The Phantom Menace

The ground war that won't arrive

The Phantom Menace

I want to begin this piece with a call to mutual aid, solidarity and action. If you can, please donate to the links in the above image. The alt-text includes all of the information provided. I will be talking here about my sense of the geopolitical strategic maneuvering by the Israeli state and the US, but this is a form of cope for me, of attempting to understand the situation so that I don’t utterly break down, trying to intellectualize so that the pain doesn’t utterly shatter my heart. It’s not really working.

In a story that has been significantly under reported, last week the IDF bombed and severely damaged civilian airports in Syria—taking the Aleppo airport fully out of service. This served a dual role, presumably: first, to prevent the arrival of military volunteers and solidarity actors—particularly those from within the Russian sphere of influence—whose entry through Syria would be very difficult to monitor. And second, to provoke further belligerence from Russia, Syrian and Iran.

Some discussion has emerged about escalating exchange of fire with Lebanese forces, as this seems to be the most likely place a second front will open up—although Western press discussing the escalations talks about Hezbollah’s relations to Iran while largely failing to mention the death of Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah. Abdallah was killed, and 6 other members of the press injured, on Friday, when all of them were clearly marked in Press jackets—killing journalists is a favorite war crime of the IDF—and a mass funeral and protest was held for Abdallah on Sunday, which was attended by many Lebanese politicians.

This Israeli aggression toward Lebanon, Iran and Syria has, I believe, a couple broad geopolitical aims:

  • To draw the US and Europe into a broader war with Russia and Iran
  • To change conversation from the extent of the absolute and total violence of the bombardment and siege of Gaza, which has already claimed at least 2500 lives and seen half a million Gazans displaced, and facing total shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

But these aims are, I believe, secondary to the real goal, which is to keep the world in a state of geopolitical crisis without having to send ground troops into Gaza. On Friday, Netenyahu visited front line troops and the IDF announced their imminent readiness for invasion of the strip. But despite a weekend of pronouncements and alerts that the invasion was coming, it has not materialized. I believe that Israel cannot afford to enter as long as Hamas has those hostages without some other form of political cover. A wider war would allow the issue of the hostages to take a back seat—and would also peel eyes off of the Gaza Strip, where the IDF could carry out a full and total genocide and let the hostages die as a cost of war.

On that front, Biden and secretary of state Antony Blinken have made comparisons between the Hamas attack and the Holocaust. This is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that Blinken, who is himself the descendant of Holocaust survivors, is given no rest by his ancestors, even in the grave. But this is also an act of projection of the most fascistic kind: they are preparing themselves to carry out an act that might be compared to the Holocaust, and to do so must accuse the other to purge their shame and cleanse their conscience.

Make no mistake about this “war”: on Friday, after the IDF ordered Gazans evacuate Gaza City and the north, they bombarded the travel corridor that they indicated would be safe, killing dozens of Palestinians and forcing many to return North and face the coming invasion.

But the invasion did not materialize, and now 500,000—about half the residents of Northern Gaza—have decided to take the risk and head South. They did so with no hope of material aid, with cut off water, fuel and food—although as of this morning a few UN fuel trucks were able to enter Gaza from Egypt. In the twisted and evil logic of the IDF, collective punishment, total terror and disorientation, absolute communal destruction leads to the achievement of their goals. Nowhere is safe, anything is possible: the only safe thing to do is to flee.

Those Palestinians who flee the North: will they ever be able to return? This is a question, a sorrow that must be on so many of their minds. Once Palestinians are driven from their homes, they are never allowed return. Israel wants to fully ethnically cleanse Gaza, permanently.

As Jasbir Puar argues, the oppression of Palestine may not be exceptional, but it is exemplary. The IDF’s logic is built upon the long history of Settler Colonial terror tactics, from Myall Creek to the Trail of Tears to Jallianwala Bagh to Bloody Sunday to Mass Incarceration, now justified by politicos who claim to have learned the moral lessons of such violence. This is one of the unique shames of the Palestinian situation for the US: the absolute lie it puts to the entire project, the way the situation turns any Western claims of progress, change or peace into dust. And a fascist will kill any number of people to silence his own shame.

This lie is visible in the fact that many of the armament manufacturers have a direct line of continuity with these previous crimes. The IDF studies, trains with and learns from this long history of colonial violence, and neo-colonial forces in more “pacified” settler colonies, like the US, send their police to train with the IDF, who are learning at the fastest rate on the colonial frontlines.

All of these continuities of settler-colonial violence, however, have failed to destroy the spirit of resistance, liberation and freedom that refuses to let these settler fucks project their misery, self-hate and violence unchecked. If the world is drawn into a broad global conflict, things may get much much darker and bleaker. But things are also bleak and dark enough. As we have seen over the last decade and a half, we are not alone when we rise up, when we fight back. While we may not have easy wins to claim, we have not yet lost, and as long as we breathe and love and care for one another, we can continue to fight.

Free Palestine!