The People of Amalek in the Economy of Moloch

Kitanya Harrison
9 min readDec 6, 2023

There were corpses everywhere, and roaming packs of now-feral dogs ate them. The bombs crushed the uncounted under fallen tower blocks, and there was no heavy equipment to perform a proper search and rescue. Still, the men tried to dig with their bare hands and smash huge slabs of concrete with hammers. Some of those trapped under the rubble could be saved. Rescuers wept as they left others to die of thirst and hunger in the dark. There would be more bombing. They could not remain. Those who survived made their way south towards designated "safe zones" that warplanes strafed from the sky. The bombardiers did not spare the hospitals, schools or houses of worship. They struck the already overflowing refugee camps too. As the death toll from the bombardment climbed, starvation and disease joined the battering.

Illness began to spread. There was little clean water and no sanitation infrastructure. Gastroenteric pathogens caused diarrhea, which, with no sewerage, further contaminated the drinking water. Every other person was vomiting or shitting. Or coughing. So many of them were coughing – wet and hacking – as they huddled together under pieces of tarpaulin or in bombed out buildings to try to stay out of the wet and cold. Although discussing it had become taboo, the four-year-old SARS2 pandemic was still ongoing. The highly contagious virus wrought havoc on the immune system, and anyone who had been infected was more vulnerable to pathogens. Disease was a weapon. A major general of the occupying forces wrote in an op-ed that "severe epidemics in the south will bring victory closer and reduce casualties among our soldiers."

Sick people cannot fight back.

Little humanitarian aid came. Even the aid workers were targets. The occupying forces accused them of being confederates of the armed faction of the resistance. The world did nothing to stop the slaughter. They did manage to send body bags, though – blue ones — for the mass graves.

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These opening paragraphs read like an excerpt from a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. They are not. As I write, they describe the situation in parts of the Gaza Strip 50 days into the Israeli bombardment. Even the quote from the senior military officer is real. They are the words of Israeli Major General Giora Eiland. These confessions to war crimes have come from the highest levels of the Israeli government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to Palestinians as "children of darkness" and the people of Amalek – an ancient tribe of whom the God of the Old Testament commanded the Israelites: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Samuel 15:3) The mass killing Israel is visiting upon the people of Gaza is distinct in the openness of the genocidal intent behind it.

In the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic, I wrote an essay called The Economy of Moloch, where I discussed the mass death we were witnessing as a kind of human sacrifice. The Economy was akin to Moloch – a Canaanite god described in the Old Testament to whom children were sacrificed. As the pandemic wore on, capital demanded the markets rev back up into full gear without Covid-19 mitigations as a drag. Whoever got sick, got sick, and whoever died, died. The number of casualties was immaterial. Netanyahu's comparison of Palestinians to the Amalekites sparked a familiar note for me. The mass death and debility of the pandemic and the genocide in Gaza are connected by many interwoven threads. For example, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to have the majority of its population vaccinated against Covid-19. At the same time, the occupied Palestinian territories it controls were denied access to the vaccines. Hierarchies of this kind expose who is worthy of life and who is disposable.

As I watched the carnage unfolding in Gaza, in my mind, the lens of the pandemic kept superimposing itself on top of the already horrific images. Military sieges kill and disable. So does Covid-19. Deliberateness and premeditation can play a role in both scenarios. For all the talk of "injecting microchips" and other wild conspiracies involving vaccines, withholding medical treatment to the people you injure and maim remains an infinitely more reliable way to control and dominate populations. That's why Israel bombed the hospitals in Gaza.

Blowing up health care facilities isn't necessary. The powerful can rather efficiently decide who lives and who dies by making obtaining proper medical care so tedious and unmanageable that they coerce ill people into choosing suicide, as is happening with Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying program. Life and death are the stakes for Palestinians under Israeli bombardment. It's less obvious, but these are also the stakes for the rest of us. The level of mass death the pandemic conditioned us to accept is a sign of a darkening present and increasingly dystopian future in which we have all been marked by the powerful as Amalekites – utterly disposable.

In capitalism's economy of Moloch, there is a constant "weeding out" process. Able-bodiedness is a dividing line. The disabled and chronically ill are chaff to be separated from the wheat. In addition, other "undesirable" populations, like the poor, ethnic minorities and Indigenous people (all of whom are more likely to be disabled) are pushed into the "to be disposed of" pile. The Covid-19 Pandemic is speedrunning this process by killing off medically vulnerable people by the millions and disabling orders of magnitude more, who will also be culled eventually. It is the logic of genocide with the cover of "we didn't pull any triggers; the virus did it." The sleight of hand makes victims accept or even demand the policies that will seal their fate.

There is impunity attached to the brazenness of the siege of Gaza that is unfamiliar. It's not the first genocide, and, unfortunately, it won't be the last, but it may be unique in its dropping of any pretense and the boastfulness of the perpetrators. Historically, genocidaires try to hide the intent behind their worst atrocities. You can see past the smoke and mirrors to a similar impunity in the handling of the pandemic, if you tilt your head slightly. From the beginning, people’s fear was assuaged by the consolation that it was only vulnerable people – the elderly and already infirm – who would die en masse, and that was OK. They weren't contributing much anyway. If the virus burned through them like flames in dry kindling, it was a net benefit to society. The work of protecting them was made to feel like a burden. They were to be resented for not being "strong" enough to survive.

