What Gives Israel the Right to Annihilate Gaza?

Yves here. This post gives a sober look at the power and resource imbalance in Israel’s long-standing policies towards Palestinians and now in the conflict in Gaza.

By Caitlin Procter, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Centre on Conflict, Development and a Peacebuilding at the Geneva Graduate Institute, and a part-time Professor at the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute whose research addresses the experiences of children and youth in contexts of conflict and forced displacement in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine, Syria and Tunisia and Luigi Achilli, senior researcher at the European University Institute in Florence and the CMI in Bergen. His research and writing focus on irregular migration, forced displacement and refugee studies, smuggling networks and transnational crime, agency and moral economy. Originally published at openDemocracy

It has been three weeks since the Israeli army launched a full-scale assault on the Gaza Strip, popularly termed a war between Israel and Hamas. Following an assault by the military wing of Hamas on Israeli soldiers and civilians, the Israeli government declared its intention to eliminate the group. In its efforts to do so, Israel has pummelled the Palestinian population in Gaza with airstrikes. It has cut civilians’ access to water, food and power. And it has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops for a ground invasion, which has now begun.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza and the United Nations, over 8000 Palestinians have already been killed, some 40% of whom were children, and more than half of Gaza’s residents are now displaced. It has also disappeared thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, doubling the number of Palestinian prisoners in just two weeks. They are now believed to be held in inhumane detention conditions. And, in the West Bank, it has violently invaded Palestinian towns and refugee camps, killing more than 100 people.

Meanwhile, another campaign is raging on the airwaves and across social media. Waged by both volunteers and professional pundits, Tiktok, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and Facebook are all overflowing with content aimed at influencing public opinion on the crisis. Some posts make light of Palestinian death with memefied, casual cruelty. Others sex up the Israeli Defence Forces. Still others cheerlead genocide.

Tiktok screenshots by authors. Fair use

Talking heads promising wisdom, hard truths or explanations for the conflict from across the political spectrum are also everywhere. As researchers both specialising on Palestine, we’ve taken a keen interest in what they’ve been saying. And on the side of Israel’s apologists, we’ve seen two main narratives at work.

Both are deeply flawed. The first ignores all context to portray Israel as the undeniable victim of a brutish neighbour. The second draws selectively on context to portray Hamas and Israel as more or less equal adversaries tragically unable to come to an accord. This narrative, designed to appeal to moderates and confound pro-Palestinian messaging, argues that everyone has blood on their hands in this endless cycle of violence – meaning no easy condemnation of Israel is possible.

Standing with Israel

While the glaring narrow-mindedness of the first narrative should be self-evident in the face of Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza, many American, British and European officials and pundits have openly embraced it. Prominent Christian evangelical media figures have also voiced their support, calling for unwavering solidarity with Israel.

Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, put the 7 October attack in a vacuum at the recent peace summit in Cairo: “The reason for all the pain in the past weeks – the pain that has brought us here today – has a name. It was Hamas that brought horrible terror to Israel on 7 October and perpetrated abominable crimes.”

Joe Biden, the US president, was equally one-sided in his speech in Tel Aviv:

Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world. There is no rationalizing it, no excusing it. Period. … The State of Israel was born to be a safe place for the Jewish people of the world. … And I promise you: We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that it will be.

The US has since voted against a UN security council resolution calling for humanitarian pauses to allow the delivery of life-saving aid to Gaza. As US Secretary of State Blinken put it, “We’re not in the business of second-guessing what [Israel] are doing.”

This guiding thought has led some Western politicians to explicitly endorse Israel’s crimes against humanity. Keir Starmer, the head of the opposition in the UK, unequivocally endorsed collective punishment for the Palestinian people when he said that Israel had the right to cut off food, water and power from 2.4 million people in response to Hamas’ attack. This blatantly disregards Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which binds Israel to certain obligations under the law of occupation, notably ensuring that the population of Gaza has access to food, medicines, and other essential goods. Yet, for Starmer, a trained human right lawyer, and many others like him, it appears that threatening mass starvation and dehydration is deemed a valid tool of self-defense for Israel.

Neutered in the Middle

As the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza quickly rises, we are hearing more of the second narrative of equally shared responsibility. A call for peace and recognition has been echoed by Hollywood stars and other prominent figures in the entertainment industry. The United Nations’ human rights agency recently issued a press release condemning both parties:

We strongly condemn the horrific crimes committed by Hamas, the deliberate and widespread killing and hostage-taking of innocent civilians, including older persons and children. These actions constitute heinous violations of international law and international crimes, for which there must be urgent accountability [..] We also strongly condemn Israel’s indiscriminate military attacks against the already exhausted Palestinian people of Gaza, comprising over 2.3 million people, nearly half of whom are children. They have lived under unlawful blockade for 16 years, and already gone through five major brutal wars, which remain unaccounted for.

In the past days we’ve seen reminders that all civilian life has equal value (Baerbock), commitments of humanitarian aid (Biden), and acknowledgments of Palestinian suffering (British PM Rishi Sunak). But we’ve yet to see a national leader in the West, apart from UN Secretary General António Guterres, suggest that stopping the indiscriminate attack would save more lives than a humanitarian corridor.

The crux of the problem, we are told by political leaders and much of the media, is that Israelis and Palestinians are caught in a loop. Yes, the Israeli government can be a bit heavy-handed and makes mistakes. But the Palestinians too have their share of blame. All parties, we hear, should respect international law.

