Chris Hedges: Israel, the Big Lie

(Ted Eytan, Flickr)

By Chris Hedges

Nearly all the words and phrases used by the Democrats, Republicans and the talking heads on the media to describe the unrest inside Israel and the heaviest Israeli assault against the Palestinians since the 2014 attacks on Gaza, which lasted 51 days and killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, are a lie. 

Israel, by employing its military machine against an occupied population that does not have mechanized units, an air force, navy, missiles, heavy artillery and command-and-control, not to mention a U.S. commitment to provide a $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over the next decade, is not exercising “the right to defend itself.” It is carrying out mass murder. It is a war crime. 

Israel has made it clear it is ready to destroy and kill as wantonly now as it was in 2014. Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz, who was the chief of staff during the murderous assault on Gaza in 2014, has vowed that if Hamas “does not stop the violence, the strike of 2021 will be harder and more painful than that of 2014.” The current attacks have already targeted several residential high rises including buildings that housed over a dozen local and international press agencies, government buildings, roads, public facilities, agricultural lands, two schools and a mosque.

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz briefs soldiers, 2012. (Israeli Defense Forces via Flickr)

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz briefs soldiers, 2012. (Israeli Defense Forces via Flickr)

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, four of them as The New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief. I am an Arabic speaker. I lived for weeks at a time in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison where over 2 million Palestinians exist on the edge of starvation, struggle to find clean water and endure constant Israeli terror. I have been in Gaza when it was pounded with Israeli artillery and air strikes. I have watched mothers and fathers, wailing in grief, cradling the bloodied bodies of their sons and daughters. I know the crimes of the occupation—the food shortages caused by the Israeli blockade, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the near constant electrical outages due to the Israeli targeting of power plants, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. I have witnessed the carnage. 

I also have listened from Gaza to the lies emanating from Jerusalem and Washington. Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill thousands of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war: It is state-sponsored terror.  And, while I oppose the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israel, as I oppose suicide bombings, seeing them also as war crimes, I am acutely aware of a huge disparity between the industrial violence carried out by Israel against innocent Palestinians and the minimal acts of violence capable of being waged by groups such as Hamas.

The false equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian violence was echoed during the war I covered in Bosnia.  Those of us in the besieged city of Sarajevo were pounded daily with hundreds of heavy shells and rockets from the surrounding Serbs. We were targeted by sniper fire. The city suffered a few dozen dead and wounded each day. The government forces inside the city fired back with light mortars and small arms fire. Supporters of the Serbs seized on any casualties caused by Bosnian government forces to play the same dirty game, although well over 90 percent of the killings in Bosnia were the fault of the Serbs, as is also true regarding Israel.  

Please Support Our Spring Fund Drive!

The second and perhaps most important parallel is that the Serbs, like the Israelis, were the principal violators of international law. Israel is in breach of more than 30 U.N. Security Council resolutions. It is in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that defines collective punishment of a civilian population as a war crime. It is in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for settling over half a million Jewish Israelis on occupied Palestinian land and for the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded and another 300,000 after Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied following the 1967 war.

Its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights violates international law, as does its building of a security barrier in the West Bank that annexes Palestinian land into Israel. It is in violation of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 that states that Palestinian “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” 

This is the truth.  Any other starting point for the discussion of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians is a lie.

An Apartheid State 

Israeli police forces in Lod, near Tel Aviv, May 11. (Israel Police, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Israel’s once vibrant peace movement and political left, which condemned and protested against the Israeli occupation when I lived in Jerusalem, is moribund. The right-wing Netanyahu government, despite its rhetoric about fighting terrorism, has built an alliance with the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, which also views Iran as an enemy.  Saudi Arabia, a country that  produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks, is reputed to be the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting Salafist jihadism, the basis of al-Qaeda, and groups such as the Afghanistan TalibanLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front.  

Saudi Arabia and Israel worked closely together to back the 2013 military coup in Egypt, led by General Adbul Fattah el Sisi. Sisi overthrew a democratically elected government. He has imprisoned tens of thousands of government critics, including journalists and human rights defenders, on politically motivated charges.  The Sisi regime collaborates with Israel by keeping its common border with Gaza closed to Palestinians, trapping them in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel’s cynicism and hypocrisy, especially when it wraps itself in the mantle of protecting democracy and fighting terrorism, is of epic proportions. 

