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We know Gaza is being ethnically cleansed, because Israel told us

Protesters rally during the
Protesters rally during the "Hands Off Rafah, Ceasefire Now, Stop the Genocide!" rally in New York on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
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04 Mar 2024 03:03:17 GMT9
04 Mar 2024 03:03:17 GMT9

What is Israel’s objective in systematically starving and bombing Palestinians? Total depopulation of Gaza and ultimately the West Bank. How do we know? Because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime warned us. Last week’s slaughter of over 100 desperate and starving Palestinians in Gaza is just one further example of this grim policy agenda.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in October: “I have ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed.” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir declared: “The only thing that needs to enter Gaza are hundreds of tonnes of explosives from the Air Force. Not an ounce of humanitarian aid.” Netanyahu himself said: “If we want to achieve our war goals, we give the minimal aid.” Israel may have made little progress toward the goal of eradicating Hamas, but the process of eradicating Gaza is well under way.

Israel’s apologists frequently raise the rhetorical question of why, if Arab states care so much for the Palestinians, they don’t just open their borders. But that would obviously be the kiss of death to the Palestinian cause, repeating what occurred in 1948, when huge numbers fled to neighboring Arab states — never to return. Netanyahu’s extremist stablemates have repeatedly fantasized about forcing such a scenario. What else do we expect will be the outcome after Gaza’s populace has been starved and incinerated for another few months? Western politicians voice frustration that Israel lacks a clear plan for governing Gaza after the war, but that ignores the fact that many Netanyahu-aligned hawks envisage a future when there will be no Palestinian Gaza left to govern.

In 2023, Azerbaijan drove the Armenian population out of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh by first besieging and starving them, and then bombing them, causing the entire population to flee. Netanyahu’s murderous regime seeks to replicate this ethnic cleansing case study in Gaza. Extremist settlers and security forces have embarked on campaigns of land theft, blockades, violence and repression throughout the West Bank, toward the same ultimate goal of stealing the land in its entirety. This isn’t fear mongering — it’s all there, brazenly advertised in the manifestos of governing political parties.

If it looks like genocide and has the effect of genocide, then it probably is genocide.

Baria Alamuddin

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of using “starvation as a weapon of war.” In late January, Ben-Gvir ordered police to allow Israeli protesters to close the main Kerem Shalom border crossing. Netanyahu also sought to demonize and block international aid for UNRWA, which with its distribution centers and 13,000 staff in Gaza is the only entity logistically capable of distributing essential supplies. So the latest massacre and the worsening mass starvation are the direct, predictable result of calculated policies by Netanyahu’s regime, engineered to starve an entire population into non-existence. Children are already dying of hunger. According to UNICEF about 10 percent of children in Gaza under 5 are acutely malnourished.

It has long been Israeli official policy to lie, deny, blame others, block access for journalists and flood the media with its version of events until the news agenda moves on. But the millions on social media who witnessed last week’s massacre as starving Palestinians scrambled for food from an aid truck near Gaza City are not stupid. The footage wasn’t shocking only because of the dozens of scattered bodies, but also because of the despair, trauma and humiliation in the faces of emaciated survivors who had been living these horrors for the past five months.

Even Western politicians have become less willing to mindlessly parrot self-evidently nonsensical versions of events as related by Netanyahu’s officials: his senior adviser Mark Regev initially claimed there were no Israeli troops present at the scene of the massacre, and had to be swiftly corrected by the military. But vacuous Western statements of “concern” and “condemnation” merely add insult to injury. Why no withdrawal of ambassadors, or the kind of punitive measures that would have been routinely implemented if any other country in the world had perpetrated such obvious war crimes in plain sight?

While US aid drops are welcome, Oxfam devastatingly remarked that they served mostly “to relieve the guilty consciences of senior US officials, whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine.” 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress last week that Israel had killed more than 25,000 women and children in Gaza, although his own office immediately backpedaled and dismissed this statistic as an estimate from Gaza’s Health Ministry. This jarred awkwardly with Austin furthermore informing Congress that the US had provided 21,000 “precision guided” munitions to Israel since the start of its war. He failed to say whether these munitions had been deployed with the intended levels of precision.

A temporary ceasefire, if it happens at all, would only prolong the agony, particularly if no hope is offered for Gaza’s bereaved people to begin rebuilding their shattered lives, let alone seek compensation for their losses. US President Joe Biden should instead exert the massive leverage at his disposal to compel an immediate and permanent cessation of the killing, before the blood of tens of thousands more is on his hands.

If it looks like genocide and has the effect of genocide, then it probably is genocide. MP and former Likud Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan called for “erasing all of Gaza from the face of the Earth … Gaza needs to be wiped out.” Former Likud MP Moshe Feiglin urged the Israeli army to “completely destroy Gaza before invading it. I mean destruction like what happened in Dresden and Hiroshima.”

When Netanyahu’s closest allies have loudly and unambiguously advocated starvation and genocide, they don’t have a leg to stand on when the international community and even the International Court of Justice take such vile incitement with the seriousness it deserves.

Let us not feign surprised outrage in the months to come if Gaza’s remaining population has been scattered to the four winds. We were warned. By Israel’s own leaders.

• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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