On the contrary, it’s targeting the “human shields” themselves.
Media performer Sam Harris recently appeared on Piers Morgan’s program. Effecting a flat affect—cool, rational—he used this platform to weigh in on irrational, fanatical Muslims. A clip was first shown of a Muslim (he is identified as the offspring of a Hamas leader) who expostulates that all Muslims are evil. This apparently deranged (or highly remunerated) fellow is a throwback to the days when Peter Lorre, eyes screwed up, was a stand-in for the wily, sinister Other. Mr. Harris seizes on this Archetypal Muslim as proof positive that “It should be obvious to everyone that we have a vast number of people in the Muslim community worldwide … who are powerfully deranged.” His evidence for this sweepingly “obvious” fact? Except for the hapless (or, if he’s generously compensated, very happy) Muslim exhibited on the program, and the fact that Mr. Harris is introduced as “one of the world’s great thinkers” (he’s Jewish, so the praise is redundant), the only proof adduced by Mr. Harris is that the Muslim world produces a prodigious number of suicide bombers—not least, children whose parents have been “rigging them to explode.” He cites no numbers or statistics. Indeed, he cites nothing. There is, of course, by now a vast scholarly corpus on suicide bombers—their origins, motivations, the support they garner. But Mr. Harris doesn’t engage it. Instead: here’s a clip of an apparently deranged Muslim saying Muslims are deranged; Mr. Harris is a genius (he’s Jewish, isn’t he?); ergo it’s “obvious” that he’s right.
To be sure, it’s clearly possible that a large swath of a population can be unhinged; at any rate, temporarily. Witness Germany and Japan from the peak to denouement of World War 2. Or, to consider an example closer at hand: Israel. The Jewish state has launched a war of annihilation against the people of Gaza. The number of genocidal statements uttered by prominent Israelis at every level of the state and civil society since October 7 can by now fill a hefty chunk of cyberspace. But Mr. Harris is not in the least perturbed. Why is that?
First, as a pop secular prophet, indiscriminate mass killing only outrages Mr. Harris’s moral sensibility if it springs from religion. But the protagonists on all sides in the unprecedented bloodlettings of WW1 and WW2—and for that matter the Vietnam War, presided over by “the best and the brightest”—were secular or in thrall to secular ideologies. Was that really better? Indeed, it’s gone over Mr. Harris’s bigoted skull that the most lethal ideologies in the modern epoch have sprung not from religious but secular fanaticism. Hitler, Stalin, Kissinger: they can rightly be accused of many things but pathological religiosity is not one of them. In any event, the animating ideology in Israel is a heady brew of terrestrial calculation and super-terrestrial frenzy. Just a “tiny minority of Jews in Israel,” Harris caveats, “are motivated by their religious fanaticism.” Even were that so (which is most doubtful), it’s hard to figure why maniacal laicism isn’t also odious. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly gestured to the Old Testament as he avows that Israel is waging a war against “Amalek”—i.e., every man, woman, and child in Gaza—“a war between the children of light and the children of darkness.” Does it really matter whether the register of this genocidal invocation is secular or theocratic?
Short of wiping out the entire population in one fell swoop—not easy with the social media at high alert—Israel’s repeatedly stated next-best objective has been to make Gaza uninhabitable. “Whoever returns here, if they return here after, will find scorched earth,” a senior Israeli official in Gaza projected. “No houses, no agriculture, no nothing. They have no future.” Israel implemented a total blockade of Gaza barring entry of any food, water, fuel or electricity; in other words, it’s relying not on prayers exhorting the Almighty’s wrath but on a resolutely secular recipe for genocide that passes Mr. Harris’s taste-test. Unsurprisingly, mass starvation and the spread of lethal diseases have ensued. Israel simultaneously unleashed a biblically indiscriminate (but also targeted) campaign of death and destruction that, by every metric—intensity of bombing and payload size; pace and level of devastation; total civilian casualties as well as women and children versus men killed—puts the hecatomb Israel has inflicted on Gaza in a category all its own in the 21st century; and, by some measures, it occupies a unique category going as far back as World War 2 (if compared, e.g., to the Allied terror bombing of German cities). “Gaza is one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history,” a U.S. military historian observes.
