When war turns people into howling wolves
"What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism." - Leon Trotsky, "What Is National Socialism?"
As the Israeli war on Gaza continues and the right-wing regime of Benjamin Netanyahu carries out a brutal invasion of the besieged strip, here at home I have been witness to a disturbing phenomenon over the past few days. The debates over this conflict have stripped away the masks of civilization on Facebook, in person, on the street, and even the very corridors of this campus.
Sensible faces and names that will remain nameless, acquaintances that are normally good company and within the bigger picture, media figures of supposed respectful reputations, have turned into howling wolves either cheering on the bloodshed or making excuses for it.
There is a reason why the streets of Paris, Chicago, and Los Angeles have seen mass mobilizations condemning the Israeli war on Gaza. It is a disproportionate conflict where the mightiest army in the Middle East is pounding a besieged, coastal strip whose force of arms consists of a rag-tag guerrilla group. In the recent, murderous assault by the IDF on the neighborhood of Shujaiyah Israeli forces were reported to have shelled apartments and homes at random, simply to impose horrific losses and terror on the fleeing Palestinians. A Norwegian doctor on the scene named Mads Gilbert told the journal Ahramonline that "What is shocking is that the Israelis bombarded apartment buildings line by line, regardless of whether there were people inside them or not, and many of those people are poor who cannot go anywhere."
Only a few days before, Israeli forces killed four children who were playing soccer on a beach. The IDF cynically claimed they believed the beach was a legitimate target. While Hamas guerrillas have killed around 25 Israeli soldiers, the number of Palestinian dead has reached 600 with 80 percent being civilians according to the United Nations.
The aims of the Netanyahu government have little to do with stopping Hamas rockets from reaching Israel. In fact, the rocket fire, which can surely be criticized, began after Israel began raiding the occupied West Bank, arresting activists and Hamas political party members following the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers. Netanyahu cynically used the kidnappings to justify a wide military operation to smash the newly-formed Palestinian Unity government formed by Hamas and the other Palestinian party, Fatah.
Netanyahu and the other right-wing, neofascists in the Israeli regime, such as Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett, do not want any sort of united Palestinian front because then they would face a real threat to the real policy driving the conflict: Israel's expansion by colonizing the West Bank and gradual pushing out of the Palestinian population. Israel's government is driven by racial, blood and land cult hallucinations, in essence it is producing a classic fascist society as journalist Max Blumenthal brilliantly chronicles in his book "Goliath: Fear & Loathing In Greater Israel."
But fascism is infectious. I have recently found myself rattled by the justifications people have been using around me to make excuses for Israeli war crimes. Consider a recent response to my previous piece, "The Ashes Of Gaza Fall On Us All." A commentor going by the name of Yahul Wagoni wrote, and I am leaving the comment as it was written and spelled: "Irael does not pursue peace with Hamastan because it does not need peace. So, jut a garden has to be weeded from time to time, we can expet Irael to periodically visit Gaza ."
This person quite literally compared the bombing and killing of other human beings as something akin to mowing the grass. This is language proper for any Black Shirt.
During a recent exchange online with someone who is otherwise a nice chap, I brought up the issue of the Israeli occupation of the territories which are supposed to be designated for a Palestinian state according to international law. One of his replies stated the following, which I am again leaving untouched from its original version: "hey they lost it in the war that they started and now are crying cause they want it back im sorry alci why do people like u bring this up no country who loses land in a war gets it back england isnt asking for the usa back."
In the media we have seen Bill Maher, who claims to be a liberal, take on a truly fascist form of rhetoric when he recently justified Israeli violence in Gaza and said during his show "Jews have, I think, 155 Nobel Prizes. Muslims have two. That seems like kind of a big advantage for team Hebrew.” On the flip side Jon Stewart was recently slammed by liberals and conservatives for making common sense observations of how unbalanced the conflict is and the narrowness of Gaza's territory.
Our own national leaders are sounding like irrational drones as well. President Obama has justified "Israel's right to defend itself" while John Kerry was caught on a hot mic on Fox News criticizing Israel and then switching back to the normal script.
This is not surprising. The U.S. has a track record of supporting murderous thugs as long as they are allies of American interests. In Latin America psychotic dictators such as Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Augusto Pinochet in Chile were favorites while they smashed socialist and guerrilla movements in their countries. In the Middle East, the fresh Egyptian military regime is again a favorite as well as the oppressive governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
We can go back even further in time. When Benito Mussolini rose to power in Italy, essentially inventing modern Fascism, U.S. Ambassador to Italy Richard Washburn Child glowingly wrote that, "In our time it may be shrewdly forecast that no man will exhibit dimensions of permanent greatness equal to those of Mussolini. He has not only been able to change the lives of human beings but he has changed their minds, their hearts, and their spirits."
Even Winston Churchill had this to say about Il Duce: "I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of fascism. Externally, your movement has rendered service to the whole world."
At the time fascism was seen as a great antidote to the threat of Communist revolution. In this same fashion American leaders, and large sectors of its society, if not the West in general, cheer on Israel's ethnocentric wars because they are aimed at a population whose armed wing is an Islamic guerrilla force. Many Westerners do not see humans being bombed to pieces, they only see Muslims, they only see the children of Gaza through the haze of our 9/11 nightmares while dismissing the realities of a struggle for self determination decades old.
The trap of nationalism and fevered race and cultural loyalties renders societies mad and supportive of actions they will gasp at later when the smoke and fire have cleared.
I am astounded at the shouts and ideas I've heard expressed over the last few weeks. Yet this is might be no more than a tragic repeat of human tragedy.
In his haunting collection of diary entries titled "Diary Of A Man In Despair," German aristocrat Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen documents the fall of his fellow countrymen into the pits of Nazism. In one entry he writes: "Oh truly men can sink no lower. This mob, to which I am connected by a common nationality, is not only unaware of its own degradation but ready at any moment to demand of every one of its fellow human beings the same mob roar, the same gravel-swallowing, the same degree of degradation."
Such is the fate we condemn ourselves to if we blindly march in step with the mad war aims of politicians and fanatics.