On 1 August 2014 the English language version of the Times of Israel published a blog by writer Yochanan Gordon carrying the extremely inflammatory headline When Genocide is Permissible. The blog took the extreme position that the writer feels there is justification for the complete eradication of the Palestinian people. The Times of Israel quickly deleted the blog, stating that it did not share the writer’s views. If this is the case, then one can only ask why they allowed it’s publication in the first place?
Gordon’s rhetoric is chilling in his call for the killing of an entire people. It is all the more chilling when one considers that if any people should immediately dismiss any call for genocide, it is the Jewish people, who have undergone intolerance and attempts at genocide on more than one occasion, most famously the Nazi holocaust, in which six million innocent Jews died.
Articles like Gordon’s are unhelpful to the current conflict in Gaza. They merely exacerbate both violence and ill-feeling towards the state of Israel, which all too often can quickly turn into anti-Semitism. At the least it dehumanises the debate and increases calls for extremism on both sides.
Neither are Yochanan Gordon’s arguments in any way intelligent nor convincing. In this article, I shall go through his blog and take issue with his insane witterings.
“Judging by the numbers of casualties on both sides”
As I write, 36 Israelis have been killed, while over 800 Gazan Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, have lost their lives.
“in this almost one-month old war”
What war? Who declared a war, and upon whom? The fact is that no state of war has been declared.
“one would be led to the conclusion that Israel has resorted to disproportionate means in fighting a far less- capable enemy. That is as far as what meets the eye.”
Because it happens to be a fact. The Palestinians have no army, navy or air force, and the rockets Hamas are firing are primitive weapons. Israel has responded heavily on land, in the air and at sea with some of the most sophisticated firepower on the face of the planet, deliberately targeting civilian population centres.
“But, it’s now obvious that the US and the UN are completely out of touch with the nature of this foe”
The US and the UN recognise that Hamas is the foe, not Palestinian civilians.
“and are therefore not qualified to dictate or enforce the rules of this war”
In which case Israel is not qualified to be a member of the United Nations. The UN is there to help every nation on the face of the planet. Any nation which does not agree to UN rulings should have their membership rescinded and be ostracised by the international community.
“because when it comes to terror there is much more than meets the eye.”
And that includes state-sponsored terrorism, such as the type carried out by the Israeli secret service, Mossad.
“I wasn’t aware of this, but it seems that the nature of warfare has undergone a major shift over the years. Where wars were usually waged to defeat the opposing side, today it seems – and judging by the number of foul calls it would indicate – that today’s wars are fought to a draw.”
This sort of rhetoric smacks of “victory or death”. And Mr Gordon, whom I take it is no student of history, would do well to note that in every conflict, without exception, where someone has said “victory or death”, the latter has been their lot. Such speech also leaves no room for negotiation or the hope of peace. It is the language of the insane warmonger and the merciless. Gordon seems to believe that it is Arab peoples who are without mercy. When the British officer T E Lawrence declared “Take no prisoners.” during an attack, it was the Arabs with him who were horrified and disgusted by his lack of mercy. Even one man I do not admire too much and who could be very heavy-handed, Winston Churchill, once famously said “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.”
“I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war?”
It is called a truce, and truces have been common in war for thousands of years.
“An NBA Basketball game allows six timeouts for each team during the course of a game, but last I checked this is a war!”
Comparing armed conflict to a basketball game speaks volumes about the mentality of Yochanan Gordon, about how qualified he is to speak on the matter, why he is a dangerous individual and why no-one should listen to anything he has to say.
“We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people.”
It is a fact that the Hamas Covenant includes excerpts from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a fake 19th century Russian document which out-laid a conspiracy theory telling of a Jewish plot to take over the world. It is equally true that Hamas do not merely seek the destruction of the state of Israel, but the death of every Jewish man, woman and child on the face of the planet.
But, again, there is no state of war, no matter however Yochanan Gordon longs for one, and the civilians who are being deliberately targeted are not the mass-murdering terrorists of Hamas. Hamas are safely in underground bunkers, out of harm’s way, where Israeli munitions cannot and will never reach them. The Israeli government and military are well aware of this fact and their deliberate targeting of a civilian population is therefore completely indefensible.
“Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live.”
That sort of talk could have come directly from the lips of Adolf Hitler, or from every anti-Semitic zealot for thousands of years, who equally tried to claim that the very presence of the Jewish people threatened their own existence.
“The sad reality is that Israel gets it, but its hands are being tied by world leaders who over the past six years have insisted they are such good friends with the Jewish state”
That of course would include two of the most powerful world leaders, the USA and the UK. Every time there has been a UN resolution against Israel, the USA, without one single exception, has vetoed it. Both the USA and the UK, among other western countries, sell arms to Israel and consider her to be a strong ally. This particular claim by Yochanan Gordon is therefore disingenuous to say the least.
“But there’s going to have to come a time where Israel feels threatened enough where it has no other choice but to defy international warnings”
Come a time? That is precisely what Israel has done since her borders were agreed in 1947, with the results that the Palestinians have continually have land stolen from them and they can now be described as exiles in their own land. Besides that point, I shall reiterate that any country which defies the UN deserves to be ostracised by the international community. While Mr Gordon claims that world leaders are tying the hands of Israel, he should consider just how much the west allows them to get away with, and the reality that if it were not for international help, there would be no state of Israel.
“Most of the reports coming from Gazan officials and leaders since the start of this operation have been either largely exaggerated or patently false.”
I do not doubt for one moment some such statements are false. Now how about the images coming out of Gaza? A child with his head blown open and his skull empty. Another cut in half and still alive. Dead bodies among the rubble of what were once people’s homes. Does Yochanan Gordon claim those are falsified as well?
“Similarly, when Khaled Meshal declares that no physical damage to Gaza will dampen their morale or weaken their resolve – they have to be believed.”
Because history has taught us that you cannot bomb a people into submission. The more you attack them, the stronger their resolve becomes to overcome you. And that can only result in the entrenching and exacerbation in of violence, leaving no room for manoeuvre or the hope of peace talks. But then, peace is exactly what Yochanan Gordon does not seek.
Added to which, as much as Yochanan Gordon and myself may dislike Hamas, they are the ones who speak loudest for the Palestinian people and who have at least limited power of arms with which to attack Israel. Every Israeli atrocity is a Hamas victory, for the Palestinian people will only cleave to them all the more. Look at what happened in Germany after World War I. With a country beaten, demilitarised, torn by civil war and then the hyperinflation which followed, the people turned to only to the one group who spoke the strongest for them – the National Socialist Workers Party. When the chips are down and people are scared and desperate, they will turn to those who speak loudest and appear strongest. People can be ugly, and they are never more ugly when they are frightened.
“Our sage Gedalia the son of Achikam was given intelligence that Yishmael Ben Nesanyah was plotting to kill him. However, in his piety or rather naiveté Gedalia dismissed the report as a random act of gossip and paid no attention to it. To this day, the day following Rosh Hashana is commemorated as a fast day in the memory of Gedalia who was killed in cold blood on the second day of Rosh Hashana during the meal.”
When a people turn to religious stories in an attempt to justify violence, then there is going to be very little chance of peace. Besides which, let us look at just whom Gedalia, son of Achikam, was. He was appointed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II to govern Yehud Province after the defeat of the Kingdom of Judah. In other words, he was given power by a foreign king who was opposed to Jewish rule. He was assassinated by Ishmael and the remaining Jews in Judah allegedly fled to Egypt leaving the land without Jewish rule or people. A point here; if Yochanan Gordon believes that, then there is no validity in the claim that there have been Jews in the region in perpetuity.
“They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over.”
And one would have thought the state of Israel would have learned that since 1947.
“History is there to teach us lessons and the lesson here is that when your enemy swears to destroy you – you take him seriously.”
History also teaches that when you sink to the level of an enemy, you become no better than them.
“Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life.”
Does that include those Israelis who posted pictures on social media, celebrating the attacks upon Gaza?
“What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?”
