The Politics of the Slaughter of Everybody

Yves here. John Helmer turns to Thucydides for a lesson on what happens when a confident superior power sets out to slaughter and thoroughly subjugate an enemy. It didn’t work out in not even the long run, but the medium term, for Athens.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Religious fundamentalists think that because God is on their side – more, that God has Chosen Them to be His People — they can leave it to Him to keep tabs on history, remember the lessons of the past, count the years, tote up the gains, costs,  and losses.   So long as God doesn’t issue any red alerts or insolvency notices during their prayers, when the Chosen People get up they can concentrate their minds and resources on preparing for the future. When the murder of a million or two Palestinians is the future which the Israelis and Americans are concentrating on now, it’s obvious that they and their God have not been re-reading the Melian Dialogue, if He did in the first place.

That’s Sections 84 to 116 of Book Five of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, which he wrote over twenty years of the war, from 431 to 411 BC, leaving off before Athens and its army were defeated and lost everything they thought they had won.

It was in 416 that the Athenian army laid a starvation siege to Melos; then when the Melians surrendered, the Athenians murdered every man and enslaved every woman and child. After that, the Athenian empire of Melos lasted just eleven years before the Athenians were driven off the island by a Spartan force the Hellenes had become too weak to resist. The German empire of the island didn’t murder as many; they were driven off after just two years, from 1943 to 1945.

What Thucydides has reproduced in his book is the argument for genocide if you think you are strong enough to get away with it.

Its main point — the most remembered today of the lines from the book — is the Athenian declaration: “When these matters are discussed by practical people, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they must.”

This is what US President Joseph Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are insisting upon. It’s what Biden means to demonstrate with his fleets in the eastern Mediterranean, northern Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf.

This is slaughter of everybody in Gaza because the Americans and the Israelis have the power,  for the time being.

Practical people is the phrase Thucydides put in the mouth of the Athenian side in the dialogue.


Left to right: Olaf Scholz (Germany), Joseph Biden (US), Rishi Sunak (UK), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel).

These days it means politicians running for election. They are Vladimir Putin in March 2024; Olaf Scholz in June 2024; Biden in November 2024; Rishi Sunak in January 2025; the French election is in 2027 but Emmanuel Macron cannot run for a third term. Netanyahu’s term is likely to run out as soon as the war against the Palestinians of Gaza ends. If all of them are dead or gone, Netanyahu may win.

The only certain winner on this list of practical people is Putin; he has now agreed with the Russian Army to concentrate their force against the US on the Ukrainian battlefield. The terms of this agreement can be found on, and also between, the lines of Putin’s speech of October 30.  Read between the lines here.

In Thucydides’s reconstruction and dramatisation of the negotiations between the attacking and the defending sides,  the Melians acknowledged it was pointless appealing to commonly held ideas of justice, morality, and  fair play because the Athenians made clear they didn’t share them. Worse, the Athenians said they were convinced that only by demonstrating their superior force against the weaker Melians could they deter others, including their own critical and restive fellow citizens at home. “It is not so much your hostility that injures us,” the Athenians said. “It is rather the case that if we were on friendly terms with you, our subjects would regard that as a sign of weakness, whereas your hatred is a sign of our power.”

So the Melians tried arguing instead that there were common and shared political and economic interests which should spare them from the Athenians’ liquidation plan. “If yours and ours happen to coincide, we must try to persuade you of the fact. Is it not certain that you will make enemies of all states who are at present neutral, when they see what is happening here and naturally conclude that in the course of time you will attack them too?”

Forget it – there is only the present for you, leave the future to us, the Athenians replied. “This is no fair fight , with honour on one side and shame on the other. It is rather a question of saving your lives and not resisting those who are far too strong for you.”

Death-dealing is the power – for those who are victims, and even more for those who are witnesses. Hope for another outcome which the Melians expressed, “is by nature”, said the Athenians, “an expensive commodity, and those who are risking all on one cast find out what it means only when they are already ruined.”

The Melians tried the Chosen People line. That wasn’t because they were Semites, although  God had  sailed westward from ancient Palestine to make landfall on the island. The Phoenicians, a Semitic people but not a Jewish one, had established trading posts on Melos and intermarried with the Caucasian arrivals from Sparta, on the Hellenic mainland. The Athenians dismissed the theology – God, like history and warfare, chooses winners, not losers. “So far as the favour of the gods is concerned, we think we have as much right to that as you have,” the Melians were told. “Our opinion of the gods and our knowledge of men lead us to conclude that it is a general and necessary law of nature to rule whatever one can.”

