'Ceasefire necessary to prevent genocide'

Is Israel committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, supported by the West?

© Reuters

Palestinians flee their homes with their belongings, November 7, 2023.

The ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza is not a typical war. The term ‘genocide’ is being used more frequently in political and social media debates. Several professors of Holocaust and Genocide studies have also been making the case. UN experts have called for an immediate ceasefire ‘to prevent genocide’. Israel has used genocidal rhetoric and has secret plans for ‘evacuation to Egypt’.

‘Nakba! A Nakba that overshadows the catastrophe of 1948.’ On 7 October, Israeli member of parliament Ariel Kallner referred directly to the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948. His tweet was accompanied by a warning from the platform: ‘This post may violate the rules on violent speech.’

The world is rightfully shocked by the terrorist acts and war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups. This has given Israel credit. Israel may use this credit to justify committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, under the guise of self-defence or revenge against Hamas.

Kallner is far from alone in calling for violence in the wake of recent terrorist attacks by Palestinian armed groups. But Israeli violence had been going on long before. A growing number of experts are describing Israel’s blockade of Gaza and repeated military assaults on the territory as a “slow genocide.”

‘The Genocide Convention does not stipulate that you have to kill people to commit genocide.’

On 2 December, Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said: ‘The siege of Gaza itself is extermination, a crime against humanity and a form of genocide. The Genocide Convention does not stipulate that you have to kill people to commit genocide. Inflicting conditions to destroy the group, that in itself is genocide. Many officials in the Israeli government are expressing their genocidal intentions. That’s why it’s reasonable to say Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. Each of the bombings, each of the killings should be investigated. But come on, the siege itself is a genocide.’

Moreno Ocampo is referring to the blockade of Gaza starting in 2005. Palestinian children who turned 18 this year have spent their entire lives in an open-air prison, in a man-made humanitarian disaster. They have endured five major military attacks ‘designed to terrorize the civilian population and severely weaken the economy’, according to the report by the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza Conflict, the so-called Goldstone Report of 2009.

Total blockade

The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.’

‘There are no bakeries left in the north. You’d have to walk for miles to find food, but Israeli soldiers are shooting if they see anything suspicious.’

On 9 October, Israel imposed a “total” blockade on Gaza, restricting access to food, water, electricity, and medicine even more than usual. Additionally, the army has been damaging these essential services. Since 7 October, Israel has only permitted the same amount of aid trucks into Gaza in one month as it previously allowed in a single day.

In the beginning of November, Maher Albhaisi, a Palestinian hydrologist from Opwijk in Belgium, said that there were no bakeries left in the north. His parents in Gaza City faced difficulties finding food as they would have to walk for miles, but they were afraid to do so due to the presence of Israeli soldiers who may shoot if they see anything suspicious.

People resorted to grabbing food from UN warehouses. The office of UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that aid agencies were unable to deliver additional food supplies to Gaza City. Due to the limited supply of water, sufficient only for 4 per cent of the population, people are consuming seawater as an alternative.

Fuel is not being delivered to hospitals, which is crucial for their operation. Doctors are performing surgeries on injured patients, including children, without anaesthesia. Albhaisi stated in November that 23 hospitals had already closed down, and the largest hospital in Shifa ran out of fuel.

‘A convoy of five UN and World Health Organisation trucks, escorted by the Red Cross, was on its way to deliver medical supplies to Shifa hospital. One of the drivers was wounded as the convoy came under fire. So far, 99 of our UN colleagues have been killed’, Guterres stated in November. This conflict has resulted in the highest number of UN staff casualties in recent history.

20,000 civilian deaths

In previous rounds of Israeli bombardment of the densely populated area of 2.5 million people, no larger than the Belgian coastal strip, around 4,000 Palestinians were killed. But this time, in just two and half months, Israel has killed five times the number of civilians compared to all previous operations combined: almost 20,000 people, 9,000 of whom were children. Dozens of families have been wiped out.

52,000 people have been injured, 1,9 million people have been forcibly displaced. These numbers are dwarfing those of the Nakba of 1948.

’Forced displacement to the Egyptian border is underway’, Maher Albhaisi said on 4 December. ‘The Israeli army is bombing northern Gaza to compel the remaining people to move to the south. Large areas have become deserted ghost towns. Meanwhile, the southern Gaza strip is also being bombed in an attempt to push people towards the Egyptian border. The army has distributed leaflets in Khan Younis instructing everyone to relocate to Rafah. It is unclear what Israel hopes to achieve.’

