It finally happened. In the last day or so, major mainstream voices condemned Israel’s shootings of unarmed Palestinian protesters on March 30, in which 17 were killed.
Chris Hayes did it on MSNBC last night. “A frankly unconscionable use of force.” Ayman Mohyeldin of MSNBC called out the racism in the media’s indifference to the killings. David Rothkopf of the Carnegie Endowment questioned Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The New York Times, Washington Post and J Street all criticized the murders (albeit with equivocations), while on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, Cornel West said Martin Luther King Jr would have spoken out against Israel’s “massacre” in Gaza, and Brian Lehrer, an Israel supporter who regularly hosts neoconservatives, did not seek to contradict West.
Why did the dam break and what does it mean?
It happened because the left is applying all the force here, largely through social media; and the rightwing advocates are silent. Bill Kristol, Jeffrey Goldberg and Jennifer Rubin seem to have taken one look at the awful videos from Gaza and, finding the Israeli actions indefensible, turned back to Trump.
It is hugely meaningful: The American Jewish love affair with Israel is over. We are going to see more and more outright signs of the breakup in the discourse and in our politics too in coming years.
Let’s consider the dynamics first. The mainstream editorials appeared only after social media, alt web sites, and human rights groups said emphatically for several days what was plain as the nose on your face: that these were war crimes. And more important, the mainstream spoke after seeing there was no pushback from the Zionist center/right.
The Onion did as much for the narrative as anyone. “Teen On Birthright Trip Hadn’t Expected To See So Many Dead Palestinians,” it mocked. The Onion‘s fictitious young Jew, Sarah Caplan, said she was “surprised that there were so many people her age in the Israeli Defense Forces killing Palestinians.”
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem condemned the shootings as crimes the day they happened. Four days later, Human Rights Watch called the killings “unlawful” and “calculated,” and said the soldiers fired because of a “longstanding culture of impunity.”
Then Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch threatened to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes.
Israel, we will be watching & documenting what you do in Gaza on Friday. Domestic impunity won’t protect you from prosecution abroad.
IfNotNow, the non-Zionist Jewish group, did not need to be told these were murders. It led demonstrations at the Israeli consulate in Boston on Tuesday, at which eight young Jews were arrested for saying the killings go against the spirit of Passover, and at the offices of a New York Jewish establishment group last night:
The group called on the URJ [the Union for Reform Judaism], the largest denomination of American Jewry — which has taken bold progressive positions against gun violence and Israel’s mistreatment of liberal Jews, among other issues — to condemn the shocking murders of Palestinian protesters by the IDF.
Some voices in high places spoke out. Mohyeldin of NBC hit the racist blind spot in the mainstream coverage of Gaza:
Until every resident of the land over which Israel enforces control has equal rights and protections under the law it’s not a democracy.
Rothkopf is as Jewish establishment as they come. The former head of Foreign Policy magazine, he once tarred Walt and Mearsheimer as gentile anti-Semites (“they made a cynical decision to cash in on anti-Semitism by offering to dress up old hatreds in the dowdy Brooks Brothers suits of the Kennedy School and the University of Chicago”). But Rothkopf was enraged:
Israel’s brutal treatment of the demonstrators in Gaza…and Gaza itself…is the anti-Passover. It represents the height of hypocrisy: A supposedly Jewish state violating the most basic concepts of the religion in order to defend its “right to exist.”
Notice his sarcasm about a mantra Israel supporters have tried to shove down our throats forever: its right to exist.
The most important element of the reaction to the massacre was the fact that the neocons and rightwing loudmouths were quiet. They know they cannot defend Israel’s conduct, so they sat on their hands. Bill Kristol is silent. Jeffrey Goldberg silent. Jennifer Rubin silent. Bret Stephens silent. Bari Weiss silent. Tamara Cofman Wittes, silent.
The usual chorus of very connected mainstream hooligans who campaign for Israel in the press and on television was dumfounded. They don’t understand why Israel did this, they just wish it would go away. (And they can all say that they have bigger fish to fry: Trump. But it must tear them up that Netanyahu loves Trump.)
I am horrified by the tragic wounding & killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza last Friday. Attacks on peaceful Palestinian protesters must end, and the U.S. & the international community must do more to support a resolution to the conflict.
Ari Fleischer is surely right, when he observes that progressive Democrats are beginning to turn against Israel:
Democrats – welcome to what your party has become. 1) It’s not a protest when you cross a sovereign border. It’s an invasion. 2) The Democrats used to support Israel. Now, many of them don’t.
Liberal media is responsive to these stirrings. This week there were finally outspoken Palestinian voices on the most important platforms. Diana Buttu had an op-ed in the Washington Post saying, It’s “time to crack down on Israel.”
[A]s the United States and the E.U. continue to try to appease Israel, Palestinians pay the price — with their lives.
Rawan Yaghi got an op-ed in the New York Times, with a wrenching description of a visit to the protests on Sunday:
I left the protest thinking of the rest of Gaza — shellshocked for years, its borders closed and its United Nations-funded infrastructure in decay. I thought of the kids in my neighborhood who play football in what used to be the ground floor of a tall residential building, with bare concrete columns and poking iron rods as their only audience. And I thought: Once again, Gaza the Injured has come out to protest, and to scream for life.
So the left was dominating the commentary on the massacre; and mainstream voices finally spoke up.
The New York Times ended its three-day silence on the killings with an editorial that had unusually sharp language for Israel. The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. was angered. Though the Times typically framed the matter as a crisis for Israel, with the headline, “Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests,” it dared to pronounce that Israel should “not use live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators.”
Israel’s response appears to have been excessive, as human rights groups have asserted.
A godawful Washington Post editorial said that Israel fell into Hamas’s “trap” by killing so many Palestinians. But it conceded that Israel had suffered “a moral and political blow.”
J Street ended its three-day silence with a statement putting blame on Palestinians and Hamas, but noting the “disturbingly high number of casualties.”
We urge the Israeli government and IDF to exercise maximum possible restraint and to use non-lethal force in such situations. We are dismayed that members of the Israeli government have already dismissed out of hand calls to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of these events.
And last night Chris Hayes broke his silence with a segment denouncing the shooting of 750 Palestinians. “Yes that is a correct number.” After the usual disclaimers about Palestinian extremism, he said that that “in no way justifies what Israeli soldiers appear to have done, which is perch on a hill and pick off protesters with sniper fire.” They “rained down bullets on unarmed people, again and again and again.” Then Hayes called out the “vast number of Congressmen” who have said nothing against the massacre.
Yes, Hayes was late, but he knows the story. He and Mohyeldin work for a network that is run by a man (David Cohen) who threw fundraisers for the Israeli army, and that is chaired by a man (Brian Roberts) “known for his affinity for Israel.” Jake Tapper works for a network whose marketing exec wrote speeches for Netanyahu.
My headline says that American Jews are done with Israel. The deluge is coming. Ten years ago Max Blumenthal came out as an anti-Zionist at rallies for the Israeli massacre of the moment, and it was shocking. Today David Rothkopf comes out as an anti-Zionist, and we all get it. So much has happened since Cast Lead of ’08-09. One massacre after another, that ravening Israeli Jews fully approved. American Jews are not going to hold the bag any more.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman, Allison Deger, Scott Roth, Bob Herbst, and James North.