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'Enough evidence' of war crimes in Gaza, says Israeli-American Holocaust Professor

November 22, 2023 at 3:31 pm

An aerial view of the burial of 111 Palestinians who died due to Israeli attacks to mass graves in Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 22, 2023 [Mohammad Fayq/Anadolu via Getty Images]

As Israel continues to pursue its long and bloody war in the Gaza Strip since a surprise attack by Palestinian group, Hamas, on 7 October, an Israeli-American Holocaust Professor said there was “enough evidence” to suggest that war crimes have been committed during the campaign.

“There is enough evidence to say that war crimes have been committed because of the disproportionality between the military goals and the number of civilians killed,” Omer Bartov, Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Brown University, told Anadolu in a video interview.

Bartov said the case was similar to crimes against humanity in Gaza, where at least 14,128 Palestinians, including 5,840 children and 3,920 women, have been killed so far in Israeli ground and air attacks. Additionally, hospitals, mosques and churches have been damaged or destroyed in the besieged enclave, while over 1 million people have been displaced.

When asked if what is happening in Gaza constitutes “genocide”, Bartov said that, while he was not convinced of this, the large movements of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the disproportionality in the conflict have started to paint a picture of “ethnic cleansing”.

WATCH: Ten killed, over 20 injured in Khan Younis

We are, I think, on the brink of what would be not only a humanitarian catastrophe, but could eventually become genocide

he said.

Netanyahu’s Amalek rhetoric

While pointing out that some Israeli commanders have denied any intention to kill civilians in Gaza, Bartov took note of remarks by various political and army leaders that “sound genocidal”.

One such instance of language that has been criticised as “genocidal” by Israeli officials came from Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

A few weeks into Israel’s assault on Gaza, he delivered a dramatic speech, likening Palestinians to an ancient tribe known as Amalek, referenced in the Hebrew Bible as a recurring foe of the Israelites that must be wiped out.

“You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible,” Netanyahu said during the news conference in late October.

Asked about Netanyahu’s remarks, Bartov said such a statement from a leader at a time of war was

irresponsible, and in many ways also hurts soldiers on the ground, gives them license to act against the rules and laws of war

He also noted that they could be “interpreted as genocidal.”

Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

When asked about criticisms of Israel being equated to anti-Semitism, Bartov said this is “nonsense”.

“That would make me an anti-Semite, but it certainly not anti-Semitic. I’m actually Jewish and I teach Jewish history,” he said.

Noting that the Israeli government, especially after Netanyahu, have pushed this narrative, he said: “The idea is that if you say that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, it means that Israel can do whatever it wants, because you cannot criticise it.”

“And that’s obviously an unacceptable point of view,” he added.

READ: UNICEF warns of unfolding health tragedy in Gaza

However, he noted that this “does not mean that there is no actual rise in anti-Semitism right now,” while noting that the actions of the Israeli government were also causing a rise in anti-Semitism.

If Israel behaved more humanely and pushed for a final resolution of the conflict with Palestinians, that would also diminish anti-Semitic sentiments around the world, according to Bartov.

Pro-Palestine protests at US universities

Asked about dozens of pro-Palestine demonstrations that have been held on university and college campuses across the US since 7 October, Bartov said it was “wonderful” to see young students in America becoming “politically more active”.

Bartov said he had been telling his students, many of whom participated in the protests, to also go to the library and read about the background of the conflict.

“I think it’s good that there are protests and, in fact, I think it’s important to put pressure on the American administration to put pressure on Israel to pursue a different policy,” he said.

“I would like my own students and others also to be a little bit more conversant in the details of what is going on there,” he added.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.