The Comma That Erases Genocide

Israel wants to muddy the waters — as it always does — so it can carry on with its genocide, writes Jonathan Cook. Here’s an example of how the Western media help it along.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague, on May 24, 2024, when it ordered Israel to stop its assault on Rafah. (ICJ)

By Jonathan Cook

Israel’s claim that a single comma exempts it from having to respect the International Court of Justice’s order on May 24 to immediately halt its murderous attack on Rafah should be ridiculed.

Instead it is being given space to breathe by complicit media like The Guardian.

The paper’s diplomatic editor offers an “analysis” that takes seriously claims by Israel and the two judges at the ICJ — one an Israeli — who dissented from the ruling approved by the other 13. They argue the following:

“The world is wrong to think that the ICJ has required Israel to halt its Rafah assault and any actions elsewhere in Gaza that are genocidal. Instead, a comma in the text qualifies the ruling to mean the court wants Israel to halt its actions in Rafah and elsewhere only if they are genocidal. Because Israel’s actions are not genocidal, the court is not, in fact, asking Israel to halt anything.”

That argument is preposterous on its face. It would be a less forceful statement than the one the court issued back in January, when Israel’s genocide was far less developed than it is now.

But there’s another glaring flaw in the argument’s logic that The Guardian somehow overlooks. If the two dissenting judges are really so sure that is what the overwhelming majority meant — that Israel is barred only from carrying out actions if they are already proven to constitute genocide — why on earth did they dissent?

Were this really the case, there could be only one possible interpretation of their decision to dissent: that they favour giving Israel the green light to commit genocide.

[See: ICJ Orders Israel Stop Rafah Attack]

This isn’t rocket science.

Israel wants to muddy the waters — as it always does — so it can carry on with its genocide.

The “fierce and continuing debate” about the comma, as The Guardian characterises it, is being aired so that Israel can continue murdering children in Gaza until the ICJ makes a definitive ruling on the question of genocide in a few years’ time.

By then, Gaza will be even more of a smoldering ruin than it is already. By then, the Palestinian population will be either dead or have been ethnically cleansed.

Imagine if it were Vladimir Putin’s Russia arguing over a comma as a pretext to avoid implementing a clear ruling by the ICJ to halt atrocities in Ukraine. The ignominy The Guardian and the rest of the media would heap on the Russian president would be relentless — and deserved.

[Related: ICJ Rules Against Ukraine on Terrorism, MH17]

So why are Israel’s genocide-justifying evasions not treated the same way?

  • Because, however unwilling we are to face the facts, Western establishments, including our state-corporate media, are fully onboard with this genocide. The only concession they are willing to make is to the optics.
  • Because Western elites, like their more openly colonial forebears, are racist towards members of the Global South like the Palestinians.
  • Because the West’s war machine — into which Israel is so tightly integrated — endlessly enriches those elites through “defence” contracts and resource theft.
  • And because Israel is central to the narrative we imbibe daily that it is we in the so-called West who are the real victims, not the people whose lives are torn apart by our bombs and our globe-spanning financial institutions.

The Western media takes seriously the debate about a comma because it helps us to avoid confronting a simple truth: The monsters are us.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist. He was based in Nazareth, Israel, for 20 years. He returned to the U.K. in 2021.He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006), Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008). If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support

This article is from the author’s blog, Jonathan  

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

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18 comments for “The Comma That Erases Genocide

  1. Machine Ghost
    June 5, 2024 at 11:18

    Evil helps along Evil. Now there’s a Dog Bites Man headline if I ever saw one.
    Western media helps genocide by concealing it. Evil helps Evil. Are you really surprised?

  2. Rafael
    June 4, 2024 at 12:02

    I would not give the judges the benefit of the doubt in this case. Probably they WANTED the wording to be ambiguous. If they were not thus bowing to political pressure, then why don’t they issue a clarification now and put an end to the manufactured controversy over wording?

    • Machine Ghost
      June 5, 2024 at 11:30

      It has been an absurd farce that anyone expects this group of bought and trained kangaroos to ever stop the genocide.
      The US has long expressed its opinion of The Hague International Courts. Sen. Joe Biden voted, with a majority of 71 other Senators, for the Hague Invasion Act, which is US law. Today it would probably pass unanimously, as that vote was two decades ago in America’s accelerating race to the right.

      Thus, we always knew the outcome of these people talking to solemn looking kangaroos in wigs. Even if the kangaroos could be convinced to actually do something against the will of their masters, both Israel and the US have long declared that they would never listen nor obey. Criminals hate courts, and would never follow a court’s ruling without being forced to.

      So, yes, I’m quite sure it was deliberate. These kangaroos have never strayed tooooo far from Emperor Biden’s positions and instructions.

  3. Fran
    June 4, 2024 at 11:55

    Well, with a new generation who has grown up using computers, where they no doubt access their news full of pictures that say a thousand words, and don’t spread the lies of the Western world the West will have a much smaller audience of believers and most are just that. Politics has become little more then a religion.

  4. susan
    June 4, 2024 at 10:01

    It just floors me the degree to which Israel, western governments and mass media can justify mass murder in Gaza or anywhere else in the world for that matter. I guess none of them believe in karma or retribution. Right now evil in the world seems to be pervasive but the tides will turn and just like the French Revolution the monsters will pay…

    • Ray Peterson
      June 4, 2024 at 13:11

      Susan, it might “floor” you all the more had Jonathan
      added to his “because” list the: Israel Lobby, AIPAC,
      and Anti-Defamation League all conspiring to rid
      Congress of pro-Palestinian representatives.
      And then there’s the collusion between America’s CIA,
      Britain’s Military Intelligence 6, and Israel’s Mossad all
      working for permanent war and genocide when convenient

      • Machine Ghost
        June 5, 2024 at 11:42

        Actually, its American voters who are removing the pro-Palestinian legislators.

        AIPAC et al can provide a big pile of money for ads. But that’s all they can do. It takes voters who willingly listen to the ads, then willingly accept the message in the ads, and who are willingly letting the ads tell them how to vote who are actually removing the legislators.

        One point of view of reality leaves room for organizing and activism. The other POV says that such is futile because these super-powerful forces oppose us. The very lesson of Gaza is that people can resist … but the western Left works so very hard to deny it and pretend that we are all powerless before AIPAC and anyone else with money. One POV says voters can be talked to and educated. The other POV says we are all doomed because AIPAC has a lot of money.

        We just passed the birthday of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

  5. Dave E
    June 3, 2024 at 20:47

    And how about the “and” that doesn’t erase it?

    “…immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

    That “and” comes after military offensive. Both the “and” and the comma separate military offensive from the word, “may”. Israel is assuming a lot to attach the word “may” to military offensive. If they assume it is modifying the command, that is already ridiculous on its face. To draw the further assumption across the comma and the “and” is grasping at straws.

  6. W. R. Knight
    June 3, 2024 at 20:38

    We have met the monsters and they are us.

    With apologies to Pogo.

  7. `CaseyG
    June 3, 2024 at 20:06

    Yes Rob Roy, your argument makes clear that both Bibi and Biden care not a whit for anyone but themselves.
    How many have you murdered, Israel since 1948.?And again—why does Israel seem to target women and children?
    Without women and children– there would be no Palestine—There would only be dying men. Without women, there are no children. Without children , there will be no Palestine—it will disappear. : (

  8. Michael G
    June 3, 2024 at 19:16

    Cannot “muddy the waters” on this one. A comma won’t erase the video’s I can’t watch anymore coming out of Gaza. Mitigate the lies that are being told by the state department, the pentagon and the whitehouse.

  9. Voltaria Voltaire
    June 3, 2024 at 17:03

    Thank you Jonathan. Although I will not classify you as a “monster”. Monsters are incapable of taking responsibilities for their actions. Pretty much everything in the mainscream media like The Guardian is completely the opposite of the truth, and can be enlightening if read that way, but is mostly an utter waste of time. It sure can be infuriating to watch that court case though, huh? Gosh$@%÷$+×*&”!!!!! But definitely more important than the Guardian articles.

  10. Paula
    June 3, 2024 at 15:56

    Someone needs to write the book, How To Kill the Monster.

  11. jaycee
    June 3, 2024 at 15:49

    Craig Murray’s argument on this “comma” issue is persuasive:

    quote –
    I do accept that the second comma means that the final clause does also apply to the first statement and not just the “any other action” clause, although that is arguably ambiguous.

    But even accepting that, if we remove the middle clause and apply the final clause only to the “offensive”, we still get this:

    Israel must immediately halt its military offensive… which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

    The order to stop the offensive is peremptory. There is no way to parse the entire sentence which does not give a direct order to “immediately halt its military offensive.”

    Let me give a precise analogy.

    “Stop playing football in the house, you may break the Ming vase”
    CANNOT mean
    “Carry on playing football, you might not break the Ming vase.”


    -end quote

  12. Rob Roy
    June 3, 2024 at 15:26

    “Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin.” My god…does he have to be thrown into every article? He was FORCED and BATED into war relentlessly by the U.S. for literally decades, until he finally said enough, after the US coup plus 8 years of Ukrainian Nazis murdering 14000 Russian speakers. Gees.
    As for Hamas, it was also bated into finally saying enough and decided on self-defense since the genocide had been going on since the Nakba, 76 years. Israeli Jews were HAPPY Hamas decided to fight. It gave them the opportunity to kill off all the rest of anyone-who-is-not-Jewish to make the Jewish State a reality. No one will stop Israel, who are living on stolen land, unless the west STOPS giving it billions and weapons.

    • Voltaria Voltaire
      June 3, 2024 at 17:20

      I think, Rob Roy, what Jonathan was trying to say was what the Biden, Blinken and Austin III apologists and their media, as well as the Israeli bought and paid for media, blows out of proportion regarding Putin, and does not treat the same. In other words, if Putin were to sneeze on someone who was flat out trying to kill him, he would most likely be accused of a serious crime, but the attempted murderers would get NO MENTION. The mainscream media can either apologize for or not mention Trumps war crimes but takes a big win on his sexual crimes or fiascos. I think he was expressing his frustration with the dishonesty of the Guardian and the Israeli Judge, rightly so.

    • Joann
      June 3, 2024 at 19:31

      Thank you, Rob Roy!

    • Lois Gagnon
      June 3, 2024 at 21:06


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