An Israel Air Force strike on October 10 destroyed this mosque in Khan Younis, Gaza.

The Melians then tried to argue that if they fought on for long enough, their ethnic allies, the Spartans, would come to their rescue, break the Athenian siege, defeat Athens. “Where danger is concerned,” came the Athenian reply, “the Spartans are not as a rule very venturesome.”

The force calculus would prevail on the Spartans, the Athenians were confident – Melos was too small and was surrounded, so a Spartan relief operation was out of the question. “What is looked for is a positive preponderance of power in action. And the Spartans pay attention to this point even more than others do.”

Inferiority wasn’t so dishonourable, the Athenians offered as they prepared to wind up the talks.  “There is nothing disgraceful in giving way to the greatest city in Hellas when she is offering you such reasonable terms – alliance on a tribute-paying basis and liberty to enjoy your own property…And when you are allowed to choose between war and safety…this is the safe rule – to stand up to one’s equals, to behave with deference to one’s superiors, and to treat one’s inferiors with moderation.”


Left to right: Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

The two sides then adjourned for internal consultations; later they returned to the table for the last round. The Melians said they had decided not to surrender their seven-hundred year old city state. “We put our trust in the fortune that the gods will send and which has saved us up to now, and in the help of men — that is of the Spartans; and so we shall try to save ourselves.” They added they were still open to negotiating terms of “a treaty which shall be agreeable to both you and us”. One condition was non-negotiable — the Athenians must “leave our country”.

The Athenian negotiators stood up. “As you have staked most on and trusted most in Spartans, luck, and hopes, so in all these you will find yourselves most deluded.”

The Athenian army built a new wall completely cutting off the Melians inside their city from the outside. Several months of siege followed while the Athenians withdrew their heavy forces to fight elsewhere. The Melians made sallies to capture food. Then the Athenians returned in force; but even then they didn’t risk a frontal assault. Instead, they bribed several Melians inside the city to betray the others. “As there was also some treachery from inside,” Thucydides concluded his account without more detail, “the Melians surrendered unconditionally to the Athenians, who put to death all the men of military age whom they took, and sold the women and children as slaves. Melos itself they took over for themselves, sending out later a colony of 500 men.” Book Five ends at this point.

That was almost two thousand five hundred years ago.

It’s near-certain that Biden and Netanyahu haven’t read the Melian Dialogue. If men like US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jacob Sullivan were required to read the book during their undergraduate studies at Harvard and Yale, they have forgotten that after the genocide of the Melians, the Athenians were defeated – first their army and foreign empire, then their domestic democracy.

These practical men can hear the political clock ticking. They can’t hear the gods counting down.

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  1. zagonostra

    The Melians had an army, inferior as it was, and they could defend themselves, though they eventually surrendered and their fighting aged men were all killed. What Israel is conducting is an indiscriminate genocide of an “open air concentration camp,” sparing no one, women, children, or old men. In terms of the effectiveness of the corresponding militaries, what is happening in Gaza is closer to the use of the the Maxim gun by the Brits in Africa. What Israel is conducting is a slaughter.

    As I recall, one of Thomas Hobbes’ first works was the translation of Thucydides. From that effort he developed his theory of human nature that underpinned his book, em>Leviathan, that man is driven by two fundamental impulses, self-preservation (fear) and the quest for power. Those two forces, like Newton’s laws of motion, governed man’s social and historical development. Hobbes concluded that only with an absolute Monarchy, as also supported by Thucydides, could man control these two innate drives.

    I’m beginning to think that putative “democracies” are completely incapable of translating the desires of the populace to actual policies, that what you really have is the rhetoric of democracy but in actuality, special interest, the cabal [fill in your own term] dictate/direct action. Protest this past weekend in D.C., Berlin, Indonesia, and all across the world, seem to have no efficacy in diverting governments away from wholesale wanton mass murder.

    1. communistmole

      “Auctoritas, non veritas facit legem” (Hobbes). This basically says everything about the illusions of international law.

      With the increasing decline of capitalism as a system, its legal sphere as a means of containing open violence logically is decaying too – and international law has always been the weakest link in its normative structure.

      Grotius is gone, Hobbes is back (Kant always was an illusion).

    2. vidimi

      Israel is not indiscriminately killing people but very discriminately targeting them. read about their dahiya doctrine. it is a doctrine of the worst war crimes that the US shields from international law.

