Live Show: 4 Arguments Against a Gaza Ceasefire and Why They’re Bullshit

Citations Needed | October 31, 2023 | Transcript

Citations Needed
30 min readNov 1, 2023
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., at the U.S. Capitol in 2023. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)


Nima Shirazi: Hey, everyone, thanks for joining. Citations Needed is a podcast on the media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. We are here doing this live stream. Adam, good to see you, sir.

Adam Johnson: Good to see you, buddy.

Nima: Considering there is an active and ongoing genocide unfolding with full support, if not something even more sinister than support, you know, re: arming diplomatic cover, military guidance and and support sending US aircraft carrier off the coast of Israel to support in their ongoing genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza. 2.3 million of them, trapped in caged for over a decade and a half now. And so, you know, it has seemed to us, we’ve been talking about this a lot. Obviously, you know, watching this there’s kind of one reasonable, still not quite enough thing to do, but an immediate first step, that of calling for a ceasefire, right. Seems like the bare minimum that reasonable, non-psychotic people can do. And yet, Adam, even that term, ceasefire, has been met with a lot of backlash, a lot of backlash. It’s kind of a one of those hokey words, but a lot. You know, even those calling for a ceasefire have been met with extreme vitriol and outright dismissal over that concept. And so you, being the critic and writer that you are, published something directly about that in The Nation the other day, headlined “Those who say a ceasefire won’t work are wrong. Here’s why.” And you lay out four arguments for why, you know, saying a ceasefire is not the right thing to do is straight up bullshit. And so we figured, in addition to other things we can talk about, about Gaza, that we would kind of unpack those kinds of four arguments that we’ve been hearing and, you know, explain why they’re just totally bogus.

Adam: Yeah. So you know, in my time talking about this, discussing this, obviously, you and I talk about it. And seeing social media arguments and arguments in places like The Atlantic or arguments from places like J Street, which we’ll get to, there really was kind of four general arguments about why we shouldn’t call for a ceasefire now, to establish the stakes, as they say, in screenwriting, of course, this is real life. But it’s really important to establish like, why there’s urgency here, why this isn’t some academic thing, why we can’t sort of sleep on and get around to it next week. Why I know we don’t usually do this many live shows this quick, why we’re sort of why you and I are, you know, writing so much more than usual. Not that we have any real influence but you know, you sort of trying to you’re–

Nima: I came out of writing retirement for this.

Adam: You did, we’re trying to sort of, a child in Palestine is killed by Israeli bombs once every 10 minutes, actually once every nine minutes and 29 seconds. So over 3200, 3300 children have died over the last three weeks in one day. And in a bombing campaign, that is either one of two things, I think it’s fair to say at this point, it is either a very extreme version of mowing the grass, which is where they sort of use a kind of Bronze Age logic to sort of just punish. And so for some some arbitrarily high number of–

Nima: For those watching and listening, just just to just to note, that is an actual term that the Israeli military has used for the periodic intense bombing campaigns in Gaza over the decades, over the years. That’s not just like, it is it is not only a grotesque term that we are using because it is grotesque, but it actually comes from, from the Israeli government itself, the idea of “mowing the grass.”

Adam: Right. And so it’s either either a) it’s an extreme version of that or b) it is a prelude to and indeed the the first quarter of a actual ethnic cleansing campaign or or sort of continuation of a genocide campaign to expel Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt or into sort of a sort of one quarter the size, one fifth the size of Gaza Tent City and the button the south are rested next to the Sinai. There was a Haaretz and 972 book published today a an internal memo from the from the Israeli Intelligence Ministry, which is I guess not a very influential ministry, but it’s still a ministry nonetheless, that basically laid out plans to do precisely what those are worrying have been worrying about, which is create a sort of Gaza within Egypt to sort of expel Palestinians from Palestine, which is, of course, textbook ethnic cleansing, to kind of–

Nima: The literal definition.

