Saturday, January 13, 2024

South Africa's genocide allegation against Israel by Yale Zussman

Posted with the permission of the author.

Last evening's program on South Africa's allegation of genocide against Israel left out more issues than it addressed. 

The Palestinians have charged Israel with genocide for decades, whether there was a conflict or not.  I am a retired math professor, and I hope you will agree that if party A is pursuing genocide against party B, the number of people in party B will go down over time.  For example, during the Holocaust, the number of Jews in Europe was reduced by half.  By contrast, there are about eight times as many Palestinians today as when they started claiming Israel was engaged in genocide against them.  Maybe UNRWA-run schools just don't do a good job teaching basic mathematics, but for journalists to be unfamiliar with the difference between "increase" and "decrease" is inexcusable.
Second, the authors of the Genocide Convention never contemplated how the target of an intended genocide could defend itself against a people dedicated to its annihilation.  Since its creation, that has been the sole purpose of the Palestinian movement; in the case of Hamas, genocide against the Jews is written into its Charter.  Unless the option of totally destroying a genocidal movement is permitted, the Convention would enable groups committed to genocide to keep trying until they succeed. That would be self-defeating, and as a matter of policy, makes no sense.  To prevent genocide, the Convention must permit targets of intended genocides to undertake the destruction of any group that pursues genocide.
That begs the question of defining the membership of a genocidal entity, like Hamas, or more broadly the Palestinian movement.  Polls show that Hamas's popularity rose after engaging in the October 7 genocidal atrocity.  There's no evidence that Gazans have ever resisted Hamas's control of them or objected to Hamas turning the entire strip into one vast military base.  Gazan civilians constructed Hamas's tunnels and allowed Hamas to use schools, mosques, hospitals, and homes as entry points and sites from which Hamas routinely fired rockets at Israeli civilians.  Perhaps most telling is that Gazans who were trusted enough to get permits to work in Israel provided much of the intelligence Hamas used to plan the atrocity.  While there are undoubtedly innocent Gazans, Hamas has made a point of obscuring who they are.
That brings us to the question of civilian deaths.  NPR, like much of the media, has been reporting for more than two months that starvation and disease are immanent, but even the Hamas, woops, Palestinian Health Ministry's official numbers don't reflect this.  
Since early in the conflict, the percentage of combatant deaths to total claimed civilian deaths has remained fairly constant.  Using recent numbers, when the Palestinian Health Ministry was reporting total "civilian" deaths as around 22000, the IDF was reporting combatant (Hams plus PIJ) of around 10000.  If the 10000 are included in the 22000, the percentage is about 45%, if not, it is about 31%; these numbers have inched up over the last few weeks.  
Two observations:  1) If there was starvation and or disease killing people in significant numbers, the percentages should go down, possibly precipitously.  They haven't, so there is no basis for the starvation/disease claims.  2) In Afghanistan and Iraq both the United States and Britain considered a 10% combatant death ratio good.  By this standard, the IDF's handling of Gaza should be considered remarkably good.
Considering that South Africa has had more murders in the past year than there have been deaths in the Gaza War, the only way to describe what it is doing is the Israeli word,"Chutzpa."

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