PATRICK LAWRENCE: Authorized Atrocities

Israel’s lawlessness has a history that those in the West share with the apartheid state. 

March on Washington for Gaza on Jan. 13. (Diane Krauthamer, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News 

It is remarked often enough, including in this space, that Israel’s savagery in its determination to exterminate the Palestinians of Gaza — and we had better brace for what is next on the West Bank of the Jordan — marks a turn for all of humanity.

In its descent into depravity the Zionist state drags the West altogether down with it. 

This is true, certainly, but we must put Israel’s criminal conduct, which warrants another Nuremberg trial at this point, in its proper context.

When we do, we find that Israel’s lawlessness has a history, an etymology, and if there is a road to Western salvation it must start with a recognition of a past that those in the West share with the apartheid state.  

We can say Israel’s crimes against Gaza’s 2.3 million children, women, and men are unspeakable, in other words, but this would not be right. They are altogether speakable, and it behooves us now to speak of them if we are to grasp where responsibility for this stain upon the human story truly lies.   

Pankaj Mishra has just published a thorough and thoroughly remarkable piece on these matters in the London Review of Books

The Indian author, essayist, and columnist takes up many things in “The Shoah After Gaza,” chiefly the extent to which Zionists have exhausted “the culture of conspicuous Holocaust consumption” — excellent phrase — in defense of a nation that, to quote Primo Levi, “was a mistake in historical terms.” 

Here is a passage in Mishra’s piece that is to our present point: 

“Israel today is dynamiting the edifice of global norms built after 1945, which has been tottering since the catastrophic and still unpunished war on terror and Vladimir Putin’s revanchist war in Ukraine. The profound rupture we feel today between the past and the present is a rupture in the moral history of the world since the ground zero of 1945 — the history in which the Shoah has been for many years the central event and universal reference.”

I am not with Mishra on everything he writes in the LRB piece. Vladimir Putin’s revanchist war in Ukraine? Absolutely not. Unless you are into the demonization ploy to which propagandists commonly resort, it is the Russian Federation’s war, not the Russian president’s. 

Revanchist? Simply wrong, a very poor take on a purposely provoked proxy war that left Moscow little choice but to intervene. 

But “dynamiting the edifice of global norms built after 1945,” and “a rupture in the moral history of the world since the ground zero of 1945”: It does not get much pithier in the essay genre. 

At the same time, we must not take from these phrases the thought that the edifice was sound before Israel lit the fuses, or that the moral rupture we can now see plainly has come upon us suddenly or as a surgical cut. 

I saw some pictures just this morning of Israeli soldiers photographing themselves while playing with lingerie Palestinian women left behind when the Israel Defense Forces displaced them.

It was the tongue that stopped me cold,” Nina Berman writes in her commentary. “The tongue and the savage, shit-eating grin on the soldier’s face as he and his buddy mug for the camera.” Mondoweiss published the pictures and the piece.

IDF grunts have done vastly worse things in Gaza, but these “selfies” got me to thinking. As Berman says of them, “They join a long line of conquest images, from Abu Ghraib images to the spectacle of Jim Crow-era lynchings.”

Who We Are Condemning 

But exactly, Nina. You trip us into just the historical context we need before we, setting ourselves on some Doric pedestal, cavalierly condemn the conduct of IDF troops as they storm through Gaza in the manner of a blitzkrieg.

Condemnable, yes. We had better take care to understand just who we are condemning.  

In the decade before the American defeat in Indochina, the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. 

If we want to go further back in postwar history we can think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then we can think about Israel in Gaza: As of the start of this year — leaving us more than three months to count — it had dropped more than 70,000 tons of ordnance on a territory the size of Manhattan.

Torture of Palestinian prisoners — the beatings, the maiming, the waterboarding, the forced confessions: Is this so different from how the U.S. conducted the “war on terror?”

Long-term detentions in dungeons with no charges and no recourse to attorneys: There is no echo in this of what goes on at Guantánamo as we speak?  

