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‘Self-defence’ is no justification for genocide in Gaza

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Little boys JayendranThaver(10), Abdul Rahman(11) and Jhashen Thaver(7), during the soles for our souls campaign at the Nelson Mandela Community Youth Centre in Chatsworth on Saturday, place candles at a prayer session for Palestinian children who were killed in the war. The Palestinian people, not just Hamas, have been Israel’s intended targets all along, the writer says. – Picture:Tumi Pakkies / Independent Newspapers / February 11, 2024

By John Morlino

Shortly after the turn of this century, a hopelessly marginalised people in the desert lashed out at their oppressor. They were met with a fury that could only emanate from the darkest depths of the human soul.

As the world learned of the Khartoum government’s unfolding genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Jewish organisations around the globe raised their voices in protest. Led by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and American Jewish World Service (AJWS), dozens of religious groups and human rights activists formed an alliance called the Save Darfur Coalition.

Throughout their years-long attempt to compel the international community to take substantive action, Jewish leaders routinely and eloquently described their motivation. Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the opening speaker at a 2006 rally for Darfur, in Washington, DC, told the crowd, “As a Jew, I’m here because when we needed people to help us, nobody came. Therefore, we’re here.”

Simply put, everything Israel has done in Gaza since Hamas’ brutal 2023 attack has been carried out with genocidal intent.

I, too, was part of the effort to end the genocide in Darfur: writing extensively; speaking at local, national, and international events; and coordinating an all-volunteer, grassroots campaign. The prominence of Jewish voices, their leadership, and their commitment was not lost on me. In a word, it was heartening.

Today, the USHMM, AJWS, and nearly every other high-profile Jewish organisation refuse to call what Israel is doing in Gaza by its rightful name. Their stance will be recorded as one of history’s most damning examples of both hypocrisy and whitewashing.

With the release of an advance copy of her March 25, 2024, report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese confirmed what any clear-eyed person has known for months. Israel is committing genocide in Palestine.

The document, aptly titled Anatomy of a Genocide, chronicles in painstaking detail the “Jewish State’s” decades-long effort to rid its so-called homeland of “Arabs” — a plan which began in earnest in the late 1940s with the forced evacuation of the land’s Indigenous inhabitants and is presently culminating in mass murder.

The report’s findings are as unequivocal as they are stark. Simply put, everything Israel has done in Gaza since Hamas’ brutal 2023 attack has been carried out with genocidal intent. That list includes bombs specifically aimed at civilian residences, hospitals, mosques, refugee camps, and other purported safe havens; killing doctors, nurses, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists; demolishing facilities that had provided clean water, medical supplies, heat, electricity, and sanitation; and severely limiting or banning emergency food delivery and dispersal.

In short, the Palestinian people — not just Hamas — have been the intended targets all along.

Addressing the legal perspective, Albanese demonstrates, in no uncertain terms, that Israel’s leaders and military personnel have violated at least three elements of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (any one of which is sufficient to make a legal case for genocide): killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

Together, coupled with the fact that safe and effective medical care is virtually non-existent in Gaza and that women and children already make up two-thirds of the death toll, it would not be a stretch to charge Israel with a fourth violation: imposing measures intended to prevent births in the group.

For those who continue to insist Israel cannot be found culpable of genocide because none of their leaders have explicitly used the term to describe their deeds, Albanese provided unvarnished clarity. While there is no end to the list of statements by Israeli officials revealing their true end game, none are needed to prove genocidal intent. “The overwhelming nature and scale of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the destructive conditions of life it has inflicted,” she wrote, “reveal an intent to physically destroy Palestinians as a group.”

And in case you’re wondering, no, “self-defence” is neither a legal nor moral justification for committing the worst crime known to humankind.

Nothing ever is.

John Morlino is a former social worker who founded The ETHIC (The Essence of True Humanity Is Compassion) to promote peace, nonviolence, and compassion.

This article was first published on Common Dreams