An ongoing genocide in Gaza

Revisionist Zionism’s settler colonialist ideology: Contributing to an ongoing genocide in Gaza

(This is an edited version of an original dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MA in Human Rights and Global Ethics at the School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester, September 2019)
ABSTRACT

This paper explores the question of whether Israel’s siege of Gaza and its military attacks during Operation Protective Edge and the Great March of Return protests evinced a Revisionist Zionist settler colonialist ideology that contributed to an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazans. Such a Zionist settler colonialist ideology was arguably evinced in both cases by the Israeli government’s reliance on Jabotinsky’s Zionist conception of an ‘iron wall’ of military power in preventing the Gazans from returning to their lands occupied by Israel (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

This paper applies a Lemkin inspired analysis of genocide to argue that a nexus exists between Israel’s settler colonialist ideology and the genocide of the Gazans. The existence of such a nexus is underpinned by Lemkin’s perception that a genocidal phase emerges ‘once a colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals’ (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944: 79) has taken place. Such a physical and social genocide of the Gazans is argued to be ongoing since the eliminatory effects of Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology did not end with the expulsion of Palestinians and the colonization of their lands during the 1948 Nakba, but continue to be evinced to this day (Pappe 2017, p.4).

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
 CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW

1.1 Zionism and its settler colonialist ideology

1.2 Defining Genocide

1.3 The nexus between Genocide and settler colonialism

 

CHAPTER 2: OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE 2014: EVINCING ZIONISM’S SETTLER COLONIALIST IDEOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

  • ‘Operation Protective Edge’: Evincing a Zionist ideology of preserving settler colonial rule over Gaza
  • Israel’s settler colonial rule over Gaza: maintaining Gaza’s separation from the occupied Territories
  • Hamas’s reconciliation agreement with Fatah: a threat to Israel’s Zionist settler colonial rule
  • Israel’s collective punishment of the Gazans: acting in self-defence or furthering Zionism’s settler colonialist ideology?

 

CHAPTER 3: OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE: REVEALING THE NEXUS BETWEEN ISRAEL’S ZIONIST SETTLER COLONIALIST IDEOLOGY AND AN ONGOING GENOCIDE OF GAZA

INTRODUCTION

3.1 Did Operation Protective Edge contribute to an ongoing genocide of Gaza? Applying a Lemkin inspired definition of genocide

3.2 Did the Israeli government possess an intent to commit a genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge?

3.3 The nexus between Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide in Gaza during the 2014 war

 

CHAPTER 4: GAZA’S GREAT MARCH OF RETURN

INTRODUCTION

4.1 Gaza’s Great March of Return: Breaking free from the shackles of Zionism’s settler colonialism

4.2 Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist response to the Great March of Return: an ongoing genocide of the Gazans

4.2.1 The IDF’s use of lethal force: An ongoing genocidal destruction of the Gazan’s national pattern of life

4.2.2 The IDF’s infliction of collective punishment on the Gazans: evidencing Israel’s genocidal intent

  • The nexus between Israel’s settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide of the Gazans at the protests

 

CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Introduction

The ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe as Palestinians call it depicts the events leading to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (Short 2016, p.71). A catastrophe involving the expulsion of ‘half the indigenous people living in Palestine’ and the destruction of their homes by Israeli military forces (Short 2016, p.71). The memory of the ‘Nakba’ remains a pivotal event that ‘is engraved in Palestinian collective consciousness as a story of relentless dispossession’ (Amnesty International 2019).

This paper argues that Israel’s Revisionist Zionist settler colonialist ideology manifesting in the continuing dispossession of the Palestinians and the colonization of their land since the 1948 ‘Nakba’ contributes to an ongoing genocide of the physical and social foundations of Palestinian life in Gaza.

 

Research Question:

 This dissertation answers the question of whether Israel’s siege of Gaza and its military operations against it during Operation Protective Edge and the Great March of Return evince a Revisionist Zionist settler colonialist ideology that is contributing to an ongoing physical and social genocide in Gaza.

Core Argument:

This paper argues that a Revisionist Zionist ideology of settler colonialism, traceable  to the expulsion of Palestinians and the colonization of their lands during the 1948 Nakba, continues to be evinced in the continuing siege of the Palestinians in Gaza and the devastation inflicted on them by the Israeli military.

The manifestation of such a Zionist ideology is argued to contribute to an ongoing genocide of the Gazans through the continuing physical and social destruction of the civilian population in Gaza (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1160). The genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza is described in this paper as ‘ongoing’ since it argues that Israel has carried out such an ‘unfolding genocidal policy’ since 1948 (Pappe 2017, p.219). This is arguably the case since the genocidal destruction of the 1948 Nakba continues to be manifested in the various Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) military operations carried out against Gaza, including Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and the current Israeli response to the 2018/19 Great March of Return protests.

 

The structure and parameters of this Dissertation

The scope of this paper extends to an examination of events involving the Israeli military attacks on the Gazan people known as ‘Operation Protective Edge’ from 8 July to 26 August 2014, and Gaza’s Great March of Return Protests from 30 March 2018 to 31 August 2019.

The Israeli military assault on Gaza during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ was chosen for analysis in this paper as it was the most recent and devastating Israeli military attack on Gaza compared to previous IDF attacks such as Operation Cast Lead 2008.

Additionally, the analysis on Gaza’s Great March of Return was included in this paper to provide a more recent and contemporary perspective of Israel’s reliance on a Zionist settler colonialist policy; a policy of preventing the Gazans from realizing their right of return to territories occupied by Israel since 1948 (Avi Shlaim 2015, p.176).

This dissertation is structured to discuss the abovementioned case studies in relation to the 1948 Nakba. In doing so, this paper posits the argument that the settler colonialist ideology evinced during the 1948 Nakba continues to manifest itself in more recent military assaults of Gaza such as that of Operation Protective Edge, and contributes to ongoing genocide of the Gazans. A discussion on Israel’s wars in Gaza prior to 2014, such as the 1967 war would be beyond the scope of this paper due to the sheer volume of academic writing already published on these issues.

The first chapter of this paper provides a literature review involving the scholarly arguments on key issues discussed in this paper including the concept of settler colonialism and its relationship with a genocidal destruction of societies. Chapter two of this dissertation argues that the IDF’s military attacks on Gaza during Operation Protective Edge 2014 evinced Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology:an ideology of maintaining Israel’s status as a colonizing power over Gaza and resisting the Palestinian right of return to their lands occupied by Israel since the 1948 Nakba.

The third chapter further develops this theme by arguing that a nexus existed between Israel’s Revisionist Zionist settler colonial ideology and an ongoing genocide of Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

Chapter four evaluates Israel’s Revisionist Zionist policies and their execution in relation to the Palestinian protestors who have taken part in Gaza’s Great March of Return Protests from March 2018 to August 2019. This is done to analyse the extent to which these policies exemplify an ideology of settler colonialism that contributes to an ongoing genocide of the Gazan people.

This paper concludes by submitting that both Operation Protective Edge and the protests known as the Great March of Return evinced Israel’s Revisionist Zionist Colonialist ideology in a way that contributed to an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazan people. An ongoing genocide of the Palestinians that may be traced back to the 1948 Nakba.

 

Methodology

The case study on Operation Protective Edge (2014) was chosen to assess the extent to which the Israeli devastation of Gaza including the killing and injuring of its civilian population was motivated by an Israeli Revisionist Zionist policy; a policy that sought to diminish the demographic structure of the Gazan society by imposing a form of collective punishment on its civilian population (Lustick 2019, p.148-149). Additionally, the effects of the siege of Gaza by Israel during the 2014 war in restricting vital medical supplies, food and clean water for nearly 2 million Palestinians are evaluated to argue that Israel’s settler colonial policies contributed to an ongoing genocide of Gaza.

The second case study chosen for this dissertation examines Gaza’s Great March of Return Protests 2019/19 and the IDFs lethal response of firing live bullets at civilians who participated in the protests.

These case studies draw from the empirical evidence of civilian deaths, injuries and damage to the Gazan infrastructure reported by human rights organizations such as B’Tselem and the United Nations Human Rights Council. They argue that the Israeli government’s use of violent military force was not done in self-defence or for the securitization of their borders, but were influenced by a settler colonialist logic calculated to destroy the physical and social foundations of life of the Palestinians as a national group. Such acts arguably constitute the crime of Genocide.

This paper also draws from the empirical data published by organizations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees on the extent of the physical, social and economic devastation suffered by the Gazans due to military operations carried out by the IDF to argue in support of a finding of an ongoing genocide in Gaza.

This dissertation adopts a constructivist theoretical approach within the study of International Relations to explore the ideational and intersubjective beliefs of political actors such as Netanyahu and his Likud party. This is done to assess the extent to which their policies and claims reflect a colonialist settler ideology.

This paper is qualitative in nature drawing on the diverse literature on Zionist thought, specifically Jabotinsky’s Revisionist form of Zionism, in emphasizing its underlying ideology of settler colonialism. The literature review that follows evaluates the various theoretical approaches applied by genocide scholars such as Damien Short to the study of Zionism’s settler colonialist ideology and its link with genocide.

 

Chapter 1: Literature Review

This paper relies on a theoretical framework that applies a Lemkin inspired concept of genocide developed by scholars such as Damien Short to argue that a nexus exists between Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology, evinced in the 1948 Nakba (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1), and an ongoing genocide of the Gazans manifested by Israel since then. Such an analysis is supported by the fact that Lemkin , the creator of the term ‘genocide’, defined the concept of genocide as ‘being ‘intrinsically colonial’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p. 1144).

The research focus of this paper contributes to the scholarly debate on the nexus between Israel’s Revisionist Zionist ideology of settler colonialism and an ongoing genocide of the Gazan people. The genocide of the Gazans perceived as a constituent element within the settler colonialist logic of elimination inherent in Zionist ideology (Wolfe 2006, p.401) is posited to be ongoing process rather than a single outcome of Israel’s military attacks on Gaza.

This is argued to be the case since the settler colonial ideology and its effects evinced in the 1948 Nakba continue to manifest themselves in the continuing displacement, colonization and destruction of the Gazans by Israel (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1). The following is a concise examination of the scholarly perspectives underlying the concepts of Zionism’s settler colonialist ideology and its nexus with genocide.

