From the beginning, Israeli officials made clear their genocidal intentions in Gaza. And in the three months since October 7, they have kept their promises, inflicting incomprehensible suffering on the more than two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza.
Today, South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza and refers the matter to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations tribunal. Hearings in The Hague began today and will continue over the next week to determine immediate interim measures. In the United States, the Center for Constitutional Rights is suing President Biden, Secretaries of State Blinken and Austin for contributing to Israel’s “genocide of the Palestinian people.”
In this thread we will explain that Israel is committing genocide and why Israel’s prosecution under international law is important to our movement as Jews for Palestinian freedom.
The Genocide Convention
South Africa and Center for Constitutional Rights both rely on the Genocide Convention, the treaty that defines the crime of genocide in international law.
This definition includes two conditions for determining that a State is committing genocide:
- The state must demonstrate that it intends to destroy a group of people.
- Physical acts must be committed to bring this intention to fruition.
Israel’s months-long assault on Gaza clearly meets both of these legal requirements of genocide.
The Genocide Convention was drafted in the aftermath of the Nazi holocaust, in the face of a particular type of horror: not just massacres, but massacres with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national group , ethnic, racial or religious, as such”.
Intent is often considered by scholars to be the most difficult element of the definition of genocide to prove in court. However, Israeli government officials have repeatedly made their intent to commit genocide remarkably obvious. Their rhetoric and actions show that they are targeting and bombing Palestinians in Gaza for the sole reason that they are Palestinians in Gaza.
- On October 12, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said: “It’s an entire nation that is responsible. This rhetoric that civilians are unaware and uninvolved is not true. This is absolutely not true. …and we will fight until we break their spines.”
- Israel has now been “indiscriminately” bombing the Gaza Strip for more than three months, targeting churches, mosques, hospitals, schools, United Nations facilities, refugee camps, homes and very roads on which Palestinians were fleeing Israeli bombings. No place in Gaza is safe from the Israeli assault.
Five different acts can constitute acts of genocide when committed with this intent. There is overwhelming evidence that the Israeli government committed at least four of these five acts, much of which is exposed in the South African dossier.
- Killing party members : On October 7, Vice Speaker of the Knesset, Nissim Vaturi, declared : “Now we all have a common goal: to wipe the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth: “Now we all have a common goal: to wipe the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” Israel has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, including more than 9,000 children.
- Serious harm to the physical or mental integrity of members of the group: on October 17, Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, tweeted : “The only thing that should enter Gaza are hundreds of tons of explosives from the air force, not an ounce of humanitarian aid.” More than 55,000 Palestinians in Gaza are now injured. Half of them are at risk of starving to death. The World Health Organization warns that famine and the massive spread of disease risk killing even more Palestinians in Gaza.
Deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part : On October 9, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: “No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel: “No electricity, no food, no water, not fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly…Gaza will not return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything. The United Nations warned on Friday that the Gaza Strip had “become uninhabitable” due to Israeli bombing and blockade. The Israeli military has since cut off Gaza’s access to food, water, fuel and medical supplies, as well as, intermittently, internet and electricity. Half of Gaza’s homes have been destroyed or damaged, and 30 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals are out of service.
- Impose measures intended to prevent births within the group : On November 19, 2023, Israeli Army Major General Giora Eiland said: “Who are the “poor” women of Gaza? They are all mothers, sisters or wives of Hamas assassins.” There are around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, all facing “uninhabitable” conditions. Women giving birth have no access to obstetric care, an “ever-increasing number” of babies are dying from preventable causes, the risks of miscarriage and maternal death are high, and the bombing of hospitals by the Israeli army led to the death and serious illness of premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit in November.
Why this matters to our movement
Decades of international impunity and American support for Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians make it likely that the Israeli government will not even heed a legal finding that it is committing genocide. However, the cases brought before the International Court of Justice and those brought in the United States by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) remain important as a tool for our movement.
ICJ decisions are legally binding under international law. And if the ICJ finds that Israel is committing genocide, the 152 countries that are parties to the Genocide Convention are legally required to take action within their own governments to penalize the State of Israel.
These measures can range from the legal prosecution of officials at the national level (one of the objectives of the CCR affair) to unilateral economic sanctions, including political measures at the international level, such as the expulsion of international organizations. .
All of these avenues are organizing opportunities for our movement. They are consistent with BDS demands: to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel as long as it continues to violate international law in its oppression of Palestinians.
This is no coincidence: the BDS movement is based on international law. It recognizes that the Israeli government systematically violates the human rights of Palestinians and that these violations are repeated with impunity.
The exclusionary ideology of Zionism has always viewed the very existence of Palestinians as a threat to Jewish security, in turn using this fear to justify the oppression, murder, and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. It is a short step from the policies of ethnic cleansing and mass displacement that have existed throughout Israel’s history to widespread genocide. International human rights law – written largely in the wake of the Holocaust – expressly recognizes that the dehumanization and oppression of a group of people can lead to genocide.
As Israeli atrocities are broadcast daily from Gaza, international solidarity with the Palestinians is strong and growing around the world. If the ICJ determines that Israel is committing genocide, it will help us intensify our organizing for the liberation of Palestine, giving us even more opportunities to pressure governments around the world to stop supporting the Israeli government. – not only during this genocide, but also as long as the apartheid regime continues to exist.
Source: Jewish Voice for Peace
ED translation for the Palestine Media Agency