A Buddhist response to “plausible genocide”?

Dear friends,

Just reaching out to see if there is a Buddhist response to what the United Nations has described as a “plausible genocide” against Palestinian people in Gaza? Currently, close to 15,000 Palestinian children have been killed and the majority of adults killed are women… further current details of the atrocities are detailed in this recent report by the UNHCR: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/05/onslaught-violence-against-women-and-children-gaza-unacceptable-un-experts

I know many people within the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian diaspora communities in Australia are really hurting right now as are Jewish people and Jewish communities saying “not in our name” and “never again” in solidarity with Palestinian people. I also acknowledge that many Jewish Israeli and Jewish diaspora communities are also hurting after October 7th attacks.

Currently, Israel is bombing and rolling tanks into the southern part of Gaza where 1.5 million displaced people have sought refuge. The people of Rafah are being forced to move/return to the north of Gaza where the remaining population are being subjected to an intentional famine… in my personal view, this is one of the worst atrocities I have witnessed in my lifetime.

How are Buddhists responding to this?

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I spotted this zine the other day (shared by our friends at Rainbodhi Naarm) https://tinyurl.com/dharma-gaz.
I haven’t had a chance to have a look at the content yet, but it was shared by Mary Thanissara, on instagram. Thanissara is a former monastic who is passionate about engaged buddhism.

There is also this recent forum thread:


Thank you so much Venerable Pasanna :blush::pray:

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If I may humbly suggest: In following the Buddha’s path even more carefully.

What is the unsolvable conflict in the Near East? Attachments. Karma. Conditioned reality.

No way out except the Buddha’s path.

Hi Letty. Unfortunately, the United Nation’s ICJ did not rule the same as they ruled when Ukraine took Russia to the ICJ in 2022 under the Genocide Convention; even though Russia previously formally advised the United Nations it would conduct a military operation under Section 51 of the UN Charter to protect the people of Donbass & Luhansk. In the Ukraine-Russia case, the ICJ ruled a ceasefire & no evidence of genocide was required simply because a genocide was possible. In the Gaza case, there was ample evidence of intent provided by South Africa, yet the ICJ did not rule a ceasefire, even though Hamas is not even a nation and the people of Gaza are blockaded (since 2007) & defenseless. South Africa made these matters clear in its legal submission to the ICJ. Four months have now passed since the South African submission.

Respectfully, I doubt it is helpful to frame this as a religious matter. The Palestinian people are not exclusively Muslim. Also, there are Muslim nations inherently allied with Israel and the USA. This matter is essentially one of upholding International, National and even Dhamma Law. If International, Domestic and Dhamma Law collapse, what type of world will we be living in? The world will return to the lawless pre-WW2 colonialist ideology. This is not what Buddhism calls a “human world” or “human state”. This is the law of the jungle or the animal realm. I read in the scriptures the non-human state explained as:

Because in that place there’s no principled or moral conduct, and no doing what is good and skillful. There they just prey on each other, preying on the weak.

SN 56.47

I read the Buddha taught (in SN 55.7) a practicing Buddhist not only practises non-killing, non-theft, non-lying, etc, but also speaks in praise of these virtues. Therefore, a practising Buddhist can respond in the same way as non-Buddhists:

  • Attend the anti-genocide protest rallies if they are near you. Numbers & participation is important; plus you perform a human duty for yourself, where your human conscience remains clear, free from regrets/remorse (AN 11.2).

  • Contact politicians. Engage in democratic processes.

  • In doing the above, understand the legal basics of this situation, namely: (i) Gaza is an Occupied Territory under International and Australian Law; (ii) Israel is an Occupying Power under the same laws; (iii) in relation to this situation, in 2004, the ICJ ruled Israel as an Occupying Power cannot act under the premise of “self-defence” against Gaza; (iv) your nation, such as Australia, is a signatory of the Genocide Convention, thus must act to prevent genocide, which includes stopping arms & related sales to Israel and even cutting off diplomatic ties. The point is your nation, such as Australia, has legal & moral obligations. When these legal & moral obligations are not followed, then democracy & the human world fail; such as restrictions on free speech.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, 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.