To the subscribers of this narrative, the fact that Israel has for decades maintained an occupation of Palestine that is illegal under international law pales into insignificance considering the war crimes committed by Hamas. Their conclusion is that, in a tragedy of such unimaginable pain on all sides, chasing after the one who threw the first punch, and pinning it all on them, is a fool’s errand. Both are to blame.

We oppose violence too. But one might ask: why focus on condemning both parties equally? If the crux of the issue is rooted in historical and contextual injustice, does equating the violence of both parties not divert from understanding this context? Doesn’t this approach potentially ensnare the discourse in a quagmire of mutual blame and perceived equal suffering?

Never Balanced

When the capacity of one side to exert violence over the other is so overwhelmingly disproportionate, surely even to the most moderate of moderates, something rings discordant here.

At the start of the invasion, Israel’s defence minister said that “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly”. Hundreds are now being killed every day, and when Palestinians in the north obeyed Israel’s order to travel south they were bombed anyway. The tired metaphor of ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ has never been so apt. Every message we have received from colleagues and friends in Gaza is the same: Israel’s bombardment is like nothing they have ever experienced before.

The balance metaphor only works if weights of equal measure are distributed on both plates. If power were equally distributed, so too would be responsibility. But with Israel-Palestine these two weights are in no way equivalent.

Israel was built on the mass expulsion of Palestinians, many of whom became refugees in the Gaza Strip. Since 1948 Israel has steadily expelled Palestinians from the remaining land they have left, imposing a regime of apartheid in doing so. It has held the entire population of Gaza under blockade since 2007, militarily occupies the West Bank, and operates punitive systems of control that result in Palestinian death, detention and suffering with mundane regularity. It actively uses settlers to solidify its control over occupied territory, undermining the possibility of a two-state solution. And it possesses some of the world’s most advanced weaponry, all while the United States and other Western governments watch its back.

Israel wields infinitely more power here, it calls the tune. The military wing of Hamas must be held to account for its war crimes, but Israel is primarily responsible for the context in which those crimes have been committed.

The belief that the truth lies somewhere in the middle justifies apathy and cloaks moral remorse. Somehow failing to take a stand is seen as a virtue. It allows for this to be erroneously labelled as a war between Israel and Hamas. In reality, what is unfolding in Gaza has been described by the UN Office of Human Rights as ethnic cleansing – a situation that neither the persecutions suffered by the Jewish people over centuries, nor the war crimes committed on and around 7 October can downplay.

The extensive documentation of Israel’s attack on civilians in Gaza, primarily by Palestinians journalists but also by health workers, NGO staff and civilians is widely available. Nobody can say they did not know, and the role of the general public has never been more important.

People are taking to the streets in protest of Israel’s actions like never before in Sanaa, Amman, Cairo, Beirut and Tunis. In European cities, protests have continued despite being prohibited by police; in London, 100,000 peopledemonstrated last weekend; while in Washington DC, hundreds of Jewish protestors were arrested for occupying a congress building and demanding a ceasefire. Much of the general public, it would seem, are on the right side of history. The task now is to convince our political leaders to take a stand.

The violence of resistance and the violence of oppression are often equated to give the latter more legitimacy, and to maintain an existing order. Genuine hope for change only comes when public opinion rejects that equivalence. ALL the atrocities committed by the Israeli state – both during the past three weeks and as an occupying power in general – must be condemned every bit as harshly as the actions of Hamas, and by as many people as possible. It is the only way that we can compel Western powers to intervene in this encroaching genocide of Palestinians.

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  1. zagonostra

    For politicians to be so uniformly on the same page is telling when on all other subjects there is always rancor. But not when it comes to Israel. Indeed, Trump calls for deporting pro-Palestine protestors and doesn’t think Israel is responsible for the carnage its bombs cause to “unintentional collateral damage.”

    Meanwhile like some psychotic sock puppet, Ben Shapiro goes to England to engage in high falutin Oxford-style debate, when Israel Military spokesman already flatly stated they don’t want to debate the issue, or reason, they want to eradicate Hamas regardless of how many innocents are slaughtered.

    There is institutional capture and, but what we are seeing come out in open day light is is political class capture.

    1. Carolinian

      A week or so ago Michael Brenner wrote a piece that put the Europeans on the couch but here’s suggesting it’s the Western ruling class in general that needs a shrink. I believe they see Israel as a proxy for themselves and Israel’s fantasy of itself as a tiny oppressed minority surrounded by “evil” as a reflection of their own minority status in being the wealthy and privileged rulers over a vast and threatening majority. Thus the obsession with professed morality and virtue signaling to justify the great violence that is used to intimidate the masses. They are lying to themselves as well as everybody else.

      And this syndrome has of course always been present in the rulers versus the ruled but the age of mass communications has put it on overdrive and had much to do with the slaughters of the 20th century and now our own. You could say re WW2 that Hitler lost but Goebbels won. And Goebbels too believed his own propaganda and he and his wife killed themselves at the bunker after killing their own children.

      Many of us feel like bystanders to all this madness and just wish it to be over.

      1. Tedder

        So, the Western ruling class stand for the Zionists, the settlers and kibbutzim are their PMC minions, and the Resistance fighters, Hamas et al, are the socialists, labor leaders, and activists. I like this metaphor.

