In Stop Genocide, a short documentary that runs a modest length of twenty-odd minutes, the Bangladeshi writer and filmmaker Zahir Raihan masterfully documented the atrocities committed by the Pakistani armed forces in Bangladesh’s liberation war of 1971. Raihan became a victim of the very same genocide he documented two days before it officially ended.
While Raihan had to rely on found video footage and photographs, his modern-day Palestinian colleagues are forced to carry out the daunting task of documenting another genocide unfolding around them in real-time. With the Israeli onslaught on Gaza recently passing its hundredth day, however, the supply of wartime footage from the Palestinian side has gradually waned — simply because many of the Palestinian journalists documenting the destruction of Gaza City and its people have met the same fate as Raihan.
Much of the footage of the invasion now comes from the Israeli side: Airstrikes flattening entire neighbourhoods, hospitals, universities; IDF soldiers frogmarching half-naked Palestinian prisoners to torture chambers, desecrating places of worship and graveyards, shooting down hungry Palestinians scavenging for food, raiding Palestinian homes to steal money and jewellery, admitting to committing rape on social media posts; Israeli politicians vowing to ethically cleanse and permanently occupy Gaza.
But ask any of Israel’s Western allies, and you will receive the defiant denial that none of Israel’s actions amount to a charge of war crimes, let alone genocide, for the prerogative to define what amounts to war crimes and genocide solely resides with the civilised West. Who knows what counts as genocide, say, for example, more than Germany? South Africa had no sooner taken Israel to the International Court of Justice than Germany declared its intention to intervene on behalf of the latter.
While Israeli politicians and military generals openly vent their genocidal intents, it is up to their Western allies to whitewash their most unsavoury statements, defend the indefensible collective punishments meted out by the IDF, restock and replenish the IDF’s arsenal, and bomb Israel’s enemies. If previously Israel was an extension of the imperial West in the heart of the Middle East, just as once Outremer was of Catholic Europe, now it is the obverse. For a long time, the dog wagged its tail. Now it’s the tail’s turn.
lHow do we then stop the slaughter if we cannot expect Western leaders to grow a conscience overnight? The answer is fostering collective worldwide solidarity, the seeds of which have been sown by post-apartheid South Africa. Conscientious citizens in the West must join in common cause with victims of settler colonialism, from the Sami hinterlands in the Global North to the Aboriginal Islands in the Global South. Through non-violent collective actions, which include boycotting Israeli products and voting out politicians who support Israel’s apartheid regime, we can usher in a future where Jews, Christians, and Muslims live side by side in peace and prosperity in what many consider to be the Holy Land.