Article II Genocide Convention Act 1949

I hope to see you at Hyde Park on Sunday. It was good to see the students turn up recently. :pray:

Just passing a note that this is US propaganda fenced mainly by John Kirby in order to evade the ICJ interim ruling, basically that directed Israel to comply with its R2P, because the ICJ determined “plausible genocide.” The ICJ ruling on the matter of genocide could take up to two years.

Canada was among several countries that sent threatening letters to the ICJ on behalf of the US warning it that a decision of genocide could produce a “rupture” in the international rules based order (or whatever their legalese said, since I am not privy to those communications). This produced some trouble for the federal government, the citizens rose up!, and resulted in a non-binding federal decision in which each individual member of our parliament was made to publicly vote on the matter, which included restricting arms and upholding the ICJ and ICC (after they rewrote the motion “to obtain consensus”). We were upbraided by Israel for this thing we did, although the outcome was mostly symbolic. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, said, “this is real!,” and our media made much hay out of that.

Thank you. In 1984 or 1986 the ICJ ruled the USA engaged in genocide in Nicaragua. This was upholding the international rules based order. If the ICJ dismiss the Gaza case (as the ICJ’s newly appointed vice-president did) this is what will “rupture” in the international rules based order. The United Nations may actually dissolve with nations withdrawing from it. This whole Gaza matter is the ultimate test of the International Law established since the end of WW2.

Yes however it appears no significant compliance occurred. Also, the USA also has an obligation under the Genocide Convention, which I imagine includes stopping arms supplies. But, instead, not only have arms supplies & funding continued but also i read recently the US Congress is or has passed laws prohibiting certain criticisms of Israel. This does not comply with both democratic & Buddhist principles (AN 4.100). What we are witnessing today would not have occurred 50 or 30 years ago. It appears it is the USA & its allies who have been collapsing the International Law; as with the Iraq War. Gaza is an Occupied Territory under International Law. This is the core principle. Gaza is not a matter of various personal opinions.

Not disagreeing with you. Just stating what we know our federal government did in order to pressure the ICJ to drop the case. It was a change from Canada’s long-standing tradition of sticking with the UN against the frequent US pressure we get to not do that, which is why the federal government got in trouble. We are doing our best to keep the pressure up on our government, because Canada has some leverage as a key strategic partner re Asia Pacific and all the territorial battles over the northwest passage that has opened up with climate warming (hint: Russia).

The pier the US started building was its gesture toward its R2P. (It is possible that the US holding back the 2000lb bombs is also because of our government being forced to express concerns over that. Canada has “strategic concerns” of its own about Biden losing the election and us having to deal with Trump again. At any rate, we are doing our best.)

The accusations of suicide go both ways. Israel would claim that had the Palestinians (or Hamas) had the power to eliminate the Jews, they would do it without hesitation, but Israel already obtains nuclear weapons and other military capabilities at its disposal, hence causing 35k deaths is a resemblance of restraint - where the ICJ as a bunch of hypocrites. This comes to demonstrate the relationship between power and truth in the modern mindset - which came to define the “world order” that we currently live in.
Another approach would be judging both sides based on their belief systems. The idea of sacrifice is central to Abrahamic religions - where there is a dispute between the Jews and Muslims as to who was going to be sacrificed by Abraham as per God’s command: Ishmael or Isaac. These are the patriarchs of the religion who precede the two religions in their modern forms. The moral of the story is that God would command something completely irrational, as a test of faith, of which Abraham and his sons should follow through till the end, to be spared later on by God’s grace. In the context of the war that is going on, both Hamas and Israel are making sacrifices - awaiting god’s reward to be revealed at the end. This reward would be a Palestinian state, or undisputed Jewish state - a higher truth of some sort that would eventually emerge and justify sacrificing the lower truths that have been made along the path for independence (or true independence as a de-jure status).

