Psychological torture to children in Gaza is genocide priming

Dec 21, 2023
Rafah, Gaza. 12th Dec, 2023. Young Palestinians react following Israeli bombardment at Al-Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, December 12, 2023. At least 22 people have been reportedly killed, including seven children, in the bombing by Israel in Rafah on Tuesday. Global calls for a ceasefire have been ignored by Israel and the United States, as humanitarian aid operations have collapsed warning of starvation and disease amongst the Gaza population. Image:Alamy / Ismael Mohamad/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Is there is a tipping point in Gaza when genocide will be unstoppable? The answer is tied to how long massacres run amok, and how deeply torture saturates children’s minds and imaginations. Each day nations pontificate over a permanent ceasefire is a massacre-torture day in Gaza.

Claims of genocide in Gaza are being stoked, globally. But does this charge have authority to influence a sustained ceasefire or bring perpetrators to trial any time soon? Historically, genocide takes decades to verify because legal proof of ‘intent’ is required within an International Criminal Court (or International Tribunal for Genocide). Additionally, judges need to rule that a regime targeted people who belong to a national, ethnic, religious, cultural, and/or racial group. Given these legal hurdles, it’s savvy to highlight Crimes Against Humanity that do not need legal proof of intent.

Psychological torture to children is an artefact of massacres and mass violence – all executed under the command of Israeli forces buoyed by the United States (and dwindling allies). Across these crimes — mass murder, massacres, torture, and genocide — all are equal in cruelty. Herein, genocide is mass murder, but not all mass murders are proven to be genocide. Overall, massacres and torture prime genocide.

Is there is a tipping point in Gaza when genocide will be unstoppable? This answer is tied to how long massacres run amok, and how deeply torture saturates children’s minds and imaginations. Each day nations pontificate over a permanent ceasefire is a massacre-torture day in Gaza. Calling for a permanent ceasefire to end psychological torture to children is wise because these crimes can be verified (alongside massacres); they have no legal requirement to prove intent.

As a scholar who gave evidence during the International Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia (decades after the collapse of the regime), I tracked how judges determined genocide for Vietnamese and Cham victims only. Millions of Cambodians who were murdered, massacred, starved to death, tortured, and subjected to medical experiments did not meet criteria for the legal definition of genocide. To rank-order Crimes Against Humanity is an oversight. To believe and contend that genocide is the worst crime against humanity is also mistaken. (Cambodia points a spotlight on the unfairness of ranking crimes matched in cruelty).

The United Nations Convention Against Torture derails the ‘retribution’ rationale used by the Israeli alliance to justify the billowing massacres and torture in Gaza. When massacres run amok, psychological torture is unavoidable. The torture convention can inform the terms of a permanent ceasefire. It could be argued that any ceasefire that relies on hostage swapping is a violation of the torture convention. There is already evidence (by NGOs) that the human swapping scheme heightened psychological trauma and torture for children held captive in Gaza.

Under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, torture is mental and/or physical pain or suffering that is intentionally inflicted on a person for purpose of a confession or punishment for an act or suspected act the individual or third person committed (approved by public officials). The italics show the clause that offsets the need to prove ‘intent’ that is required in genocide.

During the recent pause in massacres, children saw nations barter humans like traffickers in the sex trade industry – a demographic game where some went home and some never will. Their deepened despair is a result of the politicking tricksters who waved humanitarian fairy wands over some children outside Gaza, while intending to resume their massacres on children in Gaza. The negotiated pause in mass violence in Gaza was downright cruel and psychological torture to children increased post-pause. Besides, those captive in Gaza know how the provision of humanitarian aid during the pause in massacres was about ‘appearing’ to do the right thing — until the blame was cast.

Psychological torture is complex. History shows how shrewd leaders use slight-of-hand death operations: forced starvation, withdrawal of medical treatment and supplies, mass death by festered infections, and torture by amputations without anaesthesia, forced crowding, forced malnutrition, and forced insomnia.

To be clear, a massacre is the basis of mass killings – some of which are genocidal. Underlying the etymology of the word massacre lies the cruelty aftermath for children – the psychological torture. “The killing of a considerable number of human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty, or contrary to the usages of civilised people…murder…of a helpless person…esp. those who can make little or no resistance.” (Webster Dictionary 1927).

Ritualcide, too, primes psychological torture and genocide. (This author researched and coined the term for crimes committed by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime). When perpetrators target and destroy the protective cultural and ritual infrastructure of a collective people, people fill with dread without ritual touchstones. In Gaza, mosques and white ritual cloth for wrapping the dead are mostly destroyed.

Since that fateful day on October 7, 2023, Gazan childrens’ wishing star has crashed to earth and their sky is not blue. In their crumbling-rumbling earth, children smell, hear, taste, touch the grotesque, which exacerbates their psychological trauma. One boy placed the severed paw of his murdered cat gently into his pocket so they could travel to the border they will never cross. Proving this kind of psychological torture is an arduous undertaking. However, international aid agencies have recorded children’s trauma symptoms — bedwetting, night terrors, and crying spells.

Evidence of psychological torture (imagination annihilation) under mass violent conditions have yet to be fully documented. While many ‘trauma’ inventories fall short of measuring psychological torture, qualitative measures can record the changed pitch of a child’s cry, or the frozen glare of a boy who tries to scream and nothing comes out, or how hide-and-seek is no longer a game. Seek a stairwell and hide; steal clean water – hide stolen bread (a natural response to forced-desperation). Reliable data on the gross neglect and psychological torture by primary and colluding world leaders could become evidence in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Massacres can be plotted across time and place as proof of mass murder to ethnic people and their homes, land, and ritual sacred places and practices (ritualcide). Another measurable Crime Against Humanity is the psychological torture evidenced in children. Psychological torture annihilates their raison d’ètre, which renders masses of kids compliant and lifeless — such fertile ground for genocide.

As a footnote, eco-massacres are operational in Gaza, too. The ‘Palestinian Sunbirds’ (Nectarinia Osea) that used to fly year-round in Gaza are disappearing. Strike after strike, insects, fish, frogs, snakes, birds, trees, grass playing fields, and children’s pets have been annihilated in Gaza. The obliteration of nature and landscape colours is psychological torture, too. Unless evacuated permanently to a safe place with healthy smells, sounds, images, tastes, sensations, alongside green earth and ‘normal’ skies – children’s imaginations have no chance of restoration.

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