    3. Smith, M. J.

      In his recent book Michael Hudson came up with the best descriptor for our putative democracy—“electoral oligarchy”.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      On a somewhat related note, I have been trying to find a good English translation of Thucydides that is not the Landmark edition and not just a Penguin classics paperback – I’d like a nice hardcover edition in somewhat contemporary English.

      I thought I’d found one several years ago – it was a very nice hardcover edition of the Hobbes translation you mentioned and I grabbed it without looking too closely. Surely it must be some more recent Hobbes and not the guy who wrote Leviathan I thought, but it was from old Thomas. I later resold it to another used bookstore since I found Hobbes’ English difficult to understand.

      If anyone knows of a more modern translation, please let me know. Everything out there other then the Landmark edition seems to be a 100+ year old translation. Meanwhile the bookstores are lousy with Homers all over the place.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Aha! – Oxford University Press is very good. I read their Polybius translation a few years ago but hadn’t noticed the Thucydides before. Their trade paperbacks are quite nice too if you can’t get a hardcover.

          Thank you very much for the recommendation – added to the list!

        2. JBird4049

          A translation by Rex Warner seems to be the best choice for a hardback. Otherwise, marym’s suggestion seems to be the best choice as it appears to be the most recent translation albeit only in paperback.

          And I just bought it.

  2. Tony Wright

    All successful empires, and to some extent their citizens , become arrogant and bullying, thus planting the seeds of their own decline or destruction:
    More recent examples which come to mind, in rough chronological order:
    Spain, France, Germany, England, USA, Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia, with India on similar, but earlier trajectory.
    Greetings from the Annapurna Trek (where life seems saner for a while). T.

    1. Keith Newman

      Tony Wright, 7:49 am
      Annapurna!! I trekked over Annapurna 3 in 1980.
      Quite the experience. Slept in a ruined hut for a week due to a snow storm obliterating the trail, then in a tent for two with three other trekkers, had tea with a goat herder… Amazing unforgettable views. Rocks constantly falling along the continental divide…
      No idea what it’s like now. Too old to do it again. Savour every minute! You’ll never forget it.

  3. The Rev Kev

    When I first read of the genocide of the Melians, I wondered at the time how much that would have cut support for the Athenians as they had shown themselves to be homicidal maniacs rather than representatives of a democratic Athens. Thucydides has the Athenians declare-

    ‘When these matters are discussed by practical people, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they must.’

    Now compare that to what Netanyahu said a coupla years ago-

    ‘The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.’

    So for Netanyahu, everything’s going to plan. Only thing is, Israel is not that strong and without America propping it up, the only thing that they would be strong in is their nukes.

    1. Carolinian

      So the Israelis do like Samson and nuke Iran and Rome and whoever else they have threatened with their rhetoric and what do they have? A smoking ruin in a world that will continue without them.

      It has always been obvious that the only solution for Israel is to make peace with their neighbors rather than calling them a “bad neighborhood” and playing the victims. And those neighbors include the Palestinians who they prefer to ignore or, as Golda Meir did, pretend don’t even exist.

      The above surrender or die tale has been repeated many times in history because their is no such thing as exceptional or chosen and because we all descend from nature, “red in tooth and claw.” The right accepts this and says embrace your instincts but the hopefully smarter left says those more primitive instincts aren’t what allowed humans to dominate the planet. Our cooperative social nature–also a product of instinct–did that. In the end the might makes right crowd lacks some essential intelligence.

  4. dave -- just dave

    In 1965 first year undergraduate students were required to read Thucydides at the university I attended in Cambridge, MA – not the oldest or most famous, however, but rather the one “paralyzed around science”, as we jokingly modified a slogan of the time. I don’t recall the name of the course – it wasn’t “Western Civ”, although it was that in practice – we didn’t call it by name, but by number – 21.01.

    War! What is it good for? It achieves many purposes, of course, and for baby boomers noticing how the Vietnam war was heating up, the parallels of the wartime history of the Greeks with Vietnam was eye opening to many of us.

    I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in political science, while some of my professors were making big bucks (for poli sci professors) by consulting on “strategic hamlets” and stuff like that. One night there was a small bomb in someone’s office – direct action by a dissident? a false flag operation? – and for the rest of my time there armed guards inspected our briefcases and backpacks before one entered the brutalist-architecture building.

