Is The Israeli Government Committing Genocide in Gaza?

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Middle East & Israel

Accusing Israel of ‘Genocide’ Reflects, at Best, Ignorance of the Term’s Meaning and, at Worst, Complicity With Hamas Terrorists.
Photo Craig Vodnik / UnSplash

Accusing Israel of ‘Genocide’ Reflects, at Best, Ignorance of the Term’s Meaning and, at Worst, Complicity With Hamas Terrorists.

The latest in a long history of blood libels against the Jewish people is the recent lie that its nation-state is deliberately committing genocide against the civilians of Gaza.

The meaning of genocide is the intentional killing of a racial or ethnic group. The term was coined by a Polish-Jewish lawyer in 1944 to describe the Holocaust, which involved the deliberate murder of every Jew the Nazis could get their hands on. Since that time there have been genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other places.

Israel’s military efforts to defend itself against a recurrence of the mass murders and kidnappings of October 7 do not even come close to constituting genocide or crimes against humanity. To the contrary, Israel has done more to protect the civilian population of Gaza than any country in the history of warfare. This is especially so since it is Hamas that has caused the killing of so many civilians by using them as human shields, by stealing their food, medicine, and fuel, and by refusing to provide shelters for ordinary citizens.

On a broader perspective, the Muslim population of Gaza has expanded considerably since Israel’s occupation that began in 1967 and ended in 2005. The only loss of population has been among Christian Arabs, many of whom have been forced to flee as a result of Islamic persecution. Even after it ended its occupation, Israel has treated numerous sick Gazans and provided relatively high-paying jobs to thousands of Gazans. Hardly what a nation intending to commit genocide would do.

The United States did not commit genocide in Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the many thousands of civilians who became collateral damage during its wars against ISIS and Al Qaeda. Nor did other Western countries that have fought urban wars, such as France in Algeria and Great Britain in the Middle East.

Hamas knew that by crossing into Israel and murdering, raping and kidnapping its civilians, it was signing a death warrant for many Gazan civilians whom Hamas intended to use as human shields. The accusation of genocide against Israel is particularly malicious, since it was actual genocide against Jewish people by the Nazis that led to the coining of the term. In that respect, accusing Israel of genocide is a form of Holocaust denial.

Young people who hear the genocide libel against Israel and see that there are no gas chambers in Gaza may conclude that there were no gas chambers in Nazi-occupied Poland. And by equating legitimate self-defense measures with the building of gas chambers, these false accusers are diminishing the power of the term genocide. There is no credible evidence that Israel has ever intentionally targeted innocent civilians in their legitimate efforts to kill Hamas commanders, destroy their tunnels, and disable their rockets. Why would they? They achieve no benefit from the death of innocent civilians. To the contrary they are hurt in the court of public opinion.

It can be argued, of course, that Israel should try harder to reduce the ratio of civilians to terrorists killed. It has been estimated that approximately two civilians have been killed for every terrorist who has met his just fate.

It is impossible to know the exact figures, because the definition of a civilian is controversial in Gaza where many people from the age of 15 onward actively facilitate Hamas terrorism. Also many of those killed were the victims of errant rockets fired by terrorist groups from Gaza but landing near Gaza civilians.  Yet even if the ratio were ten civilians to one terrorist, as it has been for other countries fighting urban terrorism, that too would not constitute the crime of genocide.

Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian casualties by sending ground troops instead of relying exclusively on aerial bombing — as they did at the beginning of the war — cost many lives among IDF soldiers.

Although Israel never deliberately kills civilians, those who use the term genocide against Israel are deliberately misusing that word as a political weapon. They know that Israel increased its control over the borders of Gaza only after Hamas took over and began to fire rockets and dig terror tunnels to kill Israeli civilians.

They know that Israel has no intention of intentionally wiping out the civilian population of Gaza. They know that the population has increased. They know that medical care and jobs have long been provided by Israel. And they know that Israel would never have entered Gaza if not for the brutal attacks of October 7. The university students and others who falsely accuse Israel of genocide are complicit in Hamas’ terrorism. They may not know the real facts, just as many of them have no idea about which river and which sea are referenced in the slogan “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.” They may not know the definition of genocide or the history of the Holocaust.

The ignorance of many of these protesters and sloganeers is unbounded but no one who has any sense of history can credibly claim that Israel is committing genocide. The truth is that the false accusation of genocide is yet another blood libel against the Jewish people.

Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of “Get Trump,” “Guilt by Accusation” and “The Price of Principle.” Active in litigation, writing, and defense of civil liberties and human rights. Visit his substack and follow him at @AlanDersh.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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