Genocide is genocide and not something else. As defined by the United States Holocaust Museum, genocide is “a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group.” Destroy the existence, not merely violate its rights or engage in combat.
The man who invented the word genocide, Raphael Lemkin, spent years getting international organizations to accept his definition, which emphasized that genocide meant eradication or attempted eradication of a group.
The 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on genocide (which the United States has not ratified) adopted a definition of genocide that distinguished it from crimes against humanity, war crimes, and criminal aggression. All bad, but not all genocide. Again, the goal of genocide means the goal of total eradication.
So where do we find actual genocide in Gaza, away from the hashtag?
Let’s look at the Hamas “Covenant,” the founding document published in 1988 and unchanged since. It’s fascinating how central this document is—or should be—to the Gaza conflict, and yet how absent it is in most discourse. It was published a quarter century ago in 1988. It's been available in translation for as long as I can remember, now easily accessible online in a Yale Law School Library translation.
What it represents is Hamas’ own self-definition. Its articulation of its sacred mission. I’d urge you to read the whole thing. The anti-Semitic rhetoric lifted from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is instructive about the mindset of the Hamas founding fathers, but really just window dressing. For the purposes of current discussion there are two passages that demand attention. The first is one sentence in the second paragraph, which reads:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).
There is no equivocation. There is just "obliteration." Not explicitly genocidal, it could be argued that it's just metaphorical—that the destruction of Israel will somehow not involve any harm to the vast majority of 5 million Jews there, just the state of Israel. This was the dodge Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used when he spoke of wiping Israel off the map.
OK, let's concede that metaphoric possibility. But then we must contend with the truly sensational and horrific—and explicitly genocidal—element of the Hamas Covenant: Article 7. The article that is an explicit call for the extermination of all Jews. An explicit call for genocide.
Here is how it reads in English:
… [T]he Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree ... would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.
Somehow I think Jews shouldn’t rely on the Gharkad tree. The language calls for the mission of Hamas to be to seek out and find every Jew wherever they may be hiding and kill him or her. No Day of Judgment until that is done.
It continues to shock me that a group with an overtly genocidal mission written into its covenant for a quarter century now, is somehow treated as a legitimate participant in the world’s diplomatic processes. A potential “partner for peace.” Talk about a flawed moral equivalence.
The quotation is from what is known as a "hadith," a non-Quranic saying of the Prophet, and according to scholars I've emailed with (both Islamic and Jewish) it's important to remember that some hadith are more directly connected to the Prophet than others. What the scholars point out is that Hamas has deliberately chosen a hadith with an explicit anti-Jewish message for its very reason for existence. And it’s important to emphasize that the "kill the Jews" message of the hadith does not represent the viewpoint of mainstream Islam. Still it's scandalous to me that those who write about the Gaza conflict do not make clear that this is not incidental to Hamas but the entire purpose of its being. Its sacred mission.
You want to talk about Hitler analogies: Even Hitler never became that specific in Mein Kampf. Many scholars believe that Hitler gave the wartime extermination order orally, although in a 1939 pre-war speech, he pledged himself to the “destruction of World Jewry”—a speech that was not taken literally by most of the world. Compared to Hamas, Hitler was cautious, politic. Of course he wanted to exterminate the Jews, but he didn’t write it into the constitution of the Third Reich.
So there it is for all the world to see. The real #GenocideinGaza. Still a dream, true, but a dream that could well come true. It’s not as if it would be an unimaginable task to murder another 5 or 6 million Jews just over the border. The thousands of rockets Hamas has fired at Israel since they took over Gaza—rockets that tried and (mostly) failed to kill noncombatants—could easily become far more deadly and sophisticated. If their dreams come true, maybe tactical nukes.
As the brilliant Holocaust writer Imre Kertesz wrote, “Before Auschwitz, Auschwitz was unimaginable. That is no longer so today. Because Auschwitz in fact occurred it has now been established in our imaginations as a firm possibility. What we are able to imagine, especially because it once was, can be again.”
For a quarter century now this genocidal Hamas pledge has been there for the world to see. Genocide, not some metaphor, not some Godwin’s Law–breaking comparison, but genocide—a mission statement. I find the unwillingness of the world to take this into account, to take it seriously, to understand the Israeli response to it, the Israeli rage generated by genocidal threat that dictates what to some—including myself at times—may seem a disproportionate response, is probably the most telling disconnect between the reality and the reporting on the Gaza conflict. Because believe me, the Israeli people are not ignorant of the Hamas Covenant, they are not unaware of its seriousness and the consequences thereof.
Some foreign Hamas supporters try to play down the covenant or—seriously—say it should be of little concern. True it has been there for a quarter century from the very founding of Hamas and no Hamas leader has renounced it. And at its heart is a command from the Prophet with the very day of judgment at stake in the success of the genocidal mission. But one (Jewish) defender of Hamas told me not long ago, the genocidal imperative should just be regarded as if it were boilerplate rhetoric and, besides, he said, Hamas was only really concerned with murdering the 5 million Jews of Israel, not all Jews in the world. I believe he thought I would find this reassuring.