Atrocities Are Atrocities No Matter Who Does Them

I highly recommend this commentary from Chris Hayes on the U.S. response to the Israel-Hamas War.

As he says, it seems pretty obvious that the Biden Administration’s plan since the October 7 Hamas assault has been to embrace and support Israel publicly but work diplomatically behind the scenes to keep the government of Israel from commiting atrocities in Gaza. And given that the government of Israel is headed by hard-right bigots, that always was probably the best we could do. There was no way Israel was not going to slam Gaza to some degree; the only question was how hard.  And there is no power on earth that could persuade Netanyahu’s government to agree to a cease fire right now. And, frankly, whatever leverage the Biden Administration might have in Israel is built mostly on the popular opinion of Israelis. Not commiting support to Israel after October 7 was not an option, IMO.

Meanwhile, Anthony Blinkin is working his ass off trying to do damage control. For example:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday issued a strong message after a day of meetings with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv, declaring, “we need to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.”

In some of his most forceful comments to date, the top US diplomat said that “civilians should not suffer the consequences for (Hamas’) inhumanity and its brutality.”

Still, Blinken continued to offer support for Israel’s “right” and “obligation” to defend itself after the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks.

He’s getting slammed in some quarters for stating support for Israel’s self-defense, but in truth whatever little bit of influence he might have on the hard-liners would end the second he stopped saying that. Since then Blinken made a surprise visit to the West Bank and met with the Palestinian Authority — which may have reverberated a lot more in Israel than it did here. And I see now that Blinken made a surprise visit to Iraq to talk to Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad.

It’s obvious to me that the U.S. is trying to get Israel to back off and adopt a more humanitarian posture toward Gaza. Blinken wants the Arab world to know this. But it seems this has to be made more explicit, or it’s going to destroy the Biden Administration.

Bernie Sanders is proposing that we use the only leverage that we have left, which is the $3.8 billion the U.S. gives every year to Israel. I can’t see Congress going along with that, but somebody needed to say it.

Also do see Obama Urges Americans to Take in ‘Whole Truth’ of Israel-Gaza War at the New York Times. No paywall. I so miss President Obama’s deep thoughtfulness. In brief, what he says is that there is plenty of blame to spread around for the current situation in Israel and Gaza. And also, “What Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it,” Mr. Obama said. “And what is also true is that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable.”

Naturally the Right had an absolute fit about this, because they want there to be clear good guys and bad guys. This is one of the milder complaints:

Tim Scott on Saturday slammed Barack Obama as “dead wrong” after the former president called for a more nuanced approach to the Israel-Hamas war.

“From Obama to Biden, Democrats have a problem: supporting Israel always has an asterisk,” the South Carolina senator and presidential contender said in a statement to POLITICO.

“Obama is dead wrong and he has a legacy of aiding those who support terrorism,” Scott continued. “The truth is simple: Hamas is evil.”

I haven’t heard anyone making excuses for Hamas. But there is no rule anywhere in the Universe that says that evil only takes one side. In any situation where there are two opposing forces, it’s always possible they are both evil. (Although I want to go on the record I am not comfortable with dismissing any group of people with the word “evil,” no matter what they’ve done. It’s a label that doesn’t tell us anything useful, IMO.)

And maybe what we need right now is a hell of a lot bigger asterisk. Close association with Netanyahu’s Israel is not in the long-term interests of the United States.

Jonathan Chait:

Here is a simple proposition: You can oppose antisemitism without condoning hatred of Muslims or Arabs. Likewise, you can oppose bias against Muslims and Arabs without condoning antisemitism.

This may sound like a simple idea. Yet it is one the entire Republican Party seems unable to grasp.

Last May, the Biden administration announced what it called the most ambitious strategy to oppose antisemitism ever undertaken. In the wake of Hamas’s terrorist attack last month, President Biden and Second Gentleman Douglass Emhoff held a roundtable with Jewish leaders to express support for Israel along with opposition to antisemitism. And as antisemitism has grown on campuses, the administration recently announced new stoops to combat it.

Republicans insist Biden and his party are complicit in antisemitism. The main reason they give is that the Democrats also oppose bigotry against Muslims and Arabs.

Given that I am accusing the Republicans of failing to grasp a principle a literal child could easily understand, you may be justifiably suspicious I am either making it up or picking on one or two random outliers. So I am going to supply several examples, all taken from published journalism, not random social-media posts.

And then Chait does give examples of prominent right-wing columnists in major right-wing media citing the Biden Administration’s concerns about Islamophobia as evidence that the Biden Administration is antisemitic. Chait continues,

Conservatives — ironically, like many radical leftists — see the world in zero-sum terms, so that opposing prejudice against one party to a conflict means accepting it toward the other. Segments of the anti-Israel left cannot bring themselves to denounce antisemitism precisely because they see doing so as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The right’s mentality is a mirror image of that thought process.

