Israel's genocidal intentions don't stop in Gaza
There are several ways to establish genocidal intent. It can be explicit verbal incitement, such as the many statements Israel has made over the past three months.
But it can also be inferred from the systematic physical targeting of a specific group of people and their property, the type of weapons used, and even the methodical fashion in which the killing is executed.
Israel’s sustained attacks on Gaza’s civilians that have killed more than 24,000 Palestinians, the forced displacement of most of them, the purposeful creation of a severe humanitarian crisis, and the 500+ annihilatory statements of Israeli officials and key figures all point to genocidal intent under the Genocide Convention.
Israel's colonial project does not end in Gaza.
Though it does not amount to genocide, Israel has long stated its intentions to annex all of the West Bank, with far-right finance minister Bezalel Smotrich calling for Palestinian villages to be “erased” earlier this year.
"Genocidal reactions do not happen overnight. They are preceded by a long process of deep indoctrination of the potential perpetrators and dehumanisation of the potential victims"
Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant threatened that the army would copy-paste the Gaza experience in Beirut: “If Hezbollah makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon. What we are doing in Gaza, we know how to do in Beirut.”
That is not new. Army chief Aviv Kohavi warned in early 2023 that if a war broke out with Hezbollah, “Israel would send Lebanon 50 years back in time” through what he called “waves of firepower.” Likewise, then-Netanyahu’s minister of education, Naftali Bennett, warned in 2017 that Israel “would send Lebanon back to the Middle Ages.”
In the, the Israeli army envisioned a new strategy, dubbed the Dahiya Doctrine, to purposely target civilians for tactical military gains.
In fact, it was during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war that Israel perfected its strategy of purposely targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure for military gain, dubbed the Dahiya Doctrine after a neighbourhood in southern Beirut.
In the 34-day conflict, 1200 Lebanese civilians were killed. Now, with the significantly scaled-up redeployment of the doctrine in Gaza, the consensus is that Israel is not only capable but is willing to unleash a genocidal campaign against Lebanon as well.
"Israel and its allies have shown that they believe that the rules of war do not apply when the victims are colonised, other-than-white people"— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) January 12, 2024
South Africa's ICJ case puts Israel and Western hypocrisy on trial 👇https://t.co/wGWZ6dqkqB
South Africa has banked on such genocidal intent, legally and conceptually, to file genocide charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Israel met the charges with rejection, denial, and panicked threats. Israeli officials - as well as the Israeli legal team at the trial - resorted to page one in the hasbara book: to flip reality on its head and accuse Israel’s victims of the same charges directed at the Zionist state.
Never mind that an occupying power emphatically cannot claim genocidal intent by the very people it occupies and against whom it routinely exercises ethnic cleansing. Not only is this legally and morally indefensible, but also practically impossible.
Beyond these fallacies, one is particularly struck by the ease with which Israeli officials voice out genocidal intent. This scene has been so rife that it prompted a group of Israeli public figures to send a letter to the state’s attorney general, demanding that he take action against the normalisation of genocidal threats.
There is logic behind this illogic, some say. 7th October shattered most Jewish-Israelis’ already fragile sense of security, certainly, as they saw their ‘invincible army’ crumble before a militia. All of which translated into hysteria, then a spree of blind revenge and mass killings, in the name of self-defence.
Shoehorning the Shoah (Holocaust) into all this - whether emotionally or strategically (nonetheless, unrealistically) - gave the mass killing a sense of historical legitimacy. And, within this seemingly existential context, disproportionality, large-scale criminality, and the nature of targets became irrelevant.
This narrow contextualisation, or rather decontextualisation, fails to explain the extent of killing and destruction. It does not fit any regular military strategy nor meet any known rules of engagement.
Genocidal reactions do not happen overnight. They are preceded by a long process of deep indoctrination of the potential perpetrators and dehumanisation of the potential victims.
On the path to the Final Solution, for instance, Nazi Germany pumped out propagandistic messages frequently enough to channel the prosecution of Jews - later the Shoah - into acceptable responses to the perceived Jewish problem.
A fierce campaign of anti-Muslim propaganda and dehumanisation paved the road to the Srebrenica massacre in the 1990s. The Rwanda genocide followed a similar trajectory.
Since its inception in the late 19th century, the Zionist movement has set out to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous population. Israel would not have come into existence had it not been for the massacring and mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.
"Each myth at every stage of the Zionist settler-colonial project required the erasure of the Palestinians’ past, presence, agency, and deservedness for basic human rights"
This has been ‘morally’ sustained by the creation and normalisation of one-sided narratives legitimising the Zionist colonial goals.
Among other things, by falsely categorising Palestine as a land without people; a Jewish state in Palestine as historical justice or redemption for the Jewish victims of the Shoah; and linking the country to Biblical myths as historical facts.
Each myth at every stage of the Zionist settler-colonial project required the erasure of the Palestinians’ past, presence, agency, and deservedness for basic human rights.
The dehumanisation meant that Jewish Israelis kept their positive and lofty self-image as perpetual victims even with far superior rights and entitlements. A challenge to such a worldview, mainly by the ‘inferior Palestinians’, has been reduced to a challenge to the Jewish right to exist, anti-Semitism, or terrorism.
It has allowed for the framing of every Israeli war as ein breira (no choice) and justified the deployment of extreme violence, even mass killing. The alternative, they say, would be another Shoah. Context and the laws of causality do not apply here.
With this deep and long indoctrination, Zionist genocidal tendencies are hardly a fringe phenomenon.
In a poll a month into the current Gaza onslaught, 57.5% of Israeli Jews said the army used too little firepower; 36.6% said it was the appropriate amount; and only 1.8% said it was too much.
Parallel to that, hundreds of Israeli MKs, public figures, rabbis, community leaders, professors, and journalists signed a document calling for an end to humanitarian aid to Gaza. Effectively, a call for mass starvation, a slow genocide.
To Gideon Levi, Israeli Haaretz columnist, the brutality of this Gaza war (and the incitements against Lebanon) is met with almost no criticism from the public. There seems to be a consensual agreement on mass murder, and the minority of dissident voices are usually shut down.
In Israel’s mainstream media, meanwhile, what you typically see is footage of destroyed Gaza buildings or airstrikes in Southern Lebanon, often taken by drones or helmet-mounted cameras, all depicted as valorous military operations coupled with the ‘heroic and tragic stories’ of soldiers. The tens of thousands of Israel’s civilian victims are often kept invisible.
Not a word about the occupation, the Gaza blockade, or why Hezbollah is engaging the Israeli army, but a lot of angry incitements by journalists, live from the news studios, against Palestinians and, sometimes, Lebanese.
“Israel should have started the war by killing 100,000 Gazans,” said commentator Zvi Yehezkeli of Israel’s Channel 13.
Those incitements have now been used as evidence at the ICJ by South Africa. The landmark case is important because it is the only meaningful step so far to try and curb Israel’s genocidal intentions in Gaza and prevent it from doing the same in the West Bank and Lebanon.
But this is just the start. Justice for Palestine requires more than an ICJ verdict, global mass protests, or a minority of courageous Jewish-Israelis who broke away from the mainstream.
We must tackle the issue at the root, with a serious discussion about the nature of Zionism.
Not merely to protect Palestinians from extermination but also to save the Israeli-Jewish collective from itself.
Dr Emad Moussa is a Palestinian-British researcher and writer specialising in the political psychology of intergroup and conflict dynamics, focusing on MENA with a special interest in Israel/Palestine. He has a background in human rights and journalism, and is currently a frequent contributor to multiple academic and media outlets, in addition to being a consultant for a US-based think tank.
Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa
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