Chris Hedges: The Evil Israel Does is the Evil Israel Gets

The only language left is the language of death. It is how Israel speaks to the Palestinians. It is how the Palestinians are forced to speak back.

Universal Misery – by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges

I knew Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, the co-founder of Hamas, along with Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin.  Al-Rantisi’s family were expelled to the Gaza Strip by Zionist militias from historic Palestine during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He did not fit the demonized image of a Hamas leader. He was a soft spoken, articulate and highly educated pediatrician who had graduated first in his class at Egypt’s Alexandria University. 

As a 9-year-old boy, he witnessed executions in Khan Younis of 275 Palestinian men and boys, including his uncle, when Israel briefly occupied the Gaza Strip in 1956, the subject of Joe Sacco’s magisterial book Footnotes in Gaza. Scores of Palestinians were also executed by Israeli soldiers in the neighboring town of Rafah, where tens of thousands Palestinians are currently being forced to flee now that Khan Younis has come under attack.

“I still remember the wailing and the tears of my father over his brother,” al-Rantisi told Sacco and me when we visited him at his home.

“I couldn’t sleep for many months after that…It left a wound in my heart that can never heal. I’m telling you a story and I’m almost crying. This sort of action can never be forgotten…[T]hey planted hatred in our hearts.”

He knew he could never trust the Israelis. He knew that the goal of the Zionist state was the occupation of all of historic Palestine — Israel seized Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 along with Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — and the eternal subjugation or extermination of the Palestinian people. He knew he would avenge the killings.

Al-Rantisi and Yassin were assassinated in 2004 by Israel. Al-Rantisi’s widow, Jamila Abdallah Taha al-Shanti, had a doctorate in English and taught at the Islamic University in Gaza. The couple had six children, one of whom was killed along with his father. The family’s home was bombed and destroyed during the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge. Jamila was killed by Israel on Oct. 19 of this year.

Israel’s genocide in Gaza is rearing a new generation of enraged, traumatized and dispossessed Palestinians who have lost family members, friends, homes, communities and any hope of living ordinary lives. They, too, will seek retribution. Their small acts of terrorism will counter Israel’s ongoing state terror.

They will hate as they have been hated. This lust for vengeance is universal. After World War Two, a clandestine unit of Jews who served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, called “Gmul,” – Hebrew for “Recompense” – hunted down former Nazis and executed them.

“I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn,” W.H. Auden wrote. “Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.”

Chaim Engel, who took part in the uprising at the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp in Poland, described how, armed with a knife, he attacked a guard in the camp.

“It’s not a decision,” Engel said.

“You just react, instinctively you react to that, and I figured, ‘Let us to do, and go and do it.’ And I went. I went with the man in the office, and we killed this German. With every jab, I said, ‘That is for my father, for my mother, for all these people, all the Jews you killed.’”


The Sobibor extermination camp gate in the spring of 1943. The pine branches, braided into the fence to make it difficult to see in from the outside. (Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

What Engel did to the Nazi guard was no less savage than what Hamas fighters did to Israelis on Oct. 7, after escaping their own prison. Taken out of context, it is inexplicable. But set against the backdrop of the extermination camp, or the 17 years trapped in Gaza’s concentration camp, it makes sense.

This is not to excuse it. To understand is not to condone. But we must understand if this cycle of violence is to be stopped. No one is immune to the thirst for vengeance. Israel and the U.S. are foolishly orchestrating yet another chapter in this nightmare.

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Glenn Gray, a combat officer in World War Two, wrote about the peculiar nature of vengeance in The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle:

“When the soldier has lost a comrade to this enemy or possibly had his family destroyed by them through bombings or through political atrocities, so frequently the case in World War II, his anger and resentment deepen into hatred. Then the war for him takes on the character of a vendetta. Until he has himself destroyed as many of the enemy as possible, his lust for vengeance can hardly be appeased.

