Letter in Alexandria: Student Walkout In Support of Palestine; How to Define Genocide

Letter in Alexandria: Student Walkout In Support of Palestine; How to Define Genocide

To the editor:

Alexandria City High School students' Nov. 9 walk out in support of Palestine exemplifies what commentators will in time recognize as GenZ's remarkable audaciousness within the full range of that word's connotations, from intrepidly daring to recklessly bold to contemptuous of decorum. Their spontaneity shows they comprehend the Israeli counterattack on Gaza's disproportionate impact on civilians, which many in the U.S. the military and foreign-policy establishment too readily dismiss. 

Two accusations of antisemitism levelled at the students for characterizing the Israeli response in Gaza as a genocide do, however, warrant response:

On Nov. 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III for complicity with genocide. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court on behalf of Palestinian individuals and organizations, requests that the U.S. stop “providing further arms, money, and diplomatic support to Israel on grounds that there is an unfolding genocide ... against the civilian population of Gaza.” Originally established to provide legal and financial support to lawyers representing civil rights activists in Mississippi fighting racial segregation, the Center later distinguished itself by suing on behalf of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, leading to, for the first time in U.S. history, the Supreme Court ruling against the president on behalf of alleged enemy fighters in wartime. 
Their court submission includes an expert declaration by three leading Holocaust and genocide studies scholars: Victoria Sanford, Barry Trachtenberg, and John Cox. Sanford has written extensively on genocide and state violence in Latin America, especially in the case of Guatemala. Trachtenberg and Cox have published widely on the Holocaust. Their report stresses that the “levels of destruction and killings in just over one month, together with the annihilatory language expressed by Israeli state leaders and senior army officers, point not to targeting of individual Hamas militants or Hamas military targets, but to the unleashing of deadly violence against Palestinians in Gaza ‘as such,’ in the language of the U.N. Genocide Convention.” 

On Oct. 15, over 800 international law, Holocaust, genocide, and conflict scholars, including Omer Bartov and Marion Kaplan who have shaped the field of Holocaust and genocide studies, wrote, “We are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” Raz Segal, associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies and endowed professor in the study of modern genocide at Stockton University in New Jersey and an Israeli, endeavored to raise alarms about the Israeli military’s mass violence against Palestinians when he spoke at Kol Tzedek, the Jewish congregation he attends in Philadelphia. 

American aid is buying some of the bombs the Israelis are raining on Gaza. Those bombs are killing disproportionate numbers of civilians, much as napalm did when the U.S. dropped it on Vietnam. Just as Americans reasonably condemned U.S. use of napalm in Vietnam and demanded napalm be outlawed, the ACHS students are not “demonizing” the Israelis by raising reasonable objections to the U.S. financing and supporting Israeli military tactics in Gaza. 

Pulitzer-winning freelancer and illustrator Mona Chalabi recently lamented print journalism's reluctance to use the ‘P-word’ for Palestine, the term for the territory since 2nd Century A.D. Roman Emperor Hadrian. Very much to the Alexandria Gazette Packet's credit, you put the ‘P-word’ in your front-page headline. 

Dino Drudi

Alexandria, VA