Israel’s secret plan

Netanyahu stated that ‘the war against Hamas will continue after the humanitarian pause’. Indeed, Israel has a goal that requires more time. According to well-known professors of Genocide Studies this goal is ‘ethnic cleansing, which can lead to genocide’. One of them is US-Israeli Holocaust expert Raz Segal.

Reconstruction and return to much of northern Gaza is already close to impossible due to the unprecedented scale of destruction.

A worrying pattern arises when considering an Israeli ministerial document leaked at the end of October, which proposes the “evacuation of civilians from Gaza to Egyptian Sinai” as the option with “the most favourable long-term strategic outcome”.

‘Returns should not be allowed.’

The document also states: ‘Travel routes to the south must remain open to allow the evacuation of civilians to Rafah (the only border crossing with Egypt, ed.). Returns should not be allowed. Evacuating populations from war zones is a widely accepted method that saves lives. At first sight, this option may raise problems of international legitimacy. But evacuating populations from war zones is a widely accepted method that saves lives.’

The document continues: ‘Israel should diplomatically encourage countries to accept displaced populations as refugees.’ The document even lists the following countries: Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Greece, Spain and Canada. A propaganda campaign is supposed to persuade the Western world and the people of Gaza to accept this plan.

Destruction and expulsion

‘Saving Palestinian lives’ is indeed the message Israeli soldiers have given to journalists from Britain’s Channel 4 News.

Channel 4 News correspondent Secunder Kermani accompanied Israeli forces into Gaza and witnessed a landscape of destruction as Gazans were fleeing south.

The plan is being implemented. On 12 October, the Israeli authorities ordered over a million Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate south within 24 hours. The Red Cross has stated that these evacuation orders, along with the extensive siege, violate international humanitarian law.

The World Health Organization has warned that forcing over 2,000 patients to flee to southern Gaza, where hospitals are already overburdened and unable to cope with a sudden influx of patients, could be a death sentence.

After Israeli soldiers entered the centre of Gaza City, Maher Albhaisi’s parents witnessed a constant stream of people leaving. These people must walk dozens of kilometres south along the so-called “humanitarian corridor”, which Israel has designated as a “safe route”.

Israeli warplanes have dropped bombs on this corridor, resulting in fatalities. The objective of the plan may be to force Palestinians towards the Egyptian border, instilling fear and prompting them to flee to Egypt as quickly as possible.

‘The far-right extremists in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government might welcome a chance to shift a million or more Palestinians off the demographic balance sheet.’

Kenneth Roth, the former director of Human Rights Watch, has linked this ethnic cleansing to Israel preoccupation with safeguarding the Jewish majority: ‘To see why the Israeli government might welcome a new round of ethnic cleansing requires understanding its policies of demographic engineering. With the proportion of Jews and Palestinians roughly equal across Israel and Palestine, the far-right extremists in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government might welcome a chance to shift a million or more Palestinians off the demographic balance sheet.’

Omer Bartov, ‘one of the leading experts on genocide’ according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, has also stated: ‘There’s a clear intention of ethnic cleansing. And under the circumstances, it is crucial to keep warning against the potential for genocide before it happens, rather than belatedly condemning it after it has already taken place.’ Bartov is a professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the American Brown University. As an Israeli, he served in the Israeli army in the 1970s in Sinai and Gaza.

Recognising genocide

Historically, genocides have occurred within the context of wider conflicts, and may be obscured by the fog of war or civil unrest. Recognising genocide is a crucial matter. Member states that have signed the Genocide Convention are obligated to prevent it. They can ask the UN General Assembly to take urgent action.

Instead, the United States and the European Union are offering Israel diplomatic and military protection by not calling for a ceasefire and even supplying arms to Israel. For instance, the US has twice voted against a UN General Assembly resolution proposing a ceasefire.

Israel may use lobby visits with the hostages’ families to maintain sympathy and buy more time.

Israel has been given time to carry out its plans. It is important to note that complicity in genocide is illegal, as is genocide itself.

The European Union is also being criticised for perpetuating the narrative that Israel is “defending itself”. For instance, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was allowed to address the European Parliament on 8 November accompanied by relatives of kidnapped Israelis. He was also received by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib.