 

  • Zionism and its settler colonialist ideology 

Zionism as a ‘political ideology and a movement’ in 19th century Europe held ‘that all Jews, wherever they lived, constituted a nation…associated with a specific geographical area’ (Hermann 2013, p.134). Pappe notes that to Israeli scholars, Zionism was portrayed as a ‘national liberation movement’ that made its way back to ‘its ancient homeland, derelict and empty since the exile of the Jews in Roman time, waiting to be resettled’ (Pappe 2008, p.612). Penslar, for instance, argues that the Zionist movement was ‘not in, and of itself a form of colonial practice’ (Penslar 2001, p.96), but an ‘anti-colonial movement’ that was ‘a product of the age of imperialism’ (Penslar 2001, p.96). This was purportedly the case in light of the ‘historic status’ of the Jews as  a ‘colonized people’ (Penslar 2001, p. 87). From this perspective, the Zionist movement’s rationale for expropriating the land of the Palestinians in the 1948 war ‘lacked the evangelical qualities of European colonialism in North America, Asia and Africa’; rather, the motivation of the Zionist movement was ‘ directed almost entirely inward, to the Jews themselves’ and their realization of a land to which they had ‘historic, religious and cultural ties.’ (Penslar 2001, p.96). Notwithstanding this perceived rationale of the Zionist movement , it is arguable that the empirical reality of what took place during and after the 1948 war evinced a form of colonialism of Palestinian land.   

To Palestinian scholars, Zionism was conceived as ‘a colonialist movement’ that desired to colonize the land of Palestine by the use of force (Pappe 2008, p.612). In this respect, Penslar does posit that ‘only after the 1967 war did Israel’s relationship with the Arab minority change to a genuine form of colonialism’ when  ‘its military and security forces brutally combated Palestinian nationalism in a fashion similar to French rule in pre-independence Algeria’. (Penslar 2001, p.97)  

Shlaim, in considering the different Zionist ideological strands, notes that Revisionist Zionism’s territorial claims extended to the entire mandatory Palestine comprising of Transjordan (Shlaim 2012, p.81). The founder of Revisionist Zionism , Jabotinsky (Shlaim 2012, p.80), alludes to the colonization of Palestinian land through the use of an ‘iron wall’ of military force (Shlaim 2012, p.82). Labor Zionists, however, were agreeable to the partition of Palestine to the west of the Jordan river into two states comprising of Jewish and Arab sections (Shlaim 2012, p.81).

To Shlaim, however, what appears common to both these ideological strands of Zionism is the territorial ambitions over Palestinian land that both have continued to seek, and their understanding that ‘given Arab rejection of the whole idea, a Jewish state could be established only by force of arms’ (Shlaim 2012, p.81). This is arguably the case since even before the creation of Israel in 1948, ‘Palestinians have regarded Zionism as a colonial settler ideology’ with an ‘expansionist aim’ that ‘sought to expel them from their land’ (Busbridge 2018, p.94).

Busbridge, however, distinguishes settler colonialism from colonialism by pointing to the former’s ‘emphasis on the ‘logic of elimination’ rather than a ‘logic of exploitation’ (Busbridge 2018, p.92). Wolfe, in this respect, supports the idea that elimination is an ‘organizing principal of settler-colonial society rather than a one-off (and superseded) occurrence’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388), with the ‘logic of elimination’ manifesting itself in ‘Zionism’s chronic addiction to territorial expansion’ (Wolfe 2006, p.401). This dissertation concurs with Busbridge’s argument that an interrelationship exists between Israel’s settler colonialist ideology that ‘desires the land of the natives’ and ‘elimination of the native’ as ‘part and parcel of the settler’s attempt to replace them’ (Busbridge 2018, p.92).

 

  • Defining Genocide

Damien Short argues that ‘rather than prioritizing mass killings, Lemkin’s focus lay with the destruction of the rudiments of social and cultural existence’ (Short 2016, p. 22) as evinced in the following passage:

‘Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation…It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions of culture, language, national feelings, religion and the economic existence of national groups…’ (Lemkin 1944, p. 79).

This dissertation applies a Lemkin inspired definition of genocide as developed by Rashed and Short in arguing that Lemkin’s conception of genocide as understood from the preceding quote was that of a ‘total social practice’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1143); one which affected the ‘essential foundations of life’ of social groups, and … intrinsically linked to processes of colonization’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1143).

Docker concurs with Short in asserting that genocide is not limited to mass killings, but also includes ‘methods of destruction and replacement that engage many dimensions, including the political, social, cultural, linguistic, religious, and economic’ (Docker 2017, p.31).

Applying Docker and Short’s analysis, this dissertation will proceed to argue that such a societal destruction of Gaza by the Israeli military, involving not just the killing of Gazans, but an ongoing destruction of their social relationships within families, friends and institutions, constitutes genocide in the Lemkian sense. In this regard, Lemkin himself was of the view that ‘destroying the social relations on which a group’s identity and communal life are based can be genocidal’ (Short 2016, p.36).

Card similarly postulates the hypothesis that ‘social death is utterly central to the evil of genocide’ (Card 2003, p.63). In this respect, Lemkin gave greater emphasis to the ‘destruction of the rudiments of social and cultural existence’ than to ‘mass murder’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1144).

 

  • The nexus between Genocide and settler colonialism

This paper supports Rashed and Short’s argument that ‘if Israel is conceivably a settler colonial project then by implication its relationship with the Palestinian people can be analysed through the genocide lens’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1142).

This nexus which is argued to exist between Israel’s settler colonial ideology and the genocidal destruction of the Gazans forms the theoretical framework for this dissertation.

The existence of such a nexus is arguably supported by Lemkin himself. Lemkin stated that genocide involved the ‘destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group’ and ‘the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor’ (Lemkin 1944, p.79), highlighting his conception of genocide as being ‘intrinsically colonial’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1144).

Additionally, recent genocide scholarship emphasizes the nexus between ‘colonization processes and genocidal practices’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1144). Docker argues that Lemkin drew links between settler-colonies and genocide ‘in a constitutive relationship in subtle, intricate and multifaceted ways’ (Docker 2017, p.35). In relation to the Nazi occupation of Europe, for instance, Lemkin noted that colonization as part of the ‘second phase of genocide’ took place when the Polish people were evicted from their homes and replaced by German settlers. (Docker 2017, p.34).

In this respect, Wolfe recognizes the positive dimension shared by both settler colonialism and genocide to be the erection of ‘a new colonial society on the expropriated land base’, while the negative dimension being the ‘dissolution of native societies’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388). Wolfe argues that ‘the primary motive for elimination is not race (or religion, ethnicity, grade of civilization, etc.) but access to territory’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388).

Zimmerer adds that a ‘key strand of recent genocide scholarship focuses on the link Lemkin made between colonization processes and genocide processes’, with territory being the key cause of violence (Short 2016, p. 24).

This paper further supports and develops Short’s argument that the process involving the nexus between settler colonialism and genocide in relation to Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians is one that has been ongoing since the 1948 ‘Nakba’ (Short 2016, p.73). Support for this claim can, to some extent, be drawn from Martin Shaw’s argument that a significant part of Israel’s history ‘represents the slow-motion extension and consolidation of that violent beginning’ (Short 2016, p.73).

The violence that Shaw refers to arguably began with the Jewish military invasion, destruction and colonization of Palestinian lands in 1948, continued in the 1967 war, in Jenin and Nablus in 2002, and in subsequent Israeli military attacks on Gaza such as those in 2008/2009, 2012 and 2014. (Short 2016, p.74). As Shaw argues, ‘the activities in the decades that followed (the ‘Nakba’) demonstrate a further intensification of the settler colonial process and the genocidal tendencies which inevitably exists in parallel.’ (Short 2016, p.73).

Such permanence rather than the transitoriness of the settler colonial occupation of the colonized society is further implied in Wolfe’s assertion that ‘invasion is a structure not an event’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388).

 

Chapter 2:  Operation Protective Edge 2014: Evincing Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology

Introduction:

This chapter argues that the Israeli policies underlying the IDF’s military operations in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (2014) evinced a Zionist settler colonialist ideology. An ideology underlying the objective of maintaining Israel’s status as a colonizing power over Gaza and resisting the Palestinian right of return to their lands occupied by Israel (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

While chapter 3 argues in support of a nexus between Israel’s settler colonial ideology and the ongoing genocide of the Gazans, this chapter focuses specifically on the manifestation of Israel’s Zionist ideology of settler colonialism during the 2014 war. It argues that such an ideology, which may be traced to the expulsion of Palestinians and the colonization of their lands during the 1948 ‘Nakba’, continued to be evinced in the continuing blockade of Gaza and the destruction inflicted on the Gazans by the Israeli military during the 2014 war. This Israeli colonization and displacement of Palestinians from their lands in 1948 resulted in approximately 750 thousand Palestinians refugees who labelled their experiences ‘the Catastrophe (al-Nakba)’ (Kimmerling 2006, p.448).

The 1948 Nakba is argued in this paper to be the pivotal event in which Israel began to manifest its status as a settler colonial State; a settler colonial state that Pappe asserts, began carrying out ‘the ethnic cleansing of 80 percent of Palestine in 1948’, and occupying ‘the remaining 20 percent of the land in 1967’ (Verso, 2012).

This chapter argues that the Nakba, however, was not a one- time event. Rather, the Zionist settler colonialist ideology evinced by Israel in the 2014 war may be traced back to the Nakba of 1948 and Israel’s status as settler colonizer and occupier of Palestinian land since then. As Pappe asserts ‘the Israeli settler state continues to further colonize and uproot the indigenous people of Palestine’ (Verso, 2012).

 

‘Operation Protective Edge’: Evincing a Revisionist Zionist ideology of preserving settler colonial rule over Gaza

  • Israel’s settler colonial rule over Gaza: maintaining Gaza’s separation from the occupied territories

The devastation unleashed by the Israeli military attacks on the Gazans during Operation Protective Edge was described by the human rights organization, B’Tselem as ‘the deadliest and most destructive bout of hostilities since 1967’ (B’Tselem 2016, p. 3).

