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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Israel's War in Gaza

Genocide or War Crimes?

Elliot Benjamin

As horrendous as all the above illustrations are, I still don't think that the Israeli government's actions have constituted genocide.

As a liberal-minded Jew, it does not leave me much satisfaction to conclude that Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza, but “merely” war crimes. But this is my conclusion, as the matter is currently being debated in the International Court of Justice in The Hague [1], and in the process of concluding this I must acknowledge Joseph Dillard for prompting me to come more fully to terms with Israel's egregious actions [2]. In my previous Integral World Israel/Hamas essay: Jews Against Israel's Killing of Innocent Palestinians [2], I found comfort in identifying with Jews who were against Israel's killing of innocent Palestinians. However, I also argued against Dillard's extreme condemnation of Israel, as he compared Israel to Nazi Germany and stated that “by practicing genocide in addition to ethnic cleansing and apartheid, Israel has forfeited its right to exist.” [2]. I still do not believe that Israel is engaged in genocide, as I do not think Israel's “intention” is to kill now over 24,000 innocent Palestinians, over 10,000 of whom are children [3], but rather this is “collateral damage” from trying to kill Hamas militants, and that they do not care enough about Palestinian lives. However, Dillard's ethnic cleansing and apartheid accusations are another matter though, and I understand what Dillard and many others are talking about here, and this disturbs me greatly. But what I would like to focus on in this essay is my growing concern that Dillard may have a point when he states or implies that the great majority of Israelis support Israel's bombing and inhumane treatment of Palestinians, and do not have remorse for the innocent Palestinians being killed [4].

Israeli Government Leaders' Inhumane Statements about Palestinians

Although I find it extremely flagrant and deeply disturbing, the horrific remarks about destroying Gaza are not coming from the dominant Israeli government as stated policy, though there are a number of Israeli government leaders who have made these kind of remarks, and Dillard is correct in this regard. Here are some of the kind of deeply disturbing quotes from Israeli government leaders that I believe Dillard was talking about, and have been utilized on the part of South Africa in the current International Court of Justice (ICR) hearing to determine if Israel is committing genocide in Gaza [5]:

“Remember what Amalek did to you.” (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) Amalek was the Jews' enemy in the Bible, and supposedly God commanded the Jews to utterly destroy them.

”We are now rolling out the Gaza Nabka.” (Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter) Nabka is the Arabic word that many Arabs use to describe what they consider to be the “catastrophe” that displaced 700,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948.

“There will be no electricity, food, water or fuel in Gaza. It will all be shut down, because Israel is fighting animals. You want hell, you'll get hell.” (Defense Minister Yoav Gallant)

“That's what murderers of children deserve.” (Foreign Minister Israel Katz) He is referring to cutting off Gaza's water supply.

“[Israel] must find ways to cause suffering in Gaza.” (Minister Amichai Chikli) This included for him the option of dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.

“The rhetoric about civilians involved in the fighting is incorrect. We'll fight until we defeat them.” (President Isaac Herzog) President Herzog also had signed his name on a shell that was fired at Gaza.

There have also been statements made by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir advocating for the transfer of Palestinians out of Gaza, that have been rejected by the United States State Department [6]. Ben-Gvir is an especially repugnant figure to me, as described by Israeli Member of the Knesset (Israel's parliament) Dr. Ofer Cassif [7]:

“He's a supporter of a mass murderer. He had a picture in his living room of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinian Muslims during their prayer in Hebron about 30 years ago. That's the Minister of National Security.”

As it turns out, 70 Knesset members (out of a total of 120) signed a motion to expel Casif from the Knesset over his support for South Africa's ICF genocide case against Israel [8]. This follows repeated attempts to oust Casif from the Knesset for some of his inflammatory statements, such as calling Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu an “arch-murderer” and calling some particular ministers “repulsive gutter contamination” and “neo-Naza scum.” Cassif pointed out that ministers who “have explicitly called for population transfer, the destruction of Gaza by fire or atomic bomb, the starvation of its people, and to infect them with disease, are sitting at the cabinet table.” [8]

Disturbing Statements and Actions Against Palestinians from Israeli Citizens and Soldiers