I have known soldiers who were avid to exterminate every last one of the enemy, so fierce was their hatred. Such soldiers took great delight in hearing or reading of mass destruction through bombings. Anyone who has known or been a soldier of this kind is aware of how hatred penetrates every fiber of his being. His reason for living is to seek revenge; not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but a tenfold retaliation.”

To the brutalized, numb with trauma, convulsed by rage, those who relentlessly attack and humiliate them are not human beings. They are representations of evil. The lust for vengeance, for tenfold retaliation, spawns rivers of blood.

Repetition of One Story

The Palestinian attacks of Oct. 7, which left some 1,200 Israelis dead, feeds this lust within Israel, just as Israel’s obliteration of Gaza feeds this lust among Palestinians.

Israel’s blue-and-white national flag with the Star of David adorns homes and cars. Crowds gather to support families whose members are among the hostages in Gaza. Israelis hand out food at road junctions to soldiers headed to fight in Gaza.

Banners with slogans such as “Israel at war” and “Together we will win” punctuate television broadcasts and media sites. There is little discussion in Israeli media of the slaughter in Gaza or the suffering of Palestinians — 1.7 million of whom have been driven from their homes — but a constant repetition of the stories of suffering, death and heroism that took place on the Oct. 7 attack. Only “our” victims matter. 

“Few of us ever know how far fear and violence can transform us into creatures at bay, ready with tooth and claw,” Gray wrote. “If the war taught me anything at all, it convinced me that people are not what they seem or even think themselves to be.”

Marguerite Duras in her book The War: A Memoir writes of how she and other members of the French Resistance tortured a 50-year-old Frenchman accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

Two men who were tortured in Montluc prison in Lyon strip the alleged informer. They beat him as the group shouts: “Bastard. Traitor. Scum.” Blood and mucus soon run from his nose. His eye is damaged. He moans, “Ow, ow, oh, oh. …” He crumples in a heap on the floor.

Duras writes that he had “become someone without anything in common with other men. And with every minute the difference grows bigger and more established.” She watches the beating passively. “The more they hit and the more he bleeds, the more it’s clear that hitting is necessary, right, just.” She goes on:

“You have to strike. There will never be any justice in the world unless you — yourself are justice now. Judges, paneled courtrooms play-acting, not justice. Every blow rings out in the silent room. They’re hitting at all the traitors, at the women who left, at all those who didn’t like what they saw from behind the shutters.” 

Israel has abused, humiliated, impoverished and wantonly killed Palestinians, provoking inevitable counter violence. It is the engine behind a century of bloodshed.

Outdoes the Nakba

The genocide in Gaza outdoes even the worst excesses of the Nakba, or catastrophe, which saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their land in 1948 and 8,000 to 15,000 murdered in massacres by Zionist terrorist militias such as Irgun and Lehi. 

The Palestinian resistance has little more than small arms and rocket-propelled grenades to battle against one of the best equipped and most technologically advanced militaries on the planet, the world’s  fourth strongest military, after the U.S., Russia and China. 

Palestinian fighters, facing these overwhelming odds, have become demigods with huge popular followings not only among Palestinians, but throughout the Muslim world. Israel may be able to hunt down and kill Hamas’ second-in-command leader Yahya Sinwar, but if they do, he will become the Middle East’s version of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Resistance movements are built on the blood of martyrs. Israel ensures a continual supply.

The decision by the U.S. to defend, fund and participate in Israel’s carpet bombing, slaughter and ethnic cleansing in Gaza is unconscionable. Its backing for the genocide has destroyed what remained of its credibility in the Middle East, already in tatters from two decades of wars, as well as most of the rest of the world.

It has forfeited its right to act as a mediator; that role will be taken by China or Russia. Its refusal to condemn Israeli aggression and war crimes exposes its hypocrisy about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It flirts with the possibility of a regional conflagration.

The peace process, a sham for decades, is irrecoverable. The only language left is the language of death. It is how Israel speaks to the Palestinians. It is how the Palestinians are forced to speak back.