    Now in the 21st century, I have just discovered there is no longer an Institute-wide 21.01 course for all entering students, but students must take a certain number of HASS courses – humanities, arts, and social sciences. Times and customs change.

  5. Alex

    Considering that Sparta annexed Melos after the defeat of Athens, one wonders if it wasn’t wiser for the Melians to accept the initial Athenian request

  6. Aurelien

    I don’t think the Melian episode has any useful similarities with what we’re seeing in Gaza. The Dialogue (if it actually took place, since Thucidydes admitted to making lots of the dialogues up) represents a standard attempt to get a city in the ancient world to come over to your side by threatening them with the usual consequences if they don’t. Historians know of several dozen such episodes in the Greek world and, as the Athenians say, they are essentially following the accepted rules. (Think what happened to Troy.) The concept of genocide is not relevant here: it’s an outgrowth of nineteenth century racial science, and the two cities were both Greek anyway.

    What the episode does remind us of is the fundamental difference between the man with a gun and the man without a gun and, beyond that, more and better guns and other and better modes of killing. Military force has been used for the slaughter of unarmed civilians throughout history.

    1. Joe Well

      JoeNotes Version

      Melos = Gaza (resisting and getting crushed–that’s the only relevant similarity after 2500 years), Athens = Israel (again, only in terms of viciousness)

      More broadly:

      Melos = the small and mid-sized non-NATO countries

      Athens = NATO countries

      Sparta = Russia, China, possibly all the BRICS

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I guess if we want modern analogues, any number of smaller nations in WWII (or arguably, in the Cold War) come to mind. Some, like Belgium or Czechoslovakia, didn’t make the right calls. Others, such as Switzerland or Sweden, swallowed their pride and came out of it pretty well.

      You could make the case that in the ancient world the unwritten rules of war were a more effective ‘rule of law’ than existing written ones. At least within similar cultures – the Celts, for example, used hostage exchange as an efficient way of holding tribes to their word, and always treated those hostages well. You could argue that the success of the Roman empire, or indeed the later British and French ones, is that they walked over peoples unaware that the rules had changed and so reliably made the wrong calls.

      1. hk

        AJP Taylor suggested that the Czechs made the right call while Poles didn’t. A little hard to tell what exactly was “the right call” even (especially?) in retrospect. Czechs were, after all, deprived of their sovereignty and subjected to pretty brutal repression, but did not suffer the kind of destruction (and also the same loss of sovereignty and probably worse repression) that the Poles were subjected to. Doubtful too many Melos analogues could escape pretty bad outcomes even if they choose “well.”

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, he’s probably right about the Czechs, although like so much of the history of the time, the more that’s written about it, the murkier it gets. Its often forgotten that the Czechs had a very strong military at the time and a very good industrial base despite having minimal natural resources.

        2. Peter VE

          I just found that in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Poland grabbed a small slice for themselves. The part of history that gets left out often is the most telling.

        3. David in Friday Harbor

          I haven’t read what Taylor said, but it seems to me that the Czechs had a different status under the Nazis due to being former subjects of the Dual Monarchy and “Bohemia and Moravia” being traditionally under German rule, while Poland was seen by the Nazis as part the Teutonic Drang Nach Osten that had been ongoing for centuries. Their subsequent treatment by the occupiers had little to do with the choices of their leaders in the run-up to being invaded.

          These historical “lessons,” especially as seen through Thucydides’ or Hobbes’ semi-fictional allegories, leave me cold. A person’s reading of history is always clouded by both the bias of the author and the bias of the reader.

          Mass-murder is bad, period. However, the Melian Dialogue is correct that only the perpetrators have a choice in the matter.

    3. Retired Carpenter

      re:”The Dialogue (if it actually took place, since Thucidydes admitted to making lots of the dialogues up) represents a standard attempt to get a city in the ancient world to come over to your side by threatening them with the usual consequences if they don’t”

      I disagree. Here is the relevant text:

      Athenians. The end of our empire, if end it should, does not frighten us: a rival empire like Lacedaemon, even if Lacedaemon was our real antagonist, is not so terrible to the vanquished as subjects who by themselves attack and overpower their rulers. This, however, is a risk that we are content to take. We will now proceed to show you that we are come here in the interest of our empire, and that we shall say what we are now going to say, for the preservation of your country; as we would fain exercise that empire over you without trouble, and see you preserved for the good of us both.

      Melians. And how, pray, could it turn out as good for us to serve as for you to rule?