In Buddhism, the closest it gets to address this mindset of sacrifice is presented in SN12.63 - which is titled “Child’s flesh” by using the four nutriments:

1- Solid food: this can speak to the issue of allowing aid into the Gaza strip in the modern context, but the sutta uses an analogy that goes deeper than that, of parents that are sacrificing their own son to cross the desert while believing that their son would survive, to end up in remorse over what they did.

2- Contact: in the modern context, contact can be used to convey the act of invading Gaza or Rafah, but the analogy in the sutta goes deeper than that, using the analogy of a cow to remind us that there nowhere is safe when contact is functioning as a fuel.

3- Mental intention: this can refer to the issue of the Israeli claim of “collateral damage” and the use of the Gaza population by Hamas as “human shields”. However, the analogy in the sutta goes deeper than that. It links the desire to life and happiness as struggling against two strong men taking the person in question into the opposite direction.

4- Consciousness: in the modern context, consciousness can refer to a ghost in the machine where a bullet or a bomb during the act of war can cause its departure through empirical evidence. The sutta goes deeper than that. It refers to a man being struck by 300 spears, and yet, not dying. The spears are causing pain and distress rather than actual genocide, resembling how the identification with the three hundred who have been struck functions through name and form.

Dear friends,

I apologise for starting this thread. I wrote my initial post in a moment of total distress and despair about the large scale suffering of Palestinian people in Gaza. I was reaching out in this moment for community and connection and hoping to learn about some wise and compassionate Buddhist responses, groups or actions with the hope that I might be able to join in or add my voice to those promoting peace. It was particularly comforting and meaningful to read Bhikkhu Bodhi’s response - thanks again Venerable Pasanna.

I am grateful for the effort and discussion people have put into this thread but I don’t want this to generate any harm. So I am completely okay if the forum moderators may wish to close this thread.

With Metta, peace and gratitude,



At this point the Buddha calls in a meditation session :sweat_smile:

Further to this, the very first thing the US did was engage in “diplomacy” with its G7 partners, of which Canada is one, the outcome being 1) US propaganda that its partners appreciated, needed and welcomed US leadership in the Middle East and in particular on the long-standing problem of Palestine and 2) a unified public statement from the G7 that recognized “Israel’s right to defend itself.”

This is the key message that has driven all else before it, backed by a coalition of the dominant powers that thus far have controlled the “international rules based order.” Most of the G7 listed Hamas as an international terrorist organization shortly after 9/11, because it claimed most of the suicide bombing that occurred across the span of about a decade around there, and because Osama Bin Laden claimed Palestine as Al Queda’s reason for 9/11.

Hamas was elected, through a highly credible election, verified by teams headed up by ex Pres. Carter, as the “national” government of Palestine in 2007/08. Israel and the US denounced the election, refused to acknowledge Hamas, and imposed a complete blockade on Gaza. People should not underestimate how much violent hatred against Hamas there is in the US and Israel governments. Any country (like Canada) that listed Hamas as an international terrorist group, is irretrievably bound by having done that.

As far as I know, the only politician to have come forward to say that it was a mistake to not have recognized Hamas in 2007/08 is Tony Blair. The only answer we received from our government came through our Minister of Foreign Relations, Melanie Joly, who said, “we listed Hamas as a terrorist organization, we cannot help them.”

Under the Geneva Conventions if a state that is non-party to war (which must be declared) helps one belligerent, it must help another. However, the US framed Palestinian resistance to Occupation as international terrorism, so this really is an American dirty war and extension of its war on terror. Legally, as far as the US is concerned a terrorist is treated as combatant whenever, wherever, and is a 24/7 target. Canada, follows suite and we have a list of individuals specially designated as terrorists. According to what Joly tells us, the only thing Canada can do is impose sanctions. Again, garbage. We know our SOCOM is in Israel, and we know they gathered intelligence from the IDF that was extracted through torture and have engaged in bounty hunting (i.e. targeted assassination).

I hope you are beginning to see how effectively the US, Israel and their partners (which are about eight/nine other NATO nations) have been proceeding with the liquidation of Palestine and the Palestinians. Those following the problem know that this military objective of “pacification” has only increased in intensity since Bill Clinton reshaped US policy toward the Palestine problem.