Adam: Yeah, to sort of do a final solution into the desert, we don’t deal with Gaza anymore. And then that therefore sort of changes the demographic dynamics, and then some speculate they would go on to annex the West Bank. And, and basically, that would be it for any kind of Palestine, Palestinian state for the time being. And so that is one worry. So there’s kind of, those are sort of the two options, because I don’t think anyone realistically thinks they’re going to eradicate Hamas in any meaningful way. In 2021, they said they eradicated Hamas meaningfully. And of course, the, you know, two years later, they did the largest attack in decades. So nobody, and even if you get rid of Hamas, such that it is whatever that means, after you kill 10, 20,000 civilians, 40,000 civilians, that doesn’t mean you of course get rid of violent resistance from people in Gaza, because that’s not a group, that’s a sort of an ideology, regardless of what sort of color it takes on, whether it be Hamas or some other sort of PFLP, or some other tactic, whatever that is. So no, one sort of realistically thinks that’s going to happen in a meaningful sense. And so your sort of options are, are they just sort of killing an arbitrarily high number of Palestinian civilians, as recompense, this kind of Bronze Age recompense for the civilians that that that that the attack killed on October 7, or they’re actually just sort of following through on preexisting plans to to effectively get rid of Gaza, I think it would probably frame it as like a buffer zone or something. So you know, their goal may not be explicitly to settle Gaza necessarily, but they would basically turn it into a wasteland, which they’ve already done. Again, they’ve destroyed over 40, almost 40% of the homes, almost 50% of people in Gaza now are homeless, according to the latest figures. And this is just three weeks. So now at this rate. This is–

Nima: And we just heard from Netanyahu, that now the quote-unquote “operation” has entered its second phase. So the reason you kind of bring up it’s only been three weeks is it doesn’t seem like, well, it’s been three weeks, and now it’s going to end? It really does seem like it will only get worse.

Adam: Right. And so there’s urgency on the left, especially the I would say the Western left quote-unquote, because the we arm fund and pay for all this, and obviously, therefore in our politicians who we told people to vote for and campaign for whether they be Senators or Congresspeople the generic way, not us. We don’t, we don’t electioneer–

Nima: [Laughs] For the record.

Adam: And then that these are the people in our name with our money, doing this horrifically obviously manifestly bad and evil thing. And so there’s been a couple of arguments that have been put forth about why you can’t call for a ceasefire. This is because the goal was to kind of buy time and to give Israel time, to give Biden time to give Israel time, because this is looking very bad. Politically, forget, again, set aside the moral dimensions of killing a child every nine minutes and 28 seconds, the political dimensions are recent polls show that Biden dropped 11 points amongst Democrats, there’s obviously panic about losing Arab, Muslim, but also just youth votes or anyone with a conscience, I think they’re sort of hyper focused on Muslims and Arabs, sort of reducing it as some kind of irrational, kind of tribal anger.

Nima: Or weird tribal solidarity kind of.

Adam: But then they’ll sort of throw it at the end. They’ll say youth vote too. And it’s like, Oh, you mean people who don’t get their news from MSNBC and CNN but can look at Twitter and TikTok and see like, well, that’s bad. And so the first argument number one, the one the first argument we talked about is this idea that, which we’ve which we’ve addressed before, is the is the sort of religious-like belief that Biden is somehow changing things from the inside. And if he was to call for a ceasefire, it would effectively be meaningless, but it’s more impactful for him to kind of reduce atrocities, kind of harm reduction, right? So he’s gonna he’s gonna take the genocide from a 10 to an 8.5. Now, this is, the thing I compare it to is kind of like Richard Nixon’s secret plan to win Vietnam, right. It’s like it’s a secret plan. No one sees it. There’s no way of falsifying it. There’s no way of proving it, but he’s sort of reining them in from the inside. And initially, their argument to support this was, oh, the ground invasion was delayed for two weeks, that that was that was by just doing that was sort of diplomatic coup. And then the New York Times reported, sort of somewhat quietly, and this was this was confirmed by the Washington Post and others, that the delay of the ground invasion, which is now underway, again, to some extent, we can debate how intense that’ll be given the amount of losses that are piling up on the Israeli side. But they said, oh, actually the delay, I think they had some throwaway paragraph about humanitarian needs or negotiating hostages. But the delay was when the US could secure it prepare its own forces in the region. Right. You know, they had bases they have, they have troops in the Negev, they have troops in Syria, they have troops and, and, you know, all throughout–

Nima: And they sent the fucking aircraft carrier.

