Death and destruction in Gaza

Gaza area bombed/ Reproduction Telegram
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By JOHN MEARSHEIMER*

What Israel is doing in Gaza to the Palestinian civilian population is a crime against humanity that serves no significant military purpose.

I do not believe that anything I say about what is happening in Gaza will affect Israeli or American policy in this conflict. But I want it on record so that when historians look back on this moral calamity, they see that some Americans were on the right side of history.

What Israel is doing in Gaza to the Palestinian civilian population – with the support of the Joe Biden administration – is a crime against humanity that serves no significant military purpose. As J-Street states, a major organization in the LOBBY of Israel: “The scope of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe and civilian casualties is almost unfathomable.”[I]

Let me argue.

(i) Israel is intentionally massacring large numbers of civilians, about 70% of whom are children and women. The claim that Israel is making a great effort to minimize civilian casualties is contradicted by statements from senior Israeli officials. For example, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said on October 10, 2023 that “the emphasis is on damage and not accuracy.” That same day, defense minister Yoav Gallant announced: “I have lifted all restrictions – we will kill all those we fight against; We will use all means.”[ii]

Furthermore, the results of the bombing campaign clearly show that Israel is killing civilians indiscriminately. Two detailed studies of the Israel Defense Forces bombing campaign – both published in Israeli newspapers – explain in detail how Israel is killing large numbers of civilians. It’s worth quoting the titles of the two articles, which succinctly capture what each has to say: “‘A Mass Murder Factory’: Inside Israel’s Calculated Bombing of Gaza”[iii]. “The Israeli army has abandoned restrictions in Gaza and data shows unprecedented killing.”[iv]

Likewise, the The New York Times published an article in late November 2023 titled: “Gaza civilians, under Israeli attack, are being killed at a historic rate.”[v] Thus, it is not surprising that UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “we are witnessing a killing of civilians unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since” his appointment in January 2017.[vi]

(ii) Israel is intentionally starving the desperate Palestinian population by greatly limiting the amount of food, fuel, cooking gas, medicine and water that can be brought into Gaza. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to provide medical care to a population that currently includes approximately 50.000 injured civilians. Israel has not only greatly limited the supply of fuel to Gaza, which hospitals need to function, but has also targeted hospitals, ambulances and first aid stations.

Defense Minister Gallant's October 9 comment reflects Israeli policy: “I have ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.”[vii] Israel has been forced to allow minimal supplies into Gaza, but quantities are so small that a senior UN official reports that “half the population of Gaza is starving.” He goes on to report that, “nine out of 10 families in some areas go ‘a whole day and night without any food’.”[viii]

(iii) Israeli leaders talk about the Palestinians and what they would like to do in Gaza in shocking terms, especially when one considers that some of these leaders also talk incessantly about the horrors of the Holocaust. In fact, his rhetoric led Omar Bartov, a prominent Israeli-born Holocaust scholar, to conclude that Israel has “genocidal intent.”[ix] Other scholars of Holocaust and genocide studies have issued a similar warning.[X]

To be more specific, it is common for Israeli leaders to refer to Palestinians as “human animals”, “human beasts” and “horrible inhuman animals”.[xi] And as Israeli President Isaac Herzog makes clear, these leaders are referring to all Palestinians, not just Hamas: in his words, “it is an entire nation out there that is responsible.”[xii] Not surprisingly, as the The New York Times, it is part of Israel’s normal discourse to call for Gaza to be “crushed”, “erased” or “destroyed”.[xiii]

A retired Israel Defense Forces general, who proclaimed that “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist,” also argues that “serious epidemics in the southern Gaza Strip will make victory close.”[xiv] Going even further, an Israeli government minister suggested dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.[xv] These statements are not made by isolated extremists, but by senior members of the Israeli government.

Of course, there is also a lot of talk about ethnic cleansing in Gaza (and the West Bank), in effect producing another Nakba.[xvi] Quoting Israel's agriculture minister, “We are now implementing the Nakba of Gaza.”[xvii] Perhaps the most shocking evidence of the depths to which Israeli society has sunk is a video of very young children singing a blood-curdling song celebrating Israel's destruction of Gaza: “Within a year we will annihilate all the people, and then we will return to plow our fields.”[xviii]

(iv) Israel is not only killing, injuring and starving large numbers of Palestinians, but also systematically destroying their homes as well as critical infrastructure – including mosques, schools, historic sites, libraries, important government buildings and hospitals.[xx] As of December 1, 2023, the Israel Defense Forces have damaged or destroyed nearly 100.000 buildings, including entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble.[xx] Consequently, a staggering 90% of Gaza's 2,3 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.[xxx] Furthermore, Israel is making a concerted effort to destroy Gaza's cultural heritage; as reported by NPR, “more than 100 historic sites in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli strikes.”[xxiii]

(v) Israel is not only terrorizing and killing Palestinians, but also publicly humiliating many of its men who were detained by the Israel Defense Forces in routine searches. Israeli soldiers strip them down to their underwear, blindfold them and publicly display them in their neighborhoods – sitting them in large groups in the middle of the street, for example, or parading them through the streets – before take them away in trucks to detention camps. In most cases, detainees are released because they are not Hamas fighters.[xxiii]

