Let’s Talk About Genocide: The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Standard and Israel

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family.
Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family. (Taken from 972 Magazine)

On the 24th of July 2014, when Israel had already massacred 697 Palestinians in Gaza, of whom at least 170 are children, Adama Dieng and Jennifer Welsh of the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide published a statement, which I would characterize as aiding and abating genocide.

The Responsibility to Protect

While acknowledging the incomprehensible numbers of the dead, and the staggering destruction to civilian infrastructure to the besieged Gaza strip, which the UN itself has described as “uninhabitable” even before Israel’s latest onslaught, the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide seems to see fit to equate the meagre damage inflicted by the resistance of the victims of genocide, to that of the perpetrators of this genocide, as they execute massacres alongside a campaign of mass destruction.

The word Genocide is fast becoming yet another synonym for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, alongside Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing. I’ve already began to scratch the surface of the applicability of the Crime of Genocide to Israel, by examining the definition provided in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9th 1948. My conclusion prompted me to create a call to action, calling for concerned citizens of the world to contact the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and demand an enquiry and publish its findings and recommendations as to the possibility that Israel is committing the Crime of Genocide.

My methodology is simple: I’ll be examining only the first seven main pages of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide’s official website, under the assumption that each and every word there is carefully chosen to represent the Adviser’s standard criteria of what Genocide is. As I do this, I will juxtapose Israel with these criteria. I will also be looking into the performance of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, as it seems to be in need of internal inquiry.

I start on the Main Page, which begins with outlining the two main actors of the office, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. The latter, Jennifer Welsh, is suppose to “lead the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect.” To put it simply, she’s suppose to be helping states to prevent themselves from committing crimes of mass scale, such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, by assisting them in “building their protection capacities before crises and conflicts break out”, or in case a state is “manifestly failing”, to organizing collective international community responses. 

All this begs the question, how Welsh of the UN office of Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, in her capacity as Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect (a responsibility which every single state in the world signed on to in 2005), as so aptly missed Israel’s manifest failing to protect Palestinians from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and- as a result- very possibly genocide. Especially given the very manifest military occupation, which according to international law renders Palestinians the status of Protected Persons.

The Responsibility to Enhance the UN Capacity to Analyze Information Regarding Genocide

We move on to examining the role of Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. His role is very clearly outlined on the Main Page: 

  1. Collecting existing information, in particular from within the United Nations system, on massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin that, if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide;
  2. Acting as a mechanism of early warning to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Security Council, by bringing to their attention situations that could potentially result in genocide;
  3. Making recommendations to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, on actions to prevent or halt genocide; and
  4. Liaising with the United Nations system on activities for the prevention of genocide and work to enhance the United Nations’ capacity to analyze and manage information regarding genocide or related crimes.

Reading these 4 criteria, I’m led to believe that Deing is completely aware of Israel’s massive and serious violations of Palestinian human rights, and massive and serious violations of international humanitarian law, of ethnic and racial origin, perpetrated on a daily basis, that if not prevented or halted might lead to genocide. As such, I assume that  Deing is quite busy bringing these situations that could potentially result in genocide to the attention of the UN Secretary-General and Security Council, and making recommendations on actions to prevent them.

Either that, or he excuses himself of these responsibilities, by having his “Outreach Officer” writing a nothing-if-not-reprehensible one page document, blaming the victims of massacres for taking action against their aggressors, as already nearly 700 Palestinians were slaughtered. The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide July 24 statement, in all its shame does not only fail to analyze information regarding genocide, it also adds on to a multitude of misinformation on the ongoing colonization of Palestine and the erasure of the indigenous Palestinian people. As such it serves to whitewash Israel’s “massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin”.

Legalizing Genocide

I move on to the web page titled Preventing Genocide on the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website. I’ll skip the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide definition, because I’ve addressed that in my last article on the subject and move on to the website text confronting the question of the origins of genocide:

While conflict has many causes, genocidal conflict is identity-based. Genocide and related atrocities tend to occur in societies with diverse national, racial, ethnic or religious groups that are locked in identity-related conflicts.

Quite clearly the office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide defines genocide not only in terms of intent to destroy a group of people and the actual mass violations of human life and rights, but as a group that within its localized political context has a particular identity and is being acted against in this particular context. It goes on to emphasize that identity is not only a philosophical notion conjured up in one’s, or a group’s head, but has very real tangible, economic implications on people’s life:

It is not simply differences in identity, whether real or perceived, that generate conflict, but the implication of those differences in terms of access to power and wealth, services and resources, employment, development opportunities, citizenship and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.

You’ll notice that this list is a kind of upside-down pyramid, starting from privileges and moving through to the most basic human rights. So allow me to flip it back on its base and examine where Israel stands on these issue regarding Palestinians. According to Adalah:

 There are more than 50 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures. 

