Editor's Note: Typically, the Dissenter Newsletter focuses on whistleblowers, government secrecy, and press freedom-related issues. But in a follow-up to last week's guest post, I invited Chip Gibbons to address the widespread support in Washington, D.C., for Israel's siege against Gaza.
As Israel’s attacks on Gaza enter their tenth day, the cruel siege and vicious bombing have taken a grim human toll.
Israel’s growing violence has been nearly universally determined to be collective punishment by human rights organizations. A growing number of experts also describe Israel’s actions in Gaza as a genocide or as being on the verge of becoming a genocide.
So far, Israel has killed 2,300 people, including over 700 children. The bombardment has wiped out forty-seven entire families. The hospitals and morgues are overflowing. Bodies are now being stored in ice cream trucks. Four hundred thousand people are homeless. The machinery of death operates quickly in Gaza and, by the time you read these words, those statistics will no longer be accurate.
But it must be stressed that the dead and displaced are not mere statistics. Behind these numbers are real human tragedies.
Gaza shares a friendship agreement with Barcelona, Spain. On October 13, Gaza’s city council sent a goodbye letter to their Spanish counterparts.
“We don’t know if we’ll be able to keep in contact from now on,” the letter read, “so please, tell the following generations about us, if we don't exist anymore, about how beautiful and charming the Palestinian people were and how committed they were to their land and cause."
On October 15, Mondoweiss’s Gaza correspondent Tareq S. Hajjaj wrote, “Today I’m telling you the news. Tomorrow, I may be the news. I’m not sure that I will be able to write another story in the upcoming days. I’m not sure that I will survive.”
Hajjaj implored readers to “remember that the most powerful countries in the world are killing civilians in Gaza,” as well as to “keep my stories alive so that you keep me alive. Remember that I wanted a normal life, a small home full of my children’s laughter and the smell of my wife’s cooking.”
As terrifying as the war may be so far, there is fear that the worst is yet to come. It has been widely assumed in the media for days that an Israeli ground invasion is increasingly imminent.
On October 13, Israel ordered 1 million people in the north of Gaza to flee to the south. As part of this order, the Israeli military ordered hospitals to evacuate. This impossible order was condemned by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most residents of Gaza are already refugees.
During the creation of Israel, militias slaughtered entire Palestinian villages such as Deir Yassin and Lydda. Palestinians fled their homes, often taking the keys with them believing they would return some day. In spite of a 1948 United Nations Resolution mandating their right to return, 75 years later their expulsion continues.
Many Gazans question whether they will in fact be allowed to return and view this as Israel’s latest attempt at ethnic cleansing.
Those that do leave are guaranteed no respite from the merciless onslaught. The day Israel gave its evacuation order its military attacked a convoy carrying people fleeing along the route Israel told them would be a safe passage.
Seventy Palestinian civilians died. They were mostly women, children, and the disabled. Israel has tried to deny responsibility, but all independent analysis of the video of incident have reached the conclusion that an Israeli air strike was responsible for the carnage.
With Israel bombing the very routes it designated as safe corridors, civilians are ever more fearful to flee. In addition to bombing the supposed safe routes, Israel is bombing southern Gaza. Civilians are thus being told to flee from the bombing in the north of Gaza, via roads that Israel bombs, to the south of Gaza, which Israel then bombs.
Israel has also cut electricity, which according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) runs the risk of turning hospitals into morgues. A human being can only survive three days without water. Israel’s actions have raised serious fears that the people of Gaza will die of dehydration.
Under U.S. pressure, Israel claims to have restored water in a single location in southern Gaza. Yet for most of Gaza, water is running out.
The most brutal violence has been in Gaza, but the killing has not been limited to Gaza. On October 13, Israel fired into Lebanon killing Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and wounding journalists from Al Jazeera and Agence France Presse.
At the same time Israel is waging a war on Gaza, soldiers and settlers have killed 57 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank. On Sunday alone, sixteen Palestinians were killed by soldiers during protests against Israel’s war in Gaza.
On October 12, settlers killed two Palestinians civilians who were attending a funeral for Palestinians killed by Israeli settlers the previous day. This year has already been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank. And it appears the ongoing war in Gaza is being used to further escalate this violence.
It was the growing violence in the Occupied West Bank and attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem that Hamas cited as rationale for its October 7, 2023, attacks inside southern Israel.
During the attacks, which were named Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by Hamas, Palestinian fighters killed 900 civilians and 280 soldiers. An additional 150 people were taken hostage. The killing and capturing of civilians was both illegal under international law and morally indefensible.
Nearly everyone involved in politics and media inside Washington, D.C., have condemned the deaths of Israeli civilians. But few are willing to extend that same principle to Palestinians, whether it be those killed in the run up to the current war or the 14 Palestinians killed each hour in Gaza since Israel declared war.
Many of those foaming at the mouth to cheer on Israel’s violence cite the tragic deaths of civilians at the hands of Hamas as reason for Israeli military action. But their concern for civilian life is rendered hollow by their indifference to Palestinian suffering and their utter disregard for the increasingly genocidal proclamations of Israeli government officials.
