Feminism(s) and Degrowth Alliance joins the Global day of Action for Gaza on 76th Nakba Anniversary commemorated on May 15, 2024

In a speech given to future European diplomats in Bruges on 13th October 2022, Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, used the metaphors of “a garden” and “a jungle” to highlight a civilisational contrast between Europe – a garden of Eden, and the most of the rest of the world – the jungle that could invade the garden. In the following weeks, the EU’s foreign minister was fiercely criticised for the metaphors’ blatant racist connotations. Quite rightly, as lurking behind Borrell’s reminder to diplomats, future European “gardeners”, that their “duty will not be to take care of the garden, but (of) the jungle outside”, we could have a glimpse of 500-year-old Western imperialist fantasies of shaping the world in their own image. Evidently, it is never superfluous to remember that European “gardening” of the “jungle” has had disastrous consequences for peoples “out there”, especially for non-European indigenous peoples and for African peoples sold into slave labour on the New World’s plantations. Wherever a white male “gardener” had arrived, he left a bloody trail of exploitation and extraction in his wake. Countless colonial genocides in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa are historically irrefutable facts that remind today’s generations of the horrors that both Western and Eastern European imperialisms and colonialisms inflicted on many non-European and European peoples alike.

Many renowned Holocaust and genocide scholars have linked the colonial genocides of the European “New Imperialism” (1870 – 1920) and the Holocaust to a single modernisation process of accelerating collective violence that culminated in nazi extermination camps during World War II (see A. Dirk Moses (ed.), 2008). A Polish-born sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) provided in his best-known book Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) a chilling warning of the spirit of instrumental rationality, and its modern, bureaucratic form of governance, which had made the Holocaust-style phenomena not only possible, but eminently “reasonable”. Something Bauman wrote in his book 35 years ago is even more startling; namely that behind a broad coalition of respectable learned opinions which contains powerful intellectual authorities of the West “stands fast the modern ‘gardening’ state, viewing the society it rules as an object of designing, cultivating and weed-poisoning”.  It is, therefore, not surprising that modern nation-states, whenever confronted with a whole array of crises, are tempted to resort to a gardening state, which divides vegetation into ‘cultured plants’ to be taken care of, and weeds to be exterminated.

A year after the EU foreign minister revealed the European imperialist reinterpretation of the world in a new guise, Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacked Israeli territory, and committed a mass murder of over 1,200 Israelis and migrant workers, where more than 5,400 persons were also injured. In a terrorist attack on October 7, 2023, which is the third-deadliest terrorist attack since 1970, Hamas and Islamic Jihad committed a terrible crime against humanity. The Western leaders have, without exception, condemned the horrific attack and reaffirmed the right of the Israeli nation to self-defence. After the October 7 terrorist attack, the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes against Hamas compounds, command centres, and tunnels. Since then, we have witnessed an unimaginable level of killings of Palestinians in Gaza. It is noteworthy that with 2,3 millions residents, after the siege of Leningrad (1941-1944), Gaza has become the second largest besieged city in human history.

In seven months, more than 34,900 Palestinians were killed, and more than 78,500 were injured. With nearly 15,000 children killed, Israeli military hostilities have taken a horrific death toll on Palestinian children. Due to one of the highest child mortality rates during war or conflict in modern history, UNICEF marked Gaza “a graveyard for thousands of children”. For comparison, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia estimated that there were at least 9,502 direct casualties (civilians and soldiers: 4,954 and 4,548) in the 44-month-long siege of Sarajevo. From April 1992 to December 1995, the number of children killed during the siege was estimated at 1,600, while the overall number of children killed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina tallied at around 3,500.

On December 9, 2023, over 60 scholars of the Holocaust, genocide, and mass violence warned of the danger of genocide in Israel’s attack on Gaza. In their statement, they also noted that “should the Israeli attack continue and escalate, Palestinians under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Palestinian citizens of Israel face grave danger as well”. On December 29, 2023, South Africa filed a complaint against Israel for genocide in Gaza. Besides the 57-member bloc of  the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, some South American and African countries endorsed South Africa’s International Court of Justice case against Israel, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Namibia.