There is all kinds of research showing that liberals and conservatives have very different psychological wiring. Let’s just be blunt and admit that the conservative brain is miswired.

12 thoughts on “Atrocities Are Atrocities No Matter Who Does Them


    <i>As he says, it seems pretty obvious that the Biden Administration’s plan since the October 7 Hamas assault has been to embrace and support Israel publicly but work diplomatically behind the scenes to keep the government of Israel from commiting atrocities in Gaza. </i>

    I do not see this at all but I am not from the USA. I see it more as the USA is condoning if not encouraging the Israeli Govt while Blinkin utters useless platitudes.

    If the US Govt wanted to really attract the Israeli cabinet's attention all they need to do is say, “Oops sorry, all those missiles, equipment, and those tens of thousands of 155mm shells we wanted to ship to you are already committed to Ukraine. Oh, and those carrier groups are needed in the Pacific”.

    Chris Hayes did do an excellent presentation. Thanks for posting it.

    • I see it more as the USA is condoning if not encouraging the Israeli Govt while Blinkin utters useless platitudes.

      Thanks for reminding us that the Right doesn't have all the ignorance. Where in your fevered imagination do you see "encouraging"? Biden has been walking a very fine line here, trying not to alienate Israel while doing as much as he can for the Palestinians. He's made several public speeches calling on the Israelis to not make the stupid mistakes we did after 9/11. Most of the administration's efforts over the past few days have involved getting humanitarian aid to the people trapped in Gaza while getting hostages out. Maybe you need to watch Chris Hayes's presentation more closely. 

    • If the US Govt wanted to really attract the Israeli cabinet's attention all they need to do is say, “Oops sorry, all those missiles, equipment, and those tens of thousands of 155mm shells we wanted to ship to you are already committed to Ukraine. Oh, and those carrier groups are needed in the Pacific”.

      This pretty much nails it.  Caitlin Johnstone has an essay out about the issue.

      In summary, this Washington Post article is telling us that Biden is powerless to stop the genocidal massacre in Gaza because he really likes the people doing the genocide and doesn’t want to stop them from doing it.

      The alternative has been covered by Jonathan Cook, who remarked that if Biden & Company truly are helpless to halt the slaughter, the Apartheid state is in full control of the US after all.

      At this point I expect neither Biden nor Trump to be on the ballot in 2024.  Yes, that's partly wishful thinking, but Biden can no longer win in the Swing States because he has infuriated so many Muslims and anti-war people like myself.  Trump displays every indication he's hell-bent to self-destruct.

      Trump will destroy the US if he gets the opportunity to do so.  However, that event would not be as bad as a general nuclear war.  Not even close!


      • This will almost certainly cost Biden Michigan which has a substantial Muslim population. Bibi has proclaimed today that the IDF will be in Gaza until the end of time, that means daily acts of "terror" by Hamas followed by overwhelming IDF response, so it's going to be 25-30 dead Palestinians every day even after we have a "cease fire". This whole episode is a no win for Biden either way. If he had refused to support the bombing in Gaza the GQP and our corporate media would have immediately trashed him, labeled him weak on terror handing a win to the GQP. His support of the bombing may well cost him several swing states and the election, again handing a win to Stump and the GQP. Bibi's failure to stop the hamas attack and his uncontrolled response seems to help the GQP no matter what Biden does, funny that?

  2. Responding in part to the previous comment… I'm frequently stunned by liberals who expect politicians can and should ignore politics and govern by ideology without consideration of consequences. For example, the suggestion that the US can just shut off aid to Israel for not following the direction of the US State Dept, particularly regarding Gaza and the West Bank.

    Let's say Biden declared an ultimatum – cease-fire now. Bibi would refuse. Biden cuts off aid to Israel, military and humanitarian. (This would almost certainly cost Biden the election.) Ignoring the US political fallout, if the US told Bibi he's militarily ON HIS OWN, we give a green light to hardliners in Iran. Iran steps up what looks like preparations for an invasion. Bibi threatens a nuclear pre-emptive strike. Iran gets nukes from South Korea. The rest of the Arab world stocks up on popcorn – the annihilation of Israel is a wet dream for many in the Arab world. The destruction of Iran would leave the Saudis in control of the Middle East. 

    Strategic point: the US did NOT move a carrier strike group into position because we think it's an effective force against terrorists. The US is telling other countries hostile to the Jewish State to stand down. But the flip side is also true – if the US abandons its support of Israel's right to exist, we open the door (potentially) to the genocide of Jewish men, women, and children. This is not rhetorical – the slaughter of civilians a month ago proves how deep the hate runs. Sane persons in civilized places don't *get* the idea that factions on both sides WANT to conduct ethnic cleansing. 

