In Our Name

It is long past time to stop calling what’s going on in Gaza a “war.” On October 7, 2023 the Israeli government essentially got “sucker punched” and has responded with a staggering campaign of death and devastation. I am by no means excusing or minimizing the killing of approximately 1200 Israeli citizens and the abduction of others yet the extreme disproportionality of the Israeli government’s response is truly shocking. It is as if someone decided that the death of one Israeli human being must be answered for by the death of one thousand Palestinian human beings.

This is not a war. It’s the indiscriminate slaughter of human beings living in Gaza. What is being perpetrated against them is nothing less than State-sanctioned mass murder. It is the war crime of all war crimes. It’s an on-going genocide that is painfully obvious unless one has the capacity and willingness to enter a state of massive denial in order to not see it or believe it.

It is no exercise in excuse-making to put this event in its proper context. The history of conflict between Israel and Palestine did not begin in the autumn of 2023. It goes back at least to 1948 when the Nakba (“catastrophe”) began. This word refers to the process of “ethnic cleansing” in which the homes and villages of Palestinian people were taken or destroyed and those people who did not meet the criteria of being Jewish or Israeli were forcibly displaced with many becoming refugees. This process has waxed and waned since 1948 but it has not stopped. Current data indicates that there are approximately 6,000,000 Palestinian human beings officially recognized as refugees.

We would do well to ask ourselves how desperate we would be if we were the ones existing under such conditions with that history of oppression and degradation on our backs. We might be just as desperate. When people feel desperate enough they will tend to act out of their desperation rather than from wisdom or compassion. Is that what happened on 7 October?

The bitter irony of this genocide is that it is being carried out by a nation that was created as a direct consequence of the holocaust of World War II in which millions of European Jews (and others) were horrifically tortured and murdered by a fascist government. Does the historical oppression and attempted annihilation of human beings who identified as Jewish, translate into a license for the government of Israel to perpetrate its own version of oppression and annihilation against fellow human beings who identify as Palestinians? Amazingly, it appears that for enough people with enough political and economic power the answer is a resounding Yes.

An important distinction needs to be made between a nation’s government and its people. This needs to be emphasized because it is a mistake to assume that a nation’s government truly represents the people who live in it. Governments, of course, like to portray themselves as leaders who carry out the will of their people but simply because government leaders claim something doesn’t automatically make it true. Without this distinction it becomes all too easy to blur that line and blame a people for the actions of their government.

“Israel has the right to defend itself” is the justification repeated ad nauseam by politicians and pundits alike to apply a veneer of legitimacy to what the Israeli government and military have been doing to the people of Gaza. How exactly does the indiscriminate mass murder of ordinary people, many of them children, qualify as “defending oneself”? Another question that is rarely, if ever, publicly asked is whether the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves. Do they have a right to self-defense that is equal to that which is ascribed to the nation of Israel? Perhaps the deafening public silence on this point is an implicit assertion that the Palestinian people have no such right.

What does this mean for those of us living in the comparatively safe and comfortable United States? We do not have to worry about being bombed from above or being shot by soldiers in our hometowns. While life in America is certainly not serenity and bliss for all of its inhabitants, it is hard to imagine that any of us would want to trade places with those in Gaza now.

What if it’s possible for us to love the places we call home and have no less love for those who live in the places they call home, wherever that may be? What if we can accept that the idea of “nations” and “countries” are artificial constructs that have no organic or sacred reality? Can we understand that these are merely stories that we have created to give ourselves a sense of group identity and group safety?

When astronauts looked at our planet from space they did not see separate countries with national borders. Instead they saw our little blue world floating silently through an unbelievably vast universe. They saw through the absurdity of the artificial divisions we organize our lives around. They saw the illusion for what it was.

The United States of America was initially formed as a constitutional republic to be based on democratic principles. Tragically, it has devolved into an oligarchy based on sociopathic principles. This assertion is not merely conjecture but is supported by research conducted in 2014 by professors from Princeton University and Northwestern University. These researchers studied data and came to this conclusion.

Our government is supposed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people” but has instead become a government of, by and for a group of corporations that hold excessive influence over it. It has become a handmaid to the military industrial complex, to Big Oil, to Big Pharma and the like. It sells itself to these entities and sells out its people again and again.

What happened to us?

Regardless of how many layers of disinformation and phony mythologizing that political and corporate powers may promote, some core truths about us remain intact:

Everyone belongs.
No one is disposable.
War is not normal nor is it a “way of life.”

These truths may be deemed “bad for business” by centers of materialistic power who act according to highly myopic self-interest but that does not diminish their truthfulness. If “doing business” means that people are regarded as disposable, that “us” versus “them” is how we must see the people of the world and that conflict must be resolved by killing, then the “bottom line” will only read: Complete Annihilation.

Many who call America their home are deeply horrified by the relentless and pervasive mass murder of the people who call Gaza their home. Many yearn to do something to stop the carnage. Many have contacted their senators and representatives. Many have demonstrated in public spaces. Despite significant public opposition to the actions of the Israeli government, the United States’ government remains steadfast in its support for its political ally. It continues to provide more weapons, more military equipment and more financial support to the Israeli government. This bounty of destructive resources are then used to kill innocent civilians, destroy their homes, obliterate hospitals and places of worship. It is the systematic erasure of all that was once Palestine. The United Nations would have passed a ceasefire resolution except for the United States exercising its veto power to prevent it. The United States has now vetoed such a resolution three times since October 7, 2023.

The United States government is supporting genocide.

It is doing so by unflinchingly and uncritically providing the government of Israel with the most modern and lethal weapons of war without which it could not do what it is now doing in Gaza. The U.S. government is also providing considerable psychological support to the Israeli government. This form of support emboldens the government of Israel to do as it wishes because it understands that it has the backing of the most powerful military anywhere on the planet. Understandably, Israel’s government may confidently believe that, with U.S. backing, no one can stop them. Who will even try?

We who live in America who do not hold positions of power within dominant corporations or our government, who see and understand the moral implications of what our government is doing are painfully forced to arrive at a very sobering conclusion:

This is all being done in our name.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *