Saturday, December 06, 2008

Never Again?

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Dec. 4, 2008, by Irwin Cotler:

December 9 marks the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, sometimes referred to as the "Never Again" Convention. Six decades have passed since this new era of genocide prevention was proclaimed in the wake of the Holocaust. On this oft-ignored anniversary, we must acknowledge our abysmal failure in preventing the most destructive threat known to humankind - the crime whose name we should even shudder to mention - genocide.

The enduring lesson of the Holocaust and that of the genocides that followed is that they occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of the state-sanctioned incitement to hatred. As international tribunals have recognized and affirmed, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. These are the chilling facts of history.

Most important, in all other cases of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide - the Holocaust, the Balkans, Rwanda and Darfur - the genocides have already occurred. Only in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran - the epicenter of such incitement - can we still act so as to prevent a genocide foretold from occurring.

For it is in Ahmadinejad's Iran where one finds the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes embedded in the most virulent of hatreds. It is dramatized by the parading in the streets of Teheran of a Shahab-3 missile draped in the words "Israel must be wiped off the map" and underpinned by the words of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that "[t]here is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state."

Moreover, Ahmadinejad's Iran has already resorted to incendiary and demonizing language, including epidemiological metaphors reminiscent of Nazi incitement. For example, President Ahmadinejad characterizes Israel as "filthy bacteria," "a stinking corpse" and "a cancerous tumor that needs to be excised," while referring to Jews as "evil incarnate," "blood-thirsty barbarians" and the "defilers of Islam" - the whole as prologue to, and justification for, a Mideast genocide, while at the same time denying the Nazi one.

Indeed, calls by the most senior figures in the Iranian leadership for the destruction of Israel are also frighteningly reminiscent of calls for the Rwandan extermination of Tutsis by the Hutu leadership. The crucial difference is that the Hutus were equipped with machetes, while Iran, in defiance of the world community, continues its pursuit of the most destructive of weaponry: nuclear arms. Alarmingly, Iran has already succeeded in developing a long-range missile delivery system for that purpose, the whole recalling former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's open threat that "even one atomic bomb inside Israel will wipe it off the face of the earth."

The failure to stop past genocides, as in the unspeakable, preventable genocide of Rwanda, caused the then-UN secretary general Kofi Annan to lament in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide: "We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenseless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda 10 years ago.
"Such crimes cannot be reversed. Such failures cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life. So, what can we do?"

AS THE express target of Iran's genocidal incitement - and the country most at risk from Iran's combined nuclear and genocidal menace - Israel must necessarily be engaged in countering Ahmadinejad's genocidal threat. Indeed, any passive acquiescence by Israel would be misinterpreted and could undermine calls upon other states to act.

But while Israel has been at the forefront of both the movement calling for severe sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons program - and of those saying the military option cannot be taken off the table - it has been surprisingly reticent in initiating, or supporting others to initiate any of a number of legal remedies mandated by the Genocide Convention.

Admittedly, Israel has often been singled out for differential treatment in the international arena and so often regards international legal remedies with skepticism if not suspicion. However, holding Iran to account in the legal arena is not only the right thing to do; it is a duty. For what is so often ignored is that state parties to the Genocide Convention, including Israel, have not only a right, but an obligation, to enforce the Convention, and in particular to prevent genocide.
The threat of Ahmadinejad's Iran is not merely nuclear; it is genocidal. Let there be no mistake about it: Iran has already committed the crime of incitement prohibited under the Genocide Convention. We must understand that the threat of genocide is not a distraction from the nuclear issue; it is the terrifying and vilifying context in which the nuclear threat operates. It should be the basis for bolstering and enhancing sanctions, as disconnecting the genocidal from the nuclear ambitions of Iran only weakens the case against both.

Instead of relegating debate to the nuclear question - which addresses the means, but not the motivation, of the destructive capacity of Ahmadinejad's Iran - Israel should also be leading the international community in paying heed to the precursors of genocide. As one who was involved as minister of justice in the prosecution of Rwandan incitement, I can state that the aggregate of precursors of incitement in the Iranian case are more threatening than were those in the Rwandan one.

SIMPLY PUT, the Genocide Convention authorizes a panoply of international legal remedies which Israel could invoke or support others in invoking.

Specifically, an application to hold Iran - also a state party - to account should be submitted to the UN Security Council pursuant to Article 8 of the Genocide Convention; an inter-state complaint can be launched against Iran before the International Court of Justice; and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should be asked to refer the danger of a genocidal and nuclear Iran to the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security.

Given their genocidal incitement, the cases of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders can be referred to other UN agencies as well. What is so astonishing is that this criminal incitement by a nuclear weapon-seeking Iran has yet to be addressed by any agency of the UN-thereby nurturing a culture of impunity that itself is driving a culture of hatred. And what is no less disturbing - considering that indifference and inaction are also what made prior genocides possible - is that no state party has invoked any of these mandated initiatives.

The legal remedies to counter state-sanctioned incitement exist, but the leadership has thus far been wanting. This is why I am releasing a petition entitled "The Danger of a Genocidal and Nuclear Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent" - endorsed by legal scholars, genocide experts and even genocide survivors from around the world - that extensively presents the factual and legal case against Ahmadinejad's Iran, and that calls upon the international community, and state parties to the Genocide Convention, to act.

Calling Ahmadinejad's Iran to account - and directly linking its nuclear ambitions to its genocidal incitements - is not simply an option. It is a responsibility - a responsibility to prevent - a responsibility envisaged by the Genocide Convention 60 years ago.

The writer is the former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada and is a Canadian member of parliament. He is a professor of law (on leave) at McGill University and has written extensively on - and prosecuted for - incitement to genocide.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

So Why Kill The Rabbi?

From a posting by Michael Danby, Australian Government Member for Melbourne Ports, on Wednesday December 3, 2008 in which he reports on a speech to the Australian Parliament on an important aspect of the terrorist attack in India, that has been under reported. 9 of the 20 foreigners murdered there were Jews, including the Rabbi, his wife and others at the Chabad House (synagogue/outreach) centre in Mumbai:

Mr Danby (Melbourne Ports) (9.36a.m.)- London's Times asks today: "So why kill the rabbi?" Indeed, why kill any rabbi? All Australians were outraged at the murder of our countrymen Brett Taylor and Doug Markell and the other mainly Indian citizens murdered in Mumbai a few days ago.

I cannot surpass the insights of the columnist from the London Times David Aaronovitch about the people he calls "explanists", who make excuses for those who, with murderous ideologies, single out people who are Australian or British or American, or who are Jewish. Mr. Aaronovitch says that we cannot equivocate the heinous crimes committed by the terrorists with their struggle against Hindu aggression or Indian oppression. He says that there is no justification in killing innocent people, Christian, Hindu or Jew, or British, American or Australian.

The fact that nine people died in a synagogue, an outreach centre called the Chabad house in Mumbai is a particular tragedy for many Australian Jews. It is especially tragic for those who knew the couple who ran the centre, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, both of whom were murdered there.

Terrible reports on various international news wires indicate that some of the victims were all tortured before they were killed. This kind of beastality is hard to face but we must because it is being discussed in the international press.

This young religious couple were a paradigm of kind-hearted and dedicated Chabad emissaries serving the tiny Jewish community in Mumbai, and helping people who were suffering from drug addiction and poverty. They offered their hospitality to Israeli backpackers and Jewish visitors, and treated them with uplifting spiritual experiences. Their Chabad house, their synagogue, served as a safe haven and an island for yiddishkeit for Jewish people travelling through Mumbai and India. They could stay at the centre and were offered free kosher meals, and could participate in services over Shabbat. Reb Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivka represented the ultimate in human kindness and selflessness. Their presence in Mumbai and on earth will be sadly missed....

Follow this link for the full report.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Letter From President Peres of Israel to Prime Minister Singh of India

From The New Republic Blogs: The Spine, by Marty Peretz, 27/11/08:

No, this is not correspondence from Shimon Peres to Manmohan Singh. It was actually written by Steven Plaut, an economist at the University of Haifa, as an approximation of what Peres would write to Singh if he were to encapsulate his own thinking on how Israel should deal with the Palestinians and extrapolate this to how India might deal with extremist Muslims.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
My heartfelt sympathies to you and the Indian people for the Bombay/Mumbai unrest and protests against occupation this week. However, we must really speak about how to deal with these forms of activism in India, perpetrated by these misunderstood Islamic militants.

