The throngs of tourists passing Big Ben are unaware of the tunnel beneath their feet, which connects the parliamentary committee rooms in Portcullis House to the British House of Commons. When the division bells ring, members of parliament sprint along the passage to cast their votes in the chamber. It was in one of those committee rooms last Thursday evening that a group of MPs met with foreign lawmakers to discuss boycott, divestment and the indictment of a sovereign nation with the arrest of its officials for breach of international law.
One can be forgiven for thinking “this has to be Israel.” But no – on this occasion, it was Israel that had called the meeting and its keynote speaker was no less than former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The subject was Iran and its fanatical leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Netanyahu introduced the plan of a group of jurists to indict the Iranian leader under Article 25(3) (e) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which outlaws incitement to commit genocide, and to issue proceedings under Article 2(4) of the UN charter which forbids a member state from making statements threatening the use of force on another state.
Netanyahu recounted the rabid threats made by the Iranian leader, saying that the regime was just 1,000 days away from deployment of a nuclear weapon. In recasting his Mossad chief’s three-year assessment into days, Netanyahu emphasized that every day counts in the elimination of a nuclear menace that is as much a threat to European cities as it is to Israel. He said that if Iran is not stopped, nuclear weapons would quickly proliferate through the entire Middle East.
“If the world allows the Middle East to become a powder keg, take it from me, it will explode,” he said. To emphasise the threat, he mentioned having met a British MP a few moments before who remarked: “Iran is turning itself into a global suicide bomber.”
Netanyahu went on to say that UN sanctions, while welcome as a first step, were not tough enough. He said that governments and major corporations worldwide could make a much stronger economic impact on the rogue regime by heeding a call to “divest from genocide.”
The next speaker was Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs and, like Netanyahu, a former ambassador to the United Nations. Gold recalled the international community’s string of failures in preventing the genocide of European Jewry, Bosnians, Tutsis and now the Sudanese in Darfur. He stressed that the postwar Genocide Convention was formulated by the International Court of Justice to prevent genocide, not merely to punish its perpetrators after the fact.
Gold, the author of Tower of Babble, in which he criticises the UN for fuelling global chaos, recalled Kofi Annan’s statement 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. Such crimes cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life, so what can we do?”
Gold offered an answer to Annan’s rhetorical question: Heed the early warning signs of genocide emanating from Teheran and thereby fulfill the UN’s prime duty to prevent the perpetration of genocide.
Knesset Law and Justice Committee member Dan Naveh weighed in with his own personal account as the son of Holocaust survivors who fled their hometown of Bratislava. Their Slovak neighbors persuaded some Jews to stay, saying, “Why pay attention to the ravings of a madman?” Naveh said that those who failed to take Hitler’s threats seriously all perished.
The most forceful of the speakers was Dr. Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister. In a withering attack on Iran’s mullahcracy, Cotler said that an international arrest warrant had now been issued for Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight of his officials for the planning, funding and perpetration of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Scores of people died in the rubble of the 7-storey building and hundreds were injured. Cotler called for Ahmadinejad and his officials to be put on a watch list that would facilitate their arrest at airports and other international transit points.