‘Genocide is not self-defence:' Is Greta Thunberg right on Israel response in Gaza?
- Climate activist Greta Thunberg wrote an op-ed for The Guardian published on December 5, 2023, in which she claims Israel has committed war crimes and genocide in the Gaza strip, saying, “The horrific murders of Israeli civilians by Hamas cannot in any way legitimize Israel’s ongoing war crimes,” and “Genocide is not self-defence, nor is it in any way a proportionate response.”
- ‘Genocide’ is defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race.” The term came about following the WWII Holocaust, in which Nazis targeted Jews for extermination via concentration camps.
- On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian/Arab terrorist organization Hamas (aka the “Islamic Resistance Movement”) launched a surprise attack on Israel, resulting in the massacre of 1,300 Jewish citizens, many of them civilians and families murdered in their homes. An estimated 240 people, including some Americans, were kidnapped to Gaza as Hamas’s hostages.
- Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005, leaving it to Palestinian rule while still providing free electricity and water. Between 2006-08, Hamas rose to power and continues to govern Gaza.
Greta Thunberg is careless in her words when describing the Israeli-Hamas conflict. Firstly, 'genocide' is a historically-loaded term originating from the Jewish Holocaust that left six million Jews dead under the Nazi regime. Using ‘genocide’—along with other pro-Palestine chants supporting the wiping out of a Jewish state—to protest Israel's mission of eradicating a brutal terrorist threat is pure projection by Israel's opponents. Currently, pro-Palestinian groups call to 'Globalize the Intifada' (a 'call for indiscriminate violence against Israel' and likely Jews worldwide), and it was the Palestinian terror group Hamas who first enacted genocidal, brutal attacks against Jews on October 7, 2023. Labeling Israel's militaristic defense maneuvers as 'genocide' is ironic and wrong.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948 used the term to describe acts committed to destroy national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. There is no evidence Israel is targeting Palestinians based on that, and if Israel wanted to level Gaza, it has the military might to do so. Israel has actually given unprecedented warnings to avoid civilian casualties before military strikes in Gaza. It is Hamas who routinely violates the international Law of Armed Conflict by hiding behind its civilians as human shields.
This conflict is rightfully described as the 'Israel-Hamas war,' and historically, wars are messy, as killing is a means to winning a war. Even international humanitarian law doesn't outright ban civilian deaths. For instance, the casualties of German citizens in WWII exceeded three million. Israel has reportedly targeted and killed, with great accuracy, 11,000 terrorists in Gaza, despite Hamas hiding behind civilians. Hamas's hateful ideology has been clear since its first 1988 charter, justifying Israel’s weeding out active terrorists while aiming to safely retrieve their innocent civilian hostages from the genocidal neighbor that governs Gaza.
While Greta certainly has her faults, she is right to say that genocide is not self-defense—and it is an opinion that many people across the world agree with. In many ways, the validity of the statement is painfully obvious. Obviously, children are not military combatants. Obviously, Kindergarten-age boys and girls had nothing to do with the October 7 attacks. On December 4, Al Jazeera reported that 6,600 children had been killed as a direct result of Israeli military activities. It is hard to see how anyone can say the Israeli Defense Force was acting in 'self-defense' when thousands of children died in the crosshairs.
Before the current conflict broke out, Israeli forces had already demolished over 20 schools throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 2010 (according to the UN). Directly after the Hamas attack, Israel reportedly responded by destroying a further 48 schools—as well as ten health institutions and almost 23,000 homes. Israel has even bombed schools that were run by the United Nations—schools that were situated within refugee camps. Bombing schools should not be considered 'self-defense.' These are not military facilities; they are cultural institutions with no strategic importance.
If an individual defendant wants to claim they acted in self-defense, they must show their actions were proportionate and reasonable. If someone punches a defendant, the defendant is allowed to punch back. They are not allowed to shoot them in the face. Hamas attacked Israel with hang gliders and rifles—inflicting thousands of civilian deaths. Israel responded by cutting off water and electricity before attempting to bomb and bulldoze the entirety of the Palestinian people into oblivion with a space-age air force (supplied by the US) and Merkava tanks. This is not a proportionate response.