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800 scholars warn of potential genocide in Gaza

November 1, 2023 at 4:45 pm

Dr Dina Matar hosts Book Launch of Ramzy’s Baroud latest book – The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story on 27 March, 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies and genocide studies signed a public statement warning of the possibility of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In the letter, released just days after Israel began bombing Gaza, they said they were “compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We do not do so lightly, recognising the weight of this crime, but the gravity of the current situation demands it.”

Israel’s current military offensive on the Gaza Strip since 7 October 2023, “is unprecedented in scale and severity, and consequently in its ramifications for the population of Gaza,” they said.

Israel’s defence minister’s order of a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip prohibiting the supply of fuel, electricity, water and other essential necessities “itself indicates an intensification of an already illegal, potentially genocidal siege to an outright destructive assault,” they explained.

Statements of Israeli officials since 7 October suggest that beyond the killings and restriction of basic conditions for life perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza, “there are also indications that the ongoing and imminent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are being conducted with potentially genocidal intent. Language used by Israeli political and military figures appears to reproduce rhetoric and tropes associated with genocide and incitement to genocide. Dehumanising descriptions of Palestinians have been prevalent,” they warned.

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In addition to events unfolding in Gaza, signatories highlighted the “escalation of violence, arrests, expulsions, and destruction of whole Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.”

On national television, security correspondent Alon Ben David relayed the Israeli military’s plan to destroy Gaza City, Jabaliya, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, the letter said, adding that “such statements are not new and resonate with a wider Israeli discourse showcasing the intent for elimination and genocide against the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian people constitute a national group for the purposes of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), the letter continued. “The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip constitute a substantial proportion of the Palestinian nation, and are being targeted by Israel because they are Palestinian. The Palestinian population of Gaza appears to be presently subjected by the Israeli forces and authorities to widespread killing, bodily and mental harm, and unviable conditions of life – against a backdrop of Israeli statements which evidence signs of intent to physically destroy the population.”

Signatories to the letter include Professor Political Communication at SOAS Dina Matar,  University of Oxford Professor Karma Nabulsi and Winner of a 2017 MEMO Palestine Book Award and McGill University Professor Laila Parsons.