As hostilities entered the thirteenth day, Israel's relentless bombardments on Gaza continued, resulting in an additional 307 Palestinians killed in the past 24 hours (as of 17:00, 19th October 2023), according to the United Nations.
This brings the cumulative fatality toll in the Gaza Strip to 3,785, including at least 1,524 children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Hundreds of additional fatalities are believed to be trapped under the rubble.
Former UN correspondent for Al Jazeera and speechwriter for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mark Seddon, is joined by:
Raz Segal, an Israeli historian and an Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton University, where he is also an Endowed Professor in the study of Modern Genocide.
Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arabic-British Understanding
Karim Ali, a Palestinian advocate and co-founder of the Gaza Sunbirds, Palestine's first para-cycling team. His family originate from Haifa and Sabareen
Raz Segal: "I can't really speak to things that I don't know. I can speak to what we all heard, Biden said walking off the plane when he landed in Israel, and actually, it might be worthwhile if I may to quote actually what he said very briefly. I think it's very telling. He said this. 'Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst savages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world. There is no rationalising it, no excusing it. The brutality we saw have cut deep anywhere in the world, but it cuts deeper here in Israel. October 17th, which was a sacred Jewish holiday, became the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by millennia of anti-Semitism and the genocide of the Jewish people. The world watched, then it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.' I think that this is very telling because with this, we all heard this, we all saw this. With this, Biden really reinforced a deadly rhetoric that we heard just a couple of days ago from former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, in his tantrum on Sky News, where he said, "We" the Israelis "are fighting Nazis." This deeply dehumanising language, this language that conflates people in a state, Jews and Israel, this language that distorts the historical reality of powerful states in the Holocaust Nazi Germany attacking a defenseless people, Jews, and now presents a powerful state, powerful army, backed by powerful allies as powerless Jews in a struggle against Nazis rather than attacking defenseless Palestinians."
"Palestinians were under decades of Israeli settler colonial rule, military occupation, siege, the longest siege in modern history on Gaza, which was already a clear violation of international humanitarian law. We heard all that, we saw all that, it's in front of our eyes. I have to say, this is the reason that we see a clear shift today, among scholars in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I can't say if it's very significant yet in terms of numbers, or no, but we have a statement of more than 800 scholars of international law, of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, of conflict studies about the danger, about really the unfolding Israeli genocidal violence in Gaza today."
"There's some big names in Holocaust and Genocide scholars on that list, including myself, there's Jewish Holocaust and Genocide scholars, there's other scholars who are Jews. This is significant, and we can talk a bit more about it. It's significant, I think, because the discourse about the Holocaust, the way that Israel for decades has used the Holocaust to deny and distort and justify and rationalise Israeli mass violence against Palestinians and creating a state of impunity for Israel around the world."
"I think that this is breaking down now among Holocaust and Genocide Studies scholars, and that, I think, is very significant, and it's because we see and we hear what [US President] Biden said, and as scholars in the field, we know that this is simply not true. This is simply a distortion."
Mark Seddon: "I suppose coming to you, Raz, if I may, when there are conflicts, when there are terrible things happening, people sometimes rush to conclusions, and they band the accusations around, but we are hearing in the case of Gaza the word genocide. This is your speciality. Can you tell us in your opinion, as a result of all of your academic knowledge and research, are there now acts of genocide now taking place in Gaza?"
Raz Segal: "Without a doubt in my view. I think that when it comes to international legal processes, they're long and they're enmeshed, of course, with international politics, right? If we understand that genocide requires the special intent to destroy, we're seeing it now across the board in Israeli politics and society and culture. Anyone who follows Hebrew language sources see it everywhere: annihilatory, explicit, unashamed language. We see it at the very top, as you said Chris, the Israeli president, army officers, everything will be eliminated: Yoav Gallant, Daniel Hagari, the Israeli army spokespersons focus is on destruction and not accuracy. Of course it is.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of bombs within a few days. The use of white phosphorus. There's no time, but I invite readers to check what that means. It's a kind of weapon that burns in air and nothing can stop it.
Now, when you take this special intent together with the kinds of violence that we're seeing, because, of course, not every time that we see bombings of civilian populations we can talk about genocide. It doesn't really matter for the people under attack, of course, but for the purpose here, once we see it with the special intent, these bombings are genocidal killings.
