Hamas is a terrorist group, which, in its 1988 foundational charter, explicitly committed itself to the genocide of Jews around the globe. Since then, Hamas leaders have repeatedly reiterated this stance. On October 7, Hamas committed a genocidal massacre and has since vowed to repeat it "a second and a third and a fourth" time.
Now, after Israel has responded, the world accuses Israel of perpetrating the same or worse crimes as Hamas. There is precedent for this. Let's talk about it.
WHAT HAPPENED ON OCTOBER 7?
On October 7, thousands of Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip infiltrated sovereign, internationally-recognized Israeli territory and slaughtered at least 1200 people, the vast majority of them civilians, including women, children, infants, the elderly, foreign workers, Israelis of all ethnicities and races, and even Holocaust survivors. They also abducted over 200 hostages of multiple nationalities, races, and ethnicities, spanning from nine months old to 86 years old, including Holocaust survivors. One of the hostages has likely given birth while in captivity.
Of the murdered victims, 80 percent of them showed signs of torture. Many were mutilated; others were beheaded. Hundreds were burnt alive. A baby was baked in an oven. Women and girls were gang raped, some so forcefully that their pelvises broke.
In addition, since October 7, Hamas terrorists have indiscriminately launched around 10,000 missiles aimed at Israeli civilians, which, along everything else described above, is a blatant war crime.
Since October 7, around half a million Israelis have been internally displaced from their homes and have been advised that they likely will not be able to return until at least early next year.
October 7 was the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
Since Israel has retaliated with bombings and a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, many have accused Israel of genocide, drawing a moral equivalence (or worse) between Hamas’s actions and Israel’s retaliation.
HISTORIC CONTEXT: THE BOMBING OF DRESDEN
Between February 13 and February 15 of 1945, the United States and the United Kingdom jointly carpet bombed the German city of Dresden, killing up to 25,000 people, predominantly civilians.
The Allies argued that Dresden was a valid military target, specifically as it was a major transport and communications center. Critics of the bombings claim that Dresden was a cultural landmark and had little strategic military significance, and that many of the military targets were actually not bombed. Since World War II, the legality of the Dresden bombings has garnered fierce debate, with many critics alleging that it was a war crime.
In the immediate aftermath of the Dresden bombings, the German Propaganda Ministry was instructed to astronomically inflate the casualty figures to 200,000, instead of the generally accepted death toll, which is 25,000. This was done with the explicit intent of garnering sympathy and drawing a moral equivalence between Nazi war crimes and Allied actions. Over the decades, Dresden bombing critics have given false casualty tolls as high as 500,000.
THE DRESDEN DEFENSE
At the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials, Nazi war criminal Otto Ohlendorf and ommander of Einsatzgruppe D, one of the Nazi killing squads, attempted to argue his innocence by drawing a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and the Allied bombing of Dresden.
In the end, the Nuremberg judges rebuked the Dresden Defense, thus setting the framework for today’s international law:
“A city is bombed for tactical purposes…it inevitably happens that nonmilitary persons are killed. This is an incident, a grave incident to be sure, but an unavoidable corollary of battle action. The civilians are not individualized. But that is entirely different, both in fact and in law, from an armed force marching up to these same railroad tracks, entering those houses abutting thereon, dragging out the men, women and children and shooting them.”
As historian Martin Kramer explains it, “Nuremberg enforced a fundamental distinction. All civilian lives are equal, but not so all ways of taking them. The deliberate and purposeful killing of civilians is a crime; not so the taking of civilian lives that is undesired, unintended, but unavoidable. The errors made by a bomber squadron cannot be deducted from the murders committed by a death squad. It’s a difference compounded many times over when those civilian men, women, and children are subjected to torture, rape, and mutilation before their murder.”
To this day, white supremacists and neo-Nazis continue drawing parallels between the bombing of Dresden and the Holocaust; however, there is no basis for this moral equivalence under international law.
DRESDEN VS GAZA
Despite the obvious historic parallels, there are fundamental differences between the Allied bombing of Dresden and the current Israeli strikes on Gaza. The Allies carpet bombed Dresden to rubble over the span of two days; Israel, which has the military capability to bomb Gaza to rubble within a few hours, if that, has spent the past five weeks attempting to evacuate civilians. While you are certainly entitled to your (hopefully educated) criticisms regarding Israel’s handling of the humanitarian situation, the differences between Dresden and Gaza are clear.
Unlike Nazi Germany, Israel did not start this war. Israel, unlike the Allies, has repeatedly advised civilians to evacuate. It has dropped leaflets, hacked phones, and more, advising Palestinians to evacuate. These efforts have been corroborated both by independent observers and Palestinians in Gaza. On November 9, Israel agreed to daily four-hour humanitarian pauses. None of these efforts were made in Dresden.
First, it’s worth noting that most of us are not experts on international law, we are still in the fog of war, and we will not know whether Israeli actions since October 7 violate international law until independent investigations are made.
With that said, we know that the rape, mutilation, massacre, and torture of people, especially civilians, including women, the elderly, and children are war crimes. We also know that Hamas is an openly genocidal group, and that the interrogations of perpetrators of the October 7 massacre indicate that Hamas terrorists were instructed to “kill as many people as possible.”
Bombing civilian “protected” targets such as hospitals, schools, mosques, and more is a war crime. However, per international law, these civilian areas can lose their protected status if they are used for military purposes.
As per Rule 97 of International Humanitarian Law, “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations” is a war crime, and in such a case, those protected areas can lose their protected status.
As per Rule 20 of International Humanitarian Law, “Each party to the conflict must give effective advance warning of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.” Thus, Israel attempting to evacuate civilians is the opposite of a war crime.
There is no obligation to provide food, water, fuel, communications, and/or aid to an enemy during war, and sieges during war do not violate international law, though “regarding the general civilian population, the parties to the conflict must endeavor to conclude local agreements to remove wounded, sick, and infirm persons and pregnant women from besieged areas.”
WHAT IS GENOCIDE?
Genocide is a crime in international law — the crime of crimes. It’s not a word to be thrown around loosely. For a group to be charged with genocide, it must meet the legal threshold.
To quote from Article 6 of the Geneva Convention, genocide is the following:
For the purpose of this Statute, "genocide" means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Understand that even if something checks off all the characteristics, it does not necessarily meet the legal threshold of genocide. The most important marker is intent to destroy a group in whole or in part, and that such intent is systematically carried out.
WHAT GENOCIDE IS NOT
Many Jewish, Zionist, and pro-Israel accounts make the claim that Palestinians are not suffering a genocide because the Palestinian population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories has grown seven-fold since 1948.
However, for the sake of accuracy, we must acknowledge that this factor is a bit more complicated.
The most important marker of genocide is the “intent” to “destroy a group in whole or in part” — and that this intent is systematically carried out. In general, yes, with genocides, we see drastic population declines, such as was the case with the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. However, oftentimes genocides are (thankfully!) too short-lived or the methods of killing too “ineffective” to cause drastic population declines.
For example, the Yazidi Genocide took “only” (for lack of a better phrase) 5000 Yazidi lives, but all the markers of genocide are there. Similarly, the Bosnian Genocide took 8000 lives, but again, all the markers of genocide are there.
High death tolls are also not necessarily indicative of genocide. Between 2 to 5 million Germans died in World War II, including some 500,000 civilians, compared to some 400,000 American deaths, yet no logical person would argue that the United States committed a genocide against the Germans. Even war crimes — and the Allies certainly committed war crimes during World War II — are not indicative of genocide.
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