Israel's Genocidal Attack on Gaza Must Be Stopped
Experts are sounding the alarm as a result of the situation in Gaza.
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Experts are sounding the alarm as a result of the situation in Gaza.
Palestinian and Israeli civilians have faced unmeasurable atrocities following the major escalation of violence after Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel. Yet rather than focus energy on negotiating an enduring and comprehensive ceasefire and peace, world leaders—particularly in the West—are failing to make the effort to achieve such an outcome. Israel’s retaliation against the Palestinian people depicts major signs of genocidal intent, risking a regional war that could kill hundreds of thousands to millions of people.
Hamas’s decision to attack Israel on the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 sent reverberations throughout Israeli society and the world, to disastrous effect. Most leaders understandably and rightly condemned Hamas’s murder and kidnapping of 1,400 and roughly 200 civilians, respectively, as of this writing.
Yet these condemnations also came with near-apocalyptic calls of support for Israel to “defend itself” by any means. World leaders—including U.S. president Joe Biden—have described Hamas’ actions as “evil” while relating them to the Islamic State (IS) without contextualizing the crisis. Barring the fact that Hamas is not analogous to IS, such calls produced a situation in which the Western public is being fed images and commentary condemning Hamas while pundits and political leaders have portrayed Hamas and Gazan civilians as one entity, justifying violence against all of Gaza.
As a result, at least 4,000 Palestinians have been killed with another 15,000 injured thus far. It is the worst Palestinian loss of life in decades, leaving swaths of Gaza uninhabitable and leading to additional violence and a humanitarian crisis across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel.
Ignoring the scale of this damage, many have called for unlimited assistance for Israel to prevent another Hamas attack from happening again, citing Israel’s right to self-defense. Yet Hamas’ attack did not occur in a vacuum, just as the Israel-Palestine conflict did not begin on October 7. Rather, Hamas predicates its entire existence on fighting an Israeli occupation that has been ongoing for roughly seventy-five years. Believing that it is deplorable to target civilians with Hamas’ brutality and recognizing the underlying reasons for the level of rage and violence perpetrated by those in the terrorist organization are not mutually exclusive and never should be.
Purportedly more measured figures calling for a U.S.-backed Israeli response lose sight of this reality. These individuals—including liberal and left-leaning leaders and experts—highlight that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. By doing so, they are attempting to justify the bombing of civilian infrastructure and the killing of civilians in Gaza by blaming their deaths on Hamas. To be sure, Hamas uses human shields and knows it is committing a war crime. However, the Gaza Strip, roughly 6-10 miles wide and 25 miles long, is one of the world’s densest urban areas. The point is that these “measured” calls ignore international law, which does not absolve an entity from attacking illegitimate military targets such as civilians.
The simple fact is that civilians have nowhere to go as Israel bombs the entirety of Gaza disproportionately and indiscriminately.
Ultimately, Hamas’ war crimes do not justify more war crimes. Israel is pulling the trigger, killing scores of civilians in its strike disproportionate and indiscriminate strikes without being asked to prove if militants are in the area. At best, with a militant presence, it is impossible to justify such strikes within international law given the proportionality principle and considering the campaign’s scale—over 6,000 bombs dropped in less than two weeks. At worst, the strikes destroy strictly civilian targets, such as the oldest Orthodox church in Gaza housing hundreds of civilians.
Others argue that Israel “warns” civilians that strikes are incoming to justify bombing entire civilian neighborhoods, infrastructure, hospitals, and United Nations shelters. Yet such “warnings” do not always justify indiscriminate strikes on civilian infrastructure, let alone hospitals and shelters for the over 1 million displaced Gazans with nowhere safe to go in the first place. In some cases, Israel did not warn Gazan civilians, forgoing its responsibilities.
The simple fact is that civilians have nowhere to go as Israel bombs the entirety of Gaza disproportionately and indiscriminately. Israel’s ongoing strikes on southern Gaza—the so-called evacuation zone—make such calls insulting.
