Genocide – any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
— Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
An ever contentious issue both domestically and abroad, genocide has been on the forefront of international politics since WWII and its Holocaust. People will seemingly do whatever is necessary to stop genocide. This largely explains for the various foreign interventions the United States and ally nations have made into regions such as the Balkans, and the various military campaigns that would follow. People do not want to think they are complacent in the ethnic cleansing of an entire civilization. At face, you would think this serves as a positive force that serves to check against international human rights violations. For the most part, societies all across the globe would find it heinous to desire the annihilation of another society, even if they’re close rivals. This drive for prevention and detection of genocide would, in theory, make it nearly impossible for any regime to achieve its goals of wiping ethnic and political dissidents off the map.
For most people, there is now another war going on in the Middle East. Israel-Palestine relations have failed yet once again, and have resulted in an immense amount of bloodshed. In normal media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox we see that Israel is defending itself from the ‘Muslim terrorist threat'(although democratically elected) known as Hamas. A political and military identity known for being anti-Semitic and fundamental, it would seem obvious that Israel has every right to defend itself. Like the very bombs that are being used in this conflict, so has the issue of Israel and Palestine once again exploded onto the front page news.
But this recent incursion is not a new war in a history page rife with conflict. This current ‘war’ between Israel and Palestine is merely an extension of an overarching theme, a new outgrowth of a type of warfare not given light in popular media. While this ‘war’ of bomb runs, occupation, and civilian casualties is very visible because it is ‘loud’, what has been going on behind the scenes silently has been a war of atrocious proportions. What we see now in the news, pictures of destroyed communities and mangled human bodies, still manages to dull in comparison to the systemic destruction of Palestine. Yet it is only this recent outbreak that you’ll hear about in any major news outlet, and not the greater conflict at hand.
Israel’s invasion and war on(not against, that would assume Gazans could properly fight back) Gaza is a reaction to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers. This sad affair led to a full on investigation by the IDF in the West Bank, resulting in over 400 Palestinians being arrested and 5 killed(several close in age to the original kidnapped teens). Israel had believed that members of Hamas had carried out the act, which served partially as another justification for the investigation that completely disregarded any and all rights of Palestinians. However, a direct link to Hamas has now been put into serious questioning. In additions to the illegal arrests and ‘collateral damage’, over 23,000 Palestinians were prevented from doing ordinary life activities, like going to work. On top of this, it has been reported that there were multiple attempted kidnappings on Palestinian children as young as 9 years old by Israelis seeking revenge. One said attempt was successful, resulting in the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 16 yo, who was burned alive. Of the 6 accused and arrested for the burning, only 3 would end up in court.
This in of itself is a prime example of Israel’s policing and control over the Palestinian people. Israel had searched various areas of the West Bank, a ‘disputed territory’ under their policing, and had arbitrarily arrested hundreds of individuals without any due process. It was during this incident that various Palestinians were killed in revenge by Israeli civilians and IDF forces alike. It was all of this that spurred another round of rocket attacks from Gaza into Southern Israel. Despite these attacks, none of the rockets killed anyone, and all reported damages were near minimal. The reality is that this event has become daily life for the residents of Palestine. It is normal to be evicted from your family home, which has been in the family for over 50 years, just so that Israeli settlers can move in. These are the conditions fueling the violence.
What must be understood is that Israel’s Operation Protective Edge is now responsible for over 1,360 deaths, of which 75% are estimated to be civilians by the UN. Prior to this conflict, not a single Israeli, civilian or soldier, had died as a result of rocket attacks into Israel all year. Since this operation began, Israel has lost only 53 Soldiers. This means that for every 1 Israeli soldier killed, 25 Gazans have been bombed into non-existence. What is even more perverse is that Israel is in outrage of the retaliation from Gazans, that their continued resistance is only additional acts of terror on their part. They forget to mention how the rockets fired typically don’t make it, are harmless, and miss. Meanwhile, Israel has bombed schools, playgrounds, hospitals, and beaches with children playing soccer.
Even in news outlets where it is recognized that Israel is overreacting, they still claim a need for moderation on both sides is necessary; the claim that there are offenders on both sides necessitates that the blame be shared equally is parroted by reporters. This attempt at a ‘liberal’ sense of peace however is very key to the current destruction of Palestinians. By attempting to be moderate and spread the blame around, we legitimize the massive destruction caused by Israel and delegitimize the need to recognize the plight of Palestinians. You cannot equate the actions of certain factions within Palestine to that of Israel and the IDF. You cannot say blame is equal when a developed nation with GPS guided rockets, mechanized infantry, jet fighters, and tanks fights a country-less people who have primitive rocket systems and rifles. You cannot call equal a conflict with a 1:25 casualty rate for the supposed ‘aggressors.’ And finally, you cannot call a situation where one nation is continually taking land from a group, despite all international rejections of legitimacy, equal. This is not to say Palestinians are immune from actions they take. What I am saying is that you cannot, without great willingness to ignore material reality, compare the horrific violations of the Israel government to the random, pockets of violence Palestinians create.
These calls for equal blame are a large part of the cover for the silent disintegration of the Palestinian state. Before this recent conflict there were many others, and each resulted in the same ending. No peace, no reconciliation, and no recognition for the loss of land and life. Between these bouts of violence, the State of Israel slowly unravels what remains of Palestine. Splintering it into pieces and evacuating it of any non-Israeli presence. In his essay ‘What Goes On When Nothing Goes On?‘, Slavoj Zizek brings to face how when there is no physical invasions, the violence does not stop. In fact, this is a grotesque contortion of what is happening. Land in the West Bank is constantly changing hands over to Israeli settlers, despite the signed agreements from decades ago. The only response is soft ridicule from the State of Israel in face of massive international outrage. Making matters worse is that there is no real way for Palestinians to fight back legally. Representation within Israeli politics is stifled, movement of individuals is controlled, development of land is closely regulated, and Israel’s constantly shifting recognition of Palestinian governments kills any real solvency for Palestinian recognition. A true example of Orwell’s Newspeak is to call these moments of ‘silence’ between ‘wars’ times of ‘peace.’
Silently, but inevitably, we are seeing the destruction of an entire people. Unless actions are taken very soon, it is only a matter of time until this ‘Silent War’ softly and violently erases Palestine off of the face of the planet. However the current Gaza massacre will end, what must be understood is that it is not the end. It was not the beginning either. What this current conflict really is is just an intermittent episode in the never-ending silent war on Palestine.