Adam: And they sent an aircraft carrier. And so that’s turned out not to be true. And so then they said, Oh, well, the internet, you know, the internet went back on in certain parts, that was due to Biden, and it’s like, well, yeah, but they turned it off, like three days ago. So you know, how do I know they didn’t just turn it off so they could turn it back on to give Biden some wiggle room? I mean, there’s no–

Nima: There were reports that because it was like, cloudy at night, the Israeli Air Force decided not to provide a certain kind of cover for them the ground invasion, which, you know, like, weather did more than the fucking Biden administration, like, the idea that there’s some kind of secret backchannel, and that and that that is somehow, you know, bearing better fruit than what something else would, you know–

Adam: Rather than saying, I’m gonna pull your funding and arms if you don’t stop funding–

Nima: Because if this is the backchannel, then clearly, either it’s not working, or somehow, you know, 8, 9000, you know, Palestinians slaughtered is somehow acceptable. That’s the good side of Biden’s efforts. Right. Ooh, it would be so much worse. Well, if that’s the good news, then clearly, we should not take at face value this idea that like, look, you know, it would, he’s, he’s working all the angles, right? Right. Come at him publicly.

Adam: He’s, you know, it’s like the QAnon guys who think Trump was like hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein, because he was going deep cover into the, into the pedo ring. It’s like, oh, Biden’s been spinning his whole life supporting, you know, the war in Iraq, and Contras, and all this sort of neocon, sort of right-wing foreign policy positions, because he was really, he was really actually a bleeding heart humanitarian, who was just waiting for the right moment to push Netanyahu. No, that’s not to say that the US doesn’t have like, PR considerations, right, that may sort of mitigate certain extremes. But that would, you know, they get out that so what and that doesn’t really end up mattering that much. And that’s mostly superficial, which gets to our second objection, which is a response to a ceasefire demand by simply just avoiding the demand and coming up with a secret third thing. And so this has manifested primarily as a popular call for quote unquote “humanitarian pause,” has now become the popular buzzword. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. Certain various chickenshit Congresspeople around the margins. This is specifically being pushed by J Street who, in concert with other pro-Israel groups, effectively said and admitted as much on Twitter two days ago, that they’re going to primary or punish or pull support from electeds who support a ceasefire, but will support people calling for a humanitarian pause, which should be, this is also a term that was first floated by the Secretary of State Tony Blinken. It is coming from the White House, it is coming from pro-Israel groups. It is probably has the tacit endorsement of the actual government in Tel Aviv, I would think or some version of it. Because it doesn’t fucking mean anything right. Now, for the last two days. My partner Sarah Lazar, and I have been trying to figure out what’s the definition of humanitarian pause, we’ve emailed you a stream if you want others, and I got a piece coming out about this eventually. Nobody knows. Nobody knows what it means. There were several humanitarian pauses during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 that lasted six to nine hours, and then they would just go back to bombing people, and they were phrased as humanitarian pauses. And so my assumption is, is that, and obviously you can sort of Israel does, intermittently stop bombing. So in theory, you could just paint that as a humanitarian pause and call it that. It’s not clear what if it’s–

Nima: It could also be called like reloading, but apparently that is a humanitarian pause now.

Adam: Because it again, it makes a big difference. Does it last 20 minutes, or does it last two weeks? You know, if humanitarian pause last two weeks, then now that’s sort of getting into the realm of like a reasonable ceasefire, but the definition actually matters a lot. And thus far, no one has presented a definition–

Nima: Everyone knows the difference between a stop and a pause.Even if you don’t, even if you don’t have a tape deck.

Adam: You pause your TV show.

Nima: You still have a remote control. Now, you know, what a pause is as opposed to a fucking stop.

Adam: And it’s not a semantic difference. And the reason we know it’s not a semantic difference, because the White House and J Street support one and they vehemently don’t support the other. So obviously, it matters. Obviously, there’s a difference and so a lot of energy is going into this idea of humanitarian pause, I predict that probably sometime in the next week or two, there’ll be a humanitarian pause and a bunch of nonprofit and liberal nonprofit industrial complex types and fence-sitting quote-unquote “progressives” will take credit for it. But ultimately, it won’t be very meaningful.

Nima: And praise Israel for it.

Adam: And more importantly, above all, is that groups like Amnesty International, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, every single major Palestinian organization, every Palestinian civil society group, every single protests that I’ve seen every single, Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, the millions of people pouring on the street in solidarity with Palestine, Palestinian organizations we’ve seen throughout the country, every one of them is calling for a ceasefire, I have not seen a single one call for a humanitarian pause, whatever that means. And so really what it looks like to the to the sort of cynical eye, if I, if I may say is that it looks like they’re kind of just, they need to give Democrats cover because they know that their constituents are seeing babies being pulled out of rubble, they can see the viral videos, they can see the stats, they can see a child being killed every nine minutes and 28 seconds. And they need something to kind of look busy. And at first they did this sort of pro forma, you know, again, we talked about this, ‘Israel needs to follow humanitarian law,’ which they love to say, which is, again, one of them or if you’re killing a child every 10 minutes, I think that ship sailed. And then they do sort of they need to allow in–

Nima: The best part of that, Adam, let me just say, is when that talking point is used, and then there’s a follow-up question. ‘So we know you’ve been stressing that they follow international law, humanitarian law. Do you think they have been?’ And they’re like, ‘Thanks for your time, everyone.’ And the interview’s over, like, it’s clear, this is just a bullshit talking point.

