White House denies genocide unfolding in Gaza

Palestinians displaced from Shujaiya east of Gaza City and from northern Gaza shelter in tents around governmental schools in central Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, 12 November.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

During a White House press briefing on Monday, White House spokesperson John Kirby went on the defensive when asked about activists dubbing the president “Genocide Joe” for his support of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Kirby said “this word ‘genocide’ is getting thrown around in a pretty inappropriate way by lots of different folks” and accused Hamas of being the party seeking genocide.

“Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinian people off the map,” Kirby insisted. “Israel is not trying to wipe Gaza off the map.”

Kirby was willfully denying the genocide that Israel is plainly carrying out in Gaza – an intent demonstrated in statements made by Israeli officials, public figures and members of the military, as well as by Israeli operations in the territory.

Israeli officials with varying degrees of influence have in recent days promoted proposals for the mass expulsion of Palestinians in Gaza and the use of biological warfare against them.

While these officials may not be members of Israel’s war cabinet, and are not necessarily authoring policy, they serve as advisors and are political allies with those driving the genocidal war in Gaza.

Because they are not in Netanyahu’s war cabinet, they may feel more at liberty to speak freely. These politicians who are in the revolving doors of Israel’s government are likely echoing the conversations that are happening behind closed doors.

No distinction between civilians and combatants

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli military operations chief and head of the National Security Council who is currently serving as an advisor to defense minister Yoav Gallant, rejected any distinction between civilians and combatants in an op-ed for the Hebrew language edition of Ynet.

In his 19 November op-ed – fully endorsed by Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister who has sweeping powers over Israel’s administration of the West Bank – Eiland said that “Israel is not fighting a terrorist organization but against the State of Gaza.”

Eiland added that “a war between states is not only won by military combat but also by the ability of one side to break the opposing side’s system” including its economy and “ability to provide energy.”

Israel didn’t allow fuel into Gaza for more than a month since the beginning of its military operations on 7 October. The meager quantities it is currently permitting under US pressure is far less than what is needed by humanitarian agencies to provide basic services.

Israeli officials have said that they wouldn’t provide fuel so long as people captured in Israel on 7 October are being held in Gaza. The Israeli military and officials have also claimed that any fuel allowed into the territory would be siphoned by Hamas – an allegation roundly rejected by UNRWA, the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza, which says it implements its programs without intermediaries.

Life is impossible without fuel. That is the obvious reason for the ban, and why Eiland argues for it to be maintained.

“Israel must, therefore, not provide the other side with any capability that prolongs its life,” Eiland elaborated, saying that the women of Gaza “are all the mothers, sisters, or wives of Hamas murderers … part of the infrastructure that supports the organization.”

Instead of staving off the humanitarian catastrophe warned of by Palestinians in Gaza and international organizations, Eiland said that Israel “must not shy away from this.”

“After all, severe epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip will bring victory closer and reduce casualties among [Israeli] soldiers,” he added.

Eiland said that Israel should use the lack of fuel and water to force the surrender of Hamas military commanders in southern Gaza, which he says will happen “when they have no fuel and no water, and when the epidemics reach them as well, and when the danger to the lives of their women increases.”

He advised Israel’s cabinet to “take a harder line with the Americans” and insist that “as long as all the hostages are not returned to Israel, do not talk to us about the humanitarian aspects.”

Eiland is recommending collective punishment – a violation of international humanitarian law – of genocidal proportions.

Lest he leave any room for ambiguity, Eiland clearly stated that Israel must “fight against the entire opposing system because it is precisely its civil collapse that will bring the end of the war closer.”

The enemy is not only armed Hamas fighters, Eiland said, “but also all the ‘civilian’ officials, including hospital administrators and school administrators, and also the entire Gaza population that enthusiastically supported Hamas and cheered on its atrocities.”

Indeed, Israeli forces appear to be deliberately targeting prominent members of Gaza civil society: peace protest leaders, journalists, teachers, doctors and their families:

“They want to send the message to the Palestinians that we are coming after you … you are in danger. They want to kill as many Palestinians as possible in order to intimidate others to leave their homes and finally to go to [Egypt’s] Sinai or anywhere else,” said Ahmed Alnaouq, a Palestinian journalist living in London whose close family were killed when Israel bombed Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, in October.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British Palestinian surgeon who was working in Gaza for the first several weeks of the current Israeli offensive, said that “the destruction of the health system has been the main thrust of the military strategy.”

