From the moment I started addressing Israel in the context of the crime of genocide, I became acquainted with the numerical counter-argument. The argument usually goes something around the lines of “Israel really sucks at genocide, the Palestinian population has increased eight- fold.” As time went by, since 2014, we’ve seen the word ‘genocide’ more commonly applied to Israel’s practices against the indigenous Palestinian people, and the numerical counter-argument became more common as well, including numerous chart memes, illustrating the point, which are making the rounds on social media (left).
Last month I wrote a letter to several major dictionary publishers, outlining the dangerous implications of imprecise definitions of the term ‘genocide’ and the potential of prevention that a precise definition can contain. In my letter I appealed to the publishers to reconsider their existing definitions.
Within 24 hours, Cambridge Dictionary and Macmillan Dictionary confirmed that the letter has been forwarded to their editorial teams for consideration (UPDATE: On March 28 I received a reply from Merriam-Webster). Three days later, I received this reply from the Macmillan team:
Since I’ve started the Let’s Talk About Genocide series, over four years ago, the discussion around Israel in the context of the crime of genocide has grown substantially. And while many scholars, journalists, and human rights defenders have embarked on the arduous task of examining the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16); many others have dedicated many words to the various, very partial definitions found in most English language dictionaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Based on these inaccurate definitions- that no genocide scholar in either the Political Science or the legal field would agree on- inevitably the authors reach the conclusion that Israel is not committing genocide against the indigenous Palestinian people. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Genocide: Words Matter”
In the summer of 2012, UNICEF and UNRWA asked if Gaza will be liveable by 2020. At the time- five years into Israel’s siege, and post Israel’s 2008 and 2012 carpet-bombing campaigns- one might have been led to think that if the situation only had eight more stable years to go until apocalypse, then it probably doesn’t look too good already. What one might have missed is that Gaza in 2020, as in 2017, as in 2012, is what genocide looks like.
The most recent report from the Palestinian Health Ministry relates that 44 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s army, police and settlers, since the beginning of the month- in the past 18 days. 11 of them were children under 18 years of age. All 44 have been shot, most during demonstrations, least while wielding a knife, and others while standing in the street being Arab.
The most disturbing aspect of this new wave of extrajudicial executions is of course the latter, in which random Palestinian citizens of Israel are attacked in the street by random Jewish citizens if identified to be Arab. In the best case scenario, they are just humiliated and brutally beaten, in the worst case they are shot multiple times by hysterical police officers.
This week, the organization Shurat HaDin is having a conference titled “Towards a New Law of War”. They don’t hide where their alliances lie, and on their online conference page (nostalgically illustrated with WWII British bombers) you can find their Western-supremacist and racist agenda stated loud and clear:
…exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against nontraditional, non-democratic, non-state actors.
Since Israel’s latest attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, last summer, I’ve been researching the issue of Israel’s genocide. I quickly found out that I’m not the only one, and although the subject has been addressed by scholars, politicians, UN bodies, and Palestinian civil society since 1982, this attack has prompted an unprecedented amount of criticism and study.
The sudden popular resurgence of the term, especially coming from President Mahmoud Abbas, has already prompted many independent articles, rejecting not only the terminology, but mostly the users of the term. From Liberal Zionists calling those who charge genocide “the loony left” and “antisemitic”; to hard-core right-wingers like government- funded StandWithUs with the help of fox news, with the tried-and-true “what about Syria, Iran, Iraq” and anything else that isn’t the issue of discussion and furthers Islamophobia; to AIPAC with the ironic claim that naming the crime hinders peace, and quotations from none other than Benjamin Netanyahu that “we warned them” and after we bombed the hell out of them, we gave them “tons of humanitarian aid.” That said, I’ve yet to see an organised government initiative on the subject. Until now.
Never Again Unless We Did It
On the 7th of April 2004, then United Nations Secretary General to the Commission on Human Rights, Kofi Annan, launched his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide:
We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless 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?
In my series of articles about Israel’s ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people, I tackle this assertion through different aspects of prevention mechanisms that have been put forth by the United Nations, such as The Convention of Prevention of Genocide, the UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide statements, and other reports and documents. In this article, I’d like to discuss Annan’s plan, which is an overarching document and a promise of the UN to endangered communities that asses the dangers as they happen, and to bring it to task about its inaction to prevent Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian People.
When I first set out to prove that Israel is committing the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people, I focused mostly on its genocidal acts. While there’s consensus between pretty much anyone that bothered to examine the Convention of Prevention of Genocide [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16] on the fact that Israel is committing the first three out of five genocidal acts:
(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;
A debate remains about Israel’s intent to bring about the Palestinian people’s “destruction in whole or in part”. The Russell Tribunal, in its latest “Extraordinary Session on Gaza” and the 2009 “Fact Finding Committee On Gaza” chaired by John Dugard, both illustrate a narrative of colonialist destruction of the social fabric and a partial wiping out of the indigenous population. Frustratingly enough, both stop short of ruling genocide. While the Russell Tribunal simply says “it would be for a criminal court to determine”, the Dugard report goes into much greater detail.
Palestine in Whole or in Part
There’s drama stirring in the Oslo National Theatre, but not the kind most cultural institutions expect. Under the auspiciousness of The Union of Theaters of Europe, the Oslo National Theatre has committed to a two-year project titled “TERRORisms”:
From 2013 to 2015, theatres from Oslo, Stuttgart, Belgrade, Tel Aviv, London and Reims will get closer to their TERRORisms. They will elaborate different points of view, exploring different aspects likely to determine fundamentally our societies… dealing with the issue of terrorism and its appropriation by artists.
I’ve just come back from Oslo, and to be honest, Norwegians- as individuals and as a society- didn’t strike me to be particularly “determined fundamentally” by “their” “terrorisms”. Admittedly, I’m not an expert on European contemporary art, but it doesn’t seem to me like there’s a lot of artistic appropriation of terrorism being done in the European cultural sphere, and the notion is rather- let’s just say- foreign.