Adalah Demands Israel Investigate and Prosecute Incitement to Genocide by Public Figures

Adalah: Genocidal statements made by members of the cabinet reflect the state policy of intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians. The legal authorities' consistent failure to hold officials accountable suggests that such rhetoric and policy will persist under their protection.

On 8 April 2024, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to Israel’s State Attorney Amit Isman, Attorney General (AG) Gali Baharav-Miara, Commissioner of Police Yaakov Shabtai, and Minister of Justice Yariv Levin demanding an immediate investigation into potential incidents of incitement to genocide perpetrated by various public figures since the start of the war on October 7th. The letter highlighted Israel's obligations under both international and Israeli law and specifically referred to the provisional order issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 26 January 2024 in the case South Africa v. Israel, stating that “Israel must take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip”.


    CLICK HERE to read the letter [Hebrew]


In the letter, Adalah’s legal director, Dr. Suhad Bishara, underscored that as a signatory to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), Israel is bound by international law to investigate any expressions that suggest a potential violation of the prohibition against incitement to genocide. Adalah further emphasized Israel’s obligations under Israeli law, specifically The Crime of Genocide (Prevention and Punishment) Law, 5710-1950, which provides that individuals found guilty of inciting genocide are to be treated as if they were guilty of genocide themselves. The letter also refers to a statement issued by the AG and the State Attorney, in which they declared that Israel is “committed to act in accordance with international law,” and that “Any statement calling, inter alia, for int'l harm to civilians, contradicts the policy of the State of Israel and may amount to a criminal offense, including the offense of incitement.”  Despite this statement and the numerous well-documented cases of incitement to genocide by public figures in Israel, Adalah emphasized that to its knowledge, there are currently no ongoing investigations into the matter.


The letter further cites a database of incidents of incitement compiled by Law for Palestine, which included over 500 statements made by Israeli decision makers, army personnel, and other influencers which included incitement to genocide. In its letter, Adalah highlighted 40 specific examples of such expressions made by legislators, government ministers and religious leaders that are particularly alarming and warrant immediate investigation. In one particular instance, Minister of Defense Yoav Galant referenced the population of Gaza as “human animals”, stating that there would be no electricity, food, or fuel to the territory. In another explicit instance, Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, head of the Shirat Moshe Yeshiva in Jaffa, stated that all Gazans must be killed in order to comply with Jewish law; when asked about the elderly, women, and children, he responded “The same applies to them.” The letter also included comments from Israel’s highest leadership, with the President stating that “It's an entire nation out there that is responsible. This rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved—it's not true.” 


Adalah thus concluded by demanding that a criminal investigation be initiated against all those individuals who had made comments similar to those in the letter and database, in order to ascertain whether they qualified as incitement to genocide, terror, violence, and/or bigotry. Adalah also sought clarification regarding the existence of any ongoing efforts to investigate both the statements highlighted in the letter and the issue of incitement to genocide in general.


Dr. Suhad Bishara further commented:


“The rhetoric endorsed by public officials, as well as by the broader public, reflects decades-long precedents of dehumanizing hatred and incitement directed against Palestinians. Statements made by members of the cabinet reflect a state policy of intentional targeting of Palestinian civilians and send a clear message to military personnel that they are to  act accordingly. This has already led to the killing of over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, 70% being women and children. Although Israeli authorities have repeatedly recognized their legal obligation under international law to hold those inciting for genocide accountable, their consistent inaction in spite of  clear evidence of incitement to genocide suggests that expressions conveying genocidal intent, according to which all Palestinians in Gaza are seen as “involved” and therefore legitimate targets, will persist under their protection.”


Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90