Israel In Gaza: Is it a Genocide or not? (2)

As “Free Palestine” campaigns go wide, a key part of the argument of the protesters is for all to judge the situation not as rationalists or political persons but simply as humans. 

The occupation has killed over 11,000 people, injured more that 27,000 and displaced 1.6 million with thousands still under the rubble. 41% of the murdered are children and 25% are women. These are far from little numbers and considering what percent of the little population Gaza simply has, genocide appears to be the appropriate term in the eyes of many. 

Hence, the stance of many remains that even if the word shall be legally useless, it remains the truth and should be called what it is. “Without sticking to the truth, we’ll never have a truthful reckoning of how we arrived at the seventh of October, and how we go forward,” says Segal, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University. “We need to name it for what it is.”

“Such egregious violations cannot be justified in the name of self-defence after attacks by Hamas on 7 October, which we have condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the experts said. “Israel remains the occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territory, which also includes the Gaza Strip, and therefore cannot wage a war against the population under its belligerent occupation,” they said.

While it is true that the action of genocide became recognized from past examples, which thus became models to compare against, it seems to be unjustified that the stated “threshold” is derived directly from history. It is believed that the definition of the level at which genocide would be accepted as a description should be relative and considered based on the current situation at the time. This comes to realising that the legal statements should be redefined and the term accepted for current use.

As regards the proof of genocidal intent, it seems to be clear to some in the words of Israel’s leaders. In a recent speech, Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, pledged to reduce parts of Gaza “to rubble” and invoked the people of Amalek, the foe that God ordered the ancient Israelites to genocide in the Bible. Defence minister Yoav Gallant called for a “complete siege” on Gaza and stated that “we are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.” Army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said forces would turn Gaza into a “city of tents” and admitted that Israel’s “emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy” in dropping hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza.

Apart from these people, who are known to oversee the military operations, experts say the dehumanising language used by Israeli lawmakers and officials should not be ignored in judging their intentions. 

Defeating the claims of Hamas being their target, Israeli President Isaac Herzog blamed Palestinian civilians in Gaza as a whole for Hamas’s October 7 attack: “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true, this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true, They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.” 

The minister of heritage, Amichay Elihayu, advocated for dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza, saying there were no non combatants in Gaza. Revital Gotliv, a Parliament member from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, took a similar stance saying  “It’s time for a doomsday weapon. Shooting powerful missiles without limit. Not flattening a neighbourhood. Crushing and flattening Gaza.” Galit Distel Atbaryan, also of Likud, posted on X in Hebrew that Israelis should invest their energy in one thing: “Erasing all of Gaza from the face of the earth” and forcing the “Gazan monsters” either to flee the strip to Egypt or to face their death.

Segal says this shows they hold the entire Palestine as “an enemy population,” which could help prove intent.

Whether or not the term genocide carries legal weight hasn’t stopped others from taking actions. A number of complaints and suits have been filed which include the suing of President Joe Biden and other state officials by Palestinians and human rights organizations for “failure to prevent and complicity in the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide. It is said that Biden and co “have helped advance the gravest of crimes” by providing Israel with both military and diplomatic support. 

Also, in protest, was the resignation of Craig Mokhiber, a director at the United Nations, over the organization’s “failure” to act against what he called a “text-book case of genocide.” Recently, three Palestinian human rights organizations filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) for arrest warrants of Israeli leaders for genocide.

Whether or not the genocide accusations will be acknowledged internationally remains unknown and, apparently, unimportant. Verdeja put it even more simply. “The international community has responsibility already,” he said. “Whether it’s genocide or not I think is a little bit beside the point.” As much as the term seems to carry the emotion and weight the world wants it to, other terms such as “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity” which carry legal weight should speak as much. “These terms also speak to horrible atrocities and should be taken no less seriously,” said Becker, an assistant professor of international human rights law at Trinity College, Dublin.

“It’s important to remember that there is no hierarchy among crimes under international law,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “As stated in the preamble of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes all are ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole [and] must not go unpunished.”

This seems to conclude that even if the description of the current events as a genocide will simply go into historical books, it doesn’t undermine the gravity of the situation as crimes remain crimes and should be punished.

– Rodiyah Khidir 


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