    Joe's doing the best he can with the hand he's been dealt. Over the long haul, I think the US will supply Bibi's enemies in Israel with the political facts that ensure the full blame for being so badly prepared results in a new government. I think the US will help document atrocities against Palestinian civilians by the military as deliberate reprisal without any military objective. (Hamas target.) And I think the US will try to find a path with a new Israeli administration and a reputable third party (not the US) to open talks with the Palestinian Authority to dial down the incidents that are fueling atrocities. We're decades from anything that looks like peace – the goal is a sustained status that isn't open war.

    Which brings me back to the decisions of the Biden Administration. The US can NOT abandon Israel without making a bad situation much, much worse. The US has to engage in destabilizing the administration in power in Israel and offering to meet the needs of the new government but with strings. As I read the tea leaves, that's what Biden is doing. (Biden reportedly has told Bibi that he thinks Bibi is on the way out.)

    Things will get worse before they get better. They might get better with some luck. Perhaps the losses on both sides will be so horrific that (for many) concessions that lead to less tension and less violence will be worth the risk and work.

  3. I tend to agree with most of what Doug said.

    I have hundreds of thoughts every day as I watch the new channels, and mostly I'm frustrated because most of what I hear seems to fail to appreciate the monumental complexity of the situation. And at this point, so many people are getting interviewed in an attempt by news organizations to get different points of view hoping to get closer to the truth.  But what's going on is that people and organizations that have a mission/agenda that existed long before October 7 are trying to hijack this moment to push their cause. This is not helping people understand what is going on.

    I heard Katy Tur interviewing a guy representing Palestinians (he was from the West Bank, not Gaza). After much conversation, most of it reasonable, Katy asked if the guy would condemn Hamas for the actions of October 7.  He immediately went back to talking about the Israeli settlements in the west bank and events that had harmed Palestinians there. I got really annoyed at the TV when she didn't keep after him on that. So, the guy was there to "change the subject".

    I deplore Netanyahu politically. I see him as part of the global authoritarian movement. But I am deeply concerned by October 7 and the need to have significant accountability for Hamas. Too many people are conflating Hamas with the Palestinian people.

    I am a pacifist and dislike ANY killing if humans. But I am adamant that Hamas must pay a huge price for Oct. 7. And in my mind the actions of Israel in the West Bank are a problem for another time. Arab factions are trying to use the West Bank stuff as a justification for Oct. 7.  That's BS.

    This evening I heard a Dem House member calling for cease fire and saying, that we got Bin Laden with a special operation and that that's how Israel should respond to Oct. 7.  I've heard a lot of stupid statements from reps and senators, but this one is right up there. Hamas is the controlling "government" of Gaza and has and "army" of militants and surrogate militant groups as well. This is not one guy hiding out in a compound in Pakistan. Geez.  If any intelligence/special ops group has a decent chance of pulling off a rescue of over 200 hostages in Gaza, it's Israel. And if it were feasible, it would certainly cost fewer Israeli lives than what they've put into motion. 

    I'm not naive.  I think Bibi and his lieutenants are a bunch of right wingers who want to deliver a huge punishment as a deterrence. I don't like that. But who the heck am I to tell them what to do when I haven't got a clue how anybody is supposed to deal with the terrorist organization that Hamas is. And it bothers me whenever I see people bemoaning the loss of Gazan civilian lives calling for the bombing to stop, but without offering ANY suggestion of what to do instead. People on the sidelines taking potshots without anything of their own at stake. I wish the whole thing could end fast (I doubt it can).  But this I know:  I know that I don't have a clue what the best way is to respond to Oct. 7. 

    I'm not Jewish. I'm a WASP but I have strong ethical drives and I'm familiar with WWII.  I want nothing but peace for all people over there, at least for all who are not dedicating their lives to the destruction of other people. Peace cannot happen when people are so "tribal" and view every individual in the other "tribe" as an enemy. 

    What are we supposed to do?  Should Hamas be let off the hook for Oct. 7?  How can that be avoided?  How can they be brought to justice? I don't wish death or injury or deprivation or horror and anybody, and I don't care what category a person might put themselves in, I don't wish those things on them.

    None of this makes me feel good.     

  4. I can only empathize with Blinkin, whose job I wouldn't want for all the world. I hadn't heard him speak until the Chris Hayes video. Thrilled that he's someone with empathy, and can communicate this to the public. If Trump had won in 2020, Gaza would be turned into glass by now. As difficult as this situation is, it could've been so much worse.

