Israel Kills Palestinians and Western Liberals Shrug. Their Humanitarianism Is a Sham.

Hasan, The Intercept, April 2 2018

“If the
concept of intervention is driven by universal human rights, why is it — from
the people who identify themselves as liberal interventionists — why do we
never hear a peep, a word, about intervening to protect the Palestinians?”
Israeli troops fire teargas at protesters during a clashes following a
protest to mark the Land Day, in the village of Qusra, near the West Bank City
of Nablus, Friday, March 30, 2018. Photo: Majdi Mohammed/AP
That was
the question I put to the French philosopher, author, and champion of liberal (or
humanitarian) interventionism
, Bernard-Henri Lévy, on my Al Jazeera English
interview show “Head to Head” in 2013.
usually silver-tongued Levy struggled to answer the question. The situation in
Palestine is “not the same” as in Syria and “you have not all the good on one
side and all the bad on the other side,” said Levy, who once remarked in reference
to the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, that he had “never seen such a
democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions.”
couldn’t help but be reminded of my exchange with the man known as “BHL” this past
weekend, as I watched horrific
images of unarmed
Palestinian protesters
at the Gaza border being shot in the back by
the “democratic army” of Israel. How many “moral questions” did those Israeli
snipers ask themselves, I wondered, before they gunned down
Gazan refugees for daring to demand a
return to their homes
inside the Green Line?
Friday, the IDF shot an astonishing 773 people
with live ammunition, killing 17 of them.
Yet a spokesperson for the IDF bragged
that Israeli troops “arrived prepared” and “everything was accurate. … We know
where every bullet landed.” On Sunday, Israel’s hawkish defense minister,
Avigdor Lieberman, roundly
calls from the European Union and the United Nations for an
independent inquiry into the violence and insisted that “our soldiers deserve a
To be
clear, then: Israeli troops will continue to murder and maim Palestinians while
the Israeli government guarantees that there will be no consequences for their
So, where
is the outcry from liberal interventionists across the West? Where is BHL, as
Palestinians are being shot and wounded in the hundreds in 2018?
Where is
the call from former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose 1999 speech
in Chicago defending the concept of a “just war” and a “doctrine of the
international community” became a key text for liberal interventionists, for a
“no-fly” zone over Gaza? Why does a guest speaker
at Ariel Sharon’s funeral
have nothing to say about the increasing
number of Palestinian funerals?
Where is
the moral outrage from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha
Power, the famously
, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a “A Problem From
Hell,” which lamented U.S. inaction in Rwanda, over the sheer number of unarmed
Palestinians shot, killed, and injured in recent days? How does she have time
to retweet a picture of an
elephant and a lion cub, but not to make a statement about the violence in
Where is
the demand from Canadian academic-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff, who was
once one of the loudest
in favor of the so-called responsibility to protect doctrine,
for peacekeeping troops to be deployed to the Occupied Territories?
Where are
the righteously angry op-eds from Nicholas
of the New York Times, or Richard Cohen
of the Washington Post, or David
of The Times of London, demanding concrete action
against the human rights
of the IDF?
And where
is the appeal from former U.S. Secretary of State and arch-interventionist
Madeleine Albright for economic and financial sanctions against the state of
Israel? For an arms embargo? For travel bans on Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Lieberman, and IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi
silence is deafening — and telling. Palestinians, it seems, have been so
dehumanized that they don’t deserve a humanitarian intervention; their blood is
cheap, their plight is unimportant, and, perhaps above all else, their killers
are our friends.
protesters run for cover from Israeli tear gas during clashes with Israeli
troops along the border between Israel and Gaza Strip, in the eastern Gaza
01 April 2018. Photo: Momen Faiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/AP

Should we
really be surprised, though? After all, this isn’t the first time that members
of the liberal intervention brigade have shamelessly ignored the tragic deaths
of innocent Palestinians.
In March
2001, towards the start of the “Second
,” and with the Palestinian civilian death toll
mounting, the U.N. Security Council proposed a resolution
that would have “set up an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian
civilians, including through the establishment of a United Nations observer
force” on the ground in the Occupied Territories. The United States, however,
in the form of the George W. Bush administration, vetoed
that resolution. What was the response from U.S. liberals? They stayed mum.
In the
summer of 2014, the Israeli air force — for the the third time in
six years
— pounded the Gaza Strip, dropping bombs on schools,
and apartment
, and killing
more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians — including 500 children — in the
process. What was the position
of then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who would later throw her
behind a “no-fly” zone over Syria)? “Hamas provoked another
attack” while “Israel has a right to defend itself.” And what was the response
from her fellow liberals? Most of them didn’t say a word.
forward to 2018: This time round, 17 dead and 1,400 wounded. Videos going viral
of Israeli soldiers — armed and
by U.S. taxpayers — shooting fleeing Palestinians in their
backs. Again, not a peep on Twitter, or elsewhere, from the leaders of the
Democratic Party in Congress, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer
and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
For liberal Democrats, #resistance is supposed to be against the Trump
administration and the so-called alt-right, not against the longest military
occupation in the world.
moral blindness that so many liberals and progressives in the United States
have for the Palestinians has never ceased to amaze — or disgust — me. As the
Israeli writer and economist Abraham Gutman notes,
“This blind spot is so pronounced that it created a whole new type of
progressive, the PEP, ‘Progressive-Except-on-Palestine.’” The PEP, he
continues, “is horrified by the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney
General, but willing to argue that there is nuance and perhaps support the government
of Israel, with [Ayelet] Shaked as the Minister of Justice, who posted on
Facebook an article calling Palestinian children ‘little
The PEP will loudly condemn the bigotry and nativism of the Republican Party in
the United States, and the ongoing segregation and racism in the Deep South,
while averting their gaze from the brazen racism
of the Israeli government and the ongoing
in the Occupied Territories.
rails against Trump and his hawkish minions while standing to
Netanyahu or smiling in
with Lieberman — this despite the fact that the similarities
between the Trump and Netanyahu administrations have been welldocumented.
And the
PEP who happens to be a proud supporter of liberal interventionism will back
interventions almost everywhere except the Occupied Territories. Their heart
bleeds for Syrians, Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, Rwandans, Kosovars … but not for
This is
not an exercise in whataboutism; it is about drawing attention to blatant
double standards and moral hypocrisy. On Palestine, liberal interventionists
who happen to be “progressive-except-on-Palestine” borrow from the Trump
when they cynically blame “both sides” for the violence.
They claim that Palestinian deaths are the consequence of “clashes” and
confrontations.” Yet
the reality is that one side is the occupier and the other is the occupied;
one side has rockets and rifles and the other side has rocks and
; one side is doing the killing and the other side is
doing the dying.
There is
no other conclusion: The ongoing and glaring refusal of liberal
interventionists in the West to say even a word about the need to protect
occupied Palestinians from state-sponsored violence is a reminder of just how
morally bankrupt and cynically hypocritical the whole “liberal intervention” shtick