Anything Goes: The New Normal

Image by Hany Osman.

When Donald Trump can thwart the rule of law
And not be treated like an outlaw.
Then I suppose,
Anything goes.
When the IDF can kill civilians
And claim that they all are terrorist minions,
Then, God knows,
Anything goes.

Some people can get away with anything. They can grab women by their genitalia because they “let them,” or, hypothetically, shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose the support of their fans. Less hypothetically, they can violate multiple gag orders and still avoid jail time. They can do all these things—and much more—and see their approval rating rise in the polls.

Some countries can get away with anything. Their leaders can search for imaginary weapons of mass destruction and boast of accomplished missions that result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, then comfortably retire to paint clown portraits of their deceased enemies. They can joke about taking out pop music idols in Predators strikes to protect the chastity of their daughters as they deploy real drones that “unintentionally” kill civilians and release deceptively low casualty figures.

Other countries can get away with genocide. Seven months into Israel’s asymmetrical war against the Palestinian people, the debate still rages over whether Israel is engaged in genocide. The mainstream press seems more concerned with devoting airtime to the murder of a puppy by South Dakota’s rifle-toting, canicidal, living Bratz doll governator and the bloviations of a flatulent, wannabe dictator-for-a-day than to the slaughter of over 41,000 Palestinians. And while the Gazan Health Ministry’s numbers are in dispute, Israeli spokesman Avi Hyman, who insists his government is committed to avoiding civilian casualties, has not been able to offer any concrete numbers of his own; yet, inexplicably, he can somehow confirm, with unwavering conviction, the number of Hamas “terrorists” the IDF has killed.

Ah, we reassure ourselves, but no one is above the law—domestic or international. Except, of course, those who are, and who, true to the principle of trickle-down criminal justice, quite literally piss on those below.

According to media pundits, the outrage over puppy-killing owes much to Americans’ fondness for dogs, whom many consider family members. Sadly, many of those same Americans are not so emotionally inclusive when it comes to Palestinians, perhaps because they do not accept them as members of the human family.

Welcome to the new Normal.

In this parallel reality, Jews who oppose Israel’s genocide in Gaza and America’s complicity in it are antisemites. The House has passed a bill that, among other things, defines antisemitism as “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” This must offer little comfort to Holocaust survivors like 87-year-old Stephen Kapos, who has stated:

What distinguishes the Jewish Holocaust is its industrial scale and industrial methods being applied. And what has been happening in Gaza is similar in that the scale of the bombing and in the indiscriminate nature of the bombing, the complete lack of care about women and children being the majority of the victims amounts to industrial-scale genocide. The painting of the Palestinian people as worthless, almost “animal-like” by the description of some of the leaders of that dehumanization enables the population of Israel to tolerate what’s going on. The way that Palestinian people who were arrested and treated, having to take their clothes off and parading them … it’s part of the humiliation. In the West Bank, the way the checkpoints are organized, the way you are forced to wait for hours for no reason in order to go to school or to go to work, etc. All this amounted to humiliation similar to what we experienced. The sort of determination and consistency with which they are setting about to destroy the whole of Gaza is very similar to the kind of cruelty and determination of the fascist regimes. Some of the actions of the Nazi state in dehumanizing and completely cruel large-scale killings, etc., if it is repeated, I don’t see why you couldn’t make the parallel. It can only be helpful in understanding what’s going on to make the parallel. I don’t think there should be any taboo about that.

And so we add to the growing list of antisemites, Jews themselves, and not just Jews, but those who have personally experienced the horrors of the Holocaust itself. There is nothing like antisemitism to bridge the partisan divide, though, ironically, the question of who exactly is antisemitic remains divisive. Lifting a page from the political right’s playbook, Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Florida) took to X to accuse Sen. Bernie Sanders of antisemitism for calling into question the use of taxpayers’ dollars to “fund Netanyahu’s war machine.” This is the same person who called for decorum when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) responded to Moskowitz’s post by attacking her for criticizing him online because “We see each other at work, we are both better than doing this here.” It would seem that the congressman doesn’t see Sen. Sanders often enough to extend to him the same courtesy and call him (and by extension all Jews who oppose the genocide in Gaza) a Jew-hater to his face.

In contrast, there is no price to pay for anti-Palestinianism. Israeli leaders continue to express their genocidal intentions, operating under the pretext that the descendants of the survivors of one genocide could not conceivably be the agents of another, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Evoking Amalek, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not only boasted of creating a Greater Israel “from the river to the sea” and displayed a map of the “New Middle East” at the UN General Assembly from which Gaza and the West Bank had been expunged, but he employs his IDF to make the aspirational geography behind the slogan a reality.

Likud’s Galit Distel Atbaryan has urged all Israelis to “invest [their] energy in one thing. Erasing all of them[Palestinians] from the face of the earth,” adding, “Gaza needs to be wiped out—and in time, the West Bank.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a logorrheic spewer of anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian hate, has called for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and insisted that Jews who kill sixteen-year-old Palestinian teens should not be executed but Arabs who kill Jews should, because the former is an act of ethnic preservation while the latter is an act of “terrorism.” Gvir, a Jewish supremacist and former Kahanist, has stated, “The Land of Israel must be settled, and at the same time as the settlement of the Land, a military operation must be launched. [We must] demolish buildings, eliminate terrorists, not one or two, but tens and hundreds, if necessary even thousands.”

Genocidal rhetoric is one thing; genocidal rhetoric combined with the military might to carry it out is quite another. The number of such statements uttered by Israel’s political and military leaders is too numerous to list here; however, they are rivaled by those of its American collaborators who provide the arms to carry out mass murder on the industrial scale described by Kapos.

Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), who has declared that he will “not tolerate hate and antisemitism in the halls of Congress,” boasts that “we are going to turn [Palestine] into a parking lot,” the use of “we” apparently acknowledging the role that America will play in assisting Israel’s urban renewal efforts. It would appear that Miller is far more tolerant of hate in those hallowed halls when its targets are Palestinians.

Rep. Brian Mast (R. Florida) has stated, “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. Clear Enough?”

It is clear as crystal that Mast, who opposes humanitarian aid and denies the existence of innocent Palestinian civilians, condones the genocide in Gaza.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, echoing sentiments voiced by Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu in 2023, who once declared, “There is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza,” has recently opined that Israel should “nuke” Gaza to end the war quickly, though that would, to the dismay of Jared Kushner and Jewish settlers, certainly hamper any plans to turn the area into “very valuable” beachfront property. Netanyahu, performatively “suspended” Eliyahu from attending cabinet meetings (in fact, he was permitted to participate by phone in a government meeting just hours after his “suspension”); it is unlikely the hysterically histrionic Graham will face any consequences at all.

This relentless deluge of dehumanizing genocidal rhetoric should sound familiar to Americans, whose own recursive bombast of racial annihilation has historically characterized the nation’s domestic and foreign policy. “The only good ____ is a dead ___.” (Fill in the blanks—and the unmarked mass graves—with the melanated other of your choice: “Indian,” “nigger,” “Filipino,” “Jap,” Arab.”) According to the Israelis and their U.S. collaborators, Palestinians hold human life in low regard, not unlike General William Westmoreland’s “Oriental, “who doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner.” This is the American mindset that justifies mass murder and ultimately led to the slaughter of over a million Vietnamese and the “killing fields” of Cambodia that the late unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger sowed and the U.S.-backed Pol Pot reaped. This is the genocidal rhetoric that cements the U.S.-Israeli bond, a rhetoric that, when put into practice, ultimately exculpates its practitioners.

Recividism is the price paid for escaping the consequences of past transgressions. Seventy-nine years after the nuclear bombing of Japan, Mr. Graham can ask Meet the Press host Kristen Welker with the overwrought, rhetorical certitude, “Why is it okay for America to drop two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end their existential threat war? Why was it okay to do that? I thought it was okay.” To which the answer is, No, Mr. Graham, it was not okay. But apparently, the senator has never seen a war crime he thought deserved punishment until he did. Some civilian lives are more valuable than others, provided, of course, that you are willing to admit that civilians exist at all and are not a part of some nefarious hive mind that necessitates unbridled extermination.

The mindset that not all civilian lives are created equal, theatrically fine-tuned for mainstream corporate media, expressed itself in National Security Council spokesman John Kirby’s melodramatic, photo-op-tic lachrymosity over Russian atrocities in Ukraine and Hamas’ slaughter of Israelis. Yet, dry-eyed as a Vulcan, he is unable to muster a modicum of empathy for butchered Palestinians, declaring matter-of-factly, “This is war.”

If we demand that pro-Palestinian, anti-genocide protestors be judicious in their use of language so as not to give the impression of antisemitism, why isn’t the same demanded of supporters of Israel? The simple answer is that anti-Palestinianism doesn’t matter.

Anything goes.

Some in the media have lambasted the “intersectionality” of these protests. They conveniently ignore the intersectionality on the other side. Not satisfied with banning books and sanitizing local school boards and elementary and high schools, the right, abetted by fair-weather “liberals” anxious to preserve their positions in the hallowed halls of government and academe and fearful of being denounced as antisemitic, have used campus pro-Palestinian, anti-genocide protests as a pretext to purge elite universities of “radicalized” students and professors. In a Noemian display of ovarian fortitude, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik called police on campus pro-Palestinian, anti-genocide protesters. Like Cricket, these students and their protests had to be put down because, allegedly, they posed a danger to life and property. More likely, after a swithering, ingratiating performance before the House committee hearing on campus antisemitism, it was to spare Shafik the same fate as Harvard’s Claudine Gay and UPenn’s Elizabeth Magall and to protect the university’s endowments and investment portfolio. In her future memoirs, no doubt, Shafik will tell us she met with and stared down Cornell West at the DMV.

At the hearing, chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R. North Carolina), who has described Columbia as a “hotbed” of antisemitism and “a platform for those supporting terrorism and violence against the Jewish people,” criticized students for sponsoring an event featuring a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organization, noting that “a taxpayer-funded institution would become a forum for the promotion of terrorism raises serious questions.” However, Foxx is decidedly less inquisitive about how another taxpayer-funded institution, the state of Israel, has become an active agent of genocidal slaughter in Gaza.

Obviously, the same rules do not apply. Campus protestors who make the mistake of believing they do are branded terrorists, arrested, expelled, and doxxed. The irony is that, as events at UCLA made clear, pro-Israel, pro-genocide protesters can lob fireworks inside pro-Palestinian, anti-genocide encampments and attack them not only with racist and inflammatory chants but also with fists, metal bars, and wooden slabs—yet it is the victims, not the perpetrators of the violence, who are quite literally Bashed in the media, compared to Nazis, and arrested. At Columbia, Yale, and Harvard, pro-Palestinian, anti-genocide protestors have been branded antisemites, exposed to online threats, and targeted by “doxxing trucks” that publicly display their names and photos. Many of these doxxed students are students of color. Instead of House hearings on the matter, there is only the sound of crickets—the insect, not the canine variety.

How many “apparent” war crimes, “possible” violations of international law, and “plausible genocides” must Israel commit, and how many shifting “redlines”—assuming, that is, any actually exist—must be crossed before U.S. financial and military aid is cut?

Until those redlines are indelibly drawn, anything goes, including any pretense of America as a moral force in the world, but then this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the nation has chosen to be on the wrong side of history and vilified those who sought to correct its course.