if that means to the last child, cow and goat.”
The post has not been removed.
Nonetheless, Gordon’s was the only piece to garner fervent denunciations, most strongly from Israel’s liberal and progressive supporters.
Sarah Wildman, an American journalist and progressive Israel supporter, responds to Gordon’s article at The Jewish Daily Forward in a piece titled “Genocide is always wrong.”
“We must stand up now and be counted and we must say: We revile this thought. We must say: We reject your demand for destruction,” Wildman writes.
While the sentiment is laudable, Wildman struck a much different tone two weeks earlier when she participated in a panel discussion on Israel’s Gaza onslaught hosted by The New America Foundation, a Washington, DC think tank that focuses on national security.
As panel moderator, Wildman banned the used of the term “ethnic cleansing” and repeatedly told the two Palestinian panelists to stop connecting Israel’s Gaza slaughter to the Nakba — the premeditated dispossession and displacement of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1948, a crime Wildman referred to as “the original sin or original blessing of Israel’s creation,” implying that the verdict is still out.
Among the panelists were Naomi Paiss, vice-president of the New Israel Fund, Lisa Goldman, director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at New America, Matthew Duss, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, 972 Magazine’s Samer Badawi and human rights attorney and Palestinian-American activist Noura Erakat.
The ninety minute-long panel was a remarkable display of Israel’s most progressive supporters obscuring the genocidal desires of Israeli settler colonialism, demonstrating that the only difference between liberal and right-wing Zionists is the degree of violence they are comfortable inflicting on Palestinians to maintain Israel as a Jewish state.
Both sides under siege?
Wildman opened the discussion by asking panelist Lisa Goldman to explain Gaza’s history, beginning with Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from the coastal enclave in 2005. The four non-Palestinian panelists repeatedly invoked 2005 as the starting point for the latest round of massacres in Gaza.
Goldman proceeded to offer an incomplete history, saying “Hamas took over Gaza in 2006” and then “kicked Fatah out of Gaza.” She left out that Hamas was democratically elected to represent the Palestinian people and removed Fatah from Gaza in a counter-coup after learning that the US and Israel had armed members of Fatah to overthrow Hamas.
Wildman followed Goldman’s revisionism by emphasizing that “both sides feel that they are under siege.”
Palestinian-American human rights attorney Noura Erakat pushed back.
“With all due respect, though both sides may feel that they are under siege, one side, 1.8 million Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip … are indeed under siege,” said Erakat.
Pay no attention to 1948
Responding to a question from Wildman about the feeling among Palestinians on the ground in Gaza, Samer Badawi delivered a primer on the population that inhabits the besieged coastal enclave.
“Eighty percent of [the people of Gaza] are refugees from the creation of the state that is dropping the bombs on them today,” explained Badawi.
“The real policy agenda behind Israel’s attacks today is to try to wipe out the memory of that injustice from 1948. It is a sore festering memory for Israel and it cannot be undone,” he added. “Until you reckon with the fact that 80 percent of the people, 1.2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip today, don’t belong there because of Israel’s creation, you will not have justice and you will not have peace and you will not have a ceasefire.”
Wildman cringed dismissively, stating, “I think we’re getting a little beyond the purview of the panel insofar as I don’t think we can get into the original sin or original blessing of 1948 right now.”
Badawi countered, “There is no original sin. These are sins that are being perpetrated right now as we speak in the Gaza Strip.”
Wildman tried to shift the conversation to Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza but not before restating her distaste for linking the present-day carnage in Gaza to the Nakba.
“I think we need to pull back a tiny bit from ’48 because I’d like us to get into, without losing all of our time, what the diplomatic options are right now,” Wildman told the panel, adding, “We’re not going to be able to address this question of the refugee crisis. I’d like us to understand a little bit more what is the path to stopping what’s happening right now.”
“What is the end game?” Wildman asked, seemingly unaware that the end game, according to the dictates of Zionism and Israel’s leaders, is to “finish ’48.”
As the discussion progressed, Naomi Paiss presented a somewhat distorted version of Israel’s shift toward fascism, arguing that right-wing leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, economy minister Naftali Bennett and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are not representative of Israelis, half of whom, according to Paiss, “share progressive values.”