      Athenians. Because you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the worst, and we should gain by not destroying you.

      Melians. So that you would not consent to our being neutral, friends instead of enemies, but allies of neither side.

      Athenians. No; for your hostility cannot so much hurt us as your friendship will be an argument to our subjects of our weakness, and your enmity of our power.

      Athenians did not want the Melians as allies or friends in their camp; they wanted wassals. The izzies want the same thing:

      We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983. More examples are available on the web.

      I think the analogy is spot on.

      Retired Carpenter

        1. caucus99percenter

          The trouble with citing CAMERA as a source is that no one who knows what CAMERA is — an organization whose entire reason for being is pro-Israel advocacy — will be convinced.

          Even if they may be speaking the truth in any given case, “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?” is a quite reasonable reaction when someone who very much wants their side to win tries to pose as an impartial referee.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            I can’t speak for the quote in question, but there are many statements with similar sentiments that were made in recent weeks and aren’t at all in dispute, so no need to go digging through history to find one.

            As for CAMERA, I’m going to have a hard time trusting any organization throwing shade on Robert Fisk.

    4. Starry Gordon

      Beyond with the man with the gun and the man without a gun is that sooner or later the man with the gun has to sleep. Then he thinks, “I’ll hire another guy with a gun.” And then he has another problem.

  7. ilsm

    The best part of Thucydides Peloponnesian War is where Athen’s army is stuck outside Syracuse waiting to die!

    Required reading in one of the USAF officers’ ‘advancement schools’, which I did not complete…… and I missed that last promotion, oh well!

    One lesson: the demos can be brutal! Also can be swayed.

  8. Harold

    If I remember correctly, the island of Melos was located quite near to Sparta and was traditionally Spartan; that was why the Athenians were so keen on conquering it. The Athenians disbelieved its professions of neutrality. In the end, the Spartans did come to its rescue. The Melian dialog is cited by “realists” in international relations to justify their Hobbesian outlook, but in fact, the Rule of the Stronger works in only in the short run, because, as Rousseau says, The Stronger is never strong enough.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I believe they were ethnically/linguistically closer to the Spartans, hence the suspicion of them by the Athenians. I’m not sure the Spartans came to their rescue as much as swept up the remains after they defeated the Athenians and kept it for themselves.

      1. Harold

        Yes. I really wasn’t quite sure how to phrase my last sentence. At any rate, the Spartans showed up.

  9. Samuel Conner

    The thought occurs that it took a number of years of US over-reaction to sour the international sympathy that naturally arose after 9/11. The policy of the government of Israel seems to have accelerated this process by a factor of 20 or more.

    It’s as if there is “mind blindness” toward the rest of the world on the part of the leaders of both nations.

  10. Feral Finster

    “If men like US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jacob Sullivan were required to read the book during their undergraduate studies at Harvard and Yale, they have forgotten that after the genocide of the Melians, the Athenians were defeated – first their army and foreign empire, then their domestic democracy.”

    The Blinkens and Sullivans of the world never take the second step, the part where they and their empire are torn apart and everyone in Greece was glad to see them go, because they’re enjoying the first step so much.

  11. Stella D'oro

    The Battle of Thermopylae as a parable for modern conflict is well-worn territory. Even so, Judaism is Hellenistic at its core. The Kibbutz Movement and the Palmach units were based on Laconian values and education system [Laconia was the nation, Sparta was the city-state, the Peloponnesian League was the greater “alliance”].

    Thucydides was a state-less oligarch from the northeastern Thrace and cynically biased against the democracy of Athens as a subject of the Athenian empire. Thereby, his history of the Peloponnesian War is completely ambivalent on moral ramifications of the choices made by actors. He is critical only of the lawless violence endemic to the conflict itself, and would take a dim view the unprovoked aggression committed by Hamas, Iran, and Russia.

    It any event, it was Thebans of the League, Sparta’s client, who first massacred a besieged Plataea from 429 BC – 427 BC according Thucydides. This was the “take no prisoners event” that bore reciprocal ferocious action by Athens… for whom negotiations failed! Again, ambivalence. So if Helmer is going flex his classical education, the least he could do is get the story right, get the lesson right, and read what Thucydides, the ur-neocon, had to say about Alcibiades the defector.

    1. caucus99percenter

      There’s that word again — “unprovoked.” Trying to recall — wasn’t there something about it being a marker that perhaps heightened counter-suggestibility may be in order?