Adam: Yeah, they’re not, the idea that we need to somehow pressure the following natural law is absurd on its face in the idea that because they’re already cutting off water, fuel, food and electricity, which is, again, collective punishment by definition, unless there’s a specific electricity line going directly to Hamas.

Nima: Endless occupation, colonization also against international law.

Adam: It’s already, half a dozen international laws have been broken here. Right. So we’re kind of pissing in the wind that none of this means anything. And the calls for a ceasefire, again, is the bare minimum. Obviously, there’s a ton of other things that need to be addressed after that. But that’s the call that that Palestinian groups have united around because it’s simple. It’s clear. It’s indefinite, it’s like we’re going to stop doing this. And that’s going to be that and that’s the call because we need to stop the bombing before we address anything else. Because none of the other things matter without the stopping of the raining of bombs that are killing hundreds of people a day. And so this kind of Third Way humanitarian concern. People like Ro Khanna have perfected this, you know, he said, and, you know, he did the whole ‘I support Israel,’ everyone does Israel’s right to defend itself, which is actually our third cliche, right? That’s right, Israel, our third response is the very sort of tough guy phrase, rote phrase of Israel has a right to defend itself, which is what you say when you want to sound it sort of superficially sounds true. Or it sounds kind of intuitively reasonable. Like, of course, they have a right to defend themselves. But again, if you know, China puts a spy balloon over California and US responds by nuking Beijing, we would argue that that is not a proportionate response or a reasonable response. The issue is not whether or not Israel has a right to defend itself, which again, in many key ways, especially when it comes to the occupation, it legally does not have a right to defend itself. Because an occupying power again, Russia does not have a right to defend itself in Ukraine, Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself when it’s occupying foreign territory, that’s sort of black letter international law, you the only way you can do the only way you can legally and ethically defend yourself as an occupying power is to remove yourself from an occupation.

Nima: Of course, Israel, you know, said to have the right to defend itself, never followed up, curiously enough, by Palestinians, or Palestine, having the right to defend itself, right, you can kind of see the difference that, you know, Israel has the right to defend itself, and we have to get humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. That’s, that’s the one-two punch there, like, it clearly shows the difference in dynamic, the difference in power, the difference in what we are told is allowed, right? Palestinians don’t have the right to defend themselves. But they definitely need to die under Israeli bombs and by Israeli bullets, and then we get to kind of wring our hands, and be upset about it and have a humanitarian pause, and then Israel can get back to the bombing, because we are told that that is somehow defense. And so that is, that is the dynamic there, right. It’s never Everyone has the right to defend itself. It’s Israel does. Palestinians obviously do not. They also are, you know, by virtue of what we hear in our politics in our press, they obviously don’t have the right, we’re told, to resist occupation or to resist colonists.

Adam: Because even if you sort of say, okay, certain tactics, you know, that Hamas does are bad, right, let’s say just a civilian killing civilians to try but it’s, let’s say they killed civilians, like you can say, okay, well clearly on some, you know neutral or objective sense they have a right to attack military targets, sort of legitimate military targets that are occupying them. Nobody says that. They sort of flattened it all into one sort of like terror framework. And it’s like, well, that’s again, that’s fairly convenient because the reality is, all you can do is just sort of turn over and die. And so when someone says Israel has a right to defend himself, which again, Bernie Sanders tweeted out today, ‘Israel has a right to defend itself.’ It’s this thought-terminating cliche that’s meant to sort of turn your mind off and you say, okay, but let’s again, let’s accept the medieval logic of killing some arbitrarily high number of Palestinians as revenge, right? In the October 7 attack, let’s say, okay, so they’ve killed thus far, almost 8500 Palestinians, by the time you’re listening to this number is no doubt going to be larger if you’re not watching live. They’ve killed 3300 children. Like even if you accept this crude, perverse collective punishment logic, right, which of course we don’t. But even if you did, clearly, they’ve they’re now in excess of that, that they’ve sort of gotten out of their system. That this is in, you know, Congresswoman Omar asked this in a press conference in response to criticism from Ritchie Torres. She said, How many is enough? 1000 is enough? Yeah. How many children do you need 1000, 2000, 3000? Course when she said that it was 1000. Now, now it is 3000. And I think that’s actually the right question to ask, which is how many dead children do you need before you call for a ceasefire, instead of wringing your hands and talking about bringing water to the people that you actually think deserve to be bombed? Because the implication of calling for humanitarian pause without also calling for a ceasefire? Because again, if someone says, I support a ceasefire, but let’s do humanitarian policy is kind of a halfway gap. I actually sort of have no problem with that. But that’s not what you’re hearing. What you’re hearing is, I support the humanitarian pause, ceasefires are not a good idea. That’s what the White House is saying. That’s what J Street saying, that’s the implication of a lot of this. Is what you’re saying is that implicitly, actually, I think the bombing itself is justified.

