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Myth:

Unmasking Genocide Accusations: Israel and the Palestinians

Source:

Yishai Gelb

Fact:

The Debate on Genocide

Believing that Israel is committing genocide is not supported by the facts and distracts from the real issue. Accusing Israel of genocide for nearly 40 years undermines the term’s significance and disrespects the memory of actual genocides. It is essential to recognize that Hamas, not Israel, has committed acts that could be seen as genocidal by targeting Israeli civilians with the intent of causing maximum harm. Israel, on the other hand, is compelled to protect Palestinians from their leadership, which uses their suffering for diplomatic leverage.


The Full Argument: Is Israel Committing Genocide against Palestinians?

 

Israel’s latest war in Gaza against Hamas is marked by unprecedented destruction, high civilian casualties, and the involvement of multiple regional players. Social media has amplified footage from the conflict, and Hamas actively uses public opinion as a battlefield, intensifying human suffering to gain global sympathy. In the war of narratives, accusations are frequently exchanged. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields, employing inhumane tactics, and harboring Nazi-like ideologies. Conversely, Hamas accuses Israel of colonization, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Genocide, being one of the gravest accusations, raises the question: Is Israel actually committing genocide, or are these accusations aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy and war effort?


Historical Context of Genocide Accusations

The term "genocide" has been used by Palestinians against Israel particularly since the First Intifada in 1987, and more prominently since the Second Intifada (2000-2005) from Palestinian leaders and their supporters.


Understanding Genocide

According to the United Nations Genocide Convention (1948), genocide includes any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group:


  • Killing members of the group;

  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

  • Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


Evaluating Israel's Actions

Killing Members of the Group:


From 1987, when the slur genocide was first used against Israel, to the beginning of the 2023 war, approximately 10,000 Palestinians were killed. Since the 2023 war, casualties have risen to about 40,000 (many of whom are convicted terrorists). To put that into perspective, the following wars listed below since world war 2 were not considered genocide:


Second Congo War (1998-2003): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 5.4 million

Vietnam War (1955-1975): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 1 to 2 million

Korean War (1950-1953): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 2.5 million

Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million

Ethiopian Civil War (1974-1991): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 1 million

Bangladesh Liberation War (1971): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 300,000 to 3 million

Syrian Civil War (2011-present): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 400,000 to 600,000

Afghanistan War (1978-present): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 1.5 to 2 million

Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 2 million

Iraq War (2003-2011): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 100,000 to 500,000

Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 1 million

Angolan Civil War (1975-2002): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 500,000 to 800,000

Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 200,000

Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 400,000

Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009): Civilian Death Toll: Estimates range from 80,000 to 100,000

Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990): Civilian Death Toll: Approximately 150,000




The wars listed above were not considered genoside, but 40,000 Palestinain deaths over 40 years is a genocide? Absolutely ludacris.


Causing Serious Bodily or Mental Harm:


Instances of harm exist, but there is no substantial evidence showing intent to destroy the Palestinian people as a group.


Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part:


Palestinians living in Israel or under military rule have seen their living conditions improve significantly. According to recent data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the latest figures show that the average monthly household income for Israeli Arabs is approximately $4,200 USD. In 1987, the average income for Arab Israelis was approximately $450 per month. This represents an increase of nearly ten times.


In the West Bank, the average household income for Palestinians varies depending on sources and economic conditions, but generally ranges from approximately $1,000 per month in 2023. According to a World Bank report from the early 1990s, the gross national income (GNI) per capita in the West Bank was approximately $100 per month. This also represents a significant increase of about 1,000%.


To put this into perspective, Palestinians in Jordan have an average monthly income of around $360 in 2023, while Palestinians in Lebanon are estimated to have an average monthly income of around $300.


In other words, Palestinians living in Israel and the West Bank are wealthier than those in neighboring countries, and their income has increased tenfold since Palestinians began accusing Israel of committing genocide against them.


Palestinians in Gaza were ruled by Israel until 2005, and have been ruled by Hamas since then. While exact figures vary, estimates suggest that the average monthly income was around $250-$300 per capita in 2005. In 2023, the World Bank and other organizations report that per capita income in Gaza has decreased or stagnated over the years, with current estimates suggesting an average monthly income of around $200-$250. In other words, Palestinians in Gaza have the same income today as they had in 2005 when Hamas gained power, nearly 20 years ago.


Given the growing wealth of Palestinians under Israeli rule in the past 40 years, it is impossible to claim that Israel has deliberately inflicted conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. The exact opposite is true.


Imposing Measures to Prevent Births:


The Palestinian population in both Israel and the West Bank has seen significant growth,countering claims of birth prevention measures. Since 1987, the Palestinian population in both Israel and the West Bank has experienced significant growth. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the population increased from around 1.5 million in 1987 to approximately 5.5 million by 2023​ (Wikipedia)​​ (PRB)​​ (PCBS)​.


Forcibly Transferring Children:


There are reports of Palestinian children being detained, but international law allows military forces to detain enemy combatants for questioning, provided it is done humanely.


The Current Hamas-Israel war


The current conflict in the Gaza Strip has resulted in significant Palestinian casualties. But does it constitute genocide? To answer this, we must consider two critical questions: who is to blame, and what is the intent behind the actions?


Responsibility and Intent

Hamas initiated the conflict on October 7, 2023, by launching an attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, many of whom were innocent civilians, and kidnapped 254 others. These actions, undeniably a crime against humanity, sparked the current hostilities. While debates persist on whether this constitutes an act of resistance or terrorism, the responsibility for initiating this war lies with Hamas.


After declaring war on Israel, Hamas committed another grave crime by embedding its military operations within civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, churches, and aid centers. This strategy deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians, forcing Israel to engage in these areas to counter Hamas' activities.


Legal Context and Measures

International law permits targeting civilian objects used for military purposes. Such attacks must comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution to minimize civilian harm and ensure the attack is necessary for a significant military advantage. Israel has taken extensive measures to warn Palestinian civilians, including millions of SMS messages, dropped pamphlets, pre-recorded phone calls, and live calls urging them to move to safe zones.


Moreover, Israel has facilitated the delivery of over 600,000 tons of food, water, medical supplies, and equipment into Gaza to prevent a humanitarian crisis during the conflict.



Conclusion

The accusations of genocide against Israel do not align with the legal definition provided by the UN Genocide Convention. While the conflict has resulted in severe suffering and high casualties, the evidence does not support a deliberate, systematic effort by Israel to destroy the Palestinian people. Thus, labeling Israel’s actions as genocide appears to be a strategic narrative rather than a substantiated fact.

Accusing Israel of genocide not only distorts the term but also overlooks the complexities of the conflict and the actions of Hamas, which has significantly contributed to the dire situation. Therefore, the claim of genocide against Israel lacks substantial evidence and legal standing.

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