Caitlin Johnstone: Gaza Atrocities Are ‘Western Values’

What we see in Gaza is a much better representation of what Western civilization is really about than all the gibberish about freedom and democracy we learned in school.

Israeli forces bombing Gaza Strip on Oct. 10. (Al Araby, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

When Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the assault on Gaza as a war “to save Western civilization, to save the values of Western civilization,” he wasn’t really lying. He was telling the truth — just maybe not quite in the way that he meant it.

The demolition of Gaza is indeed being perpetrated in defense of Western values, and is itself a perfect embodiment of Western values. Not the Western values they teach you about in school, but the hidden ones they don’t want you to look at. Not the attractive packaging with the advertising slogans on the label, but the product that’s actually inside the box.

For centuries Western civilization has depended heavily on war, genocide, theft, colonialism and imperialism, which it has justified using narratives premised on religion, racism and ethnic supremacy — all of which we are seeing play out in the incineration of Gaza today. 

What we are seeing in Gaza is a much better representation of what Western civilization is really about than all the gibberish about freedom and democracy we learned about in school.

A much better representation of western civilization than all the art and literature we’ve been proudly congratulating ourselves on over the centuries.

A much better representation of western civilization than the love and compassion we like to pretend our Judeo-Christian values revolve around.

It’s been so surreal watching Western rightists babbling about how savage and barbaric Muslim culture is amid the 2023 zombie resurrection of Bush-era Islamophobia, even while Western civilization amasses a mountain of 10 thousand child corpses.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Herzog in Tel Aviv on Nov. 3. (State Department, Chuck Kennedy)

That mountain of child corpses is a much better representation of Western culture than anything Mozart, da Vinci or Shakespeare ever produced.

This is Western civilization. This is what it looks like. 

Western civilization, where Julian Assange awaits his final appeal in February against U.S. extradition for journalism which exposed US war crimes.

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Where we are fed a nonstop deluge of mass media propaganda to manufacture our consent for wars and aggression which have killed millions and displaced tens of millions in the 21st century alone.

Where we are kept distracted by vapid entertainment and artificial culture wars so we don’t think too hard about what this civilization is and who it is killing and maiming and starving and exploiting.

Where news cycles are dominated more by celebrity gossip and Donald Trump’s latest mouth farts than by the mass atrocities that are being actively facilitated by western governments.

Where liberals congratulate themselves for having progressive views on race and gender while the officials they elect help rip apart children’s bodies with military explosives.

Where Zionist Jews center themselves and their emotions because opposition to an active genocide makes them feel like they are being persecuted, and where Israel supporters who are not Jewish still kind of feel like they are being persecuted also.

Where a giant globe-spanning empire powered by militarism, imperialism, capitalism and authoritarianism devours human flesh with an insatiable appetite while we congratulate ourselves on how much better we are than nations like Iran or China.

These are Western values. This is Western civilization.

Ask somebody to tell you what their values are and they’ll give you a bunch of pleasant-sounding words about family and love and caring or whatever. Watch their actions to see what their actual values are and you’ll often get a very different story.

That’s us. That’s Western civilization. We say we value freedom, justice, truth, peace and free expression, but our actions paint a very different picture. The real Western values, the actual product inside the box underneath the attractive label, are the ones you see acted out in Gaza today.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

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22 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Gaza Atrocities Are ‘Western Values’

  1. ray Peterson
    December 23, 2023 at 06:14

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
    Yes, “demonic forces” (Paul Tillich), have so overcome
    the world, with the help of US/Israeli/NATO powers,
    that doubt for the absolute good becomes a temptation.
    But the very powers that make resistance to the world’s
    evil come from the Judeo-Christian traditions of the West.
    That those values and principles have been denied and
    abused from the get-go is no reason to reject them

  2. jamie
    December 22, 2023 at 16:56

    We do value freedom, freedom to do everything we please without respect to other lives and ideas, that entails freedom do evil as well, to unleash bestiality; it make sense if you are one of many who believe that evil is part of the human pleasure spectrum, perhaps at the bottom of the pyramids of pleasures but still providing some sort of “depraved” satisfaction; easy to see how our culture solely devoted to hedonism has kept bestiality, refining it through the centuries to make it more acceptable. That of course is tied to freedom of expression; tied to justice, you know killing the barbarians, the human animals, to make a better just world? tied to truth, you know the one that fits the narrative our vision of justice, the truth that media cherry-pick for us; eventually even tied to peace, you know the one that will exist when all who have disagreed with us are either dead or enslaved. When the world, as envisioned by the Nazi will be homogeneous, in our own image.
    That is our culture without sugar-coating

  3. The Gambler
    December 22, 2023 at 12:06

    The envelope please….
    And the winner, for the 2023 Darwin Award is ….
    …. The Entire Human Race.

    and they’ll confirm their qualification for this award by throwing a big “Hey, we got an Award” Party in celebration of what any sane intelligent species would regard has horrifying news.