Israel killed 2,202 Palestinians, 546 of whom were children under the age of 18 despite the fact that sixty-three percent of the Gazans were not involved in the fighting (B’Tselem 2016, p. 3).

Further, B’Tselem estimates that ‘18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and that more than 100,000 Palestinians were rendered homeless’ (B’Tselem 2016, p. 3).  Baconi argues that the Israeli government’s  reliance on a narrative of self-defence and its claim that Hamas used human shields ‘blurred the limits of what was acceptable of legitimate target for Israel forces’ (Baconi 2018, p.215).

Such an extreme use of lethal military force against Palestinian civilians and their homes suggest that Israel’s attack on Gaza was arguably a manifestation of its Zionist settler colonialist ideology, rather than an act of self-defence.

This ideological objective of maintaining settler colonial rule in Gaza was to be achieved by the Israeli government preserving its ‘colonial status quo’ and ‘position as the imperial overlord’ against the Palestinian struggle for independence (Shlaim 2015, p.176). Such a perception of Gaza as a colonized territory is implicit in Pappe’s depiction of Gaza as a ‘mega-prison’ created by Israel since the 1967 war as a ‘practical response to the ideological prerequisites of Zionism’ (Pappe 2017, p.4).

This chapter argues that the Zionist ideological aims of Israel since its creation in 1948 and its subsequent occupation of Gaza in 1967 included the desire to seek territorial control over Palestine and achieve ‘if possible exclusive Jewish majority in it’ (Pappe 2017, p.4). Such a Zionist ideology of colonization was initially conceived by Revisionist Zionists as a metaphorical ‘iron wall’ of Jewish military force (Jabotinsky 1923). As the founder of Revisionist Zionism himself, Jabotinsky, explained in 1923:

‘Zionist colonization…must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through’ (Jabotinsky 1923).

Such a Zionist settler colonialization of territory that has been in place since the creation of Israel in 1948 and furthered through the use of military force (Verso, 2012) was arguably evinced once again in the 2014 war in Gaza. Evidence of Israel’s continuing desire to acquire territorial control over Gaza as a settler colonizer is further supported by the claim that the prime minister of Israel in 1967, Eshkol, and his Cabinet ministers were aware of the ‘demographic danger’ posed by their 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at that time (Lustick 2019, p.148-149). 

As Eshkol stated: ‘we won the war and received a nice dowry of territory, but it came with a bride whom we don’t like’ (Lustick 2019 p.148-149). In relation to Israel’s later withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Lustick argues that the Israel’s eventual withdrawal of its military forces from the Gaza strip was an act that ‘subtracted approximately 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs from the non-Jewish population’ that were residing in territory such as the West Bank and East Jerusalem occupied by Israel at that time (Lustick 2019, p.147). This chapter supports Lustick’s assertion that ‘the main impetus for this move was the demographic imperative’ (Lustick 2019, p.147); an ‘imperative’ that existed to ensure that achieving a Jewish majority population in Israel and its occupied territories was not impeded by an influx of Palestinians from Gaza.

Such an exclusion of Gazans from Israel was arguably achieved by the Israeli government’s creation of an isolated coastal enclave that was physically cut off from the rest of the world (UN OCHA 2019). Since 2007, the Gazans have been subjected to an air, sea and land blockade by being ‘locked in’, and ‘denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world’ (UN OCHA 2019). Such a siege of Gaza exemplifies the near total control that the Israeli government exercised in restricting the movement of Gazans into Israel and even the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

From this perspective, Israel’s policy of maintaining the blockade of Gaza therefore continues to give effect to the Zionist settler colonialist ideology of effectively preventing the Gazans from  returning to their Palestinian homeland, a land colonized and occupied by Israel since the 1948 war (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

The question, however, arises as to whether Israel could continue to be conceived as a settler colonial occupier of Gaza since its withdrawal of military forces from the coastal strip in 2005. Tilley argues that Israel’s incursions into Gaza as, for instance, evinced by Operation Protective Edge in 2014 suggest that Israel retains and exercises military power to ‘assume physical control of any part of the country’ (Tilley 2012, p.50). This coupled with the fact that Israel retains control over Gaza’s airspace and the sea along its coast (UN OCHA 2019) suggests that Israel has not conceded control over Gaza since 2005. As Tilley cogently argues, Israel ‘simply withdrew, or redeployed, the most visible aspect of its control (ground troops within Gaza)’ (Tilley 2012, p.50).

 

  • Hamas’s reconciliation agreement with Fatah: a threat to Israel’s Zionist settler colonial rule

This section argues that Israel’s preservation of its Zionist settler colonial rule over Gaza included ensuring that the various Palestinian factions comprising of Hamas in Gaza, the PLO and Fatah in the West Bank remained divided and physically incapable of achieving Palestinian independence. As Shlaim argues, ‘keeping the two branches of the Palestinian family’, Gaza and the occupied territories of the West Bank ‘geographically separate’ meant that Israel would be able to maintain its settler colonial rule over these territories without acceding to the Palestinian unity government’s conditions of returning the pre-1967 war Palestinian territories under its occupation (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

Importantly, Shlaim points out that ‘the overriding aim…was to defeat the struggle for Palestinian independence, to maintain the colonial status quo, and to preserve Israel’s position as the imperial overlord’ (Shlaim 2015 p.176). Such resistance put up by the Israeli government to Palestinian attempts to achieve independence and recover territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 war was arguably evidenced by Israel’s military attacks during Operation Protective Edge.

Prior to the July 2014 war, a reconciliation agreement with Fatah known as the ‘Shati’ agreement was signed between Hamas, Fatah and other PLO factions to form a unity government for the governance of the Gaza strip and the West Bank (Shlaim 2015, p.175). This agreement followed the conditions laid down by the PLO that for talks to continue with Israel they had to include the end to the building of settlements and be based on the borders prior to the 1967 war (Baconi 2018, p.206).

Thus, negotiations with Israel concerning the return of the Palestinians to territory occupied by Israel, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank, would have to feature in such talks with the PLO. One would have expected such a turn of events involving the promise of a possible normalization of ties and cessation of armed conflict between Hamas and Israel would have convinced the Israeli government to accept the Palestinian unity government. This was especially since Hamas had previously upheld a ceasefire for eighteen months prior to the July 2014 war (Shlaim 2015, p.175).

Israel, however, remained adamant that it would oppose such a unity government despite Abbas’s assertions that the new government would recognize Israel and cease terrorist activities (Baconi 2018, p.208). Israel’s immediate response to the ‘Shati’ agreement was to reject any negotiations with a Palestinian government that involved Hamas. (Baconi 2018, p.206). This chapter questions Israel’s justification for rejecting such negotiations that Hamas argued would bring unity to the West Bank and Gaza and facilitate reconstruction. (Baconi 2018, p.206). Such a justification included Israel’s claim that it would not accept a unity government that included the terrorist organization of Hamas (Reuters 2014).

Shlaim, however, argues that Hamas ‘committed what Israel considered an unforgivable transgression’ (Shlaim 2015, p.175). This was by concluding a reconciliation agreement with Fatah and forming a unity government that would govern both the Gaza strip as well as the West Bank (Shlaim 2015, p.175).

What emerges is a perception among scholars that the Israel government adopted a settler colonial policy towards the occupied territories including Gaza, a policy of ‘divide and rule’ that concealed a ‘desire to reverse the trend towards Palestinian reconciliation and to undermine the unity government’ (Shlaim 2015 p.176). Thus, a settler colonialist ideology that sought to maintain Israel’s continuing military rule over Gaza was arguably a significant factor in Israel’s refusal to accept the Shati agreement.  As Pappe notes, ‘today, Israel is a formidable settler-colonialist state…eager to crush by whatever means necessary any resistance to its control and rule in historical Palestine’ (Verso, 2012).

The question remains, however, as to why Israel decided to launch Operation Protection Edge at a time when the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, were on the threshold of forming a unity government that was prepared to recognize the State of Israel. This was a question that Meshal, the head of the political bureau of Hamas asked:

‘Now that the Palestinians had achieved unity …a war was suddenly declared? Are the Palestinians just meant to surrender and die a slow death?’ (Baconi 2018, p.219).

Israel’s claim that it was defending itself from Hamas’s rockets that were fired into Israel were countered by Meshal the day after Protective Edge was launched. Meshal argued:

‘Our people can no longer accept the blockade in Gaza, under starvation, can no longer live in the shadow of settlements, murder, house demolition, violation of villages [in the West Bank]. It is time for the Israeli occupation to end’ (Baconi 2018, p.219).

This paper argues that Israel’s military attacks and incursions into Gaza were not carried out in self-defence, but evinced an ‘urge to punish the people of Gaza’ for electing Hamas to oppose Israel’s settler colonialist designs’ (Shlaim 2015, p.176). To prevent such a unification of Gaza and the West Bank under the ‘Shati’ agreement and further its colonial settler policies in the occupied territories, Israel arguably relied on what Pappe described as a ‘pretext for war’ (Pappe 2017, p. 228). 

Pappe argues that Operation Protective Edge had been planned for two years with the killing of the three West Bank settlers providing ‘the pretext for a destructive operation that killed 2200 Palestinians’ (Pappe 2017, p. 228). Despite receiving intelligence that the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on 12 June 2014 had likely been killed, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, carried out an ‘aggressive invasion’ of the West Bank, purportedly acting to locate the teenagers by effecting arrests, home raids and curfews (Baconi 2018, pp. 212-213).

Finkelstein, however, argues that Netanyahu knew the teenagers had been killed by those who were not part of Hamas’s leadership, yet ‘feigning a rescue mission’ Israel demolished homes, killed five West bank Palestinians and arrested seven hundred Palestinians (Finkelstein 2018, p.213). Such an unleashing of destructive, lethal force by Israel was ‘patently tailored to elicit a violent response from Hamas’, to ‘prove’ its status as a terrorist organization (Finkelstein 2018, p.213), while arguably concealing Israel’s overriding aim of  maintaining its status as settler colonial State that sought to defeat the Palestinian struggle for independence (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

 

2.1.3 Israel’s collective punishment of the Gazans: acting in self-defence or furthering Zionism’s settler colonialist ideology?