According to South African historian Mohamad Adhikari, author of the book Destroying to Replace: Settler Genocide of Indigenous Peoples, genocide is never an unintended consequence of colonialism, but an intentional action perpetrated by colonial settlers. In the rich repertoire of practices of European settler colonialism, spatial sequestration occupies a special place. Patrick Wolfe (1949 – 2016), an Australian historian who is credited with establishing settler colonial studies, wrote in an article ‘Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native’:

“There could hardly be a more concrete expression of spatial sequestration than the West Bank barrier. There again, apartheid also relied on sequestration. … Nonetheless, as Palestinians become more and more dispensable, Gaza and the West Bank become less and less like Bantustans and more and more like reservations (or, for that matter, like the Warsaw Ghetto). Porous borders do not offer a way out.”

At the 75th anniversary of the mass displacement of Palestinians known as “the Nakba” (meaning “the Catastrophe” in Arabic), the United Nations commemorated the Palestinian Nakba on May 15, 2023 for the first time. Half a year later, Israeli’s slow-motion genocide in occupied Palestine has turned into hell on earth, in which the architects of blueprint for “a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai” have no qualms to use intentional starvation against the Palestinian civilians, among other atrocious tactics like indiscriminate saturation bombing. Israel’s genocidal behaviour in Gaza is the most blatantly exposed in a rapid increase in acute malnutrition; according to a report released by the Global Nutrition Cluster, “over 90% of children aged 6–23 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty – eating two or fewer food groups each day. The food they have access to is of the lowest nutritional value.”

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide affirms that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world. On 9th December 2019, the EU High Representative Josep Borrell Fontelles said in an official statement on the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime that “the European Union remembers the victims of genocides, across the world, and throughout history. … Ratifying the Convention recognises the responsibility of States towards their populations and shows respect for the victims of this horrendous crime. The Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes forms an integral part of the EU’s foreign and security policy.  The EU will continue working with national and international partners including civil society to prevent genocide and to fight impunity wherever it occurs.”

The Convention establishes on State Parties the obligation to take measures to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide, including by enacting relevant legislation and punishing perpetrators, “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals” (Article IV). According to the general rule of law of Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, stated by the International Law Commission in article 14(3), “[t]he breach of an international obligation requiring a State to prevent a given event occurs when the event occurs and extends over the entire period during which the event continues and remains not in conformity with that obligation”.

Article 25(4) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (hereinafter: the Rome Statute) provides that “[n]o provision in this Statute relating to individual criminal responsibility shall affect the responsibility of States under international law”. According to renowned legal scholars in the field of international criminal law, article 25 of the Rome Statute is applicable not only to genocide, but also to the other crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (hereinafter: ICC), which was made “in the belief that the modes of participation in the offences which may constitute genocide were adequately captured in the provisions set in forth in article 25 of the Statute” (authors’ emphasis). This entails that even if Israel has not yet committed the crime of genocide in Gaza, the States Parties to the Rome Statute are not relieved of duty to prevent other crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

By failing to adopt and implement suitable measures to prevent genocide and other crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, it makes our governments complicit in the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression committed by the State of Israel against Palestinians. Therefore, we, the undersigned, request the governments of the States Parties to the Rome Statute to:

  • immediately call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to undertake action under the Charter of the United Nations to prevent genocide against Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank; and
  • provide full support to the International Criminal Court to prosecute persons responsible for committing the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court under the  Rome Statute: the crime of genocide (article 6), crimes against humanity (article 7), war crimes (article 8) and the crime of aggression.

This statement was prepared by scholars and activists affiliated with the Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA), a network that aims at making feminist reasoning an integral part of degrowth.