In fact, Lemkin, “the father of the term ‘genocide’”, drew on Hitler’s publicly available genocidal thoughts expressed in writing to hone his understanding of the destruction of human groups and, subsequently, imposing the perpetrators’ design on the surviving population, in the morning after.
That in turn took me to the ideological and technical source of modern genocides, Adolf Hitler’s blood-based view of a racially cleansed state, with the acquisition of land for the state’s – as opposed to biblically – “chosen people.” As a matter of fact, even, 20 years before Hitler, a fringe demagogue from Bavaria, began formulating his coherent if vile body of “National Socialist” vision of a racially superior Aryan nation, cleansed of inferior populations – most specifically “the Jude” which he termed “vermin” “bloodsuckers” “masters of deception” “parasites” and so on – pre-Nazi Germany under Kaisar Wilhem and Bismack were perpetrating the 1st modern genocide of the 20th century in Namibia (1904-08).
As students of genocide noted the colonizing German authorities and troops were driving hundreds of thousands of native peoples – Heroro and Nama – into African desert where they (the Germans) cut off water and any sources of essentials to sustain life for the marked populations whom the occupiers did not want, but whose land they lusted after and subsequently taken over to build German settlements. Three decades on, the Nazis, now in power, proceeded to hone the earlier successful genocidal techniques hatched in the deserts to realize their Aryan project on the local populations. So, Namibia Presidency condemned Germany when Berlin announced that it will officially support Netanyahu’s Israel as a 3rd party in S. Africa vs. Israel genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the day (12 January) Israel denied any wrongdoing in Gaza.
Land and Genocides
“We are obliged to depopulate,” (italics original), he went on emphatically, as part of our mission of preserving the German population. We shall have to develop a technique of depopulation. If you ask me what I mean by depopulation, I mean the removal of the entire racial units. And that is what I intend to carry out….”
Those were Adolf Hitler’s words as quoted verbatim by his frequent guest and writer Dr Herman Rausching, uttered as early as 1932, a year before the Nazis came to power.
In the New York Times Book review (18 February 1940) of Rausching’s The Voice of Destruction (New York, 1940), the reviewer Ferdinand Khun Jr. wrote, quoting Rausching, “he (Hitler) said the war of the future would consist of ‘ariel attacks, stupendous in their mass effect, surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination from within, the murder of leading men, overwhelming attacks on all weak points, in the enemy’s defence.” While guests including Dr Rausching were sipping tea and nibbling Streuselkuchen, Hitler proceeded to thunder, “we may be destroyed, but if we are we shall drag the world with us, a world in flames.”
Rausching dubbed Hitler and his Nazi movement “apocalyptic riders of world annihilation.”
Google “100th day in Gaza,” and see what comes up in images, audiovisual materials and reports. Hiroshima- or post-war Berlin- or Warsaw-like scenes, to start with.
And enter the unfolding of “widening regional conflict” as US and UK have already gotten themselves involved in attacking Yemen in the direct context of the African country’s assault on the Israel-bound ships in the Red Sea, which the Yemenese organization bow will not stop until Israel ends its genocidal assault on Gaza’s population.
Now back to Hitler and Lemkin in Europe of those mass-murderous decades of 1930’s and 1940’s.
In Berlin, the newly elected Aryan Chancellor Hitler was elaborating his plan of genocide to a group of visitors over tea and German snacks in the early 1930’s, the Polish Jewish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, recent graduate from the then Polish University in Lwow (now Lviv, in Ukraine) was reworking his earlier pre-Nazi era concerns and concepts about population destruction – the crime of barbarism and the crime of vandalism. Lemkin proposed, without success, these two new crimes be added to the existing body of international law at an international law conference in Madrid in 1933.
The result was his ground-breaking essay entitled in a single (newly coined) word “Genocide”, published as Chapter IX of Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, 2nd Edition by the Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. 2008, originally published in 1944. Within the narrow confines of the Genocide Convention, S. Africa’s case against Israeli genocide in Gaza only deals the Jewish State’s systematic and ongoing violent conduct towards the Palestinians under various types of siege for the last 17 years, and more ominously, “the total siege” since October 7 attacks against Israel by Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Seen through the framework of Lemkin’s rich sociological conception of genocide, the incessant talks of post-conflict Gaza – by Israel and its Euro-American genocide enablers such as USA, UK and EU – fall neatly in the Lemkinian second phase or stage of genocide: imposing the victorious scheme on the surviving segment of Palestinians. Neither the ICJ case nor the legally framed narrative will cover this deeply settler colonial policy and outlook, which Israel’s perpetrators pursue through genocidal techniques.
