Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) was a Polish jurist. He is best known for his campaign to make United Nations incorporate Genocide into its charter. Born to a Jewish famliy, Lemkin fled Poland in 1939 at the start of second world war. Being a Jew himself, and a possible target of Nazi's killing campaign, he fled Europe and eventually settled in the United States in 1941. Lemkin lost almost all of his family at the hands of Nazi during the Holocaust. In The Origins of Violence, John Docker tells us that Lemkin's pioneered the work in Genocide studies and in fact he was the very first person to coin the word Genocide. Docker writes,
"When Lemkin in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe proposed his new concept of ‘genocide’, deriving the term from the Greek word genos (tribe, race) and Latin cide (as in tyrannicide, homicide, fratricide), he took great care to define genocide as composite and manifold. Not only is genocide for Lemkin not confined to mass killing – though it certainly includes mass killing – it is also not necessarily directed by a state body or power. In Lemkin’s view, genocide signifies a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of life of a group. Such actions involve considerations that are cultural, political, social, legal, intellectual, spiritual, economic, biological, physiological, religious, psychological and moral. Such actions involve considerations of health, food and nourishment, of family life and care of children, and of birth as well as death. Such actions involve consideration of the honor and dignity of peoples, and the future of humanity as a world community."
Docker further writes that,
Lemkin’s views on humanity and violence were double edged, both pessimistic and optimistic. He did not regard human history as a narrative of progress, since he saw genocide as following humanity through history. Yet he also hoped that international law could restrain or prevent genocide. It may be worth at this point reminding ourselves of the key clauses of the 1948 UN Convention definition, set out in Article II, which constitute a narrower version of Lemkin’s definition: 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:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in
whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another
One does not have to go much back into the history of Israel's violence against Palestinian rather examples from the last three episodes of terror against Palestinians would suffice. Here i specifically discuss Operation Cast Lead, that Israel launched in 2009, and shows significant evidence it provides to term Israel campaign against Palestinian as a case of Genocide.
In the after math of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and allegations of possible war crimes, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) set up a fact finding mission, known as United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by the South African Jurist Richard Goldstone. The mission subsequently published report popularly known as Goldstone Report which was out rightly rejected by the Israel. Al though it accuses Israel as well as Hamas for war crimes, but what is interesting, are the observations that the report specifically made about the systematic and deliberate killing of unarmed civilian, falling possibly within the ambit of crimes against humanity. The report acknowledges that the war in part was against the "Gaza people as a whole". In addition to killing, the war was designed to humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.
Allegations of systematic and wanton killing of unarmed civilian is further corroborated when the report goes on and discusses in details some of the major incidents of killing that took place during 2009 campaign of terror against Palestinians. In 11 observed case Israel wantonly targeted civilian population while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags.
Al though the report provides significant evidence that conforms with the "Killing members of the group" aspect of the UN charter on Genocide, it further gives evidence that justifiably implicates Israel of Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, too. It says that Israel stands committed of wanton destruction of such basic facilities that makes community life possible such as water facilities, food production, sewerage and other infrastructure. This is just one grim documented episode of Israels intended policy to make life impossible for Gazan people.
There is abundant literature by the western commentators that documents Israel actions, and if they are dispassionately scrutinized, would found to be fulfilling the criteria of terming them as Genocide acts. I here include some emotional observations of a US activist Rachel Corrie, who was overran by Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop destruction of Palestinian home. In an email that she wrote back to her family, friends and colleagues, which was also subsequently published in Guardian is quoted here in entirety to support the hypothesis that the larger picture of Israel physical, mental, social and economic atrocities against Palestinian, does not leave any reason whatsoever not to call it as a case of Genocide.
Rachel Corrie Email (Bold and Underline by me)
Hi friends and family, and others,
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States—something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, “Ali”—or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say “Bush Majnoon” “Sharon Majnoon” back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.)
Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say “Bush is a tool”, but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago—at least regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others).
When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint—a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
They know that children in the United States don’t usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone—once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn’t surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed “settlements” and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing—just existing—in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military—backed by the world’s only superpower—in it’s attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees—many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine—now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.
Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.
Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, “Go! Go!” because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and “what’s your name?”. There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners.
Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting—and also occasionally waving—many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count—along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden, just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners.
Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.
I’ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza.” Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope they will start.
I also hope you’ll come here. We’ve been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O. There is also need for constant nighttime presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells.
According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah’s water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.
I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children’s groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done.
Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.
Thanks for the news I’ve been getting from friends in the US. I just read a report back from a friend who organized a peace group in Shelton, Washington, and was able to be part of a delegation to the large January 18th protest in Washington DC.
People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and “problems for the government” in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete Polyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.
Readers can access more emails of Rachel Corrie at the the following linkhttp://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/rachelsletters.html
The above quoted email is self explanatory and provide an eye witness account of an American that Israeli army does just randomly shot people but also makes effort to make life impossible by destroying such necessary utilities such as water wells. The Palestinians are living under military occupation that controls their lives by blocking their mobility, demolish their houses, steal their lands, keep guns pointed at unarmed civilians and commits wanton killing whenever it likes. Documentaries such as Tears of Gaza and Occupation 101 by Western Journalist have comprehensively documented the plight and mental state of Palestinian children which they say "finds no meaning to live."
Readers can further explore all these sources which are freely available on internet and decide for themselves that whether all these actions that Israel stand accused of committing against Palestinian still not provide sufficient reason to rephrase the vocabulary, is it just an asymmetric conflict where one party enjoys a more military power and more gains, is it just to be referred to as an extra ordinary political conflict among others, or should we be setting the vocabulary right and call it a campaign of genocide against civilian population of Palestine? Evidences discussed above are only from the commentators who have recently been documenting, in past decade, the crisis in Gaza and whole of Palestine. This military occupation has been going on for decades, with countless tales of sufferings, with countless tales of inhumanity, with countless tales of Palestinians live beings destroyed while the best international community doing is to just randomly passing out UN resolution with their low tone criticism of Israel's disproportionate actions while according to their own charter, this is not just an ordinary case of disproportionate violence. Its a moral duty of every human being who care about peace in the world, who care about human values, our shared humanity and civilization to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian and describe their sufferings in words that, fully captures the reality of events unfolding every day, every hour, every min, that this is not a mere conflict, This is a case of Genocide!