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Culture war games: a line red from blood

The Unsung Hero Who Coined the Term “Genocide”
By Michael Ignatieff

If the history of the western moral imagination is the story of an enduring and unending revolt against human cruelty, there are few more consequential figures than Raphael Lemkin—and few whose achievements have been more ignored by the general public. It was he who coined the word “genocide.” He was also its victim. Forty-nine members of Lemkin’s family, including his mother and father, were rounded up in eastern Poland and gassed in Treblinka in 1943. Lemkin escaped to America, and in wartime Washington gave a name to Hitler’s crimes in his monumental study of the jurisprudence of Nazi occupation, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in 1944.

Lemkin belongs historically to a select list of humanitarians such as Henri Dunant, who founded the Red Cross in 1863, and Eglantyne Jebb, who created Save the Children after World War I—or going farther back, to John Howard, the eighteenth-century sheriff of Bedfordshire who single-handedly awoke Europeans to the cruelty of their prison systems. These were all people who by their own solitary efforts, with an obsessional devotion to a private cause, changed the moral climate of their times.

From earliest childhood, Lemkin admitted to a peculiar fascination with tales of horror: the savagery of the Mongols, the cannibalistic rituals of primitive tribes, the brutal punishment that the Romans meted out to slave revolts.

From early in childhood, Lemkin learned to think of history as a bleak tale of torture and suffering. “A line, red from blood,” he writes in his memoir, “led from the Roman arena through the gallows of France to the pogrom of Białystok.”

For Lemkin, the religious, ethnic, and national group was the bearer of the individual’s language, culture, and self-understanding. To destroy the group was to destroy the individual.

America in the spring and summer of 1941 was still neutral, still observing the Nazi occupation of Europe from a safe distance.

After America did enter the war in December 1941, Lemkin went up to Washington to work in the Bureau of Economic Warfare. Even Archibald King, a colonel in the judge advocate general’s department of the Army, had trouble grasping that the German occupiers were not observing the Hague Convention on Land Warfare. “This is completely new to our constitutional thinking,” King said, when Lemkin tried to lay out Hitler’s philosophy of occupation.

Unable to secure a hearing in official Washington, Lemkin persuaded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to fund and publish in late 1944 the great book that he had begun in Sweden on the law of occupation under Nazi rule. It was in this work that he gave what Winston Churchill had called a “crime without a name” the name by which it has been known ever since.

He benefited from a very brief window of historical opportunity, when utopian plans for global order and global justice could get a hearing and the wartime unity of the victorious allies had not yet collapsed into the acrimony of the Cold War. By 1948, the tide of commitment to justice for Nazi war crimes was ebbing. The British were already objecting to the Genocide Convention on the grounds that, surely, Nuremberg was enough. The Russians were becoming adamantly opposed to any inclusion of political groups in the definition of genocide’s victims. The Cold War was squeezing shut the narrow space in which the victorious superpowers could cooperate on projects of international legal reconstruction. By 1949, the U. N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the Genocide Convention—the four basic pillars of the postwar legal order—had been erected. Lemkin could justly claim to have been responsible for one of them.

We can only hope that Lemkin’s deepest conviction—that genocide runs like a red thread through human history, past, present, and future—is wrong. Hitler’s dark appeal, and Stalin’s, as well as the Khmer Rouge killers of Cambodia and the génocidaires of Rwanda, lay in offering their people a final solution: a world without enemies. Genocide is not just a murderous madness; it is, more deeply, a politics that promises a utopia beyond politics—one people, one land, one truth, the end of difference. Since genocide is a form of political utopia, it remains an enduring temptation in any multiethnic and multicultural society in crisis.

Is Genocide Predictable? Researchers Say Absolutely
By Jason Beaubien

“Genocides are not spontaneous,” says Jill Savitt, acting director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. “In the lead-up to these types of crimes we do see a consistent set of things happening.”

Lawrence Woocher, the research director at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, has worked on the Early Warning Project since 2014. He says that the form of government is one of the key data points in their computer model. The most dangerous appears to be a regime that’s not a full dictatorship but also not a full democracy.

“The prevailing view about why mass atrocities occur is that they tend to be decisions by political elites when they feel under threat and in a condition of instability,” Woocher says. “And there’s lots of analysis that suggests that these middle regime types are less stable than full democracies or full autocracies.”

Greg Stanton, a professor at George Mason University and the president of Genocide Watch, agrees with the goal of the Early Warning Project rankings but disagrees with their methods. Stanton says the Holocaust Museum’s model is overly dependent on national data that’s often released only once a year.

“They tend to notice that there is a risk of genocide too late,” Stanton says.

Rather than looking at statistics to try to predict mass killings, he argues that you should look at events.

“In other words, it’s not enough to know that you have an authoritarian regime,” he says. “It’s important to know what that authoritarian regime is doing.”

The Logic of the Ten Stages of Genocide
By Dr. Gregory Stanton

In my studies of genocide, I discovered that the process of every genocide has predictable “stages” or processes. After studying the history of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, and other genocides, in 1987 I developed a model known as the Ten Stages of Genocide. I regret using the term “stages” because the word “stages” implies linearity. The processes of genocide aren’t linear because they usually operate simultaneously. I should have simply called the “stages” processes. But there is a logical order to them. The processes are logically related to each other. Discrimination cannot occur without Classification, for example.

The model has proven useful to look for these processes because they help us see when genocide is coming and what governments can do to prevent it.

For those unfamiliar with the model, here it is, briefly: [Note that most of the names for the processes end in “-ation”, the English ending for words describing processes.]

→ The first process is Classification, when we classify the world into us versus them.

→ The second is Symbolization, when we give names to those classifications like Jew and Aryan, Hutu and Tutsi, Turk and Armenian, Bengali and Pashtun. Sometimes the symbols are physical, like the Nazi yellow star.

→ The third is Discrimination, when laws and customs prevent groups of people from exercising their full rights as citizens or as human beings.

→ The fourth is Dehumanization, when perpetrators call their victims rats, or cockroaches, cancer, or disease. Portraying them as non-human makes eliminating them a “cleansing” of the society, rather than murder.

These first four processes taken together result in what James Waller calls “Othering.”

→ The fifth process is Organization, when hate groups, armies, and militias organize.

→ The sixth is Polarization, when moderates are targeted who could stop the process of division, especially moderates from the perpetrators’ group.

→ The seventh process is Preparation, when plans for killing and deportation are made by leaders, and perpetrators are trained and armed.

→The eighth process is Persecution, when victims are identified, arrested, transported, and concentrated into prisons, ghettos, or concentration camps, where they are tortured and murdered.

→ The ninth process is Extermination, what lawyers define as genocide, the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

When I outlined “the stages of genocide” in a memo I wrote in the State Department in 1996, I realized there is another process in every genocide:
→ Denial. Denial is a continuation of a genocide, because it is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives.

This processual model demonstrates that there is a logic to the genocidal process, though the relationships between the processes are not linear. The “stages” are processes that occur simultaneously.

How genocide is defined—and why it’s so difficult to prove
By Erin Blakemore

Legally, genocide is distinct from war crimes, which only take place in the context of armed conflict and include “willful killing,” taking hostages, and causing the loss of life or injury. Crimes against humanity, meanwhile, can take place in times of peace and include murder, enslavement, and persecution based on factors like gender, ethnicity or religion.

But while all of these crimes can harm large numbers of people, they only rise to the level of genocide if they target specific groups of people with the intent “to destroy [them], in whole or in part.” Because genocide is so hard to prosecute, the international community tends to charge people with other crimes.

How do you define genocide?
By BBC News

In his book Rwanda and Genocide in the 20th Century, the former secretary-general of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Alain Destexhe, wrote: “Genocide is distinguishable from all other crimes by the motivation behind it.

“Genocide is a crime on a different scale to all other crimes against humanity and implies an intention to completely exterminate the chosen group. Genocide is therefore both the gravest and greatest of the crimes against humanity.”

Mr Destexhe has voiced concern that the term genocide has fallen victim to “a sort of verbal inflation, in much the same way as happened with the word fascist”, becoming “dangerously commonplace”.

Both Israel and Palestinian supporters accuse the other side of genocide – here’s what the term actually means
By Alexander Hinton

The 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention specifies that genocide can happen by killing and destroying a group, preventing births and transferring children to another group, among other means.

At the time, some countries used the convention as a political tool to obscure their own histories of genocide. One example: The Soviet Union and others insisted that the definition exclude political groups. The USSR feared it could otherwise be charged for killing political enemies.

The U.S. also had concerns about being accused of committing genocide against Black people, a point I detail in my 2021 book, “It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the US.”

The U.S. successfully lobbied for the U.N. definition to emphasize intent and physical killing. This made it less likely the U.S. would be charged with genocide for Jim Crow policies that enforced segregation of Black Americans.

There is also a long history of government officials arguing about the definition of genocide to deny that it was actually happening.

Yes, Xinjiang Is an Intentional Genocide
By Peter Mattis

We can dismiss claims that genocide requires mass killing immediately. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which both China and the United States are signatories, genocide has two parts. The first is the commission of any of the following acts: “killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The second part is intent. Any of those acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” would constitute genocide.

China’s actions very clearly meet four out of five conditions of genocide—and remember, they only need to meet one. And while no evidence has emerged of mass killing yet, the conditions that would enable it are very clearly being created. Jewish groups are increasingly speaking up about Chinese policies in part because they recognize the cruelty that marks China’s dehumanization of the Uyghurs. Dehumanization to exclude victims from the moral community is a necessary precursor to widespread cruelty, as David Livingstone Smith, author of Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, observed. This is because it’s difficult psychologically to kill another human being or inflict atrocities on them. The Chinese guards at the camps reportedly are exhibiting the signs of this psychological toll. In the New Yorker’s account of one woman’s journey through the camps, Chinese guards at one point changed behavior, becoming erratic, irrationally cruel, and unstable—all signs of trauma for what they are being ordered to do. Just as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis called Jews “rats,” “subhuman,” and “a virus,” Xi has called Uyghurs a “virus.”

The United States Must Reckon With Its Own Genocides
By Emily Prey

The United States has a long and dark history of the same government-sanctioned abuses. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were more than 350 government funded, and often church run, Indigenous boarding schools across the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children passed through, or died in, these schools between 1869 and the 1970s, until the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 finally allowed Native American parents to legally deny their children’s placement in these schools.

While these kinds of policies were tragically typical of colonial states during the 19th century, they are squarely in contravention of the 1948 Genocide Convention, and thus they meet the standing legal definition of genocide in international law. At least between 1948 to 1978, the United States was not just morally, but also legally responsible for the crime of genocide against its own people.

The 1948 Genocide Convention specifically includes in its definition of genocide the separation of children from families with the intention to destroy the identity of a group, in part or in whole. To the extent to which the boarding schools were specifically designed to “kill the Indian, save the man,” their assimilationist ambitions were explicitly genocidal.

When such policies are enacted in other countries, the United States of today has no difficulty seeing those policies for what they are. The removal of children from their families and their placement into state-run boarding schools was one of the criteria the Biden administration and its predecessor used to correctly identify China’s actions against the native Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide.

When the United States declared the situation in Xinjiang a genocide this year, Beijing retorted with a jab at this very history. When Biden recognized the Armenian genocide, Ankara had the same retort. The Biden administration is correct in its analysis that the only way America’s role in the world, and indeed its national security and global interests, will be protected and enhanced is if the world once again looks to Washington as a force for good and as a moral leader that will defend human rights and international law. But that cannot be done while the United States continues to refuse to exorcise the genocidal demons of its own history.

Genocide resisters, long overlooked by history, step into the spotlight
By Nareg Seferian

The anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is marked every year on April 24. That was the date in 1915 when hundreds of Armenian community leaders were arrested by the government of the Ottoman Empire in the capital Constantinople, now known as Istanbul.

At the time, Armenians lived throughout what is modern-day Turkey. Modern scholars estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turkish government, and around 800,000 to 1.2 million were deported during World War I. Most ended up in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Americas. During that period, Greek, Assyrian and Yezidi communities were also massacred and forced to flee into exile.

April is also Genocide Awareness Month. Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place this month every year, as do commemorations for genocides in Cambodia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The 1915 Armenian Genocide was not the first attack on Armenians in what is now Turkey. In the 1890s, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were targeted by the government of the Ottoman Empire in what came to be called the Hamidian Massacres, as they took place during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

And in 1909 – again, in April – there was a separate such episode. Those massacres took place in the region historically known as Cilicia, on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern Turkey today. In two waves of violence at the end of April 1909, more than 20,000 Armenians and other Christians were killed by Turks connected with the government. The violence happened in and around the city of Adana and extended into neighboring areas. Muslim populations suffered as well, with an estimated 2,000 killed in retaliation for the massacres.

Some present the Hamidian and Adana massacres as dress rehearsals for the Ottoman Turkish government’s plan, decades in the making, to implement the all-out elimination of the Armenians in 1915, dispossessing them of their millennia-old historical homeland.

An End to Evasion
By Jennifer Leaning

Henry Morgenthau Sr., the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, cables Washington on July 10, 1915:

“Persecution of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, whole-sale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage, and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place.”

The campaign against the Armenians had been underway at least since April 1915. Morgenthau had initially not believed the reports he was receiving, then considered them consistent with Turkish efforts to suppress internal dissent during wartime, and then, after weeks of interviews with refugees and missionary witnesses, determined that in fact something he called “race murder” was occurring.

Those who have studied the meaning and patterns of mass atrocity will appreciate immediately in this quotation from the anguished ambassador the key features we now seek to define: evidence from different sites and sources, suggestion of systematic rather than random events, indications of direction from the top, extensive cruelty to distinct civilian, noncombatant populations (not just individuals), all these unprovoked by military necessity. As a textbook example on how to report from the field, this fragment from almost 100 years ago is breathtakingly good, overwhelmingly sobering. If one man (albeit gifted and brave) could see it coming in 1915, how is it that the task to avert and intervene has been so hard, so long, and so unsuccessful?

In the midst of World War II, a Protestant theologian based in Switzerland muses on why there seems to be no action directed at saving the European Jews. He speaks of people living “in a twilight between knowing and not knowing.” He goes on to say that “people could find no place in their consciousness for such an unimaginable horror and that they did not have the imagination, together with the courage, to face it.”

One important camouflage for genocide is war. Lemkin noted this tight association, in that mass killings assume genocidal proportions as wars progress, when governments or warring factions begin to attack leaders of stigmatized or suspect groups and then turn on that population at large. To those who see this killing process as part of civil war, or as a legitimate phase in the need to repress rebellion, those slain masses constitute, in genocide scholar Helen Fein’s term, the “implicated victims.” So the Khmer Rouge went after political enemies, defined—as the world saw belatedly—as virtually anyone with a seventh-grade education or eyeglasses. Similarly, the Iraqi Kurds, hounded, killed, and gassed throughout the late 1980s, were conveniently viewed for years by the U.S. State Department as the fifth-column enemies of Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. The Bosnian Muslims were characterized by the United States as waging a civil war against the Serbs, justifying this country’s persistence in maintaining an arms embargo against them until the Serb massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995 made it impossible to dismiss the killings as a “problem from hell.”

Power speaks of political will and accountability. Behind that, however, is this ineluctable conclusion: If we are ever to prevent genocide, we require leaders. These individuals come in many forms and guises. They must, together at one time or in one person, have the courage to call it genocide when they see it; the strength to persist in marshaling evidence to confront denial; and the political vision to enlist others into taking action, even when the risks seem high.

Samantha Power: A Belated Recognition of Genocide by the House
By Samantha Power

In 2005, when John Evans, the American ambassador to Armenia, said that “the Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” he was recalled and forced into early retirement. Stating the truth was seen as an act of insubordination.

When I became ambassador to the United Nations in 2013, I worried that I would be asked about the Armenian genocide and that when I affirmed the historical facts, I could cause a diplomatic rupture.

Biden marks ‘Armenian genocide,’ aims to stop ‘atrocities’
By Josh Boak

President Joe Biden on Sunday commemorated the 107th anniversary of the start of the “Armenian genocide,” issuing a statement in memory of the 1.5 million Armenians “who were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination” by Ottoman Empire forces. Turkey said Biden’s declaration was ”incompatible with historical facts and international law.”

Biden’s statement did not reference the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Biden has called a genocide. Yet Biden used the anniversary to lay down a set of principles for foreign policy as the United States and its allies arm Ukrainians and impose sanctions on Russia.

“We renew our pledge to remain vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms,” the president said. “We recommit ourselves to speaking out and stopping atrocities that leave lasting scars on the world.”

In 1915, Ottoman officials arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The Biden statement notes that this event on April 24 marked the beginning of the genocide.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden used the term “genocide” for the first time during last year’s anniversary. Past White Houses had avoided that word for decades out of a concern that Turkey — a NATO member — could be offended.

Review: A Problem from Hell and We Did Nothing
By Martin Woollacott

What were the mechanisms of denial that allowed political leaders to procrastinate in the face of such plainly evil developments, and why, when action was in some cases finally taken, was intervention so clumsy and the restoration of damaged societies so often mismanaged?