Strength when mythologized becomes the bedrock of fascism. It forms delusions of grandeur and distorts reality. Strength becomes all that there is, all that matters. Israel's military is demonstrating the nation's strength by using a dystopian artificial intelligence program called Habsora ("The Gospel") to choose thousands of targets and bomb the civilians there into pieces. In our world, money is strength too. The billions of dollars of natural gas reserves off the coast of Gaza are not immaterial motives for Israel and its allies. Neither is Israel's desire to build the Ben Gurion Canal through Gaza. Similarly, economic interests drove the decisions to jettison public health measures during an ongoing pandemic. The business of overconsumption had to get back on track. The gospel of capitalism led the lieutenant governor of Texas to declare it was noble for grandparents to die of Covid-19 to preserve The Economy for their grandchildren.

A militarized A.I. called "The Gospel" and grandparents being sacrificed to The Markets: We're trapped in the storyline of a bad dystopian novel (perhaps titled, The Amalekites in the Kingdom of Moloch), except there is a real pandemic and real bombs are dropping on real people. The machinery of capitalism requires human sacrifice, as does maintaining the power of nation states. The mask that has fallen from the besiegers of Gaza reveals an old-school, brutally violent, European-inspired project of colonization. They feel entitled to those people's land and resources and are willing to destroy them all to take control of it. The pandemic remixes the waves of illness and mass death colonizers brought to worlds that were new to them but ancient to the inhabitants. Viruses and bacteria helped them conquer. Sick people cannot fight back. Never forget that power knows this.

Human sacrifice is at its heart about vicarious redemption. The sinner is saved by the blood of another. It is the ultimate act of scapegoating. Recall the origin of that term: villagers assigning all their sins to a goat and turning it out of the village or outright killing it. Death by the hand of someone who knows they're a wrongdoer is often the fate of a scapegoat. Ironically, the knowledge that they are the transgressor only furthers their certainty in their cause. They're the "white hats," the good guys. That means someone has to be more wrong. More importantly, exposing their sinfulness is the ultimate attack on their identity. It can be the justification for destroying a single person or an entire people.

What we're watching unfold in Gaza and with the pandemic are the violent death throes of colonial power, which never ended – it metamorphosed. Even while staring at the immense, soul-shattering cruelty of these projects of dominion, it is impossible not to see how utterly ridiculous the architects are. They are wholly cynical, crude fanatics who talk like poorly conceived comic book villains. They are clowns without the style or panache of The Joker. They have the biggest guns, though, and the most money. For them, these are the only requirements to rule (yes, rule) over the rest of us. This abject vulgarity is their philosophy.

The right to injure, disable and kill runs parallel to the right to plunder. In its quest to steal their land, the weapons and tactics Israel uses on Palestinians are grotesquely cruel. Snipers fire butterfly bullets that split open like hot, metal banana peels upon contact. They aim at knees and ankles and blow people's legs off. That is considered mercy. Flechettes – small metal arrows – pierce and score. Missiles with rotating blades land on overflow crowds in hospital parking lots. Bombs with huge payloads take down whole tower blocks. All the while, floating in the air are the microscopic viral packets that caused a pandemic. The people of Gaza have little to no personal protective equipment to prevent the transmission of disease. Most of the rest of us were successfully gaslit and propagandized out of continuing to use ours, so we could get back to spending to pad the bank accounts of private equity ghouls and other hypercapitalists. This policy of mandatory infection is also an assertion of the right to dominate and destroy people by weakening them first. Sick people cannot fight back! They cannot resist. They cannot rebel. They cannot overthrow.

The bedfellow of the right to dominate and destroy is the right to pretend. The oppressor must engage in magical thinking to maintain their imagined moral high ground. They spin their works of violent iniquity into elaborate fantasies of their heroism and equanimity. We only blew your leg off, not your head. We are merciful and to be praised. We've knowingly exposed you and your loved ones to multiple infections of a virus that will dysregulate your immune systems and may damage your brains (if it doesn't kill you first). We are paragons of freedom who want to unmask your beautiful smiles! Perspectives on worthiness vs. disposability run through this cruel intersection of fascism, violence and health.

Mass death enacted by mandatory infection is not passive. "Active" mass killing through bombs and bullets is easier to spot, though. Both horrors require creating conditions where life is impossible, and both always eventually meet. Strafe your targets from the sky with warplanes, while denying them clean drinking water and food. Cultivate unsanitary conditions that spread disease. Bomb the hospitals and withhold medical aid. Then send in tanks and machine gun-equipped drones to finish the job. None of this is new, except the technology. These are echoes of a history of conquest that continues to unfold.

The logic of capitalism and colonialism necessitates extreme violence. The central conceit is that certain people must be in charge because the rest of us can't be trusted. We are savage, dull beasts who need a "civilizing" hegemon. They make us hostages to their control of our means of survival. It is tempting to throw other people under the bus to maintain the illusion of safety. The belief that only the vilified "other" will be sacrificed is part of the right to pretend granted to only a select few. Eventually, everyone will be grist for the mill. The pandemic should have taught us that. If you are not one of the small handful of Masters of the Universe:

We are all victims of the wolf of capitalism.

We were all abandoned to a plague.

We are all targets.

We are all Palestinian.

We are the Amalekites, and we are being impelled – some of us at the wrong end of a gun, a missile, or a virus – to bow before the altar of Moloch. To speak of freedom from these curses is to blaspheme. Every prophet was accused thusly. We shall be too, but speak we must. Our words are powerful weapons too.

This essay is part of an upcoming collection with the working title Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse: Notes on Collapse from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Members of my Patreon received early access.

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Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | Rep: Deirdre Mullane