London Review of Books promotes soft Oct. 7 massacre denialism

Two of the questions that Israel’s haters can never answer when leveling charges that the IDF has uses ‘disproportionate’ force when fighting Hamas in Gaza, that it takes insufficient measures to protect innocent civilians, and most other accusations, are 1) What evidence do you have? 2) Compared to what?.

The United Nations reports that the average combatant-to-civilian death ratio in global warfare has been nine civilians killed for every one combatant killed (9:1). As former Israeli diplomat Michael Oren noted, citing The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Watson Institute of Brown University, in America’s wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the casualty ratio was 4:1 – that is, four civilians killed for every combatant.”

The casualty ratio in Gaza in the current war with Hamas, on the other hand, is roughly 1.5 civilians killed for every one terrorist killed (1.5:1).  Given that the IDF is fighting an entrenched enemy in dense urban terrain in an extremely small area, Israel’s conduct – based on the actual evidence – has been extraordinary.

Further, as John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, has argued, despite Hamas’s cynical human shield policy, Israel has taken more measures to avoid needless civilian harm than virtually any other nation that’s fought an urban war.  Spencer cites the IDF’s warning to civilians to evacuate cities in northern Gaza before starting the main air-ground attack, air-dropping flyers to give civilians instructions on when and how to evacuate, including with safe corridors and real phone calls to civilians in combat areas, SMS texts and pre-recorded calls to provide instructions on evacuations.

In an 7,500 word article in the current edition of the London Review of Books (LRB), ‘The Shoah After Gaza’, March 21, Pankaj Mishra doesn’t bother with dry statistics, empirical data or comparative analyses of any kind – save, of course, numbers provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry. His belief in Israeli guilt – like so many of those who frequent the pages of the progressive British media outlets – is  nearly theological.

Mishra’s piece begins by confessing that, as a younger man, he was briefly influenced by the “Zionism of his family of upper-caste Hindu nationalists in India”, and that the once held the putatively naïve belief in the post-Holocaust “Zionist logic” that Jews need a state of their own. He attributes this moral lapse on his failure to fully grasp Israel’s “institutionalized…machinery of repression”.

Though he dutifully read Edward Said, he noted, he was nonetheless “still shocked to discover” for himself “how insidiously Israel’s high-placed supporters in the West conceal the nihilistic survival-of-the-strongest ideology reproduced by all Israeli regimes since [Menachem] Begin’s”, a phenomenon, he complains, for a publication based in London, home of the Guardian and BBC, which has “passed without much scrutiny in the respectable press of the Western world”.  The “victims of Israeli barbarity in Gaza today”, he writes, evidently from a workspace hermetically sealed off from the international media, “cannot even secure straightforward recognition of their ordeal from Western elites”.

He further complains, in one of the few references to Hamas in his piece, and written in a way evoking their Oct. 7 massacre, of the “distorted consciousness of the Shoah ensures that whenever the victims of Israel, unable to endure their misery any longer, rise up against their oppressors with predictable ferocity, they are denounced as Nazis, hellbent on perpetrating another Shoah”. The terror group’s explicitly genocidal charter, which draws heavily from the antisemitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘, and which clearly inspired the group’s savage mass murder, rape, torture, mutilation and hostage-taking of Jews over five months ago, it seems, isn’t realty. Rather, it’s some sort of false consciousness.

Mishra ultimately finds answers to his vexing questions regarding the extent of Israel’s immutable villainy by going to the ‘source’. That is, he consults the fringe Jewish and Israeli voices and As-A-Jews who affirm his new and far more enlightened view that yesterday’s victims have become “today’s victimisers”. He endorses their accusations, ideas which he complains would be considered antisemitic today: those who’ve, over the last five decades, argued that the Jewish state cynically conflates Palestinians with Nazis in order to be free of all moral constraints, that the Zionist project is hell-bent on treating ‘non-Jews as subhuman’, that the state had developed “racist Nazi-attitudes” and even that the ‘Nazification’ of the state was already under way in 1969!.

Of course, no such diatribe about Israel’s decades-long descent into darkness would be complete without projecting race on to what he claims is the West’s obsequiousness in the face of the state’s “industrialized slaughter” of Palestinians, approvingly citing characterisations of Israel – the population of which is half Mizrachi or Ethiopian (that is, Jews of colour) – as the embodiment of  “white supremacy not democracy”. In his own voice, he writes – echoing the rhetoric of David Duke – that Menachem Begin “was the first of the frank exponents of Jewish supremacism who continue to rule Israel.”

From here, Mishra, who’s of Indian descent, pivots to speaking on behalf of all (non-Jewish) people of colour across the globe, when he alleges that “for more than seven decades now, the argument among the ‘darker peoples’ has remained the same: why should Palestinians be dispossessed and punished for crimes in which only Europeans were complicit?”.

Even leaving aside his astonishing belief that he can neatly characterise the feelings of all the ‘darker peoples’ in the world, the description of Israel’s creation as a “crime” inflicted upon the Palestinians is a common trope employed by those who claim to be fond of Jews while detesting any arrangement in which one small majority Jewish state continues to exist in the Jews’ historic homeland.