“Return Lebanon to the stone age”

In his op-ed, Eiland was not advocating anything that isn’t current Israeli policy and practice in Gaza, and was essentially encouraging Netanyahu’s war cabinet to stay the course despite mounting international pressure for a ceasefire.

And what Israel is currently doing in Gaza is what Eiland recommended it do in Lebanon following Israel’s unprecedented defeat by Lebanon’s Hizballah in 2006, arguing in 2008 that Israel must wage war against the state of Lebanon as a whole.

Israel did that to a certain extent in the 2006 war, destroying all of the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, for which its military doctrine of using disproportionate force against civilian infrastructure has become known, as well as bombing the Jiyeh power plant, releasing some 15,000 tons of oil into the Mediterranean sea.

Haaretz reported in 2008 that Eiland recommended sending “a clear message to the Lebanese government, as soon as possible, stating that in the next war, the Lebanese army will be destroyed, as will the civilian infrastructure.”

In August, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, threatened to “return Lebanon to the stone age” in any future war against Hizballah amid border tensions now dwarfed by escalating deadly skirmishes over the past several weeks.

Eiland also penned policy prescriptions recommending serious international crimes in early October.

In an op-ed for Ynet, he declared that Gaza’s “entire population” must move to Egypt or the Gulf. Eiland added that every vehicle in Gaza can be considered a military target, “and it does not matter whether it is transporting water or other critical supplies.”

Eiland also recommended the talking point that Israeli officials have used with their American counterparts, saying that “Israel has no choice” to use overwhelming military force “comparable to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to the launch of an atomic bomb in Japan.”

Eiland is hardly alone in calling for the depopulation of Palestinians from Gaza.

Gila Gamliel, Israel’s intelligence minister who belongs to Netanyahu’s Likud party, said in an op-ed published by The Jerusalem Post that her office “has been working diligently [on] how to proceed the day after Hamas has been defeated and annihilated.”

Like Netanyahu, Gamliel rules out a return of Palestinian Authority limited rule in Gaza as proposed by the US and the secretary-general of the UN.

(If their right to self-determination was actually respected, Palestinians in Gaza would likely overwhelmingly reject a return of the deeply unpopular PA, which is widely perceived as little more than an enforcement arm of the Israeli occupation.)

Instead of a return of the PA, Gamliel suggests promoting “the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip.”

She says that instead of spending money to rebuild Gaza and fund UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, “the international community can assist in the costs of resettlement, helping the people of Gaza build new lives in their new host countries.”

Gamliel presents what would amount to the crime of forcible transfer and deportation as “a win-win solution” that is supported by Israeli lawmakers “across the political spectrum, including both the coalition and opposition.”

That proposals for the forced transfer of Palestinians in Gaza is becoming increasingly mainstream in Israel undercuts the Israeli embassy in Washington’s messaging to convince US journalists that Gamliel’s op-ed reflects her personal opinion and not government policy.

Further belying that claim, Gamliel’s ministry produced a 10-page document outlining a plan to purge Gaza of its Palestinian inhabitants that was leaked to the Israeli media late last month.

The intelligence minister concluded her op-ed by stating “we have to think outside of the box and look for opportunities even in the midst of grave crises.”

Gamliel is not the only Israeli official finding an opportunity in the current situation to advance the Zionist movement’s master plan of emptying Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants and maintaining Jewish domination over the land.

Danny Danon, an Israeli lawmaker and leading member of the Likud party, echoed Gamliel, saying that “the international community should think about options to offer those who want to move out.”

Ayelet Shaked, the former Israeli justice minister who once promoted a genocidal call to kill Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes,” repeated the same talking points during an interview on Israeli TV:
Shaked lamented that “the Israeli government for years did nothing to encourage” emigration from Gaza or to allow Palestinians to leave “in an organized manner.”

“I think there’s a big opportunity here,” she said, explaining that after Israel succeeds in destroying Gaza, it should take advantage of the situation to tell “the countries of the world that each one of them should take a quota, it can be 20,000 or 50,000.”

