I cannot stop thinking about the dozens of Israeli children held in captivity by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in underground tunnels in Gaza, while above them Israel’s attack has killed, so far, nearly 4,500 Palestinian children. Stopping the violence, and returning the hostages, is urgent for any person who values all lives. That it is very difficult to imagine how this happens tells a terrible truth: Those with the most power to effect change refuse to recognize the humanity of all people.
There is little doubt that the Palestinians who participated in the mass murder of more than 1,200 Israelis and migrant workers on Oct. 7 did not see their victims as humans, and that decades of Israeli military occupation, siege, oppression and repeated attacks motivated this dehumanization. There is also little doubt about the dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society well before Oct. 7. Shirts printed by Israeli army units have depicted pregnant Palestinian women and children as military targets; calls of “death to the Arabs” have characterized the annual settler Flag March through the Old City in Jerusalem; and students as young as 13 in Israel sing anti-Palestinian songs, “hoping that your village burns down.”
Now, Israeli politics, society and media are awash with annihilatory language against Palestinians in Gaza, from the dehumanizing language of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s “total siege” order, where he referred to Palestinians as “human animals,” and journalists who have called to turn Gaza “into a slaughterhouse,” to banners on bridges in Tel Aviv that call “to annihilate Gaza.” Israeli state leaders, ministers in the war cabinet and senior army officers — people with command authority — have used such language dozens of times since Oct. 7 in a way that constitutes clear “intent to destroy,” according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
On Nov. 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III for complicity with genocide. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of Palestinian individuals and organizations. It requests that the defendants stop “providing further arms, money, and diplomatic support to Israel on grounds that there is an unfolding genocide by the State of Israel against the civilian population of Gaza and the U.S. officials have a legal duty to prevent, and not further, this most serious of crimes,” according to the center.
The submission to the court includes an expert declaration by three leading Holocaust and genocide studies scholars: Victoria Sanford, Barry Trachtenberg and John Cox. Sanford has written extensively on genocide and state violence in Latin America, especially in the case of Guatemala. Trachtenberg and Cox have published widely on the Holocaust. They stress in their report that the “levels of destruction and killings in just over one month, together with the annihilatory language expressed by Israeli state leaders and senior army officers, point not to targeting of individual Hamas militants or Hamas military targets, but to the unleashing of deadly violence against Palestinians in Gaza ‘as such,’ in the language of the UN Genocide Convention.”
The assessment of the three senior Holocaust and genocide studies scholars is accurate. [Continue reading…]