Blades of Grass

Israelis joke about needing to decimate each generation of Palestinian militants as “mowing the grass,” an ugly metaphor that’s penetrated think-tanks in Official Washington, Elizabeth Murray first reported in 2012.

A blade of grass being brought to Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia, Gaza on Oct. 9, 2023.
(Wafa (Q2915969) in contract with a local company APAimages/Wikimedia Commons)

By Elizabeth Murray
Special to Consortium News
Nov. 16, 2012

In early 2010, one of Washington’s most prestigious think tanks was holding a seminar on the Middle East which included a discussion of Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 assault on Gaza which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

When the death toll was mentioned, one expert on the panel smiled enigmatically and intoned: “It’s unfortunate, but every once in a while you have to mow the lawn.”

The remark, which likened killing hundreds of men, women and children many of them noncombatants with trimming the grass, was greeted with a light tittering around the room, which was filled with some of Washington’s most elite, highly educated and well-paid Middle East experts. Not a single one objected to the panelist’s black humor.

On the contrary, several analysts and experts were grinning at the reference to Israel’s strategy of mounting periodic attacks on the Palestinians to cull each new generation of militants. Such is the nonchalance of Washington’s policy-advising cognoscenti toward the ongoing and systematic genocide of Gaza’s oppressed population.

The cavalier language is symptomatic of the policymaking community’s increasingly pervasive tendency to disregard and disparage the humanity of Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks, which are often waged by Israel’s high-tech drones and U.S.-supplied F-16’s. There is also a tendency to ignore or downplay Israeli war crimes.

This dangerously sociopathic attitude is prevalent whether cloaked in a cheap joke or reflected in the failure by the State Department spokesman to condemn or even acknowledge the criminality of Israel’s latest aerial and sea-based bombardment of Palestinian civilians, at least 18 of whom have been killed in the past 48 hours. Three Israelis also have died in retaliatory rocket fire.

After the latest attacks, the State Department’s statement justified Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as Israel’s “right to defend itself” against the launching of relatively primitive rockets, mostly by radical groups, from inside Gaza.

Yet, while the State Department urged both sides to avoid civilian casualties, nowhere was there mention of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves from various attacks by Israel. Apparently only one side is granted that privilege, according to the U.S. statement.

The relegation of Palestinians to a less-than-human status by Israel and the United States especially the inhabitants of Gaza who are perpetually locked into an open-air prison and subject to an Israeli blockade was noted by MIT professor Noam Chomsky after a visit to Gaza to attend an academic conference. In comments broadcast by Democracy Now on Nov. 14, [2012] Chomsky remarked:

“It’s kind of amazing and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive as essentially caged animals subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment – only to humiliate them – no pretext. They [the Palestinians] would like to have dignified lives, but the standard Israeli position is that they shouldn’t raise their heads.”

A Preference for Conflict

Instead of a serious effort to reach a peace acceptable to both sides, Israel seems to prefer a state of endless conflict with the Palestinians. After all, the prospect of peace might require the Israeli government to treat their neighbors as equals and withdraw from territory occupied since 1967.

So, rather than making meaningful concessions, some Israeli hardliners simply promote the idea of periodically “mowing the grass,” i.e. killing the latest generation of Palestinian militants who sprout up from the injustice all around them. Perhaps that is why Israel broke an informal ceasefire on Wednesday [Nov. 14, 2012] by assassinating Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari in an air strike.

Jabari was killed hours after he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Jabari was a key Palestinian interlocutor in the release of Shalit, and an important intermediary for truce negotiations with groups such as the PFLP and Islamic Jihad. Such a relatively moderate figure may have been perceived as a threat to Israeli leaders who prefer to portray Hamas as rejectionist toward any peace.

These developments and the U.S. response to them are a chilling omen for those who had hoped for a change in U.S. Middle East policy after the U.S. presidential election – namely, increased pressure on Israel to halt its cruel oppression of Palestinians and obey international law.

