Longtime journalist Chris Hedges provides a brief but powerful description – much of it firsthand – of Palestinians’ devastation at the hands of Israel. He then provides proof that this is exactly what Israel’s founders had in mind. He then states:
“There is a heavy political price to pay for defying Israel, whose overt interference in the U.S. political process makes the most tepid protests about Israeli policy a political death wish.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment of an important article by respected journalist Chris Hedges (bio below), discussing Israel’s egregious human rights abuses toward the people of Palestine. The original article is so rich with information and insight that we have divided it into 3 parts to avoid reader fatigue. The next installment takes a look at Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s ingratiating pro-Israel position.
The long nightmare of oppression of Palestinians is not a tangential issue. It is a black and white issue of a settler-colonial state imposing a military occupation, horrific violence and apartheid, backed by billions of U.S. dollars, on the indigenous population of Palestine. It is the all powerful against the all powerless.
Israel uses its modern weaponry against a captive population that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery, while pretending intermittent acts of wholesale slaughter are wars.
The crude rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance organizations — a war crime because they target civilians — are not remotely comparable to the 2,000 pound “bunker-buster” Mark-84 bombs with a “kill radius” of over 32 yards and which “create a supersonic wave of pressure when they explode” that have been dropped by Israel on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods, the thousands of Palestinian killed and wounded and the targeted destruction of basic infrastructure, including electrical grids and water purification plants.
Malnutrition is endemic in the Occupied Territories. “High proportions” of the Palestinian population are “deficient in vitamins A, D, and E, which play key roles in vision, bone health, and immune function,”according to a 2022 World Bank report. The report also notes that over 50 percent of those aged six to 23 in Gaza and over half of its pregnant women are anemic and “more than a quarter of pregnant women and more than a quarter of children aged 6–23 months [in the West Bank are] anemic.”
Eighty-eight percent of Gaza’s children suffer from depression, following 15 years of the Israeli blockade, according to a 2022 report from Save the Children and over 51 percent of children were diagnosed with PTSD following the third major war on Gaza in 2014. Only 4.3 percent of the water in Gaza is considered fit for human consumption. Palestinians in Gaza are crammed into unsanitary and overcrowded hovels. They often lack basic medical care. Unemployment rates are among the highest in the world at 46.6 percent.
Zionism’s goal, since before Israel’s inception, has been to displace Palestinians from their land and reduce those who remain to a struggle for basic subsistence, as Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe, notes:
10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches on a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That same evening, military orders were dispatched to units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from vast areas of the country.
The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be used to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centers; setting fire to homes, properties, and goods; expelling residents; demolishing homes; and, finally, planting mines in the rubble to prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. Each unit was issued its own list of villages and neighborhoods to target in keeping with the master plan. Code-named Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew)…
Once the plan was finalized, it took six months to complete the mission. When it was over, more than half of Palestine’s native population, over 750,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and 11 urban neighborhoods had been emptied of their inhabitants.
These political and historical facts, which I reported on as an Arabic speaker for seven years, four of them as The Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times, are hard to ignore. Even from a distance.
I watched Israeli soldiers taunt boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle. The soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. In the Israeli lexicon this becomes children caught in crossfire.
I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on densely packed neighborhoods. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children, lined up in neat rows. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory.
I watched Israel demolish homes and apartment blocks to create buffer zones between the Palestinians and Israeli troops. I interviewed destitute families camped in the rubble of their homes. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists.
I stood in the bombed remains of schools as well as medical clinics and mosques. I heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites.
I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.” Ironically, there is evidence of the Israeli military using Palestinians as human shields, which Israel’s High Court deemed illegal in 2005.
There is a perverted logic to Israel’s use of the Big Lie —Große Lüge. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit — racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.
There is a heavy political price to pay for defying Israel, whose overt interference in the U.S. political process makes the most tepid protests about Israeli policy a political death wish.
The Palestinians are poor, forgotten and alone. And this is why the defiance of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is the central issue facing any politician who claims to speak on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalized.
To stand up to Israel has a political cost few, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are willing to pay. But if you do stand up, it singles you out as someone who puts principles before expediency, who is willing to fight for the wretched of the earth and, if necessary, sacrifice your political future to retain your integrity. Kennedy fails this crucial test of political and moral courage…
The next installment takes a look at Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s ingratiating pro-Israel position; the last installment is Chris Hedges’ perceptive and often firsthand account of Israel’s apartheid policies.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
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