It is 2014 and Zionism continues to labour under the delusion that it will achieve its settler-colonial aims of 1897. Starting in 1947, the ongoing Nakba has now reached an agonising climax, with the Israeli state moving from apartheid policies to carrying out genocidal acts – the extermination of Palestinians in Gaza. As the Zionists attempt to remove Palestinians from history, the West ignores this. However, they are not merely complicit but actively funding and arming the perpetrators of the greatest crime of our generation.
Raphael Lemkin – the Polish scholar who coined the term genocide – based his studies largely on the Armenian genocide of 1915. Writing in 1946, as the world was still reeling from WWII, Lemkim clearly identified genocide as: “the crime of destroying national, racial or religious groups … by its very legal, moral and humanitarian nature, it must be considered an international crime.” He goes on to contextualise the atrocity: “A ruthless regime finds it easiest to commit genocide in a time of war. It then becomes a problem of the treatment, or, rather, mistreatment, of a civilian population by an occupant.”[i] Lemkin successfully pushed for genocide to be formalised as a crime under international law, with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide being adopted in 1948. According to Article 2 of the convention, can refer to:
any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- (a) Killing members of the group;
- (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.[ii]
Genocide is not simply about the extermination of people; there is a process before and after this particular stage. Gregory Stanton has indentified ten stages of genocide in a model, which lamentably can, without any effort, be applied to Palestinians. Since 1947, we have witnessed the classification, persecution and dehumanisation of Palestinians by those in military and/or political power of the Zionist movement. The denial of the Nakba was attempted by renaming ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages to Hebrew, utterly razing villages, or building parks upon the ruins of them. As Jean Baudrillard writes, “forgetting extermination is part of extermination, because it is also the extermination of memory, of history, of the social, etc.”[iii] Palestinians, by commemorating the Nakba, by resisting through culture or through force of arms, have fought against this genocide.
Today, genocidal sentiments in Israeli society are the ethical and tribal support for the violence carried out by the state. In the parliamentary, public, military and journalistic spheres, explicit or implicit support for genocide against the Palestinian people – or Arabs generally – is now commonplace. At the beginning of the current campaign of destruction and slaughter, Israeli parliamentarian, Ayelet Shaked called for the wiping-out of all Palestinians. She categorised the enemy as “the entire Palestinian people” and argued for the extermination of Palestinian mothers because they give birth to “little snakes”.[iv] Later in July, reports of racist mobs singing and chanting in Tel Aviv revealed the genocidal nature of Israeli society further still. The songs celebrated the state murder of children, with the lyrics: “In Gaza there’s no studying, no children are left there” and “Gaza is a graveyard”.[v] A few days after this, an IOF soldier boasted online of his murdering of Palestinian children. Aiming his comment at a Palestinian woman, he said, “ I killed 13 children today and you’re next Muslims”.[vi] These manifestations of overt and violent racism are not incoherent outbursts, nor are they isolated – they all support, from different angles, the Israeli state killing of Palestinians as a people. Equally important, but more sinister, is that all three examples explicitly emphasise and support the deadly violence against children. The targeting and murder of Palestinian children has been a prominent feature in the latest phase of genocide in Gaza. On the first of August, The Times of Israel ran an Op-Ed entitled When Genocide is Permissible. The author, Yochanan Gordon, argues that – in a roundabout fashion, using rhetorical questions – genocide of the Palestinian people could well be the only option Zionism has if it wants to retain its hold of Palestine. This article was pulled on the same day it was published.[vii] In July, four children – all boys from the same family – were killed by an Israeli gunboat as they played on the beach.[viii] Later in the month, eight children were killed in the bombing of a playground on the first day of Eid al-Fitr holiday.[ix] Now, over 1800 have been murdered, including 300 children, and almost half a million displaced.[x]
Nine years ago, before the systematic carnage in Gaza today, the UN World Summit produced an Outcome Document on ‘The Responsibility to Protect’. This noble initiative prefaces its principles with a considered observation of the globalised political structures:
The 2005 document puts forward three ‘pillars’:
The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;
The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;
The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
According to the 4th Geneva Convention, the Israeli state, as the occupying power, is responsible for the people living in Gaza.[xi] The Zionist government in Tel Aviv has committed (or is committing) War Crimes (murder and displacement), Genocide (according to the UN Convention), ethnic cleansing (though forced population transfer in Gaza and West Bank) and Crimes against Humanity (through apartheid policies). Anyone using a Liberal interpretation of power would naturally assume that states endorsing the Responsibility to Protect would intervene – militarily or otherwise – to stop the Zionist atrocities in Gaza. After all, the doctrine was invoked by the UN Security Council in 2011 in response to the crisis in Libya. However, It did not go as cheerleading Liberal interventionists expected. Instead of protecting the people of Libya, NATO bombed civilian population centres and overthrew Gaddafi. Following that, amid the fragmentation of state power and military confrontation between militias and the army, western oil companies moved in to consolidate their control of Libyan oil production. The country remains extremely volatile and unsafe.
The ‘protect’ in Responsibility to Protect implies that this is a project for imperial powers. Only states which have substantial military power coupled with interventionist policies have an interest in this mendacious initiative, since it lends legal and moral backing – via the United Nations – to predatory campaigns seeking to overthrow disobedient despots or to usurp national resources. Reading past the front cover and between the lines reveals Responsibility to Protect to be an attempt to legitimise and justify violations of state sovereignty under the cloak of humanitarianism. Were this doctrine to be applied equally to all human rights violations, troops would be rushing in to break the siege of Gaza and dismantle apartheid. Unfortunately, Palestinians are not the right kind of people: they are oppressed by the right kind of people for the west. The US, as an imperial power – with its allies, UK and France – has no interest in stopping the Palestinian genocide. As a European settler-state in the Arab world, the Israeli state is an ally. It can be set upon recalcitrant Arabs if they do not know their place and bow to western strategic aims. But more importantly, western arms companies such as BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon & Thales either sell parts to the rogue state or buy weapons from it which have been ‘tested’ on the Palestinian population.[xii]
While Palestinians are either seen as a people to be removed from the land or as guinea pigs for weapons, the UN will not and cannot stop the genocide. Palestinians – as an economic cog in the machine of the arms trade – are just too profitable. There is now a growing gulf between those citizens of conscience and the imperial states that govern them; and they are waking up to their responsibility to show solidarity with Palestinians by boyotting and isolating the Israeli state. As the BDS movement gains traction across the western world, states collaborating with genocide will be forced to change course. The trend towards this is slow but increasing as more and more people rise with indignation against apartheid, looking for a constructive and effective outlet to stop genocide.