The Sarah Kendzior Newsletter
October 29, 2023
I woke before dawn and Satan was trending.
I did not know why. There were too many options. Was it the mass killing of Palestinian children whose cries were cut off as the Israeli government plunged Gaza into darkness? The theocrat selected to lead the House after backing the unpunished insurrection? The unending pandemic and its deleted data and official obfuscation? Was it Ukraine, Acapulco, Lewiston? Or was there a new geographical shorthand for tragedy?
Had Henry Kissinger finally died?
That prospect was enough for me to click on “Satan”. But like the X on black, it marked no spot. No tweet it summoned mentioned the devil. But they did not need to when evil is the default mode. I fell down a wormwood wormhole. I spent hours lost in tales of horror, and exploitation of horror, and excuses for horror. I could not decide what scared me more, the silence or the screams.
The algorithm was riding vibes. Satan was superfluous and Twitter was a dead see scroll.
Twitter has always been a place where people go to bear witness to the disappearing world. Like many, I joined in June 2009 to watch the protests in Iran. I watched until they were interrupted by the death of Michael Jackson, and I thought of all the ways the world could stop. For fourteen years, I watched people rise up and I watched their governments beat them down. I watched followers who felt like friends pass away during a plague. I watched election violence and mass shootings and climate catastrophes. I watched strangers from all over the world comfort each other and give advice on how to survive.
That last part – that is why I stayed. Not for the advice, but for the kindness of the gesture.
I watched the network get hijacked from within. I watched users depart, many for the understandable reason that they did not want to watch nazi garbage float to the top of a platform run by a plutocrat determined to sink the rest of us.
And I watched people return in October 2023 to document atrocities the Israeli government carrying out, because they were afraid no one else would. They came to announce they had lost their jobs for mourning Palestinian civilians. They came to post video footage of protests against genocide that tend to be covered by the media in bad faith or not covered at all.
If they lived in Gaza, they came to say goodbye.
They returned to a broken network to document a broken world, because it was one of few options left. Politicians and pundits pretend it is easy to move. It’s their favorite mantra: move, move, move. Move on from the covid dead. Move away from your bad red state. Move out of your bad fascist country. Move from the network run by that cruel oligarch to the network run by this cruel oligarch. Don’t think about your community left behind, just move. Don’t ask where the money is supposed to come from, just move. Don’t ask what it means to leave a land you love, just move, and let us take it from you.
Move forward, and don’t look back, because you will watch history repeat, and it may not be the history you were taught. You are supposed to receive an apocalypse without its literal meaning: revelation. You are not supposed to understand what is happening.
Don’t ask where you are supposed to go if you live in an open-air prison with closed borders that an apartheid regime bombs with high-tech weaponry while the wealthy terrorist group propped up by the apartheid regime does nothing to help you — just move.
If you don’t move fast enough, then that’s your fault. You may be five years old, the most common age of a civilian killed in Gaza, but it is still your responsibility to move. You may be a Palestinian dual hostage of Hamas and the Israeli government, but it is your fault for being born, why didn’t you plan your move in the womb?
A pale moon rising in St. Louis, Missouri
You may be a hostage of Hamas kidnapped on October 7, but Netanyahu does not like to dwell on your plight. Your role is to be his pawn and stay. Roughly half of the Hamas hostages are foreign nationals. 54 are migrant workers from Thailand. Most are Jewish civilians whose abduction, along with Hamas’ sadistic murder of 1400 Israelis, ignites generational trauma from a history of pogroms and the Holocaust. Netanyahu’s regime exploits that trauma to attempt to justify the slaughter of Palestinians. But most Israelis detest Netanyahu’s handling of the attack, which includes him ignoring the families of the victims. They have criticized him. Now new laws are being proposed to shut down free speech and free assembly in Israel.
Satan is trending on the hellsite once called Twitter. Too many told the truth and shamed the devil, and now the devil is mad. You are an X in a black box: a target. It is an unpleasant place. But leaving feels like leaving people in worse places behind.
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By the afternoon, Satan was trending for a reason. Netanyahu had proclaimed that Israel was in a Biblical war against “Amalek” and vowed that Israel would “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have.” He did not specify who Amalek was. This proclamation followed his genocidal rant proclaiming the Palestinians “children of darkness” and the Israelis “children of light”, after which the US government offered him a hundred billion dollars.
Israelis, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, and others worldwide have taken to the streets to call for a ceasefire. It is important to commend those trying to stop the violence, because they are brave given the blacklist and the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia. They prove humanity is not without conscience and courage. It is reassuring to see people whose ethics are set in stone when world events feel like waves trying to erode rocks of morality.
Good folks are out there. They come from every region and religion. But they are not running governments.
I cannot decide whether the core of the US government’s relationship with Netanyanu’s regime is fanaticism or money or bloodlust. The US government has long basked in all three: this is our unholy trinity. Throw in espionage, blackmail, and nukes, and you get a real witches brew, one that raises and rehabilitates old ghosts.