On 12 January 2024, during 3-hours of Israel’s presentations, the Jewish State’s Co-Agent Mr Sander had obviously deceived the ICJ when he accused S. Africa of depriving Palestinians of “their agency” by filing the Application. In social media and in street rallies and processions, I have only heard repeated public “Thank you” to S. Africa for anti-apartheid S. Africans’ well-established and decades-old ties and acts of solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle. It is Israel, as the colonizer and the grabber of Palestinian land, that has denied millions of Palestinians under its Occupied Territories and in the diaspora worldwide, the right of self-determination – and the right of return.
Speaking of Zionists’ landgrab of Palestinian land, in her biography “My Life, Golda Meir: Israel’s only female Prime Minister” (first published in 1975, 2023)” Meir, a Ukraine-born American Jewish settler, wrote, “… I am more than a little tired of hearing about how the Jews ‘stole’ land from Arabs in Palestine.” In the preceding paragraph, Meir wrote, “(w)hen the First World War ended and the Mandate over Palestine was awarded by the League of Nations to Great Britain (from Turkey), the new hopes raised by the Balfour Declaration for the establishment of a full-fledged Jewish national home seemed to be on the way towards fulfilment (p.78).”
Deeply drunk with her own fanaticism of Socialist Zionism, Gold Meir did not seem to be bothered by what the native Arabs of Palestine might feel about the unwelcome mass-implant of largely Eastern Europe’s persecuted Jews (from Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania) – which she rightly termed “the Christian problem”, not “the Jewish problem”. Nor was Meir troubled by the imperialistic decision by the League’s war-victorious Western powers to slice land (with people on it), nor by the unilateral decision by Britain’s Christian Zionist Secretary of State Lord Balfour. None of these historic moves involved any consultation with, much less consent by the residential population of Palestine.
It is noteworthy that ninety-six percent of Palestine’s population were Arabs of various faiths.
As a matter of fact, Meir definitely knew that the land was already predominantly populated by native, residential Arabs, and, equally important, that the latter were putting up resistance against the League’s colonialist imposition of mass immigration policies in Palestine.
Making a specific reference to her older sister Sheyna, a staunch Zionist, who decided to re-immigrate, with her two children, from Denver, Colorado to Palestine at “the worst possible time”. For, Meir wrote, “on 1 May 1921, following a series of attacks on the Jewish settlements in the north of the country (of Palestine), full-scale Arab riots against the Jews had broken out in Palestine. Over forty people, many of them new immigrants, had been murdered and mutilated. Only a year earlier, Jews had been murdered and raped by Arab gangs in the Old City of Jerusalem, and although it was hoped that the British civil administration (which had just taken over from the military) would deal sternly with those responsible for the riots and thus restore calm, violence had just erupted again. Within a few years, Shamai (Meir’s brother-in-law) argued, Palestine might be at peace; the Arab nationalists might no longer be able to incite Arab villagers to bloodshed; it might become a reasonably safe country in which to live! (p.64)”.
Three weeks after the 1 May riots against the unwelcome mass Jewish immigration in Palestine, driven by their Zionist zeal for “our conquest of the land” (p.74), the two sisters and their families set sail from New York to the biblical Zion aboard SS Pocahontas on 23 May.
Meir wrote, “(y)ears earlier, however, in 1901, the Jewish National Fund had already been formed by the Zionist movement for the exclusive purpose of buying and developing land in Palestine in the name of the entire Jewish people (italics added).”
As a matter of fact, Theodor Herzl whom Meir called “the father of Israel”, was lobbying various imperial powers, 1st to the Ottoman sultan, later to German Kaisar Wilhelm and later the British Colonial Office, – depending on who was controlling the real estate in Palestine – to get a large slice of Palestine for the Jewish state. He apparently tried to entice the Sultan by promising to the latter that the Jewish financiers would pay off portions of the Ottoman debt. Herzl got nowhere when he died in 1915. (See False Messiahs: How Zionism’s dreams of liberation became entangled with colonialism, Barnett R. Rubin, The Boston Review, 4 January 2024, for a very thorough historical background to what I would call “secondary settler colonialism” adopted by Herzl and his ideological heirs. Secondary because the Zionists in search of “the living space”, to borrow the German term, were looking for European colonial powers to serve as “mother country”, a role that the United States has come to assume, out of its own strategic equations.