Nima: Right. Is justified and should continue, Israel should be allowed to do whatever it wants.

Adam: But we somehow need to mitigate harm by allowing in some water and electricity in some flour, and that way, they can be bombed on a full stomach. And I’m not entirely sure what the fucking point of that is. Because the demand coming from these global protests, the demands from Palestinians, the demand from again, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Israeli human rights groups, the demand is to stop the fucking bombing, it is not to do a boutique artisanal four-hour pause, just so you can start again. But you can see this is what they did in 2014, you can look at articles from 2014, and say, you know, humanitarian pause in Israel, and everyone’s okay, good. And then then they bomb for another five weeks and kill another 1200 people, 1200 civilians. So this idea of, of, of the whole point is to kind of manage the left, right, that liberalism is at its core, an ideology based on managing populist currents, and for the most part that includes the left, which is to say, you need to channel it, confuse it, frustrate it, redefine it, put it into this nonprofit, put it into this, you know, it’s a raging river, and you need to kind of stream it off here stream it off there, or they’re redirected here. And then sometimes you got to build a dam to stop it altogether, push it back. And that’s really what you’ve been seeing over the last two weeks. And of course, that’s the vast majority, what we talked about on our show is that like, you aren’t that these things are playing you, you’re you’re being played by a demand that no one has that was not that did not stem from any Palestinian society, did not stem from any demands from any human rights groups, independent groups, it came entirely from the White House, and J Street and other people aligned with the US State Department. And it’s not as if there’s going to be some you know, some people are saying okay, maybe it’s a gateway drug, and maybe it is but if you actually listen to what the people that you’re trying to influence are saying is they’re saying it’s not, they’re saying that the goal is to sort of put a happier face and a shinier face on what could very well be an ethnic cleansing campaign. So let’s talk about our fourth talking point here. Which is, I’m doing my planning, this is what they call dead the air in radio.

Nima: That’s amazing. Your number three in The Nation piece. I want–

Adam: I think I went out of order.

Nima: I just want to note, this one is the ‘Israel will stop bombing when Hamas releases the hostages.’

Adam: I love this one. I get this one a thousand times a day.

Nima: Or surrenders, right?

Adam: Why are you not asking Hamas to surrender? Well.

Nima: Hand in your Hamas membership card and we’ll shred all of those.

Adam: This is one of these really cool tough-guy things you say, they’re gonna surrender. A) this is an endorsement of collective punishment regardless, because with the whole, if you say ‘I don’t believe in collective punishment, but we need to keep bombing until Hamas does X,’ congratulations you’ve just made a pro-collective punishment argument because you cannot punish 2.3 million people based on the actions of a single, you know, group of individuals or organizations that’s that’s the nature of collective punishment.

Nima: And the idea that there’s a constant, not only threat, but also murderous action ongoing until the other side does something is actually the hostage-taking situation itself.

Adam: Yeah, Israel has hundreds of hostages as well. Well, I mean, they kidnap children all the time.

Nima: Literally have hostages, but the idea that like, well, you know, unless you do what Israel says, Israel is going to keep bombing like, that’s the punishment part. That’s the hostage part. Right. Just as much as Hamas holding whatever it is, 200 Israelis, like the population of Gaza is also in a hostage situation. And Israel is just murdering, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people today.

