I never thought it would be necessary for me to start a column by describing the origins and definition of the word “genocide.” The word is now used in a false and defamatory way to describe the Israeli efforts to defend its very existence against the genocidal Arab Palestinian Hamas regime in Gaza.
This Israeli defense effort is being made in a war Hamas started by attacking the Jewish state on October 7. The invasion was marked by Hamas terrorists killing babies, raping women, and kidnapping innocent civilians, holding more than 200 of them hostage. This widespread rape of Jewish women by Hamas terrorists has been more than conclusively established by journalistic investigations.
There is no question of the genocidal intent of the Hamas regime against the Jewish state of Israel and its citizens. This genocidal intent has been openly proclaimed time and again by Hamas itself, as conclusively documented by Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of the Atlantic magazine.
At this point, it is essential to define the word “genocide.” The word was created by the famed Polish Jewish lawyer and Holocaust refugee Raphael Lemkin to describe the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.
Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defined genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, 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 key words regarding “intent” — a basic requirement of the genocide definition — are italicized above. Unlike Hamas and its avowed intention to destroy Israel and its people, Israel has NEVER had the intention “to destroy, in whole or in part,” the Palestinian Arab people. The tragic Palestinian Arab innocent civilian casualties are a natural result of the war against Israel that the genocidal Hamas regime started. Similarly, the tragic innocent civilian German casualties in the Second World War were a natural result of the war that the genocidal Nazi regime started. It is an absolute obscenity and defamation to describe Israel, which is fighting a genocidal regime, as staging a genocide itself.
A claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza is pure and simple, blood libel. So it was a shock when New Jersey Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, also an aspirant for the New Jersey 2025 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, unthinkingly gave credence to this Palestinian Arab genocide claim. On the Instagram site of CAIR-NJ (Council for American-Islamic Relations), rather than dismiss as out of hand the Arab allegation that Israel was committing a genocide by its bombardment of Gaza, Sherrill said on November 17 that she was “unsure.”
This answer by Sherrill demonstrated that she has both a significant lacuna in her knowledge regarding the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict and also an insensitivity to Jewish feelings regarding the use of the word “genocide.” Yet it would become obvious from an event on December 5 that Sherrill had a deliberate political motive regarding her statement to CAIR-NJ.
The December 5 event involved the passage of the U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 894, “strongly condemning and denouncing the drastic rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.” Citing the use of the phrase at anti-Israel rallies, “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan proclaimed by Hamas in its genocidal campaign to destroy the State of Israel and its people, the resolution also includes language that declares that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” The resolution was passed by a vote of 311 for, 14 against, 92, including Sherrill, voting present (abstaining), and 17 not voting.
The resolution had wide bipartisan support in the New Jersey congressional delegation, including Democrats Josh Gottheimer, the leading pro-Israel advocate in the entire House of Representatives, Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone, and Donald Norcross, and Republicans Tom Kean Jr., and Jeff Van Drew. The support from Pascrell was remarkably courageous in that he represents a district with the largest Arab population in the state.
The failure of so many Democratic members of Congress to vote for this resolution was due to the opposition by the far left wing of the Democratic party. This vote was extremely important to the Jewish community nationwide in that violence against Jews linked to the Israel-Hamas war has risen astronomically. Apologists for that violence rationalize it by saying that opposition to Israel is based on anti-Zionism and not anti-Semitism and the falsehood that Zionism is inherently apartheid.
Yet Mikie Sherrill abstained on this resolution. This was an unmistakable example of her Chamberlainesque sacrificing of support of the American-Israel alliance and even shamelessly wavering on the genocide blood libel of Israel issue in order to appease the far-left progressive Democrats.
Opposition to Israel and Zionism is now an article of faith among extremist left wing Democrats, including their leader, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose statements against supporters of Israel are extremely vitriolic. All this is having an intimidating effect on center-left Democrats.
Yet in her effort to appease the AOC Democrats, Mikie Sherrill is now headed on a political collision course with the New Jersey Jewish community.
A 2020 survey published by the Brandeis Jewish Electorate Institute showed a majority of the American Jewish electorate residing in four states, including NewJersey with 440,000 adults. This makes Israel a major issue for New Jersey candidates for governor. And Mikie Sherrill’s pathetic attempt at appeasement of the Democratic Party fringe left and her inevitable major loss of Jewish support could result in her dropping from the top tier of major 2025 Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
Alan J. Steinberg of Highland Park served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.