Raphael Lemkin, the refugee Polish Jew who almost singlehandedly forced the idea of genocide on to the world agenda and whose driven quality Power brilliantly evokes, believed that once genocide was recognised in international and national law, it would inevitably be the more forcefully opposed. But this turned out to be true only in a limited sense. What happened instead was that governments, and especially the US government, saw that using the word “genocide” might well commit them to action, while not using it would allow them to avoid action.

Power concludes that “the United States has consistently refused to take risks to suppress genocide”, and on occasion has supported genocidal regimes, as it did with the Khmer Rouge regime after the Vietnamese invasion and with Saddam’s regime after its Anfal campaign against the Kurds. The extraordinary 40-year effort to get the convention on genocide ratified in Congress showed the US legislature betraying the same reluctance as the executive to be bound by a word. It got through in the end, in emasculated form, only because Ronald Reagan needed to do something to counterbalance his ill-judged visit to Bitburg and its SS graves.

The West Needs to Show It Values All Human Life
By Mark Malloch-Brown

The West likes to think it has abandoned the racist habit of ascribing different value to human life in different places. We profess our respect for international law, which codifies the principle of equality. But in practice, our behavior does not always reflect this. Accusations of double standards from non-Western counterparts sting precisely because they have a point.

This is not to advocate for a zero-sum redistribution of attention and diplomatic energy from one conflict to another. Nor is it to say that we should care any less about innocent people killed, for example, in Kharkiv than those killed in Khan Yunis or Khartoum. Instead, more than 75 years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international community needs to rediscover the tradition of humanitarian universalism. We must avow in word and deed that all human lives possess the same value and that the killing of civilians is unacceptable wherever it occurs.

Interviews – Anthony Lake
By Frontline

Just on a very basic level, why does Rwanda matter?

If you visited Rwanda, as I did in December [1994] and see the bodies, it matters. One Rwandan life is exactly equal to one European life — no more and no less in terms of the life itself. So that’s one reason.

But there are other reasons to think about Rwanda, not just in itself, horrible as it was, but as, again, a lesson or even a symbol of the larger issue of, when do we conduct humanitarian interventions? And, I believe, just as important, how do you make sure that when you do intervene, you do it effectively? Because if you are simply wringing your hands and if you are simply saying, “We’ve got to fix all these problems everywhere around the world,” which is beyond the capacity of the U.N. and certainly beyond the political will, even writ large of its member governments, then this is rhetoric, self-indulgent rhetoric, rather than coming to serious grips with a very, very serious problem.

Interviews – Major Brent Beardsley
By Frontline

How much information were you able to get about Rwanda and the peace process there?

Absolutely nothing, or next to nothing. My greatest source of information [about Rwanda] were encyclopedias. …

There was nothing in our libraries. There was nothing — even when I went for an intelligence briefing, the guy that was giving me the intelligence briefing had just come back from sick leave. Our mission area was obviously a non-priority mission. He gave me Time magazine articles, that type of thing, so we didn’t get any deep insight into Rwanda. There was nothing on the bookshelves about it at the time. It wasn’t extensively written about. I couldn’t find anything. So we had very, very little information, knowledge of the background to Rwanda, its history, its culture, what had taken place in the country since independence or even before independence, and especially even in the last couple of years. So we went in quite blind. …

You went on the technical mission?

Yes, we were warned in June, July [1993] there was the expectation that the peace agreement would not be signed for some time. Suddenly — or at least it appeared to us suddenly — in August, the peace agreement was signed. So within a week, we were given a call to report to New York and to participate in what the U.N. calls a technical mission, or a reconnaissance mission. It’s an information-gathering mission. So we packed up and went to New York.

We didn’t have a map of the country. We couldn’t get one. We were using what was the equivalent of a Michelin road map. No one in New York seemed to know much about the mission area or the mission itself. We could tell that Somalia and Bosnia and Croatia were the priorities, and that this was not a priority mission.

On that mission, you went down there and you were assessing Rwanda. In retrospect, [General Dallaire] wrote that he thinks it was he, or the U.N. that was being assessed. What does he mean by that?

Now, in hindsight, what I believe is that, in late 1992 and really 1993, there had been massacres in Rwanda — ethnic massacres, where Hutu extremists had killed Tutsis. The Arusha peace process at that time had been stalled, and the RPF had launched a major offensive. They’d broken off the peace talks and launched a major offensive that literally shattered the government forces. They could have won the war at that point, at least taken the capital. The French had intervened, and the international community had told the RPF that they had to negotiate. I think the RPF side were going to give it one last chance. They negotiated Arusha in good faith. They signed the agreement, and they were prepared to negotiate one last chance. But this time, if it failed, they were going to go for broke and settle it on the battlefield.

On the extremist side, their army had been shattered, and they needed time to repair that army, so that it could hopefully, in their eyes, defeat the RPF. On the other side, knowing what happened — the genocide that eventually broke out — they needed time to organize that. Genocides just don’t happen spontaneously. They’ve got to be planned and they’ve got to be organized. There’ve got to be training. There’s got to be equipment. You’ve got to sow the seeds of the hysteria in the population, and that takes time.

I think we were part of a grand Machiavellian plan. We were there to sham everybody into believing that the international community was committed, that the peace process was moving forward, and to buy [the extremists] time, so that they could make their plans and their preparations.

I think they’d watched the news media very carefully. They watched Somalia, and they knew that big Western countries did not have the will to go into black Africa and take casualties. They had watched what would happen, that they could get rid of us or thought they could get rid of us any time they wanted, just by inflicting causalities upon our contingent. So I don’t think they were intimidated by us at all. I think they knew us better than we knew ourselves. They definitely knew the strengths of the U.N. and the weaknesses of the U.N. better than we did. …

The “next Rwanda” will look different: Samantha Power reflects on what we’ve learned and forgotten 25 years after the genocide
By Ralph Ranalli

Q: It’s been 25 years since the Rwandan Genocide. What were the lessons of that tragic event, and has the world taken them to heart?

In Rwanda the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide staged a series of mini-massacres in advance of carrying out the organized murder of more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. They were testing the so-called international community to see what they might be able to get away with. When they saw that these crimes were largely ignored, they felt a growing sense of impunity and believed, accurately, that they would be able to go forward with their organized killing without much international interference.

‘My soul is still in Rwanda’: 25 years after the genocide, Roméo Dallaire still grapples with guilt
By CBC Radio

Dallaire was deployed to Rwanda with a small UN peacekeeping force in 1993. He was supposed to oversee a truce between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but his powers were tightly constricted by Chapter 6 of the UN Charter.

“You were supposed to be a facilitator, not a soldier, and the use of force was purely for self-protection,” he said.

On Jan. 11, 1994, a commander told Dallaire militias were preparing to commit mass atrocities. He sent the UN Security Council in New York what is known as the “genocide fax,” saying he was prepared to take action — even though it fell outside the mandate of Chapter 6.

“[The militias] would be able to kill a thousand Tutsis in 20 minutes, as they were planning. [We wanted] to try to go after the arms caches, and throw off the extremists from doing that,” he said.

“After the 11th of January fax, I got the fastest response from New York that I ever got: ‘You will not intervene. You will not put troops at risk.'”

Dallaire later learned that Clinton and the UN Security Council were reluctant to let him act because of what had happened in Somalia the year before.

In October 1993, an American special operations team launched a raid in Mogadishu, and two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. Eighteen Americans, two UN peacekeepers and hundreds of Somali citizens were killed.

“There was a fear … that if I went in and did these things, that we’d end up in a firefight similar to Mogadishu, and I would take casualties,” he said.

For two months, Dallaire kept asking the UN to let him take some limited actions to prevent violence.

“We were about to start doing them when the genocide started,” he said.

Interviews – General Romeo Dallaire
By Frontline

Tell me about Philippe Gaillard.

Now there is an absolute guardian angel of the world community, I think the purest of what one expects the Red Cross to be: courageous, determined, gutsy, brash, an intimate leader, very close to his troops, to his people, will not back down, argumentative, pig-headed, but the heart of an angel. Humanity for him is all humans.

You two have a bond.

… When the war started he was a pillar. Everybody ran except him and his small band that not only stayed but established that ad hoc hospital, and that continued to face down the extremists who were trying to get into the hospital to kill the injured Tutsis. … Philippe Gaillard, who’s not very tall– He’s a very slight man, skinny, not muscular but wiry, and he would face these guys down. And they’d back off. …

Ultimately he lost something like 56 nationals who worked for the Red Cross. The old ambulances would be stopped and the extremists would simply kill the drivers or the assistant there from the Red Cross and then just pull out the injured out of the ambulances and just kill them right there on the spot. So he was taking several casualties, yet they never wavered. …

Philippe maintained an energetic but controlled rage. He was determined to do it. And right from the early moments of the war, when it was evident that he was staying, our personal communication took a much stronger bearing. I became very concerned about them and their situation.

And so I asked him to join my net of our communications and to listen in all the time, so he can keep abreast of what’s going on, and to intervene whenever he felt he had to or he needed stuff. Pretty well every night we’d do a radio check, just the two of us, saying, “Are you there?” “Yeah.” He became a reference for me, of staying and of determination. …

I noticed in your book you talked about a meeting [where Gaillard was asked] how many people did he think had been killed so far, and Gaillard said something like over 200,000. This was May. And as Gaillard told the story, you said, “Philippe, that’s an exaggeration. It’s nowhere near that high.” Do you remember that?

Yes. At the start we knew it was massive, but there was no easy instrument of computing that. And although there was massive killings, the scale was difficult to comprehend. But my assessment was dead wrong. Gaillard had better data on what was going on. …

But what later on became worse is the fact that the impression I was getting from New York … was that a lot of them thought, or argued that the bulk of the killing had been done. And, in fact, by then we had come to grips with the scale and the killing was still going flat out. There may have been two or three hundred thousand killed, but ultimately they were way into the six, seven, eight, hundred thousand scale of people being killed. Some people say an intervention would have been useless because they were all dead. They weren’t all dead. They were still being killed and slaughtered by the thousands and thousands. And so that became a point of contention. And the argument was ridiculous. It’s just like the argument around the term “genocide.” I mean it’s a useless argument. Human beings are being killed in the thousands, it could be in the hundreds of thousands. You don’t need the term “genocide” to decide to help other human beings. In fact, once they finally agreed to using the term genocide it did absolutely nothing, it changed nobody’s perspective in any way, shape or form that brought any result on the field. On the contrary, the arguments were that the killing was over now, so is the deployment really so essential?

That whole exercise of numbers became a great perversion, because ultimately you don’t need four thousand bodies to say that we’ve got a real problem. And the proof of that is that how many people died in that market in Sarajevo? Sixty? The whole damn world got really concerned, and the western world mobilized everybody they could to respond to that. … It was just an absolute perverse exercise of developed nations using excuses of sovereignty and nationalism and involvement and self-interest, to argue the way around one of the most fundamental premises: Are these people human? Do you have a capability? Then why aren’t you doing something? Why is it that the black Africans sitting there being slaughtered by the thousands get nothing? Why is it when a bunch of white Europeans get slaughtered in Yugoslavia you can’t put enough capability in there?

There were more people killed, injured, internally displaced and refugeed in less than a hundred days in Rwanda than the whole of the Yugoslavian six or seven years of problems. I couldn’t keep nor reinforce my small force, even feed it, and they were pouring tens of thousands of troops into Yugoslavia and billions of dollars of aid, and they’re still doing it. …

And you needed [the media] to help get your story out.

Yes, in fact it became quite clear within the second week that the idea of reinforcement was being destroyed left, right and center. I mean from the Belgians who were pulling out telling Boutros-Ghali to get the whole damn lot of us out, through to in fact the Security Council discussions that barely touched on reinforcement. … There was nothing positive coming. Absolutely nothing positive coming to us except more and more people worried about their troops, worried about people they know and trying to get as far away as they could from Rwanda. Except the media. They were in a totally different mode. …

It became clear that the only weapon I had left between me and the whole rest of the world were the media. And a weapon that was not for me to manipulate because I didn’t have to do that. What I did is facilitate. They were there. They were looking for those stories. They wanted to bring out the guts, the gore and the evil and the continuum of this terrible civil war and genocide and I just made whatever I could available to them. … There was no way that people could turn around and say, “We didn’t know, we didn’t see it, we couldn’t understand it.” Because the stuff was being plastered as much as it could. However, it is interesting that ABC, CBS and NBC in the United States put more air time to Tanya Harding trying to kneecap her competition than they did to the genocide, all going on at the same time. …

Bangladesh war: The article that changed history
By Mark Dummett

On 13 June 1971, an article in the UK’s Sunday Times exposed the brutality of Pakistan’s suppression of the Bangladeshi uprising. It forced the reporter’s family into hiding and changed history.

Abdul Bari had run out of luck. Like thousands of other people in East Bengal, he had made the mistake – the fatal mistake – of running within sight of a Pakistani patrol. He was 24 years old, a slight man surrounded by soldiers. He was trembling because he was about to be shot.

So starts one of the most influential pieces of South Asian journalism of the past half century.

Written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, and printed in the UK’s Sunday Times, it exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign to suppress its breakaway eastern province in 1971.

Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed, but certainly a huge number of people lost their lives. Independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died. The Bangladesh government puts the figure at three million.

There is little doubt that Mascarenhas’ reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told the then editor of the Sunday Times, Harold Evans, that the article had shocked her so deeply it had set her “on a campaign of personal diplomacy in the European capitals and Moscow to prepare the ground for India’s armed intervention,” he recalled.

Not that this was ever Mascarenhas’ intention. He was, Evans wrote in his memoirs, “just a very good reporter doing an honest job”.

He was also very brave. Pakistan, at the time, was run by the military, and he knew that he would have to get himself and his family out of the country before the story could be published – not an easy task in those days.

“His mother always told him to stand up and speak the truth and be counted,” Mascarenhas’s widow, Yvonne, recalled (he died in 1986). “He used to tell me, put a mountain before me and I’ll climb it. He was never daunted.”

Eight journalists, including Mascarenhas, were given a 10-day tour of the province. When they returned home, seven of them duly wrote what they were told to.

But one of them refused.

Yvonne Mascarenhas remembers him coming back distraught: “I’d never seen my husband looking in such a state. He was absolutely shocked, stressed, upset and terribly emotional,” she says, speaking from her home in west London.

“He told me that if he couldn’t write the story of what he’d seen he’d never be able to write another word again.”

Clearly it would not be possible to do so in Pakistan. All newspaper articles were checked by the military censor, and Mascarenhas told his wife he was certain he would be shot if he tried.

Pretending he was visiting his sick sister, Mascarenhas then travelled to London, where he headed straight to the Sunday Times and the editor’s office.

It is such a powerful piece of reporting because Mascarenhas was clearly so well trusted by the Pakistani officers he spent time with.

I have witnessed the brutality of ‘kill and burn missions’ as the army units, after clearing out the rebels, pursued the pogrom in the towns and villages.

I have seen whole villages devastated by ‘punitive action’.

And in the officer’s mess at night I have listened incredulously as otherwise brave and honourable men proudly chewed over the day’s kill.

‘How many did you get?’ The answers are seared in my memory.

His article was – from Pakistan’s point of view – a huge betrayal and he was accused of being an enemy agent. It still denies its forces were behind such atrocities as those described by Mascarenhas, and blames Indian propaganda.

However, he still maintained excellent contacts there, and in 1979 became the first journalist to reveal that Pakistan had developed nuclear weapons.

In Bangladesh, of course, he is remembered more fondly, and his article is still displayed in the country’s Liberation War Museum.

“This was one of the most significant articles written on the war. It came out when our country was cut off, and helped inform the world of what was going on here,” says Mofidul Huq, a trustee of the museum.

Interviews – Philippe Gaillard
By Frontline

During these first few weeks, did Dallaire know what was happening?

…Around the end of April, the U.N. sent the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ambassador Jose Ayala Lasso to Rwanda, and I remember a discussion we had with Dallaire, Ayala Lasso and myself at the U.N. headquarters. Ayala Lasso asked me, “What’s your estimation of how many people have been killed?” … I told him at least 250,000. This was on the 12th of May. Dallaire was shocked, and said, “Come on Philippe, you are exaggerating.” No, I was not exaggerating. … I think it was more than that, because most of the people were killed I think during the very first weeks. I think that 80 percent of the people were killed during the first month, between the 6th of April and mid-May. …

But [Dallaire and I] had a very close relationship. We were friends, and this is one of the pains I still have in my heart. Dallaire has been and still is in bad shape. He feels guilty. He should not feel guilty. He did what he could; he could not do much. … He was abandoned by his own organization. This is terrible, to be abandoned by his own organization. I was always supported. It’s a big difference, a huge difference.

Why do you think he was abandoned?

Because some people, the so-called “international community” in New York, decided not to give a shit about what was happening in Rwanda. Rwanda doesn’t exist. Look at the map. Who cares? Do you think that if something similar should happen again in such a country like Rwanda, the so-called international community would act differently? I’m not sure.

You said this is the first time the Red Cross had been able to do something in one of the genocides of the 20th century. Did you feel you were in the middle of something historic? Something of that scale?

