Don’t turn away from the charges of genocide against Israel

Don’t turn away from the charges of genocide against Israel

Megan K. Stack writes:

The word genocide rings loudly in our imagination. We think of Rwanda, Bosnia, the Armenians, the Trail of Tears and, of course, the Holocaust. I have heard many people balk at the suggestion that Gaza could be experiencing genocide. The Holocaust, after all, wiped out over 60 percent of European Jews. Israel’s war — instigated, no less, by the murder of Jews — has killed about 1 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza. One percent is terrible, of course, but genocide?

Under the genocide convention, though, the term describes an intent to wipe out a defined group of people and taking steps to achieve that end. There is no threshold of death, or proportion of death, that must be reached. It is possible to kill a relatively small number of people, but still commit an act of genocide.

We should approach this question humbly, because we — Americans, the West — have repeatedly shown that we are good at recognizing genocide only in retrospect. Virtually every cataclysm we now know as genocide, including the Holocaust, was met, first, with doubt and linguistic quibbling until finally — and much too late — a declaration was made.

Rwanda, often mentioned just after the Holocaust in the dirty annals of genocide, was acknowledged as such only after Europeans and Americans wasted precious weeks prevaricating and dragging their feet, leery of intervention, while U.S. officials refused to say the word “genocide” in public. Denial of the Bosnian genocide has continued to this day.

When I read the document assembled by South Africa, my mind reeled: How could it happen? How was it allowed to happen?

The harrowing details from Gaza go on and on. The crushing of the medical system. The slaughter of aid workers. The killing of journalists. The war on libraries, houses of worship and culture. The destruction of families and economic needs and possibility itself.

Nowhere is safe in Gaza. This line is repeated in the South African suit. Most of the people are starving. Around 70 percent of the dead are women and children and two mothers are killed every hour, the United Nations has estimated.

On Thursday, the South African advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi referred to Israel’s denial of fuel and water to Gaza.

“This admits of no ambiguity: It means to create conditions of death of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Mr. Ngcukaitobi said. “To die a slow death because of starvation and dehydration or to die quickly because of a bomb attack or snipers. But to die, nevertheless.”

The destruction of bakeries, water pipes, sewerage and electricity networks. The hoisting of Israeli flags over the wreckage. Calls from Israel’s government to return settlers to Gaza.

I don’t have to wonder how it could have been allowed to happen. It is happening now and we’ve all been watching. [Continue reading…]

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