This section argues that a form of collective punishment was imposed on the Gazans during the 2014 war to further the continuation of Israel’s ideology of settler colonialism  while asserting its sovereignty over the territory of Gaza (Shlaim 2015, p.150). Shlaim argues that ‘to make sense of “Operation Protective Edge” it is necessary to place it within the wider context …of the emergence of Israel as a colonial settler-state’ (Shlaim 2015, p.161-162). Such a colonial settler state is one in which Israeli settlements can develop behind, what Jabotinsky described as an ‘iron wall’ of military power that the ‘local population …will be powerless to break through’ (Shlaim 2012, p.82). Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism himself explained the necessity for such an ‘iron wall’ to give effect to Zionist ideology, stating that:

‘To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile’ (Jabotinsky 1923).

This ‘iron wall of Jewish military power’ which Jabotinsky spoke of (Shlaim 2012, p.82) arguably furthered a ‘structure of displacement and replacement’ of the population of Palestinians, which ‘reached a certain peak in 1948 …and is still alive and kicking today’ (Pappe 2017, p.4).

This chapter supports Shlaim’s contention that Israel’s history, including its devastation of Gaza in 2014 is a ‘vindication’ of such a strategy of settler colonialism (Shlaim 2015, p.150); a strategy evinced by the Revisionists Zionists territorial claim over ‘the entire Mandate Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea’ (Shlaim 2015, pp.161-162) including the Gaza Strip.

 

Israel’s claim to the use of self-defence in the 2014 war: fact or fallacy?  

Israel, however, claimed that its use of military force during the Operation Protective Edge was done in self- defence against the ‘terrorist organization’ Hamas’s act of firing rockets into Israel (UN Human Rights Council 2014, p.2).  John Dugard, the South African international law professor and former Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, however, rejected such a claim by Israel. Dugard stated:

‘The siege of Gaza constitutes collective punishment of the people of Gaza. They are punished for not overthrowing Hamas. In other words, they are punished for not having done anything wrong. This is collective punishment, which is prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention’ (Russell Tribunal on Palestine 2014, p.12).

The indiscriminate nature of the killings of Palestinian children in Gaza during the 2014 war further attest to the argument that collective punishment was imposed on Gazan civilians as a means of pressuring them into submission, and as Gazans speculated, forcing them ‘to turn against Hamas’ (Baconi 2018, p.217). The Defence for Children International Palestine reported that

‘Israel, the world’s largest exporter of aerial drones, killed at least 164 children in drone attacks during its assault on Gaza. In a number of incidents, evidence suggests that Israeli forces directly targeted children. In one such case, Rawya Joudeh, 40, and four of her five children were killed by an Israeli drone-fired missile…’ (Defence for Children International Palestine 2015, p.1).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, denied that the IDF had engaged in indiscriminate killing of civilians during the 2014 war. He claimed that: ‘security forces are doing everything in their power to avoid harming civilians and if innocents are hurt, it is because Hamas deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians’ (B’Tselem 2015, p.58).

 

Civilians used by Hamas as human shields? 

To justify the death toll of civilians during the war, Netanyahu alleged that Hamas had used civilians as ‘human shields’ (B’Tselem 2015, p.58). The human rights organization, B’Tselem, however, countered such claims of the Israel government by asserting that:

‘the policy of bombing homes was implemented throughout the Gaza Strip all through the fighting. These attacks were not carried out on the whim of individual soldiers, pilots or commanders in the field. They are the result of a policy formulated by government officials and the senior military command’ (B’Tselem 2015, p.58).

Finkelstein further argues that ‘reputable human rights organizations and journalists…found no evidence to sustain Israel’s allegations’ of the use of Hamas’s use of human shields (Finkelstein 2018, p.217). Amnesty international, for instance, stated in its 2014 report that it:

‘does not have evidence at this point that Palestinian civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current hostilities to “shield” specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks’ (Amnesty International 2014).

It is submitted that even if Hamas had used Palestinian civilians as human shields, such action would not have absolved the IDF of their liability under International Humanitarian law. As Amnesty International argued:

‘under international humanitarian law even if “human shields” are being used, Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply’ (Amnesty International 2014).

B’Tselem concurred by stating that ‘violations committed by one party do not release the other party from its obligations toward the civilian population and civilian objects’ (B’Tselem 2015, p.60).

The devastating severity of Israel’s air strikes on civilian homes further undermined Israel’s claim of self-defence and pointed to a form of collective punishment inflicted on the civilians in Gaza. The human rights organization, B’Tselem, reported that the IDF carried out:

numerous strikes on residential buildings, destroying them while their occupants were still inside; dozens of air, sea and ground strikes killed hundreds of people, the vast majority of whom took no part in the fighting: more than 70% were either under 18, over 60, or women’ (B’Tselem 2015, p.58).

This chapter argues that instead of acing in self- defence, Israel’s military strikes on such civilians in Gaza were arguably a form of settler violence, fundamental to the ‘the process of eliminating and replacing the native population’ (Brancato 2018, p.2).

As Grewcock explains: ‘Settler colonialism is characterized by the forcible occupation of land, the displacement of Indigenous populations and the construction of a new society on terms defined entirely by the settler population’ (Grewcock 2018, p.229). It is submitted that such Israeli practices of occupying Gaza and displacing the Gazan population by destroying their homes and families during the 2014 war were carried out to ensure the continued existence of the Israeli settler State against the ‘demographic danger’ posed by the possible influx of Palestinians into Israel, which was arguably a consideration of the Israeli government in 1967 (Lustick 2019, pp.148-149).

It is therefore inconceivable that such forms of collective punishment by the IDF on unarmed Gazan civilians could plausibly be justified by Israel as a form of self -defence against Hamas. Lentin explains that ‘constant zones of exception’ were created by Israel’s settler colonial regime during the ‘2014 massacre of Gaza’ (Lentin 2017, p.4).

From this perspective, narratives woven by the Israeli government  involving settler colonial violence are represented as ‘a defensive battle ensuring the continued survival of the settler community and never as founding violence per se’ (Brancato 2018, p.28).  Israel’s denial of ‘foundational violence’, which this paper associates with the collective punishment inflicted on unarmed Gazan civilians, thus operated as a ‘defensive mechanism’ to assuage or neutralize the conscience of Israeli officials, as well as ‘a way to negate the presence of the native population’ (Brancato 2018 p.28), the Palestinian people in Gaza.

This chapter argues that to Israel, the success of its settler colonial objective of constructing a society ‘defined entirely’ by its own terms’ could only be achieved by the use of such ‘foundational and ongoing structural violence …inflicted upon indigenous peoples at an individual and communal level’ (Grewcock 2018, p.229). This link between Israel’s settler colonialist practices and its use of a form of ‘foundational violence’ in the form of collective punishment on Gazans as ‘a way to negate the presence of the native population’ (Brancato 2018 p.28) arguably points to a nexus between settler colonialism and genocide which is examined in chapter three.

To conclude, this chapter has argued that Israel’s carrying out of Operation Protective Edge evinced its Revisionist Zionist settler colonialist ideology; an ideology that sought to maintain Israel’s status as a colonizing power over Gaza and resist the Palestinian right of return to their lands occupied by Israel since the 1948 Nakba. The implication for arguing, as this chapter has done, that Israel is a settler colonial state is that ‘its relationship with the Palestinian people can be analysed through the genocide lens’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p.1142).

 

Chapter 3: Operation Protective Edge: revealing the nexus between Israel’s Revisionist Zionist settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide of Gaza

Introduction

This section argues that the IDF’s launching of ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014 evinced a nexus or relationship between Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocidal destruction of the Palestinians in Gaza. The existence of such a relational link between the concepts of settler colonialism and genocide is to some extent underpinned by Wolfe’s assertion that ‘elimination is an organizing principal of settler-colonial society rather than a one-off (and superseded) occurrence’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388). This chapter argues that this eliminatory element that Wolfe refers to was evinced in the destruction of the civilian population of Gaza during the 2014 war; a destruction of Gazan lives and society arguably due to the continuing settler colonial aims of Israel, manifested in the 1948 Nakba (Verso, 2012).  Such aims included preventing a return of the Gazans to territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 and 1948 wars (Shlaim 2015, p.176).

This chapter begins by applying a Lemkin inspired approach to the concept of genocide developed by scholars such as Damien Short to argue that Operation Protective Edge contributed to an ongoing genocide of Gaza. It argues that the devastation committed by the Israeli military during the 2014 war constituted not just an ongoing physical genocide, but also a social genocide of the Gazans that began, but did not end with the 1948 Nakba. This chapter goes on to argue that the Israeli government possessed an intent to commit a genocide of the Gazans, while the final section asserts that a nexus existed between Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide in Gaza during the 2014 war

 

  • Did Operation Protective Edge contribute to an ongoing genocide of Gaza? Applying a Lemkin inspired definition of genocide

According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

‘between 7 July and 26 August, the Gaza Strip witnessed the deadliest escalation in hostilities since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967…a total of 2,220 Palestinians, including 1,492 civilians, were killed.’ (OCHA 2015, p.4).

Pappe describes the devastation in Gaza wrought by the IDF as a ‘genocidal wave’ (The Electronic Intifada, 2014), suggesting that the IDF’s genocidal destruction of the Palestinians was ongoing when examined in the context of previous instances of violence inflicted by the IDF on Gazans such as that during the 2008/09 Operation Cast Lead. Further, the ongoing nature of such a genocide allegedly perpetrated by Israel was voiced by the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas stated that:

‘The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.’‘…the third war waged by the racist occupying State in five years against Gaza…the scale of this genocidal crime is larger’( United Nations General Assembly, Sixty-ninth Session, 2014).

This section draws from Raphael Lemkin’s definition of the term, genocide, in his seminal work, ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe’. It argues that the devastation caused by the IDF during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ constituted genocide. Lemkin stated that:

‘genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killing of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves’ (Lemkin 1944, p.79).

