This week, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., after meeting Liz Hirsch Naftali, the great-aunt of Abigail Edan—a four-year-old girl who was held hostage by Hamas terrorists for fifty days before her eventual release last November. 

A quote by Eli Wiesel continually stood out to me throughout the museum: “The Museum is not an answer. It’s a question.” How could such an atrocity—the genocide of six million Jews in Europe—occur? The full weight of this question hung over me. 

I couldn’t help but think of the firsthand testimony I heard from little Abigail Edan’s great-aunt. Abigail, a dual citizen of Israel and the United States, spent her fourth birthday in captivity by Hamas. She was the youngest and first American hostage to be released. The latest numbers estimate there are around 90 remaining hostages that are still alive, including six Americans. Eyewitness and documented accounts confirm the crimes that Hamas terrorists have committed against Israeli civilians and hostages, including mass rape and violent sexual assault.

Americans’ views on the current war have become increasingly acrimonious. January 2024 polling found that more than one in three Americans believe Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in the current conflict. 

As I left the final exhibit in the Holocaust Museum, I knew unflinchingly that the actions of Israel in its current ongoing war against Hamas do not meet the example of genocide perpetrators. 

The Holocaust Museum discussed that the term “genocide” did not exist prior to 1944. In fact, the term was first coined by a lawyer named Raphael Lemkin, in part to describe Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of the Jews during the Holocaust. The word “genocide” is taken from the Greek prefix geno-, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix -cide, meaning killing. 

The United Nations General Assembly recognized an agreement to establish genocide as an international crime under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, genocide is defined as a crime where acts are committed with the proven intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. These acts include: 

(1) Killing members of the group; (2) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (3) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (4) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (5) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Other serious and violent crimes, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and mass killing, do not fall under the criterion for genocide. In one UN document, officials are advised to use caution when referring to a situation as genocide due to its frequent misuse involving the “emotive nature of the term” and “potential legal implications.”

Genocide, as both a descriptor and legal term, is a factually complex and unique evil. 

Yet it is this charge that is routinely brought against Israel, one of America’s long-standing and greatest allies in the Middle East. 

Those who claim Israel is committing genocide misunderstand the legal definition of this crime. 

Israel has gone to lengths to evacuate Palestinian civilians from battlezones; has indicated where Hamas terrorists are camped in tunnels infiltrating Palestinian relief agencies; and has allowed civilian humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza. These acts alone are totally alien to perpetrators of genocide. 

As a designated terrorist organization, Hamas has no respect for the dignity of human life. Hamas blames all civilian deaths on Israel, even when those deaths are caused by Hamas’ own deliberate killings or misfired rockets that fall back into Gaza. Recent clarifications from the Pentagon demonstrate that the United States cannot rely on civilian casualty statistics reported by the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. 

The claim that Israel is committing genocide based on unsubstantiated numbers is egregious, but this belief is even higher among younger Americans. This results in an alarming conclusion: Over half of American voters between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that the solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute is for “Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians,” according to a Harvard-Harris poll

Americans must work to shift this narrative.  

Not all criticism of the Israel-Hamas war is unwarranted, but engaging in a “genocidal” narrative diminishes the true crimes that are now being committed by Hamas. Israel has an obligation to bring its hostages home, just as America has an obligation to its citizens, including the six Americans still in Hamas captivity. 

Americans should not lose sight of the true perpetrators in the ongoing war in Israel, and that is Hamas.