  2. Alex

    I think that the “rights” framework is not helpful here. Who gave Turkey or the US the right to invade Syria, or who gave Russia the right to attack Ukraine. In all of these cases justifications have been provided which you can find more or less convincing

    1. JohnA

      In the case of Russia and Ukraine, it was clearly R2P, responsibility to protect the Russian speaking population of east Ukraine that the Ukraine government and its Banderite fanatics had been attempting to ethnically cleanse since the US fomented coup of 2014 resulting in around 14,000 deaths.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The US has illegally occupied Syria.

      By contrast, Russia did establish a legal basis for its special military operation. It recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. It then entered into a collective security agreement with them. The breakaways republics then asked for Russia to come to their defense under UN Article 51.

      1. JTMcPhee

        From Baron Harkonnen: “The forms of kanly have been obeyed.”

        Then comes the Jihad, billions killed across galactic distances. While the Ixians and Tlielaxu get richer and more powerful.

        Why I gave up being a lawyer after it became so manifestly clear that there is no “rule of law,” as imagined in the minds of mopes hoping to be protected by it, just money-shuffling and power games.

      2. Dwight

        US claims it is able to lawfully act in self-defense under idea that Syria is “unable or unwilling” to deal with ISIS which threatens US forces in Iraq, where are there at invitation of Iraq government. Then any response to threats to those forces in Syria also becomes lawful self-defense. Russia could argue that they lawfully entered the Donbass under the theory you state, and then were attacked and lawfully escalated in self-defense.

        William Barr recently invoked “unable or unwilling” to argue that US can lawfully invade Mexico to deal with drug cartels. Shows how such doctrines are subject to abuse.

        1. Offtrail

          Syria is unable to deal with ISIS because the US is occupying Syria.

          Iraq disinvited American troops some years ago.

      3. ChrisPacific

        I am unsure whether the Russian rationale is genuine or just a convenient rationalization. I don’t know whether they would allow it to be challenged in the UN, or agree to abide by the results if it went against them.

        Article 51 is about the right to self-defense. Asking another, larger country to intervene on your behalf in a civil war, with a view to joining that country if you succeed, would seem to be stretching that a bit. What if Guaido had enjoyed enough support in Venezuela that a regional government backed him, for example? Could he have invited the US in on the same grounds? Or if Catalonia had asked another country to intervene militarily on their behalf when their independence vote was suppressed?

        The US is a different story. When the UN general assembly failed to endorse the UN invasion of Iraq, it was a big deal and a black eye for Bush. That’s the last time I can recall a UN decision making waves in the US. After that the US decided to move away from international cooperation and back to might makes right. When the US is in the might position this is called the ‘rules based international order’, as you noted in another comment.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          We used precisely the same procedure in Kosovo.

          I am told Russians are fetishistically legalistic and on top of that, Putin has a degree in law.

          The US and EU implicitly recognized it. They imposed their shock and awe sanctions when Russia recognized the breakaway republics, on Feb. 22, BEFORE the launch of the SMO on Feb. 24.

          1. Polar Socialist

            …and Russia recognized the breakaway republics due to the Ukrainian artillery fire that started on Feb. 19, and forced evacuation of several hundred thousand people.

            But, as we all know, history actually began on Feb. 24.

    3. nippersdad

      I have yet to see a justification of Turkey and the US invading Syria that stands up to scrutiny, and I have certainly not seen one that could justify their ongoing occupations and attacks. If you could find a valid rationale then I would be interested in seeing it.

    4. Tedder

      At the depth, though, is who gave the Zionists the “right” to occupy Palestine? I know there was a lot of history in Britain and WW I, but in 1948, the UN gave the Zionists permission to occupy a part of Palestine for the new state of Israel. In my way of thinking, the UN had no right to give that which was not theirs to give.

  3. flora

    About the violence of resistance vs the violence of oppression: Heroic in Warsaw but evil in Gaza?
    Thanks for this post.
    Here’s Krystal and Saagar about some talking points that no longer work for people under 40. Interesting that Kirby says there are no red lines for Isr. Oh. utube. ~10 minutes.

    Israel GETTING Obliterated In TikTok Information War | Breaking Points


    I also see Netanyahu yesterday (?) said, ‘no ceasefire.’ I wonder if international pressure is building for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid.

    1. Partyless poster

      I normally like Chrystal and Saagar but this one bugged me, they claim young people are just burnt out on war and not the obvious over the top injustice and genocide.
      Also they talk about how it might effect the election without even considering how things could spin out into major war.
      They’ve never been great on foreign policy.

  4. Revelo

    To answer OP’s question: might give them them the right. Same as in other ethnic cleansings. USA empire sometimes puts a velvet glove around the steel fist, sometimes not. This is an example of not.

    1. Kouros

      “…we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of the wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech that would not be believed; and in return, we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although they are colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, …since you know as well as we do the right, as the world goes, is only in question between equal power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

  5. The Rev Kev

    One of the biggest mistakes that America ever made was with the Israeli attacks on the USS Liberty. They should have let those US Navy fighters go in and splash every Israeli plane and sink every Israeli boat in the area and when it was all over said ‘Oh, we thought that they were Arab planes and Arab boats attacking our ship’ – which was what the Israelis were trying to make out happened. Their actions that day proved that they wanted no survivors from that ship. With that under their belt there would have been no doubt about who was the boss in this relationship at all. Instead, America has pandered to Israel to the point that they think that they can commit genocide on the Palestinians and America will cover for them on the world stage. And if something like this happens, I predict that it will be America paying the bigger price, not the Israelis.

