I argue on Al Jazeera that, in the manner of al-Qaeda and the nineteenth century Anarchists, Israelis increasingly deploy dehumanising arguments to justify targeting innocent Palestinians (12,000+ ‘Likes’).
‘In 1894, a young anarchist left a bomb outside the offices of a mining company in Paris. Before he met the guillotine, Emile Henri claimed that his very humanity compelled him to act the way he did, in defence of the starving and exploited men working in the mines. But what about the innocent victims of the bombing? “I soon resolved that question,” explained Henri. “The building where the Carmaux Company had its offices was inhabited only by bourgeois; hence there would be no innocent victims.”
In justification for the overwhelmingly civilian death toll on 9/11, Osama bin Laden carried forward this type of reasoning. Also claiming to represent the oppressed, bin Laden argued that, “given that the American Congress is a committee that represents the people, the fact that it agrees with the actions of the American government proves that America in its entirety is responsible for the atrocities that it is committing against Muslims”. Thus for bin Laden, as for Henri, there were no innocent victims.
In advocating collective punishment, these alarming arguments seized on the essential quality of a whole category of people (being middle class, being an American citizen) to determine their guilt.
During Israeli’s Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza in 2012, Gilad Sharon argued along similar lines. Sharon, the son of Ariel and the “gatekeeper” to his father during his tenure as Israeli Prime Minister, invoked Hiroshima and Nagasaki and urged the IDF to flatten all of Gaza. “The desire to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza”, he wrote in the Jerusalem Post, “will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent. They elected Hamas… they chose this freely and must live with the consequences”.
Just like bin Laden, Sharon invoked a process of democracy (elections) to egregiously violate its substance (killing civilians). In weaponising democracy itself, he suggested that these civilians had actually done something (voting) to forfeit their right to life, in a way akin to the combatant picking up a weapon. Again, then, a whole class of people (Gazans) was not innocent…’