Jan. 11, 2015: Protesting Guantanamo outside the White House on 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison camp. (Debra Sweet, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Those IDF soldiers in the photographs are nothing more than punks with guns, vulgarians with no shred of humanity in them. Can we rightfully describe the U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib any differently?

Israel ignores the International Court of Justice? Where might this impudence come from? 

There is more, much more, that we can add to this list. Afghanistan merits a place on it. There is the West’s “back-to-the-Stone–Age” destruction of Libya in 2011. I confine myself to the postwar decades to allow us to take a good, clear look at that “edifice of global norms” of which Mishra writes. 

When we do, we find the West has licensed the Israelis. They bear a pre-authorization by way of many precedents. There is one for more or less every shameful act the Israelis perpetrate against the Palestinian population — this in the West Bank as well as Gaza.  

And so we discover — or remind ourselves, depending on how attentive we have been to events — that the post–1945 edifice has looked from the start roughly as it looks now. Israel is at bottom an outcome, not the prime cause of anything.  

Insidious Mythology

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. (State Department/ Chuck Kennedy)

Certainly the grotesque spectacle of mass murder and wholesale destruction we witness daily has marked a rupture, to stay with Mishra’s term. But to assert that this rupture lies in Israel’s conduct is to sustain an insidious mythology of innocence for the West.

No, the true rupture lies with those in the West who are sucked into Israel’s utter immorality and now come face-to-face with their amoral indifference or, for the best of them, discover the extent of their powerlessness despite their authentic efforts. 

As to Israel, I am with Primo Levi as Mishra quotes him. “The Jewish state” had already proven a mistake when he made his much-disputed remark in 1985.

The truth of it has since been demonstrated a hundred times over. Israel has proven a failed experiment, incapable of conducting itself as a legitimate nation-state. 

But whose mistake is Israel? It was the West, Britain in the lead, that created Israel by caving to the Zionists at the expense of indigenous Palestinians. This is the reality of power that should weigh most heavily on our shoulders. Israel ‘R’ us. 

Britain’s abandonment of the 1920 Mandate brings us to one of the deeper characteristics of our time, our postwar edifice. This is the ever more complete disregard of those in power for the principles, standards and broadly accepted ethics that give form and coherence to a stable civilization and keep its public space clean and well lit. 

In our crumbling edifice, everything is done according to its value as an expedient to a desired outcome. This, too, is a kind of depravity. And it is this depravity that produces the depravity we watch as we watch Israel’s effort to destroy an entire people. 

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for The International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows, available from Clarity Press or via Amazon.  Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. 

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

33 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Authorized Atrocities

  1. Susan Siens
    March 22, 2024 at 15:51

    Read Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s account of the Sand Creek Massacre in An Indigenous History of the United States.

    Colorado militia soldiers — check out the meaning of militias and then think about the Second Amendment — attacked a peaceful camp of indigenous people, mostly women and children, who were supposed to be under the protection of the U.S. Army if I remember correctly. Mass murder followed by mutilation — vulvas, penises, breasts — with which they decorated their hats. Then they were feted by “ordinary citizens” at a celebration. Sound familiar?

    And as far as bombing people back to the Stone Age that was the American attitude in Korea. I heard we literally destroyed every village and murdered a goodly percentage of the population. And that was POST-WWII.

