Genocide of the Jews of Israel

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Genocide of the Jews of Israel

'Now you know why we emphasize the necessity of teaching about the Holocaust.  We were trying to prevent this', writes Stephen D Smith executive director Emeritus of USC Shoah Foundation

Stephen D. Smith is the Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation, the archive founded by Steven Spielberg to document and teach from the testimonies of survivors of the Holcoaust and Genocide. He is UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, and Adjunct Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California, based in Los Angeles.

A view of destroyed vehicles near the grounds of the Tribe of Nova music festival after Saturday’s deadly attack by Hamas (Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images) via JTA
A view of destroyed vehicles near the grounds of the Tribe of Nova music festival after Saturday’s deadly attack by Hamas (Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images) via JTA

I have spent my life studying genocidal massacres against Jews.  The murderous pogroms we  have seen on our screens this week are nothing new. This is action replay. 

Let’s imagine there had been iPhones in Babi Yar. What would we have seen? Would it have been so different?  Would seeing it in real time have prevented the Holocaust? Or would we have just watched it live?

I am heartbroken for every family broken by this week’s events.  Every child lost. We have seen it before, and on a much larger scale. As a terrible reminder, the events of last Saturday would have had to have happened every single day for five thousand days, to equate numerically to the number of victims of the Holocaust. They too were butchered in their homes in broad daylight, their children dragged away from their arms. Day after day. Some people roll their eyes when we emphasize the necessity of teaching about the Holocaust.  Now you know why.  We were trying to prevent this.

What we witnessed is an age-old genocidal antisemitism, played out in real time. And make no mistake, what we witnessed was genocide.

The scene has been much the same for the last few millennia. The killers come into the village. They are cool, calm and collected – Haman, Titus, Chmielnicki, Himmler, Hamas – they use their weapons and are completely in control.  What follows is torture, fear, rape, killing of mothers, the murder or their children.

For three decades I have been trying to understand the type of behavior of the antisemitic killers we saw this week. Thanks to real time technology, I now understand it better.  My mind goes to the Nazi Officers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, who appear so calm while murdering the Jews. Therein lies the secret.

British Filmmaker Luke Holland documented over 250 Nazi perpetrators.  What is apparent in their accounts is that the ideological indoctrination was so deeply ingrained, that they were able to disassociate themselves from their own criminal culpability. That’s what makes the perfect killer.

My study of Rwanda and Myanmar more recently similarly revealed strong ideological leadership, professional training, clear chain of command, orchestrated murder, disassociation from culpability.  The Israelis thought that security was the issue. Ideology, discipline, and control – that’s what matters. And Hamas worked it out.

Just for a moment this week I was distracted by the possibility that the frenzied bulldozer fence breakthrough was led by an unruly bloodthirsty mob, incited by crazed leaders. Then I saw the images captured on CCTV of Hamas militants arriving at Kibbutz Be’eri.  The militants who are fully uniformed in fatigues, arrive with discipline and patience. There is no emotional frenzy as they await a car driver to open the gate to the Kibbutz. Once the gate mechanism starts, they coolly step out of the bushes, and execute him. They are highly trained, professional killers.  Other footage shows them going about their genocidal work with decisive discipline and control.

What we witnessed was not a random massacre. It was planned, with a chain of command.  The principal objective of the mission was the murder of Jewish civilians. That is the crime of genocide.

There is a misconception that genocide requires the killing of large numbers of a group. The 1948 UN Genocide Convention was never conceived around scale, but intent. It makes clear that genocide begins with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.  Hamas was killing Jews because they were ethnically Jewish, nationally Israelis, and could be assumed to be religiously affiliated with Judaism.  They also fulfilled three out of the five crimes of genocide: killing members of the group, inflicting bodily and mental harm to the group, and forciblly transferring children from the group. That’s genocide, by definition.

To understand the actions we saw, we need to study the source. To condense the 9,062 word Hamas Covenant, I asked an AI to summarize: The primary goals of Hamas revolve around the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine, the liberation of Palestine from Israeli control and use of Jihad as a means to achieve these objectives. This is not an opinion, it is based on the facts. Hamas turned those objectives into genocidal killing.

Hamas is the underdog militarily. Nevertheless with full intent, and cool detachment, it committed the ultimate crime of genocide, to achieve its ideological goals. Its prevention is an obligation of international law.

There is much sympathy for Palestinian civilians caught in the cross hairs of what is now a bloody war.  Israel must now stick to its narrowly defined task, use every effort to protect civilians, and continue to stress daily that its only objective is to halt the genocidal chain of command – Hamas.

  • Stephen D Smith, executive director Emeritus of USC Shoah Foundation and co-founder of the Aegis Trust for the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide.


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