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‘It Is No Coincidence Israel Chose US Super Bowl to Launch Latest Bombing Spree On Palestinians’

The western powers have expressed increasing concern over the conduct of Israel’s campaign in Gaza but applied no consequences in practice, writes former diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce after the NFL Super Bowl football game on 11 February 2024. Photo: George Walker IV/AP/Alamy

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I feel sick to my core. While I and millions of other American football fans indulged in the annual, bloated, orgy of consumption and excess which is the Super Bowl, Israel was busy killing hundreds more civilians in Gaza. 

I simply do not believe it is a coincidence that Israel chose the exact moment of the Super Bowl to launch its latest bombing spree on Palestinians, since it knew most of America would be too distracted to care or react.

Most people were indeed fixated on the tight nature of the game, which went into over-time, the romance between Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs star player Travis Kelce, the half-time show by Usher, and the traditional competition for which inane commercial generated the most ‘buzz’.  

The Super Bowl is America at its most extreme – over-sized, over-paid, over-hyped, mass entertainment. Watching it is like eating one hundred servings of McDonald’s burgers in one sitting – fun in the moment, nauseating in the aftermath. I enjoyed the show last night. I want to vomit seeing the pictures from Gaza this morning.  

The amount of money spent on the Super Bowl build-up, the half time show, the advertising, and the players and coaches themselves runs into the billions of dollars – enough to feed millions of refugees, shelter thousands of homeless people, or keep Ukraine’s army going, for several months.

While President Joe Biden, members of his administration and Congress seem unable to reach deals or find the money to help address these important matters, at least they still found time to watch the Super Bowl.  

The Israel-Hamas War: Searching for Moral Clarity Amid Conflict

Former British diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall reflects on the complexities involved in the conflict and why there are no easy answers – if any

In a monstrous example of poor taste, at the close of the game, Biden tweeted an image of himself with sinister stars sparkling from his eyes. This was an allusion to the conspiracy theory peddled by some before the game, especially Trump backers, that the Kansas City Chiefs victory, and Swift-Kelce romance, were all part of a sophisticated ‘psy-ops’ plot to support his re-election, because Swift is believed to be a Democrat supporter. Biden presumably meant to goad his opponents. Instead, he just descended to Trump’s level.    

This time, the Israeli assault was on the supposedly ‘safe haven’ of Rafah, the place where Israel had previously urged Palestinian civilians to move to, in order to seek shelter from Israel’s attacks on Hamas elsewhere in the Strip. Indeed, Israeli spokespersons previously played up their evacuation guidance to Palestinians to move to Rafah as an example of how they were seeking to protect civilians. No more.  

I’m happy for the two hostages that were rescued. But the troubling suggestion that Israel deliberately attacked Rafah as a diversion for the rescue attempt creates a difficult question: how many women and children are Israel willing to kill for each freed hostage? Is there a number beyond which they will not go? Or is the life of each Israeli hostage beyond measure? Who makes the determination in each case, and on what basis? 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also gave two interviews on Sunday repeating his opposition to the two-state solution; determination to continue the war in Gaza until Hamas is “eradicated”; and intention to retain Israeli security oversight of the strip after the war.  

He continues to dodge the questions about where Palestinians are supposed to go if Israel doubles-down on its offensive in Rafah. How are they supposed to survive, if the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is shut down, and other humanitarian agencies access remains restricted? How are they supposed to live after the war, when their homes and livelihoods have been wiped out? How is Gaza to be governed longer-term, and by whom? 

It’s just over two weeks since the International Court of Justice issued its ruling mandating that Israel must take immediate steps to prevent genocidal actions in Gaza, allow access for humanitarian aid, and ensure the preservation of evidence of alleged crimes. 

Israel was also required to submit a report to the court within one month on the steps it had taken to comply with the orders. But, so far, there’s little evidence that Israel has changed course. Rather, there’s evidence of more violence, increased civilian casualties, and a worsening humanitarian situation. The UN has described Rafah as a “pressure cooker of despair”.  

Israel would also appear to be in breach of the order not to incite genocide – with Netanyahu conspicuously failing to condemn an ultra-nationalist conference held in Jerusalem three days after the ICJ ruling, attended by 11 Cabinet members and 15 members of the governing coalition, at which numerous participants, including National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, openly called for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and the influx of Israeli settlers.  


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In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal today, Israeli President Isaac Herzog condemned South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ as a “blood libel against the nation-state of Jewish people – a shameful low for an international system that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust”. He decried the international system’s “abandonment of moral clarity, the desertion of the vision of international justice and its replacement by cynical politics and outright falsehoods”, recalling again the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October last year.  

Hamas and its backers are definitely guilty of cynical politics. But so is Netanyahu, who has built his entire political career on opposing peace with the Palestinians, and whose immediate fate seems to rest on keeping the current conflict going for as long as possible, to defer new elections that would likely see him ousted from office, and facing criminal trial for corruption.  

And moral clarity cannot be a one-way street. Moral clarity involves recognising the illegitimacy of Hamas, condemning its brutal actions on 7 October, deploring its cavalier disregard for civilian life, and recognising that Israel has a right to self-defence. Moral clarity requires recognising the suffering of Jewish people through history, the particularly horrendous circumstances around Israel’s creation, and their enduring need for a safe homeland.  

Moral clarity does not require giving Israel carte blanche to respond to terrorism in any way it chooses, no matter what the cost in civilian lives and suffering. Moral clarity requires calling out excesses committed by either side. Moral clarity also behoves signatories of the Genocide Convention to uphold it.

The UK, the US and other western powers, have expressed increasing concern over the conduct of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, but applied no consequences in practice. When will they act? 

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