The U.N. relief chief describes the humanitarian situation in Gaza as the “worst ever” in his long career, while the European Union foreign affairs chief calls the situation “catastrophic, apocalyptic.” Israel has killed at least 20,000 Gazans, seventy percent of them women and children. The proportion of men, women and children killed roughly approximates the distribution of men, women, and children in Gaza’s total population—which shouldn’t surprise if the massive bombing and artillery fire is largely indiscriminate. On average, Israel has killed 160 children per day in Gaza; the next highest number among conflict zones in the world is seven (in Syria), while as many children have already been killed in Gaza as in all conflict zones for the three years 2020, 2021, 2022 combined. In order to make Gaza uninhabitable, Israel has reduced to rubble Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. The Financial Times reports that Israel has already achieved half its objective: “Israel’s incursion has left northern Gaza virtually uninhabitable.” Its methodical targeting of Gaza’s hospitals has breached, in the annals of modern warfare, a negative threshold of barbarism.
Notwithstanding this ghastly record, nearly 60 percent of Israeli Jews believed a month into the assault that Israel had deployed too little force in Gaza, while less than two percent believed that Israel used too much force. Israel has a citizen army. Its combatants executing singly and en masse this genocide are broadly representative of Israeli Jewish society. In other words, overwhelmingly, Israeli Jews are either by their actions or vicariously war criminals. But there’s more. Consider the Jewish diaspora. As the genocide proceeds apace, fully 81 percent of American Jews oppose and just 12 percent support a ceasefire. (I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to the deeply inspiring Jewish youth who have stood in the forefront of the resistance to Israel’s genocide.) Based on these salient data points, it would appear “obvious that a vast number of people in the Jewish community worldwide … are powerfully deranged.” Mr. Harris kvells that “There are 15 million Jews on Earth, most of them are impressively secular.” It happens that they are also in the grip of an impressively genocidal rage. “Most of them,” he reassures, “believe very little that would motivate them to die for their religious identity.” But they manifestly do believe enough to kill with abandon the people of Gaza on account of their religious (or is it secular—for the love of Yahweh, what difference does it make?!) identity.
It has been purported in extenuation of ordinary Germans that the Nazis installed a totalitarian state that repressed all dissent and concealed the genocide in the fog of war. Of course, ordinary Germans who wanted to know did know that if not exactly a genocide then still something monstrous was unfolding on the Eastern front. But later on, Germans could still cling to the alibi—in varying degrees disingenuous—that they didn’t know (or fell victim to ubiquitous Nazi propaganda about a “Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy”), and wouldn’t have approved if they did know (or couldn’t but obey coercive orders). Israeli (as well as diasporan) Jews don’t have these excuses. Israel was no doubt traumatized by October 7. But the facts remain that they democratically elected the government and overwhelmingly support the government’s prosecution of a genocide; that they have ready access to information about the genocide in a free and open media both inside and via the Web outside Israel. The genocide in Gaza is unfolding in real time in broad daylight before the eyes of Israeli (and diasporan) Jews and 60 percent literally can’t get enough of it.
But, lo!, we mustn’t miss the forest from the trees. Not the Jews, counsels our cool, rational Jewish genius (redundancy duly noted) but, on the contrary, it’s the Muslims who “it is obvious … are powerfully deranged.”
Second, if there are “so many casualties” in Gaza, Mr. Harris explains—parroting with consummate insipidness every other apologist—that’s because Israel
is fighting a terrorist organization … that is using its own population as human shields. It has strategically embedded itself among civilians…. It put its headquarters under a hospital. It prevents civilians from leaving to safer areas…. This is the issue: we are dealing with a suicidal death cult.
But stepping outside this secular jihadi’s tent, isn’t it—dare I say—obvious that, if Israel has inflicted unprecedented death and destruction on Gaza, that’s because that’s its objective? It is not “fighting a terrorist organization,” it is fighting the people—the existence—of Gaza. The media reflexively declare that this is an “Israel-Hamas War.” But that is already swallowing the Big Lie of Israeli propaganda. Israel is not targeting “terrorists” supposedly hiding behind “human shields.” On the contrary, it’s targeting the “human shields” themselves.