Those who are not Jewish in Israel are either second class citizens or live under brutal military occupation. Israel is not, and never has been, the exclusive homeland of the Jewish people.  From the 7th century until 1948, when Jewish colonial settlers used violence and ethnic cleansing to create the state of Israel, Palestine was overwhelmingly Muslim. It was never empty land.  The Jews in Palestine were traditionally a tiny minority. The United States is not an honest broker for peace but has funded, enabled and defended Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.  Israel is not defending the rule of law.  Israel is not a democracy.  It is an apartheid state. 

Israeli soldiers searching a Palestinian in Tel Rumaida, Gilbert checkpoint. (Friends123, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

That the lie of Israel continues to be embraced by the ruling elites – there is no daylight between statements in defense of Israeli war crimes by Nancy Pelosi and Ted Cruz – and used as a foundation for any discussion of Israel is a testament to the corrupting power of money, in this case that of the Israel lobby, and the bankruptcy of a political system of legalized bribery that has surrendered its autonomy and its principles to its major donors. It is also a stunning example of how colonial settler projects, and this is true in the United States, always carry out cultural genocide so they can exist in a suspended state of myth and historical amnesia to legitimize themselves. 

The Israel lobby has shamelessly used its immense political clout to demand that Americans take de facto loyalty oaths to Israel. The passage by 35 state legislatures of Israel lobby-backed legislation requiring their workers and contractors, under threat of dismissal, to sign a pro-Israel oath and promise not to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a mockery of our Constitutional right of free speech. Israel has lobbied the U.S. State Department to redefine anti-Semitism under a three-point test known as the Three Ds: the making of statements that “demonize” Israel; statements that apply “double standards” for Israel; statements that “delegitimize” the state of Israel. This definition of anti-Semitism is being pushed by the Israel lobby in state legislatures and on college campuses.

The Israel lobby spies in the United States, often at the direction of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, on those who speak up for the rights of Palestinians. It wages public smear campaigns and blacklists defenders of Palestinian rights–including the Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein; former U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, also Jewish; and university students, many of them Jewish, in organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine.  

The Israel lobby has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to manipulate U.S. elections, far beyond anything alleged to have been carried out by Russia, China or any other country.  The heavy-handed interference by Israel in the American political system, which includes operatives and donors bundling together hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in every U.S. congressional district to bankroll compliant candidates, is documented in the Al-Jazeera four-part series “The Lobby.” Israel managed to block “The Lobby” from being broadcast.

In the film, a pirated copy of which is available on the website Electronic Intifada, the leaders of the Israel lobby are repeatedly captured on a reporter’s hidden camera explaining how they, backed by the intelligence services within Israel, attack and silence American critics and use massive cash donations to buy politicians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured the unconstitutional invitation by then-House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress in 2015 to denounce President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu’s open defiance of Obama and alliance with the Republican Party, however, did not stop Obama in 2014 from authorizing a 10-year $38 billion military aid package to Israel, a sad commentary on how captive American politics is to Israeli interests. 

Shift to the Far-Right

The investment by Israel and is backers is worth it, especially when you consider that the U.S. has also spent over $6 trillion during the last 20 years fighting futile wars that Israel and its lobby pushed for in the Middle East.  These wars are the greatest strategic debacle in American history, accelerating the decline of the American empire, bankrupting the nation at a time of economic stagnation and mounting poverty, and turning huge parts of the globe against us. They serve Israel’s interests, not ours.   

The longer the mendacious Israeli narrative is embraced, the more empowered become the racists, bigots, conspiracy theorists and far-right hate groups inside and outside Israel.  This steady shift to the far right in Israel has fostered an alliance between Israel and the Christian right, many of whom are anti-Semites. The more Israel and the Israel lobby level the charge of anti-Semitism against those who speak up for Palestinian rights, as they did against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the more they embolden the real anti-Semites. 

Racism, including anti-Semitism, is dangerous.  It is not only bad for the Jews.  It is bad for everyone.  It empowers the dark forces of ethnic and religious hatred on the extremes.  Netanyahu’s racist government has built alliances with far-right leaders in Hungary, India, and Brazil, and was closely allied with Donald Trump. Racists and ethnic chauvinists, as I saw in the wars in the former Yugoslavia, feed off of each other.  They divide societies into polarized, antagonistic camps that only speak in the language of violence.  The radical jihadists need Israel to justify their violence, just as Israel needs the radical jihadists to justify its violence.  These extremists are ideological twins.  