Mister Prime Minister, I have a great deal of experience in dealing successfully with terrorism and violence, and this is why I wish to come to your rescue. The first thing you must realize is that one can only make peace with one's enemies. With one's friends, there is no need to make peace. There is no military solution to the problems of terrorism, and this is why you must seek a diplomatic solution. "No Justice, No Peace?" as they say.

You must invite the leaders of this Islamic organization responsible for the bloodshed in Mumbai to New Delhi to meet with you and perhaps tour the Taj Mahal together. You must learn to feel their pain and understand their needs. However, most importantly, you must end the illegal occupation of territory that does not belong to you! First, you must withdraw from Kashmir and Jammu and remove all the Hindu settlers there. But, that is just a beginning.
Large sections of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Hyderabad contain local Moslem majorities. Lakshadweep is 95% Moslem.

You cannot continue to coerce these people into living as demographic minorities. The solution is to create two states for two peoples, inside India itself. Indian Moslems are entitled to self-determination and national sovereignty! You must bear in mind that India was conquered by the Moguls and that makes all of India the homeland of Moslems. The fact that India was partitioned with Pakistan and Bengladesh granted independence does not solve anything. What about the right of return for Punjabi Moslem refugees and other Moslems? These demand that they be allowed to exercise their sovereign rights inside India in the lands of their forefathers and have their one-time homes restored to them!

Then there is the matter of the status of New Delhi. It was a Moslem city for centuries, and served as the Moghul capital. Your selfish insistence that New Delhi remain Indian is racist. You must end the apartheid regime inside Delhi and turn it into the shared capital of two states, or maybe three. I have no doubt Pakistan will applaud your efforts.

You must meet all the demands of the militants in Mumbai in full. In addition, you must offer them Internet web services and five-star tourist hotels in exchange for their promising to abandon violence. After all, that is how we turned Yasser Arafat into a peace partner. You see, military force serves no role any more in the post-modern universe. It is passe. It is archaic. Today, consumer interests dominate the world, and the Islamist activists of the earth will surely make peace in exchange for some profits from participating in global trade.

The attacks on Mumbai came because you have been insufficiently sensitive to the needs of the Moslem Other. You took their rhetoric at face value, whereas we in Israel know that all this rhetoric is empty and in fact, these people truly want peace. Sure, they praise Hitler and celebrate genocidal atrocities, but what is it that they really want? You must negotiate with them even while under attack. Conditioning negotiations on an end to violence is a no-win situation. It will simply extend the bloodshed! You must put your own house in order, and eliminate inequality and injustice inside India, and then the terrorists will no longer target you.

The key is to build a New Middle Asia, one in which everyone is so busy with the important matters of developing tourism, infrastructure investments and high-technology that they will have no time to pursue violence. Moreover, if you strike at the perpetrators of the Mumbai protests and their supporters, you will simply expand and enlarge the cycle of violence. Your retaliation bombs will no doubt injure some innocent children and civilians alongside any terrorist activists you strike. That will enrage the rest of the world and make the victims seek revenge. Your violence against these militants and activists will cause them to hate the Hindus and it will drive the separatists to embrace terrorism. Moreover, if you refuse to negotiate with the Moslem separatists, then their leaders will be toppled and a violent extremist group will take charge. In that case, you will have lost the window of opportunity to make peace.
Begin by declaring a unilateral ceasefire! Mister Prime Minister, blessed is the peacemaker. Remember Mahatma Gandhi (but not Rehavam "Gandhi" Zeevi). The entire world will support you and congratulate you if you respond to these horrific attacks by disarming India and opening serious dialogue with the terror activists. All we are saying is give peace a chance. Yitzhak Rabin would have approved. Yes, chaver, what you need is shalom, salaam, peace. You will be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition. Do not allow yourself to be drawn down into the gutter of retaliation. Violence never achieves anything. History has no lessons. History is the dead past.

Follow my example! Provide the Bombay bombers with anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles so that they can battle against the true radicals and extremists. Moreover, they will do so with no ACLU or Supreme Court to restrain them! Demonstrate your humanity by paying pensions to any widows and orphans of the terrorists who blew up the hotels. Mister Prime Minister, my own peace policies have eliminated war, bloodshed and terror from the Middle East. We now have only peace partners. If you follow in my footsteps, you can achieve the same lofty goals.

Peacefully yours,
Shimon Peres, Peacemaker-at-Large