(vi) Although the Israelis are carrying out the killing, they could not do so without the support of the Joe Biden administration. Not only was the United States the only country to vote against a recent UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but it has also provided Israel with the weaponry necessary to carry out this massacre.[xxv] As an Israeli general (Yitzhak Brick) recently made clear: “All of our missiles, all of our ammunition, all of our precision-guided bombs, all of our planes and bombs, everything comes from the US. Once they turn off the tap, you can no longer continue fighting. You don't have the capacity... Everyone understands that we cannot fight this war without the United States. Full stop".[xxiv] Notably, Joe Biden's administration sought to expedite the shipment of additional munitions to Israel, bypassing normal Arms Export Control Act procedures.[xxv]

(vii) Although most of the focus is now on Gaza, it is important not to lose sight of what is simultaneously happening in the West Bank. Israeli settlers, working closely with the Israel Defense Forces, continue to kill innocent Palestinians and steal their land. In an excellent article published in New York Review of Books In describing these horrors, David Shulman recounts a conversation he had with a settler, which clearly reflects the moral dimension of Israeli behavior towards Palestinians. “What we are doing to these people is actually inhumane,” the settler freely admits, “but if you think about it, it all inevitably follows from the fact that God promised this land to the Jews, and to them alone.”[xxviii]

Along with its attack on Gaza, the Israeli government has significantly increased the number of arbitrary detentions in the West Bank. According to Amnesty International, there is considerable evidence that these prisoners were tortured and subjected to degrading treatment.[xxviii]

As I watch the developments for the Palestinians of this catastrophe, I am left with one simple question for Israel's leaders, their American defenders, and Joe Biden's administration: Don't you have decency?

*John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of international relations at the University of Chicago. Author, among other books, of How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy (Yale University Press).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Notes


[I] https://jstreet.org/press-releases/moment-of-truth-for-israels-government/.

[ii] Both quotes can be found at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-12-09/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/the-israeli-army-has-dropped-the-restraint-in-gaza-and-data-shows-unprecedented-killing/0000018c-4cca-db23-ad9f-6cdae8ad0000.

[iii] https://www.972mag.com/mass-assassination-factory-israel-calculated-bombing-gaza/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email.

[iv] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-12-09/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/the-israeli-army-has-dropped-the-restraint-in-gaza-and-data-shows-unprecedented-killing/0000018c-4cca-db23-ad9f-6cdae8ad0000.

[v] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/25/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-death-toll.html.

[vi] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/press-encounter/2023-11-20/secretary-generals-press-conference-unep-emissions-gap-report-launch.

[vii] https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/defense-minister-announces-complete-siege-of-gaza-no-power-food-or-fuel/.

[viii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67670679. See too: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/11/opinion/international-world/us-government-gaza-humanitarian-aid.html.

[ix] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/10/opinion/israel-gaza-genocide-war.html. See too: https://www.nybooks.com/online/2023/11/20/an-open-letter-on-the-misuse-of-holocaust-memory/.

[X] https://contendingmodernities.nd.edu/global-currents/statement-of-scholars-7-october/.

[xi] https://youtu.be/Fr24GcCDgyM.

[xii] https://news.yahoo.com/israeli-president-says-no-innocent-154330724.html#:~:text=.

[xiii] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/15/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-war-rhetoric.html.

[xiv] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/10/opinion/israel-gaza-genocide-war.html.

https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/2023-11-23/ty-article-opinion/.premium/giora-eilands-monstrous-gaza-proposal-is-evil-in-plain-sight/0000018b-f84b-d473-affb-f9eb09af0000.

https://mondoweiss.net/2023/11/influential-israeli-national-security-leader-makes-the-case-for-genocide-in-gaza/.

[xv] https://www.timesofisrael.com/far-right-minister-says-nuking-gaza-an-option-pm-suspends-him-from-cabinet-meetings/.

[xvi] https://mondoweiss.net/2023/10/israeli-think-tank-lays-out-a-blueprint-for-the-complete-ethnic-cleansing-of-gaza/.

[xvii] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-11-12/ty-article/israeli-security-cabinet-member-calls-north-gaza-evacuation-nakba-2023/0000018b-c2be-dea2-a9bf-d2be7b670000.

[xviii] https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/watch-israeli-children-sing-we-will-annihilate-everyone-gaza.

[xx] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-palestine-war-gaza-public-library-destroyed-bombing.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20231211-report-israel-destroyed-192-mosques-in-gaza-strip/.

https://www.npr.org/2023/12/09/1218384968/mosque-gaza-omari-israel-hamas-war.

[xx] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67565872.

[xxx] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-gaza-attacks-north-south-us-veto-un-ceasefire-resolution/.

[xxiii] https://www.npr.org/2023/12/03/1216200754/gaza-heritage-sites-destroyed-israel.

[xxiii] https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/israel-says-groups-of-hamas-militants-surrendered-amid-gaza-fighting-7891bc22.

[xxv] https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-vetoes-un-security-council-resolution-demanding-immediate-gaza-ceasefire/.

[xxiv] https://www.jns.org/biden-is-the-primary-obstacle-to-israeli-victory/.

[xxv] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/09/world/middleeast/us-israel-tanks-ammunition.html

[xxviii] https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2023/12/21/a-bitter-season-in-the-west-bank-david-shulman/.

[xxviii] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/11/israel-opt-horrifying-cases-of-torture-and-degrading-treatment-of-palestinian-detainees-amid-spike-in-arbitrary-arrests/.


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