No, Protesters, Israel is Not Committing Genocide


That word makes me think about how my family suffered as targets of the Nazis’ antisemitic extermination campaign.

For more than 30 years,The Florida Holocaust Museum has been teaching people what genocide is, what causes it, and how to prevent it. We now find ourselves in the unexpected position of teaching what genocide is not.

Genocide has become a central allegation for anti-Israel activists at campus protests. They use the word as a cudgel, applying it to Israel and anything – whether universities or cancer hospitals – even tangentially associated with it.

Israel is not beyond scrutiny or reproach, but advocacy requires truth. If, after learning the actual facts, you disagree with Israel’s response to the brutal terrorism of Oct. 7th, you can call it tragic, inappropriate, and disproportionate – but you can’t accurately call it genocide.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide rigorously defines the crime, placing a justifiably high burden of proof on accusations of genocide.

That convention has come under threat from activists, celebrities, and even openly antisemitic UN officials employing the term against Israel.

Per the convention, genocide means killing, harming, or stealing people from a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy that group. Israel’s war is against Hamas, an avowedly genocidal terrorist organization that represents no nation, ethnicity, race or religion.

As in every example of urban warfare, civilians have been killed, injured, and displaced by the fighting, a tragedy that stirs emotion in every civilized person, including every Jewish person I know.

Palestinians as a group, however, are not being deliberately targeted. This fact has been confirmed at the highest levels of authority; in testimony before the U.S. Senate, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed that there was “no evidence of genocide” being committed by Israel.

Far from declining, the Palestinian population has actually been growing faster than the Israeli population for more than 30 years.

These facts matter because characterizing Israel’s actions as genocidal isn’t just inaccurate; it’s offensive and dangerous.

Every time an unfounded accusation of genocide is leveled, the word loses some of its necessary gravity, making it harder to call out real genocides as they occur. Under the protesters’ definition, every war could be labeled a genocide – at which point the word would no longer have meaning at all.

The problem is so pervasive that some journalists let allegations of genocide pass unchallenged rather than provide proper context. Too many reporters are apparently either unaware of the convention’s terms or don’t think it’s important enough to merit clarification. Their inaction lets guests make emotional appeals – who doesn’t abhor genocide? – to an audience that may not be aware of the term’s correct use.

Genocide accusations inform absurd comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany, an equivalency that is necessarily antisemitic according to the internationally accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism.

The repugnant idea that supporting Israel’s existence is Nazism has defaced schools, signs, and synagogues.

If you were a Holocaust Survivor, many of whom fled to Israel because no other country would accept them, imagine how these comparisons would feel. As the nephew and grandson of survivors, they certainly sicken me.

Today, 63% of millennials and Gen Zs don’t know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

It is vital that they understand the difference between an urban antiterrorist campaign and an organized effort to snuff out the Jewish people – just ask the Jewish students who have been targeted for violence, intimidation, and harassment at anti-Israel demonstrations.

The Holocaust was based on lies, endlessly repeated until people believed them. Enough is enough.

The lessons of the past should always be used to improve the future, and using the word “genocide” correctly is another step in the direction of a better and safer world.


Michael Igel,
Interim CEO and Chair Emeritus of The Florida Holocaust Museum. ᐧ