Thus to Lemkin, mass killings was not a prerequisite for a finding of genocide.  Rather, Lemkin’s emphasis was on ‘the destruction of the rudiments of social and cultural existence’ (Short 2016, p. 22), which to him arguably constituted ‘the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups’ (Lemkin 1944, p. 79).

Docker gives credence to the idea that genocide is not limited to mass killings, but also includes ‘methods of destruction and replacement that engage many dimensions, including the…social, cultural, linguistic, religious, and economic’ (Docker 2017, p.31). Lemkin himself goes on to argue that the objectives of such a coordinated plan ‘would be the disintegration of the…social institutions of culture, language, ….and the economic existence of national groups’ (Lemkin 1944, p. 79).

Such a ‘coordinated plan’ aimed at the destruction of the ‘essential foundations of the life’, including the disintegration of social institutions such as families (Lemkin 1944, p. 79) was arguably evinced during Operation Protective Edge. As a result of IDF bombings on 15 August 2014, 218,367 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) sought refuge in 87 UNRWA schools (OCHA 2015, p.10). These Gazan families had fled their homes which were no longer habitable or because they lacked water, electricity, and food available in emergency shelters (OCHA 2015, p.10). As the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) argued in relation the destruction inflicted by the IDF on Gaza:

‘The directed destruction within a mere 50 days of infrastructure providing electricity, healthcare, water and sewage treatment, among others, within the context of documented mass killings, presents elements consistent with the crime of extermination.’ (FIDH 2014, p.64)

Such an extermination of part of the Gazan population ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack’ would arguably constitute a crime against humanity prohibited by Article 7(1)(b) of the Rome Statute. (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998, p.3).

This chapter further argues that such destruction of the Gazan people, together with their entire homes and basic amenities such as electrical and water supplies could be conceived as a form of genocide involving the destruction of social and economic institutions that made up ‘the essential foundations of the life’ of Gazans (Lemkin 1944, p. 79).  This was arguably the case since the extent of the destruction inflicted by the IDF on the Gazans suggests an intent ‘to destroy the foundations of a society so that it can no longer exist as a society’ (Docker 2017, p.31). Such societal foundations arguably include families, children and institutional places of learning such as schools which engender social interaction among students and teachers.

Further atrocities committed against families and their children were evident in the IDF’s ‘ground offensive’ which expanded into ‘densely populated areas, including Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood, reportedly resulting in the deaths of 60 Palestinians’ (OCHA 2015, p.6). The OCHA highlighted what it described as ‘the most serious incident on 20 July, 2014, involving multiple fatalities in the same family’, when the home of Tawfiq Abu Jame’ in Bani Suheila was destroyed by an Israeli plane. The devastation resulted in ‘25 bodies, including 19 children and five women, three of whom were pregnant.’ (OCHA 2015, p.6). The testimony of one IDF soldier who fought in 2014 war suggests that the aim of the Israeli forces was the total destruction of the Gazans:

‘Doesn׳t matter if there are groves there, doesn׳t matter if there are houses, doesn׳t matter if there are gas stations, water reservoirs – it׳s all flattened because we are at war, so we are allowed to’ (Breaking the Silence 2014, p.179).

A shoot to kill policy was also evident in the following testimony given by an IDF soldier involved in the 2014 incursion into Gaza:

‘The rules of engagement for soldiers advancing on the ground were open fire, open fire everywhere, first thing as you go in. The assumption being that the moment we went in [to the Gaza Strip], anyone who dared poke his head out was a terrorist. And it pretty much stayed that way throughout the operation (Breaking the Silence 2014, p.53)

Taken together, these aforementioned reports and testimonies of the destruction of civilian families and friends along with their homes and infrastructure vital for life, such as water supplies, would arguably satisfy Lemkin’s concept of genocide: a ‘destruction of the essential foundations of …life of national groups’ (Lemkin 1944, p. 79).

Such a destruction of Gazan life arguably comprised of a ‘total social practice’ that encompassed all aspects of group life’ (Moses 2008 p.13). Group life involving the relationships between children and their families were particularly devastated by the 2014 war. UNICEF reported that the IDF’s destruction of homes in Gaza left 54,000 children homeless and 1500 orphans (UNICEF 2014), ostensibly contributing to a ’social death’, which Card argues is utterly central to the evil of genocide’ (Card 2003, p.63). It is submitted that the loss of ‘social vitality’ that ‘exists through relationships’ (Card, 2003, p.76) in this context between children and their parents contributed significantly to such a ‘social death’.

Additionally, the destruction of schools in Gaza pointed to a destruction of ‘social vitality’ (Card, 2003, p.76) among Gazan children, many of whom have ‘never left the 365 square kilometer coastal enclave due to the blockade in place since 2007’ (UNICEF 2014).  Such a ‘loss of vitality’ or passion for life characterizing human relationships does not just contribute to one’s loss of identity but a ‘serious loss of meaning for one’s existence’ (Card 2003, p.63). In this regard, the IDF bombings of over a hundred UNRWA schools in Gaza and the killing of children were also condemned by the United Nations Special envoy for global education , Gordon Brown. He stated:

“The bombing of the UNRWA school in Gaza and the death of innocent children will be seen as an international outrage which will sadden millions throughout the world.’ (The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education 2019).

A Human Rights Watch report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights pointed to a purportedly deliberate killing of children in schools:

‘During the armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza in the summer of 2014, Israeli attacks hit three schools in Gaza on July 24 and 30 and August 3, 2014, killing 45 people, including 17 children. The UN said it had made the Israeli military aware 17 times, of one of the school’s location, the Jabalia Elementary Girls School, including “just hours before the fatal shelling’ (Human Rights Watch 2019, pp.2-3).

This chapter argues that such disintegration of human relationships by the IDFs destruction of places of education and culture in Gaza amounted to a social genocide. This is especially since ‘victims are intentionally subjected to social death that strip them of the ability to participate in social activity’ (Card, 2003, p.76) such as learning in educational settings and forging friendships.

An ongoing economic genocide was equally evident in the devastation caused by Operation Protective Edge. The continuing economic sanctions and blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel since 2007 together with the effects of its devastated infrastructure inflicted by the IDF in the 2014 war had resulted in ‘a catastrophic humanitarian condition throughout the Gaza strip’ (Short 2016, p.78). Such a dire assessment of Gaza was reflected in the Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people which stated that:

‘Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza….and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza, rendering their economic well-being worse than the level of two decades previous.’ (United Nations 2015, pp.7-8).

It is conceivable that by preventing the Gazans from receiving adequate food and clean water during and prior to the 2014 war, Israel was implicated in not only an ongoing physical genocide of the Gazans, but also an economic one. This is especially since genocide involves ‘not only the deprivation of life but also the prevention of life…and also devices considerably endangering life and health’ (Lemkin 1947, p. 147) such as the economic blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel (United Nations 2015, pp.7-8).

 

  • Did the Israeli government possess an intent to commit a genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge?

This section assesses the question of whether Israel’s objective during the 2014 war was to bring about the annihilation of the Palestinians as a national group (Lemkin 1944, p. 79). Prior to the 2014 war in Gaza, the Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal held in 2013 that Israel possessed an intent to commit genocide against the Palestinians as evinced by their actions of expulsion and the killing of the Palestinians since 1948 (The Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal 2013, p.30). The Tribunal stated:

‘…culpable acts are systematically directed against the same group and by the same offender over the last 67 years. The scale of atrocities committed and their general nature indicate a clear genocidal intention’. (The Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal 2013, p.30).

This chapter argues that evidence of the Israeli government’s intent to annihilate the Gazans during Operation Protective Edge may be inferred not just from the extent and severity of the physical, social, and economic destruction of the Gazans and their way of life during that 2014 conflict, but also from the cumulative effect of Israel’s historical destructive practices that have continued unabated since the 1948 Nakba to devastate the Gazans as a national group. Francis Boyle, professor of international law, argued before the Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal 2013 that:

‘Israel’s genocidal policy against the Palestinians has been unremitting, extending from before the very foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and is ongoing and even now intensifying against the 1.75 million Palestinians living in Gaza as this Tribunal convenes here today’ (Islamic Human Rights Commission 2013).

Evidence of the devastation wrought on the Gazans for over half a century suggests that the elimination of the Gazans and their way of life was indeed the aim of the State of Israel when it launched Operation Protective Edge. The findings of the Kuala Lumpur War tribunal supporting Israel’s genocidal intent towards the Palestinians may therefore be read as part of the cumulative evidence against Israel. Israeli officials, however, have denied such claims of genocide.  The Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, for instance, rejected the allegations that the IDF had engaged in a genocide of Gaza in the 2014 war. He stated:

‘Today the Jewish state is demonized with…charges of genocide — genocide. In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy civilian population to get out of harm’s way…’ (United Nations General Assembly 2014).

Did the IDF, as Netanyahu claimed in the aforementioned speech before the United Nations, actually provide prior warning before launching military attacks on civilians in Gaza, suggesting that military strikes were targeted specifically at enemy combatants, such as Hamas? The Human Rights Council presented evidence to the contrary.  The Council stated that:

‘In a number of cases, IDF launched its attacks on houses and residential buildings either around the time of breaking the Ramadan fast at sunset…this is a time when families are known to congregate to eat together, making it very likely that any such attack targeting an individual would be disproportionate…. In one such case documented by OHCHR… an Israeli air strike hit a three-storey residential building of six apartments… killing 25 members of the same family. Surviving family members said they received no prior warning from the IDF. (Human Rights Council Twenty-eighth session 2014, p.11).

Further support for the contention that the Israeli government evinced an intent to carry out a genocide of Gaza is arguably found in the political discourses of Israeli officials within the ruling party, Likud. Damien Short notes that during the IDF’s bombing of Gaza ‘there was a rise in aggravated hate speech towards Palestinians’ (Short 2016, pp. 75). The narratives of Israeli politicians such as Ayelet Shaked and Moshe Feiglin, members of Israel’s ruling coalition, prior to and during Operation Protection edge advocated the use of violent military force against not just Hamas, but all civilians in Gaza, including women and children. Shaked posted an article on Facebook (The Electronic Intifada, 7 July 2014) stating:

‘What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs…they should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there’ (The Electronic Intifada, 7 July 2014).