    1. Arizona Slim

      One of my friends served in the US Navy and knew people who had been on the USS Liberty. Suffice it to say that they weren’t the least bit happy about what went down, and about the lack of public discussion around these attacks.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I got really p***** a few short years ago to read that Israelis were still hassling the elderly survivors of the USS Liberty in public and in America itself. The gall of them.

        1. Antagonist Muscles

          Australians use the p***** obscenity in the same way as Americans? I had thought they would use it in the drunk sense like the British do. Both Brits and Aussies use w***er… Even I, an American, use w***er.

  6. Alice X

    >What Gives Israel the Right to Annihilate Gaza?

    For an answer see: The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy – by John J. Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt

    I cannot unread that.

  7. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Further to my comment yesterday about how Israel opens concessions, some in disputed territory, to outside investors, not just for financial and technical reasons, but to bind investors into its zionist project and engage them as lobbyists, the NC may find these links of interest:

    https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/israel-awards-gas-exploration-licences-eni-bp-four-others-2023-10-29/ (hot off the press, new gas licences)

    https://unctad.org/news/unrealized-potential-palestinian-oil-and-gas-reserves (why Israel covets its neighbour’s goods and attracts JP Morgan’s, ahem, support as banker for the Palestinian concessions)

    https://www.businessinsider.com/israel-grants-golan-heights-oil-license-2013-2?r=US&IR=T (some of the family offices involved with such investments and Israel’s allies)

    1. flora

      Thank you. This makes more sense of the US’s otherwise inexplicable, to me, defense of Isr no matter what the Ir govt does to Gazans or anyone else. It’s all about the oil. Doe the US rush military force into the ME countries with oil to defend Isr from its neighbors, or does the US use the pretext of defending Isr against dangerous neighbors to invade ME countries with oil? What did Sen. Graham say about Iran? Something about oil?

      1. Offtrail

        It’s not about the oil. It’s about the power of Israel’s supporters in American society, particularly politics and the media.

  8. Aurelien

    The problem lies in the formulation of the question. “Rights” as such have no objective existence: at best they are human-made conventions about privileges to behave in certain ways, that we give to others, or the powerful give to the less powerful. “Legal” rights are a question of checking from a list of tick boxes to see which ones you can use to justify your action technically, and defend it to a group of fellow technical experts. “Moral” rights have even less existence, they simply mean that you can claim that you are allowed to carry out an act according to a set of abstract criteria that you claim are convincing, and hope to persuade others that you are right. Since moral rights are basically a zero-sum game, this is seldom possible.

    If you reformulate the question as “why does Israel think it has a moral right … etc. then the explanation is almost trivially easy, since all communities fundamentally feel that they have the right to use any means to protect themselves against real, future or even imagined threats.

    1. NN Cassandra

      I think it’s even simpler than that. X has right to defend itself is meaningless truism, because the word defend has build in assumption that the action is morally right and in response to someone else aggressive action. Or to turn it around, who exactly doesn’t have the right to defend themselves and should passively crumble under attack without response?

      What this phrase is designed to do is to avoid the crucial question of who is attacking who, who is the occupier, etc.

      1. flora

        I’m trying to imagine the argument in a parental abuse case. “Your honor, I the father (or mother) had a right to defend myself against my 7-year-old child’s throwing a spoon at me.”


        “Your honor, I threw a spoon at my parent who was beating me.”

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘ “Rights” as such have no objective existence’

      Yeah, nah! Going to have to disagree here. By the same measure you can say that consciousness also has no objective existence – and yet here I am. I would go so far as to claim that individual human rights are the glue that holds a society together. We have seen what happens when the rights of a people are taken away from them and it always leads to chaos and violence – always. That is why we call them dystopian regimes. People have an innate sense of rights and you can even see it with little kids. Walk over to one and take away their favourite toy and just watch the fireworks. They already know that their rights were intruded upon. “Legal” rights are an effort to code “human” rights into our legal structure less they become merely a privilege given and taken away by our ruling elites. When Thomas Jefferson was talking about basic inherit rights in the Declaration of Independence, that was not there as a a feel good measure. He was a highly educated man who knew the vital significance of them. That is why they were eventually codified into the US Constitution.

      1. zagonostra

        If rights had no “objective existence” how could they be negated? Unfortunately, they can and have been taken negated when, as Giorgio Agamben has pointed out, there is a “state of exception.” Privileges can and are suspended.

        1. Aurelien

          “Rights” can be negated precisely because they have no objective existence, only a conventional one. As Agamben (and before him Schmitt) pointed out, it all depends on who has the right to suspend the constitution, or any similar law, and introduce a state of exception. All “rights” (even in the UNDHR) are provisional and subject to qualification and suspension. They are no more than conventions which apply most of the time, and which change radically over time: the right to own slaves and the right to put your children to death no longer exist in the West, for example. So to say that rights have no objective existence is a truism, else they would be eternal, universal and uniformly agreed on, and discovered carved on a rock somewhere in Mesopotamia. “Rights” are a self-justificatory discourse when you want something from somebody else, and thus, as I suggested, the question asked in this article has no meaning.

