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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Civilian casualties in Gaza are no accident

Israeli leaders have openly endorsed starving, killing, and displacing Palestinian civilians — and that’s what they’re doing. Is Biden listening?


By Mitchell Zimmerman


An old legal adage states: “Men are presumed to intend the natural consequences of their acts.”


The natural, indeed inescapable, consequence of Israel’s cutting off life-sustaining supplies of food and water to over 2 million people in Gaza is famine and mass death by starvation and dehydration. As 90 percent of the people of Gaza have become refugees, 93 percent of the population is facing crisis levels of hunger.


Epidemics of cholera, typhoid, and dysentery are also the natural consequence as sanitation systems collapse and there’s only contaminated water to drink. Deaths from disease and hunger are predicted to be several times that from fighting and bombing.


Who are most likely to die first? Children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Who are least likely to be affected? Hamas’s soldiers, who stockpiled food and water before the war.


Israel’s indiscriminate bombing has killed over 22,000 Palestinians, 40 percent of them children. The pace of killing has been “exceptionally high,” reports the New York Times. “It’s beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career,” says a former Pentagon senior intelligence analyst.


Israelis assert casualties are high because Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.” But Hamas fighters are intermixed with civilians because they live crammed together in densely populated Gaza.


Even on its own terms, the excuse fails. If a killer tries to escape capture by forcing an innocent family to stand between himself and the police, the cops can’t mow them all down to get the killer. If Hamas terrorists are surrounded by the people of Gaza, that doesn’t justify eliminating the entire population.


“Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising,” the Times report continued.

But it’s not a surprise if Israel in fact intends the mass deaths it has inflicted. Calls for “erasing” the people of Gaza and claims that “there are no innocents in Gaza” have become widespread among Israeli officials.


Prime Minister Netanyahu has likened the war in Gaza to a biblical call to “totally destroy” the Amalekites, a rival nation to the ancient Israelites. “Do not spare them,” the prophet Samuel tells King Saul: God commands you to “put to death men and women, children and infants.” The idea of treating Palestinians this way is now widespread among Israeli leaders.


Why deliberately target civilians? Many Israelis consider all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean to be the God-given “Land of Israel.” Butchering and starving Palestinian noncombatants forces the survivors to flee this land.


“There will be no electricity and no water,” decreed Israeli Major General Ghassan Alain at the outset of the war. “There will only be destruction.” General Giora Eiland added: “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.” Eiland said Palestinians should be told, “They have two choices: to stay and to starve, or to leave.”


Last September at the United Nations, Netanyahu himself displayed a map showing “The New Middle East.” The map had no West Bank and no Gaza — only Israel incorporating both.


Members of Israel’s cabinet openly call for removing 90 percent of Palestinians from Gaza and resettling the land with Israelis. And Netanyahu recently told a meeting of his party that he is “looking for countries that are willing to absorb Gazans … we are working on it.”


Israel’s campaign in Gaza fits the legal definition of genocide: Israel is killing or inflicting conditions intended to bring about the destruction of Gazans as a group.


But whatever you call it, genocide or ethnic cleansing, deliberate mass murder is part of the project. The Biden administration should reconsider its support for Israel.


Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License.

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