This article appeared to call for an indiscriminate destruction of not just Hamas militants, but also Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Such an ideological stance arguably reflects the Revisionist Zionist ideology discussed in chapter two, advocated by ‘the architect of the iron- wall strategy’, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, ‘an ardent Jewish nationalist and the spiritual father of the Israeli Right’ (Shlaim 2015, p.150). To Jabotinsky, ‘the only way to achieve the Zionist project of an independent Jewish state in Palestine…was unilaterally and by military force. From this perspective, a Jewish state could only be built behind an iron wall of Jewish military power.’ (Shlaim 2015, p.150). Such use of Jewish military force to further strengthen Israel’s Zionist settler colonial State was advocated by Israeli politician, Feiglin. Feiglin posted on his Facebook page on 1 August 2014 a call for the ‘conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters’ (The Electronic Intifada, 2014). Feiglin’s posting was in the form of a letter addressed to Netanyahu requesting that Israel carry out the following:

‘The IDF shall designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated. The formerly populated areas will be shelled with maximum fire power. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas….will be destroyed entirely, down to their foundations.. When the fighting will end, Israeli law will be extended to cover the entire Gaza Strip…’ (The Electronic Intifada, 7 July 2014).

Damien Short argues that Feiglin’s view ‘that the only option for those who don’t accept Israeli sovereignty over Gaza is destruction or being sent away is arguably incitement to genocide…’ (Short 2016, pp. 75).) and, as this paper argues, evidence of a genocidal intent against the Gazans.

 

  • The nexus between Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide in Gaza during the 2014 war

This section argues that a nexus between Israel’s Zionist settler colonial ideology and an ongoing genocide in Gaza was evinced in the 2014 war.  It examines the close link between the settlor colonial ideology and practices of Israel since the 1948 Nakba , described in this paper as ‘a structure not an event’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388), and the ‘ongoing structural violence’ that was inflicted on the Gazans ‘at an individual and communal level’ (Grewcock 2018, p.229). Pappe argues that such a settlor colonial ideology can be traced back to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 by the settlor colonial state of Israel (Verso, 2012). To Pappe, the conquest of Palestine in 1948 resulted in the ‘inevitable local resistance’ that allowed Israel to put into effect a policy of ethnic cleansing that had already been planned in the 1930s (Pappe 2017, p.219). Such an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948 involving the ‘forcible transfer of population’, itself a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute ( Rome Statute of the ICC 1998, p.3), was made possible by settlor colonial practices; practices involving the ‘deliberate destruction’ of the Palestinians as the means by which they could be expelled ‘from land allocated to Israeli settlements’ (Rashed and Damien Short 2012, p.1160).

This chapter argues that Israel’s use of such settler colonial forms of destructive violence against the Palestinians is part of its ‘unfolding genocidal policy…since 1948’ (Pappe 2017, p.219). It is submitted that the settler colonial violence inflicted on the Gazans during the 2014 war was a manifestation of such a genocidal policy evinced in the 1948 Nakba; a genocidal policy resulting in the ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazans, as argued in this chapter. What emerges is ‘a picture of an ongoing genocidal relationship’ with Israel’s history of settlor colonial practices (Rashed and Damien Short 2012, p.1160), beginning with the 1948 Nakba, extending to the 1967 occupation of Gaza and the various IDF military operations, and continuing during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

This nexus or relationship between settlor colonial practices of an occupying power and the genocide of a group was arguably a feature of Lemkin’s concept of genocide. In this respect. Lemkin’s concept of genocide as defined in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, was ‘intrinsically colonial’ (Moses 2008, p.9). As Lemkin himself stated that:

‘Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group: the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population…after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals’ (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944: 79).

Lemkin’s assertion that the carrying out of a genocidal phase by means of ‘the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor .….upon the oppressed population’ once a ‘colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals’ (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944, p.79)) had taken place suggests the existence of a nexus between genocide and settlor colonialism. As Moses argues, ‘genocide for Lemkin…was a special form of foreign conquest and occupation… in particular, genocide aimed to permanently tip the demographic balance in favor of the occupier’ (Moses 2008, p.9). As chapter two of this paper has argued, such a demographic aim was evinced in the 2014 war when Israel militarily occupied Gaza and displaced the Gazan population by destroying their homes and families. This paper argues that such a genocidal destruction was carried out to ensure the continued existence of the Israeli settlor State by defeating the struggle for Palestinian independence (Shlaim 2015,  p.176) and countering the ‘demographic danger’ posed by the possible influx of Palestinians into Israel since Israel’s occupation and control of Gaza in 1967 (Middle East Monitor 2019).

The existence of a plausible nexus between the genocidal destruction of a population and the settler colonial aims of an occupier seeking territorial gain of their land is further underscored by Wolfe’s assertion that ‘the only important reason of the elimination is the access to the territory’ (Wolfe 2006, p. 388). This apparent link between the elimination of the native and the desire to acquire territorial gains is evinced in the writings of the founder of Zionism himself, Theodor Herzl, who wrote that: ‘If I wish to substitute a new building for an old one, I must demolish before I construct’ (Wolfe 2006, p.388). Such a destructive dimension inherent in the settlor colonial theme posited by Herzl later emerged in the views of the Zionist right-wing thinker and founder of Revisionist Zionism, Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky stated:

‘To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile. Zionist colonization…must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs…. One prefers an iron wall of Jewish bayonets’ (Jabotinsky 1923).

Thus, to Jabotinsky, the use of violence against the Arabs in Palestine symbolized by the term, ‘iron wall’ was not an option, but a means for furthering the Zionist colonial acquisition of Palestinian land. It is submitted that like Jabotinsky, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, was aware during the 2014 war that the Palestinians would not accept the colonization and occupation of their lands. Netanyahu stated:

‘…when the state (of Israel) was established many knew we owed Jabotinsky a huge debt….it was Jabotinsky’s fighters who brought the Jewish state into the world. Jabotinsky added another key dimension, which is known as the principle of the “Iron Wall” – an ongoing military might which grows stronger. This was an uncompromising belief in the justness of Zionism. Our continuing strength and resilience would lead them to eventually reconcile with our existence’ (The Prime Minister’s Office, 2015).

This ‘continuing strength and resilience’ of Zionism mentioned by Netanyahu was arguably manifested in the form of genocidal destruction of ‘the essential foundations of …life’ of the Gazan people (Lemkin 1944, p. 79). The Israeli Defense Minister during the 2014 war, Moshe Yaalon appears to confirm such a genocidal devastation of Gaza wrought by Israel when he stated:

‘Gaza does not look like it looked on the eve of the operation…We are talking about a at least ten years of restoration and rehabilitation’ (Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs 2014).

This chapter has argued, applying a Lemkin inspired definition of genocide that Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology contributed to an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza. As Professor Johanna Fernandez reminds us:

 

‘Although Zionist policies have not yet reached the Final Solution organized at Wannsee 1942, they certainly do resemble Kristallnacht 1938; while Gaza is not yet the Auschwitz death factory, it does resemble the Warsaw Ghetto. The current stage of Israeli genocide can easily reach those later Nazi manifestations. And even if they don’t, it’s still genocide.’ (Fernandez 2017, p.30)

To sum up, this chapter has proceeded to establish that a nexus existed between Israel’s Zionist settler colonial ideology of preventing the return of the Gazans to their homeland, and an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazans during Operation Protective Edge that may be traced back to 1948 Nakba. A Lemkin inspired analysis that recognises a genocidal phase as emerging ‘once a ‘colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals’ ((Lemkin Axis Rule 1944, p.79)) has taken place suggests the existence of such a nexus between genocide and settlor colonialism.

 

Chapter 4: Gaza’s Great March of Return

 Introduction

This chapter argues that Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology evinced in the continuing siege of Gaza and its use of lethal force on civilian protestors at Gaza’s Great March of Return (AL JAZEERA 2019) continues to contribute to an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazans. An ongoing genocide that began with the 1948 Nakba and continued throughout through numerous military attacks on Gaza including Operation Protective Edge 2014 (Global Research 2018). As Dr. Gideon Polya argues:

‘Genocidally racist  Zionists have been responsible for a Palestinian Genocide involving successive mass expulsions (800,000 in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) and 400,000 in the 1967 Naksa (Setback), ethnic cleansing of 90% of the land of Palestine, and in the century since the British invasion of Palestine about 2.3  million Palestinian deaths from violence (0.1 million) or from violently-imposed deprivation  (2.2 million)’(Global Research 2018).

In this regard, Gaza’s Great march of Return which began on 30 March 2018 (AL JAZEERA 2019) is argued in this chapter to exemplify the Palestinian resistance to Israel’s continuing Zionist settlor colonial ideology; an ideology that today is evinced in the incarceration of Palestinians in what has been described as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’.  (Norwegian Refugee Council 2018)

  • Gaza’s Great March of Return: breaking free from the shackles of Zionism’s settlor colonialism

The protests at the Gaza fence known as the Great March of Return began on 30 March 2018, the anniversary of ‘Palestinian Land Day’ (Al Jazeera 2018). On ‘Land Day’, 1976, six Israeli Palestinian citizens who were protesting against the Israeli government’s ‘expropriation of thousands of donums of Palestinian land’ were shot dead by the Israeli police (Al Jazeera 2018). As Baconi notes:

‘the shootings marked a milestone in Palestinian collective memory: Israel’s readiness to use live fire against unarmed citizens…showed that Palestinians within Israel’s 1948 borders shared with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories subjection to such lethal repressive measures.’ (NYR Daily 2019).

The protests that followed the killings of the 6 Palestinians on ‘Land Day’ involved entire Palestinian communities ‘resisting not only the theft of land but also overall settler colonial policies of erasure’ (Al Jazeera 2018). In this respect, Israel’s settlor colonialist structure may be compared to the former colonial cases such as South Africa and French-Algeria (Salamanca, Qato, Rabie and Samour 2012, p.4); but unlike those former colonies, Israel’s occupation and control over Gaza has continued unabated for over half a century since the 1967 war (Human Rights Watch 2017 ).The following section traces the events that led to Gaza’s Great March of Return that began from 30 March 2018. This chapter argues that such protests have been an attempt to break free from the shackles of Israel’s settlor colonial rule.

