Israeli historian compares Israeli public discourse on Gaza to Rwanda genocide

Israeli historian compares Israeli public discourse on Gaza to Rwanda genocide
Israeli scholar Raz Segal has said that Israeli public rhetoric on Gaza was comparable to that seen in the run-up to the Rwanda genocide.
3 min read
31 December, 2023
Israel's attacks on the civilians of Gaza are increasingly being described as genocide [Getty]

Israeli historian Raz Segal has said that "incitement to genocide" has become prevalent in Israeli society as Israel's deadly and relentless assault on the Gaza Strip, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians, a approaches its 12th week. 

In an interview with YouTube news channel Breaking Points, Segal, an Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at New Jersey’s Stockton University said that one of the key aspects of  a genocide is the language used that demonstrate an occupying force’s “intent to destroy” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. 

“You don't need a degree in comparative literature to interpret these signs and statements in the media discourse and in the political discourse in Israel after 7th of October. We see clear incitement to genocide," he said.

“Incitement in Israel is clear, explicit and unashamed. Just to give a recent example, journalist Zvi Yehezkeli on Channel 13 openly and outright said that he thinks that at the beginning, Israel made a mistake because (its) attack on Gaza should have been much more actually violent and severe, and it should have killed 100,000 Palestinians right now,” Segal said.

He added that incitement to genocide could be found on the streets of Israeli cities.

“I’m talking about, you know, huge signs hanging on the bridges of the Tel Aviv Freeway right after the 7th of October, calling to flatten Gaza, to destroy Gaza, written on them directly that the ‘image of triumph would be zero people in Gaza.’ Very direct, very explicit,” he said.

The Israeli professor also argued that an explicit use of genocidal rhetoric is relatively rare but he pointed out it has been “unabashedly” displayed in Israeli discourse on Palestinians, comparing the situation to Rwanda in 1994, where extremist Hutus slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsis over a few short months.

“One of the cases that comes close to this kind of society, immersed in a genocidal discourse, perhaps, is Rwanda and the Rwanda genocide in 1994,” Segal said. “We had journalists, radio channels and people inciting for genocide, for the murder of Tutsis in that case.” 

“In the case of Rwanda, there was also a media case where journalists indeed stood trial and were convicted for incitement to genocide. So that's another element that actually differentiates genocide from other crimes and international law.” 

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He drew an explicit comparison with the coverage of Israel's Channel 13.

“And the official response of Channel 13 was that ‘We're just expressing the plurality of positions in Israeli society.’ So this is outright unashamed, right? It's very common today in Israel, and it's something I think we should all be paying attention to.” 

Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza has targeted residential areas, hospitals, ambulances, and schools and killed more than 21,800 people according to Palestinian health authorities, with many more feared dead in the rubble.

Nearly all of the territory's 2.3 million people have been displaced and the war and siege has left 40% of Gazans at risk of famine, the Gaza director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on social media on Saturday.