A recent article from the Anti-Defamation League states (without citing any sources or providing any evidence):

Genocide is a legal term, and in no way do Israeli policies and actions meet this legal threshold. [...] While one may oppose and even condemn particular Israeli policies or actions with regard to Palestinians or Israel’s Arab citizens, the fact remains that in no way has Israel engaged in any action with the intent to exterminate, in whole or in part, the Palestinian people.

To the contrary, an older piece from the Center for Constitutional Rights demonstrates that:

Prominent human rights advocates and scholars have argued that the killings of Palestinians and their forceful expulsion from mandate Palestine in 1948, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the violence and discrimination directed at Palestinians by the Israeli government have violated a number of human rights protections contained in international human rights law, genocide being among them.

Given that intent is often hard to prove but an important part of the legal definition of genocide, I will mention that this article includes quotes from Israeli officials on pp. 8-9 that seem to demonstrate such intent explicitly.

Has there been any formal legal process examining this general question in a relevant court? Are there compelling arguments in Israel's defense that directly address the kinds of evidence included in the CCR piece?

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    The short answer is "no." But, this is more of a political question than a legal one. Countries are never guilty of crimes.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 29, 2023 at 22:50
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    Formerly posted on SE Skeptics and closed. Oct 29, 2023 at 23:24
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    Further to @ohwilleke's statement, "Countries are never guilty of crimes," if you read the international instruments concerning crimes of this sort, and the documents constituting international tribunals in whose jurisdiction such crimes fall, you will indeed see that the crimes and jurisdiction are defined with respect to individuals rather than countries. For example, the Rome statute, establishing the International Criminal Court, says "the Court shall have jurisdiction over natural persons pursuant to this Statute."
    – phoog
    Oct 30, 2023 at 0:46
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    Perhaps rather than "compelling arguments" you might ask about a "plausible case." That is, is it possible that the elements of the crime could be proven in court?
    – phoog
    Oct 30, 2023 at 0:48
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    @IKnowNothing: Your edit partially invalidates existing answers. Consider asking a new question.
    – wizzwizz4
    Oct 31, 2023 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


An individual might be prosecuted for genocide, a country cannot be. For example, Jean-Paul Akayesu, Jean Kambanda, Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadžic, Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, Hissène Habré, Khieu Samphan were convicted in various courts of genocide, for their individual culpability. Omar al Bashir was accused of genocide w.r.t. Darfur, but that matter is still pending. This could give you a baseline for comparing known cases of genocide convictions to a hypothetical prosecution of some other individual, although the Ceaușescus were tried in local court after the overthrowing of their dictatorship, and were not tried by an international tribunal (likewise Alfons Noviks after the liberation of Latvia). Any such trial would be very fact-intensive, and there has been no formal inquiry either into Hamas or Israel, or individuals on either side.

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    If a country cannot be prosecuted for genocide, what is the meaning of a states' obligations under the Genocide Convention to not to commit genocide?
    – User65535
    Oct 30, 2023 at 3:17
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    @User65535 As I read that, individuals in the government who can prevent genocide but fail to act could be held responsible for their non-action.
    – Brian Z
    Oct 30, 2023 at 12:44
  • @BrianZ I'm surprised you accepted this. Surely your intent is to refer to the state as a proxy for the officials who order the actions that might be considered genocide.
    – Barmar
    Oct 30, 2023 at 15:29
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    I interpreted your question as asking whether the actions would be considered genocide, not whether the state of Israel is liable.
    – Barmar
    Oct 30, 2023 at 15:30
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    @BrianZ "If a better answer comes I'll take it." this is why it's best to wait a day to accept an answer.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 30, 2023 at 18:58

While Genocide is defined as a crime, and crimes require human defendants, certainly a nation can be de facto guilty of a crime. No one discussing the Turkish Armenian Genocide today is very concerned about exactly which members of the Turkish government did what; Turkey is seen as the offending party, and this is a fairly decided result (at least outside of Turkey) without benefit of trial.

As such, all the two sourced links show is that assertions with backing evidence are stronger than those without. The second link certainly shows that it is plausible that Israel as a nation intentionally participated in acts that could be defined as genocide. As a crime, such participation would be adjudicated in court, not across website links. Such a trial would be against specific individuals, not against the state as a whole. The de facto guilt of Israel will likely be determined by historians and politicians, not courts.

  • [I realize this part of the answer is more about the phrasing of the question and not the main point.] "Turkey is seen as the offending party, and this is a fairly decided result (at least outside of Turkey) without benefit of trial." But on the other hand for Holocaust, it seems to be very often "Nazis" or "Nazi Germany" that did it, rarely just "Germany" – especially any association with modern-day Germany is usually avoided. I don't know much about Turkish history – is there a concrete reason why these cases seem to be treated differently, and which side would the Israel case land on?
    – JiK
    Oct 31, 2023 at 11:14
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    @JiK Stating (correctly or not) that a country has committed genocide is a useful shortcut. If everyone agrees that the country has NOT, then logically no citizen is guilty either, and vice-versa. But when it comes to legal action, only actual people can be tried. The use of the term "Nazis" is just the same concept, but a half-way measure that recognises "in advance" that not all individuals share the same level of culpability.
    – MikeB
    Oct 31, 2023 at 13:19
  • @JiK My impression is that in Germany the actions done by or under Nazi regime are generally condemned creating a clear distinction between the nation of Nazi Germany and current Germany. If in Turkey the general consensus is that they aren't at fault there isn't any separation.
    – Nicholas
    Oct 31, 2023 at 13:26

The International Criminal Court is not the only avenue for trying persons under international law. Since the other answers so far have dealt with that aspect, I attempt to describe in addition to that.

States have previously submitted their claims against other states for their acts of genocide before the International Court of Justice.

Jurisdiction of the ICJ

The ICJ has ruled in the cases of Bosnia v. Herzegovnia, Croatia v. Serbia and the recently instituted Gambia v. Myanmar that it has the jurisdiction to deal with cases arising under the Genocide convention. Israel has signed and ratified the Genocide Convention without any reservations.

While the ICJ normally exercises jurisdiction on the basis of specific consent of both parties involved, in the above cases, jurisdiction was imposed on the basis of Article IX of the Genocide Convention of 1948, which allows the court to be referred a case under the Convention for the act of Genocide and those related to it under Article III. This is regardless of the state consenting to ICJ's general jurisdiction and allows the court to effectively rules on state's commission of genocide.

The Genocide Convention and rules of state responsibility

Whether Israel has committed an act of genocide would depend upon the act of genocide being defined under the definition of the convention or under customary international law, basis the submission to the court on consent principles or Article IX of the Convention. Assuming that it refuses to consent, and a conscientious state with or without the help of intergovernmental parties brings forth a dispute, the Genocide convention's definition would have to be satisfied by the applicant(s) before the court.

The first is the physical element, namely the acts perpetrated (which are set out in Article II and include, in particular, killing members of the group (subparagraph (a)) and causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (subparagraph (b)). The second is the mental element, namely the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such.

The discussion before the court would likely depend on the rules of state responsibility as applicable to the crime of Genocide, which due to being considered a "jus cogens" violation has a higher degree of accountability on states and a lesser degree of exceptions being afforded to them.

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