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A Wooden Defense Of Genocide: A Response To Graeme Wood


Graeme Wood

Written by Safeer Raza and Mohammad Saad


The West, as Hamid Dabashi says, stands morally bankrupt. Its politics, philosophy, academia, and media are the proponents of the occupation and oppression that has seen hundreds of thousands of innocents killed just to safeguard the Western interests in a region that has already experienced great suffering because of Western colonization. But the suffering for ‘Others’, which has a special status for the sadist West, has meant little in its eyes. All these moral philosophers, with baggage of ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’, stick their heads in the ground when others suffer. The whole history of Western colonization and ‘progress’ undergirds such violence, where development has been achieved through the exploitation, colonization, and oppression of the other.

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A few weeks ago, the Atlantic published a new piece authored by Graeme Wood on the Gaza death toll. Considering the past track record of the writer, its contents were not surprising at all. Throughout the article, the writer has tried to use statistical data on civilian casualties in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians, to justify Israeli aggression since the October 7th. What is condemnable is that the Israeli lives killed in a resistance act by Hamas greatly concerns the author, yet in the same article, the author justifies the killing of thousands of innocent children. Though this is not an anomalous case in Western media, Woods is just one of the countless minds that one can easily spot in the media, political and power circles, and even on the street.

Graeme WoodThe author has a history of cultivating Islamophobic sensibilities, in his writings. He has the habit of distorting the image of the Muslims and their sufferings which are directly and indirectly caused by the West. Back in February 2015, he authored a similar article titled “What ISIS Really Wants“, which makes a crude generalization about the Daesh Ideology vis-à-vis Islamic Scripture. The author disregards the almost 2 billion Muslims, their differences, and their political cultures, while claiming that Islam is the fundamental ground to produce such militant groups.

In this article, the labeling of Gaza’s Health Ministry as the ‘Hamas-run Health Ministry’ supports a genocidal strategy that seeks to destroy every hospital in Gaza. This labelling predetermines the collateral damage, without being held accountable in the liberal conceptualization of accountability. This a priori justification goes for bombing any other structure in Gaza, not just hospitals. Along with other infrastructure, the Zionist state has bombed several United Nations buildings, including the UNRWA school, with the justification that these are being used by the Hamas fighters.

For the UN, it is nonviable to calculate or confirm the number of people killed and wounded;  because Israel’s targeted strikes make any independent and neutral reporting and aid processes impossible to operate. It has killed hundreds of journalists, aid workers, and volunteers with targeted goals. When the UN has shared its count of the casualties, it has not counted those under the rubble, still to be identified, and other such people who are dead but not in the papers. These unaccounted dead could be in the tens of thousands until now. The numbers provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza are believed to be less than the actual number of people killed in this genocide.

The author has studied this whole genocide clad in the dress of legality of the international conventions on war, reporting, and resistance. At the heart of this conceptualization is the legal status of Israel, which is an illegal settler colony.

The problem that this language of pure legalism (in the statist framework) creates is the confusion of the moral and ethical status of Israel and Hamas. For Wood, Israel is a lawful, legitimate entity no matter what it does, while declaring Hamas a terrorist organization. A lawful entity has to abide by the law, in this case, which the Zionist state does not, and according to the author it is just a ‘failure’. On the other hand, one cannot expect Hamas to act humanely, and lawfully, and it can create panic and chaos at its will. Looking closer, we see Hamas is fighting soldiers right now, and Israel, being a ‘legitimate’ state, has killed more than 36000 civilians, mostly children and women. If we follow the author while studying the acts of Hamas and Israel, keeping in view the strict legalism, we will lose track of reality.

The recent ceasefire deal brokered by the American Central Intelligence Agency,  on May 7, 2024, was accepted by Hamas but rejected by the Israeli state. Immediately after, Israel attacked Rafah, a designated safe zone for Palestinian refugees from northern Gaza. Despite knowing there was no Hamas presence, Israeli forces bombed Rafah again on May 26, killing over 80 people in the tent city. The massacre, the most brutal since the conflict began, and images of burnt children have shocked the world.

The more literature we analyze, the clearer it becomes that political commentators like Mr. Wood are not outliers in mainstream Western media. Instead, they shape the narrative for other journalists and influence policymakers.

One common trope that we see more these days in the backdrop of the October 7, 2023 attack, is to equate Hamas and Palestinian Resistance with the terror outfits, Daesh and Al-Qaeda, to present all Palestinians as terrorists, even when they are resisting occupiers. Daesh and Hamas are two completely different organizations, with active confrontation among them. Hamas had even arrested Daesh operators in Gaza, stopping it from setting a foothold in Gaza, and Palestine in general. Equating them as the same groups would be as bizarre as confusing Christians United for Israel and Martin Luther King Jr. as similar movements, while in reality, they are poles opposed. That they both ground their movement and ideas in Christianity, and that Christianity features in their vocabulary, does not mean they have a shared moral status. The same is the case with Hamas and ISIS. Both may be Muslim political actors, but that does not make them a monolith. 

The author claims, “Unlike Hamas, Israel purports to abide by the principles of the laws of war, including proportionality and distinction between combatants and civilians. Hamas has fought with transparent disregard for these principles.” This assertion is severely misleading. Even a layman following developments in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court can see which party adheres to the laws of war and which one targets civilians to consolidate power over an occupied territory.

Zionist leaders have denied the possibility of a rules-based world order, where they have defied the ICJ rulings, while maintaining that their goal is to inflict as much damage to the Palestinians as possible. At the start of its bombardment on Gaza, many Israeli leaders including Netanyahu pledged for the complete destruction of the Strip, which Israel has eventually done.  

Mr. Woods overlooks critical facts, consistently portraying Israel as the sole legitimate actor due to his ideological biases. This stance implies indifference to the massacre of children as long as Israel and its Western allies are ‘fighting terrorism.’ Consequently, he criticizes Hamas while excusing Israel’s actions in Gaza, even misrepresenting statistics to justify the violence.

Engaging in a war of numbers is futile and distracts from the core issues within Western media and academia. However, even a simple Google search or quick fact-check on Twitter (X) would reveal the accurate death toll and identities of victims killed by the Israeli army, exposing the disingenuous nature of these commentators. This highlights the need for a critical reassessment of how such conflicts are reported and discussed, addressing the biases that distort the reality of the situation and the brutality of the Zionist state.

The discourse surrounding the issue of Palestine, particularly within Western media and academic circles, often centers around the qualitative and quantitative assessments of casualties, and the resulting chaos and sufferings, if at all. Criticism directed at the Zionist state primarily focuses on its restrictions on humanitarian aid to the oppressed population of Gaza, rather than on the broader issue of its legitimacy in destroying entire cities and orchestrating a humanitarian catastrophe. The very act of appealing to Israel to open aid channels starkly underscores the absolute totalitarian control exerted by the Zionist state over Gaza, as well as the influence it holds over Western media and commentators such as Wood. Within this context, the October 7th uprising can be understood as a slave revolt—a desperate attempt by an imprisoned populace to break free from an open-air prison and claim their freedom.



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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Safeer Raza is an undergraduate student at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. He has also participated in the Academic Arabic Learning Program at Usul Academy, a virtual madrasa based in Istanbul. His interests include politics, religion, law, human rights, and critical theory.

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