Human Rights and Wrongs: Palestine Edition

This is the second article in a series on human rights. The first article was on West Papua. Keep an eye on our website for more.

Trigger warning: This article has multiple mentions of gore, death, and, of course, genocide.

By the time I finish writing this, thousands will be dead. 

By the time you finish reading this, probably more. 

Feel free to check if I’m wrong. 

Since October 7th, 2023, over 36 thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s genocidal rampage. 

And when I say genocidal, I mean it. 

1 in 25 people in Gaza are either injured or killed. 

36 thousand deaths. In 7 months. 

Let’s do this again, shall we? 

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:   

(a) Killing members of the group;   

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;   

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;   

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;   

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” 

That’s a direct quote from Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 

Israel has managed to follow through on at least 3 of these heinous acts in Palestine – with obvious intent to destroy the Palestinian people. 

Look, this story has taken over the news cycle for the past few months. There’s no way I can cover everything, and you’ve probably heard at least the basics anyway.  But here are the key points I think we need to cover to be able to discuss the concept of genocide within the context of Israel/Palestine: 

“Killing members of the group” 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have killed many, many members of the Palestinian group. Do I need to reiterate the 36 thousand people killed?  

72% of those killed are women and children

Palestinian deaths now constitute the highest rate of civilian casualties worldwide in the 21st century. 

Euro-Med Monitor, a prominent human rights watchdog, documented “dozens of cases” of arbitrary executions of Palestinian civilians carried out by the IDF. Dozens of civilian executions. 

That’s a war crime. At least according to Article 8.2 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court it is. But then again, most of the things I’m going to mention in this article are. Keep that statute on hand. It’s pretty damn relevant. 

Within the first three weeks of Israel’s offensive, the number of children reported killed in Gaza was more than the annual number of children killed across the entire world’s conflict zones since 2019. 

Within the first three months after October 7, Israel dropped 65,000 tonnes of bombs onto Gaza. 505 bombings a day. 21 bombings every hour.  

They’ve now begun bombing Rafah, the last safe place for Palestinian civilians. An Israeli airstrike recently targeted the tents of refugees in a designated safe zone, killing 45 people. Innocent Palestinians were burned alive. Children’s bodies were found without their heads. 

The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its military offensive on Rafah. So, you know what Israel did?  

They bombed Rafah over 60 times in the next 48 hours. 

It’s ceaseless. It’s indiscriminate. 

It’s genocide. 

“Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” 

A recent CNN investigation found evidence of torture within Israeli detention centres, where over 8000 Palestinians have been, and are currently, held – often without reason or trial. 

Here’s some of the accusations brought forward by previous Palestinian detainees and Israeli whistleblowers who worked within the Sde Teiman desert camp: 

  • Doctors amputate prisoners’ limbs due to injuries sustained from constant handcuffing and are told to not sign off on any procedures, to maintain anonymity. 
  • Medical procedures are sometimes performed by underqualified medics – earning the camp their reputation of “a paradise for interns” – often without anesthesia. 
  • Prisoners are blindfolded, told to sit upright and to not move or talk, and are brutally beaten – to the point of losing teeth and breaking bones – if they fail to do so. 
  • Wounded detainees are strapped to their beds, wearing diapers, and are fed through straws – one medic said, “They stripped them down of anything that resembles human beings.” 
  • Near-naked detainees are piled on top of one another as they’re shuttled to the detention camp. 
  • Prisoners who have been cleared of suspected links to Hamas after interrogation aren’t released. Instead, they’re forced to be an intermediary between the guards and the prisoners, a role known as Shawish, or supervisor. 
  • A prisoner who commits an offense like speaking to another prisoner would be ordered to raise his arms above his head for up to an hour. The prisoner’s hands would sometimes be zip-tied to a fence to ensure that he doesn’t come out of the stress position. 
  • The guards unleash large dogs on restrained sleeping detainees as part of a routine search. 
  • According to a letter to Israel’s attorney general, and its health and defense ministries, written by a doctor working at the field hospital at the camp, “The facilities’ operations do not comply with a single section among those dealing with health in the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law.” 
  • A detainee said, “It is better for [the prisoners] to die than to be captured and held here.” 

A Euro-Med Monitor investigation also found evidence of systemic abuse within the detention camps. Their claims include: 

  • Detainees lack legal representation. 
  • Detainees are often filmed in deliberate humiliating situations and the videos are published publicly. 
  • Detainees have died after being subjected to extreme torture and mistreatment at detention camps. 
  • Detainees are held in very harsh conditions akin to open-air chicken cages without access to food or drinks for long periods of time. 
  • Detainees are sexually assaulted. 
  • Field executions of Gazan prisoners carried out by IDF soldiers are common. 

I’m no expert, but I think that classifies as “causing serious bodily harm.” 

Now let’s talk about the mental aspect. Aside from the constant fear of being bombed, as well as the effects of chronic displacement on a person’s feeling of safety, civilians in Gaza are also subject to psychological warfare in the form of buzzing drones. Israel has used these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for years to torment Gazans, who have nicknamed the sound “zanana” – meaning annoying buzzing sound. As airstrikes are increasingly common in Gaza, the sound of these drones hovering over camps 24/7 causes listeners to fear for their lives. Nonstop. 

A 2009 study found that 91% of children in Gaza suffer from moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder – something that is sure to be exacerbated by the “sound of death”, as some Palestinians call the zanana.  

“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” 

This one is easy.  

Though Gaza has been under Israel’s blockade for more than 15 years, Israel implemented a “complete siege” on Gaza, blocking food, fuel, electricity, water, and other essentials from entering the area.  

