Link2Gaza is a series published by AMEU during the current crisis, offering small reflections by women and men who have written for The Link over the years. The ideas presented here do not necessarily represent the views of AMEU, whose official statement can be found here. Reflections are added as they are submitted.
Jeff Halper, November 2, 2023
ICAHD calls for an end to Israel’s 76-year campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people. The destruction of Gaza and its people going on before our eyes — accompanied by the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the West Bank being carried out by Israeli settlers and soldiers, which is largely unreported — is just the latest, tragic chapter in Zionism’s/Israel’s drive to Judaize Palestine.
On its own, the assault on Gaza is a war crime (as is Hamas’s killing of innocent Israelis). As our Call points out, genocide is often a prolonged process comprised of successive war crimes. If we step back and view the systemic destruction of the Palestinian people since 1947 — tens of thousands killed; 80% driven out in the Nakba and their lands seized; their dispersal; the denial of their national and human rights, even of their very existence as a people; their physical, cultural and juridical erasure as a people with rights to self-determination in their homeland; their replacement by Jews and the transformation of their country into an exclusively “Jewish” one — the picture that emerges is one of genocide.
We at ICAHD realize that this is an extremely serious accusation. But as an organization that gives voice to Israeli Jews engaged in a joint anti-colonial struggle with their Palestinian comrades, we believe it is crucial to view that struggle in a clear historical light. The Genocide Convention speaks of the intentional destruction of a people in whole or in part, and we contend that that is precisely what Zionism/Israel HAD TO DO in order to transform an inhabited Arab country into Jewish one. The Genocide Convention, as part of international law, carries with it sanctions and punishment for perpetrators of such a crime, and that is what ICAHD is calling for in this statement:
ICAHD CALLS FOR AN END TO ISRAELI GENOCIDE AGAINST THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
The term “genocide” was formulated by the Jewish-Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin against the backdrop of the Holocaust. It was codified as a crime under international law in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). The definition of genocide, as set out in Article 2 of the Convention, is simple and straightforward, its first three elements clearly reflecting Israeli policies and actions towards the Palestinian people since initiating its process of systematic genocide in 1947: 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.
By itself the ongoing destruction of Gaza and its people is a war crime, far too disproportionate to qualify as mere retaliation for the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, far too costly in civilian life and property to justify the scale of Israel’s militarily action against Hamas.
Genocide is often not a single event, but rather a series of deliberate events and processes over time whose ultimate intent is to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. The Indian Wars in America lasted three centuries. If we step back from the war crime that is Israel’s current assault on Gaza to the concerted effort since Israel’s establishment to erase the country of Palestine and its Arab heritage, the picture that emerges is one of genocide, cultural as well as physical. Zionism’s and later Israel’s necessarily violent project to displace the country’s Palestinian population, take its land and replace it with a Jewish one constitutes deliberate destruction of the Palestinian people in part or in whole.
Three events have prompted ICAHD’s call for urgent international action to end Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people: the indiscriminate bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza on October 31, 2023, in which hundreds of innocent people – refugees from Israel’s campaign of expulsion in 1948 – were slaughtered in order to assassinate a single Hamas commander; the brutal attacks happening now against Palestinians in the West Bank in which Israeli settlers and soldiers are terrorizing families and emptying whole towns and villages – forced displacement, a crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention; and the statements of genocidal intent emanating from the highest Israeli government and military officials, whether towards the people of Gaza or directed at Palestinians (“the Arabs”) in general, statements that lead us to fear heightened colonization and further genocide if the international community allows Israel free reign to erase the Palestinian people politically, culturally and if need be physically.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls on the international community – the UN, governments and peoples – to hold Israel accountable for its decades of genocidal colonization. Most urgently we call for isolating and sanctioning Israel until its destruction of Gaza and its people ends, and the violent displacement of Palestinians from their lands and communities by Israeli settlers and soldiers cease.
We call on the International Criminal Court to bring to trial for war crimes the responsible Israeli political and military leaders.
We call on the United Nations to enforce Article 3(e) of the Geneva Convention punishing for “complicity in genocide” the United States, Canada, Europe and other countries contributing to Israeli genocide.
Mimi Kirk, October 21, 2023
Defense for Children International Palestine reported last week that since Israel began its military offensive on the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack, it has killed at least 1,200 Palestinian children – one every 15 minutes.
