“This Is A Sharp Time”: Israel’s “Day Of Joy”

In his very last article, ‘We are Spartacus’, published just a month before his death in December, John Pilger included a quote that exactly captured the truth of our time:

‘“This is a sharp time, now, a precise time …” wrote Arthur Miller in The Crucible, “We live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.”’

No-one saw more clearly than Pilger that the West’s use of ultra-violence to impose its brutal, zero-sum version of ‘international order’ is now completely out in the open. Even the blurred obfuscations of the state-corporate media lens are no longer able to hide the reality of who ‘we’ are.

Consider US Senator Lindsey Graham last month. With tens of thousands of civilians dead in Gaza, Graham dug down to some dark place and said on NBC:

‘Can I say this? Why is it OK for America to drop two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end their existential threat war? Why was it OK for us to do that? I thought it was OK.’

Graham was mistaken; it wasn’t ‘OK’ at all. But anyway, his point:

‘So, Israel, do whatever you have to do to survive as a Jewish state. Whatever you have to do.’ (Original emphasis)

The implication was clear. Past and future massacres of civilians – notably of women and children – were declared, not just ‘OK’, but unavoidable:

‘I think it’s impossible to mitigate civilian deaths in Gaza as long as Hamas uses their own population as human shields. I’ve never seen in the history of warfare such blatant efforts by an enemy – Hamas – to put civilians at risk.’

Graham concluded:

‘The last thing you want to do is reward this behavior.’

Israel reining in its US-supplied firepower to kill fewer civilians would be a ‘reward’ for bad behaviour.

Perhaps you remember Western politicians expressing such unapologetic savagery in the face of genocidal killing. We do not.

And Graham is not alone. Also in May, US Congressman Brian Mast called on Israel to devastate Rafah, where 600,000 children were then sheltering from Israeli bombs:

‘I think Israel should go in there and kick the shit out of them, just absolutely destroy them, their infrastructure, level anything that they touch.’

Three weeks later, on 27 May, media reported that at least eight Israeli missiles had slammed into Rafah’s camp of plastic tents. Refugees, mostly women and children, were burned alive. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting described the carnage many of us saw for ourselves on social media:

‘A boy cries in horror and fear as he watches his father’s tent burn with him inside. A man holds up the body of his charred, now-headless baby, wandering around, not knowing what to do or where to go. An injured, starving child convulses in pain as a medic struggles to find a vein for an IV in her emaciated arm.’

Worse was to come on 8 June when Israeli forces launched a raid to rescue four hostages from the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. At least 274 Palestinians were killed with 698 wounded. The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell described the assault as a ‘massacre’, while the UN’s aid chief Martin Griffiths spoke of ‘shredded bodies on the ground’. Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, posted on X:

‘The #Nuseirat massacre will go down in history as one of the most appalling examples of disdain for Palestinian life in one of the most well-documented and boasted about genocides in history.’

The BBC headline reporting this massacre read merely:

‘Four hostages rescued in Gaza as hospitals say scores killed in Israeli strikes’

It was not at all surprising that the BBC mentioned the four hostages rescued ahead of the ‘scores’ – in fact, nearly 300 – Palestinians killed. News of the 274 Palestinian victims quickly dropped down the news page. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented:

‘BBC News’ main report on Saturday night breathlessly focused on the celebrations of the families of the freed captives, treating the massacre of Palestinians as an afterthought.’

Compare the BBC’s headline with one supplied by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

‘UN experts condemn outrageous disregard for Palestinian civilians during Israel’s military operation in Nuseirat’

Conditioned as we are by the ‘mainstream’ habit of normalising the unthinkable, we might not find the BBC headline all that biased – they just reported the facts. But just imagine if the identities of the civilians killed and the hostages rescued were reversed. While the deaths of 274 Israelis would have been a seismic event for the BBC for days and weeks, the liberation of four Palestinian hostages would hardly have been mentioned and certainly not celebrated. Journalists would have dreaded giving the impression that the release of four Palestinian hostages in any way justified the killing of so many Israelis. This New York Times headline would be unthinkable:

‘Hostages Reunited with Family After Israel Military Operation

‘Scores of Palestinians were killed, hospital officials said, as Israel carried out an intense military campaign to free four hostages’

Likewise, this Washington Post headline:

‘Four Israeli hostages rescued alive; at least

‘210 people killed in Gaza, officials say’

Is it not clear how the value of one group of human beings is relentlessly raised above the other? The Washington Post even commented:

‘For Israel, a rare day of joy amid bloodshed as 4 hostages rescued alive.’

If the identities were reversed, the idea that a day on which 274 Israelis had been killed might be declared ‘a rare day of joy’ would be deemed unthinkable, obscene.

Despite the many hundreds of dead and wounded civilians, and so many massacres of civilians over so many months, headlines in The Sunday Times described the massacre as a ‘daring raid’, a ‘surgical strike’ that resulted in ‘celebrations’.

