Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Case of Palestine

declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  

Though still contentious in some circles even within the Palestine solidarity movement, I’d like to join the, Ali Abunimah, Ilan Pape and others [1,2] and put forth that Israel, typical of a colonialist entity, isn’t only guilty of war crimes, discrimination, and employing an apartheid system on the Palestinian people, but is actually committing genocide. Before the reader rules me out as another “extremist” and clicks on, I’d like to remind you that all these terms are legal terms. And though I’m by no means a legal expert, I intend to argue the legal points in this article, in hopes of not only proving that Israel is in fact committing the crime of genocide, but that legal professionals would refine these arguments and take them where they belong- International Criminal Court.

… intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group

“Intent to destroy” a group is a basic qualifier for the crime of genocide. Intent is probably the element of a crime that is most difficult to prove, however the zionist movement and its subsequent colony in Palestine in its 66 years of colonialism, has never really hid its intent, the “enemy” being identified alternately as “Arabs”, “Muslims”, or “Palestinians”. I give you exhibits A through H:

A- Theodor Herzl

When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us…

Granted, Hertzl wasn’t specifically referring to Palestine at the time, just outlining a generalized strategy. This quote within itself doesn’t show intent of genocide, but clearly outlines strategies of collective economic destruction (a “root cause of genocide” according to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website) and ethnic cleansing (another legal term). The quote’s relevance is in the future impact that Hertzl would have on the Zionist movement and its leaders, who had adopted his methods, as I intend to show in the rest of the quotes of this section.

B- Ben Gurion

What we really want is not that the land remain whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish [emphasis in original]. A unified Eretz Israel would be no source of satisfaction for me—if it were Arab.From our standpoint… We must expel Arabs and take their place… 

C- Golda Meir (collection)

Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us… Any one who speaks in favor of bringing the Arab refugees back must also say how he expects to take the responsibility for it, if he is interested in the state of Israel. It is better that things are stated clearly and plainly: We shall not let this happen… There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist… When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons… Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem just cannot be. This city will not be divided — not half and half, not 60-40, not 75-25, nothing. 

D- Yitzak Rabin

[Israel will] create in the course of the next 10 or 20 years conditions which would attract natural and voluntary migration of the refugees from the Gaza Strip and the west Bank to Jordan.

E- Ariel Sharon

While Sharon was more of a doer than a talker , he was nevertheless rather straightforward about his actions:

It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.[http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13805.htm]

You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away … I prefer to advocate a more positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave [http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/ethnic-cleansing-valley.html]

F- Ehud Olmert

There is no doubt in my mind that very soon the government of Israel is going to have to address the demographic issue with the utmost seriousness and resolve. This issue above all others will dictate the solution that we must adopt. In the absence of a negotiated agreement – and I do not believe in the realistic prospect of an agreement – we need to implement a unilateral alternative… The formula for the parameters of a unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.

G- Benjamin Netanyahu

This is the land where our identity was forged; this is our homeland; here is our country which was reborn. And the Palestinians must accept this. Otherwise, what we are being asked to do is allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state which will continue subvert the foundation for the existence of the Jewish state, which will try to flood us with refugees, which will advance irredentist claims from within the State of Israel’s territory, territorial claims, national claims… the most condensed version of the formula for a peace agreement with the Palestinians is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. We do not want to annex the Palestinians as citizens of the State of Israel and we do not want to control them, but naturally the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. This means that certain markers of sovereignty will have to be limited. [http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2014/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-addresses-INSS-Annual-Conference-28-Jan-2014.aspx]

And half a year later while massacring hundreds of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip:

I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan. [http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/netanyahu-palestinian-state.html]

This is the fourth day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF, the ISA and the security forces are fighting Hamas with increasing intensity. As of now, we have hit over 1,000 Hamas’, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations’ targets, and we are still busy… The pace of attacks in this operation is double that of Operation Pillar of Defense and the military strikes will continue until we can be certain that the quiet has returned to Israeli citizens… no terrorist target in the Gaza Strip is immune but it must be pointed out that Hamas’s leaders, commanders and activists are hiding behind the residents of Gaza and they are responsible for any injury to them. [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182803#.U850woCSzQk]

H- The next generation: Ayelet Shaked (supporting genocide from Electronic Intifada)

It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

(a) Killing members of the group

The aftermath of the Shuja’iyya massacre July 20th, 2014

In the past six years, Israel has committed 3 large-scale massacres on the Gaza strip. In the winter of 2009 Israel killed between 1387 to 1444 Palestinians in 22 days. In one week of November 2012 167 Palestinians were killed by Israel. And in the past 2 weeks Israel has already killed over 550 Palestinians, a fifth of which are children, and injured well over 3300, and the massacres continue as I type.

