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Israel's Genocide in Gaza is No Longer "Incremental"
by Dimitri Lascaris - In 2006, one year after Israel initiated its cruel blockade of Gaza, Israeli academic Ilan Pappé accused Israel of having launched an “incremental genocide” in Gaza.
In so doing, Dr. Pappé warned:
Much depends on the international reaction. When Israel was absolved from any responsibility or accountably for the ethnic cleansing in 1948, it turned this policy into a legitimate tool for its national security agenda. If the present escalation and adaptation of genocidal policies would be tolerated by the world, it would expand and used even more drastically.
Tragically, Dr. Pappé’s warning was ignored.
A decade later, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020. (For supporters of Israel who may be mathematically challenged, that was three years ago.)
According to UNCTAD, the unemployment rate in Gaza had reached 44 percent by 2014. Ninety-five percent of Gaza’s drinking supply was unsafe. Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza had displaced 500,000 people and destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 Palestinian homes, 148 schools and 15 hospitals.
The following year, by which time conditions in Gaza had deteriorated even more, Dr. Pappé revisited the question of genocide. He insisted that Israel’s genocidal policy “continues unabated”, and he highlighted the “Zionist strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action.”
This week, after militants from Gaza launched their most lethal attack on Israel to date, Israel launched the mother of all ad hoc responses.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Israel’s relentless bombardment has killed so far this week at least 830 Palestinians, and has injured another 4,250 persons.
In only four days, Israel has killed more than half as many Palestinian children as it slaughtered in its eight-week bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. Until now, the 2014 assault, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge“, was Israel’s deadliest assault on Gaza.
The United Nations reports that more than a tenth of the population in Gaza, more than 260,000 people, have been displaced since October 7, and the numbers are rising fast.
Thus, in four days, Israel has displaced half as many Gazans as it displaced in its eight-week assault in 2014.
Even worse, Israel has now cut off water, food, electricity and fuel to the 2.3 million residents of the ravaged enclave. As stated by Professor Tom Dannenbaum, an international legal scholar at Tufts University, this constitutes “a massive war crime” and “very likely a crime against humanity”.
To entrap Palestinians in this cauldron of pain, Israel’s military has repeatedly bombed the Rafa border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, thus depriving Gazans of their only access to a country other than Israel.
Israel’s latest killing spree has been accompanied by unabashedly genocidal declarations from Israeli officials.
On October 10, Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Galant, assured Israeli soldiers at the Gaza border that Israel is fighting against “human animals” and that he had lifted “all restrictions” on the apartheid army’s assault on Gaza.
In 2010, Israel’s Yesh Border movement petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice against the appointment of Galant as the Israeli military’s chief of staff. The petition argued that Galant, as commander of Operation Cast Lead, was suspected of committing war crimes in Gaza. Israel’s military killed 333 Palestinian children in that operation alone. Despite that carnage, Galant eventually succeeded in assuming control of Israel’s Defence Ministry.
In the past, most Israeli military leaders have at least pretended to respect the laws of war, if for no other reason than to protect themselves from prosecution for war crimes.
Galant, however, has ‘lifted all restrictions’ on his mouth. His impunity for past crimes seems to have persuaded him that no one would dare to prosecute him, even if he openly professes his contempt for international law.
The western response: solidarity with genocide
Until recently, Western mainstream commentators openly criticized the extremism of the current Netanyahu regime.
In March of this year, for example, an article in Time acknowledged that:
[Itamar] Ben-Gvir, a far-right extremist with a record of anti-Arab rhetoric, was long considered an outcast in Israeli politics but was pivotal in Netanyahu’s return to power last November. A coalition of far-right parties, including Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power Party, gave Netanyahu what proved to be the decisive margin.
If Western governments were truly committed to human rights, they would urge restraint upon a government this extreme, but instead, they have quietly swept its extremism under the rug – just as they pretended that Ukraine didn’t have a serious Neo-Nazi problem when it became inconvenient for them to acknowledge that fact.
Thus far, Western leaders are falling over themselves to green-light Israel’s latest rampage.
Within hours of Saturday’s devastating attacks, the leader of virtually every Western country proclaimed that Israel has a right to defend itself, yet none of them acknowledged that Palestinians also enjoy that right. Nor did any of them remind Israel’s government that the right to self-defence is limited and must be exercised in accordance with international law.
On October 10, after large swaths of Gaza had been obliterated, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy issued a joint statement expressing their “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism.” While mouthing empty platitudes about “the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people”, the leaders of the free world offered no encouragement to Israel’s fanatical government to protect Palestinian civilians.
On the following day, Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party and a former prosecutor, shamelessly claimed that Israel has a “right” to cut off food and water to the people of Gaza, one-half of whom are children. Starmer offered no explanation – nor could he – for why the children of Gaza should be deprived of the essentials of life due to the crimes of Hamas.
Those crimes are all-too-real, and all persons of conscience should condemn them, as do I.
Yet, as Dr. Norman Finkelstein asks, what do you expect a brutally oppressed people to do when they are deprived of any peaceful path to dignity and justice?
In 2018, thousands of Gazans participated peacefully in the Great March of Return. Israel’s military responded by killing over 150 Palestinians and injuring at least 10,000 others, including 1,849 children, 424 women, 115 paramedics and 115 journalists. An Israeli sniper also shot a Canadian-Palestinian doctor, Tarek Loubani.
The vast majority of Palestinians have never resorted to violence to address their legitimate grievances. Others have restricted their acts of violence to the occupying forces of Israel’s military, which international law allows them to resist by force. Thus, most Palestinians are innocent victims of oppression.
No civilized society punishes the innocent for the acts of the guilty. We would never tolerate this in our own societies. We should not tolerate it in Palestine either.
The perfect storm
For decades, Israel’s government repeatedly tested, but rarely exceeded, the boundaries of the world’s tolerance.
In the past, when the international community’s outrage at Israel’s criminality approached unmanageable levels, Israel lowered the pain dial on the Palestinian people. Then, when the suffering of Palestinians receded from the world’s consciousness, Israel ratcheted up the pain dial again.
This week, that cycle of calibrated depravity was broken. The current Israeli government is too incapable of restraint. The pain inflicted on Israelis by last Saturday’s attacks is too great, the humiliation too severe.
In these circumstances, the only government that could rein Netanyahu in is the United States government, but the Biden administration is too weak, too distracted by its failing proxy war in Ukraine, and too incompetent to intervene.
The terrible consequence of this perfect storm is that Israel’s genocide in Gaza is no longer “incremental”. The apartheid regime is now committing genocide at break-neck speed, before the eyes of the world, and with astonishing audacity.
Nonetheless, we should not despair. We must not despair.
I’ve long argued that Israel’s apartheid regime is a house of cards, that one day, its propagandistic edifice would come crashing down so quickly that the swiftness of its collapse would surprise us all.
Despite the horrors being inflicted today upon the Palestinian people, that moment may finally be at hand.
The reality of what Israel has become is now too obvious to ignore. The international community cannot stand idly by any longer. In the weeks and months ahead, I believe that the conscience of the world will be awakened.
The only question is: how many more Palestinians will the West allow to die before that moment comes?
This article was first published at www.dimitrilascaris.org