Monday, April 29, 2024


While I'm not completely convinced that the Israeli action in Gaza meets the legal definition of genocide, I think the pro-Israeli side is largely ignoring the strength of the case that it does. I see my friends and family members just dismiss the idea out of hand. They seem to view the charge as nothing more than overblown rhetoric, or are just too offended by it to take it seriously.

But they should read the South African complaint. I don't mean hate-read it. I mean read it read it. Look at each allegation and take it seriously. In essence, whether there is genocide in Gaza comes down to intent. In a war, a lot of civilians are killed, people are forced out of their homes, etc. A lot of these things are war crimes in their own right, but are they the war crime of genocide? That really comes down to intent. Are Israeli leaders wiping out Palestinians on purpose or is this just a side effect of war?

The way you usually decide whether a government has intent is to look at what the leaders have said about the conflict and about the victims. Israel right now has an extremely rightwing government. It is probably the most rightwing government it has ever had. In the current political climate, "rightwing" in Israel often means anti-Palestinian. And so the far-right members of the Netanyahu government have said some pretty inflammatory things about Palestinians, including a lot of statements that suggest civilians and children are not innocent or are fair targets. Also certain members of the government have made explicit their goal is to take land from Palestinians in Gaza and replace them with Israeli settlements (which is ethnic cleansing, a type of genocide). In other words, there's a lot of evidence that the Israeli government has genocidal intent. The South African complaint lists a ton of examples, and that's just the ones they had as of December 28, 2023, when it was filed. It's not like the rightwing crazies in Bibi's cabinet have shut up in the past four months.

At best, the Israeli government is not following a clear policy of genocide but merely has people in important decision-making positions who are genocidal. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of Israeli purity and goodness. And there is a fair chance that what Israel is doing has crossed the line into genocide. And even if they haven't crossed the line, they have committed a ton of war crimes, like both completely failing to protect civilians and by intentionally taking certain actions (like cutting off food) which have caused unnecessary suffering of civilians. Whether those actions are motivated by "genocidal intent" or not is, on some level, irrelevant. Either way it is terrible and needs to stop immediately. And Israeli officials are right to worry that a war crimes indictment is probably coming (gift article).

But I also think that people who support Israel, for whatever reason, need to better understand the merits of the genocide charge and take it seriously.