According to the New Historian of Israel Shlomo Sand, the author of The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland and The Invention of the Jewish People, the biblical Zion, in sharp contrast to Herzl’s quest for land, using the biblical rhetoric, is a holy land where the observant Jews, (including one of his “selfish” great-uncles who sold everything of value in order to finance his voyage for his own resurrection, having left not a cent for his children or family), from all over Europe travelled to die where they believe they would be resurrected.
This religious custom is not dissimilar to the observant Hindus who travel their 5,000-years’ old holy city of Varanasi, Benare state, India to die and be cremated on the banks of River Ganges there. The sight of the 24/7 burning of heaven-bound corpses is a mesmerising spectacle which brings millions of international tourists (and their $$$) to India.
Choosing to go and die in one’s holy land is one thing. But taking over vast swarths of land already developed as a society and economy, and densely populated by another people – Palestinians – to build a new Zionist settler colony, justified on the biblical fairy tales and backed by the Old Europe’s imperialist policies which dressed themselves up as “international law”, is a radically different matter.
In sharp contrast to the Old Europe’s spiritual Zionists, political Zionists of late 19th century Eastern Europe – mainly Socialist and Labourite secularists – were solely driven to acquire large tracts of land to acquire, live and start a new sovereign country “on the ruins of the (native) people”, as the late Edward Said rightly and angrily pointed out in one of his TV interviews.
Tel Aviv’s biblically justified land deed and its Zombie-like deployment of “the right of return”, after the supposed 2,000 years of exile from Egypt, is as credible as the Chinese Communist Party’s diabolical rhetoric of the Middle Kingdom’s historical claim over the vast water bodies of South China Sea, holding up maps from antiquity. These claims from antiquity, based in maps or the old bible, put the claimant states above international law (for instance, the Genocide Convention or the Convention on the Law of the Sea).
To belabour the obvious, the now-100-years’ old hope of Golder Meir’s extended family that there might be peace in Palestine “in a few years” remains as elusive as the spiritualists’ “resurrection” in Zion.
As Mairead Mahguire the Northern Irish Nobel Laureate (1976 Peace Prize) and a friend of the late Yasar Arafat put it in her interview with me in her native Belfast, in December 2023, “Israel cannot build peace (or security) on genocide.”
Myanmar and Israel genocide cases and International Court of Justice
On the face of the available evidence that S. Africa submitted in its 84-page Application – as opposed to Gambia’s Application of 36 pages against Myanmar – to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), most non-Zionist (read impartial and objective) lawyers, students of genocide and legally informed journalists around the world certainly see that the ICJ judges will have a breezy job of ruling in favour of the Applicant S. Africa, on both the interim or “provisional measures” request by the Applicant state of S. Africa and in the Merit Phase. That is, if all 15 judges – and the two ad hoc judges handpicked by S. Africa and Israel – are independent, intellectually, ideologically and politically.
In Gambia vs. Myanmar case the ICJ reached a unanimous decision on 23 January 2020 that the case thus presented met the bar of “plausibility” (of Myanmar breaching the Genocide Convention) to warrant a full hearing, and hence the issuance of the interim ruling. Another landmark case, the Rohingya genocide proceedings are now in the Merit Phase, and its 5th year.
There are currently raging debates globally about the S. Africa vs. Israel genocide case anchored in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Genocide Convention). However, in my own attempts to understand Israel’s physical destruction of Gaza and the Zionist state’s policies and Zionist thought and mindset with respect to the native population of Palestine at large, I find exceedingly helpful to turn to Hitler’s own formulation of genocidal techniques which he shared in his private circles as early as 1932, and, conversely, Raphael Lemkin’s extremely rich, grounded and textured sociological conception of genocide a decade later, which were then being implemented by Hitler’s “executioners” throughout the Nazi-occupied Europe.
In the midst of the civil war between East and West Pakistan in 1971, made up of two different populations of Bengali speakers and Urdu speakers, West Pakistani general chillingly ordered his troops, “I want the land, not the people.” What ensued was a genocidal destruction of Bengalis in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), still not recognized as such.
In all genocides forcibly removing and/or destroying an unwanted population, or “depopulating” the land – as Adolf Hitler put it, as a matter-of-factly – typically go hand in hand.