Political villains from my childhood are reappearing. In July, Biden appointed Elliot Abrams, an Iran-Contra criminal and genocide architect, to his administration. (Abrams previously served under Reagan, Bush, and Trump.) In 2021, the Kahanists and their party, Kach – an extremist group founded by 1970s and 1980s terrorist Meir Kahane that was once banned by both Israel and the US – merged with Netanyahu’s kleptocratic backers to form a vicious coalition.
In 2022, the US removed Kach from the terrorist watch list. In 2023, the US started funding the Kahanists, who are now in the Israeli government.
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US officials have a history of making strange comments about Israel. If I were to include them all, this article would be thousands of pages long. Some are cited in my book They Knew, which describes the apocalyptic ambitions of the Reagan administration through the Biden administration, and how Israel is used as a metaphorical and real site for these aims.
It is hard to find causes Democrats and Republicans both back without hesitation. It is horrific that common ground lies in their mutual willingness to abet genocide.
The reasons for this are multifaceted and not fully clear. It is worth reviewing these officials’ words, which go far beyond affection for Israel or interest in protecting it. In the interest of brevity, I’ll include only people in top positions:
* In 2015 former CIA head turned Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaimed, “We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle… until the Rapture”. Pompeo, who became very rich through the Israeli lobby, had a series of meetings with the head of Mossad after leaving office. He is one of several Trump administration officials to wax rhapsodic about the end times while meeting with Israeli intelligence officials.
* Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the House, proclaimed that his 2020 visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was “the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy.” Johnson is one of many Republicans in Congress working with Israeli Kahanists who want to destroy Al Aqsa Mosque, build the Third Temple, and usher in the end times. Jim Jordan, who nearly became Speaker, has met with the Kahanists more than any other congressman.
* In 2007, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New Yorker that God had selected him for the US Senate in order to be the guardian of Israel.
* In December 2018, I became worried that the Capitol would be attacked. This was not due to Trump, but due to Nancy Pelosi stating to megadonor Haim Saban – who defines himself as a one-issue donor, with the issue being Israel – that “If the Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain would be our commitment to our aid, I don’t even call it our aid, our cooperation with Israel.” Pelosi has never explained why she was discussing the Capitol crumbling at all, much less why, if it did, her priority would be a foreign state instead of the US. Pelosi has also confessed to appointing people to committees based on their “Israeliness” (her word, not mine).
* Hakeem Jeffries, the House Minority Leader, responded to the Israeli military’s slaughter of Palestinian children in 2014 by giving a speech proclaiming “Israel today, Israel tomorrow, Israel forever”. Jeffries was affirmatively paraphrasing segregationist George Wallace’s cry of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
* Donald Trump, a lifelong friend of Netanyahu whose son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is even closer to the Netanyahu family, has made enough incendiary comments to form a separate book, from threatening Jewish Americans by saying that “US Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel before it is too late” to proclaiming himself “The King of Israel” and “the second coming of God”, to, well, this sort of conversation. An excerpt from They Knew:
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There is more where that comes from, but it is enough for today. Note the political and religious diversity of the participants. There is no one group driving policy, nor is it about religion at heart. Piety may be the politician’s favorite pretext, but their deeds denote darker goals. There is no other country that has spurred US officials to express unified, bipartisan fealty to an increasingly authoritarian power.
As for Biden, he has ardently proclaimed himself a Zionist, but that is typical for a US politician. To my knowledge, he has not proclaimed himself to be divinely selected to serve a foreign state. But there is no mystery as to where he stands.
As of October 29, at least seven thousand Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli military. Nearly half of them are children. The death toll is expected to rise because it is difficult to find dead babies buried under collapsed homes.
But the high death toll is not in dispute. Journalists provided a list of names and ages of the victims, using the same Palestinian source the State Department uses. The United Nations and multiple NGOs have verified the list as accurate.
But Biden did not accept the death toll as real. To believe it would be to take responsibility for what the United States is doing under his leadership: abetting genocide. He can never walk his denial back. Each denial had a name, a face, a life. Biden doesn’t need to spout apocalyptic rhetoric like his fellow politicians. His actions will always speak louder, and more cruelly, than his words.
Every Halloween, I reread Ray Bradbury’s Something This Way Comes. It is the story of a dark carnival, a mirage that lures even good people into committing horrific acts, a threat that children can see but adults tend to ignore. Bradbury describes The Autumn People, who thrive in the month of October:
“For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.”
One of the characters of Something Wicked This Way Comes notes that we all have the potential to be Autumn People, that we are born “half-and-half”, and that we must choose what kind of people we want to be.
There is a bomb dropping in Gaza and a speech being prepared in DC. There is a child in the rubble and a mother sobbing at his side. There are people around the world watching horrors they never wanted to see. They watch through screens, and they watch through tears. They bear witness, and they make a choice.
It is October 2023, and Satan is trending again.