          1. urdsama

            ““Rights” can be negated precisely because they have no objective existence…”


            By this logic, life has no objective existence because someone can be killed/negated.

            I generally find your articles and comments very articulate and insightful, but on this subject, you’ve lost me.

            1. Aurelien

              Rights have no objective existence in the same way that fairies or kindness or the wrath of God hr the metre or the yard have no objective existence. You can believe in them, and do things with them, but you can’t provide pragmatic proofs of their inherent and necesary existence as an objective component of the universe.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Well by that standard none of the principles of society have any objective existence either, like laws or the perceived obligation of parents to raise children.

                1. Aurelien

                  That is indeed true. They are conventions, and can be very powerful, but they are only conventions. In some societies parents have no obligations to raise children, but rather power of love and death over them.

              2. urdsama

                I feel this does not address my point, but merely sidesteps the stated issue.

                The concept raised fails at a basic level until this can be resolved

          2. Kouros

            Rights can be negated only when the force that enforces the negation has no opposing force. Ultimately the King got his head chopped off, didnt he?

          3. ChrisFromGA

            I agree that a human concept such as “rights” has no objective existence. Not that it matters, but this was discussed in the classic novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by the main character Phadreus, in explaining to his son that the laws of physics don’t really exist, objectively speaking. Instead, they’re a human construct that would disappear if we all went extinct.

      2. hk

        I think US Constitution is a document that lays down the conventions that the Founding Fathers hoped would be observed in the future US, an “aspirational” statementas all “social compacts” are, not necessarily a statement of something that has “independent” existence.

        In our context, that X has a right to “self defense” simply means that “we” don’t have an issue with X beating up Y because Y putatively intruded on what we think X is “entitled” to, that is all, IMHO. So this brings us back to the question of what we think X is “entitled to,” and this is where a consensus is lacking: is Russia “entitled” to have Russian speaking Ukrainian citizens live in peace with cultural and language rights? Is Israel “entitled” to impose a state of “peace” that works disproportionately to its advantage and permits it’s citizens to dispossess peoples under military occupation? Are my descriptions even fair and accurate description of what is taking place, at least those who believe one thing or another?

        Before we can meaningfully discuss “rights,” then, what we need (not you and me, per se, but the generic “we”) is a consensus on what the current state of the world is, what we think X (and Y) are “entitled” to, and, most importantly, how the current state of the world deviates from them. Often, discussion of “rights” ignores the context: that there are “entitlements” that are in conflict not only between X and Y, but also vis a vis the state of the world. These get papered over by insistence that certain rights are “inherent,” “fundamental,” or “natural.”. While probably not a fair reaction, I tend to think that such claims are both lazy and mealy mouthed, made by people wilfully ignorant of the world who refuse to negotiate in good faith.

        1. Kouros

          The world has agreed quite some years ago that Israel’s jurisdiction extends well beyond its internationally recognized borders, and that extension is illegal….

          1. hk

            I.e. in other words, Israel has that extended “right” to alleged “self-defense” only as long as it can force it upon the a world unwilling to respond. They are sewing a lot of wind and the whirlwind is starting to ripen.

            1. Polar Socialist

              Are you referring to the Hezbollah giving Israel until November 3rd to withdraw from Gaza and cease the bombing? It seems to be the date of the Khan Yunis massacre by the worlds most moral army. It’s not like we haven’t been here before.

              1. hk

                I am honestly very curious what will follow. That’s a very specific warning by a potent actor that Israelis should fear. First among many (serious) whirlwinds coming due, I expect.

        2. Arkady Bogdanov

          hk, I think this was a great comment, and I would like to add to it, both my thoughts, and some further context. Regarding the current US Constitution (which, as far as I am concerned, was the result of a coup, but I’ll leave that aside for now), it is a proof that rights are- I would rather use the word instinctive, rather than inherent. There was an excellent book that was written about the time period when the 1787 Constitution was written, Called Unruly Americans, by Woody Holton. In it he documents events of that era. The constitution was a negation of the Articles, because American elites found democracy to be troublesome for themselves. So they got together and wrote the new document- in secret. There were some debates- but nobody knew the proposed wording. Now we all know why the Bill of Rights was added- the anti-federalists, right? Well, there is more to it than that- More, as in riots, arson, tar and feathers. Southern PA was a hot bed for this activity- you see, people instinctively knew they needed what we call “rights”. Thus, as a sop to them, to get them to shut up and go home, the Bill of Rights was added, and then the powerful, of course, proceeded to ignore it whenever it was convenient. The point is that people have an instinctive sense of fairness- that is your “inherent rights” right there. They may not always have the education or intellect to articulate this concept properly, but this exists in all of us.
          Now, when we get back to something more specific like “the right to self defense”, you cannot have a discussion without context. The root matters- who started it? And this does not simply boil down to who threw the first punch- as we can see, the USA goads people into fights all over the planet. Sometimes the analysis is long and hard, but there are always answers.
          When it comes down to it- No, Israel most certainly DOES NOT have the right to defend itself. Palestinians did not pile into Europe and attack and displace Europeans. The truth is the opposite. Palestinians are the ones with the right to self defense here. The issue is that thus far, they have simply not been strong enough for an effective defense, so they do what they can, and then the bully stomps on them. The bully clearly wants to throw the Palestinians off the Palestinians’ own backyard swingset, but knows that there are parents (global community and nearby nations) looking out the windows every now and then, so they pummel, and then get scolded. The cycle repeats- but make no mistake about who initiated the fight. As far as I am concerned, it is long past time for a parent to step in and spank the bully, and banish him from the backyard he does not belong in.

