A cruel month of massacres for Palestinians as the US mask is ripped off

Ammiel Alcalay

The events of early April seem to bear out the first line of T S Eliot’s “The Wasteland”, that “April is the cruellest month”.

On 10 April, on Eid al-Fitr, the celebratory end of Ramadan, Israel killed three sons and four grandchildren of Hamas political bureau leader Ismail Haniyeh in an air strike on Gaza’s al-Shati camp. This adds yet more killings to the already staggering total, with Haniyeh himself having lost 60 family members to Israeli attacks.

Three days earlier, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Walid Daqqa, after 38 years of imprisonment, died from a lack of adequate medical care for bone marrow cancer. According to his lawyer, Daqqa had recently been subjected to torture and beatings.

A writer and revolutionary thinker, Daqqa formulated the concept of “parallel time”, linking the larger prison of occupied Palestine to smaller prisons like those he found himself in for close to four decades. As Mondoweiss managing editor Faris Giacaman wrote in a brilliant tribute, Daqqa was “one of the few legitimate inheritors of Ghassan Kanafani’s legacy”.

Kanafani, who likely needs no introduction, was born in Akka in April 1936 and lived through the Nakba as a child. He was assassinated in Beirut in 1972, along with Lamis Nijem, his 17-year-old niece. In the pre-drone era of Israeli assassinations of Palestinian cultural and political figures, this was carried out with a car bomb. The title of one of Kanafani’s greatest stories, “He was a child that day,” says it all.

In a 1970 interview with Australian journalist Richard Carleton, Kanafani, a prominent member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was asked: “Why won’t your organisation engage in peace talks with the Israelis?”

Kanafani stared silently down in front of him before responding: “You don’t mean exactly peace talks, you mean capitulation, surrendering.” Carleton continued: “Why not just talk?”

“Talk to whom?” Kanafani asked, to which Carleton said: “Talk to the Israeli leaders.” Kanafani replied: “That’s a kind of conversation between the sword and the neck.”

Mask is off

Remarkably, as if on cue, at a crucial point in negotiations between Hamas and Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had this to say on 9 April: “We would not be where we are had they not chosen to engage in one of the most horrific acts of brutality and terrorism on October 7th and had they then, having done that, not refused these many, many months to get out of the way of civilians, to stop hiding behind them, to put down their arms, to release the hostages, to surrender.”

While the needle doesn’t seem to have moved among the western political alliance led by the US, the mask has been off for a long time in most of the rest of the world, and it is increasingly coming off among the actual subjects of these western governments, whose anger and disgust mounts daily.

Indications of this are everywhere, from continuing protests, to conservative commentator Tucker Carlson’s recent interview with Palestinian pastor Munther Isaac, in which the pair excoriated US congressional and evangelical support for Israel, a pillar of US-Israel relations and funding.

We are exposed to a continually escalating news cycle, with stories relentlessly pumped out at the expense of clarity and coherence

The dizzying events of the past few weeks, including the Iranian counterattack on Israel, tell us much about where things stand in the relentless mix of differently scaled atrocities and psychological warfare carried out by state actors and their willing accomplices in the media, academia and professional associations.

The official outrage, both genuine and feigned, over the targeted killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers has not been even remotely matched when it comes to the more than 34,000 Palestinian casualties of this genocidal slaughter.

While Israeli forces systematically target the Palestinian reporters exposing their crimes, mainstream western journalism appears to have accepted the rules of engagement laid out by those in power: Do not probe too deeply nor connect too many dots.

In the meantime, we are exposed to a continually escalating news cycle, with stories relentlessly pumped out at the expense of clarity and coherence.

Attention diverted

As journalist Pepe Escobar so scathingly put it regarding the attack on the aid workers: “The ‘logic’ behind the deliberate three-tap strike on the clearly signed humanitarian convoy of famine-alleviating workers in Gaza was to eviscerate from the news an even more horrendous episode: the genocide-within-a-genocide of al-Shifa hospital.”

Escobar went on to write of Israel’s attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus: “This was a missile attack on a diplomatic mission, enjoying immunity, on the territory of a third country, against which [Israel] is not at war … Translation: an act of terror, against two sovereign states, Syria and Iran.”

The scenario played out as expected: there was no US or European condemnation of the Israeli attack, and no UN condemnation, while Iran’s rejoinder, at least according to Israel’s ambassador to the UN, marked a severe threat to world peace. The unearthing of mass graves and testimonies from survivors of Israel’s assault on al-Shifa hospital receded into the background as attention was diverted to Israel’s possible response to the Iranian counterattack.

This whole series of events, in addition to the Israeli-US policy of using starvation as a tool of war while covering up the ongoing genocide, aims to eliminate the possibility of accepting Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation in the UK and other countries, as a credible negotiating partner.

As Palestinian human rights attorney Diana Buttu succinctly put it after the assassination of Haniyeh’s family members: “‘Negotiations’ – Israeli style.”

Between obligatory crocodile tears and theatrical anger, the US continues to arm and provide full support for Israel’s genocide, while pleading for Israel to call a “ceasefire” and allow food into Gaza through more crossings – all while holding veto power at the UN Security Council.

In other words, it is obfuscation coupled with escalation, while the killing in Gaza continues apace. A cruel month indeed.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.