Obviously, the Architect of the Nazi Genocide, Hitler did not need to turn to the Heaven (or any edition of the bible), unlike Netanyahu and generations of political Zionists to make the baseless claim over the land.
In the brief sub-section entitled “Significance of the State’s Area” (of Mein Kempf, pp. 642-643), Hitler offered his non-biblical rationale for the need for “an adequately large space.”
In Hitler’s own written words, “Only an adequately large space on this earth assures a nation of freedom of existence (italic original). Moreover, the necessary size of the territory to be settled cannot be judged exclusively on the basis of present requirements, not even in fact on the basis of present requirement, not even in fact on the basis of the yield of the soil compared to the population. For, as I explained in the first volume, under ‘German Alliance Policy Before the War,’ in addition to its importance as a direct source of a people’s food, another significance, that is, a military and political one, must be attributed to the area of a state (italics original). If a nation’s sustenance as such is assured by the amount of its soil, the safeguarding of the existing soil itself must also be borne in mind. This lies in the general power-political strength of the state, which in turn to no small extent is determined by geo-military considerations (p.643).
Does this sound familiar in the current context of utterances with regard to Gaza-related security concerns for the officially Jewish State, coming out of Netanyahu’s War Cabinet?
The equally chilling parallel is the common ideological justification by the Third Reich and Israel – in terms of manufactured link between the two apartheid states and exclusionary mono-races.
Here Hitler is instructive, when he wrote, in Mein Kampf, “(T)he foreign policy of the folkish (National Socialist) state must safeguard the existence on this planet of the race embodied in the state, by creating a healthy, viable natural relation between the nation’s population and growth on the one hand and the quantity and quality of its oil soil on the other hand (pp.642-643).”
However, going forward, Hitlerite notion of “depopulation” (or drastic reduction) of the land of unwanted group – in this case, 2.3 million residents of Gaza offers a crystal clear empirical lens through which judges and spectators alike should be invited to view Israel’s policies and practices.
As chilling and vile as he was, Hitler spelled out “depopulation” of the land as the crucial objective for the preservation (security) of the Aryan nation thus:
“We are obliged to depopulate,” (italics original), he went on emphatically, as part of our mission of preserving the German population. We shall have to develop a technique of depopulation. If you ask me what I mean by depopulation, I mean the removal of the entire racial units. And that is what I intend to carry out – that, roughly, is my task. Nature is cruel, therefore we, too, may be cruel. If I can send the flower of the German nation into the hell of war without the smallest pity for the spilling of precious German blood, then surely I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin! By “remove”, I don’t necessarily mean destroy (italics mine); I shall simply take systematic measures to dam their great natural fertility. For example, I shall keep their men and women separated for years. Do you remember the falling birthrate of the world war? Why should we not do quite consciously and through a number of years what was at the time merely the inevitable consequence of the long war? There are many ways, systematical and comparatively painless, or at any rate bloodless, of causing undesirable races to die out.”
[Hitler’s statement to Rauschning, from “The Voice of Destruction,” by Hermann Rauschning (New York, 1940, pp. 137-138), quoted by Lemkin as Footnote 29, page 86, Chapter IX: Genocide)].
Published in 1942 in USA, when the Final Solution was well-underway in such dark sites as Auschwitz in the Nazi-occupied Poland under the Administration of Hitler’s lawyer Hans Frank, Lemkin’s Genocide Chapter included that crucial, extensive quote attributed to Hitler. Were Lemkin alive today and was asked to look at the conduct by the occupying state of Israel in Gaza (and other occupied territories of Palestine), the Polish Jewish legal genius would certainly be persuaded to reference Hitler’s articulation of his genocidal project and reach the inevitable conclusion: that Israel is committing a comprehensive genocide.
No two genocides in history are identical, to belabour the obvious.
Different genocidal regimes device different but coordinated and generally systematic plan of annihilation. The English proverb “there are many ways to skin a cat” springs to mind. Some genocides are executed over decades. Even the most industrially systematized genocide by the Nazis took over 10 years, with its accelerated phase of the “liquidation” of the unwanted populations, largely the European Jewry.
The push for out-migration, ghettoization, accompanying deprivation of the absolute essentials of life – food, water, medicine, electricity – , direct killings of the members of the targeted population, establishment of ever-expanding “living space” (or settlements, if you like) for “one chosen race”, state-chosen or biblically chosen, were all integral to Hitler’s scheme of “depopulating” the land earmarked for the ownership in the hands of the race-state, the (exclusively) Jewish State or the Third Reich and its Aryan race. The State of Israel now owns more than 93% of the land in Palestine while at the height of the apartheid, Pretoria owned about 70%.