    So, we should make them happy, and make up a trophy for them. Perfect, golden, exceptional, smiling human beings of diverse genders, holding aloft a globe, with the words “We Are F#@^3d” in big letters around the front of the globe. They’ll like it. They like anyone who tells them they are Exceptional.

    Instead of last-ditch, emergency efforts to maintain a climate that was survivable, they instead embark on the most destructive of environmental activities …. wars. All around the world. As the Prophet Morrison once said …. This is the end.

    Given the news that after Hiroshima, war meant the destruction of the human race, the “western value” was to shun Peace and instead focus attention and $billions on ‘making nuclear war winnable’. The option of Peace and Co-existence was deemed by ‘western values’ to be horrifying, and an outcome to be avoided at all costs. And the masses of the Golden Billion have gone along with this plan and supported it for decades, always voting for politicians who promised victory, but never voting for politicians who promised peace, which none even bother to do anymore as it attracts so very few votes.

    (and lying policitians who just oppose the party in power don’t count as ‘promsing peace’. Peace is much less aggression and much less military spending, among other things.)

    Given a choice between a ‘thing-oriented’ society and a ‘people-oriented’ society, we love our toys. Which means its time to cue Jim Morrison …

  4. JonnyJames
    December 22, 2023 at 11:52

    Thanks again Caitlin Johnstone.

    Reminds me of a George Carlin quip: “The Germans lost WWII, but the Nazis won”

  5. Theresa Barzee
    December 22, 2023 at 11:21

    Feeling the bizarre juxtaposition of shopping in the big box Costco store while piped in christ-mass music drowns out crowd noise. “Angels We Have Heard on High” with now alarming line; “Born is the king of Israel” just served up while shopping for food. While Palestinians are starved by Israel. Truly dystopia of our present world. Where Palestinan prisoners are forced to listen to Israeli nursery rhymes and songs performed at them by an Israeli music celebrity?! Minor atrocities, compared to the deliberate genocide methods, yet all of a piece. Modern kings are not “democratic rulers” but we pretend on this fairy nonsense still… To our SHAME.

  6. AA from MD
    December 22, 2023 at 08:45

    Preach on, Caitlin. We appreciate your writings and are thankful for people like you and others who publish in Consortium News and Mint Press.

  7. Pete
    December 22, 2023 at 03:46

    Never a truer word spoken.
    Look at the actions not the verbal diarrhea of the western governments.

  8. Morey
    December 22, 2023 at 00:44

    This is by far Caitlin’s most profoundly polemic essay, which really puts to question the notion of civility and human civilization as understood and practiced in the West. For the past 600+ years, the West has colonized 80 percent of the world with militarism, genocide, slavery, plunder, and theft. So much for the Western “enlightenment”!

  9. firstpersoninfinite
    December 22, 2023 at 00:40

    This absolutely needed to be said. These are our values. And no spectacle created by corporate backers of government excess and horror should turn you away from that unmitigable truth. When I read this, I think of Freud and The Future of an Illusion, or Civilization and its Discontents. These books make it very plain how impotent we are as individuals or even collectively, before the forces of civilization that hold us in thrall. I think of R. Buckminster Fuller and his detailed examples of how we can easily take care of every living being on this planet with the resources we already have in hand for the first time in all our history, and yet we choose to follow the path of least existence. Even if speaking loudly without curtailment is all we can do, it is far more than refusing to speak out at all against such atrocities as those we have perpetrated already. This higher level of consciousness which Caitlin Johnstone is bringing to the fray is exactly what is needed. Even the victorious ancient Greeks could produce plays like The Persians, which at least accounted emotionally for the defeat of their enemies as a living reality which they themselves could experience. We can’t even manage that.

  10. Eddie S
    December 21, 2023 at 23:22

    Excellent points, especially about the U.S. ‘official’ values vs the actual values. As a lifelong US citizen, it’s always aggravated me to hear that we ‘have’ to go to the other side of the world and bomb the piss out of somebody because they’re not democratic enough, or they might become ‘a problem’ someday, or some other BS reason, but we can’t address our numerous problems in the US (ie; high murder rate for a western country, gun control, universal healthcare, wealth inequality, homelessness, infrastructure, etc etc). And we (and the world in general) had an excellent chance to move in a more peaceful direction in 1992 when the USSR dissolved, but instead we used it as an opportunity to exploit Russia economically and politically.

    • michael888
      December 22, 2023 at 10:38

      “high murder rate for a western country”? No, that’s a common misconception. The US has one of the lower homicide rates in the Western Hemisphere (bottom 10-20% in all(?) compilations). The US is tied with Russia, the highest homicide rate in Europe (if those are your Western countries? Like the US ONCE was.) Our highest homicide rates are in our cities, as true for most countries.