It's one thing to read statistical accounts about Israeli citizens strongly supporting the war in Gaza and having little remorse for the killing of innocent Palestinians, inclusive of over 10,000 children as of January 19, 2024 [4]. But I find it especially impactful to get a flavor of what this may actually look like, from individual statements and actions by Israeli citizens and soldiers. In my previous Integral World article about Jews against the killing of innocent Palestinians [2], I mentioned the Jewish peace organization Standing Together, which brings Jews and Arabs together in interactive groups to establish understanding and empathy for one another. The group is situated in Israel and has a Jewish co-director and an Arab co-director. But it struck me how the Jewish director “gets an obsessive number of calls and text messages replete with vilifications, curses, wishes for his torture and his death, and the classic 'go to Gaza.'”; and the Arab co-director gets many rape wishes: “What hurts me most is when I get that from women, like there's no solidarity between women in the world.” [9]. This starts to give me an idea of the possible state of mind of Jewish citizens in Israel, but this becomes even more ghastly for me when I hear about some of the horrific statements made by Jewish Israeli citizens [10]:

“On radios, inside bars and stores, Harbu Darbu is constantly playing. The powerful hip hop song has climbed to number one in the country on Spotify and on YouTube since its launch on November 14. The lyrics talk about writing names on the missiles that the army launches against Gaza and about killing 'Abu Baklva' (a generic mockery of Arab names) and the models Bella Hadid and Mia Khalifa as well as the singer Dua Lipa for showing solidarity with Palestine.”

“I am 83 years old. I am Jewish. I used to be a reporter from the West Bank, trying to give human faces to my Palestinian interviewees. . . . I watched the video of angelic schoolgirls singing praise of genocide. I watched a young beautiful girl on Instagram boast that she had killed her first two Palestinians. She said she couldn't wait to kill more. . . . Words cannot possibly express my rage, my disgust, and my sorrow.”

Mose Saada, an Israeli member of the Knesset made the following statement:

“It's now clear to everyone that all Gazans should be exterminated. . . . Everywhere you go, people are saying, 'Exterminate them.'”

And the veracity of this statement was reinforced by a workshop leader for mothers of newborns:

“In some workshops for mothers of newborns, surrounded by cooing and oxytocin, gentle mothers explained to me, as they were cuddling their infants, that as far as they were concerned, 'let them all die over there.' At the child health center, the nurse holding my son so sweetly muttered that “a bomb should be dropped over the entire Gaza Strip.”

And just to get an inkling of the possible state of mind of some Israeli soldiers, here are a few deeply disturbing descriptions [10]:

“When this is the situation among the country's top officials, what is there to say about the videos from the field of soldiers dancing and singing 'Wipe out the seed of Amalek,'or saying, 'With God's help,' Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood 'will be the late Shujaihey' or 'We've taken down 30 houses. Wonderful'”

“An Israeli soldier boasts about killing Palestinians in Gaza, saying they 'need to die' and that she wants to 'kill more and more'. The woman, who says she's in the Israeli army, said she has already killed two Palestinians in Gaza and that she's happy about it.”

And then there is an article entitled “Video appears to show the Israeli army shooting Palestinians without provocation, killing 1 and wounding 2 others.” in regard to which an Israeli Rights group made the following statement:

“Cases like these happen quite regularly, but no one's hearing about them. . . . The military will say that it is opening an investigation. And this investigation will last for years, probably without any media covering it. And then it will be washed down the drain.”

But Is It Genocide or War Crimes?

As horrendous as all the above illustrations are, I still don't think that the Israeli government's actions have constituted genocide, and I believe that the verdict of the International Court of Justice will conclude this as well. However, I believe that Israel is guilty of committing war crimes, which has a more nebulous definition and criteria than genocide [11]. Essentially I believe this because indiscriminate bombing that results in the excessive killing of innocent civilians can be argued to be war crimes, and I think that this is very much what Israel has done in Gaza [11]. Here is a description of this perspective [12]:

“Genocide is not the only prohibited act in international law. The laws of war prohibit indiscriminate attacks, i.e., ones that do not make the distinction between combatants and civilians. It requires that states must take precautionary measures to prevent damage to civilians. Attacks are also prohibited if they were launched intentionally, knowing they will cause incidental loss of life to civilians in a way excessive to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from them. Violating some of these rules may reach the level of war crimes, even without the harder to prove intent required in the crime of genocide.”

