The West’s evolving blueprint for controlling a poly-crisis world by mass-murdering and subjugating the poor, the rebellious, and those deemed “superfluous.
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 Cyril Amar’s substack
When Israel started its latest and ongoing round of genocide-with-ethnic-cleansing against the Palestinians (and then, of course, every crime against humanity and war crime in the book, all the books), I learned that, at a resistance demonstration in New York, there had been a sign saying “Gaza is a Method.”
I intuitively agreed: It is obvious that the mass murder in Gaza outlines a pattern, a set of tools and measures of extermination, subjugation, and expulsion that are ready for export and will be in high demand – just like so much else of Israel’s spying, policing (if that is the word), and murder skills and tech have always been.
Of course, this Gaza Method – clearly, whoever made that perspicacious sign was alluding to the Cold War “Jakarta Method” so brilliantly dissected by Vincent Bevins – does not only point to the future. It is also embedded in a long past: a novel stage rather than something radically new. Yet the Gaza Method is innovative – or shall we call it “disruptive”? – enough to raise an important question:
What is it about it that almost all Western (or Global-North) governments find so valuable and attractive that they protect its screamingly criminal substance and application, even at the cost of completely, finally, and – I believe – irreversibly ruining their standing with everyone else on the planet?
The answer, in one word loaned from but not restricted to the field of jurisprudence, is: Precedent.
To see how, consider the West’s (with some laudable exceptions) response to the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the Israeli genocide of Palestinians is a plausible enough description of current reality to require a set of immediate injunctions (here called “provisional measures”) against Israel, the perpetrator regime. These measures include the following:
“Israel must, in accordance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of … this Convention, in particular: (a) killing members of the group; (b ) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; ( c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
And, in addition: “The Court further considers that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to
enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the
adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Yet the USA and many of its accomplices and vassals (including major if self-debasing states, such as Canada, Britain, and Germany) have openly defied the ruling – as if they had the right to do so. They don’t, of course: It’s as if a mafia boss reacted to being convicted by declaring he doesn’t believe in the sentence. “What’re you gonna do?” as Tony Soprano might have shrugged.
They also continue their massive – and essential (a whole new-old meaning to American “indispensability”) – support for Israel’s genocide. They have, in addition, attacked the UN’s agency for, essentially, helping Palestinians, UNRWA – under the flimsiest of pretexts, based on the usual Zionist lying, certain to also involve “confessions” under torture.
UNRWA is a vital lifeline for the Palestinian victims that Israel has long tried to cut off (including by murdering the its staff systematically): The West has found a way to be even more helpful than before the ICJ ruling in the Israeli genocide and also, specifically, the war crimes of siege and collective punishment. All these Western actions fly in the face of the ICJ’s orders. Just like that. “Rogue regime – it’s us!” is what the West chose to yell at the world.
And that despite the fact that the 1948 UN Genocide Convention explicitly proscribes not “only” committing a genocide but being complicit. Western states are textbook cases of complicity. The individual leaders, politicians, and the bureaucrats devising and executing these criminal policies bear personal responsibility. If we lived in a sane world, they would all find themselves in the dock at the International Criminal Court – and, never lose hope! – one day some of them still might. (Although my personal preference is for them to face future Palestinian courts, of course.)
How to explain this behavior? Madness? Blackmail (island vacations with the under-age anyone?), bribery by Israel and its lobbies (and every bribe also, obviously, becomes a tool of blackmail)? Sure. All of these factors play large roles. Do not overestimate the base criminals and psychopaths who rule us now. Many of their motivations come straight from the lowest gutter.
But there is something else, something that is neither simply insane (in the sense of technically delusional) nor the product of ordinary (if that’s the word) corruption. There also is a horrifying form of rationality at work. (And, please, no misunderstandings: The term “rationality” carries no positive or apologetic associations here: The rationality we are talking about is that of the architects of Auschwitz or of Adolf Eichmann getting his train schedules to the extermination camps in order.)
