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The Language of Genocide: Israel’s Extermination Rhetoric

02 January 2024 | International Solidarity Movement | Gaza


     To whatever extent extermination rhetoric is a common tool of war, Israeli politicians and public figures have prolifically furnished the relentless and ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip with the language of genocide and ethnic cleansing.  Those drums are being hammered with an ever accelerating pace as the Israeli government fights to control the narrative that the force of millions across the planet have wrested free.  The global conscience has centered the lens squarely on the systemic mechanisms of Palestinian displacement, occupation and siege that uphold the state of Israel.  

     That frantic grappling for the incautious ear of the world has led to a stunning display of genocidal sentiment and the normalization of language blatantly expressive of the end game ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population, by prominent Israeli political and social figures.  It is a self-fueling phenomenon which has spawned colossal quantities of disturbing social media fare including occupation army troops in Gaza using her devastated wreckage as background props to dances, marriage proposals and choreographed skits mocking the destruction of homes and holy sites alike.  

     Websites educating on the process of genocide such as Genocide Watch feature the haunting map of organized mass killing, The Ten Stages of Genocide.  The 2016 document precedes the listed steps by stating that “Genocide is a process that develops in ten stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it.”  By every account with regards to the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, Israel is in the extermination phase.  One step away from completion.  

Ten Stages of Genocide. Source: www.genocidewatch.net

     Below is a truncated display of the predominant rhetorical drumbeat to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza from the lips of occupation forces, Israeli politicians and public figures.  

     Invoking an old testament verse in a statement on the onslaught in Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu urged the public, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible – we do remember.” The verse, as has been noted, is “among the most violent.” In full it states, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” 

     Calling for the “annihilation” of Gaza, Moshe Zalman Feiglin, the leader of the libertarian zionist party Zehut has stated publicly that “Gaza should be razed and Israel’s rule should be restored to the place. This is our country.” 

     Israeli journalist David Mizrahy Verthaim made this admission on X, formerly Twitter, “We need a disproportionate response.  If all the captives are not returned immediately, turn the strip into a slaughterhouse. If a hair falls from their head – execute security prisoners. Violate any norm, on the way to victory.”

     Via Israeli parliamentary member Ariel Kallner, “Nakba to the enemy now! This day is our Pearl Harbour. We will still learn the lessons. Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48. A Nakba in Gaza and a Nakba for anyone who dares to join!”  He is joined by other public figures in casual use of a nuclear option in Gaza.  

     In the Knesset, member Galit Distal Atbaryan posted on social media in support of “erasing all of Gaza from the face of the Earth.  Gaza needs to be wiped out.”

     Likud member in parliament Amit Halevi publicly stated his “goals for this victory.  One, there is no more Muslim land in the land of Israel.  After we make it the land of Israel, Gaza should be left as a monument, like Sodom.”

     A disturbing and now viral tiktok video features a member of occupation forces declaring that, “All people in Gaza need to die,” before admitting to killing two Palestinians followed with a celebratory dance.  “I want to kill more, more.” Nothing about this video is stand-alone as across all social media platforms, recorded statements normalizing the murder of Palestinians are in shocking abundance. 

Ten Stages of Genocide. Source: www.eachother.org

    The brazen use of extermination rhetoric points to Israel’s long understood exemption from consequence for horrific international law and human rights violations as Israeli anti-zionist Neta Golan points out, “Usually people who commit genocide don’t say that they’re going to commit genocide but Israelis have experienced impunity for so long that they think they can announce their intent to commit genocide, commit genocide and get away with it.”  She concludes with a sentiment that may have a growing wind behind the actualization of it, “We hope they’re wrong about that.”  

     Enter South Africa.  

     Themselves victorious in overthrowing the brutal white-ruled system of racial apartheid in the 1990’s, South Africa’s government has filed charges against Israel for committing genocide in Gaza with the International Court of Justice, both for their brutal bombardment as well as for collective punishment of water, food, fuel and medical siege in the Gaza Strip.  Israel will appear before the ICJ in the Hague to answer to these charges.  Given the trove of genocidal rhetoric confidently streaming out of Israel, coupled with the real-time documentation by Palestinian journalists and civilians on the ground, it is difficult to imagine the anatomy of a defense to these charges.  

     These words, and many like them, alongside the actions carrying them out (including the indiscriminate bombing and murder of 22,000 people, three quarters of them women and children) act as proven intent on the part of the perpetrators to carry out genocide. 

     There is an understanding that is born out of all of these horrors.  For the far right, extremist Israeli government, the destruction, cleansing and ultimate plan for the erasure of Gaza has nothing to do with liberating hostages.  Hostage negotiators in real time communication with hostage takers act carefully, they walk lightly, they speak softly.  They do not incite as their language can ignite the wick of an incendiary escalation of hostility which can lead to the death of those whose release they are working to secure.  

     Yet occupation authorities have inflamed tensions, antagonized Palestinians across the Gaza Strip and incited violence every step of the way.  They have acted with pure provocation and blatant endangering of hostages lives along with the Palestinian civilians and children who they have mass murdered in the indiscriminate bombardment.  They have bombed and flooded likely hostage positions on the ground.  If hostages were liberated, it would remove the performative pretense behind this wholesale slaughter.  

     This onslaught is about the intentional extermination of a people and the theft of their ancestral land and resources.  It is the mass-killing and replacement of the indigenous Palestinian population and the smothering of their culture. 

     It is an erasure, an ethnic cleansing.  

     It is genocide.