The argument that Israel has committed war crimes is further illustrated by a brief summary of the kind of despicable statements and actions from government officials and Israeli citizens and soldiers that I have described above [12]:

“Given the very large numbers of civilians and children killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli military actions, seeing whole neighborhoods destroyed, and hearing statements about 'no innocents in Gaza,' it is hard not to think that law of war norms are being broken. . . . The combination of the huge number of civilians killed, with the statements not only of politicians, but also of some soldiers on the ground, like the ones in the video displayed by South Africa in the hearings of soldiers chanting 'we know our motto: there are no uninvolved civilians'--as well as the many testimonies on attacks destroying civilian homes, killing medical teams, and more—cause grave concern regardless of what the court rules.”

And I also think that these criminal murderous actions on the part of Israel should not be forgotten regardless of what the ICJ decides about the genocide case [12]:

“We should not allow Israel's defensive measures against this claim [the claim of genocide] or a possible rejection of it by the International Court of Justice, to legitimize all of what Israel does in Gaza. After the horrors of October 7, many Israelis find it difficult to show empathy for Palestinians in Gaza. Also, many Israelis rightly want to see Hamas held accountable for its own responsibility for the horrors in Israel and Gaza. However, it is exactly because the events of October 7 are justly condemned, and causing so much shock over the shattering horrors faced by so many innocent people in Israel that we must not shut our eyes and hearts to the horrors so many innocent Palestinians are facing. Even if the International Court of Justice does not see it as a case of genocide.”

Whether or not the ICJ decides that Israel has committed genocide in Gaza, the extent of death and destruction from Israel's indiscriminate bombing is unspeakably horrifying. This has been described in all its utter and shocking horror by Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh at the ICJ hearing [13].

How Will the War End?

The question that is on the minds of many people is how will the war end? And this brings me back to what I discussed in my previous Integral World Israel/Hamas essay [2] in regard to removing Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. And as it turns out, as the war continues into its 4th month with no end in sight for the release of all the hostages, and more Israeli soldiers continuously getting killed, there is a growing division in the Israeli government, with serious talk about holding elections in a few months to replace Netanyahu with a more centrist leader [14]. This situation is certainly being stimulated by Israel's public dissatisfaction with and blame of Netanyahu for Hamas' October 7th attack to begin with, as well as for the hostages still being held and the continuing loss of life of Israeli soldiers [15].

I don't think that it is likely that Netanyahu will change his destructive course in Gaza, as he has asserted his prerogative to continue his indiscriminate bombing until Hamas is eliminated as a threat, and has defied United States President Biden's request for Israel to work towards an eventual Palestinian state [16]. And in spite of Netanyahu's defiance of Biden's attempts at reducing the number of innocent Palestinians that Israel is killing, as well as Biden's urging for a two-state solution, this has not deterred Biden from trying to continue to give Israeli enormous military aid without any human rights or stopping indiscriminate bombing conditions attached [17]. I don't think the United States is going to change its complete support of Israel, as the Senate has made clear in its strong rejection of Senator Bernie Sanders' petition to attach human rights conditions to giving Israel continued military support [17]. This is why I believe that the only way the war will end is through the removal of Netanyahu from power.

Does Israel Have The Right To Exist?

But before ending this essay, I want to try to step back a little and think about Joseph Dillard's condemning phrase: “Israel has forfeited its right to exist” [2]. The basic meaning of this phrase was actually conveyed to me in the form of a less threatening question in a comment by Jan Krikke to my first Integral World Israel/Hamas essay [18]. And I understand that this means revisiting the historical data of how Israel was formed in 1948, which I have been reluctant to do, as I have conveyed that I am not a historian and that there are varied complicated perspectives about this [19]. But I think the time has come for me to at least take a brief stab at the question and the condemnation, just to see what I may think about this.