Adalah also adds on that same page that that “some of the laws also violate the rights of Palestinians living in the 1967 OPT and Palestinian refugees.” This is the time to mention that while Israel maintains control over the West Bank and Gaza, it allots the populations in these territories a form of non-citizenship, manifested in the different colored ID card

This last link highlights the discrimination that Adalah briefly mentions towards Palestinian refugees. It’s important to always make visible the invisible Palestinian refugees, because their absence from the land formerly known as Palestine, is also a continuous identity-based violation Israel commits. The purpose of the non-citizenship status was not to create a status for the indigenous population of Palestine, but to prevent their integration into the newly born colony of Israel, and further more deny any chance of status for the indigenous refugees.

Add to all this Israel’s mass exterminations in the Gaza strip and trigger happy policies in the West Bank, and we find that not only does Israel massively and seriously violate all 6 criteria on the Preventing Genocide page of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website, but it actually put most of these violations into law.

Other Violations of Human Rights Causing Genocidal Violence

The text on the Preventing Genocide page continues to outline less official forms of racism:

These conflicts are fomented by discrimination, hate speech inciting violence and other violations of human rights. 

Though I have no idea what “other violations of human rights” can possibly exist after exhausting the list on this page, but Israel is no stranger to hate speech and inciting violence, especially recently, when Israeli lynch mobs are marching the streets, chanting death to Arabs and beating Arab people, have become so prevalent, peaking at the abduction and burning alive of 16 year old Mohammad Abu Khdeir.

In terms of prevention, the critical step is to identify the factors (discriminatory practices) in a given situation that lead to/account for acute disparities in the administration of a diverse population, and to seek ways to diminish and eventually eradicate these possible causes of genocidal violence.

As Israel codifies, systemizes and legalizes these possible causes for genocidal violence, it also fails to prevent, or eradicate the less official “other violations of human rights”. It manifestly failed to stop the lynch mobs, and manifestly fail in NOT taking revenge on Abu Khdeir’s family, instead of providing their protection:

Since the horrific murder of their son, Israel has waged a campaign of intimidation and harassment as punishment for the damage to Israel’s image abroad resulting from international coverage of their son’s brutal murder.

On an almost nightly basis, Israeli police in full riot gear station themselves in vans outside the Abu Khdeir home. They frequently conducts raids, ransacking and kidnapping dozens of young men and boys from their homes, at least 25 of which remain in various jails throughout Israel

The Twisted Notion that Sovereignty and Responsibility Aren’t Compatible

Sovereignty is defined by Merriam-Webster as unlimited power over a country” and “a country’s independent authority and the right to govern itself”. While Israel understands the concept of sovereignty more closely in these terms, the Responsibility to Protect page of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide website highlights that: 

Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.

 Going through the many documents linked in the page, I found that in a 2009 conference on the Responsibility to Protect, then Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, went so far as calling the notion that sovereignty and responsibility are somehow incompatible ”twisted”. I couldn’t agree more. A twisted notion that in the particular context Luck was speaking within leads to genocide.

In 2011 the United Nations General Assembly had an “Informal Thematic Debate” on the Responsibility to Protect, titled “For Those Facing Mass Rape and Violence, the Slow Pace of Global Deliberations Offers No Relief”, in which the High Commissioner stated: 

 intervention with the aim of prevention did not erode sovereignty, but strengthened it by enabling States to fulfil their basic duties; and, that there was a direct link between State capacity and the protection of human rights, as weak States posed risks to human security.

While Israel is a small state, it’d be hard to describe it as “weak”, as it receives the USA’s military and political support. Not without merit, did state reprisentatives in the assembly express a fear of political manoeuvring when implementing the interventions that the Responsibility to Protect suggests. However Israel has another issue to contend with which was briefly stated in the assembly [bolds by me]:

 sovereignty as responsibility implied accountability. States must be legitimate, externally and internally, and must live up to certain fundamental principles of responsibility, in which protecting populations was a fundamental responsibility.

 While the international community is responsible for giving the colony of  Israel its external legitimacy, no one in the United Nations bothered to check whether this callus misuse of sovereignty-as-responsibility is viewed by some 11 million indigenous Palestinians and refugees as a twisted notion.

 The following year the UN General Assembly had another Informal Thematic Debate on the Responsibility to Protect, titled “World Not Fulfilling ‘Never Again’ Vow”. Palestine was not discussed in the meeting, but be sure the Israel representatives took the opportunity to charge the Syrian regime with the slaughter of its own citizens, a crime the Israeli regime isn’t guilty of, since the people it slaughters are non-citizens.

 Israel’s red-washing its own violations with Syria’s massacres is just one tactic it employs in the international theatre. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this section, much like Syria, it has a tendency to prioritize its sovereignty over its responsibility, or in other words, to possess the twisted notion that the two are incompatible, serving to negate one another. And Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s opening statement that States could not use sovereignty as a “shield” to hide crimes committed against their citizens” doesn’t seem to have much teeth, wherein I suppose the problem lays. And indeed, in this same assembly, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser admitted “the international community could only act when a State “manifestly” failed to protect its citizens. But as I stated earlier, I do believe the manifest failure is actually quite obvious, a long time before massacres occur.

