Conor Gearty, 25 January 2024
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Rwanda before Christmas and on a visit to one of its genocide memorial sites tweeted that she ‘honour[ed] the memory of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi’, adding that ‘the past shall never be forgotten.’ But the present, it seems, can be denied. How do we square all these efforts at denial with the celebration by many in Israel at the death and destruction being visited on the population of Gaza, the pressure for the same kind of action to be taken in the West Bank, and the proud circulation by Israeli troops of selfies and videos from the scene to show to their families and friends? Describing the Palestinians as vermin to be removed or killed is hardly the language of denial, but many Israelis combine celebration with a denial that what’s happening is their fault. Denial in Israel is a means of keeping supporters abroad on message. We in the Global North need lies so that we can continue to see our support for Israeli action as morally possible.