Genocidal DNA: Depravity, Evil and Cowardice in the “West” as well

(L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: via President Biden Twitter Page)

Western moral cowardice feeds this war as much as the arms flown or shipped into Israel by the US in a continuous cycle.

Everything that needs to be said has been said. Some of the worst crimes since 1945 are being committed in Gaza by soldiers following the orders of a genocidal government and military command.

The details are inhumane, sickening and repulsive in the extreme. This is not collateral damage. It is the deliberate destruction in detail of Gaza, its homes, shops, hospitals, schools, universities, government offices, mosques, churches and its food, water and medical supplies and – so far –  about 100,000 of its people, slaughtered or maimed mostly by missile fire.  

People elect politicians to govern on their behalf. They get the power, the prestige, the salaries, the free travel, the generous pension fund and the black cars. In return, they are expected to make the right decisions on behalf of the people, right domestically and in foreign policy and right morally. 

What we are seeing now in the global ‘west,’ while the people of Gaza are being butchered, is a total abandonment of that moral responsibility. Not one government has stepped forward to unequivocally condemn Israel for its crimes. 

With people everywhere in the ‘west’ horrified at the images of total inhumanity coming out of Gaza, the gulf between them and their governments widens every day. 

Only the historical victims of the crimes committed in the past by these same governments have defended the Palestinians. South Africa launched the case for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other global south governments soon followed.  

Genocidal DNA

This can hardly be regarded as coincidental. It is as if there is something in the DNA of genocidal settler-colonial societies, past and present, that creates the unspoken bond between them. After all, Israel is only doing what they all have done. 

From these governments, we hear the call for Israel to abide by international law, in its own interests, as if that should be the priority and not the lives of the Palestinian people it is slaughtering day after day.   

These statements keep calling for the laws protecting Palestinians and their rights to be respected, as if the politicians are blind to the mass of evidence that Israel has never respected them and has no intention of respecting them now.   

Its crimes are celebrated by the jeering soldiers committing them. These are mostly young people, blowing up apartment blocks, schools and universities, firing missiles into hospital compounds, firing on ambulances, killing nurses and paramedics, blowing the arms and legs off children and sniping at civilians as they try to hide or as they are on the road trying to escape.  

Alongside all of this is the sadism of individual soldiers bullying, torturing and humiliating their captives. What kind of terrible poison has been injected into their minds that they can behave like this?   

Closing Their Eyes

Close to 30,000 Palestinian men, women and children had been murdered by the middle of February. That is not the true figure because thousands of others lie dead under the rubble. Almost half of the 30,000 are children. Tens of thousands more have been maimed for life, and 17,000 – last count – have no families to look after them because everyone has been killed except for them.

Try to imagine this happening in your country.  Does it make any difference that these children are being slaughtered somewhere else?  

It is hard to imagine that anyone could close their eyes to the mass killing of children, but that is precisely what western governments are doing. They are gravely concerned, so they say, but not so gravely concerned that they take action to stop what they see, genocide being livestreamed every day.  

They talk in measured, calm voices. The prime ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Canada have just put out a joint statement saying they are alarmed “at the diminishing safe space for civilians” with no mention of who is deliberately diminishing a “space” that is completely unsafe.  

They call for a ceasefire, the emphasis not on stopping genocide but on stopping Hamas, which “must release the hostages, stop using Palestinians as a human shield and lay down its arms.” 

No such demands are made of Israel. While blaming Hamas, the statement avoids any mention of Israel as the architect of the crimes described by the ICJ as plausibly adding up to genocide.

There is no evidence that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. There is plenty of evidence that Israel does. These three “world leaders” refer only to the “heinous acts” of October 7, and not to the infinitely more heinous acts of the occupying army, if heinous is the word they want to use. 

There is not a flicker of outrage in any of the statements put out by western governments. There is so much they could do to stop the slaughter. They could cut relations with Israel. They could boycott it at every level. They could stop sending it arms, as at least one or two are doing. They could initiate moves to throw it out of the UN. They could call for a multinational force to be sent to Gaza to protect the Palestinians, but they do none of these things.    

An Overriding Lesson

Behind the thin hypocritical cover of their concern for the Palestinians, the statement by the three prime ministers is no more than a deferential signal being flashed  to Israel and its lobbyists in their countries is that “we stand with you.” 

The longer the slaughter lasts, the quicker it falls down the agenda in the news cycle, to the point now where it is being normalized. Only the exceptionally depraved makes the headlines, not the normally depraved, as the world wakes up after another night of mayhem and murder in the Gaza Strip.

Western moral cowardice feeds this war as much as the arms flown or shipped into Israel by the US in a continuous cycle. The politicians can’t say they don’t know because they do know.  Refusing to condemn evil,  they are complicit in it and will themselves stand condemned in the eyes of history.  

The overriding lesson from the past 75 years should be clear: Israel will not stop unless it is stopped. There is no point any more in asking, in pleading with Israel to stop killing people and remove itself from occupied land, because while Israel hears it does not listen.  It does exactly what it wants to do.  

Accordingly, if there is to be any kind of peace – a laughable concept right now – there can be no more asking: Israel has to be told what to do or face the consequences.  

As it is a standing threat to regional and world peace, if it is not stopped the west, somewhere down the line, will face the consequences, too.

Israel has had its chances to make peace over the decades and wasted them all.  There’s nothing left now, no two states or one shared state, only ground zero: ‘them or us.’ 

Even as Netanyahu moves to drive the Palestinians out of Gaza, taking the nakba of the past 75 years an inhumane stage further, the west remains supine, accepting his lies about an “evacuation” from Rafah.  

The fact that the Egyptian government is building a walled “compound” in Sinai capable of holding 100,000 people, but undoubtedly filling with many more as the Palestinians are terrorized into flight, is prima facie evidence of complicity in what has always been Israel’s final solution to the “Palestine problem.”

If the Palestinians are driven into Sinai, the pointer will then turn in the direction of the “axis of resistance,” which has indicated that any attempt to drive the Palestinians out of Gaza would be its red line.  

Constantly attacked or threatened with attack by Israel and the US, it has long been preparing for a war which it  regards as inevitable. As its enemies take the same view, an expanded war seems only a question of time. 

Israel already bombs Syria every other day, has repeatedly threatened Iran with attack, is currently engaged in a border war with Hezbollah and has been threatening to ‘copy paste’ Gaza into Beirut.  

This would be a war massively more vicious and destructive than any fought with Israel so far. The outcome of such a collision would determine the future of the Middle East for the next century.

• Article first published in The Palestine Chronicle.

Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Read other articles by Jeremy.