By Avraham Shama, Opinion contributor to THE HILL
Israel will likely be found guilty of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza by the International Court of Justice in the Hague. If so, the court could call for an immediate ceasefire and consider compensation for Gazans.
Even if the court would not find guilt, Israel had already lost the war in Gaza, as did the United States.
According to the 1948 United Nations Convention, genocide is “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.” Since it is almost impossible to prove intent, the court would likely look at the scale of destruction and killing by Israel to determine whether it committed genocide.
In this regard, the facts are clear. In its war against Gaza, Israel has so far:
- killed 23,210
- wounded more than 59,000
- destroyed more than 70 percent of all homes and buildings in Gaza
- declared that the war will continue for at least one more year
- advanced the idea of transferring the remaining Gazans elsewhere.
These are robust indicators of genocide. But even if Israel is acquitted, it has already lost the war from day one. And, as the war continues, its moral and political losses will become more devastating.
Israel’s war on Gaza began in response to the invasion by Hamas that slaughtered 1,200 and captured about 240, mostly Israeli men, children and women, some of whom were savagely raped. Of those taken hostage, 105 had been already released.
The war started as a military effort to capture the invading Hamas fighters. The world’s public opinion was supportive of Israel’s right to retaliate. Israel had the moral upper hand.
But as the war progressed over the past three months, Israel had widened its scope and intensity. The result had been wholesale, indiscriminate killing of Palestinians, not just Hamas fighters. Also, most homes of ordinary Gazans have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands have been wandering in the desert trying to stay alive, most on the verge of starving, many dying from diseases, rampant in the absence of sanitation, running water and medical services. This amounts to a complete moral loss by Israel, which can no longer claim “we are different, we are more humane.”
Furthermore, Israel’s political losses have been mounting. Allies such as Great Britain, France and Germany have been increasingly critical of Israel’s war conduct. The only support has been coming from the Biden administration, without whose recent veto in the United Nations Israel would have been ordered to cease its fire in Gaza immediately.
Israel’s loss in Gaza will no doubt change the geopolitical calculus in the Middle East. Israel has proven to be vulnerable. It had been invaded by the very small terrorist group of Hamas that kept the war against one of the most capable armies in the world going for the past three months. Such weakness has been motivating action not only by Hamas, but also by Hezbollah, Iran and the Houthis.
Partners such as the U.S. could conclude that Israel is not the ironclad ally it had been thought to be. Of course, Russia and China have been rethinking their respective, and possibly coordinated, roles in the region and their standing against the U.S., which now must modify its foreign policy accordingly.
Israel’s debacle in Gaza is hard to fully comprehend. It is deep, multi-layered and some of its consequences are still unknown.
Over 100 years ago, Israel’s revered national poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, in a poem titled “In The City of Slaughter”, that all Israeli students had to memorize, wrote about the pogrom against Jews in Chisinau. Bialik lamented that while the Jews were being killed, the world seemed undeterred:
“The sun rose, the mimosa tree bloomed, and the butcher slaughtered.” (Translated by the author).
In all, 51 Jews were killed in the pogrom.
When I remember those lines now, I see the butcher slaughtering thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Sadly and regrettably, the abused had become the abuser.
It’s time for Israel to sober down and accept the 1947 U.N. solution for the two people: an independent state of Israel, and an independent state of Palestine.
– Avraham Shama is a writer and university professor and administrator (retired). He fought in the Six-Day War.
— This opinion was published first in The Hill website,