Yes. In the last century — as far as we know, maybe we don’t know enough — it’s publicly acknowledged we experienced at least four genocides. The Armenians at [the] beginning of last century. The Holocaust in the Second World War, six million Jews. In Cambodia, two million, or something like that. And Rwanda.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is a 140-year old organization, was not active during the Armenian genocide, and shut up during the Holocaust — everybody knew what was happening with the Jews. We knew and all the governments knew, but nobody spoke out, and as a humanitarian organization it was our moral obligation to tell publicly what everybody knew and what nobody had the courage to say. … We were expelled from Cambodia at the beginning of the Pol Pot regime.

It was told to me by my bosses in Geneva that [Rwanda] was first time ever the International Committee of the Red Cross could do something. I think [we saved about] 65,000 lives during the genocide. … What’s 65,000 lives when one million persons were killed? Seven percent. …

Can you talk about the effectiveness of the U.N. during the genocide?

Despite some exceptional individual behaviors, for the U.N. it was a complete failure. From the very beginning of the genocide the U.N. was logistically and politically a phantom. …

“Phantom,” what do you mean by that?

They didn’t make any difference, because they decided not to anything. I mean, when you decide to reduce the troops from 3,000 to 400, when you don’t support your representative on the field, General Dallaire. You abandon your staff, you don’t give your staff the means to act. Lack of means, lack of political will, lack of logistical means, everything. [It was] a phantom. …

Interviews – Mark Doyle
By Frontline

At some point, you met a Senegalese captain, who was trying to save the very people who had been left behind.

Yes. There was a guy called Capt. Mbaye [Diagne], who was a Senegalese who I got to know a little bit. I wouldn’t be presumptuous to say he was my friend. … I got to know him a little bit, because I’d lived in Senegal before. I can say a few words of Wolof, which is their language, so I used to say “Good morning” to him in Wolof, which he used to find amusing, since that’s the extent of my Wolof. We’d then go into French or English.

I guess I didn’t know at the time what he was doing. I had an inkling from one or two people that he was saving people’s lives, and I learned about it several weeks later, after he’d been killed. … He was a very dynamic person, it was quite clear. He was always rushing around with maps under his arm. His official job, I think, was liaison with the government army, so he would go from General Dallaire, the U.N. commander, to see the government army to try and get a ceasefire. [He was there] to allow an aid convoy through, or allow the Red Cross to go and pick up some people — all of these things you know needed military liaison, and Mbaye did that.

But when the genocide started, I saw him still rushing around, but I didn’t know what he was doing. I subsequently learned that he’d rescued the family of the prime minister, the children, and he’d hidden them in his house. I understand that he saved quite a lot of other people as well by driving through the front line, hiding people in his car, driving back through the front line and so on. … You could see he was never hanging around the car park like some of the some of the U.N. officers. He was always going out and doing things.

I remember he distrusted the media. I mean, most soldiers basically distrust the media until they get to a very high level and they start thinking that they can use the media. I remember once he said to me, “Why do you keep saying that these militia people are killing the Tutsis?” I said, “Well, because they are.” He said, “But if you keep on saying it, it’s going to make our job more difficult.” Well, I disagreed with him actually. I think that we should do our job as reporters, and I think that had to be done. But he was calculating somehow that perhaps it was better to have a soft[er] approach, so that he could negotiate, because he was facing these people [in the government army] every day.

You can imagine what it was like. He’d be talking to them, and then they’d say, “But the bloody BBC is saying this–” He would face their anger in a way that I didn’t, because I didn’t face them every day. [Mbaye] got quite angry with me one day, actually, but we carried on talking and remained friends.

How was he able to get through these checkpoints and rescue people?

Some African armies are very good. The Senegalese army is relatively quite good. They’re nothing compared with First World armies in technical terms, but African soldiers are extremely good at talking to people. They’re extremely good at getting through roadblocks, [and] they’re extremely good at negotiating. …

I remember once I was very grateful I was in Mbaye’s car. We were going to see an orphanage. We got stopped by the government militia. The militia man leaned through the window with one of these Chinese stick grenades which look a bit like sink plungers, but they’re not sink plungers — they explode, and kill you if they go off. He started waving it under my nose because he thought I was Belgian, because at the time the Belgians were perceived by the government to be pro-rebel. So this militia man thought because I’m white and driving around — and most of the white people who lived in Kigali at the time, the majority were Belgian — he thought I was Belgian. So he said to Mbaye, “Who’s this guy? Is he Belgian?” and if Mbaye had said the wrong thing at that point, then I’ve no doubt that we’d have all been killed.

And what he did was, he just joked. He said, “No, no — I’m the Belgian. I’m the Belgian here, look — black Belgian.” He broke the tension of the moment, and once the tension of the moment had been broken, he said, “No, no — in fact, look, this guy is the BBC. Here’s his badge. He’s a BBC journalist, he’s British, and he’s got nothing to do with Belgian.” This kind of put the military man off guard a bit, and he no longer wanted to kill us.

I just wonder[ed] if a Canadian soldier or a French soldier would have been able to do that, to joke with this guy and potentially save my life and the life of all the other people around who would have been killed by this stick grenade. …

The people who were there were able to have a small impact — the U.N. people?

Oh, there were definitely instances in which single soldiers made a difference. …There were occasions when they were doing transfers. Tutsis would go from one side of the town and Hutus would go from the other side, and the U.N. was transporting them to areas where they felt relatively safe. The militia attacked the convoys, and I saw individual soldiers, including Captain Mbaye, actually kicking people off, because they didn’t have guns. The U.N. soldiers didn’t have gun[s]; they were actually kicking people off, and saying, “You can’t come up here. These people, we’re saving these people. You can’t get on here. You’re a militia man — your bosses have said that we can do this. There’s an agreement that we can do this.”

That definitely happened, and I saw it happening with my own eyes — that the U.N. saved people, but on a much larger scale. There’s no doubt in my mind that several thousand well-armed soldiers could have saved hundreds of thousands of people. Dallaire had a plan, which was basically to secure football stadiums in every town around Rwanda, and to make football stadiums and maybe some churches [into areas where they could hide refugees]. …

How did you find out that [Mbaye] was killed?

I was in the car park of the U.N. headquarters. … I heard on someone’s radio … that someone had been killed, and it sort of crackled over, and all the U.N. people in the car park started going slightly stiff. They knew more than I did. They understood what this message was, because it was in the military speak. There was an aid worker called Gromo there, and I was standing next to him and he said, “Oh, my God, I hope it’s not Mbaye.” But I think that he knew that it was [him] at that time. I think that he was saying that to himself as a way of coping, or it just came out that way.

Then, about half an hour later, [we] went to the airport. … There was a Canadian officer there, who jumped in his car, and said, “A military observer has been killed. I’m going to go. Do you want to come? ” So I said, “Yes, sure,” so I jumped in his car and we went to … a checkpoint there. [Mbaye’s] body had been taken away, but his car was there. … I think a mortar had landed next to the car, and some of the shrapnel had gone through the door. Some of it had gone through the glass, and the glass was all shattered on one side. There was blood everywhere, and it was clear that the person had been killed instantly by the mortar. Then I learned that it was Captain Mbaye Diagne.

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say he was he was a friend, but I knew him as a human being. … We had a sort of relationship, and I knew him and he was killed. What can I say? Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were being killed at the time, but I didn’t know them. They weren’t people that I was interacting with day by day, and if I’d known them and I got to know some of them subsequently, then of course it would have affected me. But yes, sure, this was one foreigner among hundreds of thousands of locals who were being killed. But he was one foreigner who I happened to know.

I remember going to the airport subsequently when his body was being taken out under a U.N. flag. … I remember bursting into tears with a colleague of his, a Senegalese captain, and the captain said to me, “You’re a journalist; I’m a soldier. Now you’ve got to tell the world what Mbaye did. You’ve got to tell the people that he saved lots of lives. Even while the U.N. was shamefully pulling out its troops, he was saving people’s lives. Please tell the world.”

That gave me the final confirmation of what I suspected had been going on all the time anyway. But this guy’s comrade-in-arms, a fellow Senegalese captain, which you know is not the sort of thing that soldiers say to journalists very often, for me finally confirmed that this is definitely a very brave man who has died in the service of other people. And it’s a good story, so I told it.

Interviews – Fergal Keane
By Frontline

Where did you think you were going? Who did you think awaited you there?

I thought that we would go and we would see a massacre, but I didn’t know what a massacre meant.

I had an intellectual understanding of what the word “massacre” meant from reading books. But books don’t smell. Books don’t rot. Books don’t lie in stagnant pools. Books don’t leach into the earth the way those bodies did. They can’t tell you about it. Nothing can tell you about it except the experience of going there and seeing it.

And then you heard about some survivors?

We heard that there were survivors when we got to the mayor’s offices, offices that had been used by the man accused of leading the genocide in Nyarubuye. Outside those offices were clusters of people, and the minute you walked up, you could see they were different. Because there was a kid sitting there with a huge black gash in his head where he had been hit by a machete. There are other people sitting there that are just dazed, they are absolutely dazed.

And we were in speaking to some nurses who were standing outside the building. They told us about some kids and a woman inside a small little office. And we walked in, and sitting on the ground were this woman and I think two children. And one of the children, she looked in the most terrible state. You could tell her hand was black, it had been hacked away, and there was a wound on the back of her head as well.

The nurse was trying to dress the wounds, and the child looked looked like a famine victim. And I just remember her grimacing in pain as they tried to treat the wounds. And we had no medicine. I remember all we had was some aspirin and some sweets, and we gave it to them.

And I assumed — I looked at that kid, and I said she’s not going to make it. There was no way because her hand was rotting. She looked starved. I just couldn’t see her pulling through. And I left assuming that, believing that, she wouldn’t make it.

What was her name?

The kid’s name was Valentina. And she had been at the church with her parents, and her brothers, who had all been wiped out. She had survived there for something like a month among the bodies, with dogs roaming outside trying to eat the flesh of the dead. She was haunted. She was haunted.

On that first journey when I met Valentina, you couldn’t talk to her. There are times when, you know, you go to a war zone and you see what happened to them — you couldn’t have asked this child.

She was in so much physical pain, her hand hacked away, her head wound, and she just looked so traumatized that we backed off. We did the only decent thing you could do. We gave the few sweets we had, we gave some aspirins, which was all we had, and we backed off. We left her be. And we assumed she would die.

Does looking at that footage restrain you? She is obviously in pain but she is not screaming.

That’s Rwanda. Rwanda is a country that was in pain but wasn’t screaming. Silence. That’s what I remember most — silence. Just an endless, screaming silence. That was Rwanda.

If you want to understand what genocide means at the human level, look at Valentina. Who did she offend, who did she hurt? Her crime was being a Tutsi. Her crime was being a member of the wrong ethnic group. And for that her entire family was wiped out, and she was mutilated and traumatized terribly. That’s what genocide is. And if you want to understand our failures as human beings, as governments, look at that kid. That’s who we failed. You know, we failed the innocent, we failed those who are targeted for no other reason than that they come from the wrong group.

You asked me what I’m left with? Yes, a sense of human failure, but also one hell of a determination that if I ever see anything like that happening again, would I take up a camera and a notebook? No. I might do something much more fundamental, because you can’t depend on the powerful and the rich to come to the aid of people like Valentina. Don’t believe them, don’t trust them, no matter how many times they say “never again.”

Going back to her, you told her story.

One of the ways that I tried to keep faith with Rwanda is by going back, and going back to Nyarubuye. I don’t think you can go back to a whole country. But when you meet people, you can go back to them, like Valentina. And she’s about the most remarkable person I know. She’s extraordinary. The first time I went back, she was still very, very traumatized, and it took a lot of talk off-camera, and just getting to know her before she felt free enough to talk about her experiences, and I knew it was vital that she did. Because how do you explain to the world the reality of something like genocide? Not through mass statistics. People don’t get the idea of 800,000 dead. They just don’t get it. It’s too big.

But they can understand the testimony of a child like Valentina. And she spoke in amazingly moving and haunting terms about what had happened to her, and what had happened to her family. I stayed in touch, and I’ve been back maybe three or four times to see her. And each time she gets stronger. Each time she is more confident.

And she has turned into a really beautiful and engaging and warm human being. She is quite the most remarkable person I know to come from living among the bodies at Nyarubuye, to seeing your family wiped out — to come from that, and to be able to talk as she does to me now about going on to be a doctor, about wanting to be a doctor so that she can heal people. For all that Rwanda has left me haunted with, someone like her also has given me a gift, a real gift.

Bystanders to Genocide
By Samantha Power

In the course of a hundred days in 1994 the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies very nearly succeeded in exterminating the country’s Tutsi minority. Using firearms, machetes, and a variety of garden implements, Hutu militiamen, soldiers, and ordinary citizens murdered some 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu. It was the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century.

In reality the United States did much more than fail to send troops. It led a successful effort to remove most of the UN peacekeepers who were already in Rwanda. It aggressively worked to block the subsequent authorization of UN reinforcements. It refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide. And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, U.S. officials shunned the term “genocide,” for fear of being obliged to act. The United States in fact did virtually nothing “to try to limit what occurred.” Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective.

Even after the reality of genocide in Rwanda had become irrefutable, when bodies were shown choking the Kagera River on the nightly news, the brute fact of the slaughter failed to influence U.S. policy except in a negative way. American officials, for a variety of reasons, shunned the use of what became known as “the g-word.” They felt that using it would have obliged the United States to act, under the terms of the 1948 Genocide Convention. They also believed, understandably, that it would harm U.S. credibility to name the crime and then do nothing to stop it.

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”

Christine Shelly, a State Department spokesperson, had long been charged with publicly articulating the U.S. position on whether events in Rwanda counted as genocide. For two months she had avoided the term, and as her June 10 exchange with the Reuters correspondent Alan Elsner reveals, her semantic dance continued.

Elsner: How would you describe the events taking place in Rwanda?

Shelly: Based on the evidence we have seen from observations on the ground, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred in Rwanda.

Elsner: What’s the difference between “acts of genocide” and “genocide”?

Shelly: Well, I think the—as you know, there’s a legal definition of this … clearly not all of the killings that have taken place in Rwanda are killings to which you might apply that label … But as to the distinctions between the words, we’re trying to call what we have seen so far as best as we can; and based, again, on the evidence, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred.

Elsner: How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?

Shelly: Alan, that’s just not a question that I’m in a position to answer.

In Gaza conflict, words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘genocide’ are potent weapons. Definitions matter
By Page Fortna

Terrorism is a tactic used for political ends. In my own research, I define it as “deliberately indiscriminate targeting of civilians.” This definition can apply to states as well as nonstates, and to groups widely lauded as well as those deplored. For instance, militant anti-apartheid groups, including the African National Congress, employed terrorism against South Africa. The Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization that fought the British to establish the state of Israel, also employed terrorist tactics.

Hamas’ targeting of civilians in their homes and a music festival and the slaughter of children on Oct. 7 unambiguously constitute terrorism. Settler violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank also constitutes terrorism.

It is possible to fight for a just cause by unjust means. Fighting for a just cause does not legitimize targeting civilians. Resisting occupation does not make terrorism permissible. By the same token, Israel’s imperative to defend against attacks by Hamas does not justify the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Gaza nor the deprivation and collective punishment that comes with civilian besiegement. International humanitarian law is clear: The ends do not justify the means.

By making a distinction between tactics and causes, between means and ends, it is possible to simultaneously condemn Hamas’ attacks as terrorism and stand for the rights of Palestinians to resist occupation. It is also possible to condemn the bombing of civilians in Gaza, along with the blockade that has cut off food, water, medicine and fuel, and support Israel’s right to security.

It is possible to understand and to condemn at the same time. It is also possible for both sides of a military conflict to be in the wrong.

Terrorism is quite good at provoking the other side into committing atrocities in response. And Israel, tragically and predictably, is falling into that trap. Daily images of destruction in Gaza are undermining support for Israel and feeding antisemitic narratives. Ultimately, they leave Israel less secure.

Both Israelis and Palestinians are being failed by those who purport to fight for them.

Israeli calls for Gaza’s ethnic cleansing are only getting louder
By Ishaan Tharoor

Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have called for the dropping of a nuclear bomb on densely-populated Gaza, the total annihilation of the territory as a mark of retribution, and the immiseration of its people to the point that they have no choice but to abandon their homeland.

This week alone, a parliamentarian from Netanyahu’s Likud party went on television and said it was clear to most Israelis that “all the Gazans need to be destroyed.” Then, Israel’s ambassador in Britain told local radio that there was no other solution for her country than to level “every school, every mosque, every second house” in Gaza to degrade Hamas’s military infrastructure.

This accumulating rhetoric forms part of the 84-page application filed by the government of South Africa at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of actions that amount to genocide or failure to prevent genocide. Though it condemns Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, the South African case argues “no armed attack on a State’s territory no matter how serious — even an attack involving atrocity crimes — can … provide any possible justification for, or defense to, breaches” of the Genocide Convention. Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, it explains, has already “laid waste to vast areas of Gaza, including entire neighborhoods, and has damaged or destroyed in excess of 355,000 Palestinian homes,” rendering swaths of the territory uninhabitable for a long period of time to come. Israeli authorities, claimed the South African complaint, have failed to suppress “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” from a host of Israeli politicians, journalists and public officials.