Hospitals don’t have enough fuel to keep people alive – not that it matters, considering 31 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals have been destroyed in Israel’s attacks. The last five hospitals are only partially functioning and are under extreme limitations, due to lack of resources. That’s super helpful in a warzone. 

Half of the households in Gaza are starving. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said over two months ago, “1.1 million people in Gaza are facing catastrophic hunger – the highest number of people ever recorded – anywhere, anytime.” Food is running out in Gaza. Fast.   

Clean water ran out in November. As a result, disease rates have soared – perfect for a place with minimal hospitals. 

At least 25 people have died due to either malnutrition or dehydration in Gaza recently. 

These conditions of life seem pretty destructive. Israel has blocked all of the essentials needed to, essentially, live. 

To add insult to injury, Israel is also blocking aid (which is a war crime, by the way).  

As Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam Middle East and North Africa Director, put it, “Israeli authorities are not only failing to facilitate the international aid effort but are actively hindering it. We believe that Israel is failing to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide.” 

And, as Gueterres also said, “This is incomprehensible & entirely avoidable.”

 

But you know what? You don’t have to believe me (or any of the sources I’ve linked) about the fact that Israel is committing genocide.  

Believe Karim A.A. Khan KC – the ICC prosecutor bringing a case against Israel’s Prime Minister. 

Yeah, the ICC. Like the International Criminal Court. Like the court responsible for trying individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression. 

On the 20th of May, Khan filed an application for an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister (as well as warrants for three Hamas leaders and the Minister of Defence of Israel). Khan said he had reasonable grounds to believe that Netanyahu bears criminal responsibility for multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine. The crimes are as follows: 

  • Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Statute; 
  • Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health contrary to article 8(2)(a)(iii), or cruel treatment as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i); 
  • Wilful killing contrary to article 8(2)(a)(i), or Murder as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i); 
  • Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime contrary to articles 8(2)(b)(i), or 8(2)(e)(i); 
  • Extermination and/or murder contrary to articles 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(a), including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity; 
  • Persecution as a crime against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(h); 
  • Other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(k). 

Once again, the articles referred to can be found in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  

Look, if that doesn’t convince you that Israel isn’t doing great things right now, I don’t know what will. 

Now, I can hear the complaints on this article already. “It’s self-defence!” “Hamas started it!” “All they have to do is give back the hostages, and Israel will stop.” 

First of all, those statements are incorrect.  

“It’s self-defence!” 

Okay, let’s say it is. Let’s say Israel is simply doing all this because of Hamas’ attack on October 7th. This is still a disproportionate response. It still doesn’t justify this genocide. 

Around 1,200 Israelis were killed in Hamas’ attack. 

Around 36,600 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since then. 

Seems a bit overkill, no?  

I don’t think that even counts as self-defence anymore. 

This is simply collective punishment – another war crime

The civilians are being punished, starved, burned alive, and killed for an act they didn’t even commit. 

Their only crime was being born in Palestine. 

“Hamas started it!” 

Now, you don’t need to understand the whole history of Israel/Palestine to understand that bombing civilians for seven months straight is bad – no matter what prompted it. 

But Hamas didn’t even start this. This isn’t a new genocide. Sure, Israel has upped the ante since October 7, but they didn’t start then. 

Ever heard of the Nakba

In short, 15,000 Palestinians were killed and at least 750,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced in 1948 by armed Zionist forces in a vast ethnic cleansing

Palestinians have been under an illegal Israeli occupation since 1967 – so I don’t think you can say Hamas is the starting point for all this.  

Resistances rise out of oppression. 

“All they have to do is give back the hostages, and Israel will stop.” 

I deeply wish that was true. 

Hamas has been holding an estimated 240 hostages since October 7th.  Since then, 112 have been released

Netanyahu could’ve gotten the hostages released multiple times. He has declined multiple ceasefire deals in return for hostages. He has said he won’t stop until he achieves “total victory” and the “eternal disarmament of Gaza.” 

This was never about the hostages.  

This was never about October 7th

This is a personal vendetta. 

 

Look, I’ve been writing and researching this article for over a month. It had to keep changing, as the situation in Palestine kept worsening.  

I know we’re tired. I’m tired. Every time I open my phone, it seems like something even worse is happening. It’s exhausting. It’s sickening. It’s rage-inducing. 

But we have to keep pushing. Awareness isn’t enough anymore. 

Educate yourself: Stay up to date with current news, read Palestinian-authored books, learn about the history of colonisation. 

Attend protests: Check @justiceforpalestine.magandjin for Brisbane-based updates. 

Support your local student encampment: The closest one to QUT is UQ. Check it out, donate food, attend teach-ins, and encourage your peers. 

Donate: @operationolivebranch has a master list of GoFundMe’s.   

Boycott brands that support Israeli forces: There are so many lists to check out, but you can start here

Sign petitions: EN6141 (a petition for the House of Representatives to impose trade and arms sanctions on Israel) and EN6173 (a petition for Australia to declare recognition of the State of Palestine) are good places to start. 

Email your local MP and urge them to take action for Palestinians in Rafah: Amnesty International has a great template to use (though personalised is better). 

Pay attention to how our government is complicit in this genocide.  

And, most importantly, keep your eyes on Palestine. 

Tione Zylstra
Tione Zylstra

Tione is one of the 2024 Glass editors. She's a final year Journalism and Justice (majoring in policy and politics) student who lives to write about everything going on in the world. If you're after more of her work, check out Urban List Brisbane, The Music, and Purple Sneakers. Concerts and food are her go-to, so hit her up for either of those and you'll have a winner.

Articles: 15

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Battle of the Bands Web Ad DESKTOP