Skip to content Skip to footer

Israeli and US Leaders Must Be Held Accountable for the Genocide of Palestinians

Netanyahu and Gallant are committing genocide in Gaza. Biden and Blinken are aiding and abetting Israeli genocide.

An aerial view shows destroyed buildings in al-Zahra city in Gaza on October 20, 2023, following Israeli bombardment. The Israeli Air Force has already dropped more than 6,000 bombs on Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Part of the Series

In retaliation against the Palestinians in Gaza for Hamas’s October 7 killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians, Israel has intensified its 16-year siege of Gaza to a “complete siege.” Israel is slaughtering civilians, cutting off their food, water, electricity and fuel, ordering more than 1 million of them to leave their homes and then bombing their evacuation routes, and trapping them with nowhere to escape.

Israeli forces are amassing tanks on the border in preparation for an imminent invasion. The United States is sending massive firepower to help Israel.

“Complete siege” is a euphemism for ethnic cleansing. It “explicitly indexes a plan to bring the siege to its final destination of systematic destruction of Palestinians and Palestinian society in Gaza,” Raz Segal wrote in Jewish Currents.

Israel has turned its incremental genocide of the Palestinian people into full-fledged genocide — with the unconditional support of the U.S. government.

“There is a plausible and credible case that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza, as a significant part of the overall Palestinian population, as a protected group,” the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) wrote in its October 18 emergency legal briefing paper titled “Israel’s Unfolding Crime of Genocide of the Palestinian People & U.S. Failure to Prevent and Complicity in Genocide.”

The CCR brief also concludes

There is a plausible and credible case to be made that the United States’ actions to further the Israeli military operation, closure, and campaign against the Palestinian population in Gaza, with the knowledge of Israel’s intention to destroy the Palestinian population in Gaza through killings, causing serious mental and physical harm, and creating conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, rise to the level of complicity in genocide.

Israeli and U.S. Leaders Should Be Prosecuted Under the Genocide Convention and Rome Statute

Israeli leaders should be indicted for the crime of genocide, and U.S. leaders should be indicted for aiding and abetting genocide.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) includes in the definition of genocide the commission of any of the following acts when committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  1. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  1. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

The Genocide Convention provides for both state responsibility and individual criminal responsibility. The International Court of Justice has jurisdiction to resolve disputes between states and order provisional measures during an unfolding genocide.

Crimes punishable under the Genocide Convention include genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide and complicity in genocide. Parties to the Genocide Convention — which include Israel and the U.S. — are obligated to prevent and punish genocide.

Moreover, the Rome Statute can be used by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute the crime of genocide, which is defined the same way as it is in the Genocide Convention. The Rome Statute also provides for the prosecution of individuals who have aided and abetted the commission of genocide. Although neither Israel nor the U.S. is a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC has determined that it has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Leaders Are Killing and Causing Serious Bodily and Mental Harm to Palestinians

The Israeli Air Force is conducting a continual aerial bombardment of Gaza. It has dropped more than 6,000 bombs on Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. That’s more bombs than the U.S. government launched in Afghanistan in a year. Some of Israel’s bombs contain white phosphorus, which burns to the bone and cannot be extinguished with water. It is prohibited by Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

On October 17, a horrific blast killed and wounded hundreds of Palestinians at the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, where many people had taken refuge. The current death toll reported by the health ministry in Gaza is 471. U.S. intelligence agencies have sought to contest that death count and have sided with the Israeli military in claiming that an errant Palestinian rocket was responsible for the bombing, but an Al Jazeera digital investigation recently concluded that there were “no grounds for the Israeli army’s claim that the strike … was caused by a failed rocket launch.” Many other news agencies have yet to announce the outcome of their own independent assessments.

“The explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital left gruesome scenes,” the Associated Press confirmed, with “fire engulfing the building and the hospital grounds strewn with torn bodies, many of them young children.”

The Gaza Health Ministry reports that 3,785 people have been killed in Gaza, most of them women, children and older adults. Nearly 12,500 have been injured, and another 1,300 people are believed buried under rubble.

Israel’s ruthless bombing operations have killed more than 2,000 Palestinian children, which is about one every 15 minutes, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine.

Israeli forces have hit at least 24 United Nations installations during the past week, killing at least 14 staff members. A UN school in central Gaza in which 4,000 had taken refuge was shelled by Israeli tanks, killing six people and wounding dozens. The Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza was hit with airstrikes that leveled a whole block of homes and wounded dozens of people.

The Gazan health ministry said in a statement that hospitals “have entered the stage of actual collapse due to power outages and fuel scarcity.”

Israeli Leaders Are Deliberately Inflicting Conditions to Destroy Palestinians “in Whole or in Part”

Besides hospitals and schools, Israeli warplanes are targeting homes, mosques, churches and other civilian buildings. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared, “No electricity, no food, no water, no gas — it’s all closed,” stating that, “We are fighting animals and are acting accordingly.”

Oxfam, the international disaster relief organization, said it had never seen a humanitarian crisis “like the one in Gaza.”

The Israeli government gave 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza 24 hours to leave their homes and travel south or risk being killed when Israel’s imminent ground invasion occurs.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said it was “impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences” and appealed for the order to be rescinded.