That includes far-right figures like finance minister Bezalel Smotrich and national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who do little to hide their vision of an ethnically-cleansed Gaza. “What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration,” Smotrich said in an interview Sunday with Israeli Army Radio. “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not 2 million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after will be totally different.” Ben Gvir separately called for the de facto forced migration of hundreds of thousands out of Gaza.

U.S. and other Western officials condemned these statements as “inflammatory and irresponsible.” But such pushback is doing little to change the tone of the conflict. Netanyahu himself, according to my colleagues, tried to cajole Egypt and other Arab governments and states elsewhere into taking Gazan refugees — a non-starter for many in the Middle East, who fear further Palestinian dispossession of their lands.

‘Erase Gaza’: War Unleashes Incendiary Rhetoric in Israel
By Mark Landler

“These are not just one-off statements, made in the heat of the moment,” said Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer and author of “The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine and the Legal Battle for Human Rights.”

“When ministers make statements like that,” Mr. Sfard added, “it opens the door for everyone else.”

In the long run, Mr. Sfard said, such language dooms the chance of ending the conflict with the Palestinians, erodes Israel’s democracy and breeds a younger generation that is “easily using the language in their discussion with their friends.”

“Once a certain rhetoric becomes legitimized, turning the wheel back requires a lot of education,” he said. “There is an old Jewish proverb: ‘A hundred wise men will struggle a long time to take out a stone that one stupid person dropped into the well.’”

Israeli public figures accuse judiciary of ignoring incitement to genocide in Gaza
By Emma Graham-Harrison and Quique Kierszenbaum

A group of prominent Israelis has accused the country’s judicial authorities of ignoring “extensive and blatant” incitement to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza by influential public figures.

In a letter to the attorney general and state prosecutors, they demand action to stop the normalisation of language that breaks both Israeli and international law.

The list of elite Israelis who have incited war crimes includes cabinet ministers and Knesset members, former top military officials, academics, media figures, social media influencers and celebrities, the letter says.

Comments quoted in the letter include several made by MPs. One, Yitzhak Kroizer, said in a radio interview: “The Gaza Strip should be flattened, and for all of them there is but one sentence, and that is death.”

Tally Gotliv, from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, demanded the prime minister use a nuclear bomb on Gaza for “strategic deterrence”, the letter says, quoting her as saying: “Before we consider inserting ground troops, doomsday weapon.”

Another Likud MP, Boaz Bismuth, is quoted as evoking the biblical massacre of the Amalek nation, enemies of ancient Israel. “It is forbidden to take mercy on the cruel, there’s no place for any humanitarian gestures,” he said with reference to Gaza, then added the biblical reference: “The memory of Amalek must be erased.”

Among other commenters cited is the journalist Zvi Yehezkeli, who said on Channel 13: “[We] should have killed many times 20,000 people, [we] should have begun with a blow of 100,000.”

The language of genocide risks influencing how Israel wages war, the letter says. “Normalised discourse which calls for annihilation, erasure, devastation and the like is liable to impact the manner by which soldiers conduct themselves.”

It highlights the November killing of Yuval Doron Kestelman, who stopped a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem bus stop by shooting two gunmen but was then shot himself by soldiers who arrived at the scene minutes later and assumed he was a terrorist.

IDF killing of 3 hostages ‘could have been prevented,’ investigation finds
By Bryan Pietsch and Frances Vinall

On Dec. 10, IDF soldiers raided several buildings in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that has seen fierce fighting (the IDF said last week it had gained operational control of Shejaiya). During the raid, IDF soldiers heard calls in Hebrew asking for help. They assessed that it was a trap by Hamas militants who sought to deceive them, the IDF report said. Such methods had been used in the past, it added.

On Dec. 14, the IDF said, signs reading “SOS” and “save three kidnapped people” were seen on a building that was about 650 feet from where the hostages were killed the next day.

During “intense fighting” on Dec. 15, an IDF soldier fired at three “figures” whom he had identified as a threat. Two were killed while one ran away, according to the investigation results. The soldier who fired the first shots “stood in a position with limited vision” of the hostages, the IDF said.

Commanders declared a cease-fire to try to identify the third person, who called out for help minutes later. Another cease-fire was ordered and the person “came out of a structure toward the force,” the IDF said. But two soldiers who had not heard the order to hold their fire “due to noise from a nearby tank” shot and killed the third person.

The hostages had emerged from the building shirtless and one was waving a white flag, the IDF said.

Hostage crisis poses dilemma for Israel and offers a path to victory for Hamas
By Joseph Krauss

Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, the alleged mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack against Israel, has reason to believe that as long as he holds the hostages, he can eventually end the war on his terms.

In over two decades spent inside Israeli prisons, Sinwar reportedly learned fluent Hebrew and studied Israeli society, and he identified a chink in the armor of his militarily superior adversary.

He learned that Israel cannot tolerate its people, especially soldiers, being held captive, and will go to extraordinary lengths to bring them home. Sinwar himself was among over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for a single captive soldier in 2011.

For Sinwar, the mass killings on Oct. 7 might have been a horrific sideshow to the main operation, which was to drag large numbers of hostages into a vast labyrinth of tunnels beneath Gaza, where Israel would be unable to rescue them, and where they could serve as human shields for Hamas leaders.

Once that was accomplished, he had a powerful bargaining chip that could be traded for large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, including top leaders serving life sentences, and an end to the Israeli onslaught that Hamas had anticipated.

No amount of 2,000-pound bombs could overcome the strategy’s brutal logic.

The Brutal Logic to Israel’s Actions in Gaza
By Raphael S. Cohen

By its own estimates, Israel has destroyed three-quarters of Hamas’ battalions and killed two of five brigade commanders, 19 of 24 battalion commanders, more than 50 platoon leaders, and 12,000 of Hamas’ 30,000 foot soldiers. American intelligence estimates are lower, but not by much: Between 20 to 30 percent of Hamas’ fighters and 20 to 40 percent of its tunnels are estimated to have been destroyed as of mid-January. It’s also worth remembering that Hamas is structured more like a conventional military than a pure terrorist group. As a rule of thumb, conventional forces are considered combat ineffective once they lose more than 30 percent of their strength and destroyed once they lose 50 percent.

Even if Israel does not stamp out Hamas entirely but merely succeeds in driving it out of power and underground, from Israel’s view, that is still a win—even if stops well short of its goal of destroying the group, for doing so would likely prove sufficient to prevent Hamas from launching another 3,000-man complex assault like the one Israel saw on Oct. 7. Finally, it’s worth remembering that it took the United States several years to defeat the Islamic State. Israel is just over five months into what its leaders promised will be a very long war.

To be sure, there are serious drawbacks to the Israeli approach. This war will encourage long-term radicalization of the Palestinian population, damage Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors, and tarnish Israel’s global reputation in a pretty serious way. Yet all of these problems are long term. Too often, states and politics live in the here and now.

Israelis from the leadership on down are keenly aware that their country was born out of the ashes of Holocaust as a safe-haven for Jews after millennia of persecution. Israel then spent its first quarter-century fighting for its very existence. The idea that the world is aligned against Israel is deeply embedded in the nation’s collective DNA, and chants of “from the river to the sea,” coupled with surging global antisemitism, only ensure that those fears remain very much alive today.

But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Israel caved to outside pressure and agreed to an immediate ceasefire. What would the day after look like? Hamas—as Israel and Hamas both acknowledge—would be left with a considerable military force, numbering in the thousands. Israel would then need to engage in another very lopsided deal to free the remaining hostages. In early February, Hamas wanted 1,500 prisoners freed from Israeli jails, including at least 500 serving life sentences for murder and other crimes, in exchange for the hostages.

So, at minimum, the group’s ranks would soon swell. And invariably, some of those released would be quite dangerous. After all, Yahya Sinwar—the head of Hamas in Gaza and alleged mastermind of the Oct. 7 attacks—was freed from an Israeli prison, where he was serving a life sentence for murder, in the 2011 trade of 1,027 prisoners for one captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. None of this recent history bodes particularly well for long-term peace.

Even before Oct. 7, the majority of Israelis didn’t believe in a two-state solution, or that peace was even possible. There are likely even fewer who believe that now, especially if a Palestinian state were to include Hamas in some form. Consider how unfathomable it would have been for most Americans to support the creation of a state with al Qaeda at its helm just five months after 9/11. There is no reason to believe that the Israeli public should be any different. Given considerable support for Hamas among the Palestinian population, it would be politically impossible to exclude Hamas from a new, democratic Palestinian government. And even if the new state’s government is less than democratic, it would have trouble excluding Hamas entirely—even if it wanted to—if the group still has thousands of men under arms.

Israel’s Muddled Strategy in Gaza
By Daniel Byman

No visitor to Israel can miss the sense of pain, fury, and mistrust that pervades every conversation. The term “earthquake” came up again and again when I asked about October 7. One Israeli security official declared that “something fundamental broke” in the country that day. (To encourage candor, we agreed to not to identify our interview subjects.) Israelis believe that they cannot go back to a pre–October 7 world, with a hostile and intact Hamas across the border in Gaza. In their eyes, the brutality of the attacks showed Hamas to be beyond redemption, unable to be deterred or contained.

The problem goes beyond Gaza, however. With justification, many Israelis blame Iran for Hamas’s impressive arsenal and the innovative methods of its fighters. They fear that Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, will also attack Israel, using its exponentially larger rocket arsenal and far more skilled fighters to launch a much more devastating attack on Israel’s north. Since October 7, over 200,000 Israelis have fled areas near Gaza and Lebanon.

At the same time, Israelis no longer trust their own security institutions. As one Israeli security official explained, “Before October 7, intelligence told the country, ‘We know Hamas,’ while the military said, ‘We can handle Hamas.’” Both, he added, were wrong. It is now hard for Israeli leaders to reassure the public that next time, the military and intelligence services will keep them safe.

To rebuild public confidence, Israeli leaders have vowed to utterly destroy Hamas. Days after the attack, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issued one such pledge. “We will wipe this thing called Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, off the face of the earth,” he said. “It will cease to exist.”

Israel has waged one of this century’s most destructive wars in Gaza
By Evan Hill, Imogen Piper, Meg Kelly and Jarrett Ley

The evidence shows that Israel has carried out its war in Gaza at a pace and level of devastation that likely exceeds any recent conflict, destroying more buildings, in far less time, than were destroyed during the Syrian regime’s battle for Aleppo from 2013 to 2016 and the U.S.-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, in 2017.

“The scale of Palestinian civilian deaths in such a short period of time appears to be the highest such civilian casualty rate in the 21st century,” said Michael Lynk, who served as the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories from 2016 to 2022.

In a reply to questions from The Post, the Israel Defense Forces sent a statement saying: “In response to Hamas’ barbaric attacks, the IDF is operating to dismantle Hamas military and administrative capabilities. In stark contrast to Hamas’ intentional attacks on Israeli men, women and children, the IDF follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm.”

Soon after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, Israeli military leaders signaled their intent to retaliate with widespread devastation.

On Oct. 10, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops he had “released all the restraints” and that “Gaza will never return to what it was.” The same day, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said that “while balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage.”

In a little over two months, Israeli air forces fired more than 29,000 air-to-ground munitions, 40 to 45 percent of which were unguided, according to a recent assessment from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The bombing rate has been about 2½ times as high as the peak of the U.S.-led coalition’s effort to defeat the Islamic State, which at its height fired 5,075 air-to-ground munitions across both Iraq and Syria in one month, according to data from the research and advocacy group Airwars.

The Devastation of Gaza Was Inevitable
By Barry R. Posen

When war is fought among civilians, civilians are killed. Among the most poignant examples is from World War II: the number of French citizens killed by Allied bombing in the months prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion. The allies bombed lines of communication heavily to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their coastal defenses along the English Channel. Historians suggest that some 20,000 French civilians who had the misfortune of living near ports, bridges, roads, or railroad infrastructure were killed in these attacks and during the subsequent two months of ground and air operations.

Some would say that this is ancient history; we would never do that again. But more recent history suggests that, though modern weapons are considerably more accurate and procedures in Western militaries to avoid collateral damage are more formalized, fighting among civilians, especially in urban areas, always means hell on earth for the civilians who may be trapped there.

Whatever else one can say about Hamas, it is a capable and ruthless adversary. The IDF faced four main problems in starting its operation—the size and quality of the Hamas military force; the urban environment; Hamas’s comprehensive preparation of the terrain, especially including hundreds of miles of tunnels and deeply buried bunkers; and Hamas’s systematic integration of its troops and prepared defenses with the civilian population.

The size and quality of the Hamas military force creates a major problem in its own right. Observers estimate that at the outset of the fighting, Hamas had between 15,000 and 40,000 soldiers, with its actual combat power reportedly concentrated in five brigades.

Hamas troops also appear to be well trained, and they benefited from advice by more experienced military experts, both from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Iran. Hamas’s forces, so far as can be known, are well equipped with light and heavy infantry weapons—such as assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns, shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket launchers, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles. Hamas has manufactured and imported hundreds of artillery-type rockets, most of them unguided, and some with ranges as long as 150 kilometers (93 miles). Hamas also avails itself of commercially available off-the-shelf surveillance technology, including drones and digital cameras.

If the well-equipped, armored forces of the IDF met these Hamas troops on a flat plain, they probably would make short work of them. But a well-trained and well-armed infantry force becomes formidable in an urban environment.

The urban environment favors the tactical defense because it provides the defender with concealment, cover, and canalization.

Buildings provide multiple hiding places. Basements offer not only hiding spots, but also natural bunkers, which can be used to shelter from enemy weapons and protect one’s own fighters so they can shoot effectively. Where there are tall buildings, upper floors provide firing positions and unobstructed fields of fire for long shots down city streets, and they also enable observation of enemy movements. Streets and roads channel the movement of adversary forces; they are natural positions for an ambush.

These attributes can easily be improved by defenders. Holes are knocked in walls within buildings to permit movement from room to room and building to building, obscured from view. Tunnels and trenches are also dug from building to building. Basements and upper floors can be reinforced with sandbags to protect against bullets and shrapnel, as well as with vertical steel and wooden beams to prevent ceiling collapse. Bunkers and firing positions are often built in the interior of buildings, with weapons sighted through holes cut in several layers of interior and exterior walls to confuse the targets about the source of fire. Entrances and stairways are mined and booby-trapped against infantry assault.

Because of the urban environment and the ease with which it can be improved, the defender usually has another line of defensible positions to which it can retreat under pressure, starting the whole process of attack and defense over again.

The effect of an urban environment on offensive operations is almost always an increase in the attacker’s reliance on firepower.

Hamas further improved the urban environment with a vast subterranean construction project—a deeply buried tunnel network that seems to serve both tactical and strategic purposes. Some tunnels link together fighting positions to support tactical maneuvers, surprise counterattacks and ambushes, and resupply efforts. Others permit leaders to move from their residences to their offices. Some lead to bunkers, which allow command and combat groups to work and rest underground. Presumably, other bunkers contain reserves of ammunition, including long-range rockets. And little has been said about where Hamas builds its weapons, but it seems likely that there are small fabrication facilities underground.

The inherent defensive possibilities of the urban environment, combined with a significant subterranean component constructed over many years, produced a vast fortress system.

To try to take buildings and more importantly take the tunnel system solely through a series of tactical ground force engagements would not only take a great deal of time, but it would also immeasurably add to the ground force casualties Israel would have been likely to suffer. No military would embrace this prospect. Moreover, even a direct attack would be very destructive insofar as it would ultimately require the demolition of the tunnels from the inside out using large quantities of high explosives.

We cannot know exactly how the IDF chooses which portions of Hamas’s tunnel system to attack from the air, but any sustained attack would depend on bombs of great penetration capability and explosive power. (Western media has been critical of the IDF’s use of one-ton bombs; CNN has analyzed more than 500 large craters in Gaza and found them consistent with those produced by underground explosions.) Because Hamas routes these tunnels under and into buildings throughout Gaza, Israeli attacks inevitably also produce damage on the surface. Though tunnels and underground bunkers are not the only target for the Israeli Air Force, their importance and ubiquity likely induce many of its strikes.

Observers can understand Israeli choices without endorsing them, or more importantly, supporting them. But they should understand the reasons for their opposition. Individuals can oppose Israel’s war on the basis of their own morality, but the United States as a nation, given its own military history, including recent history, does not have much ethical ground to stand on in decrying Israeli strategy.

Hamas, for its part, appears unconcerned about putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. Indeed, this is a feature, not a bug, of their political and military strategy. Some use the term “human shield” for this strategy, but that is incomplete. This element of Hamas’s strategy could also be described as “human camouflage,” and more ruthlessly as “human ammunition.”

On a daily basis, the activities of civil society obscure Hamas’s activities. More importantly, Hamas understands that civilian casualties are an Achilles’ heel for Western military operations. Liberal democracies put a high value on the individual, and hence on every human life. Lawyers have developed an elaborate legal structure to regulate the conduct of warfare because of this respect for the individual, which is enshrined in international treaties.

