Call it Genocide!

Shoaib Sultan and Peter Eisenstein 

What Israel is doing in Gaza meets all the criteria of a genocide. If we want to stop it, we have to say that what we are seeing is genocide. 

The UN Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. If Israel’s actions in Gaza must be defined as genocide, it is because they are intended to destroy Palestinians as a national group, in the first instance by removing them from Gaza. 

Bombing of civilians

The first of the genocidal acts described in the Convention is “killing members of the group”. Israel has systematically bombed residential areas, UN schools, hospitals, mosques and churches. Israel has tried to defend this by claiming that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, but there have been no independent reports that Hamas fighters have stayed at the countless civilian targets that have been hit. Civilians only serve as shields against an enemy that fails to fire when civilians are in the way, and Israel has never done so. Hamas has therefore placed all its military command centres deep underground. 

The bombing of civilian targets, therefore, has no strategic effect, if we assume that Israel only aims to kill Hamas fighters. But there is no reason to assume that. Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated on October 13 that “There is a whole nation there that is responsible. The rhetoric that the civilians were not involved is absolutely not true”. 

Deliberate use of hunger and epidemics

“There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be shut down,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated at an open microphone on October 9. More clearly than this, it is not possible to express an intent to “deliberately subject the group to conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”, which is another of the genocidal acts described in the Genocide Convention

The UN Food Program now describes a situation where no one is safe from famine, and around a quarter of the population, 500,000 people, are already in a catastrophic situation. Lack of food and clean water, lack of shelter, sanitation and medical care have also created what James Elder of the UN Children’s Fund describes as a “perfect storm” for the spread of disease. A sharp increase in infectious diseases that can be fatal, especially for young children, has already been recorded.

All indications are that the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, was in fact speaking on behalf of the government when he stated that “serious epidemics in the southern Gaza Strip will bring victory closer”. The aim is probably to make the situation so extreme that Egypt will be forced to let the Palestinians in Gaza into the Sinai desert, in line with the Israeli intelligence ministry’s plan.

Children’s song about genocide

Mobilizing one’s own population to support genocide is one of the prerequisites for genocide to be carried out. Among the most grotesque expressions of this is a music video, produced by Rosenbaum Communications, in which Israeli children sing about carrying out genocide with the refrain “In a year, there’s nothing there, in a year, we’ll have wiped everyone out”, to images of Israeli bombs destroying apartment blocks in Gaza. 

On December 29, 2023, South Africa filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice for alleged violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Should the case result in a partial victory, it will be possible to prosecute propagandists such as Rosenbaum Communications. 

The precedent for such charges comes from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where three of those convicted “were not generals, militia leaders or politicians, but media executives”. They were found guilty of public incitement to genocide and sentenced to between 30 and 35 years in prison.

Cowardice has a price

Norwegian politicians describe a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza and call for a ceasefire. When Israel flatly rejects this, condemnation of Israel is still absent. Malaysia and Turkey support South Africa’s genocide complaint against Israel in the UN court, while Norway has not said a word about the upcoming trial. Nor have any elected representatives in the Norwegian Parliament dared to say that what Israel is carrying out is genocide. We do not believe this is because Norwegian politicians do not understand what is happening, but because they do not dare to use the word because it is obligatory. 

The Genocide Convention requires all signatory states to ensure that genocide is prevented, and states that complicity in genocide is also punishable. Contributing to Israel’s continued access to weapons and ammunition used in Gaza is undoubtedly complicity.

Telling the truth, that Israel is engaged in genocide, will have political and perhaps economic costs for Norway. But can we live with the moral cost of watching a genocide happen without even acknowledging it? We say no.

Shoaib Sultan, Muslim peace activist and member of the Green Party

Peter Eisenstein, Jewish peace activist and member of the Peace and Justice Party