The Biden administration has little to gain from the leveling and depopulation of Gaza, indeed it is alienating huge segments of the Democratic Party, especially as it attacks protestors calling for a ceasefire as “pro-terrorist.”

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer led chants of “We stand with Israel” and “No ceasefire” at a pro-Israel rally on Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C., despite a Reuters/Ipsos survey indicating 68 percent of respondents believed that Israel should implement a ceasefire and negotiate an end to the war. That number rises to 77 percent among Democrats. Biden has a dismal approval rating of 37 percent

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council voted 13-1 for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and unconditional release of all hostages. The U.S. voted against the resolution. The U.K. abstained. The draft resolution was not adopted due to the U.S. veto. 

Biden’s real base is not disenchanted voters but the billionaire class, corporations, such as the weapons industry, which is making huge profits from the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and groups such as the Israel lobby.

They determine policy, even if it means Biden’s defeat in the next presidential election. If Biden loses, the oligarchs get Donald Trump, who serves their interests as doggedly as Biden. 

The wars do not end. The suffering continues. The Palestinians die in the tens of thousands. This is by design.

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 show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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11 comments for “Chris Hedges: The Evil Israel Does is the Evil Israel Gets

  1. Hide Behind
    December 17, 2023 at 00:55

    I have watched from afar the Israeli Arab conflict, yes conflict; It began 70+ years ago and never ended.
    I see no way Israel can be compelled to en tdays genocide, as it too began 70+ years ago, and in all those years both Zionist Israel and its world wide Jewish religious and hereditary have woven b themselves into almost every eurocentric nations financial,Military, Religious organizations, Educational political powerboats.
    Palestinians as.a people will soon lose any political and ciltural, unity.

  2. GC
    December 15, 2023 at 17:04

    Israel should be moved to some vast desert miles from any living thing. Let them find fault with something then. US must remove itself from supporting this Homicidal/Genocidal racist aparthied rogue state. Let them fend for themselves and kill each other. I’m disgusted with this whole mess and the UN/US’s refusal to see Israel for what it is and believing their own propaganda.

  3. CaseyG
    December 15, 2023 at 10:44

    NAKBA—never ended—-it’s been going on forever. Once the horrors began, the land for Palestinians disappeared .And as the land disappeared so did Israel’s humanity.
    But then, that is no different than Israel’s lack of humanity—And -as we see what is going on in America—does my vote even count?

    Ben Franklin was correct about America —” It’s a republic–if you can keep it.”
    I don’t feel very positive at all —all I have my crossed fingers. But then too, the true words of a movie character ring out: “Do or do not. There is no “try.”
    Commit to sanity, Joe Biden. Better yet——RETIRE now.

  4. Rudy Haugeneder
    December 14, 2023 at 23:53

    In the small circle of people I know, I am watching people I previously believed moderate and peaceful polarize into brutal opposites — whether about Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, etc., but not much about he equally deadly wars between tribal groups across much of Africa that hardly gets any coverage mostly because the fighters are Black and thus not worthy citizens. The polar opposites, even if and as they protest for peace, appear increasingly to seek war against those who dare to say one side’s lives have value whereas the others are almost subhuman. Some, who have not yet reached that point are, however, spiraling to that point even as they understand it is very wrong, but are galloping toward choosing a side, even as they admit they are being sucked into the death machines. Personally, I shrug but will protest for Gaza peace on Saturday despite the inherent social dangers this poses. I know my action is almost meaningless but feel obliged to at least express my voice and opinion. And, after watching the blah, blah, blah failure of COP 28, and as an elderly person age 77 who no longer believes we Sapiens can significantly change our ways, I am more pessimistic about our close future than ever. Will I make it to age 85 or 90 and watch the worst unfold, perhaps, but only if I am wrong about how useless protest is, unless the younger generations intervene with whatever direct action they deem necessary, until they too get older and focus singularly on living a bit longer rather than caring about the rest. Sigh. Nevertheless, Happy New Year.

