The Palestinian Genocide

Image: Mihriban


Antisemitism, a crime. Anti-Zionism, an ethical-political obligation

On January 31, 2022, the article “We are left-wing Jews” was published,[I] text signed by six Zionists and which aimed to “try to re-establish truth and justice” in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Let's see which “truths” and “justice” are mobilized by the authors.


The construction of false symmetry

The text “We are left-wing Jews” says: “It hurts to see our leaders condemning the bombing of Gaza out of solidarity with the families of the Palestinian victims, without a word about the Israeli families (…)”. The texture of the text suggests that there is a symmetry of pain and loss between Israelis and Palestinians.

The same article also states: “For any mother, the death of a child is an irreparable loss, be it Israeli or Palestinian. Chest pain is the same”. There is no doubt that the pain of mothers and family members is immense. Unbearable. We agree. These are lives that deserve to be mourned, bereaved. But what's the rhetorical trick here?

I quote a passage from the article by historian Sayid Marcos Tenório, “Israel and the silent genocide of Palestinian children”: “During the massive attack by “Israel” against Gaza […] 2.200 Palestinians were killed, including 550 children, 70% of them with under 12 years old, and was responsible for more than 11.000 injuries, including 3.358 children, and for more than 100 people displaced during the attacks that year, according to the annual report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the side of the Israeli aggressor, 73 people died, including 67 soldiers.”[ii]

A simple account. In 2014, 2200 Palestinians killed and 73 Israelis. In other words, the life of an Israeli is worth 30 times more than the life of a Palestinian. By not saying anything about the disproportionate military force on both sides, the text takes us into the world of illusion, according to which the necropolitics of the colonizer and the resistance of the colonized people have the same ethical density. The demand for equal mourning is a ploy to hide genocide. See the chart below (published in Sayid Marcos Tenório's article). We can see the numbers of Palestinian (in red) and Israeli (in blue) children killed between 2000 and 2021.

In the last massacre, in May 2021, almost a hundred Palestinian children were murdered. And how many Israelis? None. The farce of symmetry reminds me of a speech by Corporal Anselmo, a spy for the military dictatorship within the left. In one of the interviews, asked if he did not feel any kind of ethical dilemma for having been responsible for the Massacre at Granja de São Bento, in 1973, which killed 06 people, including his pregnant girlfriend, Soledad Barrett, he replied: “ it was a war”.

It wasn't a war. It was an atrocious dictatorship and what we did was, with our meager resources, fight for democracy and for life. There is no war between Palestine and Israel. There is genocide. Those who lose land are the Palestinians. Those who are humiliated and executed at checkpoints are the Palestinians. Who are stateless persons?

Israel is the only place in the world where children are arrested and tried by military courts on frequent charges of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

I wonder if men who signed the text have ever served in your Israeli military. If so, I would like to know more about their biographies, if they have Palestinian blood in their souls, if Lady Macbeth visits them in their nightmares (if they have nightmares).

They say: “both peoples are right and, therefore, there is no satisfactory solution. Therefore, the concessions need to be immense, stirring deep feelings of injustice”. I repeat: both peoples are right. Both need to compromise. What do they want more from the Palestinian people? Not enough?


The daily update of the originating crime

What was the watchword of the European Zionist colonists? “A land without people, for a people without land”. The original crime is renewed every time a Jew believes in and defends the right to take possession of land that does not belong to them.

The relationship between colonialism and Zionism is umbilical. “A land without people for a people without land” is the classic ideology of the colonial tradition, which has always considered res nullius, “no man's land, territories conquered or coveted and always tended to reduce indigenous populations to an insignificant size” (Losurdo, 2021, p. 33).[iii]

The text “We are left-wing Jews” says that Israel does not commit genocide. “A land without people, for a people without land” – I repeat. Here, the crime of genocide is clearly assumed. No colonial experience reached this level of violence against the native population. Neither Spaniards nor Portuguese. For a while, the Spanish Empire discussed whether or not the Indians had a soul. That was the famous dispute between Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, in 1547. The Indians existed. It was up to the empire to decide their place in the hierarchy of the Christian worldview. The Zionists say: there are no people here.

This watchword already expresses the most violent symbolic level of the relationship between colonizer and colonized. For the European Zionist colonists, however, those bodies only had the appearance of human, but they were not human, a dehumanization that continues with vigor in contemporary times at all levels. It is worth remembering the research of Nurit Peled-Elhanan[iv] on the dehumanizing representation of the Palestinian people in Israeli textbooks.

It is possible to recover here the research on the massacres committed against the Palestinian people in the first stage of the nakba (the catastrophe), but I briefly quote a text by Hannah Arendt on the massacre in the village of Deir Yassin: “On April 09 (from 1948), according to the The New York Times, terrorist bands (Zionists) attack the village, which during the fighting did not represent any military objective, and kill most of its population – 240 men, women and children; they leave a few alive to take them prisoner in Jerusalem [...] the terrorists are proud of the massacre and try to give it wide publicity, inviting all foreign correspondents present in the country to see the piles of corpses and the generalized devastation in Deir Yassin” (Arendt apoud Losurdo, 2021, p. 38).