Added to this is Israel’s “trigger happy” policy in the West Bank, as it was dubbed by Amnesty International.

But Israel’s murderous policies against Palestinians have not started now. 7428 killings of Palestinians by Israel have been recorded in the last 14 years, and lest we forget that the zionist colonization of Palestine began with an ethnic cleansing, way back in 1948, in which more than 100 massacres were committed…including 10 “major” massacres. It is unknown exactly how many Palestinians Israel has killed since 1948 to this day.

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group

Obviously, so much killing, generation after generation, based on ethnicity (being Arab), race (being brown-skined),  religion (being Muslim), and/or nationality (being Palestinian), would inflict serious “mental harm”. Additionally, mental harm, both personal and collective, would be caused by serious bodily harm caused by constant assaults by the occupying army and its settler population, night raids, mass arrests and torture, not reserved only for adults, but aimed directly at children. And there is without a doubt mental harm involved in a policy of mass house demolitions, and a whole system based on checkpoints, permits and basic discrimination in registry status.

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

So I delved into much of that in the last section, but most of it refers to the West Bank, where Israel’s soldiers have physical contact with the population. The situation in Gaza is slightly different:

Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day… But a rather different picture emerges as one reads the small print. While the health ministry determined that Gazans needed daily an average of 2,279 calories each to avoid malnutrition – requiring 170 trucks a day – military officials then found a host of pretexts to whittle down the trucks to a fraction of the original figure… To achieve this large reduction, officials deducted trucks based both on an over-generous assessment of how much food could be grown locally and on differences in the ”culture and experience” of food consumption in Gaza, a rationale never explained.  

Click for the full translation of the “Red Lines” document.

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

Obviously the killing of babies with bombs, which has become a commonplace practice by Israel, in the past six years, while not preventing birth, is something to question under this particular section. While I won’t argue that this section applies to Israel, I will give a fair warning of a slope that could easily become slippery. There have been several documented cases of Palestinian women, about to give birth, who were stopped at Israeli checkpoints, only to have their newborns die of insufficient conditions.

Update 29.9.2014 While specifics have yet to be detailed, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir is “examining ways to lower the birthrate of the Bedouin community.”

On a “side note”, in recent years, it’s been revealed that Israel, as a matter of policy, has been subjecting it’s female citizens of Etheopian descent to a birth control drug called Depo Provera, one of its known side effects being sterilization.

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Once again, I don’t argue that this section applies to Palestinian children. I will however argue that Israel has passed this red line as well, in the late 40’s and early 50’s, when hundreds of Yemenite babies disappeared from Israeli hospitals and approximately 100,000 children of Jewish North African immigrants were subjected to radioactive “therapy” by the state, killing thousands of them [updated 14.10.2014]. In terms of Palestinians, the war crime of conscripting young Palestinian Druze and Beduins into the occupying army does not begin when they are 18.

Another aspect of assimilation should be investigated when it comes to Palestinian school children under Israel’s Education Ministry [Nakba memoricide: Genocide Studies and the Zionist/Israeli genocide of Palestine p.12]:

“… in 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Education ordered the term ‘Nakba’ to be removed from a textbook for Palestinian children (Black: 2009). The textbooks used by nearly one million Palestinian citizens of Israel are in Arabic but issued and written by the Israeli Ministry of Education. Abu-Saad argues that ‘the on-going resistance of the Ministry of Education to making substantive changes in the history curriculum for Palestinian students parallels the approach other settler colonial states have taken toward teaching history to their majority and indigenous populations’ (2008).”

[Updated: 22.2.2015]

It would also be prudent to investigate the letter of the law in regards to the fact that there’s an average of 700 Palestinian children who go through Israel’s incarceration system, every year, where they are subject to ill-treatment, beatings and torture. Many are abducted from their beds at night, at gun point. So while Israel isn’t trying to embed them in the colonists’ families, the mistreatment, torture, abuse and killing of children by Israel, is something to seriously consider under this section.

So that’s three out of five “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Another act which is less commonplace, but nevertheless demands particular attention, due the clear intent and execution of other crimes that may amount to genocide. And finally, the procedure of conscription into the occupying army, and the forced, temporary removal of children from their families and putting them in less-than-adequate “state foster care”, and the indoctrination of indigenous children by the colonizing government which also must be scrutinized in the context of the crime of genocide. I rest my case and put it up for public scrutiny.

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