Commentary. We are at almost 18,000 dead so far, but by Christmas we will reach more than 20,000 dead, and it would be fitting to add a tank to all our nativity scenes.

The slaughter of civilians in Gaza must go on

Just like a show, the slaughter must go on. That’s what the Biden administration showed it wanted on Friday night at the U.N. Security Council, as it vetoed a desperate resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, put forward in an exceptional procedure by U.N. Secretary General Guterres, who invoked Article 99, giving him the right to bring forward matters that present a “threat to international peacekeeping and security.”

The result of the vote showed the isolation of the United States: out of the 15 Security Council members, beside Russia and China, France also voted in favor and the U.K. abstained. Netanyahu, whose fortunes and political leadership are vested entirely in the war cabinet that has rescued him for the time being from his share of responsibility for the October 7 Hamas attack, is thankful: he’ll be happy as long as he can keep showing that he has “won” in Gaza with the ongoing massacres.

If he can keep doing that, his political salvation and his position of power will remain solid, and whatever happens to the hostages won’t matter, as he himself said. Meanwhile, he attacked Guterres, threatened him and almost went as far as to accuse him of being affiliated with Hamas. But Guterres’ “fault” is only that he spoke the truth: “The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss. The international community must do everything possible to end their ordeal.” He added: “The brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

He is a lone heartfelt voice, whose merit, in addition to that of telling the story of these dramatic events without double standards, is that of calling the authority of the UN to task amidst this darkness on a global scale. The Israeli government has literally been bombing that same authority over the past two months, hitting its offices in the Strip, killing hundreds of its staff and officials, and picking off the remaining UNRWA schools one by one, the only center of solidarity and welcome left for 2,300,000 Palestinian women, children and elderly, deported first to the south then back to the north, with the promises of “safety” belied as mere criminal posturing with every Israeli raid. The only prospect they have is of a new, enormous Nakba. But where can they even flee?

A massacre of defenseless civilians is taking place in Gaza. This is also proven by independent investigations by brave Israeli journalists (such as the one by +972 Local Call, published by il manifesto on Thursday) which show that it’s not a matter of collateral damage: the killing of civilians is conscious and planned. The outrage of invoking “human shields” simply covers up another outrage: 800-pound bombs, almost like in the bombing of Rome – if you engage in terror bombing of civilian targets, how can you not know that the victims will be civilians? We are at almost 18,000 dead so far, but by Christmas we will reach more than 20,000 dead, and it would be fitting to add a tank to all our nativity scenes. At least 7,000 of the dead were children. Those still left alive have no care available and no psychologists to help them, but only a wide-open view of Hell itself: their homes no longer exist, often their parents no longer exist either, and those who are injured – as International Court prosecutor Khan has confirmed – “are operated on without anesthesia.”

And they see grown-ups being humiliated, rounded up like animals, mockingly displayed half-naked with hoods over their heads – of course, all made to look like Hamas militiamen, with lies about where they were actually arrested, such as those of the Israeli delegation at the UN when talking about Khan Younis.

At the outset of the Israeli military response, Joe Biden – who voted for the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and who at the disastrous withdrawal of the NATO mission from Kabul even admitted that the military intervention wasn’t done for “democracy,” but to “avenge 9/11” – had warned Israel not to make “the same mistakes” as the U.S. did in Iraq and Afghanistan. But after the U.S. veto at the UN on Friday night, it seems Biden’s message should be read very differently: “Go ahead with the slaughter. What we did in Iraq and Afghanistan has never been punished, and never will be.”

Abu Ghraib, the extraordinary renditions, Guantanamo, the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the massacres in Mosul and Fallujah (where, not coincidentally, the “ISIS generation” originated) – what international court has ever committed to delivering truth and justice for any of these? Now, there is nothing but fear in the face of so much new violence and impunity, exercised unlike the hand-to-hand butchers of Hamas but with refined and depersonalized technology, artificial intelligence, jets and tanks. When it’s impossible to stop an ongoing massacre of civilians, even with a vote of the Security Council on a threat to world peace, it means that violence has become legitimized. Like that of the settlers in the West Bank.

It’s shocking that the only response by the European Union has been to raise the alarm for commissions and initiatives to be vigilant amid fears of terrorist attacks in Europe this holiday season, after the attack in Paris by a young radicalized Iranian. Europe and Italy – which, in the person of Meloni, applauded Netanyahu and Biden’s outrageous veto – would do well to look in the eyes of the children of Gaza more than worry about the make-believe peace at Christmas markets. Independent testimonies by Doctors Without Borders and investigations by various media, including from the U.S., tell us of a phenomenon as tragic as it is new: children as young as 5 years old who, seeing themselves orphans and maimed in ruined hospitals where even the doctors have been killed, are saying that they want to commit suicide; and so many 8- and 9-year-olds who are forcefully saying that all they want to do in life is fight Israel.

And we should give some attention to a dangerous announcement by Netanyahu. After the proposal of allowing the death penalty for Hamas terrorists, made by Ben Gvir’s fascist right wing, was shelved, partly because of the stiff opposition from the hostages’ families, the Israeli premier has given the green light to Mossad’s overseas operations to target Hamas. This new war, an extension of the Gaza massacre, is likely to visit us at home, striking any Palestinian targets. Unfortunately, we have seen so many of these executions since Munich in the 1970s – which the Mossad itself later admitted were a mistake. It’s enough to be a radical Palestinian intellectual, or maybe a poet: back then, it was Wael Zuaiter in Rome; nowadays, Refaat Al Areer was murdered on Friday in Gaza, victim of a targeted execution. It’s all coming back, and worse than before.

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