Paiss is a leading figure in the New Israel Fund (NIF), a self-described progressive non-profit organization committed to “an Israel where the Jewish people achieve self-determination in their homeland.”
NIF explicitly rejects the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. Paiss has called the growing BDS movement “inflammatory and counter-productive.”
Though Paiss claims to oppose Israel’s illegal decades-long occupation of Palestinian land and discriminatory policies toward Palestinian citizens of Israel, she believes that Israel should be allowed to “reform itself from within“ because “Israel has a history of self-correction.”
This position is espoused by NIF and the liberal Zionist community more generally, made up of organizations like J Street and Peace Now, which actively fight BDS alongside the right-wing Zionist organizations they claim to oppose.
Paiss echoed these views during the panel, describing Israel as “a place that is fighting internally for its own soul.” The way to ameliorate the suffering of Palestinians, she insisted, lies in empowering the thousands of Israelis who are trying to “change the discourse” and “the facts on the ground.”
“To look at this as black and white, there’s only one kind of Israeli — not only is it wrong but it’s not going to get us where we want to go, which is a peaceful and prosperous and self-determining solution for both people,” Paiss told the panel.
It remains to be seen how many more years of occupation, ethnic cleansing and massacres Palestinians must endure while waiting for Israel to “self-correct.”
Meanwhile, as Paiss and her acolytes were clamoring for patience, Israeli society was being overrun with genocidal fascists.
Genocide goes mainstream
For months, mobs of Jewish extremists have roamed the streets hunting for Palestinians to attack. In Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, chants of “death to Arabs” and “death to leftists” continue to ring out, which Israeli lawmakers are both inciting and feeding off of.
Most recently, a wedding between an Arab man and a Jewish woman who converted to Islam drew the ire of Israel’s growing and state-funded anti-miscegenation movement, which seeks to maintain Jewish purity in the Holy Land.
Two days before Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair was forced to drink gasoline and burned alive by right-wing Jewish settlers in Jerusalem in a so-called “revenge attack” for the murder of three Israeli teens, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked, an increasingly popular member of the far-right Jewish Home party and a high-level partner in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, called for slaughtering Palestinian mothers to prevent them from giving birth to “little snakes.”
Shaked’s incitement to genocide, which elicited little to no backlash, appears to have been applied to some degree in Gaza, where newborn infants died after electricity blackouts shut down their incubators.
Meanwhile, at least ten pregnant women were killed and more than seventy families were partially or completely wiped out by Israeli attacks, many flattened beneath the rubble of their homes by Israeli missiles, in some cases after they were instructed by Israeli forces to stay in place. Other families were summarily executed in broad daylight by Israeli forces who occupied their homes.
The most comprehensive call for genocide came from Moshe Feiglin, a deputy speaker in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party. In a detailed proposal published in the ultra-nationalist Israeli outlet Arutz Sheva, Feiglin agitated for the violent expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and repopulating the territory with Jews.
Feiglin expanded on this proposal two weeks later, calling for the concentration of Gaza Palestinians into tent camps in the Sinai and “the annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters” to “exterminate nests of resistance, in the event that any should remain.”
Channeling the ethnic cleansing carried out by secular liberal Zionists in 1948, Feiglin added that Israel should “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.”
As Israel intensified its carnage in Gaza, a series of opinion pieces in Israeli media outlets revealed the ordinariness of this genocidal agenda.
Martin Sherman, a veteran of Israel’s defense establishment and founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in The Jerusalem Post, “The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.”
Echoing Osama bin Laden’s justification for indiscriminately murdering Americans, Giora Eiland, a major-general in the Israeli army and former national security advisor to the Israeli government, argued in Israel’s largest newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that because they elected Hamas, the people of Gaza as a whole “are to blame for this situation just like Germany’s residents were to blame for electing Hitler as their leader and paid a heavy price for that, and rightfully so.”
“The right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity,” reasoned Eiland.
Israeli soldiers tasked with carrying out the Gaza massacre expressed similar attitudes.
After withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, two nineteen-year-old Israeli soldiers, Alon and David, told Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel that they “wiped clean” parts of northern Gaza.