Or worse, several in Washington openly call for more Palestinian deaths.
Washington’s Frenzied Warmongers
The U.S. taxpayer is the largest funder of Israeli militarism. Without the massive injections of military aid the U.S. delivers to the apartheid state, its current war would not be feasible. Washington stands in a unique place. It actually has meaningful leverage to potentially force de-escalation, a ceasefire, or even a just resolution.
Instead, by all accounts, President Joe Biden's administration has given Israel a greenlight for its current slaughter.
There may be certain areas, such as the requests for Israel to restore the Gazan water supply, where Washington appears to have indicated some limits, but largely Israel’s increasingly genocidal violence has gone unchecked.
Biden has taken to the airwaves and social media repeatedly to proclaim that Americans must stand with Israel. He even lit the White House up in the colors of the Israeli flag. (The White House has no plans to be lit in the colors of the Palestinian flag.)
Early in the war, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted a call for a ceasefire, but this tweet was quickly deleted. As reported, the U.S. State Department sent around an internal memo prohibiting staff from uttering the phrases “de-escalation/ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed,” and “restoring calm.”
Blinken has already visited Israel once and is scheduled to visit a second time. His second visit may correspond with a ground invasion.
The barring of opposition to bloodshed within the State Department is not good enough for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz has claimed credit for getting the State Department's U.S. Office for Palestinian Affairs to delete a tweet condemning Hamas and calling for “all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks.”. Now, Cruz demands that any diplomats encouraging a diplomatic resolution to the conflict be “expelled from the U.S. government.”
The number of grotesque statements from members of Congress are too numerous to count. Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), a darling of the progressive left, announced that he “unequivocally supports any necessary military, intelligence, and humanitarian aid to Israel” and fully supports “Israel neutralizing the terrorists responsible for this barbarism.”
When asked whether one could wipe out Hamas without the growing civilian casualties, Senator Marco Rubio (D-FL) replied there can be no “diplomatic offramp” with “savages.” Instead, they must be “eradicated.” Senator Lindsey Graham (D-SC) declared, “We are in a religious war,” and that when it comes to Gaza, Israel should “level the place.” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said Israel “can bounce the rubble in Gaza.”
There is next to no dissent when it comes to backing Israeli war crimes. The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), have introduced a non-binding resolution that affirms the U.S.’s support for Israel’s war, makes no mention of the suffering of the Palestinians, and promises future military aid to the Israeli government. (As of October 13, all House members (except 13 Democrats) have signed onto the resolution.)
The resolution has not yet passed because the House currently has no speaker due to the bizarre internal dysfunction of the Republican caucus. Yet there is growing pressure within the Republican caucus to restore order so that more weapons can be sent to Israel. There is even discussion of an unprecedented bipartisan House leadership.
A number of Congress members even have shown an eagerness to exploit the violence and launch a war against Iran. This may result in American boots on the ground in a wider regional conflict.
Equating Opposition to War Crimes With Support For Terrorism
Warmongers may be the majority in government and media, but there are many Americans who are dissenting from the drive for war.
Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO) have joined their colleagues in condemning the violence against Israeli citizens, but have called out the apartheid policies of Israel, its brutality against Palestinian civilians, and called for an end to U.S. military aid to the Israeli government. Tlaib has been one of the only voices raising concerns about the 800 U.S. citizens trapped in Gaza, who have been essentially abandoned by the State Department.
Jewish peace groups Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now have staged civil disobediences calling for the end of U.S. support for the genocide of Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Americans have taken to streets across America in demonstrations calling for a ceasefire and in support of Palestinian rights.
These voices have been relentlessly smeared. Borrowing a page from President George W. Bush, Americans have been told by their government that they either support Israel’s slaughter of civilians or support the “terrorists.”
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller criticized reporters who asked about the civilian toll on Gaza, accusing them of asking questions that “ignore” Israeli deaths and Israel’s right to carry out military operations. When asked about progressive members of Congress’s call for a ceasefire, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated such calls were "repugant."
Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian member of Congress, has been mercilessly vilified. A Fox News reporter followed her through the halls of Congress asking her if she supported “beheading” children.
While Tlaib quietly endured the harassment with dignity, videos have gone viral of members of Congress erupting in rage when asked by Jewish peace activist Shabd Singh to end U.S. support for genocide. The most bizarre video came when indicted fraudster Representative George Santos (D-NY) screamed to reporters that Singh was human scum and a terrorist supporter. Santos announced that all terrorist supporters, both elected and unelected, should be barred from Congressional buildings before getting police involved.
Repeatedly, pro-Palestinian protesters have been described as pro-Hamas protesters, allowing First Amendment-protected assemblies to be transformed into a security threat.
Supporters of Palestinian human rights have always been subjected to McCarthyism. I’ve been writing about this dynamic for almost a decade. But the actions of the private blacklisters and their media accomplices have reached new levels of vindictiveness and deceit.