There is still a window of opportunity for the U.S. to shift its approach before the violence spirals out of control. One also can hope that President Barack Obama is working the phones to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Obama’s eerie and reprehensible silence during the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 must not be repeated.  

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

The author took part in a flotilla attempting to deliver aid to Gaza in 2018 and filed these reports to Consortium News:

A New Flotilla Steams Towards Gaza

Flotilla Continues Towards Gaza to Challenge the Blockade

Gaza Flotilla Ship Al Awda Violently Seized by Israelis; USS Liberty Survivor Amongst Those Captured

Freedom Flotilla Missions Will Continue ‘Until Palestine Is Free’

17 comments for “Blades of Grass

  1. CaseyG
    November 12, 2023 at 07:13

    And where was “God,” during the Holocaust?
    No where—no where in sight.
    Perhaps in mind?
    Apparently not.
    But now with money piled upon that evil state—-
    Just where — anywhere here is that God?
    Oh silly me. that God is an avenger of—-whatever you wish.
    “Mowing the grass,” —-how quaint—yet disgusting.
    “Every dog has its day,” people say.
    But after that day—-what then?
    Israel, like every nation will fail. They all do.
    But before Israel dies, there is another filled with death–
    America—-“my country tis I see, land of hypocrisy,”
    You make me cry. ***

  2. wildthange
    November 11, 2023 at 20:37

    We use drones as lower key mowers all around the world and sometime cruise missiles as hedge clippers in our permanent war. No one said much when Trump stated that going after enemies women and children was obvious but he fired off cruise missiles at Syria because Ivanka was concerned for civilians. What does economic sanctions do to civilian life support systems around the world?

  3. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    November 11, 2023 at 09:50

    So long as Americans continue to elect and/or select into key U.S. public offices politicians and personalities who relish being anointed by the Israeli Lobby and its blood-thirsty Zionist backers, these sociopathic Israeli disproportionate madness unleashed on the legitimately resisting poor Palestinians would proceed unhindered with total impunity. Actually, the Palestinians are not viewed as mere animals but are treated, in fact, worse than animals: i.e. the “highly civilized” Israelis walk their dogs and stoop to enthusiastically wipe their arses and dedicatedly carry even their poops and, by contrast, the victimized Palestinians get no such “privilleged attentions” from their not attending but arrogating “masters”, no theirs is certainly worst than animal treatment in Israel ! By the way, where are the British bastards initially responsible for protractedly hatching these evils via their Zionist proxies, as so well narrated by Mark Curtis in a recent article in this website earlier, hiding these days ? Hope the British establishment, if not also the British society, are not tucking themselves comfortably with their Indian minstrel prime minister awaiting for him to exert the necessary internal pressure, if you got what I mean, to spark their stinking “humanitarian” effusions. Meanwhile, before their U.S. public counterparts come clean, the poor Palestinians would yet again be, yes you got it right, mowed down disproportionately, as usual !

  4. Francis Lee
    November 11, 2023 at 07:23

    The public mood is moving significantly and moving against the Atlanticist bloc and possibly even beyond. The street demonstrations are a living testament to the political fissures which are becoming alarmingly evident .

    There was a poem written by George Orwell during his period as a guerrilla fighter in Spain 1936 a members of the POUM Militia (Workers Party of Workers United). His poem was written then.

    Your name and your deeds were forgotten,
    Before your bones were dry,
    And the lie that slew you was buried
    Under a deeper lie;

    But the thing that I saw in your face
    No power can disinherit
    No bomb that ever bursts
    shatters the crystal spirit.

    This could have been written today and voiced by the people of Gaza. Not only them, but the rest of us also.

    • Francis Lee
      November 11, 2023 at 09:56

      Sorry it was correct as follows. (Workers Party of Marxist Unity).

  5. rohjo
    November 11, 2023 at 01:48

    Finally, true cojones enters the POTUS race. Jill Stein took serious hits when she last ran for Prez. She’s been arrested in the streets for advocating righteous causes. She’s coming back for more. She stands out from and stands up in a field of geldings who preach change but bend over for the Masters of War. Until she entered this race, there was no choice. Now there is one.


