Israelis and Arabs “feel that only force can assure justice,” I. F. Stone noted soon after the Six Day War in 1967. And he wrote: “A certain moral imbecility marks all ethnocentric movements. The Others are always either less than human, and thus their interests may be ignored, or more than human and therefore so dangerous that it is right to destroy them.”
The closing days of 2008 have heightened the Israeli government’s stature as a mighty practitioner of the moral imbecility that Stone described.
Israel’s airstrikes “have killed at least 270 people so far, injured more than 1,000, many of them seriously, and many remain buried under the rubble so the death toll will likely rise,” Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out on Sunday, two days into Israel’s attack. “This catastrophic impact was known and inevitable, and far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians.” She mentioned that “the one Israeli killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Saturday after the Israeli assault began was the first such casualty in more than a year.”
Even if you set aside the magnitude of Israel’s violations of the Geneva conventions and the long terrible history of its methodical collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, consider the vastly disproportionate carnage in the conflict.
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” Gandhi said.
What about a hundred eyes for an eye?
It makes some of the world ill with rage. And it turns much of the United States numb with silence. Routinely, the politicians and pundits of Washington can’t summon minimal decency in themselves or each other on the subject of Israel and Palestinians.
While officialdom inside the Beltway seems frozen in fear of risking “anti-Semitism” charges by actually standing up for the human rights of Palestinian people, some progress at the grassroots has been noticeable. It includes the growth of groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun, and The Shalom Center, where activists have worked to refute the false claims that American Jews are united behind Israeli policies.
At the epicenters of the conflict — where the belief that “only force can assure justice” seems to be even stronger than when I. F. Stone wrote about it 41 years ago — the conclusion has been drawn and redrawn so many times that deadly repetition has become paralytic. While some Palestinian “militants” have terrorized and murdered, the Israeli government has terrorized and murdered on a much bigger scale, using a vast arsenal largely financed by U.S. taxpayers.
From afar, in the United States, it’s too easy to shake our heads at the lethal loss of moral vision. Don’t they know that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? But the cycle of violence is extremely asymmetrical — while the U.S. government provides Israel with billions of dollars and invaluable “diplomatic” support.
What’s going on in Gaza right now is not just an eye for an eye. It’s a hundred eyes for an eye. And the current slaughter is not only an ongoing Israeli war crime. It has an accomplice named Uncle Sam.
NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of Made Love, Got War.