Genocide in Gaza: Examining the Evidence Under International Law

Over 1 million people in Gaza have been forced to migrate due to Israel’s attacks, causing a shortage of food, water, power, medicine, and fuel. The death toll has risen to 14,000, and some Israeli officials have even suggested deporting the population to Egypt. The Srebrenica genocide, which resulted in the killings of over 8,000 Bosniaks by Serb forces in 1995, has evoked memories of the genocide.

The civilian death toll and Israeli officials’ comments against Palestinians suggest genocidal intent according to international law. The term “genocide” was coined in 1944 by Polish jurist Rafael Lempkin, who entered the international law literature with his book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.” Although not defined as a crime in the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter, prosecutors referred to it as a crime against humanity in their indictments and opening addresses of the trials.

The term “genocide” was first introduced in international documents with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It defines genocide as acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, including killing members, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life to cause physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcibly transferring children to another group.

The Genocide Convention, which came into force in 1951, mandates that party countries recognize genocide as a crime in their national laws and prosecute those who commit such crimes. The statutes of international criminal tribunals established for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, where the crime of genocide is included as an article of criminal law, and the Rome Statute, the founding agreement of the International Criminal Court, use the definition in the UN Genocide Convention. The crime of genocide is regulated in Article 6 of the Rome Statute.

The crime of genocide is determined by the perpetrator’s “genocidal intent,” which involves actions aimed at destroying a specific group for no other reason than because of membership in that group. In the context of the Gaza conflict, Palestinians fit the definition of a “group” in the context of the crime of genocide, with the same ethnic, religious, and national identity.

The main victims were overwhelmingly Palestinians, and attempts have been made to get people of other national, religious, and ethnic groups out of Gaza since the beginning of the conflict. However, the fact that those killed include people of other nationalities, religions, and ethnic groups does not negate the crime of genocide, as the main victims were overwhelmingly Palestinians. Israel’s practices align with at least three of the five prohibited acts defined in the crime of genocide, demonstrating its compliance with these acts.

First, 14,532 people, including over 6,000 children and 4,000 women, have been killed in Israeli attacks since October 7, meeting the condition of “killing members of the group. The Palestinians have experienced severe physical or mental harm, which is considered genocide. The removal of essential resources like electricity, water, and food is considered deliberate infliction of conditions that could lead to their physical destruction.

The Israeli government’s actions in the Gaza Strip, including attacks on Palestinians, have been characterized by genocidal intent. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Palestinians to the ancient tribe Amalek, a recurring foe of Israelites. Israel’s far-right heritage minister, Amihai Eliyahu, suggested using a nuclear bomb in Gaza as an option, indicating genocidal intent. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant described Israel’s war with Palestinian groups as “deadly” and stated that it would change the situation forever.

Israeli Health Minister Moshe Arbel stated that injured Palestinians captured during an attack would not be treated, while former UN Permanent Representative Dan Gillerman referred to Palestinians as “horrible, inhumane animals.” Israeli lawmakers Ariel Kallner and Moshe Saada emphasized the need to bring the enemy to an end, and Zvi Sukkot called Hamas “Nazis.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog justified civilian casualties by claiming that civilians in Gaza were aware of Hamas’ attacks and were complicit. These remarks reveal the Israeli government’s genocidal intent, not just actions aimed at collective punishment. These remarks have not been limited to officials.

Israeli army volunteer Ezra Yachin has publicly called for a massacre of Palestinians, claiming to destroy their memory, families, and animals. Retired Gen. Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, stated that Israel has no choice but to make Gaza uninhabitable and that it is fighting against terrorism and all of Gaza. Yachin’s statement “Gaza will turn into a place where no human being can exist” demonstrates genocidal intent. The death toll in Gaza since Israel’s offensive has exceeded 14,000, surpassing the Srebrenica genocide in 1995. Both Serb and Israeli officials dispute the exaggerated death tolls in the Srebrenica massacre, claiming that most were civilians killed but not directly targeted during the war with Muslim Bosniak soldiers. They also argue that the death toll in Gaza was exaggerated by Gaza officials and civilian casualties were not directly targeted in Hamas attacks.

The Rome Statute categorizes acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as separate categories. Genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are defined in Articles 6, 7, and 8, respectively, unless committed with genocidal intent and as part of a systematic attack on civilians.

Crimes against humanity do not require specific intent and include atrocities committed against all civilians, not just national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. War crimes, as specified in Article 8, are similar to genocide or crimes against humanity but do not require specific intent and can be committed against any civilian group.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu for his involvement in the genocide in 1998. The Rwandan Court found former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda guilty of genocide and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia concluded in 2001 that the killing of Bosnian Muslim men in Srebrenica involved the intention to partially destroy the Bosnian Muslim group and should be characterized as genocide.

The International Criminal Court has found Radislav Kristic guilty of genocide, marking the first time a state has been found to have violated the Genocide Convention. The Yugoslav Tribunal convicted Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara of genocide, along with Drago Nikolic, of aiding and participating in the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb Forces against Eastern Bosnian Muslims.

The International Criminal Court can try individuals for the crime of genocide, regardless of their position. This could include a head of state or government official planning the genocide, a commander who commits the crime, or an ordinary citizen who turns a blind eye to its commission.

According to Article 29 of the Rome Statute, obedience to senior officials’ orders is not acceptable as a legal defense against the charge. Article 25 of the Rome Statute states that anyone who commits or attempts to commit the crime of genocide, orders its commission, or encourages or provokes it is considered culpable. Additionally, a person’s direct and public incitement of others to commit genocide also constitutes the crime.

Israeli officials may be tried for genocide even if they do not directly engage in shooting or bombing. Israeli officials and individuals who participated in the crime of genocide against the people of Gaza, such as attempting, aiding and abetting, inciting, and planning activities, may be considered complicit in genocide.

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