Chris Hedges: The Case for Genocide

The International Court of Justice may be all that stands between the Palestinians in Gaza and genocide.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream- by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges

The exhaustive 84-page brief submitted by South Africa to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) charging Israel with genocide is hard to refute. Israel’s campaign of indiscriminate killing, wholesale destruction of infrastructure, including housing, hospitals and water treatment plants, along with its use of starvation as a weapon, accompanied by genocidal rhetoric from its political and military leaders who speak of destroying Gaza and ethnically cleansing the 2.3 million Palestinians, makes a strong case against Israel for genocide

Israel’s smearing of South Africa as “the legal arm” of Hamas exemplifies the bankruptcy of its defense, a smear replicated by those who claim that demonstrations held to call for a ceasefire and protect Palestinian human rights are “anti-Semitic.” Israel, its genocide live streamed to the world, has no substantial counter argument.

But that does not mean the judges on the court will rule in South Africa’s favor. The pressure the U.S. will bring — Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the South African charges “meritless” — on the judges, drawn from the member states of the U.N., will be intense. 

A ruling of genocide is a stain that Israel — which weaponizes the Holocaust to justify its brutalization of the Palestinians — would find hard to remove.

It would undercut Israel’s insistence that Jews are eternal victims. It would shatter the justification for Israel’s indiscriminate killing of unarmed Palestinians and construction of the world’s largest open air prison in Gaza, along with the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It would sweep away the immunity to criticism enjoyed by the Israel lobby and its Zionist supporters in the U.S., who have successfully equated criticisms of the “Jewish State” and support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism.  

Over 23,700 Palestinians, including over 10,000 children, have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas and other resistance fighters breached the security barriers around Gaza. Some 1,200 people were killed — there is strong evidence that some of the victims were killed by Israeli tank crews and helicopter pilots that intentionally targeted the some 200 hostages along with their captors. 

Thousands more Palestinians are missing, presumed buried under the rubble. Israeli attacks have left over 60,000 Palestinians wounded and maimed, the majority of them women and children. Thousands more Palestinian civilians, including children, have been arrested, blindfolded, numbered, beaten, forced to strip to their underwear, loaded onto trucks and transported to unknown locations. 

Seeking Provisional Measures

The Hague during public hearings of South Africa’s charge of genocide against Israel on Jan. 11 and 12. (International Court of Justice)

A ruling by the court could be years away. But South Africa is asking for provisional measures that would demand Israel cease its military assault — in essence a permanent ceasefire. This decision could come within two or three weeks.

It is a decision that is not based on the final ruling by the court, but on the merits of the case brought by South Africa. The court would not, by demanding Israel end its hostilities in Gaza, define the Israeli campaign in Gaza as genocide. It would confirm that there is the possibility of genocide, what the South African lawyers call acts that are “genocidal in character.”  

The case will not be determined by the documentation of specific crimes, even those defined as war crimes. It will be determined by genocidal intent — the intent to eradicate in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group — as defined in the Genocide Convention.

These acts collectively include the targeting of refugee camps and other densely packed civilian areas with 2,000-pound bombs, the blocking of humanitarian aid, the destruction of the health care system and its effects on children and pregnant women — the U.N. estimates there are around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, and that more than 160 babies are delivered every day — as well as repeated genocidal statements by leading Israeli politicians and generals. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu equated Gaza with Amalek, a nation hostile to the Israelites in the Bible, and cited the Biblical injunction to kill every Amalek man, woman, child or animal. 

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Palestinians “human animals.” 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated, as the South African lawyers told the court, that everybody in Gaza is responsible for what happened on Oct. 7 because they voted for Hamas, although half the population in Gaza are children who are too young to vote. [Or were too young to vote in 2006 when the election took place.]

But even if the entire population of Gaza did vote for Hamas this does not make them a legitimate military target. They are still, under the rules of war, civilians, and entitled to protection. They are also entitled under international law to resist their occupation via armed struggle.  

The South African lawyers, who compared Israel’s crimes with those carried out by the apartheid regime in South Africa, showed the court a video of Israeli soldiers celebrating and calling for the death of Palestinians — they sang as they danced “There are no uninvolved civilians” — as evidence that genocidal intent descends from the top to the bottom of the Israeli war machine and political system.

