Israel’s License to Kill: Genocidal Campaign has Been Unleashed in Gaza

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed thousands of Palestinian children.(Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Jeremy Salt

The consequence is to license Israel, in the eyes of the public and the politicians, to do whatever it wants to do in Gaza, where within a few days Israel had already killed hundreds of children.  

In war, even before the fighting starts, a priority task is to invalidate the enemy as a moral human being, and then, as the cartoonists get to work, not a human being at all.  

This can be summed up in William Gladstone’s condemnation of ‘the Turks’ in the 1870s as the “one great anti-human specimen of humanity.”   

The atrocities committed or allegedly committed by Ottoman irregulars set the scene for war and,  what we now call,  the massacre and ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Bulgaria. About these atrocities, Gladstone had nothing to say. 

Once the domestic audience has been persuaded that the enemy is intrinsically evil, brutal and inhumane, any horror can be believed.  

As Germans were a deeply embedded part of ‘western civilization,’ giving to the world some of its greatest literature, philosophy, music and scientific discoveries, an alternative identity had to be found for atrocity stories to be believed. 

This was done by turning Germans into ‘the Hun,’ a reference to the nomadic tribal group from central Asia that invaded the Roman empire in the 4th century. As the Huns were possibly of Turkic origin, the ‘Hun’ served the propaganda war being waged against the Ottoman Empire – ‘the Turks’ – as well.

The ‘Hun’ was soon being drawn as an ape with a spiked helmet with his hands grasping a blood-soaked world. 

Having been turned into a monster, the British public could believe that the Hun had a corpse factory where bodies were melted down for fat, that they raped Belgian nuns,  cut the breasts off woman and threw babies into the air to catch them on their bayonets. 

The effect on the public was two-fold, creating a lust to kill in the men and a similar blood lust on the home front. Only after the war did research show, insofar as it could show so long after the events, that these stories were lies told to inflame the British public against the enemy. 

The campaign against ‘the Turks’ knew even fewer limits.  The deadly effect on civilians of the war in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus hardly needed exaggerating.  

The fate of the Armenians still poisons relations between Armenians and Turks. At the same time, the suffering of Muslims and their death from the same combination of causes (massacre, exposure, disease and malnutrition) is still mostly ignored.  

‘The Turk’ was no longer ‘unspeakable,’ the old phrase, but monstrous beyond any human limits, Gladstone’s “anti-human specimen of humanity” revived. The most lurid tales were told, with accusations still being presented as fact.   

The anti-Turkish campaign continued after the war, setting up in the public mind the Greek invasion of western Anatolia in 1919.  The headlines in the British and American press tell the story: ‘Millions of Greeks Massacred, Thrown into the Sea,’ ‘1,000,000 Greeks put to Death by Turco-Teuton Forces in Asia,’ ‘Turks Parboiled 250,000.’  

The truth, as revealed by an inter-allied commission of inquiry in two reports, one in 1919 suppressed because it was so embarrassing to Greece and the British government,  was that the atrocities were overwhelmingly committed by the Greek army and the civilians following in its wake.  

The scale was so great that the Greek campaign was described by an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)  commissioner and by Arnold Toynbee, also on the scene, as a ‘war of extermination’ of the Turks.

The atrocities alleged against the Turks in 1914-18 also involved the killing of babies in the most horrible fashion, burnt alive and heads brought in a bag to a commander.  

These atrocity stories could be believed as ‘the Turk’ had already been set up as such a hateful creature, capable of anything. Their sole purpose was to step up the hatred already generated in the public on both sides of the Atlantic. 

This is not to say that real atrocities were not committed. They always are, in war, but the purpose here was dehumanization and the resort to any lie that would inflame the public and maintain public support for the war at a high level.

The baby as a weapon of war was used in 1990 when a weeping young woman described how Iraqi soldiers had pulled babies out of their humidicribs in a Kuwaiti hospital and thrown them to the floor but the story was false. 

The woman turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington, her script having been written by a public relations firm.

The WMD lies told in 2003 enabled the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the ruination of their country. More lies were told to justify the destruction of Libya and then Syria and more lies are now being told over the current war.  

The media has been running the beheaded babies story day after day, when their single source is one soldier, a settler associated with some of the most violent anti-Palestinian figures on the West Bank. 

As has happened many times in the past, the media has turned a lurid accusation into fact, without having any credible evidence that it is a fact but still repeating it irresponsibly day after day as if it is true. Neither is there evidence of rapes or of 260 young people being killed at the ‘rave’ near the Gaza fence. 

The consequence is to license Israel, in the eyes of the public and the politicians, to do whatever it wants to do in Gaza, where within a few days Israel had already killed hundreds of children.  

Their deaths, their bodies buried in the rubble of destroyed apartment buildings, unlike the slander set loose by this single extremist settler wearing a military uniform, are a verifiable fact.  

Since 1948, Israel has killed many thousands of children, even babies in arms. On the West Bank, it kills children frequently, in Gaza and Lebanon it kills hundreds every time it invades but only on the rare occasions when Jewish children are killed during a Palestinian attack, it seems, is the collective ‘west’ outraged.  

There is saturation coverage of every gruesome detail, while dead Palestinian children – and their often dead siblings and parents – rarely deserve a name.  

Israel has obliterated entire families in Gaza, not just now but in its previous attacks, without the western media having anything to say and with Western governments doing no more than speaking against ‘disproportionate’ violence, when there is no such thing as proportionate when Israel attacks.  

What history tells us about the origins of this conflict, from the very beginning based on the zionist objective of driving the Palestinians out of their homeland,  is not important to the media and western governments.  

History only began a few days ago when the Palestinians crossed the Gaza fence and attacked Jewish settlements built on their ethnically cleansed land, a basic fact which the media does not want readers to know because it would complete expose the dishonesty of its narrative. 

Despite what is undeniable about the Zionist campaign to rid Palestine of its people, by driving them out, by killing them or making their lives unbearable, western governments close ranks behind the aggressive settler state they implanted at the heart of the Middle East. 

The Israeli government and parliament and government is now top heavy with fascists, Jewish supremacists and other murderous extremists.  

These are the people the media and western governments are supporting in Israel. We might not yet be at the calamitous end point of this 100-year war but it seems closer than ever.    

A genocidal campaign has been unleashed on Gaza, to all intents and purposes enabled by western governments and the media.  The ‘fourth estate’ has never seemed more degraded and destructive.

– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press) and The Last Ottoman Wars. The Human Cost 1877-1923 (University of Utah Press, 2019). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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