Taking into account the various perspectives on the legitimacy of the formation of Israel in regard to the displacement of the Palestinians [19], from my own Jewish upbringing here are my brief informal thoughts about the whole catastrophic situation. Basically I can understand the ardor and passion of Jews to form their own country after Hitler and the Nazi holocaust, and why returning to their homeland Israel from 2000 years ago was such an immense quest for them. But I can also understand how for the Palestinians living in this land for 2000 years, it was nothing less than an invasion for them to be pressured into leaving their homes and land to make room for all these Jewish immigrants. Once again, I leave it to others who are much more historically knowledgeable than I am to debate the conflicting historical accounts in regard to factors such as how many Palestinians were actually expelled by Israel from 1947-1949, how much the Jews attempted to live peacefully with their Arab neighbors, the actions of Arab leaders encouraging the Palestinians to flee, the extent of massacres committed by both Jews and Arabs, how many Palestinians Israel would have allowed to return to Israel through a negotiated agreement, the extent of dangers to Israeli security from Palestinians who wanted to return to their homes, etc. [19] In short, I must say that I don't know the answers to all these questions, and furthermore, given the current tragic reality that is happening and the acceptance by the most powerful countries in the world that Israel is a bona fide country, sorting this all out right now is not my priority. My suspicion is that the truth is somewhere in-between, but my sentiments at the present time are on the side of the innocent Palestinians who are being killed in enormous numbers as “collateral damage,” as well as the continuous killing of Palestinians by Jewish settlers in Israel [20].

Conclusion

I am Jewish by birth and culture, but I place no stock in the bible, as I consider it to be essentially a work of fiction and I certainly do not believe in the biblical Jewish God, or the Christian divinity of Jesus or Mohammed as the pinnacle of Arab worshipers [21]. Thus for me, it is all foolish and tragic beyond measure how people are fighting and dying for what has been promised and portrayed in some obscure fictional book written thousands of years ago. But this is the situation we are currently forced to witness, and I believe that we should do all that we can to try to prevent the Israel/Hamas war from escalating into a wider conflict that could result in World War III [22]. Whether or not the ICJ decides that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza is secondary to me. What is primary for me is that Israel stops their war crimes through indiscriminate bombing that has resulted thus far in the killing of a multitude of innocent Palestinians.

But as I have described in this article, I believe that for any feasible resolution of the war to take place, Netanhayu needs to be removed from power. I think that the worst has come out in Israeli citizens as a fear and panic reaction that goes along with an insensitivity to Israel's killing of over 24,000 innocent Palestinians, inclusive of over 10,000 children, based upon the horrendous Hamas October, 7 attacks [23]. But I also think that there is another side to these Israeli citizens. One year ago, in January, 2023, it appears that over half of Israelis may have actually supported opening talks with the Palestinian Authority [24]. And nearly a year later, in December, 2023, it appears that the majority of Israelis may oppose Israel annexing and resettling Gaza [25]. It appears that there is a consistency in at least a potential for Israeli citizens to come to their senses about the necessity of accepting a Palestinian state in Israel. I have no doubt that this is directly related to trying to prevent the October 7 Hamas attacks from ever happening again by working with Palestinians instead of giving them continued reasons for their hatred of Israel, but whatever the reason, I want to try to end this essay on some kind of an optimistic note, as challenging as it is to do so. And with this in mind, here is a quote from the Geneva Initiative Israel, which is the organization that conducted the January, 2023 poll that found that more than half of Israelis supported opening talks with the Palestinians [25]:

“The public is saner than its government. Most want dialogue, a political process with the Palestinians and are prepared to compromise. There must be no surrender to the extreme and fanatical minority.”

Notes/References

1) See Nahlah Ayed (January, 2024), UN Court to Rule on South African Bid to Halt Israeli Operation “As Soon As Possible.” www.cbc.ca

2) See Joseph Dillard (December, 2023), Simplifying the Israeli/Palestine Conflict. www.integralworld.net and Elliot Benjamin (January, 2024), Jews Against Israel's Killing of Innocent Palestinians. www.integralworld.net

3) See Reliefweb (January, 2024), Gaza: 10,000 Children Killed in Nearly 100 Days of War. reliefweb.int; and Xinhua (January, 2024), Palestinian Death Toll in Gaza Exceeds 24,000: Ministry. english.news.cn

4) See Dillard's essay in [2] and also his extensive comment to my essay in [2].

