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Is Israel Committing Genocide in Gaza?

Is Israel Committing Genocide in Gaza
Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM | REUTERS

The word “genocide” is starting to be used quite regularly in articles and discussions about Israel’s attack upon the Gaza Strip. Since Oct. 7, we have seen the indiscriminate bombing of homes, schools, hospitals, ambulances, shelters, and refugee camps. It was apparent to me that Israel was trying to kill anybody and everybody, not just Hamas. They have killed Palestinian civilians, men, women and children alike, along with UN relief workers, and even their own hostages taken by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel has done all this while denying water, food, medicine and fuel to Gaza. This, of course, has only compounded the suffering as people fight starvation and sickness. Hospital care is greatly affected without electricity and medicine. Children are undergoing amputations without anesthesia, to name just one horror.

Israel claims they are hitting Al-Shifa hospital because it is used as a command and control center. But the scripted and staged demonstrations they present on television do not pass the smell test. And they are not hitting just one hospital, but have hit several, and continue to do so.

They have displaced well over a million people who have no place to go. Leaked Israeli documents show that there is a plan in place to re-located the entire Gazan population to the Sinai. The IDF has made Gaza almost unlivable by flattening entire residential areas in order to encourage this outcome. Refugees from the north that have moved south to avoid the shelling, are now told they must leave the south to avoid shelling there. This, of course, leaves them no where to go. Israel is clearly determined to drive out all that they cannot kill.

So is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?

I know that genocide has a legal definition according to international law, and I am getting to that. But for me, the legal definition is not necessary to call it genocide — I know it when I see it.

The word itself is a combination of two words. The first, from Greek, is genos, which means race. The second, Roman in origin, literally means to kill. We can see that Israel is literally killing anything that moves in the entirety of Gaza, that nowhere is safe, and that the entire population is being threatened.

Practically everyone in Gaza has lost friends or family members. While the official death toll right now is around 12,000, there are many more buried in rubble. Many more will die for lack of functioning hospitals without power and medicines. Combine that with the denial of basics needed to live, like food and clean water, and it is clear that Israel is trying to destroy — physically and mentally — the entire population of Gaza.

These actions must meet the definition of the word genocide. Morally, there is no other word that comes close to describing the total and indiscriminate attempt to eradicate an entire population. Whether it meets the legal definition, however, is a different question.

Do the Actions of Israel Meet the Legal Definition of Genocide?

Genocide, as defined by the ICC and U.S. code, consists of violent attacks with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Well, Israel certainly appears to be destroying, in whole or in part, a specific national group, namely the Palestinians.

But for it to meet the legal definition, not only do the actions have to look like genocide, intent must also be proven. This is usually very difficult, as most political leaders would ever admit to this, or leave an implicating document trail. They will always offer some other reason that makes the action regrettable, but of course, necessary, in the name of the greater good, etc

With Israel, however, we don’t have that problem. Israeli officials have made several statements that would show intent to target the entire civilian population of Gaza. As Professor Norman Finkelstein, an international law expert, stated on the Bad Faith podcast with Briana Joy Gray, “We don’t have to infer it by the carpet bombing of Gaza, they are announcing what they are doing.”

He backs this assertion up with some direct quotes from Israeli officials. Yoav Gallant, the Israeli Defense Minister stated, “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”

He offered up one more, this one from Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of COGAT, Israeli administration that oversees the occupied territories, “…Hamas has turned into ISIS, and the residents of Gaza, instead of being appalled, are celebrating. Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

These statements provide us undoubtedly with specific intent, as they make it clear that Israel is not just going after Hamas, but the entire population.

Court May Decide on Whether Israel has Committed Genocide

We may get to see all of this played out in an actual courtroom. As the Intercept has reported, a group of Palestinians are suing President Biden for failing to prevent a genocide. The lawsuit states evidence of genocide on the part of Israel, backed up with expert testimony. What is interesting is that any court that agrees to hear this case would have to accept the premise that genocide is in fact happening, of course, before they could address the question of whether Joe Biden failed to prevent it.

The lawsuit cites additional quotes by Israeli officials, like this one from Agriculture Minister (former Shin Bet security agency head), “We are now actually rolling out the Gaza Nakba.” The Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), is the term used to describe the orginal ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land. The Nakba included expulsions and massacres that drove the population into Gaza, as well as other enclaves and neihboring countries. The use of this term is deliberate, and it is a direct call for ethnic cleansing and genocide.

On Oct. 10, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.” Again, this statement clearly signifies that Israel plans on targeting everyone in Gaza. And they certainly have, killing not only Palestinian civilians, but UN Aid workers, journalists, even some of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas, perhaps as many as 50 have died according to this report.

When you add it all up, it is very hard to deny that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. Whether we ever have legal verification on that score is anybody’s guess.

But I am hopeful that it won’t matter. The propaganda has worked extremely well for decades, but the ceaseless amount of images and tales of suffering coming from Gaza has awakened an entire generation to the grim realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The statements made by Israeli officials only confirm to our ears what our eyes already see.

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