Early Understanding, Early Engagement, and Early Warning: Don’t Say You Didn’t Know

The The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Secretary-General actually also thinks so, and on the website page Office of the Special Advisers – Mandate they coin a term for it: Early Warning. But going back to the documents on The Responsibility to Protect page, particularly the statement made by former Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, he takes it a step further saying (bolds by me):

Early warning should not be the beginning of the UN’s engagement in a situation of concern. We should not wait for the bad news, when options are limited and unattractive and the human toll is rising, before crafting a systemwide response. As you will recall, the Secretary‐General has called for “an early and flexible response, tailored to the circumstances of each case.” That requires early engagement and early understanding.

While the whole text is an inspiring document of solidarity, unfortunately the UN has exhibited late-to-never engagement on the issue of Palestine for the past 66 years, and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide seems to be continuing on this path.

On the website page titled Office of Special Advisers – Methodology, the Adviser lays out his “Analysis Framework, which identifies eight factors which, cumulatively, could lead to genocidal violence”. Once again, these can easily be used as criteria checklist to be juxtaposed with Israel’s policies and practices, all one has to do is use Google:

  1. Tense inter-group relations, including a record of discrimination and/or other human rights violations committed against a group; CHECK
  2. Weak institutional capacity to prevent genocide, such as the lack of an independent judiciary, ineffective national human rights institutions, the absence of international actors capable of protecting vulnerable groups, and a lack of impartial security forces and media; CHECK
  3. The presence of illegal arms and armed elements; CHECK
  4. Underlying political, economic, military or other motivation to target a group; CHECK 
  5. Circumstances that facilitate perpetration of genocide, such as a sudden or gradual strengthening of the military or security apparatus; CHECK and CHECK
  6. Acts that could be elements of genocide, such as killings, abduction and disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence, “ethnic cleansing” or pogroms or the deliberate deprivation of food; CHECK CHECK CHECK threat CHECK CHECK CHECK
  7. Evidence of the “intent to destroy in whole or in part”; CHECK
  8. Triggering factors, such as elections. CHECK and DOUBLE CHECK

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as it took me a total of seven minutes to find all this. I doubt the UN has a shortage of information on the “eight factors which, cumulatively, could lead to genocidal violence” as pertaining to Palestine.

The PA’s Role

I’ve already gone over the economic inequalities between identity groups, which is the focus of the page titled The UN’s Role. So I’ll just move to the final part of the text:

Where genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity do occur, the International Criminal Court, which is separate and independent from the UN, is empowered to investigate and prosecute those most responsible if a State is unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction over alleged perpetrators. Fighting impunity and establishing a credible expectation that the perpetrators of genocide and related crimes will be held accountable can contribute effectively to a culture of prevention.

In the final throes of this article we run into the most puzzling bit of the puzzle: The Palestinian Authority. After many steps taken to ensure that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to investigate Israel’s war crimes, all quite bureaucratic in nature, it seems that Mahmoud Abbas is stuck in micro politics. The one thing that’s left to do is ratify the Rome Statute, which is basically the founding document of the ICC. Once a state, or a “non-member observer state” signs it, it’s given the green light for judicial intervention.

While Hamas has already signed, because it has consistently taken a stance of no collaboration with the colonizer over the years, the PA, lead by Mahmoud Abbas, seems to prefer trying to revive the very late corps of the so-called “Peace Process”. As if the PA’s conduct hasn’t fermented enough Palestinian rage in these past years, this reprehensible stalling of justice may just be the last nail in its coffin:

Even before Israel’s July offensive, Palestinians wanted to bring Israeli leaders before the ICC more than they wanted a third Intifada, according to a June poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. The poll showed that 76 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank wanted to take Israel to The Hague (where the court is based), even if it leads to the collapse of the PA.

I’ve linked this particular article in the last section in connection with “triggering factors”. While Israel likes to blame Hamas for the death of innocents in Gaza, and other than a bomb, has no political policy towards the party, it’s been gushing lately about the PA’s cooperation. So while The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is so keen on making sure Hamas is investigated for the “indiscriminate use of force… violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and these acts could constitute atrocity crimes”, eventually it may be the Palestinian Authority that’s culpable for much graver crimes.

I end this second journey into the legalistic world of genocide with my aforementioned call to action: Please flood the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide with short emails at arnaud@un.org and http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/contactform.asp?address=1 Please demand a consistently moral stance from the office claiming authority on the Crime of Genocide. Please demand they conduct an enquiry and publish its findings and recommendations as to the possibility that Israel is committing the Crime of Genocide.

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