 The origins of Gaza’s Great March of Return can be traced to a Palestinian poet and journalist, Ahmed Abu Artema who, in a Facebook posting, proposed carrying out a non-violent march at the Gaza border fence (Human Rights Council 2019, pp.57-58). Artema had sought to attract global attention to ‘General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza’ (Human Rights Council 2019 pp.57-58). The recognition of the Palestinian right of return to their land occupied by Israelis is enshrined in Resolution 194, which states: ‘the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…’ (UN General Assembly 1948, p.24)

In his Facebook post, Artema mused:

‘What if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return…?’ (Human Rights Council 2019, pp.57-58).\

Artema’s dream of breaking free from the shackles of Israel’s siege of Gaza ‘evolved into a movement of Palestinians’ who supported his idea (Human Rights Council 2019, pp.57-58). As Artema himself explained:

‘The status quo is unbearable, no salaries, no job opportunity, no horizon for the youth. … We do not ask for much we just ask to live a normal life.’ (Human Rights Council 2019, pp.57-58).

Ever since Artema’s rallying call for the Palestinians to unite, the weekly demonstrations ‘attracted large and diverse crowds, including women and children, elders, civil society, political activists and public figures (UNRWA 2019, p.6). The UNWRA 2019 report indicates that majority of the 40,000 to 50,000 Palestinian protestors at the fence separating Gaza from Israel acted ‘in popular protest, to demand the end of the Israeli blockade and the right of return for refugees’ (UNRWA 2019, p.6). Artema’s desire for normalcy of life that allows him to leave the besieged Gaza strip and return to his homeland occupied by the Israel arguably mirrors the desires of the thousands of protestors as underscored by abovementioned 2019 UNRWA report. To Sabreen al-Najjar, for example, whose medic daughter Razan, was killed by an Israeli soldier while assisting wounded Palestinian protestors, the right to return to her homeland defined her as a Palestinian. Sabreen stated:

“The Right of Return is more than a political position …  It is “more than a principle: wrapped up in it, and reflected in literature and art and music, it is the essence of what it means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood.’ (Foreign Policy Journal 2019)

This chapter argues that such weekly protests at the Gazan fence symbolizing the Palestinians’ cry for their right to return to their homeland is a response to Israel’s continuing Zionist settlor colonialist ideology of disposing them from their land (Salamanca , Qato, Rabie and Samour 2012, p.1). Such an ideological adherence to a form of Zionist settlor colonialism was evident in a letter written by the first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben Gurion (Jewish Virtual Library 2019) to his son, Amos, dated 5 October 1937. Gurion wrote:

‘we must expel Arabs and take their places …and, if we have to use force—not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev…., but to guarantee our right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal’ (Teveth 1985 p.189 in Masalha 2009, p.50).

It is submitted that this Zionist settler colonialist ideology espoused by Gurion not only manifested itself during the violence of the 1948 Nakba, but also continues today to ‘subject Palestine and Palestinians to structural and violent forms of dispossession’ and ‘land appropriation’ (Salamanca , Qato , Rabie and Samour 2012, p.1). The significance of the 1948 Nakba therefore is not limited to ‘a precondition for the creation of Israel’; rather, it is ‘manifested today in the continuing subjection of Palestinians by Israelis’ (Salamanca , Qato, Rabie and Samour 2012, p.2). Such a subjection of the Gazans at the Great March of Return protests to Israel’s settlor colonialist structure arguably serves the purpose of ‘intentionally maiming protesters and creating an epidemic of disability’ in attempting ‘to smother the spirit of resistance of protesting Palestinians’ (Al Jazeera 2019). The destruction and displacement of thousands of Gazans from their homes during Operation Protective Edge (OCHA 2015, p.10) as discussed in chapter three was arguably another manifestation of the ongoing effects of Israel’s settler colonialist structure. As Masalha notes: ‘this settlor colonial legacy of …Zionism, with its obsession of land settlement …continued after the founding of the Israeli State in 1948’ (Masalha 2009, p. 45). In this respect, the permanence of such a settler colonial structure that has arguably spanned decades since the creation of Israel in 1948 is depicted by Wolfe when he asserts that ‘settler colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.’ (Wolfe 2006 p.388). The ‘drive’, however, ‘to control the maximum amount of land’ evinced by the Zionist’s settlor colonialist structure has arguably been impeded by the ‘continued existence of Palestinians…’  (Salamanca, Qato, Rabie and Samour 2012, p.1). In his respect, the problem posed by the existence of Gaza was considered by Netanyahu in a recent interview with Hayom. Netanyahu stated:

‘The real choice is to occupy and govern Gaza. You don’t have anyone to give it to. I won’t give it to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas].. We would pay for the occupation of Gaza with a heavy loss of life, and on Israel’s back he [Abbas] would get Gaza on a silver platter. That won’t happen’ (Israel Hayom 2019).

 

The fact that Netanyahu has considered transferring Gaza over to another party apart from the Palestinian Authority under Abbas for governance suggests that Israel is disinterested in reoccupying Gaza with its population of nearly 2 million Palestinians. Instead, Netanyahu evinced a desire to continue maintaining a physical and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank as indicated by him in the same interview when he stated: ‘The connection between Gaza and Judea and Samaria has been broken. They are two separate entities, and I think that in the long term, that’s not something that’s bad for Israel’ (Israel Hayom 2019).

 

It is submitted that preventing a unified Palestinian Authority in West Bank and Hamas would be advantageous for Israel in countering a unified Palestinian resistance to Israel’s settlor colonial policies and claim of right of return to lands occupied by Israel. Additionally, recent disclosure by a senior official associated with Prime Minister Netanyahu indicates that Israel is promoting a policy of ‘actively pushing Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip’ by attempting to convince Middle Eastern and European countries to ‘absorb them’ (Middle East Monitor 2019). Such a policy of expulsion of the Palestinians from Gaza would further suggest that Israel’s settlor colonial polices continue to prevent the return of the Gazans to their homeland occupied by Israel.

  • Israel’s Zionist settlor colonialist response to the Great March of Return: an ongoing genocide of the Gazans

This section examines the effect of Israel’s settlor colonial response to the weekly protests at the Gaza fence. It argues that the IDF’s ‘use of lethal force’ against the Palestinian civilian protestors (Human Rights Council 2019 p.1) evinces an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza that began with the 1948 Nakba (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1).

  • The IDF’s use of lethal force: an ongoing genocidal destruction of the Gazan’s national pattern of life

Israel’s Zionist contribution to an ongoing genocide of Palestinians is noted by Rashed, Short and Docker. They assert that:

‘there is a very strong argument that Zionist Israel has committed, and continues to commit, genocide against Palestine and the Palestinians in terms of Lemkin’s famous passage on the opening page of chapter nine of Axis Rule…’ (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.3).

As Lemkin himself stated in Axis Rule:

‘Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals.’  (Axis Rule 1944, p. 79)

This section argues that such a genocidal ‘destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group’ of Gazans (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944, p. 79), comprising their ‘cultural, religious, economic and social identity’ (Campbell 2013, p.120) continues to take place during the Gaza protests. This is arguably due to the IDF’s ‘use of lethal force’ on the Gazans during the border protests (Human Rights Council 2019, p.1) and the deleterious effects of the continuing Israeli blockade (Human Rights Council 2019 p.57). The fact that Israel’s settlor colonial response to the protests in the form of killings of Gazans at the border protests did not occur on a massive scale, comparable, for instance, to the Holocaust, does not prevent a finding of an ongoing genocide or ‘genocide by attrition’ (Rosenberg 2012, p.19).  Such a form of genocide may ‘lead to the slow and steady death of the individual and the annihilation of the group.’ (Rosenberg 2012, p.19). Further, Shaw argues that: ‘genocide is not determined by numbers of deaths: despite the relatively low level of killing in the 1948 Zionist assault on Palestinian society, that society was thoroughly destroyed in most of Israeli-controlled Palestine’ (Shaw 2010, p.250).

In this regard, Moses argues that ‘Lemkin made clear that total extermination was not necessary for genocide to occur’ (Moses 2010, p.2). Moses clarifies that ‘Lemkin tended to associate ‘destruction’—a word he preferred to ‘extermination’—with what he called ‘crippling’ a group: genocide, he wrote in 1946, is ‘the criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group’ (Moses 2010, p.2).

In applying Moses’s analysis, this section argues that the severity of the force used by the IDF against Gazan civilians during the continuing border protests suggest that Israel’s intent was indeed to ‘cripple permanently’ (Moses 2010, p.2) the physical and social existence of the Gazan people.  This is apparent from the 2019 Human Rights Council Report which found that:

‘during these weekly demonstrations, the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither participating directly in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat to life. Among those shot were children, paramedics, journalists, and persons with disabilities. 183 people were shot dead and another 6,106 were wounded with live ammunition.’ (Human Rights Council 2019, p.2).

The fact that civilian protestors who posed no ‘imminent threat’ to lives of Israeli were shot dead or ‘gravely injured’ (Human Rights Council 2019 p.2) suggests a genocidal intent to permanently cripple a human group’s (Moses 2010, p.2) social interdependence or social unity among themselves (Campbell 2013, p.99) in coming together to further the Palestinian cause of returning to territories occupied by Israel. As Campbell argues, ‘in embracing genocidal intent, orchestrators strive for a collapse in social interdependence’ (Campbell 2013, p.99). Such a crippling of interdependence among the Gazans was arguably evident in the unravelling or destruction of relational ties and bonds among families and friends killed or wounded by the IDF (Human Rights Council 2019 p.2). If, as this paper argues, the Palestinian social interdependence and interconnection within Gazan society ‘is recognized as contributing to intergroup identity’ of the Palestinian people ( Campbell 2013, p.102), then the collapsing of such a social interdependence of their group by the Israel’s use of violent force points to a genocidal intent (Campbell 2013, p.99); a genocidal intent to destroy the national pattern of the oppressed group’ of Gazans (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944, p.79), specifically the national pattern of the Gazan’s social identity (Campbell 2013, p.120) as Palestinians; an identity that to a significant extent is shaped by the effects of the 1948 Nakba: ‘the accumulated Palestinian experience since the 1948 war up to the present’ (Manna 2013, p.87).