    “Stein, who is Jewish, has long accused Israel of committing war crimes and said the U.S. needs to stop sending aid to the country.” –Associated Press

    • Lois Gagnon
      November 11, 2023 at 23:49

      Jill is one of the bravest, smartest, most dedicated activists for peace, justice and environmental and economic sanity I know. All those who support her need to be ready to push back hard on what we know the power trippers will throw at her. We desperately need real leadership and Jill is it.

      • J Anthony
        November 12, 2023 at 05:57

        Ironic, isn’t it, that for so long our supposed representative-government bodies adhere to Israel and it’s political lobby, yet there has never been a Jewish president.

  6. WillD
    November 10, 2023 at 23:01

    Perhaps Washington needs to get its ‘hair cut’ regularly.

  7. DaveG
    November 10, 2023 at 18:12

    “It’s unfortunate, but every once in a while you have to mow the lawn.”

    Ironic, given that in Nazi Germany, some Jewish men were forced to ‘mow’ park grass with their teeth.

  8. Anaisanesse
    November 10, 2023 at 18:05

    What an apt article now that Netanyahu is still pm and Hamas is still demonised with no sign of the POTUS making any effort to change the genocidal policies his administration supports.

  9. Jack Lomax
    November 10, 2023 at 17:01

    Trimming the grass brings up images of peaceful summer afternoons and the gentle sound of the wrrr of the mower. How nice and poetic these peaceful Zionists are. Perhaps a more fitting analogy might be the roar of the bulldozer clearing all in its path. Rather like the Israeli bulldozer which deliberately crushed and killed the young woman American protester some years ago. I remember that particular murder with some personal horror and fear for a few years before I stood on the Allenby bridge at the Israeli frontier gate with small group of fellow would be protestors angrily waving our passports and visas at the Israeli military who refused to grant us access. I have no aspirations to martyrdoom only to survivable protest so I’m happy I didn’t become a mown or plucked piece of grass or a weed on the immaculate Israeli lawn .

  10. November 10, 2023 at 16:49

    Israel is “defending its right to exist” like the U.S. was “defending its right to exist” when it was bombing the crap out of Iraq.

  11. LarcoMarco
    November 10, 2023 at 13:20

    Those “most elite, highly educated and well-paid Middle East experts”/think-tankers/propagandists didn’t want to jeopardize their grant money

    • Bruce Elniski
      November 10, 2023 at 16:51

      Sick, sadistic, evil usa and Israel and nato. How disgusting Israel is. How disgusting is the western world’s political class. Making jokes of killing innocent people is sadly nothing new for the usa or Israel.

    • gcw919
      November 10, 2023 at 19:33

      This shows quite explicitly that no matter one’s level of education, it is no guarantee that it is accompanied by basic humanity. Just look at the cluster of cold-blooded neo-Cons who have taken over foreign policy in the U.S., and are leading this country ever farther down the road to disaster. Many are Ivy League wunderkinds. A schoolchild would recognize that the trillions of dollars wasted in this century alone on war could have gone a very long way towards establishing peace and equality in regions of the world now torn apart by death and destruction.

      • Selina Sweet
        November 11, 2023 at 12:25

        Utterly gruesome. And those important people “tittered.” Maybe this is the test we need to present potential candidates for political office to ascertain their level of compassion. All that Bible stuff about “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NIV). The “highly educated wunderkinds” in that room who enjoyed the gruesome humor of the “mowing people down”…[with a blade, bomb, bullet or harvester] got to where they are through their elite connections and heavy money. “Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.” There it is! The majority of Congress are millionaires….possessing twelve times the wealth of the average citizen.When they’ve strategized life long to be popular, make the right connections for a power&money mountain, how could we ever imagine they’d have any gut sense of your humanity? or of anybody’s? to the pain you suffer? or that of anybody’s? Which might make you dis-favored.

Comments are closed.