Eighty-nine families that existed seven weeks ago in Gaza have been exterminated by Israel.
On Sunday 24 August an Israeli missile tore through the home of Issam Jouda in Gaza’s Tal al-Zatar neighborhood east of Jabaliya without warning, killing Issam’s wife Rawiya and their four children—Taghrid, Tasnim, Usama and Muhammad.
According to the Palestinian health ministry , the Joudas were the eighty-ninth family wiped out in Gaza since the Israeli army started bombarding the besieged coastal enclave on 7 July.
A ceasefire that took effect on Tuesday evening may stop the flow of blood, but it will not heal the raw wounds of the families of more than 2,100 people killed, nor of the more than eleven thousand injured and 100,000 whose homes were destroyed.
Between 7 July and 21 August, the UN documented 140 families in Gaza partially or completely annihilated by Israeli attacks.
Many were crushed beneath the rubble of their homes. Eight members of the Wahdan family, for instance, were killed in their house in Jabaliya refugee camp after beinginstructed by Israeli forces to stay put.
Others were summarily executed in broad daylight by invading Israeli forces in the catastrophically devastated Shujaiya neighborhood. This was the fate of several members of the Shamaly and al-Areer families according to testimony collected by journalist Max Blumenthal.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has recorded at least 990 people killed inside their homes in Israeli attacks, including 324 children. That’s almost half of all people killed in the Israeli assault.
This is no accident.
Israel’s systematic targeting of entire families in Gaza this summer is part of adeliberate military strategy that seeks to terrorize the civilian population into submission in an effort to break their will to resist Israeli conquest. In recent days, Israel escalated this practice by leveling residential high-rise apartment buildings.
But the wholesale slaughter of families is also part of Israel’s ongoing destruction of Palestine.
Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that Israel’s acts in Gaza constitute more than just war crimes and crimes against humanity. He says they are genocide, adding his voice to the growing chorus of those who see the slaughter in Gaza as part of an ongoing, systematic process of annihilation.
“These are clear violations of the Geneva conventions and war crimes,” Ratner told The Electronic Intifada. “But you can’t look at this as an isolated attack on Gaza because there’s a history going back to Zionists charting out and destroying five hundred plus villages in 1947-48,” he said, referring to the Nakba — the premeditated ethnic cleansing of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians by Zionist militias seeking to establish an ethnically exclusive state with a Jewish majority.
Ratner noted that the common response to such accusations is that Israel has not killed enough Palestinians for its actions to qualify as genocide. However, “You don’t have to kill a large number of people to commit genocide,” he explained.
Indeed, Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defines genocide in the following terms (emphasis added):
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Israel does not have to kill millions of Palestinians to be guilty of genocide nor does it need to commit all the above atrocities, though it is undeniably guilty of (a), (b) and (c). It just has to commit any of them with the “intent” to “destroy” Palestinians “in whole or in part” as “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
The question of genocide, then, is whether by looking at decades of Israel’s practices, as well as the utterances of its leaders, we can find this intent.