Western militaries, including the IDF, try to live by these laws, though the law of armed conflict does not proscribe them from waging war. They try to follow these rules in part because they reflect the values of the societies that they serve and in part because of an expectation of reciprocity, but also because pragmatically, they know that lots of civilian casualties can become a political liability at home and abroad. Hamas spends the lives of Palestinian civilians as ammunition in an information war. They are not the first to do so, and they probably will not be the last.

Israel-Gaza war: Mystery fate of six-year-old Palestinian girl trapped under fire
By Lucy Williamson

The voice on the other end of the line was small and faint; a six-year-old’s voice, crackling on a mobile phone from Gaza.

“The tank is next to me. It’s moving.”

Sitting in the emergency call-centre of the Palestinian Red Crescent, Rana tried to keep her own voice calm.

“Is it very close?”

“Very, very,” the small voice replied. “Will you come and get me? I’m so scared.”

There was nothing Rana could do except keep the conversation going.

Operator Rana Faqih stayed on the line with Hind for hours, as the Red Crescent appealed to the Israeli army to allow their ambulance to access the location.

“She was shaking, sad, appealing for help,” Rana remembered. “She told us [her relatives] were dead. But then later she described them as ‘sleeping’. So we told her ‘let them sleep, we don’t want to bother them’.”

Hind kept asking, over and over again, for someone to come and get her.

“At one point, she told me it was getting dark,” Rana told the BBC. “She was scared. She asked me how far away my house was. I felt paralysed and helpless.”

Three hours after the call began, an ambulance was finally despatched to rescue Hind.

“It’s hard at night,” the call operator Rana said, “when you wake up and hear her voice in your ear, saying ‘come and get me'”.

“Where is the International Court of Justice? Why are presidents sitting in their chairs?” Hind’s mother, Wissam, asked.

A week on from her daughter’s disappearance, Wissam sits and waits at the Ahli hospital, day after day, filling the absence with a resolute hope that Hind will be brought back alive.

“I’ve brought her things, and I’m waiting for her here,” she said. “I’m waiting for my daughter any moment, any second. I’m begging from a broken mother’s heart not to forget this story.”

Missing 6-Year-Old and Rescue Team Found Dead in Gaza, Aid Group Says
By Raja Abdulrahim

A 6-year-old Palestinian girl and the two rescuers who went looking for her nearly two weeks ago were found dead on Saturday, the Palestine Red Crescent said, ending a desperate effort to discover their fates.

Two rescuers with the Red Crescent were dispatched in an ambulance on the evening of Jan. 29 to find Hind Rajab, who was believed to be trapped in a vehicle in Gaza City with six dead family members. The aid group said they had been killed by Israeli fire.

A Red Crescent statement on Saturday accused Israeli forces of bombing the ambulance as it arrived “just meters away from the vehicle containing the trapped child Hind,” and killing the two rescuers inside. It said this happened “despite prior coordination” between the Red Crescent and the Israeli military.

Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has left more than 27,000 people in Gaza dead in the past four months, according to health authorities in the territory. More than 12,000 of the dead are children, according to Gazan authorities.

Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on a post on social media that when an ambulance appears to have been attacked on its way to help the child, it raises serious questions that need to be answered.

“She was found 12 days after her crushing appeal for help, and I cannot imagine the horrors she experienced,” Mr. Wennesland said.

Hind Rajab, 6, found dead in Gaza days after phone calls for help
By Lucy Williamson

Hind’s mother told us – before her body was discovered – that she was waiting for her daughter “any moment, any second”.

Now she is demanding that someone be held accountable.

“For every person who heard my voice and my daughter’s pleading voice, yet did not rescue her, I will question them before God on the Day of Judgement,” she told the BBC. “Netanyahu, Biden, and all those who collaborated against us, against Gaza and its people, I pray against them from the depths of my heart.”

At the hospital where she waited for news of her daughter, Hind’s mother, Wissam, still holds the little pink bag she was keeping for her. Inside it, a notebook where Hind had been practising her handwriting.

“How many more mothers are you waiting to feel this pain? How many more children do you want to get killed?” she said.

Doctors who visited Gaza speak of ‘appalling atrocities’ from Israel’s offensive
By Josie Kao

Nick Maynard, a surgeon who was last in Gaza in January with British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, recalled seeing a child who had been burned so badly that he could see her facial bones.

“We knew there was no chance of her surviving that but there was no morphine to give her,” Maynard, a cancer surgeon, told the event at the U.N. headquarters in New York. “So not only was she inevitably going to die but she would die in agony.”

Another seven-year-old child, Hiyam Abu Khdeir, arrived at the Gaza European Hospital with third-degree burns on 40% of her body, after an Israeli airstrike on her home killed her father and brother and injured her mother, said Zaher Sahloul, a critical care specialist with humanitarian group MedGlobal.

After weeks of delay, she was evacuated to Egypt for treatment but died two days later, Sahloul said.

In Gaza, ‘Wounded Child, No Surviving Family’ cases show depth of crisis
By Niha Masih

But survival is no guarantee of an escape from the horror summed up by medical workers in a grim new initialism: WCNSF.

Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.

Doctors and aid workers say these unaccompanied children often have grisly injuries: deep tissue burns, lung contusions, brain damage, lost limbs, shrapnel wounds. Some arrive unconscious. Some need immediate resuscitation.

Israeli forces have destroyed more than 70,000 housing units, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and damaged 290,000 others — an assault the agency describes as “domicide.” People in Gaza seek refuge wherever they believe they might be safest, Abu Sitta said; extended families often cram into a single unit. “When the Israelis would bomb that apartment,” he said, “it would wipe out three generations.”

The Israel Defense Forces, asked to comment, said it was not possible yet to produce an accurate count of “the degree of destruction to Palestinian homes.” The IDF said its “actions are based on military necessity and with accordance to international law.”

Since the start of the war, aid agencies have delivered warning upon warning about the harrowing toll it is exacting on children. Nearly 10 percent of Gazan children under age 5 are acutely malnourished, according to OCHA. About 1,000 children have lost one or both legs, according to UNICEF. Those who remain physically unscathed, Save the Children says, are experiencing grave psychological trauma.

But the heaviest burden for children, doctors and aid workers say, is losing their families. In some cases, orphans are not immediately told.

I’m an American doctor who went to Gaza. What I saw wasn’t war — it was annihilation
By Irfan Galaria

In late January, I left my home in Virginia, where I work as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and joined a group of physicians and nurses traveling to Egypt with the humanitarian aid group MedGlobal to volunteer in Gaza.

I have worked in other war zones. But what I witnessed during the next 10 days in Gaza was not war — it was annihilation. At least 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. From Cairo, Egypt’s capital, we drove 12 hours east to the Rafah border. We passed miles of parked humanitarian aid trucks because they weren’t allowed into Gaza. Aside from my team and other envoy members from the United Nations and World Health Organization, there were very few others there.

I began work immediately, performing 10 to 12 surgeries a day, working 14 to 16 hours at a time. The operating room would often shake from the incessant bombings, sometimes as frequent as every 30 seconds. We operated in unsterile settings that would’ve been unthinkable in the United States. We had limited access to critical medical equipment: We performed amputations of arms and legs daily, using a Gigli saw, a Civil War-era tool, essentially a segment of barbed wire. Many amputations could’ve been avoided if we’d had access to standard medical equipment. It was a struggle trying to care for all the injured within the constructs of a healthcare system that has utterly collapsed.

In Gaza, starving children fill hospital wards as famine looms
By Mohammad Salem and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

More than five months into Israel’s ground and air campaign, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, there are widespread shortages of food, medicines and clean water in Gaza, doctors and aid agencies say.

The Kamal Adwan hospital, caring for Fadi, had also treated most of the 27 children the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says have died of malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks.

Others died in Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital, also in the north, the ministry said, and in the southernmost city of Rafah, where the U.N. relief agency says over 1 million Palestinians have sought refuge from Israel’s offensive.

Without urgent action, famine will hit between now and May in northern Gaza, where 300,000 people are trapped by fighting, the world’s hunger watchdog, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), said in a review, opens new tab on Monday.

The review’s most likely scenario said “extremely critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality” were imminent for more than two thirds of the people in the north. The IPC is made up of U.N. agencies and global aid groups.

Israel’s COGAT, the military body that handles aid transfers to Gaza, did not specifically respond to Reuters questions about the deaths of children from hunger and dehydration. It said Israel put no limits on the amount of aid that can enter.

Israel pushed Gaza to ‘brink of collapse’: WikiLeaks
By NBC News

Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip was meant to push the area’s economy “to the brink of collapse,” according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks on Wednesday, signaling that Israel was well aware that the policy was taking a heavy toll on the area’s civilian population.

Israeli leaders have long maintained that the blockade was necessary to weaken the ruling Hamas militant group.

The March 2008 document, published Wednesday by Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper, indicates that Israel hoped to accomplish that goal by targeting Gaza’s 1.5 million people.

Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

According to the cable, Israeli officials repeatedly told American diplomats that the embargo sought to damage the Gazan economy.

“Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis,” it says.

“As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed … on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” it adds.

Father’s plea for starving children in north Gaza after son dies of malnutrition
By David Gritten

The father of Ali, a Palestinian baby boy who recently died of malnutrition and dehydration at northern Gaza’s only paediatrics hospital, has appealed for help for the other children being treated there, as the UN warns of famine if aid deliveries are not substantially increased.

“Ali was born in wartime and there was no food or anything for his mother to eat – a matter which caused his kidneys to fail,” the man – who did not want to be named – said in an interview recorded for BBC Arabic’s Gaza Lifeline radio service.

“Ali’s life got worse day after day. We tried to get him treated at hospitals, but there was no help… Ali died in front of the entire world, which kept watching him pass away.”

Tragically, Ali was just one of at least 10 children who a World Health Organisation team said had died as a result of a lack of food at the overwhelmed Kamal Adwan hospital in the town of Beit Lahia, following a visit over the weekend.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry has reported the deaths of 18 children due to malnutrition and dehydration across the territory since last week, with at least 15 happening at Kamal Adwan. It has also expressed fears for six infants who it said were being treated for malnutrition at the hospital.

Enough food ‘to feed entire population’ sitting outside Gaza as malnutrition death toll reaches at least 20: WFP
By Riley Hoffman and Will Gretsky

As malnutrition-related deaths continue to rise in Gaza, the World Food Programme (WFP) has enough food to feed “the entire population of Gaza” waiting outside the Gaza Strip said Samer AbdelJaber, WFP director of emergency.

At least 20 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

“We need land crossings, we need access to get it into Gaza, whether in the southern parts of Gaza or the northern part of Gaza because the situation is catastrophic. So having access is really our number one priority,” said AbdelJaber.

Israel has denied accusations that it isn’t letting enough aid into Gaza, with officials saying the U.N., its partners and other aid agencies have created logistical challenges, resulting in a bottleneck. The U.N. disputes these claims.

Israel has also blamed Hamas for the lack of aid, claiming the group is holding aid for itself and not distributing it to Gazans. Hamas denies the allegations.

‘If they are starving to death, give us the hostages back’
By Clarissa Ward and Brent Swails

For weeks Israeli border officers allowed protesters to disrupt the critical aid convoys at Kerem Shalom, the country’s sole functioning border crossing with Gaza. But at the end of last month, with international pressure and condemnation mounting, authorities announced they were moving additional officers to the crossing to take back control. But even with the area now declared a closed military zone, protesters continue to arrive and try to outmaneuver the police.

The protests are being led by the “Tsav 9” movement, a grouping of demobilized reservists, families of hostages and settlers. Its name, meaning “Order 9,” is a reference to the emergency mobilization notices that call up reservists.

The protesters say they fear the aid is helping militants still holding their friends and relatives hostage, five months after the murderous cross-border raids led by Hamas that killed about 1,200 people in Israel with 200 more being taken prisoner. They hope preventing food and supplies from entering Gaza will force Hamas to release them. A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that two-thirds of Jewish Israelis support their view opposing the transfer of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Gaza’s spiraling, unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe
By Ishaan Tharoor

Some analysts couldn’t help but consider the irony of the United States dropping supplies onto a population that’s seeking respite from months of Israeli attacks with U.S.-made munitions. Such measures would “mostly serve to relieve the guilty consciences of senior U.S. officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine in Gaza,” said Scott Paul, Oxfam’s humanitarian director, in a statement.

The Looming Famine in Gaza
By Hardin Lang and Jeremy Konyndyk

In the modern era, famine is both predictable and preventable. Sophisticated early-warning analyses can project the risk of famine with a reliability that rivals hurricane early-warning systems. When these forecasts indicate an impending famine, humanitarian organizations have well-tested strategies at their disposal to avert the worst outcomes, including delivering enriched food products, rolling out innovative ready-to-use malnutrition therapies, and launching proven public health interventions, all deployed through world-class logistics networks.

These interventions, however, succeed only if humanitarians have the space and safety to do their jobs. And that, in turn, depends on politics. At present, the wartime conduct of the Israeli government is both accelerating Gaza’s descent toward mass hunger and obstructing the deployment of the resources necessary to prevent it. In an incident emblematic of the larger problem, a clearly marked UN relief convoy waiting at an Israeli military checkpoint was bombarded on February 5 by Israeli naval forces despite having cleared the movement with the Israeli military in advance. The UN was forced to halt food deliveries to northern Gaza for weeks as a result.

The United States is likely the only outside power that can ensure a famine is avoided, given the leverage it has with its ally Israel. As negotiations about a second cease-fire and hostages-for-prisoners swap gain steam, the United States has a crucial opportunity to press Israel to change course and allow a major famine-prevention effort. U.S. President Joe Biden must act now to make famine prevention a top priority and be prepared to deploy meaningful U.S. leverage—including pausing arms sales—if the Israeli government does not comply. Famine would not only constitute a humanitarian cataclysm; it would also represent a geopolitical failure that would damage U.S. credibility in the Middle East for years to come.

Washington’s Looming Middle Eastern Quagmire
By Joost Hiltermann

As the Biden administration has doubled down on the surge of additional U.S. arms and forces to the Middle East, however, it is not clear that U.S. policymakers have thought through the second- and third-order effects of amplifying the United States’ security role in the region and how it will be perceived by adversaries and allies alike. Specifically, there are three risks that the Biden administration must acknowledge and address: escalation, backlash, and overstretch.

First, although the Pentagon has argued that deployments since October 7 are intended to prevent a wider war, it seems equally likely the surge in U.S. forces could end up triggering an escalatory spiral rather than preventing one. Since October 7, attacks by Iranian proxies on U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq and Syria have mounted, even as the United States has augmented its regional presence and launched retaliatory strikes on militia infrastructure targets in Syria. Neither these additional forces nor the multiple rounds of airstrikes, including some that have reportedly killed militia members, appears to have done much to deter U.S. adversaries. If anything, rather, such attacks have become more brazen; the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, for instance, recently shot down an unmanned American drone over the Red Sea, and have been launching strikes aimed at Israel since the start of the current conflagration.

Second, it is not just among adversaries that this new U.S. military influx could spawn unforeseen challenges. It could also undermine relationships with key American allies and partners such as Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and others. Washington has long relied on the provision of security guarantees and military assistance as the core of its engagement in the Middle East. But the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the waves of anti-Americanism sweeping across the Arab world, and the very real divergence between Arab governments and Washington over Israel’s prosecution of its campaign risk eroding the bedrock of U.S.-Arab security cooperation—especially as the United States’ military presence in the region becomes both more visible and more controversial.

Finally, this renewed U.S. posture in the region could herald a return to bad habits on the part of the United States—a retread of its habitual strategy of leaning on large U.S. military deployments and arms transfers to underwrite the region’s security against external threats. This approach has not made the region safer. Instead, decades of U.S. military involvement have exacerbated regional rivalries and fueled arms races that have worsened local conflicts, to say nothing of the disastrous repercussions of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which included hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), and the deterioration of the United States’ global reputation. Moreover, years of unconditional U.S. security assistance to Middle Eastern partners have often emboldened these regimes to act in ways that have severely undermined regional stability and human rights—including, for instance, Saudi Arabia’s backing of the Yemeni government in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, or the UAE’s intervention in the conflict in Libya.

The Crumbling Pillars of Biden’s Middle East ‘Doctrine’
By Gregg Carlstrom

Outside of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a club of stable petro-monarchies, the region is an arc of failed or failing states. Four countries are mired in civil war. Egypt, the most populous Arab country, is teetering on the brink of default, while Lebanon is enduring one of the worst economic crises in modern history. The list of calamities goes on, and the Middle East only looks quiet if one ignores it. But that is exactly what the Biden administration has tried to do.

American officials have struggled to articulate a “Biden doctrine” in the region, but Sullivan came closest in his September speech: “We want to depressurize, deescalate and ultimately integrate the Middle East region,” he said. To do that the administration relied on three strands of policy: promote Arab-Israeli normalization, pursue diplomacy with Iran and push efforts at economic integration. These strands were meant to reinforce one another. They would ease the tensions of the Trump years, forge a new security alliance in the region and lock everyone in a virtuous circle of stability and growth.

Everything else was shunted aside.