They provided the court with photos of mass graves where bodies were buried “often unidentified.” No one – including newborns – was spared, the South African lawyer Adila Hassim, senior counsel, explained to the court.

Lawyers for South Africa at The Hague.  (International Court of Justice)

The South African lawyers told the court the “first genocidal act is mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza.” The second genocidal act, they stated, is the serious bodily or mental harm inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza in violation of Article 2B of the Genocide Convention.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, another lawyer and legal scholar representing South Africa, argued that “Israel’s political leaders, military commanders and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent.”

Lior Haiat, spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Thursday’s three hour hearing one of the “greatest shows of hypocrisy in history, compounded by a series of false and baseless claims.” He accused South Africa of seeking to allow Hamas to return to Israel to “commit war crimes.” 

Israeli jurists, in their response on Friday, called the South African charges “unfounded, “absurd” and amounting to “libel.” Israel’s legal team said it had — despite U.N. reports of widespread starvation and infectious diseases from a breakdown in sanitation and shortage of clean water — not impeded humanitarian assistance.

Israel defended attacks on hospitals, calling them “Hamas command centers.” It told the court it was acting in self-defense. “The inevitable fatalities and human suffering of any conflict is not of itself a pattern of conduct that plausibly shows genocidal intent,” said Christopher Staker, a barrister for Israel.

Israeli leaders accuse Hamas with carrying out genocide, although legally if you are the victims of genocide you are not permitted to commit genocide. Hamas is also not a state. It is not, therefore, a party to the Genocide Convention.

The Hague, for this reason, has no jurisdiction over the organization. Israel also claims the Palestinians are warned to evacuate areas that will come under attack and provided with “safe areas,” although as the South African lawyers documented, “safe areas” are routinely bombed by Israel with numerous civilian casualties.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s Herzog in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. (Amos Ben Gershom, Government Press Office of Israel, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Israel and the Biden administration intend to prevent any temporary injunction by the court, not because the court can force Israel to halt its military assaults, but because of the optics, which are already disastrous. 

The ICJ’s ruling depends on the Security Council for enforcement — which given the veto power by the U.S., renders any ruling against Israel moot. The second objective of the Biden administration is to make sure Israel is not found guilty of committing genocide.

It will be unrelenting in this campaign, heavily pressuring the governments that have jurists on the court not to find Israel guilty. Russia and China, who have jurists in The Hague, are battling their own charges of genocide and may decide it is not in their interests to find Israel guilty.

The Biden administration is playing a very cynical game. It insists it is trying to halt what, by its own admission, is Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians, while bypassing Congress to speed up the supply of weapons to Israel, including “dumb” bombs.

It insists it wants the fighting in Gaza to end while it vetoes ceasefire resolutions at the U.N. It insists it upholds the rule of law while it subverts the legal mechanism that can halt the genocide.  

Cynicism pervades every word Biden and Blinken utter. This cynicism extends to American citizens. Revulsion for former President Donald Trump, the Biden White House believes, will impel American voters to keep Biden in office. On any other issue this might be the case. But it cannot be the case with genocide.

Genocide is not a political problem. It is a moral one. We cannot, no matter what the cost, support those who commit or are accomplices to genocide.

Genocide is the crime of all crimes. It is the purest expression of evil. We must stand unequivocally with Palestinians and the jurists from South Africa. We must demand justice. We must hold Biden accountable for the genocide in Gaza.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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13 comments for “Chris Hedges: The Case for Genocide

  1. LeoSun
    January 17, 2024 at 13:21

    January 17, 2024 – Once, again, Chris Hedges & Mr. Fish, take us on a deep dive into the doom, the gloom, the black hole, where the “killers in high places, say their prayers out loud.” However, Hedges & Fish, light up the MADness (mutually agreed destruction) w/the truth; &, nothing; but, the truth. In sum, where the fakery & phuckery, collide! “Look Out…..”

    ……..”In less than a 100 days, Joey R. Biden said, “The “other team” was to blame for the massacre of hundreds of defenseless Palestinians holed up at al-Ahli Arab Hospital.”