Jan. 6, 2009: Gaza burning, (Al Jazeera English, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This polarization fosters a fearful, militarized society.  It permits the ruling elites in Israel, as in the United States, to dismantle civil liberties in the name of national security.  Israel runs training programs for militarized police, including from the United States.  It is a global player in the multibillion-dollar drone industry, competing against China and the United States.

It oversees hundreds of cyber-surveillance startups whose espionage innovations, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have been utilized abroad “to locate and detain human rights activists, persecute members of the LGBT community, silence citizens critical of their governments, and even fabricate cases of blasphemy against Islam in Muslim countries that don’t maintain formal relations with Israel.” 

Israel, like the United States, has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. One million Israelis, many of them among the most enlightened and educated, have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—endure constant government surveillance, arbitrary arrests and vicious government-run smear campaigns. Mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, physically assault dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the slums of Tel Aviv. These Jewish extremists have targeted Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, demanding their expulsion.

They are supported by an array of anti-Arab groups including the Otzma Yehudit Party, the ideological descendant of the outlawed Kach party, the Lehava movement, which calls for all Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories to be expelled to surrounding Arab states, and La Familia, far-right soccer hooligans. Lehava in Hebrew means “flame” and is the acronym for “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land.” Mobs of these Jewish fanatics parade through Palestinian neighborhoods, including in occupied East Jerusalem, protected by Israeli police, shouting to the Palestinians who live there “Death to the Arabs,” which is also a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches.

Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that echo the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of “suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.” Israel’s educational system, starting in primary school, uses the Holocaust to portray Jews as eternal victims.  This victimhood is an indoctrination machine used to justify racism, Islamophobia, religious chauvinism and the deification of the Israeli military. 

There are many parallels between the deformities that grip Israel and the deformities that grip the United States.  The two countries are moving at warp speed towards a 21st century fascism, cloaked in religious language, which will revoke what remains of our civil liberties and snuff out our anemic democracies.  The failure of the United States to stand up for the rule of law, to demand that the Palestinians, powerless and friendless, even in the Arab world, be granted basic human rights mirrors the abandonment of the vulnerable within our own society. 

We are headed, I fear, down the road Israel is heading down.  It will be devastating for the Palestinians.  It will be devastating for us. And all resistance, as the Palestinians courageously show us, will only come from the street.   

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 NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show “On Contact.” 

This column is from Scheerpost, for which Chris Hedges writes a regular column twice a month. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Please Support Our
Spring Fund Drive!

Donate securely with PayPal


Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:







21 comments for “Chris Hedges: Israel, the Big Lie

  1. May 16, 2021 at 11:51

    “Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us.”

    Albert Einstein



  2. Douglas Joseph Mallouk
    May 16, 2021 at 07:22

    The one thing missing from this otherwise excellent piece is the historic role of the European colonial powers, first and foremost the British, in creating the ongoing nightmare in Southwest Asia. Israel is not a power in itself, but an extension of the “Empah” into that tortured corner of the planet. And the so-called Zionist Lobby is a totally-owned subsidiary of the City of London-Wall Street geopolitical axis, whose ultimate purpose is to serve as an expendable stalking horse for strategic maneuverings against those whom these folks consider their ultimate adversaries, namely, Russia and China. The epicenter of the threat of global war is located, not in Gaza, nor Ukraine or Taiwan, but rather in the bankruptcy of the Trans-Atlantic financial system. But again, this is not to denigrate the reporting, which is a blessed relief from the tripe that masquerades as news analysis in the godforsaken mainstream press.

  3. John Gilberts
    May 16, 2021 at 03:00

    Hedges’ demonization of Serbians, themselves victims of an earlier NATO’ war which also included relentless civilian bombing, – equating them with the ghoulish Israeli ‘lawn mowers’ of the IDF, unfortunately, only goes to show that while you can take the journalist out of the New York Times, in this case at least it would seem you can’t take the New York Times out of the journalist.

  4. Martin - Swedish citizen
    May 16, 2021 at 01:15

    At the time, imports from apartheid SA were boycotted. Why not boycott Israeli fruit in the supermarket or by the supermarkets? Recently, I noticed that Systembolaget, the Swedish state alcohol monopoly, sells a wine, “Herat”, from the occupied Golan Heights. Discontinue that would be a first step.