I Saw What Happened to America’s Postwar Plans for Iraq. Here’s How Israel Should Plan for Gaza.
By Thomas S. Warrick

What we’re seeing now in Israel and Gaza gives me the same grave concern so many of us felt 20 years ago: a lot of talk about military plans and the devastation of war and not enough about what will need to come after.

One reason the State Department’s best postwar plan for Iraq, which has still never been made public, was rejected by the White House was that Pentagon officials argued that a three-year timeline was too long. Decision makers opted for the siren song of one year or less and vastly inadequate physical or political reconstruction money, without regard for the reality that fast and cheap was doomed to fail. Instead, the United States expended more in blood and treasure from 2003 to 2011 and ended up strategically worse off than if a better postwar plan had been given the resources and time needed upfront. A repeat of Israel’s 15-year occupation of southern Lebanon is neither realistic nor desirable, but neither is the more recent pattern of quick ground incursions followed by withdrawals, or what’s called mowing the grass.

As David Fromkin wrote in “A Peace to End All Peace,” it took Europe well over a thousand years to settle the fall of the Roman Empire. No one should be surprised that it is taking the Middle East more than a hundred years to settle the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

This War Did Not Start a Month Ago
By Dalia Hatuqa

If people are going to understand this latest conflict and see a path forward for everyone, we need to be more honest, nuanced and comprehensive about the recent decades of history in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, particularly the impact of occupation and violence on the Palestinians. This story is measured in decades, not weeks; it is not one war, but a continuum of destruction, revenge and trauma.

Since the 1948 nakba — in which entire Palestinian villages were wiped off the map and the modern state of Israel was established — Palestinians have endured a subjugation that has defined their daily lives. For decades, we have been reeling from Israel’s military occupation, as well as a succession of deadly invasions and wars. The wars of 1967 and 1973 helped shape the modern geography and geopolitics of the area, with millions of largely stateless Palestinians split between Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza, often referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison, Palestinians are prohibited from entering or leaving, except in incredibly rare circumstances.

This history has been absent from much of the discourse surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, as though the attacks of Oct. 7 were completely arbitrary. The truth is, even in times of relative peace, Palestinians are second-class citizens in Israel — if they are deemed citizens at all. According to Israeli law, Palestinians do not have the right to national self-determination, which is reserved for Jewish citizens of the state. A variety of laws restrict Palestinians’ right to movement, governing everything from where they can live to what personal identifications they can hold to whether or not they can visit family members elsewhere.

The “right of return” — the right of Palestinians and their descendants to return to villages they were ethnically cleansed from during the 1948 war — is central to many Palestinians’ political perspective because so many are still, legally, refugees. In Gaza, for instance, roughly two-thirds of the population consists of refugees. This status is not some abstraction; it dictates everything from where people live to which schools they go to or doctors they see.

Many Gazans have parents and grandparents who grew up only a few miles from where they live now, in areas they are now, of course, forbidden to enter. They still invoke rich memories from their childhood or adolescence, when they walked through citrus groves in Yaffa or olive fields in Qumya — the latter of which, like many villages whose people were expelled into Gaza during the 1948 war, was later transformed into a kibbutz.

There have been periods of increased cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians over the past 75 years. But these were usually preceded by times of increased conflict, such as the first and second intifadas, or popular uprisings. The intifadas, in which Palestinians participated in large-scale resistance, sometimes civil and sometimes violent, are often presented by Western media as random or indiscriminate bursts of murderous savagery — as has been the case with the Oct. 7 attacks. But that violence did not happen in a vacuum.

Stark conditions in Palestinian communities — including the ever-tightening control of daily life through violent night raids, arrests, military checkpoints and the building of illegal Israeli settlements — were the backdrop to these outbursts. Unfortunately, from a historical standpoint, these acts of violence seem to be the only things that have moved the needle politically for Palestinians.

No Exit From Gaza
By Joost Hiltermann

Both Israel and Hamas see their current paths as forced upon them. Hamas at first played the political game. It participated in Palestinian elections, which it won in 2006, only to be denied victory. After thwarting an attempt by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to wrest power from it, Hamas assumed governance of Gaza only to see Israel impose a suffocating blockade. In the following years, it fought several wars with Israel, each time hoping that international acknowledgment of the unsustainability of the Gazans’ situation might lead to pressure on Israel to lift its siege. As this unfolded, Israel tried to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict disappear, or settle it on its own terms, through military rule and the expansion of settlements in the territories it has occupied since 1967. It also tried “shrinking” the conflict through seeking an Arab-Israeli peace that would improve the day-to-day lives of Palestinians but not fulfill their aspiration for a state of their own.

How Trump advanced Arab-Israeli peace but fueled Palestinian rage
By Isaac Stanley-Becker

The negotiations occurred outside of standard diplomatic channels and broke with long-standing foreign policy consensus treating peace with the Palestinians as a condition for Israel’s more thorough integration with the Arab world, building on ties that previously existed only with Egypt and Jordan.

The accords were perhaps Trump’s signature foreign policy achievement. Yet the diplomatic process they set in motion — especially the prospect of Saudi participation — contributed to Palestinian alienation that hastened the attack by Hamas, say current and former American, Israeli and Arab officials. And the attack, in turn, is now testing whether normal Israeli-Arab relations can hold.

The Abraham Accords represented “one of the reasons” for the Oct. 7 attack, which “obstructed and complicated all strategies and agreements … that deny the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people,” said Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, the political faction that controls the Palestinian Authority. The attack, he added in an interview, “put the Palestinian issue back on the international agenda.”

The Middle East Has Locked Itself in a Slaughterhouse
By Hisham Melhem

Once again, the time of the assassins and their enablers in the Middle East is upon us. The long knives have been unsheathed, and their sharp blades have harvested thousands of civilians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, with the shrieks of lamentations mixed with the exhortations for more blood conveyed simultaneously from the chorus in the background. Israeli and Palestinian combatants have been locked in a deadly embrace for four weeks, as if they have decided finally to finish their epic 100 years of struggles and yearnings, dreams and delusions. They are on the killing floor of a slaughterhouse of their own design.

Listening to Israeli officials speaking in English and Hamas leaders in Arabic, one could easily use their words interchangeably. With absolutist certainties and blind convictions, and driven by unbridled intensity, they have hurtled their world and those who live in it—and those on its periphery—into uncharted chaos. The warriors for a redeemed Israel and a liberated Palestine have declared, with words and deeds, the death of innocence on the other side. No one is to be spared. Not even a child, much less any abstract ethical idea, has sanctity when the long knives are clanging.

Both sides rushed to resurrect their conflicting narratives and revived the clash of their memories. Empathy with those civilians suffering beyond the veil of self-righteousness is forbidden, even treasonous. And if you are an Israeli, don’t you dare contextualize the conflict, lest you help your enemies.

Incitement, demonization, and intimidation have followed in the wake of Oct. 7, along with groupthink, collective denials, and the extreme intolerance of even a hint of dissent, not to mention the trivialization of the histories and experiences of both peoples.

Some ranked Hamas’s butchery with the Holocaust, a shocking trivialization of the greatest crime against the Jews in modern times. Some on the other side denied that Hamas killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood and proceeded to call it resistance. Many Western governments, led by the United States, supported and even embraced wholeheartedly Israel’s vow to exact absolute revenge, an unconditional support that came to haunt them later when the extent of the retribution reached biblical proportions.

Israel and Palestine Are Now in a Religious War
By Caroline de Gruyter

Something strange is going on with Israel, writes Elie Barnavi, a former Israeli ambassador to France and a prominent historian and writer, in his autobiography Confessions d’un bon à rien: In less than a century his country “has gone through the entire sequence of European wars, but in reverse order.”

In Europe, religious wars raged on for most of the 16th and 17th centuries, fought between Catholics and protestants and their regional, princely or city-state backers. The situation only changed after the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, a double peace treaty that put an end to both the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic. From then on, states became the predominant actors in international politics. They certainly fought terrible wars, but also managed to contain and prevent them through peace conferences—the Concert of Vienna (1814-15) for example—where European powers guaranteed non-interference in each other’s spheres of influence. Finally, interstate wars in Europe stopped altogether after the Second World War, at least among member states of what has become the European Union.

Israel, Barnavi argues, took the opposite trajectory. Israel’s wars began as battles between states: the Jewish state against neighboring Arab states, involving one national army fighting another. This interstate warfare ended with the Yom Kippur War in 1973. After that, Israel no longer fought large-scale wars against other states and instead mainly fought Palestinian guerrillas. Even in that new phase, however, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained a conflict between two nations, two national movements, over the same piece of land. Because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, this struggle—which is raging still today—took on a colonial dimension.

Beyond that, crucially, the war has changed in character. On both sides, politics and society are now deeply divided. Both in Israel and Palestine, the main internal division is between those who are secular and those who are religiously motivated. On both sides, the religious camp seems to be getting the upper hand.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Politico wrote recently, is “losing control” of his government because his far-right, religious coalition partners are uncompromising and pushing their way. For instance, the Israeli Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, and Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir—who both live in Israeli settlements in the West Bank—have publicly called for “migration” of Palestinians from Gaza and building new Israeli settlements there, and have referred to Palestinians as “human animals” and “Nazis.” Despite U.S. pressure, they have also refused to transfer tax revenues that Israel routinely collects for the Palestinian Authority to the government in Ramallah, Palestine’s de facto administrative capital. Netanyahu obviously no longer controls his own ministers. His religious coalition partners know he will not fire them. If he does, the government would fall and the prime minister, who faces charges on three cases of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, would lose the immunity that currently keeps him out of reach of the judiciary.

On the Palestinian side, things are no better. For many Palestinians, 88-year old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has lost all credibility. Under his 19-year tenure, the Palestinian cause and the fight against the Israeli occupation have largely disappeared from the international agenda. Hamas puts them back on that agenda. A December 2023 poll showed that Hamas’s popularity was actually growing—even among secular Palestinians who normally do not support Hamas and condemn the Oct. 7, 2023, massacres. This result should be seen as a sign of utter political despair; they have lost hope that less extremist leaders can achieve a just peace with Israel.

Europe’s wars of religion were terrible. Everybody was fighting everybody, and there was no restraint in warfare. The French 16th-century philosopher Michel de Montaigne lived through them and wrote about them in his Essays. These wars led him to develop his theory of political governance and change through “petits pas” (little steps) instead of revolutionary, sweeping movements, so as to contain extremism and bloodshed. If religious lunatics have their way, he noted, compromises are no longer possible.

Gaza war may stoke ‘generational’ terrorism threat, top intel official says
By Shane Harris, Abigail Hauslohner and Ellen Nakashima

The top U.S. intelligence official on Monday warned that the war in Gaza could embolden terrorist groups, which are aligned in their opposition to the United States for its support of Israel.

“The crisis has galvanized violence by a range of actors around the world. And while it is too early to tell, it is likely that the Gaza conflict will have a generational impact on terrorism,” Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told an annual hearing on global security threats.

The Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas has inspired fresh threats to the United States by al-Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated groups, Haines said, while Iranian-backed militant groups have used “the conflict as an opportunity to pursue their own agenda” against the United States. “And we have seen how it is inspiring individuals to conduct acts of antisemitism and Islamophobic terror worldwide,” she added.

Netanyahu’s delusional, deadly quest for ‘total victory’
By Ishaan Tharoor

When asked by a reporter to further explain what “total victory” meant in the current context, Netanyahu invoked a chilling metaphor, citing how one smashes glass “into small pieces, and then you continue to smash it into even smaller pieces and you continue hitting them.”

In an interview on Israeli television last month, Gadi Eisenkot, a former commander of the Israel Defense Forces who is part of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, agreed that Hamas’s capabilities had been significantly degraded in the north of the Gaza Strip but stressed that “whoever speaks of the absolute defeat [of Hamas in Gaza] and of it no longer having the will or the capability [to harm Israel], is not speaking the truth.”

It was an obvious jab at Netanyahu, for whom Eisenkot has little affection. The former Israeli commander has lost both a son and a nephew in the fighting in Gaza and accused Netanyahu this week of dithering and avoiding the necessary deliberations about what postwar Gaza should look like.

Netanyahu spent much of his career deliberately working against the prospect of a two-state solution, encouraging divisions within the Palestinian national movement while persuading the Israeli public and interlocutors elsewhere that the conflict could be “managed” indefinitely.

The Neurotic Fixations of U.S. Foreign Policy
By Stephen M. Walt

If an opponent did something objectionable because it underestimated your resolve or capabilities and erroneously concluded that it could act with impunity, then a demonstration that it miscalculated may be in order. But if a country finds itself having to restore deterrence on a regular basis, it should consider the possibility that its responses aren’t having the intended effect. At a minimum, the need to keep punishing someone to restore deterrence tells you that hitting them in the past hasn’t altered their calculation of costs and benefits in the manner you wanted. It might even be making the problem worse, either by fueling the opponent’s desire for revenge or by increasing their need to show that they can’t be intimidated. Defiance in the face of repeated punishment is a good sign that an opponent is highly motivated, and states whose deterrent threats keep failing (and thus keep having to be restored) should ask themselves if there’s some other way to reduce the opponent’s motivation to challenge the status quo. Is it conceivable that some sort of compromise might do a better job of defusing the problem than another round of pointless and ineffective violence?

Violence Has Failed Palestinians
By John Aziz

What little hard-earned trust there was between Israelis and Palestinians has been shattered both by the slaughter of civilians by Hamas in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7, 2023—the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust—and the subsequent war between Hamas and Israel. More than 30,000 Palestinians have now died, the majority of whom were civilians. Violent resistance has failed Palestinians—and empowered extremists in Israel.

In the Israeli collective psyche, Oct. 7 was a tremendous violation because of the sneak nature of the attack, the dismembering and burning of corpses, the use of systemic rape as a weapon of war, and the targeting of civilians including children in kibbutzim and attendees at a music festival. There is little appetite for peace with the perpetuators.

In Gaza, meanwhile, Israel is carrying out a brutal and unremitting war that has buried countless children under rubble and seen the destruction of more than half of all houses as well as libraries, court houses, hospitals, and all of the territory’s universities. Many Palestinians view the Israeli military offensive as an attempted genocide. The greater part of the Palestinian political spectrum, including both Fatah and Hamas, broadly support the South African case in the International Court of Justice.

Yet there is little hope of real victory for either side.

The Palestinian case for self-determination—like any stateless people—is bulletproof, even if Palestinians themselves are not. The principle of self-determination is enshrined in the U.N. Charter, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Palestinians have an inalienable right to rule themselves in the land on which they live.

The trouble is that Hamas’ demands go far beyond demanding self-governance. What they and Palestinian anti-Zionists demand is the right to extinguish their neighbor’s self-governance, and conquer their neighbor’s territory. It’s the same right that Israeli extremists claim as they prepare new settlements on the West Bank—and even dream of seizing land in Gaza.

Reliance on violence fuels a cycle of violence. This cycle of violence has led to severe Israeli retaliation, exacerbating the suffering of civilians and leading to deep humanitarian crises, cruelly visible in Gaza today. The use of violence has sabotaged the Palestinian cause on the international stage. Violent tactics have frequently been used to justify the delegitimization of Palestinians, and serve as an excuse to prolong the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel. Horrific acts such as those of Oct. 7 alienate potential allies and supporters, particularly in the Western world.

Yet the use of peaceful protests and strategies has also faced significant challenges. Despite the moral and ethical superiority of nonviolent resistance, its effectiveness in the Palestinian context has been limited due to several factors. Peaceful protests often receive less media attention compared to violent conflicts simply because they are of lower impact and lack the visceral shock of terrorism.

This lack of visibility can limit the impact on the global stage, making it harder to garner any kind of recognition or negotiation leverage.

Additionally, Palestinian nonviolent campaigns have been blighted by the same tendency for maximalist demands as Hamas’ violent campaigns. The Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for example opposes Palestinians having dialogue with Israelis, in what they call “anti-normalization,” and makes maximalist demands about the right of return for all Palestinian refugees to Israel. By making maximalist demands that are never going to be met in a negotiation, nonviolent campaigns can doom themselves to failure through the perception that these demands are not serious or in good faith.

After this war, we must call for a new approach rooted in realism, a renewed commitment to coexistence, and the willingness for both sides to compromise. Both Israelis and Palestinians need to abandon maximalist demands and delegitimization to focus on pragmatic solutions, accepting the fact that neither side is going to disappear, or push one or the other into the sea.

Israel Must Decide Where It’s Going—and Who Should Lead It There
By Ehud Barak

The Biden administration has presented Netanyahu with a proposal for a new postwar regional order that would end Hamas’s ability to threaten Israel and rule Gaza, place control of the territory in the hands of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority (with the assistance of Arab governments), normalize Israeli-Saudi relations, and establish a formal U.S.-Saudi defense alliance. All this would be conditioned on Israel agreeing to a political process with the long-term goal of a two-state solution, with the backing of Arab governments friendly with the United States and opposed to Iran and its partners and proxies. The vision is of a process that would eventually produce a strong and secure Israel living side by side, behind agreed and secure borders, with a viable, demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Since 1996, Netanyahu has accepted that goal, in principle, on four occasions but has always torpedoed it when the time came to act.