And once we see an explicit - think about it - Yoav Gallant took the 17-year-old illegal siege, think about the levels of Israeli impunity, the longest siege in modern history and upgraded it to a 'complete siege', which is a new term, by the way. As far as I can see, as far as I checked, this is a new term, 'complete siege'. It tells us everything we need to know about the direction of genocidal travel.
He said, 'no food, no water, no fuel, no nothing'. Everything will be closed, everything will be eliminated. This is creating conditions designed to bring about the destruction of the group…
Look, there's a question of genocide now in Gaza. I think as I said, in my view it's very clear, it is indeed a textbook because of the explicit special intent that we see on display.
But we have to be clear that Israeli violence against Palestinians is a structural systemic issue since the creation of the Israeli state. Since the Nakba, through military occupation, through siege, through apartheid policies, it's all well, well, well documented.
There is no Hamas in the West Bank. Hamas does not control the West Bank, and yet we see an unbelievable process of ethnic cleansing taking place in the West Bank which has intensified in the past year. Now, also, by the way, there is no Hamas in the West Bank, Israel has killed dozens of Palestinians since the 7th of October in the West Bank, has accelerated and intensified this ethnic cleansing with the destruction of whole communities of Palestinians, now under Israeli military occupation.
There is no Hamas, so yes, absolutely. Hamas' attack was an absolute war crime without a doubt, but we have to see this in a larger context. This does not in any way justify this horrendous crime, this mass murder of more than a thousand Israelis and probably more now with new numbers coming out. We have to see this in this broader context of basically creating the idea, the imagination, the fantasy of creating a Jewish state without Palestinians."
I have to say one last thing, which is very important on my end. There is no military solution for this, no proportional or disproportional response. There is no military solution for this. There are seven million Jews and seven million Palestinians on that land, and the future belongs to both of them.
What is the solution? Well, if we really take seriously the lessons of the Holocaust, if we want to use that phrase, the solution is to forefront victims and survivors of state violence and genocide, not portray them as evil and Nazis. The solution is accountability. We have clear incitement for genocide that's punishable under Article 3 of the convention, even if genocide does not follow. We need to talk about truth and justice. We need to dismantle a settler colonial state, and we need to create a state that's based on equality, on freedom and dignity for everyone who lives there."
Chris Doyle: "The issue of accountability has been something that's terrified us all for so long. Remember, this is Israel's sixth major military operation on Gaza, that's putting aside the other less significant ones since 2005. We haven't seen any accountability whatsoever after each and every single one. That makes actually the failure to call for adherence to international law on behalf of Israel even worse, because we have the evidence that they were doing it before, and prime ministers and presidents aren't saying anything. We have the statements of intent and we have the past record here as well. Yes, one thing I think is really noticeable and really commented upon is the increasing gulf between Europe and North America, on the one hand, and particularly the global south. They see this huge double standard that Ukraine, Russia was a European war fought according to our standards, that because there were blonde, blue-eyed refugees, we'll take them in. When it comes to places like Afghanistan etc., we wouldn't."
"When you consider with the very genocidal statements of the Israeli leadership that Raz outlined, I think, is deeply troubling. He said there was no military solution. He also talked about a crime of genocide being committed. I think what's really disturbing is that there are some people, perhaps within Israel, who do see that as a military solution, that actually committing that crime of genocide combined with ethnic cleansing, you force the population out of the Gaza Strip, that that is a military solution, that they will do that. It's very shortsighted. It is obviously wrong and immoral, it's illegal. What do they think down the line is going to happen? That they're going to get peace and security from doing this? It's very naive. It shows that they don't understand history either."
"The possible scenarios are almost endless. Once you've got a conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, is Iran going to be out of the picture? To what extent does Syria then get sucked in? Israel, of course, has already struck targets within Syria since the 7th of October. It becomes a situation where it's really hard to contain, and including in the West Bank. Over 500 Palestinians have been forcibly transferred out of their communities since the 7th of October. This is part of a process that's been going on, and now, when all likelihood will be exacerbated, everyone is paying attention to the situation in Gaza and southern Israel. It is extremely worrying. If I thought that there were international leaders with real gravitas and statesmen who were prepared, particularly the President of the United States, to do something about it and step in and read the riot act to the parties involved, I'd feel a little bit more confident that we could prevent those worst-case scenarios. We don't. We have a weak American leadership, we have a divided European Union, and there doesn't seem to be key international activists who are going to exercise the sort of really dedicated diplomacy and tough language that is necessary right now prevent things getting a hundred times worse. That is so alarming."