Although the Nuseirat massacre clearly trashed President Biden’s supposed ‘red lines’, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan also described the attack as a ‘daring operation’. The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it an ‘important sign of hope’. With hundreds of ‘shredded bodies on the ground’, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his ‘huge relief’.

How Many Gazans ‘Support Their Murdering, Raping Masters’?

For seven months, all political writers using social media have been relentlessly assailed by footage of tiny Palestinian children (often orphans) burned, bleeding, crushed, shaking in pain and terror, bits of broken skull protruding from their heads. We know we are living ‘in a sharp time’ when the Telegraph’s Associate Editor Camilla Tominey can respond to all of this on 18 May with a piece titled:

‘Admitting Gazan refugees would be proof that Britain has a death wish

‘We have no idea how many Palestinians support their murdering, raping masters’

Tominey wrote with utmost brutality:

‘We took in Ukrainians in part because we have a security agreement with Ukraine and can be fairly certain that none of those fleeing the Russian invasion are terrorists.

‘Sadly the same cannot be said for occupants of a country run by Hamas. Regardless of their medical – or other – qualifications, we have no idea how many Gazans support their murdering, raping masters, or how many have been further radicalised by war.

‘It would surely be better if these Labour MPs focused on our own problems, without burdening Britain yet further with someone else’s.’

Britain should not assume the ‘burden’ of helping injured babies and tiny, traumatised infants, when we have no way of knowing how many might ‘support their murdering, raping masters’.

Regarding rape, The Times discussed (7 June) a United Nations report submitted earlier this year by Pramilla Patten, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence during and since the Hamas attacks of 7 October:

‘Patten made it clear there was sufficient evidence of acts of sexual violence to merit full and proper investigation and expressed her shock at the brutality of the violence. The report also confirmed Israeli authorities were unable to provide much of the evidence that political leaders had insisted existed. In all the Hamas video footage Patten’s team had watched and all the photographs they had seen, there were no depictions of rape. We hired a leading Israeli dark-web researcher to look for evidence of those images, including footage deleted from public sources. None could be found.

‘The report would prove confusing to the Israeli political establishment. On the one hand, it gives substantial and substantiated credence to the sexual assault claims; on the other it does not show them to be systematic and specifically says Israel has been unable to produce evidence it has claimed to possess of Hamas’s written orders to rape. Patten also asked that Israel investigate “credible allegations” of rape and sexual violence against Palestinian women and girls gathered by the UN’s legal mandate mission in the Palestinian territories.’

The Times also cited Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centres:

‘The first letter that I received from the government of Israel talked about hundreds or thousands of cases of brutal sexual violence perpetrated against men, women and children. I have not found anything like that.’

Tominey smeared the entire Palestinian population with this comment:

‘It is also worth noting that a Palestinian student has already had her visa revoked after saying she was “full of joy” after the October 7 attacks. Dana Abuqamar, 19, a law student at the University of Manchester, said that she was “proud that Palestinian resistance has come to this point” after the atrocities. It would be naive to believe that the average Palestinian wishing to come to the UK thinks much differently.’

Tominey linked to an earlier Telegraph article by Isabel Oakeshott from October 2023, which sympathised with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, but added:

‘To usher in an additional cohort of traumatised people, many, if not most, of whom will not share our values; will not speak our language; and will not find it easy to build new lives here, would be insane. With the right support, most would probably integrate – but we must face up to the uncomfortable truth that a very small number will not wish us well, and may repay our generosity by fomenting division and hatred in our communities – or worse.’

Oakeshott offered the warning of protesters who ‘appear convinced that the plight of the people of Gaza is the fault of the Israelis, as opposed to the cruel Iranian-sponsored militia that controls the territory’. This, she said, ‘has grave implications for community cohesion. How much more dangerous will this already febrile situation become, if we naively import thousands more people brutalised by war and confused about who is to blame for their plight?’

Oakeshott’s brutal sign-off: ‘the UK does not have a duty to take a single one of those escaping the fall-out’. (Our emphasis)

Media brutality feeds party political brutality, which feeds further media brutality… and down we go. Peter Oborne, former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph, commented recently:

‘One of the historical roles of the Conservative Party has been to act as a prophylactic against fascist and far-right forces which, history shows us, have always lurked not far under the surface in British society.

‘It is no longer playing that role. The Conservative Party is falling into the hands of the far right before our eyes.’

In his conclusion to a separate piece, Oborne posts an ominous warning on the emerging political culture of this ‘sharp time’:

‘For the first time in my life it is possible to look forward and envisage a sequence of events that might turn Britain fascist.’ (‘Peter Oborne’s Diary – The Dark Shadow of Fascism,’ Byline Times, July 2024)

Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The most recent Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2018 by Pluto Press. Read other articles by Media Lens, or visit Media Lens's website.