Dotan Rousso

Is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?

Albert Einstein once said that everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

As an ex-Israeli prosecutor who has spent many years immersed in intensive legal work and presenting arguments in court, I can attest that sometimes the legal system fails when it attempts to convey the simplest thing in the most complex way possible.

This observation may hold when examining how Israel defends itself against accusations of “genocide” in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Despite the sophisticated legal arguments adorned with abstract concepts, elevated language, precedents, and nuanced analyses, a simple truth emerges.

According to international law, the legal basis for the charge of “genocide” (a term introduced in the 1940s by Raphael Lemkin, a Holocaust survivor, to ensure the absence of impunity for mass killings like those in the Holocaust) requires the accusing party to convince the court that acts were committed with the specific intention to bring about the destruction of a nation, race, or religion, either wholly or partially.

By this, when genocide is committed without specific intention or when the intent is present, but the actual destruction does not occur, the legal conditions for conviction in a genocide case are not met.

It seems unlikely that anyone with basic knowledge of the balance of powers between Israel and Gaza would dispute that Israel has the military power and means to bring about the complete destruction of Gaza within days if it desires.

However, even if we assume that it has the intention to do so, the fact remains that as of today, it did not.

According to the data provided by the Health Ministry under Hamas control (an organization whose reliability is at the very least questionable), the overall number of deaths in Gaza is about 23,000 people. Even if one chooses to accept these figures as true, it is crucial to subtract the number of Hamas fighters claimed by the IDF, around 9,000.

In a simple calculation, during 100 days of conflict, approximately 14,000 civilians have died (a ratio of one Hamas militant to 2.5 civilians), all within one of the most densely populated areas in the world, facing an enemy that does not prioritize the lives of its civilians and often seeks to increase casualties in its population for strategic (using them as human shields) and public relations reasons.

While the death of any single civilian is tragic, these numbers cannot support an explicit intent to commit genocide.

The numbers speak for themselves and do not require additional interpretation, legal or otherwise. Israel is not carrying out genocide in practice, and it has no intention to do so.

Indeed, critics of Israel may argue that the death toll in Gaza (which does not align with genocide) is not due to an absence of will or intention to commit such an act but rather to avoid international criticism, pressure, and accountability. However, whether true or not, this argument doesn’t add or subtract from reality.

Regardless of the reasons behind Israel’s avoidance of committing genocide, the fact remains that genocide is not taking place.

About the Author
Dotan Rousso, Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. He currently lives in Alberta and teaches Philosophy at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).