Lies, damned lies, and Israeli propaganda.
Tarik Cyril Amar (@TarikCyrilAmar) is a historian from Germany, currently at Koç University, Istanbul, expert on Ukraine, Russia, and Europe, and the author of “The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists.”
Cross-posted from Tarik’s Substack Blog
On Tuesday, 28 November 2023, footage from inside a Palestinian hospital in Gaza went viral. It showed the decomposing physical remains of five Palestinian babies, who had been abandoned to die, slowly and alone. Among the mind-numbing and soul-crushing horrors that Israel and its accomplices, first of all the USA, have produced in their currently delicately “paused” genocide of the Palestinians, this one still managed to stand out.
The premature babies were even more dependent on care and protection than infants usually are. That care was withdrawn because Israeli forces stormed the Al-Nasr Hospital and ordered all staff and patients to leave. The babies could not be moved. Despite Israeli assurances that the Red Cross would be informed to save them, they were left to die. Between the moment of their abandonment and the discovery of their corpses, 17 days passed.
There are many aspects of this atrocity that deserve attention. First of all, the victims and their families, each and every one of them. Then the perpetrators: the Israeli soldiers who stormed yet another hospital, as part of Israel’s systematic campaign of devastating Gaza’s vital infrastructure; their officers in the field, the men and women who issued their orders, and so on, right to the genocidaire-in-chief Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of criminals. And beyond that their accomplices in the West, of course.
But there is one thing that deserves attention and may nonetheless be overlooked. Just one day before the pictures of the murdered babies at Al-Nasr hit the world, its single richest individual, tech billionaire Elon Musk stood in front of an empty crib in the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza.
The kibbutz had been attacked by Hamas fighters on their break-out from the Gaza concentration camp (in the words of Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling) on 7 October. As in other locations, Israeli civilians were killed. As we now know, while it makes sense to assume that Hamas fighters killed some or many of them, there is also clear evidence that Israeli forces killed some or many Israeli civilians as well, most likely in a mass application of Israel’s “Hannibal Doctrine” (that is, the political preference of dead over living hostages).
One of the things Musk, escorted by Netanyahu, was shown was an empty baby crib, clearly to illustrate the inhumanity of killing children. The crib featured some pieces of ammunition, about which a debate has since started. The authenticity of this object is being questioned. But that is not the key point. Whether the crib is genuine or not, what Musk was offered, clearly, was a well-staged moment. If this was not really the crib of a murdered baby, then we are looking at one sort of cynicism; and if it was, at another kind.
Treated to various forms of Hasbara, the Zionist art of propaganda, Musk then produced irresponsible statements echoing the talking points of a genocidal regime by advocating for killing the hopelessly violent among the Palestinians and re-educating the rest. All of this is well-known and does not need more attention here. Neither does Musk’s motivation. Is he really so gullible? Was he successfully pressured by advertisers, lobbying groups, and investors? Was he following his own intuition and decisions? Or was he subdued and humiliated?
Frankly, who cares. His soul is his to take care of. It is a reasonable, maybe overly optimistic guess that one day he will remember his moral idiotism (in words used by Norman Finkelstein for Bernie Sanders) at this crucial moment as perhaps the single most shameful episode of his whole life. In a sense, one can only wish that for him. For if he will never come to deeply regret this, then he is a truly lost case.
What is more important is that Musk is not just anybody. He isn’t even just any tycoon. Rather he combines being the richest of them all with unusual charisma. True, his flavor of charisma is not to everyone’s taste, and some find it abhorrent, but there is no doubt that he has it.
How come that a representative of extraordinary power and influence will end up in front of one empty crib but not in front of five others not far away at all? What is it that makes it appear “natural” that the crib of an Israeli baby matters and those of Palestinian ones do not? How can it be that the upshot of this perverse difference is that the richest man in the world has nothing better to do than repeat the talking points and euphemisms that drive and cover the genocide that has produced those five empty Palestinian cribs in Gaza?
Musk is not the core of the problem. He may conceive of himself as an individualist and free thinker. But here he has shown himself to be exactly the opposite: In thrall to a widespread, conformist, morally lazy, and intellectually decrepit “background-noise” disposition that will not grant the Palestinians the same humanity and the same importance as the Israelis. One empty crib is a horror that strikes the heart and, literally, calls for attendance; another five – not.