Adam: So over the weekend, this was after I wrote this, there was four different articles in the New York Times about terror tunnels, they’re going back to the terror tunnels. I know you’ve I think you’ve written about before, which is that Hamas has, it has a catacomb a sort of an intricate network of underground tunnels that these bombs are supposedly trying to hit even though they’re not really bunker busters. So I don’t even know what the New York Times newsletter had this today. But there’s obviously many problems with this. Number one, even if it was true to that great extent they’re claiming it is obviously it’s still unjustified, blowing up schools and playgrounds and in hospitals. But even if you accept that it is if you actually overlay where these supposed tunnels are, according to the Wall Street Journal, with a map of where the bombing is, there’s no correlation at all. So again, they correlate in terms of general population density, but they generally they correlate the population density anyway, because that’s where the people are. And there’s whole sections of southern Gaza, especially they bombed, they bombed to shreds, especially when people are going on route from north to south that have no none of these alleged terror tunnels. So I’m working on a piece right now, which will come out later this week about the terror tunnel panic, and I want to hear your thoughts on it. Because they trot it out. It’s sort of the last resort when you need liberals to kind of go along with the getting they see these horrific images, and they say, Oh, these are actually human shields. And Hamas is actually responsible for their deaths, because they put humans above the terror tunnels where they’re also, by the way–

Nima: You’ve got to get through the babies to get to the tunnel.

Adam: Right, where they’re hoarding food and fuel. And so therefore, you also saw the collective punishment argument. And the New York Times did a ton of heavy lifting on that, cited entirely by Israeli military sources and some vaguely undefined Arab intelligence, to make it look like it wasn’t just a Mossad press release they like again, as if like Saudi Arabia–

Nima: They Google translated it into half-Arabic.

Adam: Right. And this, of course, is extremely perverse. But it’s very popular, you know, this is kind of for like, half-paying attention, liberal boomers who say, Oh, this is bad, but they got terror tunnels, and then they kind of move on and they sort of don’t feel bad about it anymore. And again, all this is to sort of redirect the streams, it’s to buy time and to prevent the sort of floodgates from bursting. Yeah. So talk to us about terror tunnels. I know you’ve you’ve just discussed this before.

Nima: [Laughs] Well, talk to us about terror tunnels, Nima.

Adam: You’re the terror tunnel expert, you tell me.

Nima: Clearly. Look, we’ve heard this for decades now. But the idea that there’s this underground network and then you know, I saw recently, Adam, the Israeli military released some video of like, captured Hamas agents saying like, Oh, yeah, we totally, you know, put as much as we can under hospitals, because you noble Israelis will never hit that, we know they’re safe. So, a couple things one, a, you know, effectively guerrilla urban-based resistance group is obviously not going to have like military bases out in the open, right. Like, like, let’s just even if everything that Israel says is true, and it’s not–

Adam: Of course. Where are they supposed to put their military bases?

Nima: This is why I also bristle at the term ‘war,’ when it’s like ‘Israel-Hamas war.’ It’s not a fucking war. There’s one military involved.

Adam: Yeah. This is not the War of Austrian Succession. This is not the War of Jenkins’ Ear. They’re not on the battlefield.

Nima: So, yeah. There’s that, which, yes, is frustrating, I’m sure, to the Israeli military, and so they try and kind of skirt the issue of the fact that they’re not actually fighting.

Adam: Well, assuming they’re really trying to bomb tunnels, which they’re not.

Nima: I’m saying at face value,

Adam: Yeah, face value, okay. Like, they’re just not trying to do any kind of military–

Nima: Even if that’s the case, right, resistance groups are part of an urban landscape. And then, you know, that is part of it.

Adam: It’s the same logic that–

Nima: It does not justify or make legal collective punishment. You can’t just say, Well, you know, I suspect that there is a hostage situation going on in this, you know, in this city block. So, I’m going to take out five surrounding city blocks, and we’re gonna resolve that situation.

Adam: Even if you take it at face value–

Nima: Even at face value. Okay.

Adam: Because they never provide any evidence of these alleged, like any time they blow up a hospital, they don’t like show evidence, they have a 3D graphic they have of the supposed tunnel but even if it’s true, it still doesn’t justify blowing up a hospital.

Nima: Of course not. Incidentally, one of my favorite things that we see again and again, in the, you know, 3D rendering of what these terror tunnels look like, they’re always like, conference rooms.

Adam: Well, yeah, well, they have to have war meetings.

Nima: [Laughs] It’s not just supplies and like, here’s the fuel. And here’s like, the weapons cache. There’s also like, you know, like a, like a fax machine on a table. And it’s like, they really go for it.