  5. wildthange
    December 14, 2023 at 21:02

    So a religion is invented with a mythology that an unproven mythological person was sacrificed with no historical proof and then sets off centuries of repression against unproven killers. Is that an example of peace or of a weapon created by the Romans for an occupation by force which eventually came home and became a world empire of its own that includes permanent wars for strategic dominance and alliances using religious fervor? Human clever strategies for dominance seem to thrive on monotheistic permissiveness.

  6. firstpersoninfinite
    December 14, 2023 at 18:27

    As usual, Chris Hedges is an excellent example of moral commitment. To hear it told like it is, is so unusual that it often makes you shudder a bit to read such an honest appraisal of the situation. But that honest appraisal is what our so-called leaders fail to understand. Not everything under the sun can be amassed to your own, preferred ends. Sacrifice means penance for those whom that sacrifice was trying to save, and not just in the Christian sense – a sense so obviated by most of those claiming to practice that religion that one wonders why they claim its tenants at all, except in terms of temporary worldly power over others. As for Schumer, as well as all others leading the war cry, he should be made to register as an agent of a foreign country and stripped of his seat in the U.S. senate. The disaster this will inflict upon all those involved can hardly be measured now. The only thing certain is that when the violence is returned to us (and it will be returned upon us), the corrupt offices of our government will claim that such retributions are the product of right-wing or white supremacist violence. Having unleashed the violence by their own willing acts of unreason, such claims will collapse very quickly as the shock doctrine is used once more to clamp down further on the citizenry. Great article, Chris Hedges. And what terrific artwork by Mr. Fish. A picture really is worth a thousand words – except when Chris Hedges is writing the words. Then the value is doubled for both of them.

  7. Drew Hunkins
    December 14, 2023 at 17:53

    It’s just so nauseating and heartbreaking seeing all the videos/tweet footage coming out of Gaza, it’s beyond comprehension that this is all occurring in front of our own eyes in the 21st century.

    Absolutely nothing has worked! Lawfare, massive non-violent protests around the globe, UN resolutions all of it completely ineffectual. And people tell me I’m misguided for repeatedly pointing out Zionist power in the world. I’m waiting for my apologies.

    Though it’s unpopular and comes off as the rantings of a lunatic, the only possible solution is for Tel Aviv to be hit hard militarily by some entity and/or nation-state. That’s it, it’s the only possible solution. Otherwise, we’re going to witness over 2 million Palestinians (minus the thousands murdered by the Zionists) suffering in tent cities all over the Sinai Desert.

    The Zionist supremacists have proven to us all that the only thing they’ll react to and listen to is force and violence, period.

    In the great Pepe Escobar’s recent piece, he wrote that Russia and Iran are most likely just waiting for a “signal” or opportune time to put a stop to the bloodshed in Gaza. I hope beyond hope that Pepe is correct.

    • Valerie
      December 15, 2023 at 04:59

      I agree Drew. And i believe it is just a matter of time before the Israeli murderers get their just deserts. But i wouldn’t hold your breath for those apologies. If someone cannot see what is in front of their face, then no amount of proof will sway them from their “misguided” beliefs.
      I mean come on, people believe in things they cannot even see, like god.

      • Drew Hunkins
        December 15, 2023 at 12:05

        Great comment Valerie. Always a pleasure hearing from you.

        Stay strong.

  8. December 14, 2023 at 17:07

    Is it the ‘god’ of vengeance that resets itself in the hearts and minds of its worshippers?
    It cares not what side – that hate be made sacred and sacrifice be exacted.

  9. Robert Marcus
    December 14, 2023 at 16:03

    The rest of the world should start a new UN without the U.S.
    The current UN is basically pointless as the number one proponent of international terrorism, wars of aggression and neo-colonial conquest has veto power.
    That makes the whole organization a pointless tool of the West

Comments are closed.