Of course, Israel wants to liquidate Hamas, but it rightly apprehends that another, more deadly Hamas will emerge in its place. If Hamas were eliminated, it would still be a Pyrrhic victory. Gaza itself must be destroyed. Indeed, that speck of land has always been a thorn at Israel’s side as Gazans stubbornly resisted Israeli repression. Israel eventually alit on the objective of subjugating Gaza by reducing it—in the words of Amira Hass—to a “giant concentration camp.” In large part it succeeded. Head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland in 2004 himself pronounced Gaza a “huge concentration camp.” But when Hamas won democratic elections in 2006 and consolidated its hold over Gaza, Israel confronted a new dilemma. Hamas was feeling its way towards a comprehensive settlement with Israel on the consensus basis of international law and U.N. resolutions. In other words, Hamas was engaging in another of those dastardly “peace offensives” that have always filled Israeli leaders with holy terror. They will only accept a victor’s peace; not one among equals under the law. So Israel imposed a suffocating economic blockade on Gaza and periodically “mowed the lawn” in order to rupture the spine of any resistance to its rule.
But on October 7, the reality lit up that Israel’s strategy had failed. The people of Gaza refused to languish and die in a concentration camp. The slaves had gone into revolt. And like our own homegrown Nat Turner revolt, they (in part) struck out indiscriminately at their oppressors. It created a crisis for Israeli society but also—to recycle the old cliché—presented an opportunity. To once and for all rid Israel of the Gaza thorn. To free itself not just of this generation of “terrorists” but as well the more than one million children in Gaza representing the next “terrorist” generation. Israel initially set its sights on dumping Gaza’s inhabitants in the Sinai desert but Egypt nixed the ethnic cleansing. Israel next proceeded to repurpose Gaza concentration camp as a death camp. (The Nazis turned to genocide when the advent of world war preempted the deportation of Jews.) It did scrape against the limits imposed by the formally genocide-intolerant international community. But that factor, critical as it was, bore on the genocide’s efficiency quotient (Israel couldn’t outright nuke Gaza), not on the genocidal intent. And Israel could always count on useful idiots abroad to disguise and defend its genocide by endlessly reciting the incantation: “Israel is fighting a terrorist organization … that is using its own population as human shields.”
If Human Rights Watch reports that Israel is systematically targeting hospitals without military justification, that’s because Israel is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” (Memo to Mr. Harris: a detailed investigation by the Washington Post has debunked the agitprop that Hamas “put its headquarters” under al-Shifa hospital.) If the U.N. reports that the number of its staff killed by Israel in Gaza is unprecedented in the organization’s history, that’s because Israel is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that Israel not only killed more journalists in Gaza during the first 10 weeks than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year, but that it has also targeted the families of journalists, that’s because Israel is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If Israel has killed more healthcare workers in Gaza than the total number killed across all conflict zones every year in recent memory, that’s because it is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If Israel murders in broad daylight bare-chested civilians hoisting a white flag, that’s because it is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If Israeli snipers assassinate Christian women seeking refuge in a church, that’s because Israel is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If CNN reports that “Israeli soldiers raiding a hospital … desecrated the bodies of dead patients with bulldozers, let a military dog maul a man in a wheelchair, and shot multiple doctors even after vetting them for terror links,” that’s because Israel is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If Human Rights Watch reports that Israel is “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,” that’s because it is fighting “a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” If the New York Times reports that Israel dropped 2,000-pound bombs on areas that Israel itself designated safe havens, that’s because it is “fighting a terrorist organization … using its own population as human shields.” (Memo to Mr. Harris: There are no “safer areas” in Gaza.) And on and on. However incongruous, however absurd, however ludicrous, however preposterous—however utterly divorced from and irrelevant to unfolding reality the recitation of this mantra has become, it still doesn’t faze these crazed cult members as they keep repeating it day in and day out. Om. Hari Krishna. Hara Kiri….
But Mr. Harris doesn’t just extenuate the genocide. He implicitly endows it with a positive content. Every Muslim—including every Muslim child—he enlightens listeners, is an actual or potential suicide bomber imperiling Western civilization. Isn’t it only a flea’s hop to infer that Israel is doing the (secular) Lord’s work in Gaza as it wages a civilizational war against “deranged” Muslim culture and even if one million children—pardon me: children who have been “rigged to explode”—might die? Mr. Harris somehow construes that it takes enormous moral courage to expose this Muslim peril on Piers Morgan’s program. Indeed, it takes as much courage as the German professor in the midst of the Nazi holocaust who sounded the alarm that “parasitic” Jewish culture was imperiling Aryan civilization.
Mr Harris proclaims that “This is the issue: we are dealing with a suicidal death cult.” I’m afraid, however, that the real issue is this: We are dealing with a Ziontology murder cult; and Mr. Harris is one of its gurus.
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