Palestinian civil defense workers remove bodies from rubble in Khan Younis.

Civil Defense Authority teams continue to remove the decomposed and dismembered bodies of Palestinians who lost their lives after Israeli attacks from under the rubble in Khan Younis, Gaza, on April 21, 2024.

(Photo: Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images)

It’s Not Complicated: Israel is Committing Genocide in Gaza

The concept of genocide means nothing at all if it is allowed to exclude Israel’s intentional and/or indifferent mass killing and injuring.

Since October 2023, Israel has been committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. We do not need, and should not wait for, a court ruling or authoritative arbiter to believe the proof in front of our eyes. The daily reports, photos, and video pouring out of Gaza have been unbearable. By now, we have been inundated with declarations by the highest level of Israeli government and military that they intend to destroy Gaza and the people who live there. There are countless videos of Israeli soldiers committing war crimes and wanton destruction, many posted publicly by soldiers themselves. Israeli bombing has decimated all means of life support in Gaza, causing catastrophic levels of damage not seen since the saturation bombings of World War II.

That Israel has caused such horror and devastation in such a short period of time is incomprehensible. The concept of genocide means nothing at all if it is allowed to exclude Israel’s intentional and/or indifferent mass killing and injuring; displacement of an entire population; creation of man-made famine; and destruction of the majority of homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, universities, and infrastructure in Gaza. Palestinians have been shouting at the world to accept the overwhelmingly clear evidence of genocide and do something to stop it. Yet as we speak, Israel is escalating its attacks against displaced civilians seeking refuge in Rafah.

Are our friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors willing to engage with the straightforward realities of the situation and do something about it?

The evidence of the situation could not be any clearer. However, we must continue to reiterate that what is happening in Gaza is straightforward because of intense efforts by politicians, media, and others to convince Americans that the facts are simply too complicated, too nuanced to draw clear ethical and political conclusions. Insisting that the context is incomprehensibly complex after nearly 35,000 dead and 78,000 injured, mostly children and women, is genocide denial. Those facts may be uncomfortable for some to face; but they are not hard to understand. Moreover, stopping genocide also means recognizing that violence against Palestinians did not begin in October 2023.

Just as the events since last year are not complicated, neither is the history of what is called the “conflict” between Palestinians and Israelis. It has a definitive beginning in the late 1800s and since that point the aggressors have been the pre-state Zionist movement and, after 1948, the State of Israel. Zionism, a 19th-century European Jewish nationalist movement, sought to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinians already living there. To do so, Zionists organized migration to settle and colonize a territory that was 95% Palestinian Arab and 5% Jewish at the time. The settlers’ explicit goal was to take as much territory as possible and change the demographics in their favor. The Zionists set about accomplishing those political goals, with full recognition that they would need to violently dispossess the Palestinians to achieve them. Everything that has happened in the decades since flows from that project to take territory and expel or subjugate as many Palestinians as possible.

No group of people has a right to take territory by violence and expel another group. No group of people has a right to subjugate another. Israel has done, and is doing, those things to Palestinians, not the other way around. That Zionism emerged in response to very serious European antisemitism does not mean the Zionists were justified in their actions. One group cannot free itself by subjugating another. Palestinians have been colonized, and they have resisted that process across more than a century. Whether nonviolent or not, that resistance has been deemed illegitimate by Israel and its allies. Seriously creating peace, justice, and perhaps reconciliation demands understanding root causes and addressing the harm that has been done. We must face history and be willing to name the aggressor: The State of Israel. This is not too complex to understand.

We are living in a clarifying moment. Watch closely what people say, and more importantly, what they do. Who is willing to call the situation unambiguously what it is: genocide? And who insists on obfuscating with recourse to complexity and nuance? Are our friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors willing to engage with the straightforward realities of the situation and do something about it? Or are they making excuses to justify inaction or worse to legitimize mass killing? Far too many Americans, and others, are in the latter group, implicitly and explicitly defending the actions of the Israeli government and military, which are committed to subjugating, ethnically cleansing, and “erasing” Palestinians.

As with so many other situations, we can look to the bravery of students across the country for guidance. We should look to those who are risking a great deal to articulate the uncontroversial principle that genocide is unacceptable, no matter the perpetrator, and that it is imperative to take action to force institutions in the U.S. to stop supporting it.

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