Adam: Well, the graphic designer’s earning his paycheck.

Nima: It’s a well-oiled machine. They have Wednesday morning 11am meetings. And so there’s that. But, you know, another part of this, of this terror tunnel bullshit is the idea that the Israeli intelligence agencies have like, full-scale maps of what’s going on in Gaza, right, they know, they know where everything is. What they didn’t know, somehow–

Adam: Was the 2000 fighters amassing on their border with submachine guns and Toyota pickup trucks.

Nima: Totally unknowable.

Adam: No idea. They had no idea that was coming.

Nima: And we’ve, we’ve discussed this before. And I’m like, one of those things can be true, they can’t both be true.

Adam: So what’s probably true is they kind of have no idea. They’re lobbing bombs in places they feel that maybe there’s some Hamas fighters, but mostly, they’re just kind of terrorizing citizens, right? There’s no evidence that they’re sort of really doing anything remotely targeted. And again, it’s the same logic–

Nima: When you shoot missiles at ambulances, ahen you when you when you flatten entire city blocks, you are not–

Adam: Being precise.

Nima: You’re not trying to hit a target that you’ve determined

Adam: And this is consistent with the mowing the grass logic, it’s consistent also with this idea that, you know–this is the same argument the US used for why it killed, you know, three to four million people in Vietnam, where, you know, roughly 10% of their population, their argument was that, oh, this sort of fighters are living among the civilians. Now, if a force you’re fighting is quote, unquote, “living among civilians,” especially as an occupying power or a foreign power, occupying a land that’s not yours, there’s probably some degree of buy in here. We can debate how much that is. But even still, it’s like, well, yeah, they’re, you know, they may not even like the fighters, but they’re not going to like sell them out. They’re not again, they’re not going to do the Magnificent Seven.

Nima: Oh, right. No, it does. It makes every civilian complicit.

Adam: Right, and militarizes the entire population, which, of course, is the goal of the talking point, the goal of terror tunnel talking point, it’s effectively militarized 2.3 million people, because then they’re sort of just all, they’re just a country of human shields, just as Vietnam was a country of human shields, which is extremely convenient if I’m an aerial dominated power as the US was in Vietnam. And as Israel is in Gaza. It’s extremely convenient, because then I don’t ever have to risk any of my soldiers, right. I can just lob bombs into it. It’s like when they say the new Eli Lake talking point and a lot of pro-Israel groups, they say, Oh, well, you know, Hamas, people are dying in Gaza as the leadership of Hamas is in a swanky hotel in Qatar. And you’re like, Well, okay, if the command and control center of Hamas is in Qatar, then go invade Qatar. I don’t want to do this kind of macho thing but like, Why don’t you go pick on a country your own size? Why don’t you go instead of just bombing a defenseless population without any surface to air capacity or you know, capabilities or any kind of air defense or air warning or siren system or anything like that? If the if the main bad guys are holed up in a hotel in Qatar, then go invade Qatar, go, go find a proper country, go find a proper army and a proper air force. And of course, because it’s got nothing to do with like, taking on Hamas. It’s a total, it’s total, it’s totally protected.

Nima: Can I also note, you know, you said, without any air defense system, without any warning system, the the frequent counter to that is one of the, one of my favorite kind of grotesque Hasbara talking points, Israeli propaganda talking points, of, Well, you know, the Israeli military drops leaflets, and they make phone calls, telling people who are in either the hospitals or the apartment complexes or, you know, mosques or churches to evacuate, because they’re going to be bombed–

Adam: Evacuating hospitals is traditionally very easy to do. It’s like changing your tire.

Nima: [Laughs] Six minutes, six minutes.

Adam: Tops.

Nima: And, you know, it’s like, if you don’t evacuate, within three minutes, you know, there’s, you know, there’s going to be an airstrike, or sometimes they’ll drop a little bomb on the roof, right? To only kill, you know–

Adam: Which can kill you.

Nima: Right, maybe not flatten the entire fucking building. And so, then this is supposed to be the humane action of a just military. Incidentally, this is also, you know, this is something that dates back now, almost a century if not, a little less. When, you know, during Jewish uprisings, Zionist uprisings in Palestine and the mandate, during the mandate of Palestine, when the British government was occupying Palestine, to suppress that uprising, whether it was Jewish groups or Palestinian groups opposing occupation, or in the, you know, case of Palestinian groups opposing the British cover for ongoing Zionist colonization of their land, the British would then, you know, would then send in their airplanes, but what did they do first? They dropped leaflets.

