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The Blood on Our Hands
American politicians are backing a potential genocide in Gaza in our name, with our money. They are dipping our hands in the blood whether we like it or not.
In the coming days or hours or minutes, Israel will invade the Gaza Strip and expand its genocidal assault on the people living there.
Israel has hardly been shy about this aim. Its actions in the run-up to the widely-trailed ground invasion have all trended in the same direction. Israeli President Isaac Herzog has publicly scoffed at the idea that civilians in Gaza cannot be held responsible for the brutality of Hamas towards Israelis. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has called Gazans “human animals.” Israel has cut off Gaza’s supplies of food, fuel, water, and electricity. It has already dropped more bombs on Gaza in a week than the United States did in a year of the war in Afghanistan. It has used white phosphorous in its bombing campaign, a clear war crime. It ordered 1.1 million people in Northern Gaza to evacuate to the south—an order that the United Nations called “a crime against humanity and a blatant violation of international humanitarian law”—and then, by all available evidence, bombed the evacuation routes it supposedly set up as a humanitarian gesture. The UN has said it is at the limits of its ability to provide aid.
It is somewhat difficult to see how anything could be worse than everything I just described, but something worse appears to be on the horizon. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that “the Israeli military’s rules of engagement have been loosened to allow soldiers to make fewer checks before shooting at suspected enemies” when they invade Gaza. Writing in Jewish Currents over the weekend, Raz Segal, an Israeli scholar of genocide, called the Gaza campaign a “textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.”
People around the world have been looking on in horror at what is happening, and what is likely to happen, in Gaza. But if you, like me, are an American, you should be thinking about something else. You should be thinking about the fact that your government supports this genocide, has helped fund it with your money, and is getting ready to fund it some more.
This is not any kind of secret. Israel is the biggest recipient of American foreign assistance since World War II. According to a 2023 Congressional Research Service report, “To date, the United States has provided Israel $158 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.” Currently, Israel gets $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid every single year.
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And even that is not enough in the current moment. The White House is rushing weapons to Israel and will rush even more if House Republicans can elect a new speaker and pass a funding bill. Here, from the Associated Press, is some of what Israel is getting (emphasis mine):
The U.S. is also getting U.S. defense companies to expedite weapons orders by Israel that were already on the books. Chief among those are munitions for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.
[…]The Iron Dome munitions the U.S. provides to Israel will likely be above and beyond what Israel has ordered and will be part of ongoing military assistance packages. Those packages will also include small diameter bombs and JDAM kits — essentially a tail fin and navigation kit that turns a “dumb” bomb into a “smart” bomb and enables troops to guide the munition to a target, rather than simply dropping it.
At the same time, according to HuffPost, the State Department has ordered its press officers not to use the phrases “de-escalation/ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm” when discussing Gaza. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN that the U.S. was “going to be careful not to get into armchair quarterbacking the tactics on the ground by the IDF.” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre called the very, very small number of congresspeople calling for de-escalation “disgraceful.” President Biden has handled the clear Israeli desire to wipe Gaza off the map by spouting anodyne pablum that isn’t fooling anyone except his most credulous acolytes:
This is what every victim of an indiscriminate campaign of slaughter wants to know: that they are seen.
In an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Biden responded to a question about whether he thought there should be a ceasefire by saying this:
Israel is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust. And so I think Israel has to respond…but to the extent they can separate out and avoid—I'm confident the Israelis are gonna do everything in their power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.
Taken together, the message could not be clearer: Israel can do what it likes, and the United States will either look the other way or lend Israel its active support as it unleashes hell on Gaza. No matter what else Joe Biden does in his presidency, this decision will shame him forever. It is one of the most despicable things a president has done in my lifetime.
The fact that this is just how things go where Israel is concerned is something the American public has been trained not to think about. Each year, no matter who is in the White House or in Congress, every American taxpayer has some portion of the money they send to Washington passed on to Israel in the form of deadly weaponry. The media basically never questions this, the politicians almost never have to explain it—it’s simply a fact of life. And if politicians—even ones who ostensibly call themselves progressive—sound notably more hawkish, callous, and unthinking about Israel and Palestine than any other single issue, well, that’s just a fact of life too. The sun comes up, the tides go out, and American politicians #StandWithIsrael pretty much no matter what.
We here in the United States—unless we are Palestinian or have a connection to someone who is—have the luxury of not connecting the dots between that money and what it actually funds. But people in Gaza do not have that luxury. They are running out of body bags. They are storing dead bodies in ice cream trucks. Hundreds of children have been killed. Whole families are being wiped off the map. Hospitals are completely overwhelmed. Food and water are quickly running out. Nearly half the population has been displaced. When the ground invasion begins, everything will get even more horrifying.
All of this—all of it, every single part of it—is happening with the complete support of the people running the United States government. Every American taxpayer has funded it. When Congress passes a bipartisan bill to send even more weapons to Israel, and Joe Biden signs it, and Israel uses those bombs and missiles to wipe out Gaza, we will all have helped write the check. The genocide will, at least in part, have been made in the USA. That is simply the reality.
It is not pleasant to think about this. We are conditioned not to think about it. This is all just stuff that happens somewhere else. But Joe Biden and everyone in Congress have decided to spend our money this way. They have decided to provide diplomatic and political cover this way, in our name. They are dipping all of our hands in the blood whether we like it or not, and until they are made to stop—until all that blood becomes something other than routine, until actively funding a genocide becomes a problem for them—the blood will keep flowing.
Wouldn’t it be something if the people of this country started paying more attention to the blood being poured over our hands? Wouldn’t it be something if we all tried pulling our hands away?