Some of the American president’s advisers fear, based on experience, that Netanyahu will try to deceive both sides until after the U.S. presidential election in November. In English, he will publicly claim that he is ready to discuss Biden’s proposal and modify his own newly unveiled plan but privately ask that the White House appreciate his political difficulties and not disagree with him or criticize him publicly. Meanwhile, in Hebrew, he will whisper to his far-right allies: “Don’t leave. I fooled Obama, I fooled Trump, and I will fool Biden, too—and we will survive. Trust me!” That would be classic Netanyahu—and it would be bad for Biden and terrible for Israel.

A deal like the one Biden has proposed might have been happily embraced two years ago by an Israeli government led by Lapid or the conservative leader Naftali Bennet, but it would be a tough sell now for the Israeli public, which still feels sharp pain, enormous anger, humiliation, vengefulness, and a sense that “all Palestinians are Hamas.” These are understandable human reactions. But in time, Israelis must move past them. Recall that we once thought this way about Egypt and Jordan. An entire generation of Israelis (of which I am a member) fought bitter wars against those countries. But an effective (if cold) peace with those countries has now lasted for nearly 45 years and nearly 30 years, respectively. Imagine how much worse Israel’s situation would be today if those agreements did not exist—and consider how important it is not to undermine them as part of an ill-considered response to the events of October 7.

Those who object to a change in leadership during a war should study Israeli history. In 1973, the IDF was still fighting Syrian forces in the Golan Heights when Prime Minister Golda Meir stepped down in the face of massive demonstrations and amid accusations that she had failed to foresee the surprise attack launched by Arab countries six months earlier, in October 1973—even though her party had won reelection after the attack and the official investigation into the security failures had blamed military leaders and mostly absolved Meir herself.

Israel’s Self-Destruction
By Aluf Benn

One bright day in April 1956, Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), drove south to Nahal Oz, a recently established kibbutz near the border of the Gaza Strip. Dayan came to attend the funeral of 21-year-old Roi Rotberg, who had been murdered the previous morning by Palestinians while he was patrolling the fields on horseback. The killers dragged Rotberg’s body to the other side of the border, where it was found mutilated, its eyes poked out. The result was nationwide shock and agony.

If Dayan had been speaking in modern-day Israel, he would have used his eulogy largely to blast the horrible cruelty of Rotberg’s killers. But as framed in the 1950s, his speech was remarkably sympathetic toward the perpetrators. “Let us not cast blame on the murderers,’’ Dayan said. “For eight years, they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages where they and their fathers dwelt into our estate.” Dayan was alluding to the nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” when the majority of Palestinian Arabs were driven into exile by Israel’s victory in the 1948 war of independence. Many were forcibly relocated to Gaza, including residents of communities that eventually became Jewish towns and villages along the border.

Dayan was hardly a supporter of the Palestinian cause. In 1950, after the hostilities had ended, he organized the displacement of the remaining Palestinian community in the border town of Al-Majdal, now the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Still, Dayan realized what many Jewish Israelis refuse to accept: Palestinians would never forget the nakba or stop dreaming of returning to their homes. “Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs living around us,’’ Dayan declared in his eulogy. “This is our life’s choice—to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.’’

On October 7, 2023, Dayan’s age-old warning materialized in the bloodiest way possible. Following a plan masterminded by Yahya Sinwar, a Hamas leader born to a family forced out of Al-Majdal, Palestinian militants invaded Israel at nearly 30 points along the Gazan border. Achieving total surprise, they overran Israel’s thin defenses and proceeded to attack a music festival, small towns, and more than 20 kibbutzim. They killed around 1,200 civilians and soldiers and kidnapped well over 200 hostages. They raped, looted, burned, and pillaged. The descendants of Dayan’s refugee camp dwellers—fueled by the same hatred and loathing that he described but now better armed, trained, and organized—had come back for revenge.

If past is precedent, the country is not entirely hopeless. History suggests there is a chance that progressivism might come back and conservatives might lose influence. After prior major attacks, Israeli public opinion initially shifted to the right but then changed course and accepted territorial compromises in exchange for peace. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 eventually led to peace with Egypt; the first intifada, beginning in 1987, led to the Oslo accords and peace with Jordan; and the second intifada, erupting in 2000, ended with the unilateral pullout from Gaza.

But the chances that this dynamic will recur are dim. There is no Palestinian group or leader accepted by Israel in the way Egypt and its president were after 1973. Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction, and the PA is weak. Israel, too, is weak: its wartime unity is already cracking, and the odds are high that the country will further tear itself apart if and when the fighting diminishes. The anti-Bibists hope to reach out to disappointed Bibists and force an early election this year. Netanyahu, in turn, will whip up fears and dig in. In January, relatives of hostages broke into a parliamentary meeting to demand that the government try to free their family members, part of a battle between Israelis over whether the country should prioritize defeating Hamas or make a deal to free the remaining captives. Perhaps the only idea on which there is unity is in opposing a land-for-peace agreement. After October 7, most Jewish Israelis agree that any further relinquishment of territory will give militants a launching pad for the next massacre.

Ultimately, then, Israel’s future may look very much like its recent history. With or without Netanyahu, “conflict management” and “mowing the grass” will remain state policy—which means more occupation, settlements, and displacement. This strategy might appear to be the least risky option, at least for an Israeli public scarred by the horrors of October 7 and deaf to new suggestions of peace. But it will only lead to more catastrophe. Israelis cannot expect stability if they continue to ignore the Palestinians and reject their aspirations, their story, and even their presence.

This is the lesson the country should have learned from Dayan’s age-old warning. Israel must reach out to Palestinians and to each other if they want a livable and respectful coexistence.

Rubble from Bone: Israel’s War
By Tom Stevenson

Israel’s​ actions can’t be seen in isolation from the US, since American protection shapes the environment in which Israel operates. The deployment of US aircraft carrier groups to the region (along with a few British warships) was intended to show neighbouring states that Israel wasn’t acting alone, thus mitigating the risk of regional opposition. The war itself is a transnational effort. Bombs manufactured in Texas are fitted with precision-guidance systems from Missouri, shipped to Europe, then flown, perhaps via British bases in Cyprus, to Israel before being dropped on Gaza. US and European foreign policy is aligned to enable Israel to do precisely what it is doing now. The US quickly provided an additional $14.5 billion of emergency aid to Israel for the war effort. Military supplies include 2000 Hellfire missiles and 57,000 155mm shells. When the IDF came close to running down its stores of 120mm tank shells the State Department approved a shipment of 14,000 more. On 20 October the White House requested the removal of all restrictions on access to munitions it has positioned in Israel.

A week after the Israeli assault began, Antony Blinken travelled to Tel Aviv for nine hours of talks in the underground control bunker below HaKirya, the IDF’s headquarters, known as ‘the pit’. Undeterred by the devastation, American officials continue to make constant visits to Israel to reaffirm what the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, called the US’s ‘unshakeable’ support. Initially it claimed to be flying drones over Gaza for ‘hostage recovery’. But a freedom of information request by the American journalists Ken Klippenstein and Matthew Petti revealed that the US air force has deployed intelligence officers to Tel Aviv to provide targeting support for the air campaign. Of course, the extent of the slaughter in Gaza could make things difficult for American leaders. The tame White House and State Department press corps – responsible for a Time magazine profile of Blinken that glowed with radioactive sycophancy – ply the line that the US has been valiantly ‘negotiating’ with Israel to show ‘restraint’. But there’s no reason to take that characterisation seriously. A more accurate assessment was provided by Colin Kahl, a former under-secretary of defence: ‘Biden immediately rallied to Israel’s defence and has stuck by Israel even in the face of growing domestic and international criticism.’

How Israel Could Lose America
By Shalom Lipner

The United States’ attachment to Israel has evolved gradually since President Harry Truman’s recognition of the Jewish state on May 14, 1948. It was not until the 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy, that Washington began to provide military hardware to Israel. Shipments of Hawk antimissile batteries were soon followed, under Kennedy’s successor, President Lyndon Johnson, by M-48 Patton battle tanks, A-4 Skyhawk light attack aircraft, and F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers. The first explicit U.S. pledge to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge—an assurance of Israel’s military superiority over its rivals—came in a 1982 letter from President Ronald Reagan to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

U.S.-Israeli cooperation has been turbulent at times, but it has maintained a steady upward trajectory. U.S. security, diplomatic, and economic assistance has bolstered Israel’s position in a volatile region. Having a “big brother” over its shoulder has enabled Israel to punch above its demographic weight and geographic size, projecting strength well beyond its borders. And the United States’ commitment to Israel has endured through both Democratic and Republican presidents, including the most recent holders of that office.

As president, Trump formally acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory. His actions affirmed a broad consensus among Israelis and sent a formidable message to neighboring countries about U.S. support for Israel. Trump’s “Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and a Brighter Future for Israel and the Palestinian People”—a plan that most Israelis expected to fail—never led to U.S. acceptance of the Netanyahu government’s aspiration to extend Israeli sovereignty throughout the West Bank, but it became the catalyst for the Abraham Accords, which brought Israel’s surreptitious ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain into the open. Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States and an engineer of the deal, explained the logic in 2021: “The reason it happened, the way it happened, at the time it happened was to prevent annexation.”

This is not to say U.S.-Israeli relations were without problems. In 2017, Trump divulged Israeli intelligence to Russia, possibly revealing sensitive collection methods. He repeatedly accused American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates of being “disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” not only entrenching Israel as a wedge issue and jeopardizing bipartisan sponsorship of close U.S.-Israeli ties but also stoking anti-Semitism. And his unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal without an alternative plan to stymie Iran’s race to acquire nuclear weapons only accelerated Tehran’s progress. Netanyahu encouraged Trump’s decision at the time, but that move has, arguably, made Israel less secure today.

Despite early frictions, the Biden administration’s support for Israel since October 7—expressed in words and deeds—has been uncontestable. U.S. civilian and military officials have been constant fixtures in Israel, often participating in consultations with Israel’s war cabinet. The United States has sent Israel multiple airlifts of bombs and other munitions to replace its depleted inventories. Washington has also intervened to block UN Security Council resolutions that would sanction Israel or insist that the IDF end its mission in Gaza, called attention to the plight of the hostages being held by Hamas, and worked to secure their freedom. It has demanded that other countries condemn the acts of sexual violence that Hamas’s fighters committed against Israeli girls and women.

Speaking at the White House on October 10, Biden warned Israel’s enemies not to join forces with Hamas. “To any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation,” he said, “I have one word: Don’t.” Among the chorus of world leaders who have urged similar caution, Biden was the only one who deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups and other military assets to reinforce the warning. The president’s steadfast support has been all the more remarkable as the United States enters an election year, given the vocal criticism of Biden’s Israel policy in some quarters of his own party.

When the state of Israel was created 75 years ago, it had to fight off threats to its survival; today, Israel’s stewards must articulate a coherent vision of its ultimate destination. Otherwise, they will struggle to convince the United States and other countries to remain by Israel’s side. Netanyahu must lift his embargo on genuine discussion—within his government and with the Biden administration—of what will come after the Gaza conflict, and define not only what Israel will not countenance but also what outcomes it will accept. The prime minister has rebuffed attempts to have this conversation for fear of destabilizing his ruling coalition. Biden has expressed his frustration with this situation, commenting on December 12 that Netanyahu “has to change,” but the “government in Israel is making it very difficult.”

Whether Israel wants one state, two states, or something else, its leaders and citizens need to decide on a course soon. They should recognize also that, no matter what their decision—and it is their decision alone to make—it will have consequences not only for Israel itself but also for its essential relationship with the United States. If the United States were to become sufficiently disenchanted with Israeli policies that Washington imposed conditions on the provision of U.S. military assistance, Israel could find its operating environment drastically restricted. The Biden administration’s recent delay of the export of more than 20,000 M-16 rifles intended for Israeli civil defense teams because of U.S. concerns about settler violence in the West Bank could be a harbinger of further impediments.

What to Know About U.S. Military Support to Israel
By Mathias Hammer

As Israel races through its stockpiles of ammunition and air defense interceptors, it will be heavily dependent on longstanding U.S. support to replenish its stockpiles. The U.S. has promised to surge its military support for Israel, even as criticisms mount over the Biden administration’s failure to prevent the biggest recipient of U.S. military aid from causing significant civilian casualties in its offensive.

Israeli equipment and defense material will be resupplied based on their burn rate—the speed at which they are used in the ongoing military operations, says R. Clarke Cooper, former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, the bureau which oversees arms transfers. The U.S. has already committed to sending Iron Dome air-defense missiles, small diameter bombs and JDAM kits, which convert unguided bombs into GPS-guided weapons to Israel. Boeing is reportedly speeding up the delivery of as many as 1,800 JDAMs, which the company produces in St. Charles, Missouri. These replenishments will come on top of previously agreed upon deals for advanced weaponry such as F-35 fighter jets, CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and KC-46 aerial refueling tankers, Cooper says, currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Whatever further aid is provided to Israel, it will come on top of decades-long military support for the country, which has helped make the IDF one of the most capable armed forces in the world. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, the U.S. has provided Israel with more than $130 billion in security assistance, more than the U.S. has provided to any country in the world. The U.S. currently supplies Israel with approximately $3.8 billion in security assistance annually.

For decades the purpose of this military support has been to provide Israel, the U.S.’s closest ally in the region, with a “qualitative military edge” over neighboring militaries. The result of this long-standing support has been an Israeli defense sector that is “defined by U.S. assistance and U.S. equipment,” says Elias Yousif, an expert in U.S. arms transfers at the Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, while also emphasizing that Israel has developed a robust defense industry of its own. U.S. foreign military financing currently covers approximately 16% of Israel’s defense budget.

Because of the U.S.’s unique role in supporting Israel militarily, “The United States bears a special responsibility to ensure its assistance does not contribute to devastating civilian harm and possible violations of international humanitarian law,” says Annie Shiel, U.S. advocacy director at the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

Among the weapons provided to Israel, “the transfer of 155mm artillery shells to Israel are of particular concern given the inevitable harm to civilians that comes with the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas,” says Shiel. The artillery shells, which are also being used extensively in the trench warfare in Ukraine, are deadly in a radius of 100 to 300 meters, according to Oxfam.

How to End America’s Hypocrisy on Gaza
By Sarah Yager

Human rights organizations and news outlets have reported on the unlawful collective punishment of the Palestinian population, the use of starvation as a weapon of war, and air and artillery strikes and building demolitions that involved no discernable military targets but yielded significant civilian casualties and destroyed property. Investigations by Human Rights Watch found repeated unlawful strikes on hospitals in Gaza including the Indonesian Hospital, al Ahli Arab Hospital, the International Eye Care Center, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, and al Quds Hospital in Gaza. Amnesty International found that homes full of civilians in Gaza were hit with U.S.-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions, killing 43 civilians, including 19 children.

Throughout its history, the United States has promoted respect for the laws of war: doing so, American leaders have long maintained, is one of the things that distinguishes the country from its adversaries. The Biden administration has decried the atrocities committed by the governments of countries such as Russia and Syria but has then pretended that it does not adjudicate—and bankroll—those committed by the government of Israel. The short-term gains of such an approach are far outweighed by the long-term damage it is doing to American credibility and interests.

U.S. law requires officials to assess what a recipient of American military aid does with the weapons provided. Such assessments would seem especially important when it comes to the war in Gaza, given the sheer scale of Israel’s bombardment and the reported levels of civilian loss of life. But it’s not at all clear that they are happening. Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act requires the State Department to ensure that U.S. security assistance does not abet gross violations of human rights. And the so-called Leahy Laws enacted decades ago by Congress prohibit US military aid going to specific units committing gross violations of human rights and have prevented military assistance from going to abusive security forces in Honduras, Nepal, and Nigeria.

State Department lawyers and atrocity crime experts in the department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice are often called on to assess violations of international law in conflicts. Under Blinken, that office and the department’s legal team have reviewed evidence and made official proclamations about violations of international law by the governments of China, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Sudan. But there is no publicly available evidence that the GCJ or any other office has been asked to make determinations about Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

Last year, the State Department adopted what it calls the Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy, which requires officials to assess whether a security partner is “more likely than not” to use U.S. weapons to violate international law. If the answer is yes, the U.S. government is prohibited from making transfers to that country.

The White House introduced the policy in February 2023, recognizing that “when not employed responsibly, defense materiel can be used to violate human rights and international humanitarian law, increase the risk of civilian harm, and otherwise damage United States interests.” But U.S. support to Israel since the hostilities in Gaza began likely means that the administration violated its own policy almost immediately after it was put in place.

Last August, the Biden administration also issued new rules, dubbed the Civilian Harm Investigations and Response Guidance, to compel the State Department to investigate allegations of U.S. weapons being used to harm civilians. According to State Department officials, some of the first investigations launched under the CHIRG have looked into Israel’s conduct in Gaza. But the result of CHIRG investigations are not required to be made public, and U.S. officials are not bound to act on the basis of whatever the investigations reveal.

(There is also the question of whether individual officials might face legal jeopardy for complicity in grave abuses if Israeli misconduct were officially acknowledged: in recent years, U.S. officials cut back on military support to Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate strikes in Yemen, which killed thousands of civilians—apparently at least in part out of fear that continuing to do so might make them legally complicit in war crimes.)