Although Lahbib called for an immediate ceasefire, it is important to note that Israel may use visits with the hostages’ families to maintain sympathy and buy more time.

Additionally, Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing criticism for not doing enough to secure the release of the kidnapped hostages in Gaza.


Posters with images and names of the hostages are plastered all over the streets in Israel.

UN experts: “Risk of genocide”

This Israeli international propaganda effort is taking place amidst a backdrop of what UN experts have identified as a ‘high risk of genocide’ since 2 November. The experts express ‘deep frustration’ at Israel’s refusal to halt ‘plans to decimate the besieged Gaza Strip’.

One of the experts, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, spoke on the BBC of a genocidal logic in action. As early as 14 October, she warned that Israel may carry out ‘massive ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian territories in the fog of war.’ The US organization Genocide Watch issued a “genocide alert.”

Despite these positions, some experts still doubt Israel’s intentions. Many other experts agree that this intentionality is the one thing that is clear. The leaked policy document and dehumanising rhetoric used by Israeli officials since 7 October make this clear.

An open letter from over 800 academic genocide experts, published on 15 October, provides some examples.

  • “We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly. Gaza will not return to what it was. We will eradicate everything.”
    - Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant
  • “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water, only destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”
    - Israeli Major General Ghassan Alian in Arabic, in a video message addressed directly to Gazans
  • “The entire civilian population in Gaza is ordered to leave immediately. They will not receive a drop of water or battery until they leave the world.”
    - Israeli Energy and Infrastructure Minister Israel Katz
  • “The rhetoric that civilians are not involved is false. An entire nation is responsible.”
    - Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog
  • “The emphasis is on damage and not accuracy.”
    - Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari

Statements that call for collective punishment dehumanise innocent civilians and equate them with armed militants. Such statements help to justify acts that may constitute genocide.

Craig Mokhiber, a human rights lawyer and former director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned on 28 October because he could no longer accept the UN’s impotence in preventing mass atrocities.

The impotence was evident two days ago when High Commissioner Volker Türk attempted to cross the Rafah border, which he referred to as ‘the gateway to a living nightmare’. However, he was unable to pass through.

It is worth noting that a characteristic of genocide is the exclusion of high-ranking officials and independent journalists. At least 64 journalists have been killed since 7 October, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). It is said to be the deadliest period for journalists since the organisation began collecting data in 1992. Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court over war crimes against journalists.

War crimes as policy

Israel’s dehumanisation of Gaza is not a new phenomenon. In 2007, Israel designated the entire Gaza Strip as an ‘enemy entity.’ Since then, politicians and commentators have used racist and dehumanising language to refer to Gaza. As early as 2014, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide considered this a possible incitement to genocide.

The aim of the Israeli operation to destroy Gaza’s civilian population is no secret in Israel.

The aim of the Israeli operation, to destroy Gaza’s civilian life, is no secret in Israel. The statement that the Israeli military is ‘attempting to avoid civilian casualties, but that Hamas is using civilians as cover’, is intended for the international community and is designed to create confusion.

Obviously, Israel not only attacks military targets, as previously acknowledged in the Goldstone report 14 years ago. In March 2021, the International Criminal Court began investigating possible crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian armed groups since June 2014. Karim Khan, the current chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed that the investigation has since been extended to include the escalation since 7 October 2023.

A preliminary investigation has concluded that war crimes have been committed in 2014, but no arrests have been made. This has led to a situation where both Israeli and Palestinian attacks are becoming increasingly severe. Both sides feel they can commit war crimes without facing any consequences. In Israel, this is a military doctrine known as the Dahiya doctrine, which involves excessive attacks on civilian infrastructure to ‘restore deterrence’.

The Dahiya Doctrine is the official translation of the endless cycle of violence: the number of Palestinians killed must always be many times the number of Israelis killed.

According to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli human rights organisation made up of former soldiers, Israel is now applying this doctrine in Gaza: ‘So-called rounds of fighting are not meant to be decisive, but to postpone and deter the next, inevitable, round. To buy temporary calm and nothing more. In Lebanon, heavy bombings did not wipe out Hezbollah, nor were they supposed to. They were meant to create deterrence. Since then, Hezbollah has grown stronger and is now firing at civilians in northern Israel daily.’

Yet, Israel maintains war crimes as a policy. Strangely, some US and European leaders are repeating that Israel respects the laws of war. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for example, has said: ‘You can be certain that the Israeli army follows the rules of international law’.