Myanmar state which has long been captured by the country’s central military adopted consciously a policy of slow-genocide towards Myanmar’s Rohingya population concentrated in the Bangladesh-Myanmar border areas, as early as 1970’s. The two final waves of “depopulating” the western land of Myanmar drove out 740,000 people from 300+ villages in 2016 and 2017.
Amidst the physical destruction of much of Gaza which the world has witnessed over the last 100 days, Israeli politicians, officials and public openly talk of the natives of Gaza relocating to countries “for their own better future”.
In his essay “The Old and New Conversations” (On Palestine, Noam Chomsky and Iian Pappe, Penguin, 2015), a highly regarded Israeli scholar of Palestine at Britain’s Exeter University shed light on “the connection between Zionist ideology and the movement’s policies in the present.” Peppe wrote, “both aim to establish a Jewish state by taking over as much of historical Palestine as possible and leaving in it as few Palestinians as possible. The desire to turn the mixed ethnic Palestine into a pure ethnic space was and is at the heart of the conflict that has raged since 1882.”
He continues, “(t)his impulse, never condemned or rebuked by a world that watched by and did nothing, led to the massive expulsion of 750,000 people (half of the region’s population), the destruction of more than five hundred villages, and the demolition of a dozen towns in 1948.”
It is instructive to quote Peppe’s scathing indictment of Israel: “(t)he international silence in the face of this crime against humanity (which is how ethnic cleansing is defined in the dictionary of international law) transformed the ethnic cleansing into the ideological infrastructure on which the Jewish state was built. Ethnic cleansing became the DNA of Israeli Jewish society – and remains a daily pre-occupation for those in power and those who were engaged in one way or another with the various Palestinian communities controlled by Israel. It became the means for implementing a not yet fulfilled dream – if Israel wanted not only to survive but also to thrive, whatever the shape of the state, the fewer Arabs (Palestinians) in it, the better.”
One hears the echoes of Hitler’s words: “We are obliged to depopulate”.
Whatever the ICJ’s ruling, interim or eventual, Israel’s genocidal dream of “depopulating” the land of Palestine in pursuit of the nearly 150-years of deadly Zionist Dream has been effectively shattered.
Both the world, including the anti-Zionist Jews, or “Jews with conscience”, as my Jewish American brother Stephen Shaw from Brooklyn put it, have called Israel out for its ongoing genocide. We roundly condemn Israel’s financial, political, and military backers such as USA, UK, Germany France and a majority of the EU states. They are criminal accomplices in Israel’s genocide, and they ought to be held to account, if only morally and reputationally, for their criminal complicity.
The historically genocidal colonising states with European root show no signs of humanity, nor have they “atoned” their colonial “sins” globally. After centuries of landgrab, loot, and colonialism of various hues, political classes in the Global North appear unable to see the non-white people as fully humans equally worthy of “life, liberty and happiness”.
Still, it is very fitting, morally, legally, ideologically and intellectually, the mono-racialized Jewish State found itself before the UN’s highest court of the states, being tried as it were under the very convention – the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, whose emergence was triggered by the Shoah.
The same year when the United Nations adopted the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN chose to look the other way when Israel began its first large scale genocide – the Nakba – during which the settler colonial state laid its foundation for depopulation, destruction and displacement of Palestinian land. Its choice is coming back to haunt the world body while millions of Palestinians on their ancestral land – and in diaspora – continue to bear the brunt of the United Nations’ abysmal failures.
This time, the conscience of the world has been awoken – in the same way the Abolitionist Conscience had been awoken nearly 200 years ago – as evidenced in the vociferous and sustained protests and marches of Free Palestine supporters globally including in Western capitals.
It is cliché to say what is seen cannot be unseen; still, it is absolutely true that the world has seen with its collective eyes – might I add, also with moral clarity, not simply Israel’s immediate and unfolding Lemkinian “crime of barbarism” and “crime of vandalism”, but also the genocidal foundation of the Zionist settler colonial state and its un-repentant formulations of the post-Gaza genocidal vision for the natives of Palestinians.
With deep pain, Lemkin must be watching all this unfold from Heaven while Hitler turns in his un-marked grave, now a parking lot, in Berlin.
Banner: Israeli Aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal area of Gaza City, October 9, 2023. Photo Wikipedia Commons