Weapons of Mass Lies

Gaza City under Israeli airstrikes, screengrab from Al Jazeera’s live feed.

How long ago was it that Colin Powell sat before the United Nations Security Council with his twisted trove of compelling evidence that Iraq was host to a veritable mountain of weapons of mass destruction just awaiting the right moment to unleash its Shia ravage upon the stainless West? 

Of course, it was a lie, a conscious pretext to justify what was to follow where tens of millions throughout the Middle East paid for this US “hard intelligence” with their liberty, their lives, and their yearning for little more than the universal right for them and their families to pursue the freedom of life. Some twenty years later the weapons of mass lie continue to propagate daily with an unbroken fabricated flood of deadly Western puffery about an innocent pastoral Israel under siege not at all by virtue of its own long and well-established regional hands of occupation filth, but of course by the voracious anti-Semitic appetite of Iran, Palestine, and Hamas. It’s a lie.

When expedient, for years we have been apprenticed by largely Western Christian and Jewish tutors along with purchased “Islamic scholars” about the branded unresolvable divide between Sunni and Shia denominations which, they preach, all but guarantees periodic eruptions within the Islamic world. After all, was it not this internecine scriptural split that explains away the horrors inflicted in Yemen upon the impoverished Iranian-supported Shias by the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia and UAE largely with weapons that were made in the USA? 

Although the Saudi/UAE inflicted casualties continue, when the world last cared reliable sources report that over 150,000 people were killed in Yemen, as well as more than 227,000 dead as a result of an ongoing famine and lack of healthcare facilities due to the war.

Not packaged, let alone understood, for the internal civil war it was, how much easier and politically convenient to simply blame Iranian support and “control” over Houthi Shias against a Sunni government as the trigger for what was clearly an Indigenous political rebellion. How often were we told that Houthis were fighting as Iranian proxies rather than as combatants in a native uprising largely directed at the lingering legacy of European colonialism? Sound familiar?

So, tell me, if the marriage of an uprising in the Middle East is ultimately fueled not by aboriginal aspiration but strict theological obedience, how is it that the Shias of Iran are dictating to the Sunnis of Hamas what to do and when?  They ain’t. 

There is nothing I can say at this point in history that will move the lockstep sentiments of personally invested or reality-disconnected Israeli cheerleaders to understand, let alone accept, that Hamas is an Indigenous national liberation movement, born not from abstract thought, religious fueled hate or the chase of personal fortune, but rather from the hardscrabble roads of Gaza itself. So, I will not try. 

Are there Palestinians who disagree, even at times despair, of Hamas… of course.  But after 75 plus years of ethnic cleansing, you will not find any wanting for wholehearted support for the resistance–be it from millions still occupied by a deadly colonial project, or those long ago exiled at gun-point from their age-old homeland by Europeans who tore across it with unrestrained bombast and endless thirst for blood.  For without defiance, whether from movements or “lone wolf” … be it by armed struggle or passive resistance … one comprised of Muslims, Christians and non-believers alike–of women and men, students and scholars, only fools or desperate wizards believe that if left to its own unchecked device, a kinder gentler Israel would emerge to ensure justice and human rights for those whose dwindling land they thirst and liberty they detest. 

Has Iran provided financial aid to Hamas, some of which was used for the purchase or production of weapons? Of course. Why not. It is not the only country that has chosen sides in this struggle against ethnic cleansing and for righteous justice. After all, the United States has funded Israel to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars these many years which has financed the use of phosphorous and cluster bombs against civilians in Gaza in violation of Protocol III to The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1983 and The Convention on Cluster Munitions of 2008. It has also armed snipers who have shot tens of thousands of peaceful protestors on the Gaza border in violation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Not one to limit its backing of Israeli butchery to but the air and land of Palestine, the US has long subsidized an Israeli navy whose prime function is to attack and destroy Palestinian fishing and humanitarian aid vessels be they in the Port of Gaza or afloat in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Never one to suppress its own geo-political thirst or economic appetite, The Convention on Cluster Munitions was ignored earlier this year when the US elected to arm Ukraine with thousands of cluster bombs. So too, it disregarded the transfer of American-made weapons it provided to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners in Yemen later transferred to al Qaeda-linked fighters, and other so-called radical Salafi militias. Nothing new about this. Independent of its invasions and occupations of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, in the last thirty-five years alone the United States has intervened or proxied up in numerous international hot spots through money or weapons including Syria, Somalia, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.  With an unbroken sordid record of meddling, there is abundant evidence that the US has engaged in nearly 400 military interventions of one sort or another between 1776 and 2023. But Iran is the problem. 

Over the years, billions in humanitarian aid have come to Gaza from Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and Algeria to name but a few of the supportive sister states. Donated largely for reconstruction of essential infrastructure, schools and hospitals targeted and laid to waste by Israeli bombs, ribbon cutting in Gaza one of the world’s most densely populated and impoverished territories has proven time and time again to be but a momentary tease–with each restoration quickly lost to the next Israeli onslaught and the next and the next. 

