When the US is directly or indirectly involved in conflicts around the world, it will almost always, like clockwork, seek to exploit pre-existing tensions between military or social factions within the country in question. Leading up to the Iraq invasion, for instance, there existed a long-standing, often Kurdish-led, opposition to Saddam Hussien’s rule. Polls taken after the Iraq invasion indicate that said opposition was a minority opinion overall, but it was real, and those within particular factions felt sincerely about their position—and had clear historical reasons for feeling the way they did. Nevertheless, the point is that the American military apparatus deliberately seized upon and amplified these existing intranational divisions to foment and justify the invasion of Iraq. The US has drawn from the same playbook in its involvement in conflicts from Venezuela to Ukraine to Yemen, seeking out some sizable cohort of people who hate the same government Washington wants to replace, and instrumentalizing that group for its own less noble ends. When it comes to the US backing of different factions in Enemy States, its efforts range from exploiting organic, long-existing discontent to attempting to manufacture discontent and “opposition leaders” out of thin air.
Nowhere has the more cynical and inorganic end of this spectrum been more obvious than an old talking point made new again over the past few weeks. As calls for a ceasefire continue to grow among the public and in Congress, in the face of over 16,000 Palestinians—including over 7,000 children—killed by Israel’s siege, pro-bombing pundits are dusting off a classic line that, in the context of Palestine, is manifestly absurd: Palestinians actually want Israel to bomb Gaza.
It’s a common tough-guy line regurgitated by those rejecting calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. Here is Eli Lake, former Bloomberg Opinion columnist, contributing editor at Commentary, and host of the Re-Education podcast, evoking the talking point while dressing down UK MP and former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn:
The “point” Lake is trying to make is that Palestinians want Hamas “permanently destroyed” as much as the Israeli military says it does; thus, Palestinians want the mass bombing of Gaza to continue until Hamas (and, at this rate, everyone else) is gone; thus, it is actually a denial of Palestinians’ own wishes to call for a ceasefire. This line, of course, is beyond absurd and has no basis in reality. There is not a single prominent Palestinian politician, scholar, civil society organization, or diaspora group calling for Israel to bomb Gaza in order to “liberate it from Hamas.” Moreover, as I laid out in The Nation last week, the vast bulk of Palestinians—regardless of their views on Hamas—are keenly aware that Israel’s objective is not to “hunt for Hamas” in some targeted or deliberate way, but to administer collective punishment and forcible population transfers of Palestinians out of Palestine.
Nevertheless, those claiming to speak for the underrepresented constituency of pro-bombing, pro-invasion Palestinians keep going back to this well.
When confronted by a reporter on Oct. 27 about her stance on ending the bloodshed in Gaza, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—who still refuses to back a ceasefire—responded, “I am not willing to call for a ceasefire at this point because that would not help the residents of Gaza nor would it help the security of Israel.”
A ceasefire would not help the residents of Gaza? Which residents? The tens of thousands of dead residents, or the over 1 million former residents who are now refugees? If it were possible to conduct a snap poll of those living in Gaza right now, one wonders what percentage of respondents would agree with Sen. Duckworth’s assessment that a ceasefire is bad for them. But, alas, our politicians know best.
The bombing-Palestinians-for-their-own-good line is one frequently used by Israeli officials themselves. Israel’s UK ambassador, Tzipi Hotovely, for instance, recently told Sky News that “the Hamas regime is bad for Palestinians and Israelis.”
It is also a line repeatedly parroted by pro-Israel politicians across the US. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, reiterating his support for Israel’s bombing and siege of Gaza while still trying to pay lip service to displaced Palestinians, told reporters on Oct. 19, “Our hearts are broken for you as well. This is a deeply difficult and of course divisive issue. I will say I have zero empathy for Hamas, at all. And Hamas is bad for Palestinians.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) echoed a similar line on Dec. 1 when defending Israel’s ongoing siege and bombing of Gaza, while simultaneously insisting the need to tone down the wanton slaughter of civilians. “Israel has a responsibility to take out Hamas,” Moulton said. “You cannot have peace with Hamas in power. Hamas isn’t good for the Palestinians either, Hamas is using them as human shields in this conflict. So, everyone benefits from Israel taking out Hamas.”