5) See Anshel Pfeffer (January, 2024), Opinion | Israel Isn't Committing a Genocide, but It Has Genocidaires. www.haaretz.com; Haaretz Editorial (January, 2024), Editorial | Israel Is Paying the Price for Its Bigmouths. www.haaretz.com ;and Chantal Da Silva (January, 2024), “Nakba 2023”: Israel Right-Wing Ministers' Comments Add Fuel to Palestinian Fears. www.nbcnews.com

6) See Ben Samuels (January, 2024), “They Should Stop Immediately” | U.S. Calls Out Far-Right Israeli Ministers for Advocating Transfer of Palestinians Out of Gaza. www.haaretz.com

7) See Conor Gallagher (December, 2023), Brutal Occupation Underpins Class Inequality for Israelis and Palestinians. www.nakedcapitalism.com

8) See Allison Kaplan Sommer (January, 2024), In Israel, Politicians Are Allowed To Talk About Genocide Only If They Support It. www.haaretz.com

9) See Nettao Ahituv (January, 2024), A Jewish-Arab Partnership Is Building a Young New Peace Camp in Israel. www.haaretz.com

10) See Noa Landau (January, 2024), Opinion | Israeli Trauma Awakened the Impulse to “Kill or Be Killed.” It's Time to Look in the Mirror. www.haaretz.com; Julia Frankel (January, 2024), Video Appears to Show the Israeli Army Shooting Palestinians Without Provocation, Killing 1 and Wounding 2 Others. apnews.com

Ypoana Gonen, Opinion | In Israel, Far-Right Fantasies of Genocide Distract from Gaza's True Catastrophe (including the comments). www.haaretz.com; and Aeyal Gross (January, 2024), Opinion | Genocide or Not, Israelis Should be Troubled. www.haaretz.com

11) See Scott Neuman (October, 2023), What is a War Crime, and Who Gets Held Accountable? Here's What You Need to Know. www.wunc.org

12) See the article by Aeyal Gross in [10]: Opinion | Genocide or Not, Israelis Should be Troubled.

13) See Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh's speech "Irish lawyer's stunning speech at The Hague accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza"at the ICJ at www.youtube.com

14) See Neri Zilber & James Shotter (January, 2024), Split in Israel's War Leadership Breaks Into the Open. www.ft.com

15) See The Associated Press (December, 2023). A Weekend of Combat in Gaza Kills 14 Israeli Soldiers, in Sign of Hamas' Entrenchment. www.wpr.org

16) See The Associated Press (2024). Netanyahu Says He Has Told U.S. That He Opposes Palestinian State In Any Postwar Scenario. www.npr.org

17) See Maanvi Singh (January, 2024), Senate Votes Against Sanders Resolution To Condition Israel Aid On Human Rights. www.theguardian.com

18) See Elliot Benjamin (December, 2023), The Israel/Hamas War: My Jewish Humanistic/Integrative Perspective. www.integralworld.net

19) See in particular my references in [2] pertaining to Al Jazeera (#7) and The Jewish Virtual Library (#8).

20) See Jack McGrath (January, 2024).Violence and Forced Displacement Increase in the West Bank. www.wrmea.org

21) For a more extensive account of my views about this, see Elliot Benjamin (2020), Modern Religions: Am Experiential Analysis and Exposé. Natural Dimension Publications. www.benjamin-philosoper.com

22) See Caleb Weingarten (October,. 2023),Weingarten: Why Israel-Hamas War Leading to World War III Is Not an Alarmist View. iowastatedaily.com

23) See Agencies (January, 2024), As Trauma of October 7 Massacres Endures, Israeli Support for Gaza War Remains High. www.timesofisrael.com

24) Jonathan Lis (January, 2023), Half of Israelis Support Opening Talks With Palestinians, Poll Shows. www.haaretz.com

25) See Sam Sokol & JTA (January, 2024), Majority of Israelis Oppose Annexation, Resettlement of Gaza—Poll. www.timesofisrael.com






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