  5. The Gaza War creates huge headaches for Biden and his team, both politically and globally.

    I suspect that top Democrats have been badly surprised by the extent of pro-Palestinian (and/or anti-Israel) protests.  Key groups in the Democratic coalition – notably young Progressives and Black Americans – reject the Party's long-time support for Israel.  The fact that AOC's Squad all won re-election in 2022 against candidates which got millions of $ from AIPAC [-related groups] shows that the Israel Lobby is no longer invincible; strong majorities of voters in those districts sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israel.

    Perhaps worse, the global situation has changed in ways that seem to have caught the Biden team by surprise.  They were blind to the steep decline in US prestige since the invasion of Iraq, continuing to pretend that we are THE indispensable Nation, imagining that we can still be the World Police, and that everybody will either follow us or get out of the way.  Israel's treatment of Palestinians since the collapse of the Oslo process has alienated everybody who has been paying attention.  And continued US support for Israel makes a mockery of our claim to lead a "Rules-Based Order".

    It seemed to me that the Biden team started off with traditional staunch support for Israel – hoping the problem would disappear quickly so they could get back to focusing on Ukraine – but they were blind-sided by internal political *and* international pressure against that policy.  They are now trying to please everybody – "supporting Israel" while also pressuring them to minimize casualties – in ways which will please nobody.

    Most people – and countries – around the world will hold us responsible for every Palestinian killed by Israeli bombs; and how can we refute that, when those bombs were Made in America?

    Zillionaire Friends of Israel will see Democrats as "unreliable", and shift donations to Republicans, quite possibly giving the GOP complete control of our Government next year.


    Of course, it could be worse: it could be WWIII.

    • I'm not sure which would be worse — World War III or Trump and the MAGAts in complete control of the government. Of course, nobody says we can't have both. 

  6. The root cause of the conflict is the same as its always been — hardline extremists on both sides, always seeking to take advantage, leaving innocents to suffer.  They're not interested in peace, but the total destruction of the other.  Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists, in part for agreeing to a peace deal with Menachem Begin.  Former Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a Jewish right wing extremist for agreeing to the Oslo accords with Arafat that laid the framework for a two state solution.  Now we have the corrupt Netanyahu, who likely sees the Hamas attack as an opportunity to politically save his own hide and avoid the justice he deserves.  The right wing bigots he has surrounded himself with relish the opportunity to destroy not just Hamas but the Palestinian people in GAZA.  The Israeli defense minister insisted there are no innocent Palestinians, and that all of them are "combatants.?  And of course our own rabid right is just as bloodthirsty and for similar reasons.  Lindsay Graham recently proclaimed, with all the attendant drama he could muster, that there is no limit to Palestinian deaths that would justify a cease fire.  

    As a nation we need to set our own bigotry aside and muster the courage to step out of our ideological frames and support both the Israeli and Palestinian people.  We need to work to ensure that leaders emerge on both sides who can work out a sensible solution.  

  7. Whenever you discuss warfare in terms of good vs evil, then people heat up, and yearn to commit evil themselves. But when you talk in terms of gain and loss, then people cool off, and yearn for an end to the war.

    I speculate that there's evil in the very word "evil". If so, then I apologize for using that contaminated word four times in this post.

  8. "Biden has been walking a very fine line here, trying not to alienate Israel while doing as much as he can for the Palestinians."

    Agreed, Biden has certainly not encouraged the war crimes we see playing out in Gaza but he and Blinken have not forcefully condemned them either in public or as documented by our recent votes in the UN. The problem is Bibi is not a good faith actor, he is an Islamophobic goon, he only has power because the hard right "pro settler" movement gave him power. Those Israelis don't want peace, they want to drive Arabs from the west bank and see the invasion of Gaza as another opportunity, not only a defensive response. Biden should have understood from the jump that even modest support for strikes in Gaza would end with what we have now (FOX news even loved his initial reaction). Now we have an all out siege, no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel, telling civilians to move to the south then bomb the south, bombing hospitals, ambulance convoys, 10,000 civilian casualties, 3000 plus children dead. Netanyahu proclaimed today that Israel will be occupying Gaza till the end of time "Israel will have an ‘overall security’ role in Gaza indefinitely". I understand that criticism of Israel is a political third rail in this country and that Biden needs to thread that needle but supporting Bibi Netanyahu is not going to get anyone where we need to be, Israelis, Palestinians or the USA. I knew when I watched Biden's first speech that he was stepping in it, of course Israel has the right to respond to Hamas's brutal attacks but he and his advisers know who Bibi and his supporters are, the fucking guy trashed a sitting US President (Obama the guy who increased aid to Israel) in a joint session of congress. I admit I don't really know what should have been done differently, Biden's support seemed slightly measured but obviously Bibi saw it as a blank check. Someone like Bibi cannot and should not be trusted. It doesn't matter what is said behind closed doors, unless the objections are made publicly Bibi will ignore them. He has powerful enablers in this country and he knows it. Biden will pay a price for trusting him.


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