  2. Recon-1
    March 21, 2024 at 23:01

    Respectfully disagree with Mr. Lawrence’s approach in this essay, which has the highly lamentable effect of minimizing the horror and pure evil of what the Israelis are doing in Gaza, by saying “Israel is just doing what we’ve done in other contexts in the past.” It is certainly true that the US and other major world powers have committed grievous crimes at many points throughout history, and in the case of the US, very recent history. But “contextualizing” Gaza in this way is deeply misguided, as it diffuses Israeli and US responsibility for what is happen NOW. Moreover, there are many very consequential ways in which what is happening in Gaza differs markedly from the atrocities of the past, most notably the fact that anyone who wants to learn the truth of what is happening in Gaza has the ability to do so. The genocide in Gaza is being live-streamed to the world, despite the herculean efforts of Western governments and media to obscure the truth. That was never true in the past. The Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the mass bombings in Korea and Indochina, and even the mass killings in Rwanda in the 1990s were never broadcast in such a fashion. While some information about those atrocities filtered out, it was not until much later that the full scope of the horror was made known to the public, and in many cases even to political leaders. In Gaza, by contrast, there can be no defense in claiming ignorance. And it is all the more horrible because we see clearly that, in the face of that knowledge, the Israeli and the American governments and media simply do not care. And in Israel, the majority of of the Israeli people support this slaughter. Mr. Lawrence’s essay fails to note these differences, and ends up making excuses for Israel as just an expression of a larger, more encompassing evil (the West), even though it’s obviously not his intention to exculpate Israel. rather, it seems to be his intention to condemn the entire West, which I find perverse in this context. Reducing “the West” to a marauding band of murderers is a grossly reductionist and false picture of our collective history, even though it’s fashionable among the woke Western literati these days. Overall, this is a weak, diversionary effort.

  3. Lois Gagnon
    March 20, 2024 at 22:45

    All too true Patrick. The way I see it, the two biggest hurdles we have to overcome to change course are the relative ignorance of Western populations about what their leadership is and has been engaged in not just since the end of the Second World War, but since European colonialism spread its plunder for profit across the world and the fact that the mass murdering criminal class possess nukes. That includes Israel of course. I shudder to think as the US and its imperialist vassals face devolution thanks to their own hubris, what measures they will resort to on the way down. I am dismayed at the continued ignorance of family and friends who are still under the spell of the US as a force for good. What’s it going to take?

    • Em
      March 22, 2024 at 09:53

      You omitted the ‘force for good’ the US has been for Ukraine!
      Yet each time the US castigates Russia for its Special Military Operation incursion into eastern Ukraine, in defense of US meddling there for an intolerable number of years, as soon as President Putin counters that they too have nukes, the US populace immediately rises up to run and protect themselves under their desks, like good little sheep do in blindly following their leader.
      Do I hear Ahem! Scoff, Scoff coming from the bleachers?

  4. wildthange
    March 20, 2024 at 20:33

    Western civilization has its own actions as empires. One religious empire was even started on the premise weaponizing a religion with antisemitism as an imaginary creation for an occupation. Defamation of character is a characteristic of all our permanent wars and permanent woes over the ages. Monotheism seems to be cleverly crafted for permissive war pathology.

  5. Sharon Aldrich
    March 20, 2024 at 12:55

    Thank you again Mr. lawrence for helping us to awaken to what is truly happening. And for our responsibility for not paying attention!

  6. JonnyJames
    March 20, 2024 at 12:53

    As the author alludes and outlines: The only country in history to use nuclear weapons (on civilians, no less) was the gool ol’ USA. Then the US saturation -bombed most of the Korean peninsula until there was nothing left to bomb and the place was left in total devastation.

    As Mr. Lawrence outlines, the US then carpet bombed SE Asia, regime-changed and interfered in the affairs of dozens of countries, engaged in torture programs, death squads etc. Then we had the Destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria etc. resulting in well over a million innocents slaughtered.

    We can also go back to the crimes of the British Empire in India, Kenya, S Africa, Malaya etc. The history of the Anglo-Americans is a bloody one indeed. But I guess, when you have global domination, that power will corrupt silly humans and bad thing usually happen.

    Henry Kissinger’s principal historical hero was Prince Klemenz von Metternich, who reportedly quipped: “foreign policy is not for the plebs” . Foreign policy is not for those with a moral compass, or weak stomach either, it is a truly bloody business.

    • Guillaume Dohmen
      March 20, 2024 at 15:09

      These are exactly my thoughts too.

