Why it's a genocide

Genocide in Gaza

Genocide is a crime under international law. As defined in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the crime of genocide involves certain acts conducted with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Genocide can be committed in either a time of war or peace. Acts associated with genocide include “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.”

Israel’s war on Gaza amounts to the illegal collective punishment of the civilian population, and strongly resembles the crime of genocide. Indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes – at times targeting even schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, ambulances, and apartment buildings – have killed thousands of Palestinians, most of them women and children. Israel’s ‘total siege’ – illegal under international law – has cut off access to water, food, electricity, fuel, and medicines to civilians, bringing the health of the population to the brink of death. Israel has also ordered more than 1,000,000 people in northern Gaza to flee their homes, and is considering plans to push the population of Gaza into Egypt. In justifying these illegal actions, Israel’s defence minister and other key official have referred to Palestinians in Gaza in dehumanizing language, including as “human animals.”

Key perspectives on the risk of genocide in Gaza:

“The failure to urgently implement a ceasefire risks this situation spiralling towards a genocide conducted with 21st century means and methods of warfare” - Joint statement from 36 United Nations experts warning that grave violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians "point to a genocide in the making," November 16, 2023 (Link)

"We are sounding the alarm: There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity in Gaza … [and] a risk of genocide against the Palestine people.” – Joint statement from seven United Nations human rights experts, October 19, 2023 (Link)

“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide. The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.” – Joint statement from seven United Nations human rights experts, November 2, 2023 (Link)

The "reproductive violence inflicted by Israel on Palestinian women, newborn babies, infants, and children could be qualified as a violations of the human right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and as acts of genocide under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, several articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including 'imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group.'" - Statement from Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, November 20, 2023 (Link)

Gaza is facing a catastrophic situation. Gaza has been asked to choose between human cleansing and genocide, either to leave or to die.” - Message to the international community from Dr. Younis Al-Khatib, President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, November 6, 2023 (Link)  

"The distinguishing feature of genocide is that the perpetrator commits the specific underlying acts of the offence with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such. The Palestinian people constitute a national group for the purposes of the Genocide Convention. The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip constitute a substantial proportion of the Palestinian nation. The ICJ is concerned that certain statements by senior officials and politicians in Israel disclose evidence of what may be characterised as intent to destroy Palestinians of the Gaza Strip." Legal Briefer by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), November 17, 2023 (Link)

"Gaza’s devastating reality mirrors the components of genocide, as Israeli actions and rhetoric paint an annihilatory picture. Despite some occasional claims that it is only targeting Hamas, Israel’s conduct reveals an all-out assault on the whole population of Gaza." - Law for Palestine, November 16, 2023 (Link)

“As scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies and genocide studies, we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We do not do so lightly, recognising the weight of this crime, but the gravity of the current situation demands it.” – Joint statement from 800 scholars, October 17, 2023 (Link)

"There is clear evidence that Israel is attempting to commit, if not actively committing, genocide in the occupied Palestinian territory, and specifically against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," Center for Constitutional Rights, October 18, 2023 (Link)

“Our organisations warn that the cutting off of water, electricity, and internet in Gaza, and the denial of entry of humanitarian convoys of food, medicine, and other supplies necessary for the survival of the population through the Rafah crossing are all evidence that Israel is taking steps to act on its inciteful genocidal statements […] Third States must immediately act to prevent acts of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people.” - Palestinian human rights organizations Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), October 13, 2023 (Link)

 “Israeli officials’ statements combined with widespread and systematic attacks carried out by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip raise extreme concern that this is now a campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people. Israeli military assaults have reached an intensity where they are seemingly intended to deliberately kill large numbers of Palestinians in Gaza, and combined with Israeli total closure policies, show the aim is to destroy Palestinian life in Gaza.” – Defence for Children International – Palestine, October 13, 2023 (Link)

“A full blockade of Gaza could be considered a crime against humanity and a genocide. It could be investigated by the International Criminal Court.” - Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, October 15, 2023 (Link)

“In light of Israeli official statements inciting genocide, we call on the [International Criminal Court] Prosecutor to issue an official public statement to deter the commission of genocide and other international crimes against the Palestinian people.” - Joint statement from genocide scholars and 100 Palestinian and International Civil Society Organisations, including CJPME, October 20, 2023 (Link)

“[The UN Committee is] highly concerned about the sharp increase in racist hate speech and dehumanization directed at Palestinians since 7 October, particularly on the Internet and in social media, including by senior officials, politicians, members of the Parliament, and public figures, particularly the statement of 9 October made by the Israeli Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, in which he referred to Palestinians as ‘human animals’, language which could incite genocidal actions.” - UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), October 27, 2023 (Link)

“I also worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. In each case, when the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenseless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocities, of protection of the vulnerable, and of accountability for perpetrators […] High Commissioner, we are failing again […] This is a text-book case of genocide.” – Resignation letter from Craig Mokhiber, outgoing director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 28, 2023 (Link)

“Israel’s campaign to displace Gazans—and potentially expel them altogether into Egypt—is yet another chapter in the Nakba, in which an estimated 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes during the 1948 war that led to the creation of the State of Israel. But the assault on Gaza can also be understood in other terms: as a textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes. I say this as a scholar of genocide, who has spent many years writing about Israeli mass violence against Palestinians.” - Raz Segal, associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University and the endowed professor in the study of modern genocide, writing in Jewish Currents, October 13, 2023 (Link)