This rationality brings us back to the issue of precedent. The Gaza genocide and the West’s brutal participation in it are meant to defy existing laws, not to speak of those infamous rules that are always open for opportunistic Western re-definition anyhow. And, perhaps even more importantly, the Gaza Genocide is meant to alter those elementary understandings of reality on which basic ethics depends: If we all agree that murder is wrong, the most effective way to get away with murder is not to challenge that agreement directly but to persuade us that shooting a helpless civilian with a white flag, for instance, is either not murder or simply not worth our attention.
Put differently, what Israel and its Western accomplices are doing to the Palestinians of not only but especially Gaza is supposed to alter our baseline perceptions of reality. We are being trained in accepting genocidal warfare as a new normal.
The general reason is obvious, and while there would be much to say about it, let’s just summarize it here: The West is in decline in a severely crisis-ridden world (it has produced most or even all of these crises, but let’s pass over that irony for now). Its “elites” have decided not to adjust constructively – which would be entirely possible by compromise, cooperation, and sharing – but instead are adopting a Darwinistic (with apologies to Darwin for the loose usage) mindset.
They will fight for what they hubristically see as their “garden” and against what they racistically dismiss as the “jungle” – that is, everyone else, also inside the West, by the way. Since they are in decline, however, their ability to conduct that fight is restricted: They have, for instance, already ruined their soft power; their capacity for globally shaping discourses is deteriorating rapidly, partly, again, because they are destroying it themselves by rampant lying and crude abuse, and partly because everyone else is talking back more and more powerfully; the West’s economies are not doing well either; in particular, the West’s ability to cajole others through dependency and the international financial system is about to be lost.
All of the above means that the West is left with one option: the hardest of powers, if the dumbest, too: military force. And that is where the Gaza Genocide precedent fulfills its most important function as method-setting and method-“normalizing.” In a very concrete way, too: For since the 1990s (at the latest), Western militaries – with the US in the lead, obviously – have been thinking intensely about fighting in cities.
And not just in any cities: Most attention has been spent – as a quick perusal of this rich, sinister literature shows – on fighting in densely populated and poor cities in the Global South, often also imagined as located on coasts (there, these theories overlap with “littoral” warfare ideas also in great fashion). Marked by already fragile infrastructure, large, overpopulated, and replete with built-up structures that favor defenders (usually imagined as insurgents or “terrorists”) and make life harder for the invaders, these cities have been described, with a nice, nasty touch of good old racism, as “feral.” Guess what that implies about those living in them.
You see where this has been going, right? To Gaza. Gaza is not the first but, for now, the worst instance of a doctrinal body of pseudo-technical and rationally vicious thought coming into practice: How to subdue the cities of the Global South (and the poor in general, make no mistake, Northerners), by all and any means. And for this type of very-near/present future warfare everywhere, humanitarian law as we know it – with all its immense flaws – is still too “soft,” too restraining. The same holds, of course, for our notions of crimes against humanity, including genocide.
In short, our Western “elites” want to have the whole Israeli “toolbox” of “urban warfare” – i.e. slaughtering the poor in dense cities – at their disposal, too. They want to be permitted to raze all infrastructure, impose information blackouts, kill journalists, aid workers, local elites, destroy hospitals systematically, conduct massacres at point-blank range and by the usual bombing, use flooding, fire, starvation, and disease to kill women and children without limit (and blaming their deaths on their defenders), burn down everything that remains to make ethnic cleansing complete, create “buffer zones” of death, use the biggest weapons in the their arsenals on the most vulnerable people, and, last but not least, help each other while they are doing it. For our “elites,” this is a dream package, and they want one, too.
And remember: If we all agree that murder is wrong, the best way to cheat us is to either redefine your murder as not even murder or to distract us so much that we find watching a murder requires no action on our side. The same holds for mass murder and genocide.
Gaza is a method. A Western method. Fascist, Zionist, apartheid, sadistic Israel is a pioneer, a trailblazer into yet more evil to be done from those above to those below. That is why those above will shield Israel. They are shielding themselves and their future deeds.
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This is where I write about everything that interests me and may interest others. Usually, but not always, that ends up being things linked to politics, geopolitics, narratives we are supposed to believe, and, generally, power and its mostly vile ways.