    3. Kouros

      It has been established that even higher animals have an innate sense of fairness… One would think humans have a bit more than that. Religion is not only about kneeling to a higher “authority”…

  9. Ashburn

    I do not agree. The establishment of Israel was believed by many who had a role in this was that it was a noble experiment to provide a homeland for the Jews. The Jewish Zionists demanded this homeland as their biblical, God-given right. The fact that this was entirely at the expense of the Palestinian people who had lived on this land for centuries was hardly considered.

    Thanks to the Zionist ideology of racial supremacy there was never any intention by these colonial settlers to live peaceably with their new Palestinian neighbors. History documents this very well and now the entire world can see that this experiment in social engineering has gone horribly, catastrophically wrong. The logic of Zionist ideology has moved Israel from land seizures and massacres to legally enforced discrimination to apartheid, to ethnic cleansing, and now actual live-on-television genocide.

    Dismissing this all as somehow the right of self-defense ignores all historic context.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you have the “context” wrong.

      Scott Ritter decisively debunks your claim by discussing at length how the father figures of Israel recognized and discussed that the establishment of Israel required taking the land of the Palestinians and they plotted explicitly to achieve that end.

      “The attackers came at dawn, quickly occupying the town. The men were separated from the women and shot. One of the attackers, opening the door of one of the homes, found an old man standing there. He shot him. ‘He enjoyed shooting him,’ an eyewitness to the attack said afterwards.

      Soon the town was empty—the entire population of 5,000 had either been killed or expelled, those who survived put on trucks, and driven to Gaza. The empty homes were looted. ‘We were very happy,’ one of the participants said afterwards. ‘If you don’t take it, someone else will. You don’t feel you have to give it back. They were not coming back.’”

      It sounds like a narrative torn from the front pages of today’s newspapers, one of many such stories—too many to count—describing the atrocities inflicted on the civilian populations of Israeli towns and Kibbutzes adjacent to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

      But it is not. Instead, it is the recollections of Yaakov Sharett, the son of Moshe Sharett, one of the fathers of Israel, a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and Israel’s first Foreign Minister, and second Prime Minister. Yaakov Sharett was recounting the seizure of the Arab town of Bersheeba, in 1948, by Israeli soldiers, during Israel’s War of Independence.

      As a young soldier serving in the Negev Desert in 1946, Sharett was appointed mukhtar—or chief—of one of eleven teams of soldiers—part of the secret “11-Points Plan” designed to establish Jewish outposts in the Negev Desert that would serve as a strategic foothold in the region when the anticipated war between Israeli Zionists and Arabs broke out.

      Zionism, as it existed before 1948, was a movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation on the territory of Biblical Israel. It was established as a political movement, Zionist Organization, in 1897 under the leadership of Theodor Herzl. Herzl died in 1904, and the Zionist Organization was later taken over by Chaim Weizmann as a reward for pushing for the adoption of the Balfour Declaration, which committed the British government to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Weitzman remained as the head of the Zionist Organization until the establishment of Israel in 1948, after which he was elected as Israel’s first President.

      In 1946, a United Nations partition plan dividing the British Palestinian mandate into Arab and Jewish sections had apportioned the Negev region to the Arabs. The Zionist leaders of the future state of Israel, led by David Ben Gurion, Moshe Sharett, and others dedicated to the principles of Zionism, devised the “11-Points Plan” as a means to alter the status quo then in existence in the Negev, where 500 Jews in three outposts lived amongst 250,000 Arabs residing in 247 villages and towns. The 11 new outposts would boost the Israeli presence in the Negev, creating the condition where, as Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi noted, “an indigenous majority living on their ancestral soil” would be “converted overnight into a minority under alien rule.”

      Ritter continues with his discussion of the Nakba, in detail. That ethnic cleansing can hardly be considered just an accidental by-product of a “noble experiment”.

      Ritter continues:

      Moshe Dyan, the Israeli Chef of Staff, was in attendance, and delivered a eulogy which has gone down in Israeli history as one of the defining speeches of the nation. “Early yesterday morning,” Dyan began, his voice carrying over the crowd of mourners, “Roi was murdered. The quiet of the spring morning dazzled him and he did not see those waiting in ambush for him, at the edge of the furrow.”

      Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we declare their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate….

      We will make our reckoning with ourselves today; we are a generation that settles the land and without the steel helmet and the canon’s maw, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home. Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken.

      This is the fate of our generation. This is our life’s choice—to be prepared and armed, strong, and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down….

      The speech is notable for its open recognition of the hatred of Israel on the part of the Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza, as well as the source of their hatred, and understanding regarding the legitimacy of the Palestinian emotions.

      But it is also unapologetic about the righteousness of the Israeli cause, regardless of the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause. Israel, Dyan said, cannot be settled without the “steel helmet and canon’s maw.” War, he said, was Israel’s “life choice,” and as such Israel was condemned to a life of militarized diligence, “lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.”