Misuse of the Holocaust

Never before since the Holocaust have so many Jews been murdered in one place than on 7 October 2023. Israeli leaders are eager to exploit the existential fear this has created. Labelling all Palestinians as Nazis has become part of the dehumanisation of Gaza.

During a live interview on Sky News, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shouted: ‘Are you really talking about Palestinian civilians? They are our enemy. We are fighting Nazis.’

The comparison between the Palestinian attacks and the Holocaust is a controversial topic among Jews. Dani Dayan, the president of the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, criticized Israel’s UN ambassador for wearing a yellow Star of David at the UN Security Council, stating that it dishonoured both the victims of the Holocaust and the state of Israel.

Dayan explained the true meaning of the yellow Star of David: ‘It symbolises the helplessness of the Jews and their being at the mercy of others. Today we have an independent country and a strong army. We are the masters of our destiny.’

Israeli politicians also use the memory of the Holocaust to silence critics. The ambassador did not wear the yellow Star of David to suggest that Jews are helpless again, but rather to encourage self-censorship among political leaders and journalists when expressing their views and reporting on Israel’s activities. This perpetuates a system in which Israel is viewed as an exceptional country that does not have to abide by the same rules as other nations.

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Die Grünen) also equates Germany’s historical responsibility to supporting Israeli war crimes.

Fifteen years ago, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a historic statement in the Israeli parliament: ‘Israel’s security is Germany’s national interest.’

On 2 November, Robert Habeck, the current vice-chancellor and a member of Die Grünen, a party rooted in pacifism, reiterated these words in a lengthy speech.

Germany, based on its historical responsibility, could contribute to ensuring Israel’s real security by avoiding any actions that could be perceived as supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, by promoting peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians and by cooperating with Israeli peace activists such as Breaking the Silence.

But Germany’s reaction since 7 October has made it clear that Germany’s “national interest” is interpreted as support for Israel’s Dahiya doctrine, regardless of the actions of any Israeli government.

‘The lessons of the Holocaust were never meant to rationalise large-scale state violence, but to protect civilians, especially civilians under military occupation,’ US-Israeli Holocaust expert Raz Segal said in an interview with US journalist Amy Goodman.

Prime Minister Netanyahu went even further back in Jewish history. He took Torah verses about revenge out of context to justify killing Palestinian civilians. This statement makes it easy for Palestinians and others to equate Israeli crimes with Judaism as a whole, but it is important to remember that Israel does not speak for all Jews.

For his part, Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad stated that ‘Palestinians are proud to sacrifice martyrs’. Hamas’ statements make it easy for Israelis to kill Palestinian civilians, but it is important to remember that Hamas does not represent all Palestinians.


Back to Israeli member of parliament Ariel Kallner’s violent statement on X (formerly Twitter) about the Nakba. Gaza’s high population density and numerous refugee camps are already a result of the ethnic cleansing of surrounding areas in 1948. For instance, the residents of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza were expelled from their villages and towns in what was then Palestine in 1948.

On 4 November, Israel bombed residential areas and a UN school in Jabalia. Dozens of people were killed. A Nakba on top of a Nakba: this is exactly what Kallner alluded to in his cryptic tweet.

‘We await our fate. We cannot become refugees again.’

Similar to 1948, the current situation has resulted in a large number of refugees. If “the plan with the most positive long-term strategic outcome” would be implemented, Gazans would be forced to flee to Egypt, just as they did to Gaza in 1948. They would have to establish tent camps once again in Egypt, which would turn into slums. It is unlikely that they would be able to return to their homes in Gaza, let alone their pre-1948 homes.

The parents of Maher Albhaisi, the Palestinian hydrologist in Belgium, were expelled from Al-Majdal in 1948, now Ashkelon in Israel. ‘Our life here is temporary, tomorrow we could die’, they said on the phone from Gaza City in November. ‘But we cannot become refugees again. That is why we are not planning to flee to the south. We await our fate.’

A few days before the “humanitarian pause”, they were forced to join the millions of displaced people as they did flee south to Deir-Albalah, where they are currently residing in a small flat with 30 other people. Their apartment in Gaza City has been completely destroyed. Once again, Albhaisi’s parents reiterate they will not flee to Egypt because they cannot become refugees again. But now the Israeli army is also bombarding the south.

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