This appalling statistic evokes Judith Butler’s notion of grievability, that is, that some lives are deemed worthy of mourning while others are not. Mainstream US media continues to spend considerable time and resources on the Israeli Jewish victims of the October 7 attack but significantly less time on Palestinian civilian deaths, including children’s deaths. The prevalent framing of the situation as a “war” between two sides would be laughable if the repercussions weren’t so dire.
Many analysts have pointed to the dehumanization of Palestinians as an obstacle to grievability. Two days after the Hamas attack Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” on Gaza. “We are fighting against human animals,” he said. Spurious reports of more than 40 babies “beheaded” by Hamas made the rounds on CNN, in the Daily Mail, and from the mouth of President Biden. In fact, the current count of children killed by Hamas is at least 14, with no evidence of beheadings; media outlets and the White House retracted their statements, but the story – and ghastly mental imagery – had taken root and done its work, setting the scene, as Lisa Wedeen noted in a recent Jadaliyya webinar, of “war staged between ‘the Jewish people’ and the animals who seek to kill them.” She added: “This racist framing of contemporary violence recapitulates the colonial opposition between the civilized and the animals who must be routed or destroyed to preserve ‘civilization.’”
It is also important to draw the comparison between Israel and the United States as settler colonial projects intent upon the erasure of their indigenous populations, albeit at different stages of their projects. Maya Mikdashi, in the Jadaliyya webinar, argued that the reason why some Americans find it difficult to put themselves in the place of people in Gaza “is because they are settlers…they are involved and are the beneficiaries of a concurrent settler project.” Mikdashi added that, in contrast, there are those in our settler society, such as Indigenous and Black people, who do identify with Palestinians because “it is their history.” “It depends on your positionality within a settler colony,” she said.
The question, perhaps, is how to make more of us – and by us I mean white people who have benefited and continue to benefit from our position in this settler colony – see Palestinian children in the same way we see Jewish Israeli children – fully human, grievable, and worthy of protection. Only then will we be able to act humanely.
Rawan Yaghi, October 19, 2023
When I was 16, I remember lying down on the floor in our Gaza home right after Israel bombed an UNRWA storage facility and thinking how little value my life had to the world, What kind of a human I had to be for the world to look the other way when my limbs would be torn. I remember hoping I’d be killed with my family and not have to withstand the burden of life if they passed.
I remember, in 2018, the dehumanizing pressure of an Israeli airstrike on a TV station a few hundred meters away from my home, ‘sheltering’ in the farthest room of the house, my then one-year-old niece, Juju, holding onto my mother fearing the air pressure would take her away. I remember all of this and know that it was a fraction of what every man, woman, and child in Gaza is experiencing every second..
I feel all the dehumanization and betrayal, amplified a hundred times when my brother tells me they fell asleep with their shoes on and their backpacks of essentials on their shoulders, or when my other brother can’t answer the phone because Juju and her 3-year-old brother, Jad, are trembling constantly while their neighbourhood is completely leveled to the ground. Or when my brother tells me that our father cried while leaving our home in Gaza City. I feel all this pain.
But I hope very dearly in my heart, like that 16-year-old girl on the floor, that our fight for life will prevail. I hope that there are those in the world who see my niece as a human even as she holds her breath through hundreds of airstrikes. I hope, maybe naively, that freedom isn’t just a word. That she will live in a world where she doesn’t tremble in fear. That the power of those few of us will triumph against colonization, racism, and dehumanization, against the brutal and ugly face of humanity.
Rev. Don Wagner, October 16, 2023
As I read daily accounts from Gaza this week and listen to the extreme genocidal rhetoric of Israeli leaders and the BIden Administration, I´m taken back to an event I wrote about in my memoir, Glory to God in the Lowest. In brief, the day after I left Beirut and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June, 1982, I was interviewed by the Chicago NBC affiliate with an Israeli General who was defending Israel. The local Israeli Counsel insisted I could not be in the studio with the General. In the course of the interview General Shromi said: ¨This is Israel’s final solution of the Palestinian problem.” I challenged his outrageous remark noting this was the rhetoric of the Nazi regime about Jews in preparation for the holocaust.