Karim Ali: "I often say this when I speak, yes, it's so easy to get caught up in the number of casualties and the number of buildings that have been bombed, but the real depressing thing is where you see rubble, we see dreams, we see our future where you see dead children. Every single death is an entire life that could have been lived, that could have found love, that could have produced love in this world, that could have bettered humanity."
"Alaa and these other amputees and people with disabilities in Gaza, they have more than a right than anyone to be pissed off, to hate Israel for what it's done, and to hate the occupation. With that, Alaa decided that he wants to get back on his bike. He then became the first para cyclist in Palestine. Not only that, he decided he wants to start a para-cycling team to help his other brothers who have gone through similar experiences, not be victims anymore. To take control of their life, get back on a bike, strive for international competition, strive to represent Palestine on the world stage, strive to share their stories, to change the narrative. If these people – Israel is saying that we are animals, Israel is saying that we're not human beings – if these people who have lost everything at your hands, everything, everything, everything, they can still love, and they can still dream, and they can still build, and organize, and create a community and a society for themself, then every single thing that is being said to dehumanize is absolutely false. How can we all be animals when the most vulnerable of us are not willing to victimize themself and are willing to get back together and are willing to build and to have hope and faith in the future?"
"Just to be clear, Mark, I think this should have stopped 75 years ago. I think that the world has always known what is happening. Us Palestinians, we have tried. Many have come before us and have died before us to share our message. We have so many martyrs and so many the great academics and great politicians that have come and gone and are all saying the same message. We're an intrinsic part of the revolutionary identity of most societies out there. We have the privilege to be because we've fought side by side with everybody. The reality is the world knows, most good people know. It is consistently politicians that are twisting these stories so that they can benefit and they can save themselves and they can save face instead of realizing the truth, I feel like, what are we doing on Instagram? We're fighting for the truth. We're fighting not to accept the lies that are being said, and Instagram shadow bans us and Instagram blocks our accounts and removes our posts. Instagram is no saint. Definitely, we are a very lucky generation to have this reach, to have this access to the world."
"Of course, we saw this just yesterday with the Al Shifa Hospital bombing, the Al-Ahli Hospital. It was bombed, they took claim for it and said that they killed a bunch of terrorists. The next, within hours, we released photographs of the massacres that happened, of more than 600, 700 Palestinian children and women who died, and men, they're innocent too. Then they came and tried to blame it on Hamas. They don't want the truth to come out. They don't want the world to see the death."
"The story of Gaza is decades old at this point. The situation is not like ridiculously better before this genocidal campaign started on the strip. They still had limited access to water. They still had limited access to food. They still had limited access to electricity. Every day was still a struggle. Every day was still hell. They described it as hell, and you would hear people say, I'm choking, I'm suffocating, I'm suffocating. I need to leave. How are they going to feel now? Imagine if the situation became worse than hell. Imagine you reached hell and now the situation is worse than hell. Then what is it?"
"I would tell everybody this, we are fighting for the truth. We are fighting for the future of decency and of everything we hold dear in this world. We've slept through so many genocides as humanity. In this day and age, there are no excuses. There is nothing that we will do that's going to excuse your silence now. This is the time to speak. This is the time to stand up. This is the time to start changing the narrative. This is the time to hold politicians accountable for what they're doing. If the British government wants to help kill thousands and thousands of Gazans, then they're committing war crimes just the same as the Israelis. As people living in the United Kingdom, we are going to be as complicit if-- We're already as complicit. If we really want to do something to make a difference, to make a change, it's time. Go and support the marches that are happening. Speak to your local politicians. Educate your friends and family about Palestine. Post. If all you can do is post, post. Donate money, support Palestinian activists that have been doing this for years. Strike if you want to strike. Do what you need, but the point is that we all need to act and the time to act is now. There's no tomorrow, it's already too late. It's already too late. This should have happened 75 years ago, and now we're on the last breath."