Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Palestinians from the same family evacuate young children, women, and the elderly alive and dead from under the rubble of their destroyed home and search for others after an intense Israeli air raid on Gaza City, May 16, 2021. A total of 174 people were killed in the Israeli raids on Gaza, including 47 children and 29 women. (Photo: Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Palestinians from the same family evacuate young children, women, and the elderly alive and dead from under the rubble of their destroyed home and search for others after an intense Israeli air raid on Gaza City, May 16, 2021. A total of 174 people were killed in the Israeli raids on Gaza, including 47 children and 29 women. (Photo: Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Colonial Powers Have Long Demanded the 'Right to Self-Defense' Against the People They Have Colonized

The fallacy of the colonial 'right to self-defense.'

The violence convulsing the Middle East has produced heart-rending images and statistics. As I write this, at least 160 people, the vast majority of them Palestinians, including at least 41 children—the vast majority Palestinian—have been killed as the Israeli military carries out bombing raids in densely populated Gaza and armed Palestinian groups hurl rockets at Israeli cities. Meanwhile, inter-communal violence has broken out across Israel.

In response, Western governments, led by US President Joe Biden, have been quick to unequivocally condemn Palestinian groups for the rocket barrages, but have been much more circumspect about condemning Israel's attack on Palestinian civilians.

Colonial occupiers have long claimed a "right" to defend themselves from the resistance of native communities, including by committing mass murder.

Lukewarm expressions of "dismay" and "grave concern" at Palestinian deaths have been interspersed with declarations of "unwavering support for Israel's security and for Israel's legitimate right to defend itself". They have also included appeals for "moral clarity", implying that the actions of Palestinian groups, though causing  a tiny fraction of the death and destruction that Israeli bombardment has wreaked, were nonetheless much more objectionable.

While some progressive politicians—such as US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—have pointed out the hypocrisy of a blanket assertion of the Israeli right to self-defence, even they have balked at outright rejection of Israeli justifications.

Colonial occupiers have long claimed a "right" to defend themselves from the resistance of native communities, including by committing mass murder. The history of African colonisation is littered with the corpses and mass graves of those who dared to resist the militarily superior Europeans.

In her book, the British Gulag, historian Caroline Elkins describes a "murderous campaign" by the British in colonial Kenya following the 1950s Mau Mau peasant uprising, including the establishment of concentration camps for 1.5 million Kikuyu civilians and a brutal system of torture camps that may have claimed the lives of tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of those suspected to have pledged themselves to the rebellion.

The idea that imperial land grabbers have the right to terrorise, brutalise, torture and murder those whose land they steal under the rubric of "self-defence" flies in the face of UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43 of 1982 which recognised "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle". That resolution specifically reaffirmed this right in the case of the Palestinian struggle.

Thus, today in Gaza, rather than seeking "moral clarity", the West is using moral obfuscation to justify attacks on a refugee population by a colonial power that has evicted them from their land, blockades them in what is, in essence, an open-air prison, and then claims the right to do so in peace and quiet.

When Western media speaks of a "cycle of escalation", it equates oppression to the resistance to oppression, presenting the violence as a conflict between two sides with equal claims to security and land. It ignores that the Palestinians are engaged in a struggle for national liberation against a decades-long illegal and immoral occupation, and the imposition of a regime of racial and ethnic discrimination which Human Rights Watch, in a report the media pointedly refuses to bring up, says fits the definition of the international crime of apartheid.

In interviews, Israeli spokespeople repeatedly stress the difficulty that Israel's self-declared "most moral army in the world" has in finding and killing what are in essence Palestinian resistance leaders, who, they say, are hiding behind civilians.

The Western press is happy to accept that the leaders of Hamas and other groups are legitimate targets, and with it, the implication that while its tactics may be somewhat unsavoury, Israel is nonetheless waging a legitimate war. Uncritically accepting this framing makes Western media complicit in the delegitimisation of Palestinian resistance to colonial domination and dispossession by the Israeli state.

As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, regurgitating the line that "Israel has a right to defend itself" without including the context of oppression simply excuses and legitimates even more oppression. But she should have gone further. If Western media, politicians and diplomats truly seek moral clarity, it behoves them to reject outright as gaslighting and bothsidesism, the outrageous proposition that colonial states such as Israel have a right to defend themselves from those they oppress.


© 2021 Al-Jazeera English
Patrick Gathara

Patrick Gathara

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo