Palestine and the Thought-Terminating Cliché.
by Logan W. Cole
So much of the discussion surrounding the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza is designed to derail conversation about atrocities being committed against Palestinians or prevent one from being sympathetic to those in Gaza. One of the rhetorical devices that has been frequently employed in the propaganda and conversation surrounding Palestine is the thought-terminating cliché.
A thought-terminating cliché is an overused piece of language that is intended to stop an argument or conversation, rather than give it the attention it deserves. For example, the word “terrorist” and the concept of terrorism are often used to try to halt discussion of Palestinian losses so people do not become sympathetic to them.
At times, the Israeli media would take the figures of Palestinian casualties provided by the Gaza Health Ministry and say that all of them were terrorists — for example, Israeli news sources would say instead of 9,000 Palestinians killed (many of which were literally children), “9,000 terrorists eliminated.” As far as I’m concerned, the word “terrorist” has no place in the discourse about Palestine.
Sometimes, an important problem is marginalized because it is cynically deployed as a thought-terminating cliché. Bigotry against Jewish people has been a huge problem, as we recently saw at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Jersey City. Lately, speaking out against the atrocities committed against Palestinians and the Zionist (right-wing, nationalist) ideas that underpin them by groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and initiatives like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), has been deemed by some, including the Anti-Defamation League (the ADL), as “antisemitic.”
Zionism is not Judaism — indeed there are more Zionist Christians in the United States than there are Jewish people in the world. Declaring an anti-Zionist statement is antisemitic solely on that basis is itself a form of anti-Jewish bigotry because it associates the entirety of Jewish people with the modern form of Zionism, which takes much of its inspiration from atrocious ideologies like Manifest Destiny and eugenics, which themselves were used to justify other genocides. Conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Jewish bigotry through the use of the term “antisemitism” takes attention from the real acts of hate and violence being committed against Jewish people every day. The use of antisemitism as a thought-terminating cliché hurts both Jewish and Palestinian people.
Ironically, perhaps the most commonly used thought-terminating cliché is the idea that the subject is complicated, complex, or that it requires nuance. Nothing ends a conversation or stops someone from asking questions faster than saying a situation is complicated.
The fact that there is a genocide in Gaza is not complicated:
- More than 25,000 dead (more than 10,000 of them children);
- More than 60,000 wounded;
- More than 7,000 trapped under rubble;
- More than 100 times as many children die everyday in Gaza than in the Ukrainian conflict zone;
- More than 1.9 million people have been displaced in Gaza — that’s more than 85% of the population;
- Only 5 doctors remain in Gaza;
- 83 out of ~1,000 journalists in Gaza have been killed (more than 8%);
- More than 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners detained;
- More than 70% of homes have been destroyed in Gaza; and
- 95% of those facing starvation in the world are in Gaza right now.
It’s not complicated. We can’t stop thinking about Gaza. There needs to a ceasefire, a halt to all US support for the military exploits against Palestine, no further Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and a free Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
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We’re Watching it Live on Social Media.
by Lauren Berger
Good afternoon, my name is Lauren Berger and I am a member of the Livingston County Democratic Socialists of America.
Last time I spoke at a rally for Palestine it was holiday time so I talked about Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, in today’s occupied West Bank. I talked about the military checkpoint in Bethlehem, where an apartheid system of law would separate Jesus’ civil rights from those of his parents because of where he was born, were he not born Jewish – this is what it means to live in an ethnostate.
Not only is the Israeli military relentlessly bombing hospitals, universities and refugee camps, but refusing the access of crucial supplies into Gaza. There is no clean water and no medical supplies. There is no food. The Palestinian people who have managed to survive this far are now facing deliberate starvation.
For more than 100 days, bombs from the USA have rained down on Palestine. The total of those killed, wounded and missing is over ninety thousand people – including more than ten thousand dead children – in 112 days. The speed at which the Israeli military has murdered men, women and children of all ages in Gaza has never been seen before in recorded human history. Not only is this recorded, but we’re watching it live on social media.
I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. It’s constant. The coverage is everywhere – videos of screaming toddlers next to their dead parents; hospitals in crowded disarray, as medical staff scramble to provide care to maimed patients laid on a dirty, blood-soaked floor; devastated mothers and fathers holding their bloody, motionless children, rocking back and forth, screaming; teenagers and elderly and babies in every state of horrific injury, their faces gaunt with hunger. It breaks your heart, and fractures your mind when this absolute devastation is met with silence, excuses or even applause.
And yet that is what we are witnessing. Mainstream news media, for the most part, continues to take their cues directly from the Israeli military. Coverage of the onslaught reads like a dystopian George Carlin thought exercise (Israeli hostages are “women and children,” Palestinians hostages are “females and those under 18;” Israelis are “killed by airstrikes,” Palestinians “die as a result of explosions.”
And then there are the statements themselves. Footage of speeches by Israeli officials show disturbingly genocidal quotes, including the Israeli President claiming “there are no innocent civilians in Gaza.” They are saying the quiet part out loud. The families of the Israeli hostages have been ignored by their own government. It becomes clearer and clearer every single day that Israeli officials care nothing for the lives of even their own citizens, including the hostages they claim to be fighting for.
The US government has been vocal in its support of Israel, no matter what. Claudia Tenney, our congress member, has sent me five copies of a largely unchanged statement applauding the billions of our dollars she wants to send Israel for them to keep doing what they’re doing. She would prefer we see Democrats and Republicans as opposites, but in truth they are quite similar. In fact, Tenney is in lockstep with Joe Biden on this issue. Disregard for Palestinian lives receives high bipartisan support.
So the question is…what do we do about it?
We can continue to learn about Palestine and bear witness to those reporting from the ground. We can share and uplift information to help others learn and we can continue to show up at events like this. When people come together like this, we are organizing a network to support each other through activism long after we leave here today.
We can follow the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign, and boycott the Big Three if we can – McDonald’s, Starbucks and Disney.
We can call our representatives, sure. And we should – every day. But understand the reality. Sending Israel endless money and guns and bombs is probably the most bipartisan thing they do. Even though 61% of all likely voters support a cease-fire, only 15% of Congress does (67 congress members and five senators, not ours). Joe Biden sidestepped Congressional authority—twice—to send more than $250 million to Israel in December. Typically, an abuse of power like that would earn disdain – and if it came from Trump, it would have. Where are the democrats who told us Trump would catapult us into war?
The campaign for your vote in November has already started and we all know that green talks louder than red or blue. So we can be shrewd and politic just like the rest of them – and we can say the lesser of two evils is no longer good enough. We can withhold our votes, we can threaten to withhold our votes even if we probably will vote for them in the end, and we can support organizing the networks that work for the people, not weapons contractors.
We can also keep talking about Palestine and learning the history, and all the ways in which Zionism is not Judaism – and how anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. We must keep talking, and keep learning, so can know the truth about what decolonization is and is not – so we can explain that it is not a call for anti-Jewish violence but instead a call for liberation and freedom, when we say “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
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