Once upon a time, before the lure of US dollars and Israeli shekels purchased a new generation in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia armed Hamas with rockets and other weapons for the defense of Gaza. However, that solidarity was to change with the arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who the very year he had Jamal Khashoggi murdered, told Jewish leaders in New York City that Palestinians should “start accepting peace proposals or shut up.” Five years later at the urging of Biden and with the blessing of his personal hedge fund banker, Jared Kushner, in the run-up to the Hamas strike, bin Salman was expected to sign the Abraham Accords. With that signature, he would have joined UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in a treacherous pact with Israel which places their own economic and geo-political interests ahead of not just palpable Israeli violations of international law, but all standards of decency and humanity. Trading in his bisht and red & white keffiyeh for Armani pinstripes, how can anyone avoid the overpowering stench of a regional double standard?

And what of the “proof” that Iran provided the skill set and dictated the nature and timing of the most recent Hamas strikes against the occupation? Now streaming in from predictable Zionist echo chambers at AIPAC and ADL to the halls of a cheap ill-informed Congress to the amplified one-sided MSM breaking news cycle… there is none. To be sure, like it or not, as a seasoned national liberation movement with an armed wing that has successfully battled to a stand-still Israeli jets, tanks, and battleships for decades, Hamas needs not, nor does it accept direction from non-Palestinian actors on how or when to proceed in its struggle against the occupation. Any such claim oozes with pejorative ignorance and racist superiority. Bearing the reek of classic hasbara, these shouts are but another in a long line of played deceits that Israel is an enlightened democracy under perpetual siege in the midst of doctrinal fired anti-Semitism.

Of course, Israelis tutor the West that they and they alone love and care for their families and young while the dominant regional Arab and Palestinian populations are more than willing to sacrifice their sons and daughters to a nihilist agenda in the name of Islam. Very much a living lie, for decades this marketing lure has enticed the neo-colonial West to ignore Israel’s marriage of hate and violence providing the money, weapons and Security Council vetoes it needs to keep it just beyond the reach of universal law and international accountability. Zionists would have us believe that Palestinians, per capita among the most highly educated people and culture in the world, know not what they want and or how to get there, but rather are mere dutiful vassals of Iran as it seeks to impose its brand of Shia fundamentalism upon the rest of the region. Nonsense. 

Hamas is a national liberation movement dating back some 40 years to a time and place where an earlier generation of explosive, deadly Kahanists sought to corrupt if not rid Palestine of any collective aspiration of self-determination, independence and justice. The notion that all these years later the movement, now among the most sophisticated and successful in the region, if not the world, needs guidance, training and edict from any other state or people to fight on is but seductive sophistry in search of a vulnerable and ill-informed audience to bite the poison political pill. At its core, the tired screed that the Islamic Resistance Movement’s self-determination is determined by others not born of Palestinian families and heritage is but a shoddy deflection from the horrors unleashed by Zionists these past 75 years upon an Indigenous community dating back not decades or centuries but millennium. 

For days now deceitful politicians and traditional media across the globe have parroted the sculpted Zionist talisman that there is war between Hamas and Israel. Not true. It is a battle for survival between a “nation state” of occupiers and a people long beleaguered …  but not defeated.  To be sure, if Hamas were to disappear tomorrow, the global Palestinian struggle for self-determination, liberty and justice would and will continue till it be had. To hear the unbroken chant of “terrorists” by Israel and its funders beggars the undeniable history of nonstop Zionist terrorism beginning well before the Irgun, Haganah and Palmach hanged British soldiers, bombed the King David Hotel, sent mail bombs across Europe and assassinated Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator for Palestine all in the name of a theft of a land they had not known, if at all, for thousands of years. 

With its leadership prominently displayed and well deserved on “wanted” posters throughout Palestine and in Europe for heinous offenses against civilians and repeated violations of settled international law, these Europeans went on to inspire generations to come with a dark deadly vision of a homeland not theirs to reclaim or to reconstruct and where, to them, no crime was too disturbing … no rationale too obtuse. 

No matter what the Zionists rewrite, Palestine is a land stolen from age-old Indigenous communities with hundreds of thousands driven at gunpoint from their homes, but not their history. For the fortunate, they were exiled to refugee camps in and out of their homeland; for the less so, mass assassination, rape and a final rest rotting in wells were left as a message for others across Palestine.  In the years since, that nightmare has continued unabated with millions of Palestinians living under the often-deadly, always despotic yoke of Zionist expanse and excuse; with many more eking out existence as stateless refugees living long and far from their native land. 

In the years since the onset of the unchanged Nakba, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians including children and the elderly have been shot, crippled and murdered always in the name of a perverse ideal built fundamentally upon the suffering of others. Even more have seen the damp dark cellblocks of political prisons, uncharged or tried, stripped of their families and lives for little more than a voice, a prayer, a hope. For years, Gaza has been the world’s largest open-air prison, one bounded on all sides by the hatred and terror of Israel and the complicity of its partner in cruelty–Egypt. But a short recast reminds us it is no stranger to Israeli war crimes. 

