Long ago, in the American West, some pioneers and cowboys were killed by "Indians". More recently, Iraqi "insurgents" have killed US soldiers. When I was growing up, Vietnamese "guerillas" - I believe the technical term was gooks - were killing American soldiers, too.
Those deaths were not trivial. Death is never trivial to the victims and the people who love them. But we understand that, had the US not invaded Iraq, Vietnam, (etc. etc.) - and had Europeans and their descendants not believed it was their divine right to own an entire continent and to cleanse it of its original habitants - those Iraqis, Vietnamese, and Native Americans wouldn't have killed those Americans.
I used to have a political cartoon on my bulletin board: black South Africa was on the ground, its head held by the apartheid jackboot. Ronald Reagan, observing, said, "Gee, all that pressure on your foot must be tiring."
Because, you know, there are two sides to every story. Greenwald:
Everything about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict follows the same pattern over and over, including the reaction of Americans. In the first couple of days after a new round of violence breaks out, there is intense interest and passion, which is quickly replaced by weariness, irritation, and even anger that one has to be bothered by this never-ending, always-ugly and seemingly irresolvable conflict. These sentiments then morph into an attempt to separate oneself from the entire matter by declaring both sides to be equally horrendous and thus washing one's hands from any responsibility for thinking further about it ("I'm sick of both sides"), followed by recriminations against anyone who actually has an opinion that is more supportive of one side than the other. . . .Chris Hedges relates the massacre in Gaza to the economic situation worldwide. Some people believe Hedges writes in broad hyperbole. I think he's just more observant than most.
But for two independent reasons, this reasoning, understandable though it may be, depends upon patent fictions, and is thus invalid. The first reason, which I will mention only briefly, is that there is not equality between the two sides.
As my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne superbly detailed in his column Tuesday night, the overarching fact of this conflict is that the Palestinians, for decades now, have been brutally occupied, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of the most basic human rights of statehood and autonomy though the continuous application of brute, lawless force (for that reason, those who like to righteously condemn Hamas' rockets (Pierce, defending Obama; "he happened to be correct the other day. No country can tolerate the bombing of its citizens") have the obligation to state what form of legitimate resistance Palestinians have to all of this). Moreover, as these clear numbers from the Economist demonstrate, the violence and carnage so disproportionately harm the Palestinians that to suggest some form of equivalence between the two sides borders on the obscene.
But the second reason, to me, is even clearer. The government which Americans fund and elect, and for which they thus bear at least some responsibility, is anything but neutral in this conflict. That government - certainly including the Democratic Party - is categorically, uncritically, and unfailingly on the side of Israel in every respect when it comes to violence and oppression against the Palestinians.
For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict. The bombs Israel drops on Gazans, and the planes they use to drop them, and the weapons they use to occupy the West Bank and protect settlements are paid for, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer, and those actions are shielded from recrimination by the UN veto power aggressively wielded in Israel's favor by the US government. . . .
So this "both-sides-are-hideous" mentality is not what drives the actions of the US government. Quite the contrary: the US government is as partisan and loyal a supporter of one side of this conflict as one can possibly be. So if people want to rail against anyone who has convictions about one side or the other - Pierce: "The only people who make me more ill than the two active sides in this endless slaughter are the people far from the killing grounds who are so very goddamn sure they know what to do . . . I hate the cheering squads over here today" - then the place to begin is with the US government, the Obama administration, whose unstinting, multi-faceted support for and enabling of Israel is central to all of this. . . .
If one wants to try to wash one's hands of this entire matter by declaring both sides equally culpable, that's fine. But doing so requires an acknowledgment that the US government is doing nothing of the sort. It is fueling, funding and feeding the Israeli war machine, and, with its own militaristic conduct, is legitimizing the premises of Israeli aggression.
In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial and ethnic groups are demonized. Missiles rain down on concrete hovels, mechanized units fire on unarmed villagers, gunboats pound refugee camps with heavy shells, and the dead, including children, line the corridors of hospitals that lack electricity and medicine. . . . .
Because it has the power to do so, Israel — as does the United States — flouts international law to keep a subject population in misery. The continued presence of Israeli occupation forces defies nearly a hundred U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw. The Israeli blockade of Gaza, established in June 2007, is a brutal form of collective punishment that violates Article 33 of the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, which set up rules for the “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.” The blockade has turned Gaza into a sliver of hell, an Israeli-administered ghetto where thousands have died, including the 1,400 civilians killed in the Israeli incursion of 2008. With 95 percent of factories shut down, Palestinian industry has virtually ceased functioning. The remaining 5 percent operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity. Even the fishing industry is moribund. Israel refuses to let fishermen travel more than three miles from the coastline, and within the fishing zone boats frequently come under Israeli fire. The Israeli border patrols have seized 35 percent of the agricultural land in Gaza for a buffer zone. The collapsing infrastructure and Israeli seizure of aquifers mean that in many refugee camps, such as Khan Yunis, there is no running water. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) estimates that 80 percent of all Gazans now rely on food aid. And the claim of Israeli self-defense belies the fact that it is Israel that maintains an illegal occupation and violates international law by carrying out collective punishment of Palestinians. It is Israel that chose to escalate the violence when during an incursion into Gaza earlier this month its forces fatally shot a 13-year-old boy. As the world breaks down, this becomes the new paradigm—modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons murdering whole peoples. We do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.