  • The IDF’s infliction of collective punishment on the Gazans: evidencing Israel’s genocidal intent

This section argues that the IDF’s use of disproportionate and lethal violence on the civilian population of Gaza during the protests evidenced a ‘criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group’ (Moses 2010, p.2). Such an intent arguably satisfies Lemkin’s assessment for a finding of genocide (Moses 2010, p.2). Additionally, this section argues that such an infliction of collective punishment on civilians was evidence of an intent possessed by Israel  ‘to destroy… in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (UN General Assembly 1948)- the criminal intent necessary for the legal definition of genocide as enshrined in the Genocide Convention of 1948 (UN General Assembly 1948). In this respect, the findings of the Human Rights Council’s 2019 appear to be an indictment of Israel’s use of disproportionate and lethal force on defenceless children, paramedics and others who neither acted as enemy combatants nor posed a threat to Israel’s security (Human Rights Council 2019, p.2). The Human Rights Council further commented on Israeli’s practice of targeting civilians for attack stating that: ‘the use of lethal force in response was rarely necessary or proportionate. For lethal force to be permissible, the victim must pose an imminent threat to life or limb (Human Rights Council 2019 p.1).

The preceding statements by the Council suggest that far from being enemy combatants, the protestors at the Gaza fence were largely unarmed civilians who were not involved in carrying out violent attacks against Israel. As such they were to be protected under International humanitarian law against military attacks by a belligerent occupier of their territory (Human Rights Council 2019, p.1).The ground reality, however, revealed that the IDF had violated both international human rights law in ‘most instances’ investigated by the Commission as well as international humanitarian law ‘which permits civilians to be targeted only when they ‘directly participate in hostilities’ (Human Rights Council 2019, p.1). Further, the UN Commission of Inquiry of the 2018 Protests in the OPT asserted that such protection under international law did not cease just because some of these unarmed protesters were affiliated with an armed group such as Hamas (Human Rights Council 2019 p.1).

The Commission stated:

‘it is unlawful to shoot unarmed demonstrators based solely on their membership in an armed group, and not on their conduct at the time. It is equally unlawful to target them based on political affiliation’ (Human Rights Council 2019 p.1).

It is submitted that such indiscriminate use of lethal violence against unarmed Palestinian civilians by the IDF without distinguishing them from armed militants such as Hamas arguably constitutes a form of collective punishment against the civilian population; a collective punishment that suggests Israel possessed ‘the criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group’ – the criminal intent necessary in Lemkin’s assessment for a finding of genocide . (Moses 2010, p.2). In this respect, Prime Minister Netanyahu himself appears to have supported the deliberate use of lethal violence against not just Hamas, but also the civilian population of Gaza during the protests. Netanyahu stated:

‘More than 300 Palestinians have been killed near the border when they tried to breach the fence and abduct our soldiers. We have used force wisely, and powerfully. You saw this deterrence on the one-year anniversary of the ‘March of return’ – a lot less than million came, and there were thousands of [Hamas] monitors. It’s a sign of deterrence’ (Israel Hayom, 2019).

Netanyahu’s comments suggest that the killing of hundreds of Palestinians during the March of Return protests, ‘most of whom were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone’ (B’Tselem 2019), was a wise decision since it deterred the majority of the Gazan population from participating in the March of return (Israel Hayom, 2019). The human rights organization, B’Tselem goes on to report that most of the 290 Palestinians at the Gaza fence killed by the ISF in 2018 ‘were victims of a reckless open -fire policy’ (B’Tselem 2019). The inference that may be drawn here is that Israel’s killings of civilians at the Gaza fence were not only intended as part of Israel’s Zionist policy towards the Gazan protestors; they were also the means by which the entire population of Gaza were to be deterred from protesting against the illegal settlor colonial siege of Gaza. Such a criminal intent ‘to destroy… in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (UN General Assembly 1948), regardless of the reasons for such killings, would arguably evince the criminal intent for genocide enshrined in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948. As the 1948 Convention states:

‘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;’(UN General Assembly 1948)

The argument that Israel evinced the necessary criminal intent for genocide is further supported by the degree of violence used by the IDF during the border protests. Such violence appeared to have exceeded the threshold of violence inflicted by the IDF on the Gazans during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. As the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl stated: ‘This is a situation completely underestimated by the world. More people were injured in about 10 days of mostly peaceful demonstrations than during the 50 days of an all-out war in 2014’ (UNRWA 2019, p.7).

  • The nexus between Israel’s settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide of the Gazans at the protests

This concluding section applies a Lemkin inspired analysis developed by Rashed and Short to argue that a nexus exists between Israel’s Zionist settlor colonialist ideology that may be traced to the 1948 Nakba (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1), and an ongoing genocide of the Gazans at the Gazan border protests that began in March 2018. To Rashed and Short, Lemkin defined the concept of genocide as ‘being ‘intrinsically colonial’( Rashed and Short 2012, p. 1144). Such an interrelationship between the concepts of genocide and colonialism is further noted by Churchill who argues that: ‘where the practice of imposing the ‘national pattern’ of the colonial oppressor is the result of ‘policy’, it should indeed be considered genocidal.’ (Rashed and Short 2012, p. 1144).

It is submitted that the ‘destruction of the national pattern’ (Lemkin 1944, p. 79) of the Palestinian people in Gaza, involving their ‘cultural, religious, economic and social identity’ (Campbell 2013, p.120) arguably began with the Nakba of 1948. Such a destruction involved not only, ‘appropriation of their land’, but also ‘massacres, physical destruction of villages, appropriation of property and culture’ (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1). The Nakba, however, did not end in 1948 as argued in chapters two and three of this paper, but ‘can be seen as an ongoing process and not merely a historical event’ (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p.1). In this regard, the ‘imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor’ (Lemkin 1944: 79) is constantly experienced by the ‘Palestinians (who) continue to suffer the Nakba daily’ by experiencing separation from their families and confiscations of their land (Rashed, Short and Docker 2014, p, 12). Such immense destruction that Israel continues to inflict on entire families and their children during the protests is depicted by testimonies of victims such as the following given by a mother in Gaza:

‘I’m a mother of six. My youngest son, Ahmed, was shot in the head during the GMR. He was only 17. Now nothing is the same, there is no happiness in our home anymore. His injury was so serious that his brain was outside of his skull. He spent 20 days in the Intensive Care Unit and two months in a special rehab clinic. I spent every hour I could with him at the hospital.’ (UNRWA 2019, p.7)

 

The Human Rights Council further notes that:

‘In total, Israeli security forces shot at least 1,162 people with live ammunition; some 141 were wounded by bullet fragmentation or shrapnel, marking the “highest one-day death toll in Gaza” since Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza.565 452. The ISF shot and killed seven children on 14 May: one girl: Wisal Khalil (14); and six boys: Izzedine Samak (13); Said al-Kheir (15).’ (Human Rights Council 2019, p.121).

Additionally, the Human Rights Council pointed out that the continuing Israeli blockade of Gaza during the Gazan protests has ‘had a devastating impact on Gaza’s socioeconomic situation and on the human rights of people living there, in particular their rights to life, freedom of movement and economic, social and cultural rights (in particular to health and family life, education, work, and an adequate standard of living) (Human Rights Council 2019, p.57).

It is submitted that the IDF’s destruction of human lives and their ‘significant effect on the psychosocial well-being and mental health of Palestine refugees in Gaza… who have witnessed the violence’ (UNRWA 2019, p.10) on a weekly basis contribute to an ongoing physical and social genocide of the Gazan people.

To conclude, in applying a Lemkin inspired approach to understanding the crime of genocide, this chapter supports Shaw’s analysis that Lemkin ‘was surely right that, in order to understand genocide, we should see killing and physical harm as elements of the broader process of social destruction’ (Shaw 2013, p.22). Such an ongoing societal destruction of families and social relationships among the Gazan people during the Gaza protests is attributed by this paper to Israel’s Zionist settlor colonialist ideology; an ideology that, as Wolfe argues, has as its ‘organizing principle’ the ‘elimination’ of the native (Wolfe 2006, p.388).

 

CONCLUSION

The aim of this dissertation has been to establish the existence of a nexus between what is argued to be Israel’s Zionist settler colonialist ideology and its contribution to an ongoing genocide of the Gazans during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and the Great March of Return protests since 2018.  This paper has argued that in both Operation Protective Edge and the Gaza protests, Israel evinced a reliance on Jabotinsky’s Zionist conception of an ‘iron wall’ of military power by using lethal force to prevent the Palestinians in Gaza from returning to the lands occupied by Israel (Shlaim 2015, p.176). The manifestation of such a Zionist ideology may be traced back to the expulsion of Palestinians and the colonization of their lands during the 1948 Nakba (Pappe 2017, p.4).  This dissertation has argued that the existence of a nexus between Israel’s settler colonialist ideology and an ongoing genocide of the Gazans is conceptually underpinned by a Lemkin inspired analysis, one that recognises the emergence of  a genocidal phase  ‘once a ‘colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals’ ((Lemkin Axis Rule 1944: 79) has taken place. In applying a Lemkian inspired approach to the concept of genocide, this paper submits that the devastation committed by the Israeli military during the 2014 war and 2018/2019 Gaza protests as reported by human rights organizations such as B’Tselem constituted not just an ongoing physical genocide, but also a social genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza; one that began, but did not end with the 1948 Nakba. Such a genocidal intent to destroy the national pattern of the Gazans (Lemkin Axis Rule 1944, p.79), specifically the national pattern of their social identity (Campbell 2013, p.120) as Palestinian families and friends united in their aim of returning to their homeland (UNRWA 2019, p.6) arguably constitutes a social genocide.  It is submitted that although the settler colonial-genocide paradigm is one among a number of other  conceptual models, such as apartheid, used by scholars to describe the Israeli Palestinian conflict   , it remains among the most salient in conceiving the crippling and destructive effects on the Palestinians of more than half a century of Israeli occupation and control of Gaza (Moses 2010, p.2).

 

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brown cathedral
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