Deir Yassin adds to the dozens of massacres committed (past and present) against the Palestinian people. The original crime continues in the policies of absolute control of all dimensions of Palestinian daily life, a technique of putting to death what I call “genocity”,[v] among them, the demolition of houses, walls, checkpoints, prisons.

I recover Hannah Arendt again. For the philosopher, Zionism would be a mixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority. What about the “Left Zionists”? I quote her: “these are circles certainly committed to the pursuit of collectivist experiments and the 'rigorous realization of social justice within their small circle', but for the rest, they are ready to support 'chauvinist' objectives. That is, social reforms internally (for Jews) and reactionary methods in foreign policy. Finally, these are social-chauvinist groups that uncritically accept German-inspired nationalism.


Gaza: the Palestinian people are responsible

It is commonplace to hear that Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world. This statement is wrong. Nothing, absolutely nothing is open in Gaza. Israel controls everything. From the sky to the sea. It does not allow humanitarian aid, via sea, to reach Gaza soil. They bomb rights boats, kill human rights defenders.

The authors of the text ask whether Israel is responsible for the tragedy in Gaza, they answer that it is, but shortly after, they say that the responsibility is partial, after all, the Palestinians have no leadership, they are divided, they have corrupt leaderships.

They affirm, in a charitable tone, that the Palestinian tragedy is also “political-religious, insofar as Hamas tried to impose sharia, strict Islamic law, in which girls and boys cannot attend the same schools, women do not have their recognized rights or security (…)”.

Here there is a miscellany of arguments that we can identify as belonging to the Orientalists, as proposed by Edward Said.[vi] It is as if they were telling us: “Look, these people are backward”. Paragraphs ahead will say that Israel is the only democracy in the East. Do you understand the magic of words? They want to make reality with words. Through the performativity of words, in terms of John Austin,[vii] completely alienate themselves from responsibility for the tragedy that befalls Gaza.

On the one hand, Hamas/Gaza/backwardness/poverty/corruption. On the other, democracy/self-determination/respect/Israel. And so the moral differential is produced. This moral superiority has the same content that justified and continues to justify the imperial policy of the United States. Remember Afghanistan? "Let's take democracy, save women". Two decades later, Afghanistan is in ruins, with some of the worst human development indicators in the world.

Gaza has almost two million inhabitants, one of the highest population densities in the world. A considerable part of this population (about 80%) is made up of refugees living in refugee camps. Can you imagine what I just wrote? They are refugees because they had their homes stolen by Israel and now they are in prison. But it's Hamas's fault.

And they continue: “Many donations from the European Union for infrastructure works are diverted for other purposes (…) Palestinian leaders, some of which have accumulated fortunes whose origin is not always transparent”. Zionist arrogance knows no bounds. Ah, if only the Palestinians elected more competent politicians… Anyway, the responsibility for the Palestinians' ills lies with the Palestinians.

They ask: “Is Israel responsible for the situation in Gaza? Of course it is, even if your soldiers left in 2005”. Does the reader understand the internal movement of the text? They anemically assume responsibility and then unload their rhetorical weapons on the Palestinian people. Israel left in 2005, but since 2007 Israel has imposed a ruthless blockade of Gaza.

In 2018, the Marches for the Right of Return in Gaza began, demanding the end of this blockade and the right to return to their homes and lands (internationally recognized). Protests continued through the end of 2019. With each demonstration, Israel deployed dozens of snipers along the fence. The guideline was to open lethal fire on anyone who tried to approach the fence or damage it. And so it was done: Israel used live fire against unarmed demonstrators. As a result, 223 Palestinians (46 of them under the age of 18) were killed and around 8.000 were injured. The 2014 massacres and those related to the March of Return are being tried by the International Criminal Court.



The text says: "It must be recognized that there is a kind of apartheid in Israel." So the subscribers of the text, who demand the recognition of/as the left, cannot remain silent in the face of apartheid. And Amnesty International's report[viii] (which is added to the reports of the human rights report and the NGO B'Tsalem) will prove them right: in Israel, segregation against Palestinians prevails. They will also endorse the position of Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International. For her, “there is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people”. An institutionalization that had the approval of the Basic Law of 2018, which defines Israel as the “Nation-State of the Jewish people” (which excludes about 24% of the population formed by Palestinians from the condition of full citizenship) one of its emblematic moments .

What do the subscribers of the text propose? What does the word "species" mean? Are they proposing a new concept for apartheid to operate international law? If they demand recognition as being of the left, I suspect that they will come to compose the global collectives that call for the boycott of Israel, including several collectives of anti-Zionist Jews. Or will the apartheid Israel is not as oppressive and that Palestinians should put up with it longer – until peace talks move forward? The discourse of perpetual peace is used by “Left Zionists” to better massacre the Palestinian people.


The complexity argument

The arrogance of the authors runs through the entire text. What mission do you assume for yourself? "Our role as progressives is to try to restore truth and justice." To restore this truth and justice, they warn that the issue is not for beginners because the topic is “complex”.

