Oct 30, 2023

Our Job Is to Speak Out Against the War Crimes of Our Own Government and Its Allies

By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org
Our Job Is to Speak Out Against the War Crimes of Our Own Government and Its Allies

Some people say our calls to #CeaseFireNow should be directed towards Hamas rather than Israel. But there’s a good reason for focusing on Israel, which I’ll pose with a question: which crimes reflect poorly on citizens of the United States: The war crimes of Hamas or the war crimes of the US? 

To put it simply, Hamas does not act on our behalf. The US government does.

I believe we as citizens have a responsibility to call out the war crimes of our government and its allies.

Israel is a primary ally and military partner, which we fund and support, making the US complicit in their war crimes. The US is also the primary nation vetoing UN resolutions to restrain Israel and insist on a ceasefire. Thus it remains the primary “decision-maker” with the power to pressure both sides to reach a diplomatic agreement.

When are War Crimes Not War Crimes?

When ISIS, Hamas, Russia, or Al Qaida commit war crimes, everyone can see it and the truth is plain as day. Killing civilians indiscriminately and collective punishment are both war crimes. Virtually the whole world cried out in solidarity with Israel's citizens after the Oct 7th attack. But when the US or Israel commits war crimes, too many people deny they are war crimes or actively support those crimes, and thus it is our moral responsibility to call that out.

War crimes are not acceptable under any conditions.

Though occupied Palestinians do have a right to armed resistance under international law, neither Hamas nor Israel nor the US is exempt from the international laws against war crimes, despite the US and its allies never being held accountable.

There is No Such Thing as a Civilized War

Now I may shock a few people with this next statement. Still, it needs to be said: Accepting the Orwellian term "collateral damage" as a necessary cost of war is unhinged and immoral, though Biden, Netanyahu and Hamas all share in this doublethink (killing civilians is wrong but not when we do it, because reasons).

For those who are fully indoctrinated into our normalized war culture, there are an infinite number of excuses for why “it’s different” when “we” kill civilians versus when “they” kill civilians. Still, to my ears, no amount of rationalizing, sanitizing, or civilizing narrative can hide the ugly truth: impact matters more than intentions. Killing thousands of civilians for a “good cause” makes no difference to the dead. Being killed by a bomb made in the US is no more civilized than being killed by a gun or rocket from Hamas.

The Alternative

What's the alternative to the logic of domination as a path to security?

Nonviolent diplomacy that is grounded in compassion for all beings, even compassion for your enemy.

This is the bare minimum standard to safeguard against becoming the monster you accuse your enemy of being.

Refusing to Become the Enemy

If Hamas is living amid civilian populations, you simply refuse to bomb those areas. You find another way. You refuse to accept collateral damage.

You certainly don't engage in collective punishment, nor hold millions of Palestinians hostage via blocking all humanitarian aid, food, water, and fuel from getting into Gaza to show that Hamas taking hostages is wrong. You don't hinge your own morality on the morality of your enemy. You act justly regardless of what the other does.

Accepting collateral damage only ensures that a portion of the survivors will seek revenge years down the line. Most of the Hamas soldiers who attacked on Oct 7 were young and had lived their whole lives under the suffocating conditions of a 16-year blockade, where friends and family have been murdered by Israel their whole lives.

Even when Palestinians protested nonviolently, Israeli snipers infamously killed over 200 and wounded far more (during the 2018-2019 Great March of Return protests). See Abby Martin's doc Gaza Fights for Freedom for more on that.

Everyone who was paying attention knew this kind of blowback was inevitable - even more so after learning how Israel has indirectly supported and boosted Hamas in a cynical strategy to weaken the more secular PLO and use the violence of Hamas to delegitimize the movement to establish a Palestinian state.

Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, reported Netanyahu admitted Hamas’s usefulness to his political goals in March 2019, in a meeting with his Likud party's Knesset members:

“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas [...] This is part of our strategy."

The 10/7 attacks have given Netanyahu's hard right-wing party exactly the cover it has sought to demolish Gaza and ensure a two-state solution becomes impossible.

War is Peace (And Other Signs of Madness)

Domination and control will never lead to security. It was true after 9/11 when the United States-led wars of state-sanctioned terror in Iraq and Afghanistan killed over 1 million people and only led to an extreme rise in terrorism and the creation of ISIS.

It is true now.

The real path to security for Israel and Jewish people around the world would be to end Israel's occupation, its policies of apartheid, and its military strategy of domination in favor of a strategy of friendship and cooperation.

Jewish people around the world (who embrace the true spirit of Judaism, the Judaism of Love rather than Settler Judaism (aka Zionism) are calling for exactly this.

"The way to become real friends of the Jewish people is to side with those Jews who are trying to get Israel back on track toward its highest values, knowing full well that there is no future for a Jewish state surrounded by a billion Muslims except through friendship and cooperation.

Israel’s current policies will endanger Jews both in the Middle East and around the world for many decades after the people of Israel have regained their senses. Real friends don’t let their friends pursue a self-destructive path, so it’s time for you too to speak up and to support those of us in the Jewish world who are champions of peace and justice, and who will not be silent in the face of the destruction of Judaism." - Rabbi Michael Lerner

Support these organizations:

Jewish Voice for Peace


Tikkun - An Interfaith Magazine


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