Here’s what three-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, who as “The Hulk” plays a prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, posted on Twitter (now X) in 2021:
“I have reflected & wanted to apologize for posts during the recent Israel/Hamas fighting that suggested Israel is committing ‘genocide.’ It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful & is being used to justify antisemitism here & abroad. Now is the time to avoid hyperbole.”
Sadly, Ruffalo recently headed to the front lines of opposing Israel’s move to a second phase of its war against Hamas in Gaza, which was initiated by that terror organization when at least 1,500 of its members crossed the border on Oct. 7. The slaughter, rape, and mutilation of more than 1,300 Jews, including large numbers of children, women, and elderly citizens, is unfathomable evil. Yet, Ruffalo is back on social media with a new version of uninformed analysis for more than 8 million devoted followers.
As media in the United States and abroad cover the war with a slant toward both-siderism, they should first carefully assess the legal basis of whether Israel is now engaged with Hamas in “genocide.” The recent rush to judgment about who perpetrated the bombing of Gaza City’s Ahli Arab Hospital, where apparently hundreds were killed, is a case in point.
The Gaza Health Ministry, controlled by Hamas, quickly blamed an Israeli airstrike for the civilian carnage. Prominent news organizations worldwide blasted news alerts with an allegation that, within a few days, had soured like a bottle of milk past its expiration date.
Intelligence reports by the United States and Israel detailed a range of documentary evidence to conclude that the horrific blast did not come from Israel but rather from a failed rocket launch in Gaza by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Hamas-aligned terrorist group. Accusatory headlines were replaced with more benign ones, and editors’ notes correcting the initial inaccurate reporting were added at the end of the original articles, which remain online. The damage to Israel’s global reputation already was done, however, since as Mark Twain wisely noted, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Israel’s “genocide” is seeping into the popular lexicon once again – courtesy of Ruffalo and dozens of media outlets that are all too willing to quote those making this assertion. The effect it may have on those who accept this description at face value reflects little understanding that this term has a distinct meaning that can be examined objectively.
A recent statement by 100 international law experts worldwide addressed this directly. “As these widespread, horrendous acts appear to have been carried out with an ‘intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national group – Israelis – a goal explicitly declared by Hamas, they most probably constitute an international crime of genocide, proscribed by the Genocide Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Genocide by Hamas is apparent in other ways. As the statement notes, “The taking of hostages is defined as a war crime, including by article 8(2)(c)(iii) of the Rome Statute, reflecting customary international law. The laws pertaining to the holding of prisoners of war do not apply to terrorist organizations.”
And “the abduction of people without provision of information regarding their whereabouts constitutes the crime of enforced disappearances. Furthermore, available information indicates that many abductees were tortured by their captors. These acts were committed by Hamas toward the hostages in execution of its policy to attack civilians, and thus constitute crimes against humanity, for which perpetrators must bear full accountability.”
Consequently, media use of the word “genocide” to associate it with Israel’s actions should reflect the same level of caution that they now say should have been used when covering the Ahli Arab Hospital incident.
My suggestion? When genocide is mentioned in news articles, this qualification should follow: “There is no current basis under international law to validate the claim that Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack is ‘genocide.’ Rather, if genocide has occurred here, international law indicates that it should be attributed instead to Hamas.”
More simply, maybe they should just cut and paste Ruffalo’s 2021 tweet to remind everyone that it still represents a reality check sorely needed now.
Stuart N. Brotman is an endowed professor of journalism and media law, enterprise, and leadership at the University of Tennessee. He also is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at The Media Institute. This article appeared in the Boston Herald.