February 24, 2024

Israeli officials immediately protested that they had not meant what they said. Netanyahu’s office called the description of his use of Amalek as an incitement to genocide historically ignorant. The “reference to Amalek was not an incitement to genocide of Palestinians, but a description of the utterly evil actions perpetrated by the genocidal terrorists of Hamas on October 7th and the need to confront them,” the statement read.

The point of non-intersection was the crux of the problem. The overwhelming majority of Israelis feel that, after October 7th, the country is responding to an existential threat, fighting an inevitable, necessary, and just war. The sense of righteousness and underlying fear are so great that Israeli officials probably speak for their country when they say, in effect, How can you call it genocide if it’s waged by us? In court, Israeli representatives argued essentially that they shouldn’t have to make an argument. Malcolm Shaw, a British international lawyer representing Israel, asserted that “the real genocide” occurred on October 7th, when Hamas massacred some twelve hundred Israelis.

The court appeared to recognize part of Christopher Staker’s argument and stopped short of ordering a ceasefire, recognizing that the situation in Gaza was dire enough, the evidence compelling enough. The only permanent member of the court who voted against all measures was a representative of Uganda, and the country has since disavowed the dissent. Netanyahu celebrated the failure of what he called the “vile attempt” to deny Israel its right to self-defense. The bombing of Gaza continued.

That same day, a federal court in Oakland heard from four Palestinian Americans, among other witnesses, who claimed that bombs supplied by the U.S. had brought about the death and suffering of their family members. “My family is being killed, on my dime,” Laila El-Haddad, a writer living in Clarksville, Maryland, told the court. El-Haddad said that a cousin had been able to collect parts of his sister’s body and one half of his mother’s body. Waeil Elbhassi, of San Ramon, California, said, “Two of whom are my parents, who actually lived it firsthand and told us stories about it. . . . People feel that if they stay they might die or starve, and if they leave it’s not likely that they’ll be allowed to come back.”

Barry Trachtenberg, a historian of the Holocaust who testified as one of the witnesses, said, “We are watching the genocide unfold as we speak. We are in this incredibly unique position where we can intervene to stop it, using the mechanisms of international law that are available to us.” The U.S. government’s defense rested on the fundamental argument that the case is unthinkable. The Justice Department’s attorneys argued that the court was being asked to intervene in foreign policy and indeed undermine it, violating the principle of separation of powers. At the end of the day, the judge, Jeffrey S. White, said, “There is now on the record uncontradicted evidence that, at least in the opinion of scholars, one very highly regarded scholar, they believe there is a genocide in progress.”