    • Joseph Tracy
      March 20, 2024 at 22:52

      I think this does not honestly address the deep roots of Zionism as a pattern of god justified land theft and destruction of indigenous cultures. The Old Testament in the Joshua story of the conquest of Canaan, though a complete historical fabrication for ancient propaganda purposes, has provided a pattern in western culture where the concept of heathens, idolaters, Goliath or Grendel-like monsters who must be killed to make the land safe for the chosen people still fills our movies, political myths and justifies the behavior of the strong. ” Happy is he who dashes your little ones against a stone” is the cry ascribed to David in Psalms regarding the Philistines. Oddly or perhaps not, the historical Philistines were also were centered in Gaza. Judaism had taken a deep turn away from those Zionist values until they were visited on them and they became the scapegoats of military imperialism. The Holocaust should have been a turning point and in many ways it was. All repression and abuse of power looks uglier afterword. Spiritual evolution is possible but does not live in dreams of vengeance. The world bound to this Zionist myth has become like Groundhog Day with world wars, pogroms, Wounded Knee, the Armenian genocide, Vietnam as the recurring event. The west became more and more zionist and blends the mythology of superiors and inferiors, the heroism of war, and the righteousness of the conquerers into an unending religious devotion to theft and conquest. It is fed to children like a strict diet of blood sausage and ice cream. Along with the symbolic horror, there is something incredibly juvenile and pathetically inane about those photos of the displays of the underwear of Gaza women. What spiritual diet led to this? In Israel it was clearly extreme end became its own fascism.
      The west provides a steady diet of horror as heroism, but most people, trying to survive, and make some real friends, don’t believe it, don’t want revolution or imperial wars, would prefer more peaceful fare. Mythos matters and if god is anything he/she is the part of us that admires love, patience, kindness, sees the divine in loving parents, faithful love and respectful friends. Is there any way to turn the tide or is it Groundhog Day again and again until it becomes Dr Strangelove. One Gandhian tactic could be a tax revolt. Arguing and voting might help but something that starves the monster is needed. Something that leads us back to the local community and local food and the real power-sharing implied in the concept of justice, democracy, home. Revolution, evolution, inner change.

    • Paula
      March 21, 2024 at 10:58

      But must it always be “a bloody business?” Did not JFK show us a way that we seem to have forgotten? In fact the evil in the USA has murdered all those who would have led our nation in a more peaceful direction. I mourn for that loss every time I think of all those leaders who have been murdered by CIA and Mossad operatives. The world will not survive under such evil for much longer. I applaud Mr. Lawrence for pointing out the evil of our foreign policy, always to be the brut using brut force.

  7. Jackson
    March 20, 2024 at 12:46

    There will be NO struggle, this time, to gather evidence for ICJ Genocide trial ; however, uprooting the US ‘orthodox mesquite’ that continues to fund and support West Bank settler fanatics is a HUGE problem that needs to be addressed. With or without a bushhog.

    Thanks Patrick,

  8. Mike
    March 20, 2024 at 11:47

    Please keep talking about a Nuremberg trial. The West seems to want a return to the status quo. There never should be a return but instead there should be a price for revenge killing, particularly when it is mostly women and children. Intentional mass starvation is also a reason to terminate this failed Zionist experiment.

    But let’s keep in mind who was tried at Nuremberg. The US and Britain committed very grave war crimes and McNamara quoted LeMay as saying we would have been tried a war criminals if we had lost WWII. So, at Nuremberg the war-crime guilty Allies tried the war-crime guilty Axis. It wasn’t war-crimes trial but putting the losers on trial. It’s really time for honest and unbiased trials. But since “He who has the gold makes the rules” is the West’s modes operandi, it may fall to the Global South to create its own court for holding those committing genocide and mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza accountable. But there is no accountability if the World can’t pull itself together to enforce any punishment that is decided on. How do you break the leash (or chains)?

