Getting away with a call to genocide in Gaza

There has been a shocking lack of reaction to Florida lawmaker Michelle Salzman’s ‘all of them’ remark.

Florida Rep. Michelle Salzman makes a point during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Florida House of Representatives member Michelle Salzman speaks during a legislative session on January 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Florida, the United States [File: AP/Phelan M Ebenhack]

It was a spontaneous moment of honesty and clarity.

Representative Angie Nixon, a Democrat, was speaking earlier this month on the floor of the Florida legislature in support of a resolution she sponsored calling for “de-escalation” and a ceasefire to end the wanton killing of Palestinians in Gaza and beyond.

Her voice rising with a mixture of grief and exasperation, Nixon asked her colleagues in the chamber this question: “We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians. How many will be enough?”

Republican Representative Michelle Salzman replied – instantly.

“All of them,” she said.

Astonished, Nixon paused from her prepared remarks to acknowledge what other members of the legislature also heard – Salzman’s blatant invitation to genocide.

“One of my colleagues just said ‘All of them.’ Wow.”

Wow, indeed.

The muted reaction to Salzman’s burst of genocidal honesty and clarity is an instructive example of the engrained, marquee-sized hypocrisy that defines how most Western politicians, journalists, and the ready roster of frothing “pressure groups” tar any critique of Israel as a “blood libel” or “anti-Semitic”, but say and do nothing when one of their own promotes mass murder.

Despite Salzman’s predictable, hackneyed claim that the brief stir her sinister remark provoked was “fake” news, Nixon, was, rightly, having none of it.

“I was clear in what I was talking about, which were the lives of innocent Palestinians. Period,” Nixon told a local TV station in Florida. “She said that when I asked how many Palestinian lives have to end. She was clear. She said: ‘All of them.’”

Nixon and the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations insisted that, at the least, Salzman be censured, if not resign.

“Salzman’s words are incredibly dangerous and dehumanising to Palestinians here at home and under the Israeli occupation,” executive director Imam Abdullah Jaber said. “She must face her party’s censure and a public repudiation from all Florida legislators.”

Of course, unlike Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and the scores of writers, artists and citizens who have been pilloried, censured, fired, or otherwise “cancelled” for having taken a humane stand with the Palestinians, Salzman has avoided the same blunt, life-altering fate.

Salzman was not censured, nor has she quit.

Nixon’s ceasefire and “de-escalation” resolution was defeated by a vote of 104 to 2. And, during the “debate” over her failed gambit, it was Nixon who was assailed by Republicans and a number of her prostrate Democratic colleagues with the usual palette of distortions and lies.

Despite publicly condemning Hamas’s “terrorist attacks”, Nixon was, in effect, branded a “terrorist” sympathiser for backing an “immediate ceasefire”. She was also accused of inflating the number of killed Palestinians and scolded for referring to “occupied Palestine”.

Meanwhile, Salzman escaped largely unscathed and, after quickly stamping out the fleeting fuss, has perhaps even emerged emboldened.

On cue, Salzman trotted out on X the canard that her true target was Hamas, followed by this performative, exculpatory bit of nonsense: the “heartbreaking loss of Palestinian lives is never a desire of mine”.

Sure, it isn’t.

Salzman’s injunction to genocide was not “inflammatory” rhetoric. Rather, it was a detestable decree: to watch comfortably from sun-drenched Florida as, week after week, Palestinians, including infants and children, huddled in the darkness of the shattered remains of occupied Gaza and the West Bank, are being traumatised, maimed, and killed en masse with indiscriminate efficiency by Israel.

Salzman’s sick suggestion did not merit, to my knowledge, much attention in the major US news media seized by the “Israel-Gaza conflict”.

Nor did it earn the immediate rebuke of cliché-addicted President Joe Biden or his trigger-happy surrogates inside and outside the White House who are quick to denounce anyone, in any quarter, who challenges the stubborn, state-sanctioned narrative that Israel is always the saint and never the sinner.

Not one word.

The evangelical “pressure groups” who have pressed for the banning from public life of writers, politicians, artists, and so many others for demonstrating or expressing solidarity with doomed Palestinians, went mute in the face of Salzman’s call to genocide.

Again, not one word of condemnation or reproach. Only complicit silence.

Still, any attempt to dismiss Salzman’s foul response as an aberration would be a mistake.

As the lethal, unrelenting horror endured by Palestinians continues unchecked, my fear is that too many of Israel’s allies would join Salzman in answering Representative Nixon’s urgent query with: “All of them.”

Among them is Dr Darren Klugman, a paediatrician with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

In a series of chilling social media posts, Klugman, like Salzman, made plain his craving for not only the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral home, but their blanket erasure.

Klugman described Palestinians as “barbaric,” “savage” and “blood thirsty, morally depraved animals who want nothing short of every inch of Israel and all Jews dead”.

Klugman wrote that it was “time to reclaim Gaza” since there “is lots of sand for Palestinians in Sinai which Israel gave to Egypt”.

Finally, in reply to a post by Palestinian writer Mariam Barghouti decrying how “Israeli policymakers are quite literally calling for a large-scale slaughter” of Palestinians, Klugman wrote: “G-d willing.”

It is, I suppose, too pat to argue that, if a Palestinian physician working in the United States took to social media to announce such obscenities about Israelis, the denunciations and penalties would be swift and pervasive.

Johns Hopkins Hospital has put Klugman “on leave” while it investigates his “deeply disturbing social media posts”.

While a handful of American national news outlets covered the appalling story, Biden and company did not volunteer, nor were they asked, to comment on or condemn Klugman’s spigot of hate. The usually garrulous “pressure groups” have adopted a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” attitude.

Editors working at “elite” US media outlets confirmed their establishment credentials by training their editorial sights and resources instead on the White House-and-Congress-approved “March for Israel” that appears to have attracted fewer people than Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Their effusive coverage missed the rhetorical “doublespeak” at the core of an event that applauded and championed the surreal notion that war is peace.

When the self-proclaimed “peace guy” and ubiquitous CNN celebrity Van Jones proposed that the carpet-bombing of Palestinian civilians should halt, the crowd of about 300,000 jeered and broke out into a fulsome “no ceasefire” chant.

By now, it should be apparent that “no ceasefire” has become a polite euphemism for keep killing Palestinian kids, keep killing their mamas and babas, keep bombarding homes, schools, mosques, keep attacking and desecrating hospitals, keep forcing thousands of old and infirm Palestinians to walk for miles to find “safe haven” where none exists, keep food, water, and fuel from human beings desperate to stay alive in the ever-present prospect of death. Keep committing genocide.

Michelle Salzman and Darren Klugman would, no doubt, shout “no ceasefire”, too.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.