Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and Racialism

For nearly three weeks I’ve been suggesting with increasing forcefulness that the official figure of 1,400 Israeli deaths from the Hamas attack may have been considerably exaggerated. Here’s what I’d said last Monday:

The total number of Israeli deaths remains uncertain. The government has claimed around 1,400 fatalities, a figure universally reported across the entire global media, but nearly a month after the fighting ending, fewer than 1,100 names have been published, raising serious doubts about the reality of the larger total. Indeed, Blumenthal noted that when Israel’s UN Ambassador distributed horrifying images of the corpses of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas, many of them turned out to be the bodies of Hamas fighters killed by the Israelis. So it seems quite possible that several hundred dead Hamas militants were originally included in that 1,400 total, with the Israeli government being too embarrassed to admit its original mistake.

As far as I know, I was almost alone among Internet writers offering these bold speculations and I naturally received some sharp criticism for my “conspiratorial” thinking. But on Saturday morning, the New York Times carried the following short item:

Some have claimed that even this newly reduced total of 1,200 seems to include many Israeli soldiers who were subsequently killed in the weeks of Gaza fighting, so it might still be considerably inflated.

Just as I’d argued, the apparent reason for the Israeli mistake was that such a large fraction of the bodies recovered had been charred beyond all recognition, making it very difficult to distinguish between Israelis and Hamas attackers. But since the Hamas fighters had only been carrying rifles and other small arms, all those victims must have been killed by explosive tank shells and Hellfire missiles. Indeed, newly released video footage revealed that hundreds of Israeli cars had been incinerated by such munitions, suggesting that many or most of the Israelis killed fleeing the dance festival had probably died at the hands of trigger-happy Apache pilots, who reported that they had blasted anything that moved.

Given the reduced death-toll and the indications that more than half of the Israeli casualties were apparently military or security personnel, it’s quite possible that the number of unarmed Israeli civilians killed by Hamas militants might have been little more than one hundred. Such numbers are minuscule figure compared to the many thousands of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israelis in recent years.

Meanwhile, the relentless Israeli bombardment of defenseless, densely-populated Gaza has continued, with official deaths reported by the Gaza Health Ministry now totaling well over 10,000. Moreover, as observers have noted, these figures are limited to the recovered bodies of identified victims, and given the enormous amount of destruction, many, many thousands more may still buried under the rubble and only reported as “missing.” So after barely one month, the total civilian death-toll might now be rapidly approaching 20,000, more than twice the figure for both sides combined in twenty months of the Ukraine war, with the number of children killed being more than an order-of-magnitude higher. Therefore, since the morning of October 7th, perhaps 100 or more unarmed Palestinian civilians have died for every such Israeli, a ratio hardly emphasized by our mainstream media.

But regardless of whether the correct death toll is closer to 10,000 or 20,000, this unfolding calamity certainly represents the greatest televised slaughter of civilians in the history of the world and a massively blatant war crime, in which our own government has been fully complicit, with potentially very serious geopolitical consequences.

Despite this grim situation, Israeli society seems to have fully united behind the actions of its once-unpopular government. As former British diplomat Alistair Crooke mentioned, polls show that around 80% of Israelis currently support their very harsh military assault on Gaza. Indeed, some 100 Israeli doctors recently signed a statement supporting bombing attacks on Palestinian hospitals.

Although bombarding helpless civilians from the air with advanced American-supplied munitions is relatively easy, rooting out entrenched Hamas fighters on the ground is far more difficult and dangerous, and at this stage it’s not at all clear how well the Israeli ground offensive has been going or what sort of casualties the IDF has suffered, with both the Israelis and Hamas releasing widely divergent propaganda-claims.

Given such practical difficulties in further close combat, some prominent Israeli political figures have argued that much stronger means should be employed. Last week Cabinet Minister Amichay Elihayu suggested in an interview that Israeli nuclear weapons be used to annihilate Gaza and its two million inhabitants. Although he was quickly suspended for his loose talk, much of the criticism seemed more because he’d publicly admitted the existence of Israel’s illegal nuclear arsenal than that he’d proposed using it to eradicate the Palestinians.

Indeed, a few days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had actually expressed somewhat parallel sentiments. Appealing to his zealously-religious political base, Netanyahu identified the Palestinians with the biblical tribe of Amalek, who according to divine mandate must be exterminated down the last newborn baby, and nuclear weapons might presumably constitute an acceptable means of implementing such a genocide.

Three years ago America and its college campuses had erupted in an enormous wave of popular demonstrations and protests over the unfortunate fate of George Floyd, a lifelong career criminal who had died of a drug-overdose while in police custody. So it is hardly surprising that some Americans might find themselves a little disconcerted by the globally-televised massacre of 10,000 or 20,000 helpless Gazan civilians, and begin expressing some hostility towards those who proudly endorse such Israeli actions, while the latter have angrily demanded that any such criticism be firmly suppressed.

In most European countries, freedom of speech has long been sharply circumscribed, so Germany quickly banned public pro-Palestinian protests while France is considering legislation mandating long prison sentences for individuals charged with inciting hostility towards Israel.

But given America’s First Amendment protections, our situation is somewhat different, and such ideological restrictions must be implemented haphazardly. The New York Times ran two consequetive major articles, the first of them on the front-page, regarding the efforts of our elite campuses to combat what pro-Israel students consider anti-Semitic sentiments, with some colleges banning all pro-Palestinian student groups.

The administrations of our leading universities are famously liberal, but very similar denunciations of all anti-Israel sentiments were uniform among the conservative participants in the recent Republican Presidential debate

Yet despite these elite efforts, popular resistance is considerable. Over the weekend heavily-Jewish New York City saw large public marches denouncing Israel and those perceived as supporting Israeli policies, notably including the New York Times.

To some extent this situation recalls the events of a half-century ago, when Third World and pro-Soviet governments led a majority of the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution equating Zionism with racism, a perspective that has been resurrected by leftist and Communist groups, who now include such denunications in their public statements and protest signs.

Given these controversial claims, I think it’s worth investigating the origins and history of Zionism, the ideological movement founded in the late nineteenth century that ultimately created the State of Israel. After all, even many who are sometimes very critical of particular Israeli policies still declare themselves to be “proud Zionists.”

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