Firstly, again, the civilians of Gaza are not the Hamas enemy. Secondly, again, that sort of language has been used down throughout history in attempt to justify the killing of entire peoples; all too often by those seeking the eradication of Jews.
“News anchors such as those from CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera have not missed an opportunity to point out the majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of this war.”
We should immediately be wary of anyone who attempts to control and / or silence the media, which is apparently what Yochanan Gordon would like to do.
“But anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian.”
If they indeed have those facilities below their homes. We only have the word of the state of Israel that this is the case. And it is an argument which is trawled out every time some atrocity is uncovered. When the boys playing football on the beach were killed, Israel claimed a nearby building was housing Hamas munitions. More recently there was the bombing of a school, which Israel says it shall investigate. I shall wager right now that the conclusion shall be that it was a Hamas base or arms dump.
Mossad is one of the most diligent secret service organisations on the face of the planet. And in this day and age we have computerised weapons which can hone in on a target with pinpoint accuracy. One result of such weaponry is that it actually has the potential to minimise civilian casualties. If Israel is trying to convince the world that their intelligence is so poor that the same organisation which directed Israeli troops to successfully relieve airline hostages from Entebbe airport as far back as 1977, cannot today locate and surgically remove Hamas rockets with a minority of civilian deaths, I for one would find any such claim spurious to say the least.
“If you’ll counter, that Hamas has been seen abusing civilians who have attempted to leave their homes in response to Israeli warnings to leave”
Actually, the world has only not seen any proof of this, Israel has been put under pressure to produce evidence of that claim, and has singularly failed to produce any. One thing which did happen however is that Israeli forces warned people in the outlying area of Khan Younis that it was going to come under attack and ordered them to go to Khan Younis centre – which was subsequently bombed by Israel. And even if Israel does warn Gazans to move, just where are a mostly extremely poor people, many of whom have already lost everything in previous bombings, supposed to go, particularly when there is barely a building left which has not already been bombed?
“your beginning to come to terms with the nature of this enemy which should automatically cause the rules of standard warfare to be suspended.”
Leaving aside that it is “you’re”, not “your”, it may interest Yochanan Gordon to learn that the term “Blitzkrieg” – total war, was one enshrined in Nazi ideology, just as the same regime showed no mercy in their treatment of Jews.
“Everyone agrees that Israel has the right to defend itself as well as the right to exercise that right. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has declared it, Obama and Kerry have clearly stated that no one could be expected to sit idle as thousands of rockets rain down on the heads of its citizens, placing them in clear and present danger.”
I do not deny that right for one moment. Let us imagine however, that during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, that the British government had responded to IRA and INLA bombings with the indiscriminate slaughter of civilian Roman Catholic men, women and children. The world, including Israel, would have utterly condemned any such action and the UK would have been pulled up before the UN and ostracised by the international community. And exactly the same should pertain to Israel attacking a people who are not those who perpetuated the violence in the first place.
“It seems then that the only point of contention is regarding the measure of punishment meted out in this situation.”
Indeed, particularly when Israel is “punishing” the innocent.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel.”
Then Israel has to stop encroaching upon and stealing land which is not theirs, and even pull out of land they had no right to in the first place. They also need to stop exacerbating matters by continuing to kill innocents, reduce places to rubble and thereby sending the citizens of Gaza deeper into the arms of Hamas. By doing so they may just also reduce the number of future terrorists.
“We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people.”
And if that applies for Israel, then as much as Mr Gordon and I despise them, exactly the same responsibility applies to Hamas and their commitment to the people of Gaza.
“If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide”
Except that the vast majority do not. Most world leaders and militarists recognise the need to temper military action with mercy, and those who have not have been imperialists, power-crazy and invariably clinically insane. No matter what Yochanan Gordon may think, professional soldiers are not hired killers or mass-murderers. Even as a pacifist I recognise that fact.
“is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”
No, it is not, and never shall be. It was not permissible in Germany from 1933 to 1945, and neither is it permissible in Israel in 2014.
Yochanan Gordon’s full article can be read here: