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Israel promises war crimes

The Israeli military’s destruction in Gaza is just getting started, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Keith Rosenthal looks at impending catastrophe and the callous response of U.S. politicians and university officials.

As Jewish Voice for Peace—the largest organization of Jews in the U.S. opposed to the systematic, settler-colonial oppression of Palestinians by Israel—has warned, Israeli government officials have now openly declared their intention to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in its ongoing, escalating assault on Palestinians in general and Gaza in particular.

The announcement this morning [Friday, October 13], communicated by the Israeli government to the United Nations, demanding that the entire population of northern Gaza (1.1 million people) evacuate immediately as Israel prepares for a full-scale military invasion of Gaza, not only promises unavoidably “devastating humanitarian consequences,” as the UN replied. It also plainly constitutes an act of premeditated mass murder and maiming of children, elderly, disabled and less-mobile, families, and civilians. Rarely are such crimes against humanity so openly declared in advance of their prosecution. Israel is plainly preparing a Nakba for Gaza, which as the U.N. describes, means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and in its historical usage

refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Before the Nakba, Palestine was a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. However, the conflict between Arabs and Jews intensified in the 1930s with the increase of Jewish immigration, driven by persecution in Europe, and with the Zionist movement aiming to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. (UN website)

As a Jew, with ancestors who fled pogroms, and with present ties to those living in Israel, I am tired, scared, and exhausted. Mostly I am tired of the willful ignorance and delusion on the part of too many unthinking supporters of Israel as to what it is that Israeli society has been doing, continues to do, and promises to do to the human beings—not the “animals” as the Israeli Defense Minister referred to them mere days ago—living permanently-displaced, occupied, impoverished, humiliated, and traumatized lives throughout historic Palestine. I struggle to remain above histrionics in discussing all of this, but it truly is sickening, and depressing.

Smoke and debris from a bomb rise around a damaged tower block in Gaza.
An airstrike in Gaza, October 7, 2023. Image by Wafa.

We have clearly seen virtually the entire U.S. political class, as well as our university “leaders,” declare that they stand firmly with Israel, that they mourn Israeli lives lost, and that they support what Israel is preparing to do next, without even having the perfunctory conscientiousness to spare a word of sympathy for the Palestinians. This despite the fact that, as reported by Reuters, as of yesterday morning, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed over 400 children since Monday. Or, as Human Rights Watch has reported:

Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) have recently faced perhaps unprecedented repression. During the first nine months of 2023, Israeli authorities killed more Palestinians in the West Bank in 2023 than in any year since the United Nations began systematically recording fatalities in 2005. As of October, the number of Palestinians being held in administrative detention without charges or trial based on secret information reached a 30-year-high…. The Israeli government’s systematic oppression in the OPT, coupled with inhumane acts committed against Palestinians as part of a policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, as Human Rights Watch previously found.

We have seen almost the entire U.S. political class, the leading media outlets, and university chancellors be so monolithically and fatally wrong before; in the lead-up to the devastating and now-clearly unjustified U.S. war on Iraq, which was initiated almost exactly 20 years ago. They are wrong, as those ensconced in power so often are. We must speak out, protest, and make change now, before catastrophe, and not wait until 20 years later to regret that which never should have happened.

This post originally ran on Keith Rosenthal’s Joan of Mark blog under the title: “Opposing Israel’s crimes against humanity and the monolithic, callous hypocrisy of the U.S. political class.”

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

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Keith Rosenthal View All

Keith Rosenthal is the editor of Capitalism and Disability: Selected Writings by Marta Russell. He is a graduate student in Disability Studies and History and a member of the Tempest Collective.