Adam: They dropped leaflets. You’re kinder, gentler.

Nima: Again, there is nothing new, right. Israel learned from its, you know, British benefactors?

Adam: Well, it’s all it’s all about PR.

Nima: But it’s all about PR. Right? It is all about that this is the moral thing to do. You, you know, ‘Hamas doesn’t give any warnings when it sends its, you know, rockets. Hamas doesn’t give warnings, Israel gives warnings.’ And it is a terror campaign, if we’re talking about if we’re gonna use a fucking term terrorism, which we also don’t need to use. But that is a fucking terror campaign, it is to scare the shit out of everyone in those buildings, knowing that they’re about to die, knowing that there’s no chance that you’re going to get your baby out of her crib, and downstairs and to where? Because everything else has also been bombed. So this idea that the leaflets or the phone calls or the text messages is somehow you know, makes Israel the moral side of this is basically buying into this idea that like, you know, telling someone you’re going to kill them before you kill them, makes you a better person.

Adam: Yeah, I think in international law, that’s called the, the Equalizer principle, which I learned from the Equalizer films, if you’re Denzel Washington, and you tell the bad guys how exactly you’re gonna kill them, it’s okay to kill them legally, as long as you sort of foreshadow it and do it in a really cool way. Right? So I think Israel is abiding by the Equalizer principles, so therefore it’s okay. And I think that this will seem, we can kind of wrap it up here, but this sort of lay of the land is that we’re now going to waste another week, trying to bully a bunch of supposed progressives in Congress to even use the C word. So maybe when we get to like, I don’t know, 10,000 dead children, they may get around to it, because that’s ultimately how this is going to end, there’s gonna be there’s going to be some arbitrarily either it’s going to be full blown ethnic cleansing, or there’s going to be some arbitrarily high number of Palestinians who died and will end up back to where we would have been had we had a ceasefire two weeks ago, only there’s going to be an excess of four or 5, 6, 7,000 dead children. And it will just end up right back to a ceasefire, again, barring an actual ethnic cleansing campaign that makes you know, that expels Palestinians into either into a, you know, the size of a few football fields in southern very southern tip of Gaza in the desert or actually pushes them into Egypt. Barring that, we’ll just end up back at the same place anyway. It’s just a matter of how many–

Nima: Which everyone knows.

Adam: And everybody knows this, and it just really depends on how many civilians have to die in the interim, really, until they’ve sort of felt like they’ve gotten some, again, arbitrarily high number of dead people as payback.

Nima: Well, yeah, you know, I think, Adam, as we continue to see what is happening and, you know, continue to write about it, speak about it, I’m sure we will do more of these shows. Thank you, everyone, who was able to join us live for this. So appreciate you all and your ongoing support of our show. But more importantly, of course, support Palestine and, you know, look for those organizations that are doing their best right now.

Adam: As far as, so, I think that those groups, I hink they sort of don’t need more money from what I understand, although give to them anyway because whatever. But I think what really people need to do is to call in to lobby your electeds. Whoever they happen to be. Ask them to support a ceasefire, it actually does matter.

Nima: It’s true. And we don’t we don’t always say that. We don’t always say that.

Adam: Yeah. Because a lot of times it doesn’t matter, but actually does matter here. I do think there’s, I think at least it’s worth trying. It’s worth trying to sort of give more momentum to that. So contact your Senator or contact your Congressperson and tell them that you support a ceasefire, again, attend as many protests as you can, they do matter, especially now that they’re being criminalized. Again, they wouldn’t criminalize them if they didn’t matter. But I think those things are useful to keep the pressure on and to not sort of make, you know, 200, 300 dead children a day become normal. It can’t become normal.

Nima: So yeah, that will do it for this Citations Needed livestream. Thank you all for joining us. Of course, we will be back very soon, with more of our full-length episodes of Citations Needed. So stay tuned for those, more News Briefs and more livestreams like this coming your way. So until then, of course, you can keep following us on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed. If you’re so inclined, you can become a supporter of our work through We are 100% listener funded so all your support is incredibly appreciated. But that will do it for tonight. Thank you all for joining us again. We will see you again soon. Hopefully talking about something a little less shitty, but I doubt it. Hey, it’s Citations Needed after all, but thanks again for listening. Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed live show was recorded with a virtual audience on Monday, October 30, 2023, and released on Tuesday, October 31, 2023.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.