This reality is amplified by reports that civilians have been struck after heeding Israel Defense Force (IDF) warnings while they flee. After Israel gave a twenty-four-hour notice to the more than 1 million Gazans living north of Wadi Gaza to flee to southern Gaza ahead of what many thought would be the start of an Israeli ground invasion, the IDF bombed an evacuation convoy traveling down one of the main evacuation routes it had identified as safe for the public. Even if one considers warnings a reasonable and genuine effort to protect civilians, this strike is unjustifiable—if not cruel.
Facts suggest Israel is paying lip service to civilian protection declarations, with the West’s support and backing, to give political cover to Western leaders and to avoid international accountability. This consent greenlights Israel’s deliberate genocidal intent in Gaza and reflects the West’s complicity in the act. Tel Aviv is collectively punishing millions of Gazans for Hamas’ actions by forcibly displacing them from their homes and into southern Gaza, and maybe even Egypt’s Sinai.
Cutting off water, fuel, medicine, food, and other humanitarian imports in a total siege of Gaza constitutes collective punishment. Israel refused to guarantee that it would not strike aid convoys, until pressure forced its hand on October 19, that must enter through the Rafah crossing to Gaza’s south—the main crossing with Egypt where hundreds of aid trucks are still waiting to enter after negotiators struck a deal to let in aid. Previously, Tel Aviv took extreme measures to close the crossing, striking it multiple times in a clear attack on the civilian infrastructure and aid operations necessary to facilitate the movement of people and goods that sustain Gaza. As such, minimal aid operations have occurred since the crossing was authorized for aid routes to southern Gaza only. As a note, this territory has been blockaded since 2007, collapsing into an economic abyss like a dying star.
The effort to completely cut Gaza off from basic resources coincides with horrific rhetoric from Israeli officials. When Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” of Gaza, he followed with a comment describing the fight as one “against human animals,” promising to “act accordingly” in future operations. “We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza. There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be closed,” he noted. IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari added that “the emphasis is on damage and not accuracy” when describing the operation.
Israeli president Isaac Herzog took this one step further, arguing that there is “an entire nation out there that is responsible.” He equated Gazan civilians to Hamas, claiming, “This rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, is absolutely not true. They could have risen up, fought against that evil regime.” Herzog closed the segment on a particularly chilling note: “We will fight until we break their backbone.”
Possibly worse, the prime minister’s official account on X, formerly known as Twitter, tweeted, and then deleted, “This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.” Ariel Kallner, an Israel minister of parliament in the Knesset, tweeted an open call for a “new Nakba”—the 1948 event that displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to create the state of Israel.
Experts are sounding the alarm as a result of the situation in Gaza. Over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies, and genocide studies signed a public statement warning of a possible genocide in Gaza, including prominent Holocaust scholars. Raz Segal, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies, put it plainly and powerfully for Jewish Currents, citing Gallant himself: “Gallant’s orders on October 9th were no less explicit [than previous genocides]. 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.”
Anonymous U.S. officials shared the most powerful evidence to date in support of this notion, telling AP reporters that “Members of the Israeli security and political establishment told the US diplomats that the eradication of Hamas would require methods used in the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II.” Adding a particular degree of cruelty, they noted that “a lot of innocent Germans died in WWII,” while citing Japanese civilian deaths because of the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The AP has edited the article to remove the second quote.
Such rhetoric is unacceptable and must be condemned. Simply put, we cannot revert to WWII-style total warfare. World leaders established the Geneva Conventions to prevent the atrocities of that war, which killed tens of millions of people, from being repeated. If the United States claims to support the rules-based order, as it is in Ukraine, it must extend that belief and rhetoric to Palestinians fighting a brutal and illegal occupation. Anything short of public statements in support of this belief places Washington and the West in a hypocritical position, clearly supportive of the “right” people as others deemed unworthy suffer and die at the hands of their weapons and words.