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‘Yes, it is genocide’ in Gaza says Israeli professor of Holocaust studies 

April 30, 2024 at 2:22 pm

A giant billboard sign for solidarity with Palestinians is seen along Highway 101 that says ”Stopping Genocide Is Not Anti-Semitic” in San Carlos, California, United States on April 16, 2024 [Tayfun Coşkun/Anadolu Agency]

In a blistering essay on the mass killing and devastation in Gaza, Amos Goldberg, professor of Holocaust History at the department of Jewish history and contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has argued that Israel is committing the crime of genocide.

“Yes, it is genocide” wrote Goldberg in an important intervention dismissing many of the flawed arguments cited by Israeli advocates to deny the horrors being inflicted on Gaza. “It is so difficult and painful to admit it, but despite all that, and despite all our efforts to think otherwise, after six months of brutal war we can no longer avoid this conclusion.”

Goldberg’s essay is the latest from a leading expert on the subject to reach such a devastating conclusion. After stating that Israelis are mistaken in their view that a genocide needs to look like the Holocaust before it can be classified as such, he explains why he believes Israel’s actions qualify as a genocide.

Watch Genocide in Gaza: MEMO in Conversation with Raz Segal

Goldberg acknowledges that it will be several years before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) makes its final determination about the genocide case brought forward by South Africa. However, in the view of the Israeli professor there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza before the ICJ issues its judgement.

“It will be several years before the court in The Hague will hand down its verdict, but we must not look at the catastrophic situation purely through legal lenses,” said Goldberg. “What is happening in Gaza is genocide because the level and pace of indiscriminate killing, destruction, mass expulsions, displacement, famine, executions, the wiping out of cultural and religious institutions, the crushing of elites (including the killing of journalists), and the sweeping dehumanization of the Palestinians — create an overall picture of genocide, of a deliberate conscious crushing of Palestinian existence in Gaza.”

Watch Lesson in Genocide, an Israeli historian speaks out about Gaza: MEMO in Conversation with Omer Bartov

In one the more compelling arguments made by Goldberg, the Israeli professor states that “the common denominator” in most genocides is the perpetrators claim that the genocidal acts are motivated by self-defence. “Historically, self-defence is not incompatible with genocide, but is usually one of its main causes, if not the main one,” said Goldberg.

The genocide of Bosnian Muslims in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Myanmar, the genocide of the Herero and Nama people in southwest Africa (present-day Namibia) by Germany, as well as the Holocaust are cited by Goldberg as examples of where genocide was committed through “an authentic sense of self-defence.”

“In all these cases, the perpetrators of the genocide felt an existential threat, more or less justified, and the genocide came in response,” said Goldberg. “The destruction of the collective of victims was not contrary to an act of self-defence, but from an authentic motive of self-defence.”

Goldberg concludes with a warning about Israel being on the path to genocide against the indigenous population of Palestine since its founding in 1948 when more than half of the population were ethnically cleansed. He mentions the well-known fact that there is a link between ethnic cleansing and genocide.

“We can learn from the Herero and Nama genocide how colonial domination, based on a sense of cultural and racial superiority, can spill over, in the face of local rebellion, into horrific crimes such as mass expulsion, ethnic cleansing and genocide,” says Goldberg in the final paragraph. “The case of the Herero rebellion should serve as a horrifying warning sign for us here in Israel, which has already known one Nakba in its history.”