“In the last few years half a million young people emigrated,” Shaked said, alluding to the dangerous journeys across the Mediterannean that people have undertaken in recent years amid a youth unemployment rate that hovers around 70 percent.

“We need 2 million to leave. In all honesty, that’s the solution for Gaza,” she added.

Years before the current genocidal campaign in Gaza, Israeli officials were quietly asking countries to absorb Palestinians from Gaza and were encouraging and proposing ways to facilitate their removal.

Making life unbearable to coerce Palestinians to leave their land is the primary motivation of many of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the West Bank, the state permits settler harassment and terror to achieve this aim. Since 7 October, more than 600 households in 13 herding communities in the West Bank were displaced from their land amid an increase of settler violence and Israeli movement restrictions, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in late October.

In Gaza, Israel is attempting to push people into a tiny area in the southwest that it has deemed a “humanitarian zone.”

Many people in Gaza and outside the territory warn that if Israel is successful in forcibly displacing people to this small area, it would be a prelude to their final expulsion from their homeland.

Bombing hospitals and UNRWA schools and starving children would seem to serve no military objective except to terrorize Palestinians into fleeing.

State founded on terror

The State of Israel was founded on the deliberate killing and use of terror against Palestinian civilians to remove them from the land.

The perpetration of atrocities in the Jerusalem-area village of Deir Yassin in April 1948 was viewed as a turning point for the Zionist militias shortly before the declaration of the State of Israel. Zionist forces perpetrated atrocities in the village and even inflated the death count to sow terror and panic among Palestinians and induce them into fleeing.

Likewise, the current aggression underway in Gaza wouldn’t be the first time that Israel employed biological warfare: the militias that would become the Israeli military poisoned wells with bacteria in 1948 to hinder the Arab armies’ advance and to prevent displaced Palestinians from returning to their villages.

Israeli leaders are increasingly open about their desire to complete the process of ethnic cleansing and dispossession begun in 1948, with Ohad Tal the latest lawmaker to say he wants a Nakba in Gaza:

Some find religious inspiration for their desire for genocidal violence.

Last week, Israeli communication minister Shlomo Karhi invoked the Bible in his revenge call for the military to collect the foreskins of “Nazi terrorists” in Gaza, echoing Netanyahu’s invocation of the genocidal biblical story of Amalek.

“Attempt to make this map a reality”

During a UN Security Council meeting, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to the UN, held up a photo of Netanyahu displaying a map in which Palestine is wiped out.

“What outrage did it spark?” Mansour asked. “None.”

The diplomat added: “What you see today in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is the attempt to make this map a reality.”

The vision for a Gaza purged of its Palestinian inhabitants appears to have adherents in the US government as well.

A proposal to ethnically cleanse Gaza and destroy Lebanon – written by an author connected to Netanyahu’s Likud party now working for the hawkish Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy – was commissioned by the US Department of Defense and published online this month by Army University Press, the premier media arm of the US military.

And while Biden administration officials now say it’s off the table, the resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza and Egypt was floated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken until it was flatly rejected by Cairo and Amman and other regional allies.

The White House’s John Kirby has repeatedly said that the US is imposing no red lines – whether moral, political or in terms of military support – in Gaza while providing it with weapons that have killed at least 14,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians who died when Israel bombed their homes.

Kirby and the rest of the Biden administration are willfully ignoring the genocidal intent espoused by Israeli leaders.

This makes them liable not only for failing to prevent a genocide, but complicit as well, as Palestinian plaintiffs contend in a lawsuit against Biden and his secretaries of state and defense.

Katherine Gallagher, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the Palestinian plaintiffs, said last week that “it is very rare in cases of genocide that at the front end of an unfolding genocide, we have such clear evidence of specific intent.”

“The current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people … coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military, leaves no room for doubt or debate” over the “textbook genocide” unfolding in Palestine, Craig Mokhiber, a former top UN official, stated in his 28 October letter of resignation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Emboldened by the free rein provided by Washington, Israeli officials keep on spelling out their intentions and plans. With their words matched by military action, anyone with influence to stop the genocide must believe them and act accordingly.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.