    Imo, it’s clear as a bell, Israel’s “Dream Team,” Realized, in Antony “Dual Citizen$hip” Blinken & POTUS, Biden-Harris, the “WH’s residents who feel like Presidents,” can’t find their own a$$ w/both hands; BUT, “own every despicable aspect of the calamity unfolding in Gaza, [the West Bank, the Middle East, the Divided $tates of Corporate America, in Africa & @ the International Court of Justice] perpetrated by his country’s ever reliable and obedient proxy, Israel.” (Andrew Mitrovica-Al Jazeera Columnist, 10.19.23)

    Outta the gate, Blinken’s “team,” Biden-Harris, were 100% “on board” with “kill first; think, later.” To date, the deception, destruction, death is ever present & wholly $upported by Blinken’s “team,” Including, the M.I.A., Secretary of Defense, his vacationing $taff, POTUS in St. Croix, working on his “winter” tan!!! Proving the $tate Dept., has deemed POTUS, Congress & the Secretary of Defense useful idiots!!!

    “Bit by bit,” Israel’s role to Command & Control, “lives,” for example, ….. 1) “Our decisions in the war are based on our operational considerations, and I will not expand further. They are not dictated by external pressure. The decision on how to use our forces is an independent decision of the IDF and nobody else,” Benyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

    ………. 2) AIPAC, the Divided $tates of Corporate America’s “ALLY” “is set to spend more than $100 million [USD’s’] to defeat progressives who are critical of Israeli human rights violations in Palestine.” Buh-bye, Rashida Tlaib, ABC Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Cory Bush, Ayanna Pressley, Jamaal Bowman!!!

    ……… What are the chances Jamaal “Sounds the Alarm” Bowman, on AIPAC’s intent to silence the Squad’s squawking, by removal, from the U.S. Congress & the Democrat Party? Is it doable? Is it progress? Imo, Absolutely!!!

    …….. “Sail on. Sail on. O’ Mighty $hip of State. To the shores of need. Past the reefs of greed. Through the squalls of hate. Sail on. Sail on. Sail on. Sail on.” Good f/riddance!!!

    ……… 3) 12.26.23, “the Israeli leader,”said he had told US President Joe Biden that the war would continue for “however long it takes. I appreciate the steadfast US position—which supports our war effort—in the UN Security Council. I told President Biden yesterday that we will fight until absolute victory,” Benyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

    In possibly, 2-3 weeks, the ICJ might say to Israel, the USG, & NATO, what the Universe, said, to Israel the USG, NATO, yesterday, “Take the only tree that’s left & stuff it up that hole in your culture!!” Leonard Cohen, “The Future.”

    Consequently, “We, the People,” agree, 100%, “Genocide is the crime of all crimes. It is the purest expression of evil. We must stand unequivocally with Palestinians and the jurists from South Africa. We must demand justice. We must hold Biden accountable for the genocide in Gaza.” Chris Hedges.

    “Keep It Lit!”

  2. PeeF
    January 17, 2024 at 10:00

    het is alleen zo jammer dat de msm in mijn land, nederland, weinig hierover bericht. en als de msm er al over bericht dan is het in de trend: alles wat israel doet is goed, alles wat palestina doet is fout.

  3. January 17, 2024 at 09:43

    “ Genocide is the crime of all crimes. It is the purest expression of evil.”

    There is one worse crime, ecocide! Until that understanding sinks in, genocides will continue….and be supported both covertly or openly by the powerful.

  4. Valerie
    January 17, 2024 at 09:38

    Another great piece of art from Mr. Fish. It reminded me of the work by Francisco Goya entitled “Saturn Devouring His Son”. (From a series of “black paintings” reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity.) I doubt he would feel any different today.

  5. jamie
    January 17, 2024 at 04:05

    Sometimes, you purportedly sacrifice a battle to win the war. It is better in my opinion that Israel comes out not guilty.