  9. March 20, 2024 at 11:31

    Bravo, Patrick! An excellent piece by the author of the important book, “Time No Longer.” I doubt in the history of the world has any nation been afflicted by such an irresponsible, greedy, self-serving elite. “No nation survives the loss of its ruling elite,” wrote Toynbee. The WASP elite was replaced by the Jewish elite just after the Second World War. But neither one has ever done us any good. It is more and more my conviction that good land stewardship is the key to a worthwhile elite. And what we’ve done to our land tells you just about everything you need to know.

  10. March 20, 2024 at 11:28

    Flip side of this coin: sanity is being restored.

    The photo images, just like in Vietnam, are driving the phenomena now being stoked by social media.

  11. March 20, 2024 at 11:18

    “…we find the West has licensed the Israelis.”

    We didn’t just license them, we set the example for them, we mentored them, funded them, armed them and encouraged them as well.

    And speaking of apartheid, what about the apartheid in the U.S. whee the indigenous peoples are still confined to small, isolated pockets of land that were deemed “not good enough” for the white man. Is this not unlike the settlements of the West Bank which have confined the Palestinians into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves?

    We are the masters of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide. No nation has done it better than we have.

    • mary-lou
      March 20, 2024 at 14:18

      settler colonialism (whereby, among other forms of ethnic/indigenous discrimination, “…land is made into property and human relationships to land are restricted to the relationship of the owner to its property…” – hxxps:// ).

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    March 20, 2024 at 11:12

    RACISM, RACISM and more RACISM…The white Western exceptional race world looking down at all other races.

    • JonnyJames
      March 20, 2024 at 11:43

      Racism is part of the motivation, but the “narcissism of minor differences” means that silly humans will always find a reason to exploit and kill others. Class, religion, color, race etc. Any excuse will do. Race is not the only factor.

      Even though they are “white”, Russians are demonized and considered subhuman by the West. (Like Arabs and Palestinians). The MassMedia to repeat and conformance negative stereotypes and Russophobic lies with little protest.

      I find it Super Hypocrisy that politicians pander to the African American community, for example, while supporting War On Russia and the Genocide of Palestine. Killing as many Russians and Palestinians as possible is the goal. Even many black politicians engage in this behavior.
      Of course, Nazi ideology considered all Slavs (especially Russians), Jews, Roma etc, as subhuman. So the US and vassals in the West is continuing a long tradition of racism. Ajamu Baraka (Black Alliance for Peace), Dr. Cornel West, and others have written and spoken about his sort of thing, for example.

      As George Carlin quipped years ago “the Germans lost WWII, but the Nazis won”

      • Carolyn L Zaremba
        March 20, 2024 at 14:13

        Excellent comment.

  13. forceOfHabit
    March 20, 2024 at 11:05

    An excellent summation: painfully insightful, which is enough to guarantee that most in the West will close their eyes to it.

  14. bardamu
    March 20, 2024 at 10:42

    Hear, hear.

  15. Paul Citro
    March 20, 2024 at 09:57

    I think that a lot of people believe that Israel will completely genocide the Palestinians and then it will stop. But evil, when it is allowed to succeed doesn’t stop. It keeps going until it can grab everything it can get its hands on, including you.

  16. Ed Rickert
    March 20, 2024 at 09:46

    Another masterful essay from Patrick Lawrence reminding us of our history, a legacy echoed by Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness: “Exterminate the Brutes”. As Gandhi reportedly replied to the question “What do you think of western civilization”, replied “it would be nice”. And given the stupidity and blindness of our western leaders we should heed Cormac McCarthy’s prophetic warning “That the forces of history which have ushered…into the tapestry were those of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, the sister events that sealed forever the fate of the West.”

