Our Work In
We mourn the Palestinian and Israelis who have been horrifically killed in the escalating violence, with more deaths announced each day. We will continue to support our partners, including those inside Palestine, who are providing emergency medical care and psychosocial support as casualties mount.
We uphold that true, lasting peace and justice can only come from an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies that have deprived and dehumanized Palestinians for generations. These policies have also made peace for Israelis and Palestinians impossible. Peace cannot coexist with or grow from occupation.
November 9, 2023
Sounding the Alarm: Genocide against Palestinians
A growing number of legal scholars, UN experts, and legal organizations are sounding the alarm that genocidal acts have been committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Furthermore, advocates have denounced US complicity in this genocidal violence.
Genocide is not a word that human rights advocates use lightly. The weight that it carries in our collective moral conscience matches the severity of the crime. That was the intention of the advocates and scholars who created the word over 70 years ago, responding to the massacres and atrocities of the early 20th century, including the Holocaust.
MADRE has a 40-year history of working alongside partners in conflict zones, including in communities that have faced genocide such as Guatemala and Rwanda. In each instance, the devastating violence of genocide was targeted against communities who had been labeled as disposable by dehumanizing, racist ideologies.
Today, we see this happening again, targeted against Palestinian people.
Naming a genocide must shock our conscience and spur action – first and foremost, to end the killing. This is the call of the thousands who have taken to the streets and spoken out for a ceasefire, saying “never again.” The international community must also seek justice, including through legal mechanisms whose mandates give them the responsibility to hold genocidal actors accountable. This work is under way, as three Palestinian rights groups this week filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for genocide.
What is the crime of genocide?
In just over a month since the brutal Hamas attacks of October 7th, the Israeli government has launched a campaign of disproportionate bombing that has obliterated over 10,000 people. However, the death toll alone is not what makes the case for genocide. This violence has also been justified in public rhetoric by Israeli officials that starkly suggests the intention to commit genocide, such as labeling Palestinians “human animals” and admitting that the “emphasis is on damage, not accuracy.”
The crime of genocide was first defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the first human rights treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. The Convention defines genocide as a crime, naming it as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
The International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia also made clear that collective punishment or reprisals against civilians are prohibited, “even when confronted by wrongful behaviour of the other party.” International law has further made clear that there is no self-defense justification for genocide.
Legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court, which follows the Convention’s definition of genocide, have a responsibility to investigate and pursue accountability for crimes committed by all parties, including genocidal acts committed by Hamas. But the Israeli government has taken advantage of its people’s desire for justice for the October 7th attacks to divert away from peaceful, lawful responses and to justify its own genocidal campaign of violence, claiming that this bloodshed is necessary to punish Hamas and eliminate the threat it poses. But vengeance is not justice, and these catastrophic crimes against Palestinian people will not lead to security. They will only push the prospects for peace further away.
What is the responsibility of the United States?
The International Court of Justice has held that a state can be complicit in genocide if the state or its organs was (1) aware of an imminent or ongoing genocide; (2) knew that the perpetrator had specific intent to commit crimes of genocide; (3) provided aid or assistance to the perpetrator after becoming aware of the imminent or ongoing genocide; and (4) that aid or assistance enabled or facilitated commission of the act by the direct perpetrators.
The Biden Administration has been “rock solid and unwavering” in its support of Israel’s attacks on Gaza, ignoring or undermining reports of the killings and suffering of Palestinian people – despite ongoing Israeli airstrikes against civilian populations and public statements by Israeli officials embracing collective punishment. The US is ramping up its military aid to Israel, already at sky-high $3.8 billion-per-year levels, despite the almost-certain usage of these weapons in the bombardment of Gaza. For these reasons and others, legal organizations have warned that US policymakers “risk facing criminal and civil liability for aiding and abetting genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law,” given that the US is a signatory to both the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention.
A more peaceful and just world depends upon an even application of international law and human rights standards for every country. As MADRE continues our work to get aid to people inside Gaza, through our longstanding relationships with community-based groups there, we amplify the demand for a ceasefire and access to humanitarian aid, and we call on the international community to investigate and pursue justice for all human rights violations and war crimes, including the crime of genocide against Palestinian people.
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YOUR SUPPORT IN ACTION
As the current emergency evolves, we are mobilizing quickly to provide urgent aid. Despite Israel’s complete siege of Palestine, including blocking people’s access to food and water, our partners in Palestine are providing emergency medical care and psychosocial support as casualties mount from military attacks. Our decades of work in Palestine and our local partners' deep networks mean your support will reach those who need it most.SUPPORT OUR EMERGENCY WORK
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society
MADRE’s local partner the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a community-based organization that provides health services to women, children, the disabled, and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centers in Palestine.
In early 2023, the Israeli government escalated violence in occupied territories, raining bombs, tear gas, and gunfire on Palestinian neighborhoods. Thanks to our supporters, MADRE was able to supply Palestinian communities with the funds they need for emergency medical treatment and mental health support.
In the West Bank, Israeli military roadblocks and restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement prevent people experiencing pregnancy and childbirth from reaching hospitals and accessing reproductive health care. MADRE supports a grassroots group of Palestinian and Israeli midwives, to demand an end to the occupation that prevents pregnant people from accessing essential health care.