If This Isn’t a Picture of Hell, I Don’t Know What Is

Last week, I saw a music video of Israeli children singing “annihilate everyone” in reference to Israel’s rampage on the besieged enclave of Gaza. I had to pinch myself to realize that what I was watching was real. How could anyone use children in such a manner? And then I remembered every other genocidal venture in history. Every other campaign against human beings for the stated purpose of revenge or for “purifying” a place. How many children have been given songs to sing about killing people they couldn’t even begin to know? How many of them were rewarded with praises and treats? How many similar songs have been sung before the bodies of rotting flesh and bone?

If you take just a moment to look at Israeli society today, with an objective eye, you will see the signs. Politicians, religious leaders, reporters casually using the language of dehumanization. Justifying war crimes and genocide. We’ve heard this rhetoric before.

Following the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th against Israeli civilians, what has Israel’s so-called war accomplished thus far? Has any military target been taken out? Has Hamas been shaken to the point of surrender? No.

What it HAS accomplished however is well over 14,000 dead civilians, thousands of whom are children. It has carpet-bombed entire neighborhoods, mosques, a church, schools, UN shelters, apartment buildings, bakeries, stores, hospitals. It has created an unprecedented humanitarian health crisis, in what has been referred to prior to October 7th as the world’s biggest open-air prison. One Israeli official went so far as saying disease and famine were good strategies for victory. It has crushed thousands under the rubble to die a slow, agonizing death or in hospital without anesthesia, food or clean water. And it is rapidly creating another generation of people with missing limbs, missing parents, missing siblings and missing any sense of hope for the future.

For 75 years, Israel has used the support it gets from the United States, the most powerful country on the planet, to build an elaborate system of apartheid. Accusing any legitimate critic of its brutality of antisemitism, it has gotten away with decades of ethnic cleansing, arbitrary and indefinite detention of children, home demolitions, land theft, water theft, economic exploitation, settler violence and terrorism, and widespread discrimination. Other Western nations have colluded in this, including Canada and the UK. Even Russia and China have made sweet deals with Israel. After all, it has some of the best surveillance technology in the world on offer.

Now it is using that same privilege to provide cover for a creeping genocide of a captive people. Its politicians and pundits have made their intentions very clear. When the “humanitarian pause” ends, it will start all over again. And we stand as witness to it, as it unfolds in real-time before our eyes. What does that say of us?

It could have been different. There have been voices all along calling for unity. Calling for reconciliation. Visionaries, both Jewish and Palestinian, with the goal of one, secular nation with equal rights for all people in the land. Jews and Palestinians, living at first as equals, then, in time, as friends or even brothers and sisters. A just peace that dismantled the systems of segregation, discrimination and oppression. But those voices were maligned. They still are. Instead, world leaders let the monsters run the show. They let Christian Zionists in the US create a murderous foreign policy to suit their unhinged, eschatological prophesies. They let the war profiteers rake in enormous tons of cash for more military equipment, weapons and contracts. More billions in dollars for a future devoid of humanity.

And this is the result. Children singing anthems of annihilation for other children. Children who live only miles away from them in captivity and squalor. If this isn’t a picture of hell, I don’t know what is.

Kenn Orphan is an artist, sociologist, radical nature lover and weary, but committed activist. He can be reached at kennorphan.com.