“When we left, we made sure there was nothing left standing, no resistance. That’s the only way to leave Gaza,” said David.
“All of Gaza supports Hamas anyways, and would help them. They are all Hamas,” added Alon.
As for the Israeli leftists that Paiss has beseeched Palestinians to hold out for, they are being punished by their universities and fired from their jobs for sympathizing with Gaza on social media. Others are being attacked by right-wing lynch mobs and arrested at anti-war protests, where their chants of “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” are met with verbal and physical abuse amid celebrations of the civilian death toll in Gaza.
“Israel has a problem with Palestinians”
In response to Paiss’ whitewashing, Erakat reminded the panel, “There is a black and white dichotomy that discriminates against the Palestinian population regardless of where they reside.” Before continuing, Erakat told Wildman, “I understand you want us to zoom in Gaza. Unfortunately this conversation can’t happen without context.”
“This is not a Hamas problem. This is not a Gaza problem. Israel has a problem with Palestinians,” said Erakat.
“The question is … the degree to which we discriminate against [Palestinians] because to be a Jewish state one must discriminate against these non-Jewish citizens.
“Before 2005, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip. Before the creation of Hamas in 1988, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip. There are no rockets in the West Bank, Israel has demolished the two-state solution. There are no rockets from the Naqab [Negev] within Israel, where Israel wants to displace 70,000 of its Palestinian-Israeli citizens and concentrate them. There are no rockets from Jerusalem, where Israel has non-Jewish Palestinian residency cardholders and Israel is ethnically cleansing them.”
“I’m going to jump in,” interrupted Wildman, but Erakat assured her, “I’m bringing this back to the day and the present” and cited Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire that Israel never responded to.
Paiss rebuked Erakat’s contextualization by invoking residual Israeli fears from suicide bombings nearly a decade ago.
“Let’s not forget that when Israelis tell recent history they begin with the second intifada,” said Paiss. “If you start going back in the dual narrative of victimization, do you go back to 1948? Do you go back to the 1890s? Do you go back to 1967?”
“There is no starting point,” said Paiss. “Any liberal Israeli will tell you about in 2002 when I would not allow my son to go get a pizza in downtown Jerusalem on a Saturday night. So we can do that forever or say this is where we are now, we’ve got these very polarized narratives, we’ve got a situation in Gaza that is getting worse. What do we have to change on both sides to make it better?”
Wildman agreed. “I hesitated to bring up the second intifada because we’ve seen the kind of post-traumatic stress disorder thread that has been maintained and yes every Israeli you speak to will mention it and they did live feeling terrified,” she said. “During the second intifada there was huge amounts of anxiety. I tried not to go back to that because, as you said, there is no starting point.”
The premeditated destruction of Palestine isn’t a narrative. It’s an ongoing reality that was initiated by liberal Zionists in 1948, a reality that Wildman tried to censor.
Specifically addressing Erakat, Wildman said, “I would like to avoid using words or phrases like ‘ethnic cleansing.’ I’m going to take issue with that. I want us to try to back away from those kinds of words and in general I’d like us to try to find our way back to the panel itself, which is what is the path to a diplomatic solution. Is there a savior anywhere? Is there a European that could come in? Because the fact is that there are two peoples in this tiny slice of land, and I don’t mean to sound facile, but what now?”
“Since you took issue, that means I get to respond, right?” Erakat fired back.
“Actually no,” responded Wildman. “As my role as moderator, I’m sorry, I’m not going to let us go down that path. I think it’s just going to devolve and I don’t want to go there, I don’t. I’m sorry. I’m in control of this panel and I’m not going down that path.”
“That is really, really unprofessional,” replied Erakat.
Badawi interjected, “Whether or not you like the tone of our voices today, this happens to be the sentiment on the ground in Gaza.”
The crowd booed Wildman while the clearly uncomfortable non-Palestinian panelists shrank in their seats. Not one of them spoke up about Wildman’s blatant attempt to police historically factual discourse, except for Goldman, who chimed in to defend the censorship, claiming that Wildman was simply trying to “refocus” the conversation.
Later in the discussion, Erakat responded.