  5. Curious
    May 16, 2021 at 00:34

    Mr Hedges,
    Thank you for a clear and poignant article. I thought Israel would have worn out its sympathy cards 25 years ago, and yet you properly state Israel “uses the Holocaust to portray Jews as eternal victims”. I’ve often felt this way and have wondered why Israel has not mentioned the Polish, Gypsies, Russians, the disabled, Jehovah witnesses, Communists, to name a few who also perished in the camps.
    The Jewish Virtual Library stated that Simon Wiesenthal made up a figure of 5 million non-jewish people killed in the camps. Since then the numbers have varied, but I wonder why we only mention the Jews as the victims. But the war killed millions, and roughly 20 million Russians defending their homeland and eventually beating Hitler down.The US doesn’t even thank Russia at all for this massive generational loss, and Israel hasn’t either.

    But these figures are all buried in only the Jewish numbers to validate their ‘defense’ posture.

    As you have so clearly stated, it is not defense. Hamas is throwing firecrackers in the guise of rockets and Israel is using all its military arsenal against an unprotected civilian population.
    There is no equivocation in Israels’ strength and death machine vs the Palestinians. It’s a horror show that many in the US, especially the evangelicals, should pay attention to. We’ve been fooled for 75 years and it’s time to end the ‘Gods Children’ farce that makes us defend them.
    The recent attack on the building housing the media of Al Jazerra, AP News, Oman news and more should suggest that Israel is not what they pretend to be.

  6. May 15, 2021 at 22:19

    And Biden commits to the two state solution. What cynicism. What hypocrisy There never was a two state solution, just a cynical ploy to gobble up more land while “negotiations” continued.. If there is to be a solution, it is one where Jews come to terms with the Arabs in a single state and powerful pro-Israel nations stop playing the two state game. Can that happen? A small group of Arabs and Jews believe that to be the right course and hopefully their numbers will grow.

  7. Richard Spencer
    May 15, 2021 at 18:43

    I am on the side of the underdog -always . APARTHEID is wrong.

  8. Mark Weatherly
    May 15, 2021 at 17:37

    This article is completely factual. The author list so many atrocities by Israeli police and mostly by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). He may not have heard how a young girl from Washington state named “Rachael Corry” was murdered by the IDF as she and several companions stood in front of an Israeli tank, defending a Palestinean doctor’s house trying to save it from being bulldozed. She was warned to move, but didn’t and this tank ran over her. The driver of the tank claims he didn’t see her, however, he at least had to be aware of her standing there.

  9. Patricia Hval
    May 15, 2021 at 17:00

    Another piece of excellent reporting, Mr. Hedges. Thank you, again.

  10. El_Cid
    May 15, 2021 at 12:07

    I agree with your article except for the part where you equate shooting rockets and suicide bombers as war crimes. Then all the countries that Nazi Germany occupied who’s people fought back were committing war crimes against the Nazi’s. I’ve seen this so often when people write article’s criticizing our government, it is de rigore for the writer to say that Putin is a monster just so people know that Russia is our enemy and the writer is really an all American asshole. I’ve lived in the US 64 years, I’ve been indoctrinated in our society to believe the US is always right. I’m not blind anymore, I can see the US as what it is an anti-democratic, racist, imperialist, murderer of all that oppose it, a country with no soul or humanity.

  11. michael888
    May 15, 2021 at 09:42

    The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 epitomizes the American Israeli relationship. This law passed under Clinton by 93-5 in the Senate and 374-37 in the House, officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and passed funds to move the US Embassy there. This being American government, as with taxes on the Rich, a loophole was added; a six month waiver to the move was allowed, which somehow morphed into EVERY six month waivers on National Security grounds by Clinton, Bush, Obama and initially by Trump.
    However, in “2017, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of reunification of Jerusalem by 90–0. The resolution reaffirmed the Jerusalem Embassy Act and called upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.” Trump thus accepted the Senate’s resolution and abided by the 1995 Law, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which legally the US had recognized 22 years earlier.
    BAD Trump, the media screamed. Our politicians clearly always give Israel whatever it wants, such as the recognition of Jerusalem as their Capitol under Clinton, but also try to cover their butts on OFFICIALLY recognizing apartheid policy and human rights abuses by Israel.

  12. CNfan
    May 15, 2021 at 02:40

    Thank you for this clear description of our perilous situation. It seems to me Israel has in essence conquered the US through its massive influence in Congressional elections and the corporate media. But, to paraphrase Monty Python, nobody expected the internet. The truth can set us free. Consortium News is on the front lines. Thank you!

