WCW Home Take Action Outcries 1/12/24 Don’t Turn Awa
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By Megan Stack

From The New York Times | Original Article

With the question of whether Israel is committing genocide in Gaza now before the International Court of Justice, the Biden administration has struck a tone of glib dismissal.

“Meritless” seems to be the agreed-upon term among U.S. officials. “The charge of genocide is meritless,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken intoned from a podium in Tel Aviv this week. “Meritless, counterproductive and without any basis in fact whatsoever,” blustered the National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

The administration’s posture of indifference strains credulity. The 84-page case submitted to the court by South Africa is crammed with devastating evidence that Israel has breached its obligations under the 1948 international genocide convention, which defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The document before the court is meticulously footnoted and sourced, and many experts say the legal argument is unusually strong.

Top Israeli political and military leaders have themselves helped to bolster the case against their government. The words of Israeli officials are being offered as evidence of intent: from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging Israelis to “remember” the Old Testament account of the carnage of Amalek (“Spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings,” reads one passage) to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowing that “Gaza won’t return to what it was before — we will eliminate everything” to the minister of energy and infrastructure pledging, “They will not receive a drop of water or a single battery until they leave this world.” By speaking openly about destroying Gaza and dispersing its residents, Israeli leaders have publicized what has, in other cases of genocide, been hidden or denied.

There’s no telling, of course, how effectively each side will argue or how the judges will rule. This week’s hearings in The Hague will not answer whether Israel is committing genocide — that will come after a more painstaking collection and presentation of evidence and could take years. For now, South Africa has asked the court “as a matter of extreme urgency” to order Israel to halt its onslaught in order to protect Palestinians and preserve evidence. The panel of judges has to be convinced only that the accusation of genocide is plausible to order provisional measures in the coming days or weeks.

Even a determination that evidence suggests genocide would oblige the international community to protect the shellshocked, starving people of Gaza by demanding a cease-fire and flooding the Palestinians with aid. In the long run, the case could lay early groundwork for sanctions against Israel or the prosecution of its officials.


A view of destroyed buildings. In the foreground is a ruined mosque.
The proceedings are meaningful for the United States, too. The Biden administration has been the indispensable sponsor of this war — arming, funding and diplomatically shielding Israel despite increasingly dire reports of Palestinian death and displacement. If the violence in Gaza is found to be genocide, the United States could be charged with complicity in genocide, a crime in its own right. Given the sheer power of the United States and its track record of international impunity, the odds of any significant consequences may be small — but, nevertheless, Americans should understand that the case is substantial and serious and that their own government is implicated.


Israel and its U.S. backers will, of course, frame this differently. They will point out, correctly, that Israel suffered an intolerable blow on Oct. 7, when Hamas militants cut a path of atrocities through southern Israel, slaughtering hundreds of civilians and dragging hundreds more back into Gaza as hostages.

Israeli and American officials have repeatedly invoked self-defense to explain the violence in Gaza; self-defense is also expected to shape Israel’s arguments in The Hague.


But self-defense cannot excuse or justify acts of genocide, and Israel’s assault on Gaza is a wildly disproportionate response to the crimes of Oct. 7. Israel did not promise, nor did it execute, a sharply targeted retaliation against Hamas (whose leaders run their political operations out of Qatar) or a strategic hunt for the hostages.

Israel has rescued only a single hostage — and Israeli soldiers shot dead three Israeli hostages who were waving a white flag and begging for rescue, later explaining they mistook them for Palestinians. Almost all of the 110 Israeli hostages who’ve made it home were released by truce, negotiation and prisoner exchange.

Within hours of the Hamas attack, Israel imposed a brutal blockade on the Gaza Strip, cutting off electricity, water, fuel and food to a trapped population of roughly 2.2 million, about half of whom are children. The blockade itself amounted to the war crime of collective punishment, but that was only the curtain raiser. Within hours, the bombs began to fall — and have continued to this day.

In an Israeli television clip cited by South Africa in its application, Col. Yogev Bar-Sheshet spoke from Gaza: “Whoever returns here, if they return here after, will find scorched earth,” he said. “No houses, no agriculture, no nothing. They have no future.”


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