  12. lyman alpha blob

    “Unprovoked aggression committed by Hamas, Iran, and Russia”?!?!? You aren’t going to find many people in the NC commentariat who believe that in any way, shape, or form. This ain’t CNN and we do try to keep up here.

    1. caucus99percenter

      While raising the warning about “vengeful pathologies” is not without value, the following reservation must also be noted:

      Since that article was written, many — not all, of course, but many, even so — aspects of October 7 reports attributing atrocities to Hamas, claims taken at face value in the London Review of Books article, have been refuted, walked back, or otherwise discredited.

  13. Susan the other

    The ancients don’t quite cut it for me anymore. The strong take and the weak go along? I don’t define political corruption as “strong” but rather as deception. Maybe “snivelling” is a better adjective. Today, deception is backed by high tech military tactics. On both sides. A vast and unconscionable waste of lives and scarce resources. If the logic holds that the “strong” are simply the “unconscionable” then we are all responsible for maintaining Justice in a clear defense against all the deception. So, say the real objective of the Gaza genocide isn’t some ancient ethnic rivalry, but a very modern existential imperative, then what? Clearly, unless you are as stupid as you are unconscionable, you stop the destruction, admit your motives and adjudicate the solution. If the solution entails giving the Gaza Palestinians a share of the profits from the trillion dollar gas field within their claim, then so be it. This isn’t classic literature. This is absolutely barbaric.

    1. JBird4049

      Money, wealth, resources, greed, corruption, bribery, lies, dehumanization, and violence all of it enhanced by grief and rage. All this flavored with vile cunning, shortsightedness, folly, and arrogance.

      Netanyahu his family, and his cronies are very corrupt, dishonest, and rather vile, which is why they have been facing pushback including investigations for corruption. He is hoping to keep his career afloat and if they means killing Israelis, so be it. As a group, they are hoping to win it all with the help of the most extreme elements in Israeli society. Ejecting all the Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank and stealing the land, the sea, and their resources is the goal. If that is true, they have absolutely no intention of giving the Gazans any of the wealth from the gas field.

  14. Jams O'Donnell

    Yes. Presumably the morality of the Athenian Empire was based upon a) what they wanted to do, and b) Hellenic mythology, in which the ‘Gods’ were just as amoral and self-interested as the Athenians. The zionist outlook is still stuck in options a) and c) the Bronze Age ‘Old Testament’ myths, which are similar in many ways to b) above.

    But we can do better than that. 2,500 years later we have other options available, based partly on basic Christianity (and Buddhism) and on two millennia of philosophy, ethics, and later sociology and psychology which have thoroughly explored the terrain of morality. The results are clearly arguably superior to a), b) and c) above. With the ecology crumbling around our ears, and the ‘west’ hell bent on going to hell, these benefits of friendly co-operation and non-aggression must be held to by all nations, rather than primitive tribal superstitions and selfishness. Otherwise the cockroaches will take over.

    1. JBird4049

      We can do better, but is not the question is do those making these decisions want to do better? They have the power of the state and its blind supporters to do what they want or to at least try. Christian, Buddhist, and other ethics presume that people want to be and do better.

    2. cousinAdam

      I, for one, do not wish to enable cockroaches or those that would enable that particular path of evolution. John and Yoko coined a powerful motto – “War is over. IF you want it.” In this 21st century (C. E.) humankind has evolved the ability to communicate with each other unhampered by barriers of language or distance. My bet is that the majority of humankind wants an end to War. Better leaders please!

  15. DMK

    Journeying from ancient Greece back to Gaza,…

    The current number of 10,000 dead in Gaza is reason enough to oppose Israel’s invasion and demand a ceasefire. So why at the beginning of the article does Helmer project “the murder of a million or two Palestinians is the future which the Israelis and Americans are concentrating on now?” I fear that hidden in that inflated figure is a desire to justify future vengeance against Israel and its civilians, which Helmer might rationalize as an effort to prevent millions of Palestinian deaths.

    Hamas kills and captures a thousand Israeli civilians, and Israel retaliates by a multiple of ten, turning its right to self-defense into an act of vengeance. But there is no right to vengeance, either by Israel or the Palestinians. I do not want civilians anywhere to be killed by soldiers or terrorists. I deplore the deaths that Israel has caused in Gaza, but do not believe that the deaths of thousands of Israelis will even the score, be a type of justice, or lead to peace.

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