    There is something troubling to the people who grew up in the west:
    since the day we were born our culture has shaped our perception, the way we perceive ourselves and our society, that we are superior (due to tech advancement, wealth, “freedom” and of course military power), that our society is just, righteous and supercilious intelligent… being trapped in this myth it is normal to feel outraged, “lost” by what we hear at ICJ, normal to have difficult time coping with the fact that a “progressive” democracy has committed a brutal genocide and other “progressive” democracies are helping covering up. It is difficult to cope with such huge dissonance, yet that is the way to freedom, the painful process to free ourselves from a myth that has kept ourselves “prisoners/slaves” for such a long time. Reality is our western culture in general was like this all along, since the dawn of European culture. We always been dirty, manipulative, hypocritical, violent, selfish, if not filthy. Some cultures do not evolve vertically.

    The other problem with growing in a western “reductionist” culture is the “inhibition” of emotional intelligence (opposite of hyper-emotional, a western urban problem) and holistic/”system” intelligence. Those two type of intelligence are critical to navigate an ever-growing complex world; hence, we have really hard time coping with complexities and diversity, that is probably also why we tend to be xenophobe, prejudicial and try to shape the world on our own image, and that becomes a vicious cycle.

    I am sure SA and other countries which accused Israel, are exploiting this weakness and the ICJ serves also as a place to expose the western culture, knowing westerners are unable to quantify the damage, the cost of denying such blatant brutal genocide.
    It would seal the fate of the western culture as trustful, just, evolved, humanitarian and an example to follow. Disengaging from it will be the normal behavior.

  6. January 17, 2024 at 03:43

    The headline has two conflicting meanings!

  7. Pen
    January 16, 2024 at 18:25

    Can I just note how phenomenal Mr. Fish’s illustrations are in capturing the essence of pieces like this?

  8. Lois Gagnon
    January 16, 2024 at 17:08

    The Brits and the US have created a problem from hell by allowing the illegitimate state of Israel to have power over not only their own countries, but the whole world. Israel possesses nuclear weapons which it refuses to allow to be inspected. The hubris of the West is on full display and the rest of the world has no more illusions of the danger of allowing the Washington led West to continue to prevent accountability for Israel’s crimes. If the ICJ and the UN won’t bring Israel to heal, they will. Iran is already sending a message. If this volatile situation is allowed to escalate, there will be no containing it.

  9. Caliman
    January 16, 2024 at 16:06

    A very strong column. Thanks very much.

    “A ruling of genocide is a stain that Israel — which weaponizes the Holocaust to justify its brutalization of the Palestinians — would find hard to remove.”

    It is not the ruling that is a stain on Israel … it is its own actions over the past three months and indeed many decades. The great majority of the world already know what is going on here and who is guilty. The ruling will actually be more a verdict on the UN itself: is it capable of making obvious and necessary legal findings against the powerful? We shall see.

    “Genocide is the crime of all crimes. It is the purest expression of evil. We must stand unequivocally with Palestinians and the jurists from South Africa. We must demand justice. We must hold Biden accountable for the genocide in Gaza.”

    Indeed, all true. The utterly execrable Biden must be held to account now. And this being an election year, it is a terrific time to do so. No more lesser evil, now that we see what evil is capable of supporting and participating in.

  10. gcw919
    January 16, 2024 at 15:58

    It is hard to comprehend that such utter barbarism should continue, “live-streaming,” now well into the 21st century. Its is beyond appalling that the US government fully supports these atrocities. We are certain to be witnessing the death-spiral of the self-appointed “indispensable” nation, whose hypocrisy is on full display around the world.

    • BJ
      January 16, 2024 at 17:29

      Well said – however what’s all this talk of taking three weeks for a decision? It’s been stated Israel as increased it’s bombardment – three weeks will mean thousands of more murders. The time has come for intervention and retaliation before one more innocent person, child, infant and or newborn can be slaughtered.

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    January 16, 2024 at 15:21

    BRAVO!!! South Africa. A BLACK nation who has had the courage to bring israel’s despicable behaviour to be seen by the entire world. And all those who, for decades, looked the other way ARE JUST AS GUILTY! How much longer is israel going to hide behind the Holocaust? The putrid stench of Nazism permeates the entire region.

  12. Em
    January 16, 2024 at 14:08

    Israel has long ago perfected, and thrived on the weaponization of victimhood, always successfully blaming the ‘others’ for its murderous brutality, and getting away with it — being given a pass!

Comments are closed.