In recent decades, nearly three million people have died in a famine in North Korea, caused mainly by the government. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been gassed, bombed, starved or tortured to death by the Assad regime. around 14 million were forced to flee their homes. China has put more than a million Uyghurs in gulag-like re-education camps in a thinly veiled attempt to suppress and erase their religious and cultural identity.
But North Korea, Syria and China have never been accused of genocide before the International Court of Justice. Israel did it. How curious. And how obscene.
It is obscene because it politicizes our understanding of genocide, fatally eroding the moral power of the term. The war between Israel and Hamas is terrible – like any war. But if this is genocide, what word do we have for the battlefields in Cambodia, the story of Stalin? Holodomor in Ukraine, the Holocaust itself?
Words that come to mean much more than originally intended end up meaning almost nothing – a victory for the future. genocidists who would want the world to think that there is no moral or legal difference between one type of murder and another.
It is obscene because it distorts the definition of genocide, which is precise: “acts committed with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such”. Notice two key features of this definition: it talks about actions whereas part of the charge of genocide against Israel involves a misinterpretation of quotes from Israeli officials who vowed the elimination of Hamas, not the elimination of the Palestinians. And he uses the term as such – meaning that acts are only genocidal if directed against Palestinians as Palestinians, not as members of Hamas or, heartbreakingly, as collateral deaths in Hamas’s attempts to destroy.
If Israel attempted to commit genocide, it would not put its soldiers in danger, allow humanitarian aid to arrive from Egypt, or withdraw large parts of its forces from Gaza. It would simply mean killing Palestinians everywhere, in much greater numbers, like the Germans killed the Jews or the Hutus killed the Tutsis.
It’s obscene because it puts the wrong party in the dock. Hamas is a genocidal organization by belief and design. It is the founding charter calls for the “annihilation” of Israel» and for Muslims to kill Jews while they “hide behind stones and trees”. On October 7, Hamas murdered, mutilated, tortured, cremated, raped or kidnapped everyone it could. If he hadn’t been arrested, he wouldn’t have stopped. One of its leaders has since vowed to do so”a second, a third, a fourth” time.
It is Hamas, not Israel, which started the war, continues it and will resume it as soon as it has the arsenal and the opportunity.
It is obscene because it validates Hamas’ illegal and barbaric strategy of hiding between, behind and under Palestinian civilians. Since the start of the war, Hamas has had a dual objective: killing as many Jews as possible and causing Palestinian deaths to gain international sympathy and diplomatic leverage.
What is happening now in The Hague will never be a victory for the ordinary people of Gaza, whatever the ICJ verdict. Their victory will only come when they have a government interested in building a peaceful and prosperous state, rather than destroying its neighbor. But it will constitute an unprecedented propaganda triumph for Hamas – quite a turning point for a group that, only a few months ago, proudly filmed himself murdering children.
It’s obscene because it’s historically hypocritical. The United States, Britain and other allied countries killed staggering numbers of German and Japanese civilians as they prepared to defeat the regimes that had started World War II – often known as Good War. Events such as the bombings of Dresden or Tokyo, not to mention those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were tragic and far more indiscriminate than anything Israel is accused of doing. But no serious person considers Franklin Roosevelt to be on moral equality with Adolf Hitler. What the Allies did were acts of war in the service of lasting peace, not genocide in the service of a fanatical goal.
The difference? In war, killings end when one side stops fighting. In a genocide, this is when the killings begin.
It’s obscene because of its strange selectivity. Reasonable people can argue that Israel used excessive force, or that it did not care enough about Palestinian civilians, or that it was reckless in its thinking about the end game. I do not I don’t agree, but hey.
But it is curious that the discussion turned to genocide (and this from the first day of the war), because this is the behavior of the Jewish state in question. And how telling that the accusation is the same one that rabid fanatics have been leveling for years: that Jews are, and have long been, the real Nazis — guilty of the worst crimes of humanity and deserving of the worst punishments. A verdict against Israel at the ICJ would signal that another international institution, and the people who cheer it, have adopted the moral vision of anti-Semites.
It has been nearly 50 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan condemned the UN resolution “Zionism is Racism” as “this infamous act.”
“The abomination of anti-Semitism,” he said. warned, “took on the appearance of an international sanction”. Perhaps the ICJ will make the same mistake. If this is the case, the shame and disgrace will fall on the accusers and not the accused.