More than 1 million Gazans have left their homes. Sixty percent of them are now in an eight-mile long area south of the evacuation zone. Israel’s two border crossings with Gaza as well as the Egyptian one at Rafah remained closed as of Friday morning.

“No supplies have come into Gaza since the 7th of October. Nothing. No fuel, no food, no water, no other types of assistance. No supplies have gotten into Gaza since the 7th of October,” said Juliette Touma, communications director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). “There continues to be no water for the vast majority of the population in Gaza. We’re talking about 2 million people in the Gaza Strip who do not have water. And water is running out. And water is life. And life is running out of Gaza.”

Two of Gaza’s eight refugee camps, where hundreds of thousands of refugees live, have been bombed. Israel made them refugees 75 years ago in the 1948 Nakba (or “catastrophe”) when Israel conducted a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes to create the state of Israel. Mass atrocities, including dozens of massacres, killed roughly 15,000 Palestinians. The Nakba caused the forced displacement of 85 percent of the Palestinian population.

“There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale. The international community must do everything to stop this from happening again,” Francesca Albanese, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, warned on October 14. About 350,000 Palestinians were displaced in the Naksa, which led to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“Over the past 75 years, successive Israeli governments have pursued deliberate, calculated, and explicit campaigns against Palestinians of forced expulsion, transfer and displacement, killing, fragmentation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and denial of fundamental rights,” CCR wrote in its brief.

“Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who heeded the Israeli military’s order to evacuate portions of the Gaza Strip are confronting deadly airstrikes from Israeli warplanes even after they’ve moved,” according to The New York Times. Mohammad Ayoub, who fled with his family from their home, told the Times “There are no more safe places in Gaza.”

Journalist Seymour Hersh reported that Israel is planning to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Gaza and force them into Egypt. Then, the Israeli Air Force will destroy the remaining structures in Gaza City and other areas of the north. Israel will then drop U.S.-made 5,000-pound “bunker busters” to flatten the area where they think Hamas fighters live and operate in underground tunnels.

Israeli Leaders Use Language of Genocidal Intent

“Israel’s invocation of self-defense for the campaign it has unleashed against the entire Palestinian population in Gaza, and the full credit the U.S. gives it when affirming its unconditional support, does not negate genocidal intent or serve as a justification for its crimes under international law,” CCR’s brief says.

Statements made by Israeli leaders are evidence of an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” a “national group.” The Palestinians in Gaza comprise a substantial part of the Palestinian nation, and Israeli leaders are targeting them because they are Palestinian.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on October 16, “This is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.”

Defense Minister Gallant’s declaration, “we are fighting animals,” dehumanizes Palestinians to rationalize wiping them out. He pledged, “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything.” Gallant threatened to “bomb those attempting to provide aid to the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.”

Netanyahu, Gallant and other Israeli leaders should be charged with genocide in national courts and the ICC. Biden, Blinken, Austin and other U.S. leaders should be charged with complicity in genocide.

Israeli Major Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said that Israel intended to destroy Palestinian life in Gaza: “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water, there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

Reservist Major Gen. Giora Eiland wrote in an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, that “Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal,” adding that, “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”

In the face of Israel’s killing, starvation and forced displacement of the Palestinians in Gaza, Netanyahu said this is “only the beginning.” He warned that Gazans would pay an “immense price,” and that Israel will reduce some of Gaza’s urban centers to “rubble.”

“Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents. There will be no buildings,” an unnamed Israeli defense official was quoted as saying.

Ariel Kallner, a member of the Israeli parliament for Netanyahu’s Likud party, proclaimed, “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 1948.”

U.S. Leaders Are Aiding and Abetting Israeli Genocide

The Rome Statute provides that an individual can be convicted of genocide in the ICC if he or she “aids, abets or otherwise assists” in the commission or attempted commission of genocide,” which includes “providing the means for its commission.”

In addition to the $3.8 billion a year the U.S. furnishes Israel for military assistance, the Biden administration is sending overwhelming firepower and providing diplomatic cover for Israel’s war on the Palestinian people.

One U.S. aircraft carrier with a strike group is already in the Eastern Mediterranean, and a second one is headed there now. Three Marine warships carrying thousands of Marines are en route to the area. U.S. special operations forces are helping the Israeli military with planning and intelligence.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered 2,000 U.S. forces, which will likely include Air Force and Army personnel, to prepare for deployment.

President Joe Biden called Hamas’s October 7 attack “an act of sheer evil.” But he has never condemned Israel’s indiscriminate killing, starvation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been attempting to shore up U.S. allies in the Middle East to support Israel. After the blast at the al-Ahli Hospital, the U.S.-Arab meeting in Amman, Jordan — set for October 18 with representatives of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority — was canceled.

On October 18, the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for a ceasefire and urged Israel to rescind its order to 1.1 million Gazans to leave their homes and move to southern Gaza.

Netanyahu, Gallant and other Israeli leaders should be charged with genocide in national courts and the ICC. Biden, Blinken, Austin and other U.S. leaders should be charged with complicity in genocide.

I joined more than 800 scholars and practitioners of international law in signing a public statement warning of potential genocide in Gaza. Referring to the “complete siege” of Gaza, we note, “This terminology itself indicates an intensification of an already illegal, potentially genocidal siege to an outright destructive assault.”

We have 5 days to raise $39,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.