They say: “a much more complex situation than the easy dichotomy that pits the executioner, Israel, against the victim, Palestinians, bad on one side, good on the other. This is Manichaeism. […] that Israel is not for amateurs and should not be viewed with passionate eyes from the stands of a Fla X Flu”.

This ruse to silence criticism of the apartheid and colonialism is not new. In a text written in 2001, Losurdo denounced it: “Not content with the moral lesson, the current teachers of the Palestinian people also intend to teach a lesson in epistemology: to accuse Zionism as such – they sentence – means to lose sight of the 'complexity' of this political movement, characterized by the presence within it of very different currents, from the right, from the left and even from the left with a socialist and revolutionary orientation” (Losurdo, 2021, p. 33).

The “complexity” argument is used to disqualify the interlocutor, even if he/she is a Palestinian, is a refugee, he/she will still be silenced because “they see us as enemies” . So should the Palestinian people see them as allies? That would be the same as using the Stockholm Syndrome in the political sphere.

See the “sophistication” of this argument: “And so we enter the intriguing question of the chicken and the egg. Who was born first? Who was there before?”. They kill the story. There's always been one. Who came first, Palestinians or Jews? All research that points to and denounces the massacres, the ethnic cleansing, the demographic composition in 1948 (hegemonically formed by Muslim and Christian Palestinians) are thrown away.

The colonizer's arrogance that naturalizes his supposed intellectual superiority permeates the text. The story begins when they decide it started, after all, there were no people there, there was no history. “We are left-wing Jews” could be the manifesto of supporters of the redwashing[ix] (the red wash), of those who instrumentalize left-wing ideas to hide the crimes against humanity committed by Israel.


“Right of return” or colonialism?

Jewish settlements are condemned internationally. The text quotes them. “These colonies are illegal under international law. On at least seven occasions since 1979, the UN Security Council has reaffirmed that they are 'a flagrant violation of international law'”. True.

But what is the relationship between settlements and Israeli colonialism? Who gives legitimacy to settlers, a type of militia recognized by Israel, to continue stealing Palestinian land? When Ariel Sharon visited Moscow, he observed the development of the cultural and religious life of the Jewish community in Russia. Then, with an air of concern, he said: "It worries me, because we have needs for another million Russian Jews" (apoud Losurdo, 2021, p. 35).

The so-called “right of return”, which these “progressives” certainly defend, feeds the Israeli colonial machine. How is it possible to be against the settlers and, at the same time, affirm that Jews have a right to Palestinian land? And, simultaneously, they refuse to recognize the right (under the terms of Resolution 194, of the UN) of the return of the Palestinian people to their lands. It is as if there is no link between the settlements and Israeli structural colonialism.


Israel as a guarantee against the persecution of Jews and Jewish women

Why defend Israel? Because anti-Semitism is a beast, a beast that can come back with a vengeance at any time, the text suggests. Now I quote: “Historically, the Jew is the 'other', the scapegoat, who must be discriminated against, wiped off the map”.

I will not stick to this point because Jair de Souza's article,[X] Published on February 02, 2022, it includes a critique of “eternal anti-Semitism”. But there is a point that surprises me in the text: The account that some of the authors make of the loss of family members during the Holocaust. However, there is not a single word about the genocide of gypsies, homosexuals, lesbians, communists and all populations that were supposed to be wiped off the face of the earth by the will of the Third Reich. Why this lack of empathy for the pain of others? Isn't this the point of unity that embodies the ideas of people who share a left-wing sensibility? How can one recognize people who use and instrumentalize the pain of their ancestors to justify the oppression of another people? The same lack of empathy for non-Jewish victims during the Holocaust also runs through the text in relation to the Palestinian people.

To conclude, I quote Losurdo, “The authenticity of involvement against racism is measured not by the homage, even if due, to the victims of the past, but, in the first place, by the support for current victims” (p. 42). And the victims of the present, or, the Jews of the present, as Primo Lévi pointed out, are the Palestinian people.

Antisemitism, a crime. Anti-Zionism, an ethical-political obligation.

*Berenice Bento is a professor at the Department of Sociology at UnB. She authored, among other books, Brasil, Year Zero: State, gender, violence (Editora da UFBA).

Originally published on the website Other words.



[I] Available in:

[ii] Sayid Marcos Tenorio. Israel and the silent genocide of Palestinian children. Disrespect, 03 Feb. 2022. Available at:

[iii] LOSURDO, Domenico. Challenges of the Revolution in the XNUMXst Century. Colonialism and anti-colonial struggle. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2021.

[iv] Peled-Elhanan, Nurit. Ideology and propaganda in education. Palestine in Israeli textbooks. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2019.

[v] BENTO, Bernice. Palestine and the microphysics of continued death. UOL. Available at:

[vi]  SAID, Edward. Orientalism: The Orient as the Invention of the West. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2008.

[vii] AUSTIN, John. L. How to do things with words. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976.

[viii] Available at:

[ix] BENTO, Bernice. 'Redwashing': 'Left' speeches to clean up the crimes of the State of Israel. UOL. Available at:

[X] SOUZA, Jair de. Left-wing Jews, the fight against anti-Semitism and the State of Israel. Disrespect. Available at:


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