Is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?

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Al-Shifa hospital is no longer functioning: Is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?

November 14, 2023 -

An Israeli armored personnel carrier and a tank are seen next to destroyed buildings during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

An Israeli armored personnel carrier and a tank are seen next to destroyed buildings during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

An Israeli armored personnel carrier and a tank are seen next to destroyed buildings during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israeli tanks advanced yesterday to the gates of Gaza City’s main hospital. According to the World Health Organization, al-Shifa hospital is no longer functioning after three days without power. A Gaza health ministry spokesperson said thirty-two patients had died in the last three days, including three newborn babies, as a result.

President Biden stated yesterday that Gaza’s hospitals “must be protected.” While hospitals are granted special protection under international humanitarian law, the International Committee of the Red Cross notes that they can lose such protections if combatants use them to hide fighters or store weapons.

This is just what Israel says Hamas is doing in Gaza. It claims that the terrorist group operates its command headquarters beneath the al-Shifa complex; the Israeli military has released an illustrated map of the hospital marked with locations it claims are underground military installations. A US official with knowledge of American intelligence has confirmed this claim. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also states that Israel offered “to give them enough fuel to operate the hospital, operate the incubators and so on, because we (have) no battle with patients or civilians at all,” but Hamas refused the offer.

Palestinian medical workers, by contrast, accuse Israel of mounting an all-out attack on infrastructure in Gaza to punish the population and force a surrender. Accordingly, three Palestinian human rights groups have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel, accusing it of perpetrating genocide in its war in Gaza.

This accusation that Israel is committing genocide is common in the press, on college campuses, and at other pro-Palestinian rallies these days.

But is it true?

“Any civilian loss is a tragedy”

In December 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It defines genocide as acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”

By this definition, Hamas is a genocidal group. Its founding charter, published in 1988, explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel. As Bret Stephens writes in the New York Times, “had the Hamas terrorists been able to kill one hundred or one thousand times as many [Jews] as they did on October 7, they would have done so without hesitation.” He adds that Hamas’s goal is “homicidal: to end Israel as a state by slaughtering every Jew within it.”

By contrast, Israel wants to destroy Hamas, not the Palestinians. When Hamas uses civilians as human shields, their deaths are the fault of Hamas, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I think any civilian loss is a tragedy . . . and the blame should be placed squarely on Hamas.”

Cultural commentator Andrew Sullivan noted: “If Israel were interested in the ‘genocide’ of Palestinian Arabs, it has had the means to accomplish it for a very long time. And yet, for some reason, the Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories has exploded since 1948, and the Arabs in Israel proper have voting rights and a key presence in the Knesset.”

He concludes: “The only people actively and proudly engaged in genocide are Hamas.” Those who march for Hamas are not opposing genocide but “defending its perpetrators.”

Supreme Court adopts a code of conduct

In other news, the US Supreme Court issued its first-ever code of conduct yesterday. According to the Court, the fifteen-page document “largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.” However, the code provides no penalties for violations of ethical standards.

This fact highlights the problem with legislating morality: if even our nation’s highest court cannot anticipate and respond to every possible ethical violation its nine members might commit, how can a nation of laws possibly legislate for every misuse of human freedom? United Nations regulations against genocide have clearly not kept Hamas from seeking and committing it. Nor have they protected Israel’s critics from falsely claiming that it is doing the same thing.

This is why the Christian gospel is so urgently needed in our post-Christian culture. Only in Christ can we become a “new creation” for whom “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Only Jesus can cleanse sinners so that we are “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

In my latest website paper, “Are the Jews still God’s chosen people?” I relate the transforming power of the gospel to the war in the Middle East. After examining in detail the theological debate regarding Israel’s status in biblical prophecy and God’s kingdom today, I close with three biblical facts:

  1. God intends all people—Jews and Gentiles—to experience his transforming love (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
  2. God wants to use all people—Jews and Gentiles—to bring the good news of his love to the world (Genesis 12:3; Acts 1:8).
  3. We should join Paul in praying earnestly for Jews who do not know Jesus to turn to him in faith (Romans 10:1).

“Faith is like a window you look through”

In light of these facts, let’s close with this truth: God’s love in Christ can change any human heart, including the terrorists of Hamas. If we think this is impossible, we just need to remember the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The Bible records that he “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3; cf. 22:4). Of course, that persecutor is known to the world today as Paul the Apostle.

If God could change his heart, he can change any heart.

Will you pause now to pray for God to bring the terrorists of Hamas into conviction of their sins and salvation in Christ? Ask Jesus to reveal himself to them in visions and dreams, something he is doing across the Muslim world today. And remember: it is always too soon to give up on God.

Br. Geoffrey Tristram of the Society of St. John the Evangelist notes: “It’s not great faith that you need, but faith in a great God. Faith is like a window you look through. It doesn’t matter if the window is six feet high or six inches, or just the tiniest peephole in a telescope. What matters is the God that your faith is looking out on.”

How great is your God?

Read more on the war in Israel >


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