Is Washington Responsible for What Israel Does With American Weapons?
By Brian Finucane

The United States has shared with Israel recommendations for reducing civilian casualties, including by using smaller diameter bombs rather than 2,000-pound munitions. The Pentagon dispatched James Glynn, a Marine Corps three-star general who has extensive urban warfare experience from the Iraq War and counter-ISIS campaign, to share suggestions with Israel on mitigating harm to civilians while fighting in a dense urban environment. But upon Glynn’s return, General Eric Smith, the commandant of the Marine Corps, sought to distance the United States from Israeli operations. “Lt. Gen. Glynn went over to provide advice,” Smith said. “But make no mistake: What is, has, or will unfold in Gaza is purely an Israeli decision.”

These current efforts to prod Israel to minimize civilian casualties and comply with the law of war are all too reminiscent of the unsuccessful push by the Obama administration to improve targeting by Saudi Arabia in its air campaign in Yemen, including by dispatching advisers to share technical recommendations with the Saudi military. In that conflict, the only measure that demonstrably reduced civilian casualties was reducing and ultimately ending airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

U.N. experts urge embargo on Israel for arms that would be used in Gaza
By Bryan Pietsch, Andrew Jeong and Victoria Bisset

… more than two dozen U.N. rights experts urged countries to halt the export to Israel of arms that would be used in Gaza, saying such transfers of weapons and ammunition could violate international humanitarian law.

In a statement, the experts — who are part of the “special procedures,” a body of independent experts in the U.N. Human Rights Council — said the need for an “arms embargo on Israel is heightened by the International Court of Justice’s [preliminary] ruling on 26 January 2024 that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then.”

Francesca Albanese, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the signatories to the statement, said on social media that sending weapons to Israel that may be used in Gaza “may amount to complicity in atrocity crimes.”

Israel has rejected the allegations of genocide brought by South Africa at the ICJ, while the Biden administration dismissed the filing as “meritless.”

US blocks ceasefire call with third UN veto in Israel-Hamas war
By Michelle Nichols

The United States on Tuesday again vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body to call for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Thirteen council members voted in favor of the Algerian-drafted text, while Britain abstained. It was the third U.S. veto of a draft resolution since the start of the current fighting on Oct. 7. Washington has also used its veto to block an amendment to draft resolution in December.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield signaled on Saturday that the U.S. would veto the draft resolution over concerns it could jeopardize talks between the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace. Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel,” Thomas-Greenfield told the council ahead of the vote.

Washington traditionally shields Israel from U.N. action. But it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

It’s Not Too Late for Biden to Restrain Israel
By Howard W. French

As the conflict has dragged on and Israel has stepped up its military pressure against Gaza, it has found itself on the defensive on other fronts, most notably that of world opinion, with the United States increasingly isolated as one of the few countries willing to credit its accounts of what is happening on the ground there—and willing to defend Israel’s actions. Meanwhile, the reasons to doubt Israel’s explanations of its strategy and actions continue to multiply.

At various times, Israel has insisted, for example, that it has taken great care in its targeting to minimize death of civilians and damage to housing and basic infrastructure. Even for nonexperts, the more that time goes by, the harder this has become to reconcile with what our eyes have been telling us, as the images have rolled in showing what look like Dresden-level damage of broad and densely inhabited swaths of a territory only twice as large as Washington, D.C. Where apartment buildings once stood, there are now only heaps of detritus, which grieving and orphaned family members are left to sift through with their bare hands in search of whatever scraps of their old lives they can recover.

Three months into the war, detailed reporting on the destruction in Gaza has called into question the notion that Israel ever took serious precautions. It was recently revealed by a U.S. intelligence assessment that—despite Israel’s high-tech arsenal—much of the worst devastation unleashed on Gaza thus far was the result of U.S.-furnished unguided (or “dumb”) munitions, which had accounted for nearly half of the 29,000 bombs dropped on Gaza up to that point in the conflict.

The one that I worry about most is that Israel’s continuing assault on the territory, with its accompanying constriction of humanitarian relief and mounting nutrition insecurity and health crises, will lead to a disguised expulsion of Palestinians from their land, producing nothing more than a morally fatigued shrug from the rest of the world.

I say “disguised” because Israel may be able to carry this out without rounding people up and physically pushing them over the border with Egypt, which has said that it will not accept a new wave of Palestinian refugees. At a certain point, the desperation created by famine and disease could achieve the same result.

The Biden administration has said that it opposes the expulsion of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and also rejects the idea of Israel assuming political and administrative control over the enclave, but the Biden team’s record of holding Israel to account on anything to do with this crisis is extremely weak, and its willingness to stand up to Israel by denying it military or political support still seems close to nil.

Why the Oslo Peace Process Failed
By Aaron David Miller

It’s like that old adage: In the history of the world, nobody has ever washed a rental car. Why? Because folks only care about what they own. Oslo was an example of authentic ownership. Agreement was reached because the parties themselves had a sense of urgency and a need for their own interests to come together without external pressure.

But the Israeli and Palestinian dual act was also bad news because of the power imbalance between the two parties: one the occupier, Israel, and one the occupied, the Palestinians. Given this reality, it was remarkable that anything got done at all in terms of territorial transfer, economic and security cooperation, and building Palestinian institutions.

The asymmetry of power was clear: As the occupier, Israel wielded the power of the strong—the capacity to impose its will on the Palestinians. This took the form of everything from settlement construction, land confiscation, and housing demolitions to closures of the West Bank cities and towns (preventing travel), and targeted killings. Settlement construction was especially egregious, with 115,700 Israeli settlers residing in the West Bank and Gaza at the end of 1993; by mid-1999, that number had risen to 176,973.

Palestinians, on the other hand, wielded the power of the weak: terrorism. As the weaker party in the negotiations, Palestinian leaders rationalized the use of terror and violence and the armed struggle against Israel as an acceptable instrument to fight back against Israeli occupation and the ongoing settlement expansion.

In many respects, the early years of Oslo were a U.S. negotiator’s dream. Israelis and Palestinians had finally done what we had been encouraging them to do for years: get together and work through their own problems themselves. Rabin briefed U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on the outlines of the Oslo breakthrough in July, minus the mutual recognition package. But neither Rabin nor Arafat wanted Americans in on the substance—Rabin wanted the United States involved only to pressure the Palestinians but was wary that the Americans might adopt a pro-Palestinian position, and Arafat was concerned they’d side with the Israelis.

And so, in the early years until Rabin’s murder in late 1995, Washington’s role was limited to hosting signing ceremonies, rallying donors, and playing firefighter at critical points when negotiations reached a crisis—such as when a terrorist attack occurred, or when Israeli settlement expansion or other unilateral acts threatened the process. What the United States didn’t—and couldn’t—do, largely because of Israel’s objections, was create the one thing that might have actually given the Oslo process durability: a monitoring mechanism to hold each side to the commitments they had made and, if necessary, impose costs for a breach.

Doing so was a bridge too far. This was partly because of the United States’ traditional special relationship with Israel, which made getting tough with the Israelis, especially on settlement expansion, off limits; partly because of the Clinton administration’s determination to improve relations with Israel after the stormy years of former President George H.W. Bush; and partly because, when it came to Oslo violations, terrorist attacks were understandably viewed as more lethal than settlement expansion and pushed the United States to side with Israel.

Without giving up hope—and we cannot—we also should not succumb to facile illusions and assumptions about silver bullets that can redeem a peaceful future for both peoples. If Oslo demonstrated anything, it’s that even with leadership and partnership, the journey is long, hard, and strewn, more often than not, with failure.

None of this means that the past is inexorably prologue. None of us can see around corners, and abandoning the search for an equitable and durable Israeli-Palestinian peace is neither morally nor ethically responsible—and it’s not in U.S. interests. We need leaders who see peace as critical to their own people and who are prepared to understand and work to accommodate the needs of the other side; a mediator who’s prepared to be reassuring, patient, and tough on both sides when necessary; and an end state that recognizes that a durable and equitable solution depends on a balance of interests, not an asymmetry of power.

Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
By Aaron David Miller

Pursuing Middle East peace isn’t for the fainthearted or those who aren’t prepared to spend the energy and time. Much of the effort can be offloaded to a secretary of state and a special envoy. But even with husbanding the White House’s time, it will require a good deal of presidential focus. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter not only had to convene a presidential summit but also embarked on a shuttle diplomacy trip in 1979 to conclude the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled extensively in the region and called at least four Middle East summits as part of his peacemaking efforts.

Nor can one ignore the domestic politics that can drain a president’s political currency—and those domestic politics on the Israeli-Palestinian issue are fraught indeed. With the Republican Party emerging as the Israel-can-do-no-wrong party and a divided Democratic Party with a progressive wing that’s pushing for Biden to impose accountability on Israel, Biden will need to navigate a perilous course. Invariably, pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace will mean friction or worse with Israel. Will the president be up to it?

In tying the United States to both Israel’s trauma on Oct. 7 and its resulting campaign to eradicate Hamas in Gaza—and all the death and destruction that is causing—Biden now shares direct responsibility for the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Biden has committed himself publicly to a fundamental change in the status quo. If that’s going to happen, first and foremost there will need to be Israeli and Palestinian leaders committed to that objective. But even with those kinds of leaders, Biden will need to own this, too.

And even if he does, the risks are great. If the past is prologue, as it’s been so many times when it comes to U.S. peacemaking efforts, the chances of success are small. Walking away or pursuing a performative policy in the wake of the horrors we’ve witnessed will undermine the president’s personal credibility—as well as America’s—in the region and the world. And it will cost him politically, particularly in a state such as Michigan, with Arab Americans as well as with progressives and younger Democrats. Biden may very well be remembered as the U.S. president who presided over the bloodiest phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, most likely, the death of the only pathway that offers a hope of ending it: the much-maligned two-state solution.

The stakes are enormous, especially for a president who cares deeply about Israel, Palestinian suffering, and the United States’ leadership role in the world.

The United States Has Less Leverage Over Israel Than You Think
By Stephen M. Walt

The United States has been able to get Israel to alter its behavior when its own interests were more heavily engaged, as was often the case during prior Middle East conflicts. President Dwight D. Eisenhower successfully pressured Israel to withdraw from the Sinai after the Second Arab-Israeli War in 1956, and U.S. officials were able to help persuade Israel to accept cease-fire agreements during the 1969-70 War of Attrition and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. An angry phone call from President Ronald Reagan to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin also ended a massive Israeli bombing campaign on west Beirut during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. In each of these cases, U.S. leaders acted forcefully and successfully because they believed that broader U.S. interests were at risk.

Defending a state that is running a system of apartheid is not an easy task, especially when it now faces plausible though unproven accusations that it is conducting a genocide. No amount of full-court hasbara can fully negate the visual images streaming out of Gaza, or the disturbing TikTok and YouTube videos that have been posted by IDF soldiers themselves, making it harder for groups like AIPAC to retain influence. When Sen. Chuck Schumer, long one of Israel’s staunchest defenders, gives a speech on the Senate floor declaring that Netanyahu’s policies are bad for Israel, you know that the political winds are shifting. Attitudes in the American body politic are shifting, too, especially among younger people. Although there are still formidable political obstacles to making U.S. support conditional on Israel’s conduct—especially in an election year—it is not as unthinkable as it was a few years ago.

Interviews – Samantha Power
By Frontline

Can you talk about the U.S. officials who were involved in the decision making process surrounding Rwanda, and where they came from?

… I think what makes the U.S. response so chilling, for anybody who’s gone back and looked at it, is that these are precisely the people you would have wanted in those jobs at that time. If you go almost person by person, you would say here are people who are not realists in the sort of Henry Kissinger tradition, and who believe that American power should only be harnessed on behalf of America’s vital economic and security interest.

… But we didn’t have those people in government. We had people who actually believed in both the possibility and the desirability of harnessing American power for good.

I don’t think that one could really make the same claims about the Pentagon. … The Pentagon not only is itself steeped in a post-Vietnam, a realist mindset; I mean, not only did the Pentagon believe indeed that American troops should only be deployed for interests that are deemed vital to Americans, but, of course, the Pentagon was coming off the tragedy in Somalia.

So the combination of both Vietnam, realism, the belief that only vital national interests are what should move American foreign policy and Somalia meant that there was an ingrained resistance to doing anything that might result long-term in deploying U.S. troops to a country that wasn’t intrinsically in America’s vital interests.

It would have required personal risk, putting your career on the line, being associated forever with, yes, a loser, as it were. I mean a loser in the sense that there’s nothing geopolitically to be gained by getting involved with this, and only risks on the horizon — and indeed, no risks at all or no costs at all foreseeable, anyway, of staying uninvolved for you or for the United States. No one’s going to remember who made what decision around the Rwandan genocide. Omissions never get remembered.

So nobody owned it. Thus all of these kind of floating proposals about denunciation and freezing of assets and radio jamming and partnership with African countries — they floated earnestly in the ether, and they never got the engine behind them that they would have required. I mean, Prudence Bushnell and others did denounce publicly, and it may even have done some good. The hotel owner in Kigali claims that Bushnell’s phone calls to the perpetrators, mentioning the hotel and the people inside, are probably what deterred an attack on the hotel, and that’s incredible. … It’s a rare instance.

But imagine if the president had taken his profound political capital and charisma, and if it had been him going to African countries, urging them to send troops, saying, “Hey, look, there’s a division of labor on this earth. The United States is involved in Haiti now. We were involved in Somalia. This is one we’re not going to be involved. We’re not going to be boots on the grounds. … But the fact that we’re not going to put boots on the ground doesn’t disqualify us from exerting leadership.” The really profound mistake was to think that if U.S. troops are taken off the table, or if they never even go near the table … then that somehow disqualifies the United States from playing a prominent leadership role.

What are your own views on that lack of leadership?

In interviewing 60 U.S. officials about their roles in this tragedy — or their non-roles — maybe the thing that held me back in terms of judgement or outrage was my own fear that I, too, would have gotten it wrong; that I, too, would have either been too much of coward to put my whole being on the line, maybe in Rwanda. What would I have done, who would I have saved, what would I have risked for these people? Or that I would have been so determined to be practical. … That I would have inhabited that land of the possible that was so attractive to people, that kind of earnest, vaguely creative-at-times effort not to be too far afield from where the president and his senior advisers were — to stay relevant, to be in that land of possibility — yet that I would have totally missed the singular epic moral cataclysm of our time.

That would be my fear — that I would have been buried in the details and trying to be so constructive that I would have just gotten totally wrong, ultimately, in terms of outcomes and what was demanded.

Now that I have spent all these years looking at these questions, I hope that at least I would [have been] able to disable my rationalizations, because I’m just too familiar with them from having interviewed so many people, and seeing the stories that they told themselves. But I’m sure that the first time out, if I had been in that situation, that those rationalizations would have been extremely tempting.

We have to change that calculus. That requires the mobilization of opinion leaders, the recognition that it’s not enough simply to be passively in favor of a value-driven U.S. foreign policy, but that you actually have to be loudly in favor of that. You have to actually pick up the phone. When Tony Lake met with Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch just two weeks into the genocide — an incredible event for a human rights monitor from Rwanda, who was an expert on Rwanda, to be meeting with the national security adviser of the United States — he put it to her very simply. He said, “Look, I hear you, I hear about radio jamming. I hear about denunciation. I hear about your list, and duly noted. But you have got to make noise. The phones are not ringing.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have either the top-down leadership or an improved capacity to make noise quickly. All we have achieved since the Rwandan genocide is alerted the victims and the survivors that we feel badly about what was allowed. Perhaps … the Clinton administration has alerted those who have come since in government, that this will not go away; that the one place you will pay a price will not be at the polls, it will not be in the election, but it will be in posterity. It will be in your legacy. You will in fact be remembered for whether you stand up to genocide.

Finally, what about the intellectual basis for humanitarian intervention? Where are we on that today?

There was a time when the view in international circles was that there should be no interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign estate. This was the attitude that disabled American diplomats back in 1915 from even commenting on the Armenian genocide. We’ve passed that point. I mean, the debate has long since moved on. Now the issue is not whether you’re entitled as a diplomat to criticize your host government or to criticize an ally even, or a foe, on the basis of their human rights record.

The debate now is how far can and should you go, which tools in the toolkit that is available to statesmen should be deployed at what point. When does “mere ethnic cleansing” become wholesale genocide? There are those who believe that merely deporting people doesn’t warrant military intervention, and yet genocide does. But it’s very hard to define those lines. Genocide certainly can be achieved when you destroy the group as such when you wipe out a presence, which usually involves killing, raping and deportation. So I think there’s still a lot of confusion in kind about where the lines should be drawn, about when military force is warranted.

But one of the lessons of history is that, if you’re having the debate of whether the g-word should be applied or whether military intervention is appropriate, you are in the red zone. It is time to call the Cabinet together and decide what we can do. It is time to consult with your allies, time to urgently get on the phone or get on a plane and talk to the neighbors surrounding a country in crises like this. It’s not the time to take refuge in semantics or in the inescapable reality that there are no bright line rules in foreign policy.

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