In Boston, a mobile billboard truck has traveled the streets listing the names of college students who belong to student clubs at Harvard that signed onto a statement critical of Israel.
But private blacklisting organizations are not the only ones fixating on college students during a brutal military onslaught. While Israel is killing journalists reporting from the conflict, CNN’s Jake Tapper, who boasts of challenging the powerful, has devoted time from Washington to inspecting the online statements of college students for political heresies.
"StopAntiSemitism.org,” has taken up the cause of having a Houston pediatrician fired. Her crime? She posted to instagram that, when it comes to the death of Palestinian children and Israeli children, “the only difference is that you won’t find YouTube ads for the death of [Palestinian] children. Why? Because their lives are deemed less worthy. Because they have no hidden agenda or propaganda to spread—just raw images. Because Israeli terror*sm is deemed acceptable.”
According to StopAntiSemitism.org, the pediatrician somehow poses a threat to Jewish newborns, citing the unproven story about Hamas beheading infants. When her medical practice failed to fire her for her belief that Israeli and Palestinian children were equal, StopAntiSemitism.org blasted them, calling it a “horrifying response.”
In the land of the free, it is not just self-appointed anti-free speech vigilantes who hunt for people who believe Palestinians are humans. As I documented last week for The Dissenter, the FBI has spent decades manipulating its national security powers to spy on political speech in defense of Palestine.
Hours after the piece was published, reports emerged that the FBI was visiting mosques and the FBI and ICE were detaining Palestinian Americans.
FBI whistleblower Terry Albury, who was imprisoned under the Espionage Act for exposing FBI abuses against civil liberties committed in the name of the War on Terror, warned of the “impending blowback [that domestic and international Muslim communities] will face at the hands of the [FBI] and their pawns as they exploit international events to legitimize a new front in the ‘War On Terrorism.’”
Throughout its existence, the FBI has worked hand in glove with both private blacklisters and congressional McCarthyites. This has been particularly true when it comes to Palestine. Already, there are calls for greater repression.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MI) has publicly called for the Justice Department to open investigations into student protests for Palestinian rights, purportedly to determine if “terror groups” are funding them. Rubio called for the cancellation of visas of immigrants, who participate in pro-Palestinian demonstrations, stating such actions constitute support for State Department-designated foreign terrorist organizations.
Even under the broadest interpretation of the law, Rubio’s suggestion is absurd and unlikely to be implemented. Still, his advocacy will have a chilling effect.
History Repeating Itself?
Many are comparing the atmosphere in the United States right now to the period after the September 11, 2001 attacks. While I do not think the political situation has deteriorated quite as far as it did after the murder of 3,000 Americans, the post-9/11 political landscape is certainly the closest point of comparison to the current histrionics engulfing the political and media class.
Supporters of Israel’s war have even borrowed the language from that period, browbeating those who question the growing slaughter of civilians in Gaza by informing them that you are either with Israel or you are with the terrorists.
History appears to be repeating itself in other ways. In the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, MSNBC fired longtime talk show host Phil Donahue. An internal MSNBC member accused Donahue of being a “difficult public face for NBC” due to his program allegedly being “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
Two decades later, MSNBC has done it again, removing all three of its Muslim anchors—Mehdi Hasan, Ali Velshi, and Ayman Mohyeldin—from hosting duties, though they have continued to appear on air as commentators.
During past escalations of Israeli violence against Palestinans, Hasan and Mohyeldin have come under fire both within MSNBC and from other pro-Israel networks for expressing skepticism towards the Israeli military’s official pronouncements and for treating Palestinians as humans. After pushback, MSNBC returned the anchors to the air.
Perhaps the greatest throwback to the days after 9/11 came when rightwing politicians and media attempted to incite mass panic about a “Hamas Global Day of Jihad.” Hamas had called for global protests on October 13.
Nothing about this call impacted the U.S. or even seemed to involve calls for violence. Yet across social media, conservative accounts posted pictures of firearms, boasting of preparations to defend themselves against a danger existing only in their minds. Even though there were zero credible threats against the U.S., law enforcement across the country dutifully fulfilled their role in the pageantry of panic by increasing their presence.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) took to Twitter to claim her safety was in jeopardy from the Hamas Global Day of Jihad and the volume of pro-Palestinian protests. She asked the House to adjourn so she could stockpile ammunition.
Greene’s conflation of terrorist threats with domestic protests is clearly designed to portray protesters as a terrorism threat. Her comments about buying ammunition are disturbing given the environment. In New York, city council member Inna Vernikov was arrested after bringing a gun to a counter-protest of a pro-Palestinian demonstration.
In Chicago, a six-year-old Palestinian American child was stabbed to death by his family’s landlord, who broke into the apartment yelling “you Muslims must die.” According to police, the family was “targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”
Palestinians are dying in a war funded by the U.S. government. Anyone who questions the human toll of this war is perversely demonized as a supporter of terrorism. Even as Israel’s violence becomes more horrific, Washington remains fully gripped by a mania for war.
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