Gaza residents seek safety

Residents seek safety amid destroyed buildings and debris around the Palestinian Telecommunications Company in the Gaza Strip on October 10, 2023.

(Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

800+ Legal Scholars Say Israel May Be Perpetrating 'Crime of Genocide' in Gaza

"The ongoing and imminent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are being conducted with potentially genocidal intent."

More than 800 scholars of international law and genocide have signed a public statement arguing that the Israeli military may be committing genocidal acts against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as the total siege and relentless airstrikes continue to inflict devastation on the occupied territory.

"As scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies, and genocide studies, we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," reads the statement. "We do not do so lightly, recognizing the weight of this crime, but the gravity of the current situation demands it."

The scholars noted that Israel's yearslong blockade on Gaza—which has left much of the territory's population impoverished and without access to basic necessities—had previously been described as "slow-motion genocide" and cited a United Nations warning about Israelis' use of dehumanizing language, which is often a prelude to mass atrocities.

But the new statement contends that Israel's current assault on Gaza, launched in the wake of a deadly Hamas attack on October 7, is "unprecedented in scale and severity."

"The Gaza Strip has been subjected to incessant and indiscriminate bombardment by Israeli forces," the scholars wrote. "Israel's defense minister ordered a 'complete siege' of the Gaza Strip prohibiting the supply of fuel, electricity, water, and other essential necessities. This terminology itself indicates an intensification of an already illegal, potentially genocidal siege to an outright destructive assault."

The scholars also pointed to Israel's evacuation order aimed at the entire population of northern Gaza—roughly 1.1 million people—and subsequent Israeli attacks on civilian convoys fleeing to the south.

"Statements of Israeli officials since 7 October 2023 suggest that beyond the killings and restriction of basic conditions for life perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza, there are also indications that the ongoing and imminent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are being conducted with potentially genocidal intent," the scholars wrote.

They continued:

Language used by Israeli political and military figures appears to reproduce rhetoric and tropes associated with genocide and incitement to genocide. Dehumanising descriptions of Palestinians have been prevalent. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared on 9 October that "we are fighting human animals and we act accordingly." He subsequently announced that Israel was moving to "a full-scale response" and that he had "removed every restriction" on Israeli forces, as well as stating: "Gaza won't return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything."

On 10 October, the head of the Israeli army's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, addressed a message directly to Gaza residents: "Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water, there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell." The same day, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari acknowledged the wanton and intentionally destructive nature of Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza: "The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy."

Under international law, a party is guilty of genocide if it kills or severely harms members of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group with the "intent to destroy" that group.

Raz Segal—an Israeli historian, associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, and signatory of the new statement—argued in Jewish Currents last week that Israel's actions in Gaza since October 7 constitute "a textbook case of genocide."

"Indeed, Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza is quite explicit, open, and unashamed," Segal wrote. "Israel's goal is to destroy the Palestinians of Gaza. And those of us watching around the world are derelict in our responsibility to prevent them from doing so."

Segal and the 800 other statement signatories implored nations around the world to swiftly "take concrete and meaningful steps to individually and collectively prevent genocidal acts, in line with their legal duty to prevent the crime of genocide."

"We call on all relevant U.N. bodies, including the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, as well as the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to immediately intervene, to carry out the necessary investigations, and invoke the necessary warning procedures to protect the Palestinian population from genocide," they added.

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