With an opening salvo on December 27, 2008, Israel bombed the main police headquarters in Gaza City, killing 42 cadets standing in formation–none bearing weapons. Later it blew up 18 other police stations throughout the Gaza Strip. In total, 248 police officers were killed having not fired a single shot at Israeli forces. Over the twenty-one days that followed, Israel deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure and made widespread use of prohibited weapons, such as white phosphorous, in highly populated areas in clear violation of international law. During the onslaught, Israel targeted 23 U.N. buildings and/or compounds killing numerous civilians who had taken shelter there. In the deadliest case, 43 civilians were killed by an Israeli shelling of one such compound. Palestinian schools were also targeted. On January 5, an aerial strike killed three men who had sought shelter at the Asma Elementary Co-Ed A School. Twelve days later, a military ordinance struck the Beit Lahia Elementary School while it was being used as an emergency shelter… killing two young boys and injuring 13 others. Human Rights Watch documented at least seven instances where Israeli soldiers executed civilians… including five women and four children who were standing together waving white flags to convey they posed no threat. In another incident, Israeli soldiers shot and killed several members of the al-Najar family in Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis. Following orders from soldiers to leave their neighborhood, and while waving white flags, Rawiya al-Najjar and her family were gunned down. When the carnage ended, some 1440 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,000 injured… most of them civilians. According to the Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, 252 minors under the age of 16 (boys and girls) who did not take part in any fighting were killed along with 111 women and girls over 16. 

Five years later, in the summer of 2014, the world was reminded of what it is to be a Palestinian in the crosshairs of a colonial fiend hell-bent on relegating them en masse to the ranks of the disappeared. During Israel’s unhinged six-week rampage it dropped 40,000 tons of explosives on more than 5200 “targets” throughout Gaza. At its end, some 2200 Palestinians were slaughtered, including 550 children, with some 10,000 others injured. Almost all the victims were civilians. More than 1900 children were orphaned, and hundreds of thousands were internally displaced with 20,000 homes, 26 NGO service providers, a half-dozen UNRWA facilities, 23 hospitals and health-care facilities, 133 schools, 360 factories, and 50,000 acres of croplands destroyed or damaged by Israel. Half of Gaza’s poultry stock was slaughtered along with thousands of family pets. 

These are but a few of the more glaring examples of the recent yet unbroken mayhem long unleashed by Israel against a Palestinian community that never left its roots or lost the call of its collective claim. To keep track of this havoc is to bear witness to unspeakable crimes typically against the frail, the young, the passive who carry hope and horror-not weapons. According to Save the Children in the run-up to the most recent explosion, 2023 had already proved to be the deadliest year for Palestinian children since records began with at least 38 of them killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. That number has increased exponentially over the last several days with, it has been reported, some 500 additional children killed in Gaza. The Defense for Children International, a Palestinian human rights organization focused on child rights, reports that since 2005 major Israeli military offensives have killed more than 1,000 children in the 140 square mile prison of Gaza.

Meanwhile, there are some 5,200 Palestinians in Israeli prisons including 33 women and 170 children held largely on what are described as “security grounds.” Detained essentially indefinitely, they never see the inside of an Israeli civilian courtroom with the benefit of meaningful counsel, and the rights to due process and a trial. For them, it is very much a military star chamber–one overseen by a military judge and a military prosecutor with endless six-month detention extensions absent any cap, or established evidence of criminal wrongdoing. 

In the most recent battle, the list of dead and injured civilians continues to grow on both sides and must stop. Yet the narrative of what has happened and why is no less destructive. No matter how many times politicians and theists of all callings seek to control and market the account by blaming Hamas and victimizing Israelis alone, even a cursory search establishes it is an obscene escape from reality. Long before Hamas arrived, Palestinians of all faiths, politics and aspirations fought against the expulsion, hatred and violence forced upon them by European terrorists in the name of a desperate historical rewrite. One which sought and continues to justify ongoing ethnic cleansing as so much an absolute historical rite of passage–a claim that defies the reality of time and long-settled decency and humanitarian law.   

Tragically, after all the millennium we still live in times not unlike the dark march of history where struggles are judged not by the equal application of international law or the will and wail of justice but by the color of one’s skin, the echo of one’s words, the pose of one’s prayer. All too often, the scale of righteousness is weighted not by the credence of the cause but the partisan of one’s cheer. A double standard at best, it is a jury of institutional inequality–one that passes judgment not by the virtuous but the powerful; not by equal application of law but the coercive command of presence. It is specious posturing at its finest; an opportune script sculpted by occupiers across the globe, and not the occupied. It must stop. 

Until the community of onlookers imposes the same standards upon colonizer as they do the colonized; upon Jews and Christians as they do Muslims; on skin tones of white as they do of color, the history of yesterday and that unfolding before us today remains locked in a dismissal falsified story-line. Ultimately, that description instills upon us all the bleak chronicle that the difference between “freedom fighter” and “terrorist” is not the justness of the cause … but who wins.  

Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.