Someone should let the Palestinians running for their lives, having their whole families wiped out, futilely scrambling for clean water, and watching their entire society be destroyed know that this is all to their benefit.
Neoconservative, staunch Biden defender, and Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently added to the “We know what’s best for Palestinians” concern troll chorus of Beltway hacks, penning a Nov. 28 piece titled “Why backers of a Palestinian state should oppose an immediate cease-fire.” In this post, Rubin sagely details how a ceasefire would actually harm the Palestinian cause. “As long as Hamas, a sworn enemy of the Palestinian Authority, held power, there would be no chance for a unified Palestinian state coexisting with Israel,” she writes. “Ironically, the fiercest American critics of Netanyahu, in pursuing an immediate cease-fire before Hamas is defeated, effectively adopt the very same failed strategy that Netanyahu did.”
Rubin’s heart presumably bleeds for the people of Palestine and their fight for liberation. Never mind that Rubin was censured by her own publication in 2011 for endorsing a far-right article advocating that Palestinian children be “fed to the sharks.” As Ali Gharib wrote at the time for Think Progress, “Rachel Abrams, a board member of a right-wing pro-Israel organization, wrote a controversial blog post calling for Palestinian militants — and their children — to be fed to sharks. After Abrams linked the blog on Twitter,” Gharib continues, “Washington Post neoconservative opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin retweeted it, eliciting another round of controversy. Now, the Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, weighed in to declare his ‘disappointment’ with Rubin.”
It is, indeed, curious that Rubin, who also backed the Iraq War and reflexively blamed Muslims for Anders Breivik’s 2011 terrorist attack in Norway, suddenly cares about the dispossessed Arab populations of the Middle East.
It’s not just bombing that’s good for Palestinians, apparently. The Israeli government is currently shopping around a plan to “resettle” Palestinians (e.g., ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Palestine once and for all), which relies on the faux-humanitarian premise that, in order to save Gazans from Hamas, they must be forced to flee to other countries. “The neighboring borders have been closed for too long,” the proposal states. “But it is now clear that in order to free the Gazan population from the tyrannical oppression of Hamas and to allow them to live free of war and bloodshed, Israel must encourage the international community to find the correct, moral and humane avenues for the relocation of the Gazan population.” (Read that last sentence as many times as you need to for the horrific, genocidal logic at the center of it to sink in.)
Former Bush and Trump advisor John Bolton uses the same argument to justify explicitly advocating genocide in a Nov. 16 Hill op-ed. “The real future for Gazans is to live somewhere integrated into functioning economies,” Bolton says about what, in his mind, is a “viable long-term solution that receives little attention”: forcing Palestinians out of Palestine and “resettling” them elsewhere. “That is the only way to realize the promise of a decent life and stability for a people who have been weaponized for far too long.” He reiterates this point in a Dec. 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which he states that “the only long-term solution is to deny Hamas access to concentrated, hereditary refugee populations by resettling Gazans in places where they can enjoy normal lives.”
All of these prominent backers of Israel’s bombing, siege, and ethnic cleansing campaign of Gaza—that includes textbook war crimes and collective punishment tactics of cutting off civilian access to fuel, water, food, medicine, and electricity—want you to know that they absolutely, for sure, love and care for Palestinians. It’s certainly reasonable to argue that Palestinians would be better off without Hamas’ rule over Gaza in an abstract or theoretical sense. However, given that these statements are not abstract but actively supporting a very real and ongoing campaign of collective suffering in Gaza, it’s more than reasonable to suspect that this feigned concern for the plight of Palestinians, who must be removed from Gaza “for their own good,” may not be entirely useful or sincere.