  13. May 15, 2021 at 00:35

    Chris Hedges makes the case with irrefutable facts but they do not account for the visible rise of forces pushing for justice in human history. Like the Jews, the Palestinians are a people with talent and energy that very likely will allow them to achieve the same rights that Jews now have in the Holy Land. Is that an act of faith or an imperative that human history tells us is true. Perhaps it is both.

  14. Susan
    May 14, 2021 at 23:33

    Chris, thank you for this seminal piece. Someone had to ‘lay it all out’ for us, old and young, and you have done it in detail and without hesitation. I have been in despair this week with what’s going on in Palestine, and in a perverse way, your article detailing all the horrors and injustices has helped to salve my pain. I have been given absolution for the horror and revulsion that I have felt this week. My beliefs are justified. I am not misguided, and I am not a bad person.

    It is so important that someone with knowledge of the historical and present truths has produced this dissertation, for now and for the historical record. Thank you.

  15. maxim gorki
    May 14, 2021 at 18:25

    Israel attacks the Palestinians and when the Palestinians fight back Israel claims they have the right to self defense. Did Nazi Germany have a right to self defense? Because that is what Israel has become.

  16. Jeff Harrison
    May 14, 2021 at 18:02

    Not to mention that most Palestinian violence is in direct response to Israeli provocation and violence.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    May 14, 2021 at 16:04

    It’s important to note that it’s not “big oil” or the “Christian Zionists” demanding that these Jewish supremacists destroy Palestinian homes; obliterate Arab residential neighborhoods; kill and maim 4 y.o. Palestinian children; and annihilate schools, hospitals, media centers, banks, and high-rise apartments. It’s the bloodthirsty sadistic arrogant and paranoid Zionists who are carrying out these repulsive atrocities as the rest of the impotent world looks on in horror and disbelief.

    Meanwhile the Zionist power configuration here in the United States, with its lock on the mass media and campaign funding for obsequious Washington politicians, ensures that the hardworking taxpayers of America fund every penny of this sick Jewish supremacist depravity.

    Absolute must-reading:
    “Jewish History, Jewish Religion” by Israel Shahak
    “Power of Israel in the United States” by James Petras
    “Against our better Judgement” by Alison Weir
    “Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of U.S. Power” by James Petras
    “Being in Time” by Gilad Atzmon

  18. Paul
    May 14, 2021 at 15:52

    Maybe I am biased but I do not see this scathing rebuke of Israel as fairly balanced reporting. Much of what you say Chris is fact and the obvious heavy handed response by Israel borders on criminal. I still have to wonder exactly what did Hamas expect for a response. It certainly was not, on its face, proportional but the warnings and history clearly pointed to this kind of action from Israel. if the goal is to create martyrs and bad press then they got what they wanted but it is not a winning strategy to my mind.

    • Keith McClary
      May 16, 2021 at 00:23

      OK, you’re in charge of the Palestinian resistance, what is a winning strategy to your mind?

    • May 16, 2021 at 00:56

      You seem to get some smug satisfaction, from your presumably comfortable position, in judging Hamas and in judging what you consider to be the unbalanced reporting of this article. It is my guess that you yourself are not having to deal with what the Palestinians are dealing with right now and what they have been dealing with every day for the past 70 years.

      You seem to be saying that Hamas is acting in an irrational manner. Perhaps. Have you yourself never been in any desperate circumstances, or never been very angry or very frustrated, and acted or reacted in an irrational manner, in a manner which was not to your advantage and not in your best interests, and which maybe you regretted? I know I have, even though I have never been in as desperate circumstances as the Palestinians.

  19. May 14, 2021 at 13:30

    Israel is an apartheid state as stated in this article and as stated in another detailed assessment that has been published recently.
    I got my copy. It was on the internet. Get you your own.
    Sometimes, when a bully is behaving aggressively and they confidently think they are backing you up against the wall, take a look around when you have a moment, and then swiftly with determination and honor strike back so rapidly they will never see it coming. Kick the bully in the balls after that and watch them crumble to the ground. Once that happens, walk away is what I advise, but I wouldn’t blame you if you do something else. All bullies eventually get what they deserve. That is the simplest of all lessons for any species that hopes to survive.
    The leader of Israel and all their supporters blinded by gold can literally shove it up their ass. The game is changing as each moment passes…….the clock is ticking and I hear it.

Comments are closed.