      America’s culture is changing. Less European-like (“socialist” with free/ almost free medical care with better outcomes, free/almost free University education, free/ almost free child care) and more Banana Republic-like, much more tolerant of violence and corruption, privatizing profits/ socializing debts, largely because of US meddling/ control of Latin America.

  11. Hank
    December 21, 2023 at 21:17

    and yet let me do a quick impression of conservatives who try to criticize the Biden administration. “Is this administration as dangerous as the KGB, is the censoring of media as bad as the USSR?” etc. It really makes one’s stomach turn. One thing is certain, the looming downfall of the American empire, so yearned for by the suffering people of the developing world, will be much worse than the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  12. December 21, 2023 at 20:53

    Exactly the way I see it. Exactly the way it is.

  13. December 21, 2023 at 20:38

    By age 30 it had taken me 5 years to unwind all the history and civics garb age we were fed in grade and high school. It was another 10 years to figure out that major media’s role, was as a mouthpiece for the White House. The only “news” we were fed was sheer trivia, entertainment, and disinformation. It took only a few months traveling to places around the world to learn that Americans are either the dumbest, or the most manipulated people in the world. Even people in the third world know more about what’s happening in the world than Americans do. Americans just aren’t given the tools to understand our world.

    There are only two legitimate stories in this world – climate change, and corruption; and corruption, pretty much drives climate change.

    The only good thing about American media is that it generally doesn’t kill the journalists – just isolates, ostracizes, and shames them into submission.

    Caitlin Johnstone for President!!

    • Gary McMillan
      December 22, 2023 at 10:41

      The only “news” we were fed was sheer trivia, entertainment, and disinformation.
      Well said.

    • michael888
      December 22, 2023 at 10:44

      While the US doesn’t kill many journalists, our allies (Israel, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and our Latin American narco puppet states) do that for us.

      And of course Assange is not the only political prisoner among journalists; freezing assets, de-platforming them via censorship, and jailing journalists is the American civilized approach– may include torture too nowadays?

  14. Geoff Burns
    December 21, 2023 at 18:45

    Just now driving home while listening to NPR I heard John Kirby say that “no-one is working harder (than the United States) to further humanitarian efforts in Gaza.” Contrast that with the recent statement by retired Israeli Maj. General Yitzhak Brick who said, “All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S. The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability. … Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.” Perhaps Kirby is saying that we are trying to get food to the Palestinians so they don’t die hungry.

    • Susan
      December 23, 2023 at 10:52

      Thank you for holding up the mirror of truth to the deluded western myths Caitlin!.

  15. Jack Lomax
    December 21, 2023 at 17:11

    For the last hundreds of years Western CIvilization has been better and more accurately described as western imperial capitalism whose main function has been to repress and exploit the weak in its land and to conquer weaker countries by means of much superior weaponry and then exploit and enslave their citizenry in the name of Western Christianity. Gaza is just a rather more published episode conducted by the most developed section of this philosophy by its most developed (ie psychopathic) actors

    • Rafael
      December 22, 2023 at 14:23

      western imperial capitalism: that says it all in just three words!

    • robert e williamson jr
      December 22, 2023 at 23:24

      Mr. Lomax, I concur.

      Mr. Burns, great job here of parsing the facts presented the John Kirby and Maj. General Yitzhak Brick.

      Doesn’t add up does it. The Israeli General scores points, by exposing the obvious about U.S. involvement while Kirby once again is exposed as a disingenuous lying jerk. ” . . . no one is working harder ( than the united States) to further humanitarian efforts in Gaza.” This man represents an absolute contradiction of himself. This from the man who currently the National Security Council coordinator of Strategic Communications.

      Of Strategic communications no less, does that mean he says one thing while doing the complete opposite?

      Antony Blinken speaking to the Israeli Defense Ministry Oct. 12 2023, “I come before you not only as U.S. Secretary of State , but also as a Jew.” Could that be construed as a conflict of interest with respect to what ever the hell it is the U.S. trying to accomplish aiding in the Israel genocide?

      Jake Sullivan -Yale- It is well worth pointing out that Sullivan seems to get great marks from everyone for his meteoric rise in U.S. government since his 1998 graduation from Yale. 2008 finding himself as advisor to Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Joining her as deputy chief of staff, Libya, Syria, you get the idea, now the 28th National Security Advisor.

      He has all the trappings of someone representing the CIA inside the White House. He has been around a lot, reminiscent of, ” Ole’ give them all pardons” Billy Barr.

      These people present a clear dangerous threat to all the threat of us, IMHO.

      Thanks CN

  16. Bob Newly
    December 21, 2023 at 14:39

    When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilization he is said to have replied, “That would be nice.”

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