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      March 20, 2024 at 14:19

      I didn’t need to be reminded of history. Unlike many U.S. citizens, I have studied history all my life. And once again, much as I admire Mr Lawrence, I refuse to be identified as within a blanket “we” with which I have nothing to do. I am 75 years old. Yes, born in the year of the Nakba. The history prior to my birth became a featured subject of mine later on. But I have nothing to do with what led to the Holocaust. I also, since the United States is not a democracy, have no say about the decisions of the U.S. government to commit war crimes. I and the rest of the U.S. working class are forced to endure the seemingly unstoppable decline of our country while its warmongers spends billions of dollars to murder people.

      • Litchfield
        March 20, 2024 at 17:53

        I agree.

        I appreciate Lawrence’s essay and mostly agree with him, but not completely.

        For instance, I find the “we” trope facile and ahistorical.

        It always annoys me when it is used to make sweeping generalizations that sweep up whole populations, demographics, etc. that make everyone equally guilty for the transgressions of few, and end up giving a pass to genuine perpetrators, who can hide within “we.”

        We are now speaking of Occupied Palestine.
        Let us keep the focus on that misbegotten project.
        The main culprits are the British and, postwar, the USA.

        For a historical account, see the documentary Promises and Betrayals: Britain and the Struggle for the Holy Land, hXXps:// .

        Ironically, both countries’ politics have been utterly corrupted by the Jewish ethnostate.

        • daryl
          March 21, 2024 at 12:17

          We We We all the way to the Market.
          If you live, eat and breath in this country or just about any other of our coveted western countries, you stand on stolen land, drive a car that steals from our future, walk on shoes made by imported slave labor.
          No on escapes the WE
          until we see, we are all in our mess as we the mess makers, the we of this mess nothing will change.

          • Litchfield
            March 21, 2024 at 21:12

            Speak for yourself.

  17. March 20, 2024 at 09:24

    Look at Blinken in that picture with Yoav Gallant .He is a frozen stick overborne by a physically imposing, energetic mass murderer who dominates the space.

    Blinken stiffly draws his energy into  himself, repressing it, expressionless , gazing down demurely, cowering, subdued, a mama’s boy conditioned by his mercilessly dominating mother to hold his tongue and not talk back or challenge her authority.

    The Secretary of State of supposedly (but not really) the most powerful country in the world — measured by its ability to demolish countries but long-since able to create anything, owned and run as it is by gluttonous FIRE sector parasites — holds himself as rigid as a mouse, afraid to cross the psycho asserting how the genocide is going to go.

    Blinken tells himself his clenched jaw says to others, “I am in control here; I am the boss,” while in actuality he looks like what he is: afraid of his own shadow, trying to have both ways the monstrous crimes the bad boys letting him hang around with them because they need some doors that he can open opened are committing.

    • mary-lou
      March 20, 2024 at 14:33

      his body language is indeed illustrative. also notice the way Blinken takes a step, almost crossing-over his forward-placed foot in relation to the other foot when taking a step. cautious steps, “please don’t tread on mini-me”.

      • March 21, 2024 at 01:06

        Totally. So careful, trying not to occupy any space. A child allowed into the adults’ world, keeping still so as not to be told to leave.

  18. hetro
    March 20, 2024 at 09:23

    I hope this analysis of our collective guilt does not suggest we should accept it, nothing to be done, human all too human. This doesn’t fit with what I thought was Patrick’s fighting spirit so I’ll let that go. Perhaps it is the case that the human brain can’t extricate itself from self-justification as is happening today with Biden in effect apologizing to Netanyahu who didn’t like the Schumer “lost his way” speech and Blinken saying, yes, it really is historically terrible but it’s all Hamas’ fault. This is pathological excuse-making and political maneuvering. Take a world survey of ordinary persons and ask if they agree the fucking madness should STOP right now. Then the motley little bunch of savages running things and celebrating could perhaps be put into perspective.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      March 20, 2024 at 14:23

      Good post. “Motley little bunch of savages” describes the warmongers very well. I do not accept that there is nothing to be done. But I do worry at the number of people who don’t even know that there is a situation that needs to be dealt with!

  19. mgr
    March 20, 2024 at 05:33

    Thank you Patrick. Spot on in every regard.

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