Why the term “genocide” is misused in Israel’s war against Hamas

A woman holds up a sign at a pro-Palestine demonstration in Mexico City. REUTERS/Henry Romero (HENRY ROMERO/)

Many governments and citizens are dismayed by the civilian casualties of the bombing and invasion of Loop by Israelwhich is his response to the attack of Hamas against Israel. On October 10, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour called Israel’s actions “nothing short of genocidal.” Iran and Iraq have also accused Israel of genocide. Politically, it is clear why Israel’s enemies invoke this heinous crime. But the accusation has also been made by countries that have usually been friends of Israel. Colombia, Honduras and South Africa have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel, accusing their government of committing “genocide.”

Western protesters and commentators also use the term. “It is now clear that Israel is committing genocide of the Palestinian people,” argued M. Muhannad Ayyash, a sociology professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. Craig Mokhiber, director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote on October 28 that “this is a textbook case of genocide.” Israel has denied the genocide and accused Hamas of the crime. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, declared on October 26 that “This is not a war against the Palestinians. “Israel is at war against the genocidal terrorist organization Hamas.”

What exactly is genocide and how does the term apply to the current conflict, if at all?

In December 1948, after World War II, the UN adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention defines genocide as acts intended to “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Contrary to the common interpretation of the term, the UN says that not only killing counts. It also includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of existence that will lead to its physical destruction,” as well as inflicting “serious bodily or mental injuries,” “measures intended to prevent births,” and “forcibly transferring children from the group to another group.” ”. Categorizing atrocities as genocide has legal implications. For example, the International Criminal Court can charge someone with this crime.

Interpretations of the Convention differ due to its breadth. What atrocities constitute genocide? The systematic murder of 6 million Jews for the Nazis It was a genocide. The organized slaughter of some 500,000 tutsi by the militias hutus in Rwanda In 1994 it was too. In both cases, the intention to destroy a people was clear. However, the case of Darfurin Sudan, where some 300,000 people died in the years after fighting broke out in 2003, is less clear. The United States called it genocide. But in 2005 a UN commission concluded that the Sudanese government “had not pursued a policy of genocide” (although some individuals may have acted with “genocidal intent”). Donald Trump’s administration called the government’s treatment genocide Chinese to the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, but others disagreed. This outlet concluded that China’s persecution of the Uyghurs was “horrible,” but not genocidal.

According to the UN definition, Hamas is a genocidal organization. In his founding charter, published in 1988, he explicitly commits to destroying Israel. Article 7 states that “The Day of Judgment will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews and kill them.” Article 13 rejects any compromise or peace until Israel is destroyed. The Hamas fighters who stormed Israel on October 7 and killed more than 1,400 Israelis (and other nationalities) were carrying out the letter of their genocidal law.

Israel, on the other hand, does not meet the genocide test. There is little evidence that Israel, like Hamas, “intends” to destroy an ethnic group: the Palestinians. Israel does want to destroy Hamas, a militant group, and is willing to kill civilians to achieve it. And although some Israeli extremists want to eradicate the Palestinians, that is not government policy.

The Israelis also show no obvious intention to prevent Palestinian births. But those who accuse him of genocide point to the large number of civilian deaths, at least 10,000 so far, and claim that his blockade of the strip meets the “living conditions” criterion. The Israelis have clearly inflicted “serious physical or mental harm” on the Palestinians. They have also displaced people from the north of the strip. If these people are not allowed to return, it could be considered a partial destruction of their territory or, as Jan Egeland, former UN humanitarian aid official, has warned, a forced population transfer.

Even if an army’s actions do not exceed the threshold of genocide, they may still be wrong. As the UN concluded in its report on Darfur, “the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed… may be no less serious and atrocious than genocide.”

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