      In other words, Israel was a project of armed conquest from the outset and its earliest leaders were fully aware of that fact. The fact that it was done incrementally over decades does not change the fundamental nature.

      1. Ashburn

        Yves – No need to publish this comment, just my explanation.

        My comment was intended to be a response to Aurelian. My bad for not clicking on the ‘Reply’ link.

        As for “context,” I think we agree that Zionist Israel never had any intention to live in peace with their new Palestinian neighbors.

      2. Carolinian

        Thank you. I saw a commentary that said the difference between settler colonialism and just plain colonialism, as in India, is that the former consists of people seeking to replace the inhabitants and not just rule over them. It cited South Africa and the United States as other examples and that’s not wrong. Although it should be said that in the US the process was far more gradual with many American leaders genuinely thinking that the natives could continue to have land of their own but to the west. Those treaties kept being broken as immigrants and adventurers took matters into their own hands and moved into native territory. It wasn’t all some kind of cold blooded plan in advance. People like Jefferson justified what happened as economically inevitable rather than religiously.

        And that’s not wrong because the poor of Europe also wanted to live just as the Natives did and when it comes to survival right and wrong become very blurry indeed. The carrying capacity of those lands that were taken was much greater than that of a hunter gatherer economy (although many Indigenous also farmed).

        This practical argument doesn’t apply to Zionism which displaced an already developed Arab civilization. Those who justify Israel by pointing to America take the analogy too far and the excuses once offered for what happened here don’t find many takers these days.

      3. Candide

        Thanks Yves for this clarity without excuses.
        A search for one of Theodore Postol’s debunking analyses led me to the fabulously titled CommittingHighReason.com website where rabbi Yaakov Shapiro offers thorough history and much heartfelt criticism of Zionism. His 1381 p. book on the subject, The Empty Wagon, might attract one or two scholars among us. Digital download, only $15.00!

  10. Lefty Godot

    The way the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” get thrown around has always struck me as inconsistent with the response that (in the last 25 years) has been trotted out as the only appropriate one: war. Terrorist actions are fundamentally crimes, things like murders and kidnappings. As crimes, they should be dealt with by a police action, an international police action if the perpetrators are organized on a transnational scale. That’s how we should have responded to 9/11 if we’d had a sane government that wasn’t already planning for foreign wars and loking for an excuse to launch them. Saddam had nothng to do with 9/11 and had no WMDs. The Taliban made several attempts to turn Bin Laden and his cohorts over to us via one or another third country from whom we could formally extradite them. But Cheney and Bush wanted war, which inevitably meant the killing of many innocent noncombatants (given that our primary military strength was and is based on indiscriminate aerial bombing). Calling Hamas terrorists and then saying you must have war as the response to their actions makes no sense…unless you have mass murder of the innocent as your goal.

    1. vao

      Note that there have been three attempts to come up with a universal, legally binding definition of terrorism:

      1) in the 1920s, by the League of Nations, following the wave of anarchist attacks throughout Europe and the USA that had been committed since the late 19th century;

      2) in the 1970s-1980s, by the United Nations Organization, following the wave of violent actions by Palestinian organizations (PLO, PFLP, Abu Nidal) as well as the multitude of nationalist and extreme-left wing groups (ASALA, ETA, GRAPO, RAF, Brigate Rosse, CCC, Action Directe, Japanese Red Army, etc);

      3) after 2001, again by the UNO, following the attacks of Al-Qaeda in the USA, Spain, and other countries.

      None of these endeavours succeeded. A legally-binding, universally accepted definition of “terrorism” that could not be erroneously applied to movements endowed with the right to resistance, or embarrassingly to State organizations, proved impossible to achieve.

  11. Verifyfirst

    I’m trying to figure out what I am missing–if it is true that food, water, power and medicine have been totally cut off to Gaza, there will be mass starvation and death in….another week? less?

    No doubt that would please the Israeli government, who would be indifferent between these 2 million people dying in place or trying to flee en mass to Egypt.

    You could start sending in 1000 trucks of aid a day, it’s not going to catch up to the needs of 2 million people. So mass death is already baked in, and the entire world is just going to watch?

    1. John Steinbach

      Yes, Ive been thinking the same thing. The Washington Post had a story this morning about a UN aid worker who said her children are complaining about being thirsty but have to drink salty water. The same story talked about the collapse of the sewage system. It seems to me that the situation in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating & that we are just at the beginning of a unprecedented human catastrophe.

  12. Feral Finster

    What Gives Israel the Right to Annihilate Gaza?

    Because Israel can and has its American bullyboy to enforce cooperation or at most, silence.

    Next question.

    Axtually, the next question should be: what do you propose to do about it?

  13. Victor Sciamarelli

    There is nothing to dispute in this article. It’s just that where it ends, seems to me, to be the same as where it began.
    Israel’s leadership is determined to create a greater Israel and if racism and violations of int’l law are necessary they’re not letting that stand in the way because, more importantly, they are supported unconditionally by the US.
    I was in Riga, Latvia around 1992 and had a conversation with a jewish man from NYC during the hotel breakfast. He was born in Riga and he was fortunate to escape the holocaust. During the conversation, he said he witnessed his synagogue in Riga being set on fire. The fire department responded immediately, however, not to put out the fire but to make sure the fire continued to destroy the synagogue without spreading to the adjacent buildings.
    This reminded me of the US military presence and role in Gaza. To stand by while Gaza is destroyed and make certain that nobody interferes to try and stop it.
    The crucial issue is that the ‘special’ relationship between the US and Israel must come to an end. Israel is not ‘special’ and US foreign policy should change accordingly. The only viable option to solve the crisis is the two-state solution arrived at during an int’l conference with full US support.