“[Ethnic cleansing] is something rooted in international law,” said Erakat. “It’s also known as forced population transfer. If that sounds better for people I will use that terminology. Forced population transfer means the settlement of one’s own civilian population into the territory it occupies or the removal of an occupied population from their lands. Israel is doing both.”
Goldman again interjected to defend Wildman’s behavior, saying, “I don’t think any member of this panel would dispute anything that Noura [Erakat] just said.”
No BDS allowed
Though Goldman is well aware of and vocal about the crimes Israel commits against Palestinians, she opposes boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as does her fellow panelist Matthew Duss. Both support boycotting products from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank but argue that the broader BDS movement does not have clear goals, which is completely untrue.
BDS explicitly supports an end to the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It is the demand for the Palestinian right of return that tends to rankle liberal Zionists because a right of return would upend the Jewish majority Israel worked so hard to manufacture.
Later in the discussion, as Badawi was explaining that a temporary ceasefire negotiated by the unelected and Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas will not solve the crisis in Gaza, he began to hint toward BDS as a democratic alternative but was quickly interrupted by Goldman, who reminded the room that the panel discussion was on how to achieve a ceasefire, not how to resolve the entire conflict. This prompted Matthew Duss to joke, “we’re gonna need another hour,” which was followed by laughter from the four non-Palestinian panelists.
Prioritizing Israeli fears
The panel ended with Goldman and Paiss stressing the need to understand and sympathize with racist fears among Israeli Jews.
“[Israelis are] afraid of suicide bombers. They’re afraid of Arabs in general. You have an entire country that’s really in the grips of a PTSD,” said Goldman.
“The sense of insecurity that you’re alluding to is also grounded in political fact,” said Paiss, adding that for Israelis, “Hamas is an organization that denies us as Jews the right to self-determination in our homeland.”
Paiss concluded that peace would not be possible “until there is mutual acceptance of the right of these two peoples to live in this land.”
Goldman and Paiss neglected to mention that Israel not only denies Palestinians the right to self-determination but has also spent the last seventy years displacing, dispossessing, slaughtering and replacing them with Jews from around the world. Only one side has demonstrated the capacity to destroy the other, and that is Israel.
At the time of the panel, Israel had already ended the lives of more than two hundred Palestinians in Gaza. That number has since ballooned to more than two thousand. The overwhelming majority are civilians, including more than five hundred children.
Israel intentionally transformed Gaza into an open-air cage for surplus humanity deemed unworthy of life, which is a recipe for mass slaughter and the inevitable outcome of Israel’s unchecked settler-colonial ambitions.
Zionism is a settler-colonial ideology that necessitates the ongoing removal and erasure of the non-Jewish indigenous population. There is no other way to maintain Israel’s demographically engineered Jewish majority in a land that is historically Palestinian.
Yochanan Gordon’s call for genocide in The Times of Israel was Zionism in its most raw form.
By conflating Israelis and Palestinians as equally culpable in the conquest of Palestine and whitewashing the original sin of Israel’s creation, liberal and progressive Zionists like Wildman, Paiss, Goldman and Duss are enabling these genocidal impulses.
They might condemn the occupation and even criticize Israel’s military aggression, but their refusal to back any meaningful efforts to pressure Israel, combined with their unwavering support for a Jewish state in a land inhabited by millions of non-Jews, is an endorsement of the violence required to maintain it, which makes them no better than the right-wingers and fascists they claim to deplore.
- Noura Erakat
- Samer Badawi
- Sarah Wildman
- Lisa Goldman
- Matthew Duss
- Naomi Paiss
- New Israel Fund
- New America Foundation
- liberal zionism
- Yochanan Gordan
- The Times of Israel
- Irwin Black
- The Jewish Daily Forward
- West Bank
- Center for American Progress
- 972 Magazine
- Gaza siege
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Muhammad Abu Khudair
- Jewish Home
- Ayelet Shaked
- Moshe Feiglin
- Israeli Knesset
- Arutz Sheva
- Martin Sherman
- Israel Institute for Strategic Studies
- The Jerusalem Post
- Osama bin Laden
- Giora Eiland
- Yedioth Ahronoth
- Sheera Frenkel
- ethnic cleansing
- Mahmoud Abbas