I fear we are headed for a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, which in reality has never ended. There must be an intervention, a cease fire and time for the hostages to be freed, the wounded to leave for treatment, the illegal blockade of Gaza to be lifted for food, medicine, fuel for generators in hospitals, medical and relief workers to enter. Short of this, we could be facing an apocalyptic scenario of genocidal dimensions with hundreds of thousands of dead Palestinians from starvation and murder. This could also be time for a possible expulsion through the Rafah border.
Can the Biden Administration break through the fog of war and stop this insanity? As the saying goes, ¨insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.¨” The US and European union are still stuck in failed narratives of violence. We at the grass roots must elevate our efforts to demand a ceasefire and begin to rectify Palestinian suffering and eventually move to an international conference, ending the vicious Apartheid occupation and settler colonial theft of land. We hope and pray there will be courageous nations at the global level who will support a ceasefire and steps taken to get to the roots of this crisis. These cycles of violence must be transformed with steps toward justice, security, equality in all of historic Palestine. If the insanity continues, the region could explode in a disastrous war that will have global implications.
May God help us but may we get busy demanding a ceasefire and move toward new narratives of healing, equality, security for all, and justice for Palestinians.
Tom Suárez, October 15, 2023
We never thought those natives could hold out for seventy-five years. But we will always remember the 7th of October 2023 as the day that we finally hit the jackpot.
The recipe was simple. We’d started by rounding them up river-to-sea and throwing them into a pressure cooker — don’t blame us that they’re from the wrong bloodline! We switched on the heat and let it simmer until some of them popped.
Did you see that? we demanded of the world, outraged. Why do they hate us? It’s just the way they are! Everyone agreed: we have the right to defend ourselves, and so had no choice but to make the pressure cooker smaller, the lid tighter, and the heat hotter.
And as the decades passed, every time there were pops, we held them up for all to see. Look! How they want to kill us! Because they hate peace! They hate us for our tolerance and freedom! Pop after pop, we had to make the pressure cooker ever smaller, ever tighter, and ever hotter … until that morning, finally, our long wait paid off.
The pressure cooker exploded.
Congratulations to all of us torch-bearers of enlightened Western values, from Washington to London to Paris to Berlin to Ottawa to Canberra! I know the recipe’s back-burner genocide had long become boring for you—but now the lovely counterpoint of bombs popping in Gaza and champagne corks popping in Tel Aviv makes the wait well worth it.
We must however admit to one regret: unable to decode the native mind, we will never fathom why, oh why, did they make us do this to them?
Dr. Alice Rothchild, October 14, 2023
This is a time of great peril, tragedy, and instability. It is important to state that the slaughter or capture of civilians and the commitment of atrocities is unconscionable regardless of who does it.
At the same time, the mainstream media and numerous political figures are describing Hamas’ attack on Israel as “unprovoked,” ignoring 75 years of Palestinian dispossession and trauma, 56 years of an increasingly brutal occupation in the occupied territories, and 15 years of crushing siege in Gaza. The current racist, fundamentalist right wing government has promoted the further ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the unleashing of well-armed belligerent Jewish settlers. Al Aqsa Mosque has been repeatedly attacked and desecrated and Israel is now flirting with oppressive Arab regimes who are happy to throw the Palestinians under the bus for the price of military and economic aid.
Oppressed people have an internationally recognized right to resist their oppressors. Bombing Gaza into the dark ages will only produce traumatized, hopeless, angry generations who have nothing left to lose and an Israeli population dehumanized and divided. The only way forward is to address the root causes of this catastrophe: end the occupation and siege and recognize Palestinians as equal human beings with history, aspirations, culture, and the right to self-determination.
John Mahoney, October 13, 2023
What we are witnessing today is the inability of the press, with rare exceptions, to give an honest account of the conflict for fear of being saddled with that worst of epithets: you’re an anti-Semite.
This is not the time, we are being told, to rehash Israel’s 75-year apartheid treatment of Palestinians: Forget the Bantustan-like confinement and the racially segregated roads. Forget the deportations and home demolitions. And yes, forget the detention without trial and the use of torture.
Peter Beinart, the Jewish columnist and political commentator, is that rare exception who will say the obvious: if you treat 2.3 million human beings like caged animals, don’t be surprised if some of them act like caged animals.
It’s time to end the madness.