  14. Irrational

    Starmer’s stance is particularly disappointing to put it mildly given his background, but Rishi apparently just fired an adviser for daring to call for a ceasefire. Meanwhile the EU-27 cannot agree to call for a ceasefire. Kind of incredible.
    There is a Mearsheimer talk linked over on Moon Of Alabama (and if I missed it here, apologies!). He points out that in “Greater Israel” there is about an equal number of Arabs and Israeli Jews. I looked it up: 9.3 mio people of which 2 mio Arabs in Israel, 2.3 mio in Gaza and 3 mio in the West Bank.

  15. Colin

    Ironically, it was the Israeli’s who built up Hamas as a counterweight against the PLO hoping to play the two organizations off against each other whereby Israel could divide and conquer. I think that the Israeli plan was to steal Palestinian territory while the PLO and Hamas were busy fighting each other.

    I think things worked out much better for the Israeli’s than they could have hoped with the Hamas 10/7 incursion. That incursion gave Israel the pretext that it needed to invade Gaza, clear out the indigenous Palestinians, and take over their land. After completely destroying Gaza Israel, with US assistance, will rebuild the area for Israelis only. With this ethnic cleansing ongoing and the Palestinians being of a Semitic group, wouldn’t that make the Israeli’s antisemitic?

  16. Panopticon

    I could be angry about this, but if the Arabs and/or Muslims in that neck of the woods are happy to stand by and let it happen, like the big brothers of a little kid being beaten up by bullies in a school-yard why should I, who am not an Arab, Muslim or in that neck of the woods, upset myself on their behalf?

  17. Craig Dempsey

    We seem to live in an insane world where the real rules are that birth control is bad and genocide is good. Will those seeking a sane world succeed in time? I fear the final Hamas surprise for Israel may be suggested by the many mass murder/suicide events in America. What if Hamas has a doomsday machine buried deep in its tunnels, waiting to be deployed on the day Israel thinks it has found victory? A cobalt bomb perhaps?

  18. sharonsj

    Just want to point out that before 1948, Arabs were killing Jews who lived in Palestine. Also, during WWII, Hitler contacted the Mufti of Jerusalem about sending Jews to Palestine and the Mufti refused, telling Hitler to just kill them. The entire aim of the Muslim world has been and still is the complete destruction of Israel and the Jews and they (the Muslims) have refused every offer of a two-state solution. Saying that Zionists feel superior is racist and antisemitic. And I wish to remind you all, again, that the surrounding Arab countries have refused to accept any Palestinian refugees and Egypt continues to keep the Rafeh gate closed except for humanitarian aid and fuel; the U.N. has already admitted the fuel was stolen by Hamas.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I am tired of your hasbara.

      You need to provide links from reputable sources to support your claims or they will not be approved.

      On a quick search, I find nothing that substantiates your claim. The record is that Britain was oppressing the Palestinians in support of the Mandate, and the Arab Revolt of 1936-0, which was brutally suppressed, was directed against British administration.



  19. Mark Gisleson

    I first realized there was something wrong in 1977. It was the tenth anniversary of the Six Day War and suddenly I realized absolutely nothing had been done about Gaza or the displaced Palestinians from that war. That has been a very lonely awareness. In the ’70s it was easier to support gay rights than it was to “like” Arabs and you just didn’t talk about Palestine.

    Since then I have found it impossible to support or respect Israel. Not once has Israel ever done anything to assuage my anger. Not just regarding Palestine, but in the not so small matter of furiously fueling the USA’s obscene obsession with the engines of war. Between the WWII Nazis and the Israelis, the United States has the most vengeful, hateful, full of [family blog] foreign policy on Earth.

    I am not suicidal, but the only rational action is disobedience. The tide is turning. This is not the Vietnam era, our state National Guard units are not comprised of privileged sh*ts hiding from the draft. When the George Floyd riots happened, Gov. Walz called out the Guard whose simple presence (they certainly didn’t do anything) calmed the police riot in progress. The Guard is not our enemy this time around.

    If Americans rise up, the Guard will at the very least refuse illegal orders to fire on crowds and it takes little imagination to suspect some Guard units would engage with overly aggressive police. The world has changed, our leaders have absolutely no clue how isolated they are. If truckers block all routes into cities, which side will heavily integrated urban police be on when hungry citizens riot? Precarity is shifting upwards at long last.

  20. Mario

    What has become clear, from a strategic and certainly a military standpoint, is that the state of Israel is the main stronghold of the U.S. government in the Middle East, and so it will be guarded to the death. Despite that, support for Palestine is growing rapidly as I see it. For example, every day there is an endless stream of videos on Instagram in support of Palestine, particularly from people of color, many of them young, as well as Jews who see through the dominant narratives — addressing every single argument and position put forth to defend Israel’s standing. Back in the 1980s I used to attend pro-Palestine rallies (in the Bay Area and also in Mexico City, where I lived) that would draw at most 20 o 30 people; now there are mass protests going on in many cities and towns, and my sense is that most people in the world know about Palestine, and that’s a significant change.

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