In the first part of this series, I discussed the origin and definition of the word genocide and gave recent examples, 1904 to the present. The second part described the largest such event in human history, the mass slaughter of Native Americans in the Western Hemisphere.
Since that last post, I have found some additional studies. The estimated total of Natives who were killed in various ways by colonizers, from 1492 to the present, is 175 million.*
A Legal Quibble
As I noted in the first part, lawyers and politicians argue over what constitutes an instance of genocide as opposed to a war crime, a “justifiable” act of war, or mere “collateral damage.” The primary distinguishing feature seems to be intent.
When one human being kills another unintentionally (such as a drunken driver hitting a pedestrian) that’s manslaughter. When a person plans the killing, to collect on the victim’s life insurance for example, that’s murder.
By analogy, when one nation or ethnic group plans, and subsequently carries out, the extermination or “ethnic cleansing” of another, that killing would be defined as genocide.
Who is Punished, Who Goes Free
This distinction may sound good in a courtroom, but to which nations is it actually applied? The laws regarding genocide were put in place in 1948, after the Second World War, and used against the losers of that war, specifically German officials.
Nobody brought the United States up on charges for the 1969 carpet bombing of Cambodia, which killed as many at 150,000 civilians. The perpetrators—Nixon and Kissinger—lived and died in comfort.
Nor did any tribunal indict Saudi Arabia for similar acts against Yemen. (At the moment that war has been paused, but it could resume any time.) To date, the Saudi assault has killed 150,000 people in Yemen and more than 227,000 have died as a result of an ongoing famine and lack of healthcare facilities due to the war. Hospitals and schools were targeted, with the excuse that they were being used to store weapons. (Israel has used the same excuse in bombing huge swaths of Gaza.) An entire governorate (province) in Yemen was designated a military target—anyone living there could either flee or be killed.
A coalition of nations backs the Saudis, among them the United States, which provides intelligence and logistical support.
These and other examples demonstrate that the laws supposedly governing nations are as inequitable as the ones applied to individuals within those nations. Even so, if we hope to repair this broken world, it is incumbent on us to search out the truth, to right the historical record.
This brings me to the current situation in Israel and Gaza. Let’s look at intent—on both sides.
Israeli Military Intent
Statements of intent to commit genocide and/or ethnic cleansing by Israel’s extreme right wing politicians have been well documented—including in the Israeli press.
Per The Times of Israel, “The ‘voluntary’ resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly becoming a key official policy of the government…Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel said ‘At the end of the war…the civilian population [of Gaza] will be entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. There will be no work, and 60% of Gaza’s agricultural land will become security buffer zones.’”
Per HuffPost, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said of Gaza, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible [for the Hamas attacks].” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Major General Ghassan Alian said, “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction.”
Per Mondoweis, retired Major General Giora Eiland insists that the entire population of Gaza is a legitimate target. “… not only Hamas fighters with weapons, but also all the ‘civilian’ officials, including hospital administrators and school administrators, and also the entire Gaza population that enthusiastically supported Hamas and cheered on its atrocities on October 7th…. Who are the ‘poor’ women of Gaza? They are all the mothers, sisters or wives of Hamas murderers.”
Eiland dismisses international concern about epidemics resulting from the lack of food, clean water, and health care. “…severe epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip will bring victory closer and reduce casualties among IDF soldiers.”
I read the 1988 Hamas charter. The organization is Muslim fundamentalist. Its declared purpose is to establish an Islamic state in the area. Article Six of the charter states, “[Hamas] strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety…”
Apparently “followers of all religions” doesn’t include Jews, since Article Seven says, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
According to Hamas, Jewish money controls the world. From Article 22: “With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there.
“With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.”
From Article 32: “Their plan is embodied in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” For those who never heard of this book, it is an anti-Semitic fabrication initially published in Russia in 1903, and details the Jewish plan for world control. Since 1903 it has been used to justify anti-Semitic acts worldwide, despite overwhelming evidence that it was written by Russian anti-Semites and not by Jews.
In some ways Hamas mirrors the fanaticism of those super-Orthodox Israelis who want to tear down the Dome of the Rock and build a third Jewish Temple, complete with animal sacrifices. Or the fanatic Christian fundamentalists who think all Jews must move to Israel so that Jesus will return and all the Christians will be taken up bodily to heaven while everyone else (including Jews) will go to hell.
In 2017 Hamas rewrote its charter, removing the explicit anti-Semitic material as well as the extensive quotes from the Koran and other Islamic writers, ancient and modern, and replacing the religious diatribes with contemporary political language.
Nevertheless, it continues to call for the eradication of Israel.
To be continued…
*The estimate is from a paper by Prof. David Michael Smith, “Counting the Dead: Estimating the Loss of Life in the Indigenous Holocaust, 1492-Present.” I haven’t been able to link to the pdf, but you can find it on the internet.