Listen to those defending Israeli violence against the Palestinians in Gaza and what you hear is denial. They cannot deny the facts and instead deny their emotional and moral significance. They agree that the Israeli military is bombarding Gaza and that thirteen hundred have been killed as a consequence. Rather than admit that the bombardment constitutes a humanitarian disaster and heinous war crime, however, they leap to the rhetorical devices of blaming the victim and condemning the condemner.
Ignoring more than sixty years of state terror that began with the ethnic cleansing of Israel that left most Palestinians scattered across the Middle East or locked into blockaded Gaza or shrinking enclaves in the West Bank, the deniers endorse the Israeli government’s claim that its operations target Hamas rather than the Palestinian population, and then proceed to blame Hamas for the deaths of Palestinians in some version of the ‘human shields’ accusation.
Rather than concede that the Palestinians might have just cause to resist their oppressors or even that they face oppression, the deniers are likely to accuse critics of anti-Semitism. At the very least they conjure an existential threat to all Jews if Israel is not permitted to do what it will with the Palestinians and their homeland out of the hyperbolic silliness common to political rhetoric across the Middle East (including Israel) and the physical threat of the pathetic homemade rockets from Gaza and the rocks thrown by the youth of the West Bank. Reference is inevitably made to pogroms and the Holocaust in a manner suggesting that Palestinians would commit the commit the same horrors if only they could.
This pathological denial is possible because the major U.S. news media sources act as the walls of an information ghetto. What’s obscured beyond those walls would erode the uncritical support for Israel in American public opinion. The Palestinians almost disappear as the indigenous inhabitants of the land that was seized to establish Israel and are recast as the angry bigoted Arabs who live on its periphery. How they got there is apparently a mystery that need not be explained. Certainly no mention is made of the still uncompensated expropriation of Palestinian land in Israel or of the right of several million Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Comparing Israel is the other European settler states in the Middle East and Africa – French Algeria, British Kenya, Rhodesia, and apartheid era South Africa – is of course rarely heard because of the possibility that it flags. Palestinians disappear so completely that the deniers dare to say that they can’t recognize their true enemy in Hamas.
The extraordinary influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington has received some news coverage of late but hardly comparable to what would be broadcast or published if Mexico or Germany attempted to insert themselves in our domestic politics to the same degree. Imagine the outrage if Mexico City or Berlin were operating domestic lobbies as powerful as AIPAC!
Scarcely any mention is made of the enormous transfers, in both total amount and per capita terms, of American military aid to Israel. The recent announcement of a billion dollar U.S. munitions depot in Israel that the Israelis were permitted to draw from to reload came as a surprise to many Americans. The Israeli arms industry, which depends on American technological licensing but sells to some of America’s enemies, is nowhere to be seen in news coverage. Nor is there much news coverage of Israeli espionage against the U.S. That Israel is one of only nine nuclear weapons states on the planet is a secret only to some of the American news audience. So is the terror those weapons inspire around the Middle East.
Fortunately the walls of our information ghetto do not block out all of the truth. U.S. cable companies might have organized an Iron Wall preventing older and poorer Americans from watching al Jazeera but younger and wealthier Americans are getting a lot of their news, and better quality news, elsewhere. Successful denial requires a poor quality information environment. That is not something likely to last. The political reckoning to follow from the emotional and moral response of the Americans public to images of dead and wounded Palestinian children can only be delayed. After public opinion has broken the absurd excuses made for Israeli atrocities will likely embarrass those who made them.