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Chris Hedges: Israel’s willing executioners

The Rafah invasion is yet another part of Israel’s sadistic playbook

Middle EastWar ZonesHuman Rights

“When You’re Smiling.” Illustration by Mr. Fish.

Run, the Israelis demand, run for your lives. Run from Rafah the way you ran from Gaza City, the way you ran from Jabalia, the way you ran from Deir al-Balah, the way you ran from Beit Hanoun, the way you ran from Bani Suheila, the way you ran from Khan Yunis. Run or we will kill you. We will drop 2,000-pound bunker buster bombs on your tent encampments. We will spray you with bullets from our machine-gun-equipped drones. We will pound you with artillery and tank shells. We will shoot you down with snipers. We will decimate your tents, your refugee camps, your cities and towns, your homes, your schools, your hospitals and your water purification plants. We will rain death from the sky.

Run for your lives. Again and again and again. Pack up the pathetic few belongings you have left. Blankets. A couple of pots. Some clothes. We don’t care how exhausted you are, how hungry you are, how terrified you are, how sick you are, how old, or how young you are. Run. Run. Run. And when you run in terror to one part of Gaza we will make you turn around and run to another. Trapped in a labyrinth of death. Back and forth. Up and down. Side to side. Six. Seven. Eight times. We toy with you like mice in a trap. Then we deport you so you can never return. Or we kill you.

Let the world denounce our genocide. What do we care? The billions in military aid flows unchecked from our American ally. The fighter jets. The artillery shells. The tanks. The bombs. An endless supply. We kill children by the thousands. We kill women and the elderly by the thousands. The sick and injured, without medicine and hospitals, die. We poison the water. We cut off the food. We make you starve. We created this hell. We are the masters. Law. Duty. A code of conduct. They do not exist for us.

But first we toy with you. We humiliate you. We terrorize you. We revel in your fear. We are amused by your pathetic attempts to survive. You are not human. You are creatures. Untermensch. We feed our libido dominandi—our lust for domination. Look at our posts on social media. They have gone viral. One shows soldiers grinning in a Palestinian home with the owners tied up and blindfolded in the background. We loot. Rugs. Cosmetics. Motorbikes. Jewelry. Watches. Cash. Gold. Antiquities. We laugh at your misery. We cheer your death. We celebrate our religion, our nation, our identity, our superiority, by negating and erasing yours.

Depravity is moral. Atrocity is heroism. Genocide is redemption.

Jean Améry, who was in the Belgian resistance during World War II and who was captured and tortured by the Gestapo in 1943, defines sadism “as the radical negation of the other, the simultaneous denial of both the social principle and the reality principle. In the sadist’s world, torture, destruction, and death are triumphant: and such a world clearly has no hope of survival. On the contrary, he desires to transcend the world, to achieve total sovereignty by negating fellow human beings—which he sees as representing a particular kind of ‘hell.’”

Back in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Netanya, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva who are we? Dish washers and mechanics. Factory workers, tax collectors and taxi drivers. Garbage collectors and office workers. But in Gaza we are demigods. We can kill a Palestinian who does not strip to his underwear, fall to his knees, beg for mercy with his hands bound behind his back. We can do this to children as young as 12 and men as old as 70.

There are no legal constraints. There is no moral code. There is only the intoxicating thrill of demanding greater and greater forms of submission and more and more abject forms of humiliation.

We may feel insignificant in Israel, but here, in Gaza, we are King Kong, a little tyrant on a little throne. We stride through the rubble of Gaza, surrounded by the might of industrial weapons, able to pulverize in an instant whole apartment blocks and neighborhoods, and say, like Vishnu, “now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

But we are not content simply with killing. We want the walking dead to pay homage to our divinity.

This is the game played in Gaza. It was the game played during the Dirty War in Argentina when the military junta “disappeared” 30,000 of its own citizens. The “disappeared” were subjected to torture—who cannot call what is happening to Palestinians in Gaza torture?—and humiliated before they were murdered. It was the game played in the clandestine torture centers and prisons in El Salvador and Iraq. It is what characterized the war in Bosnia in the Serbian concentration camps.

This soul crushing disease runs through us like an electric current. It infects every crime in Gaza. It infects every word that comes out of our mouths. We, the victors, are glorious. The Palestinians are nothing. Vermin. They will be forgotten.

Israeli journalist Yinon Magal on the show Hapatriotim on Israel’s Channel 14, joked that Joe Biden’s red line was the killing of 30,000 Palestinians. The singer Kobi Peretz asked if that was the number of dead for a day. The audience erupted in applause and laughter.

We place “booby-trapped” cans resembling food tins in the rubble. Starving Palestinians are injured or killed when they open them. We broadcast the sounds of women screaming and babies crying from quadcopters to lure Palestinians out so we can shoot them. We announce food distribution points and use artillery and snipers to carry out massacres.

We are the orchestra in this dance of death.

In Joseph Conrad’s short story “An Outpost of Progress,” he writes of two white, European traders, Carlier and Kayerts. They are posted to a remote trading station in the Congo. The mission will spread European “civilization” to Africa. But the boredom and lack of constraints swiftly turn the two men into beasts. They trade slaves for ivory. They get into a feud over dwindling food supplies. Kayerts shoots and kills his unarmed companion Carlier.

“They were two perfectly insignificant and incapable individuals,” Conrad writes of Kayerts and Carlier:

…whose existence is only rendered possible through the high organization of civilized crowds. Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd; to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion. But the contact with pure unmitigated savagery, with primitive nature and primitive man, brings sudden and profound trouble into the heart. To the sentiment of being alone of one’s kind, to the clear perception of the loneliness of one’s thoughts, of one’s sensations—to the negation of the habitual, which is safe, there is added the affirmation of the unusual, which is dangerous; a suggestion of things vague, uncontrollable, and repulsive, whose discomposing intrusion excites the imagination and tries the civilized nerves of the foolish and the wise alike.


Rafah is the prize at the end of the road. Rafah is the great killing field where we will slaughter Palestinians on a scale unseen in this genocide. Watch us. It will be an orgy of blood and death. It will be of Biblical proportions. No one will stop us. We kill in paroxysms of excitement. We are gods.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 12 books, including the New York Times best-seller “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. His other books include “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” (2015) “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His latest book is “America: The Farewell Tour” (2018). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and has sold over 400,000 copies. He writes a weekly column for the website ScheerPost.

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.com.

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