Mishra then proceeds to cite another ‘good Jew’, the late anti-Zionist British academic Tony Judt, to allege another crime for which Israel is responsible: international antisemitism.  ‘Israel’s reckless behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with antisemitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia.”, wrote Judt in 2006, to the pleasure of the LRB contributor.  Finding yet another anti-Zionist Jew to advance his ideological precepts, he quotes  Zygmunt Bauman’s accusation that some Israeli leaders were securing “a post-mortem triumph for Hitler, who dreamed of creating conflict between Jews and the whole world” and “preventing Jews from ever having peaceful coexistence with others”.

Israel, to the LRB contributor, is not only the avatar of state malevolence, but arguably causes antisemitism and prevents harmony between Jews and non-Jews across the globe.

When Mishra isn’t explicitly demonising Israel, he offers risible political advice to the state. For instance, he avers that “the discovery of their extreme vulnerability to Hizbullah as well as Hamas should make them more willing to risk a compromise peace settlement”, as if  the rocket attacks and massacres meted out by Iran’s proxies aren’t expressions of their malign obsession with trying to annihilate Israel, but merely represent an attempt to tweak the borders and reach an lasting accommodation with recalcitrant leaders in Jerusalem.

Moreover, whether the columnist is being dishonest or grossly ignorant of about the conflict and the region, his fantastical account of the last seven decades omits all events that could edify readers on the Palestinian role in the failure to achieve peace: the wars, bloody and traumatising terrorism and intifadas, rebuffed peace offers and fanatical, violent, antisemitic Palestinian ideologies.  We’d go with Mishra being dishonest, per some of his erroneous or grossly misleading passages.

He writes that Ben-Gurion had initially seen Hitler’s rise to power as “a huge political and economic boost for the Zionist enterprise”, thus creating the impression that the Zionist leader had a single-minded focus on the creation of a Jewish state, and was indifferent to the consequences of Nazism to European Jewry.

However, the full quote, from Tom Segev’s ‘A State At Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion‘, reveals Mishra’s deception:

Though Ben-Gurion at times would express faith in the Jews’ ultimate redemption, he also clearly saw the rise of Hitler as a threat to the survival of Jews in both Palestine and the diaspora.

Other examples of the LRB writer’s dishonesty include a bizarre attempt to implicate the pro-Israel Jewish magazine Commentary in Holocaust survivor (and writer) Primo Levi’s 1987 suicide.  Mishra’s argument is that a Commentary piece published two years before Levi’s suicide which was critical of some of his writing, which Mishra characterised as an act of “intellectual thuggery”, sent him into despair.  Death by ‘intellectual thuggery’.

Mishra also would have readers believe that Israel’s decision to launch the first Lebanon War was based on nothing more than Menahem Begin’s “insisting that Arabs were the new Nazis and Yasser Arafat the new Hitler”, rather than an effort to stop the PLO – who was based in the country – from continuing to perpetrate terror attacks and launch rockets at Israeli communities in the north, and in response to a Palestinian assassination attempt against Israel’s ambassador in the UK.

Ultimately, Mishra’s broad accusation is that Israel and its Jewish supporters are endangering the universalist moral lessons from the Holocaust, writing “the Shoah as the measure of all crimes, antisemitism as the most lethal form of bigotry – are in danger of disappearing as the Israeli military massacres and starves Palestinians, razes their homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, bombs them into smaller and smaller encampments…”.  Only “those jolted into consciousness by the calamity of Gaza can rescue the Shoah” from Israel and their “survivalist psychosis”, and Western enablers of the state’s unending moral rot.

As the late antisemitism scholar Robert S. Wistrich observed about modern leftist anti-Zionists, it’s not good enough anymore to criticise Israeli policies. The movement has reached a stage where they must impute the worst motives, the most odious and world-corrupting crimes – imagining a state beyond the moral pale, “an organic obstacle to peace and progress.”

In Panka Mishra’s grotesque caricature of Israel as something akin to the national embodiment of hell on earth, one that’s unworthy of sympathy, he not only transformed the worst and most barbaric antisemitic massacre since the Holocaust into a non-event, while all but erasing the Palestinian perpetrators of that mass pogrom – the kidnappers, rapists, pedophiles, necrophiliacs, sadists, torturers, beheaders and annihilationist anti-Semites – as, in effect, merely ‘some people who did something’.  He’s projected the monstrous evil carried out on Oct. 7 onto the Jewish victims.

Though Mishra risibly fancies himself a ‘humanitarian’ and keeper of the Shoah victims’ flame, he used the considerable space granted him by LRB editors to disseminate ideas about Jewish perfidy that, though dressed up in progressive garb, would have resonated for those inciters throughout history whose bigotry sealed the fate of countless Jews – the victims of York, Norwich, Damascus, Kishinev, Hebron, Kristallnacht, Kielce, Be’eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz and Re’im.

If in every generation there are groups who rise up against the Jews, so too does each such spasm of this ancient hatred find its gaslighters, deniers, apologists and defenders.

Can there be a decent pro-Palestinian movement?

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