Does Every Person in Israel Deserve to Die?

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, May 6, 2024

I fervently hope, dear reader, that you do not agree that every person in Israel deserves to die. But I know some of you do, and I hope to suggest a better way of looking at it. I know that you’re even more unlikely to agree with me that nobody ever anywhere “deserves to die.” But the closer you can get to agreeing with that, the better!

Have you heard people calling the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel a “success,” despite the perfectly predictable results piling up in mass graves? You can quickly search and find that claim, not just from Iranian militarists quoted in Israeli media, but also from former UN inspectors, and hip leftist revolutionaries all over social media and all over the world.

In fact, I recently participated in an online debate on whether war can ever be justified. The moderator asked whether it wasn’t obviously counterproductive in terms of halting NATO for Russia to have invaded Ukraine and in terms of liberating Palestine for Hamas to have attacked civilians on October 7th. The answer on both points seems to be a clear yes. You can agree with me that NATO and the West are largely to blame for problems in Ukraine, including for preventing a negotiated agreement to end the war, as well as for not supporting adherence to the previous agreement of Minsk 2, and still — mirabile dictu — recognize that nothing has benefitted NATO more than the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as — for godsake — a RAND report advocated for creating for just that reason. And you can recognize that many in the Israeli government have been passionately drooling for an excuse to genocide Gaza for years, and still think it was counterproductive to hand them that excuse. You can recognize how many lies and exaggerations have been told about what happened on October 7 and still think it was counterproductive to hand them that excuse.

But my friend in our amicable online debate replied to this question by claiming that “the settler” doesn’t hate anyone more because of an attack by the oppressed. “The settler” is just more angered. I suppose that’s one way of characterizing a genocide: being more angered. He explained: “I don’t believe in any settler-colonial situation that there is any such thing as civilians versus military — especially when everybody in the civilian community in Israel is serving in the military anyway, but even if that weren’t the case, the fact of the settler colonial imposition is the policy that is driving the violence meted out on its citizens.” It’s Israel’s fault if anyone kills any Israelis, and every Israeli is an acceptable target without distinctions.

Of course, this is a childish way of looking at blame, as multiple parties are usually to blame for any situation and the person doing something cannot be granted a total lack of responsibility for what they do. But I want to focus on the notion that all Israelis are made into targets for killing by a theory about settler-colonialism, because this involves a dangerous and childish failure to distinguish a government from a people. “All Israelis” includes refuseniks who are going to prison for their refusal to support Israel’s crimes, and people who are risking harsh punishment for speaking out against Israel’s crimes, and people who are demonstrating, and people who are working on peacemaking efforts, and people who are four years old, and people who are three years old, and people who are 95 years old, and people who are visiting Israel from abroad. And what about Israelis who are themselves abroad but still supposedly legitimate targets with some amount of collateral non-Israeli damage?

And where would Israel be without the support and the weapons and the legal protection and the propaganda facilitation of the U.S. government? Surely if every Israeli can be killed for Gaza, the same applies to every person in the United States from the CEOs of weapons companies to their servants in Congress to professors agitating for violent resistance by Palestinians to those of us opposing all violence by everyone.

Of course there is collective responsibility. We in the U.S. are responsible to some degree for the horrors committed by the U.S. government, because we could stop them if we all used strategic nonviolent action. And the same is true in Israel. But that fact doesn’t actually make murdering children or anybody else moral or strategic.

Yes there is a dire need for resistance. But we need to work on those strategies that benefit the cause and not those that harm it. I’m convinced that my fellow debate participant isn’t interested in what works but in what mirrors back at “the settler” the settler’s evil, even if it increases that evil. We see every day that the camera is more powerful than the rocket, that the student encampment is more effective than the cafe bombing. There’s clearly no easy or guaranteed path to success, but we have to try those paths most likely to succeed, and not be thrown off by our emotions or by propaganda techniques that accuse us of blaming victims or equating unequal things with each other.

There’s clearly no need to spend any time protesting Hamas when we have no moments to spare in protesting the U.S. and Israel — but we could damn well do a better job of protesting the U.S. and Israel if we understood that the enemy is war, that the enemy is the idea of treating other people as enemies.

One Response

  1. Sure, and do not forget that the ennemi is religious fanatism such as the one enlighted at the
    zionist Basel conference.

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