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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

PA UNHRC Envoy Admits to Palestinian War Crimes Against Israel

Friday, July 18th, 2014

In this Arabic conversation (with English subtitles) Palestinian Envoy to the UN Human Rights Council, Ibrahim Khreisheh, tells his interviewer why the Palestinian Authority can’t go to the ICJ, the International Court of Justice to sue Israel for Crimes against Humanity.

His reason?

He explains how it is the Palestinians who are committing crimes against humanity, not Israel.

That’s a good reason, and surprisingly honest. I wonder if he can be called up as a witness.

Who Should Clean Up the Mess?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

Many people repeatedly ask why “the West” — meaning European countries, the European Union and the United States — sits by idly and does not lift a finger to intervene to end the war crimes and crimes against humanity now being committed against Arab and Muslim people.

The present chaos [fitna] now includes the slaughter in Syria, the endless attacks in Iraq, the terrorism in Afghanistan, the bloody confrontations in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, the Sudan and everywhere else there are Muslims.

The reluctance of the West to participate in these disputes has enraged many people, who continually harp on the failures of “the West.” We Arabs have become spoiled, self-indulgent, accustomed to the good life — and slightly delusional: we really do think that someone else has to do our dirty work. Since the West continually attempts to bring order and democracy to the people of Islam, we tend to forget that this is not the West’s job.

We have become accustomed to seeing Americans killed for us in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. When you look at the Arab states, paralyzed by the catastrophe in Syria, it is hard to understand why the Arabs expect the Americans to clean up this mess.

I am happy that the West does not interfere, and instead makes do with criticism and threatening sanctions. We have to bring ourselves a genuine Arab Spring, without foreign help. We have to plant and water the tree of democracy in the lands of Islam with our own hands, independently.

I am happy that the Western world, led by U.S. President Barack Obama, has not lifted a finger. It is clear the problem is not that he doesn’t want to, but that he cannot. American public opinion will not stand for more massive loss of American life and economic damage in wars other people should be fighting, even if those wars will seriously influence the fate of the West. For that reason at least, Obama made the right call when he said he would direct the battles from the rear: he had no other choice.

We are all lucky he had no other choice. This is the only way the affairs of the Middle East will resolve themselves on their own. Authentic revolutions take place on the front lines, not in the rear. If the desire to rule the roost really were the uncomprehending, hypocritical and condescending world view of the current U.S. administration — because of which we lost the Egypt of Mubarak, and because of which Iran and Turkey are now Islamist countries — we would not accept the revolt of Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, which saved the world from radical Islam. The revolt was successful only because it was our good fortune that Sissi did not surrender to the infantile dictates and blackmail of America and the European Union.

It is the lack of American action that will cause the situation to right itself in Egypt, Syria, North Africa and other centers of unrest in the Arab-Muslim world. The naive fantasies of American and European advisors must not be allowed to interfere with real and necessary processes in the Middle East. We watched, uneasily, as the West — because of its crude and bungling interference, mistakes and amateurishness — helped bring radical Islam to our region. It is a genuine shame that because of Western weakness the forces of darkness and even reaction in China, Iran, North Korea and Russia gained the upper hand and harmed soldiers and innocent civilians.

When I see Obama stand behind the podium in the White House delivering yet another speech, I am convinced that words, or perhaps a few inconsequential strikes, like President Bill Clinton’s retaliation for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, are the most a weak president is capable of. When I hear the U.S. call on the seething Arab-Muslim world to take stock of itself, in the name of an imaginary democracy which can never be implemented in our corner of the world, and when I hear it spout condescending ideological nonsense not only divorced from local reality but harmful to American interests, I am reminded of one of the early Muslims, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.S), a man named Bilal bin Rabah.

France and the Jews

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Many readers have probably seen the film “Sarah’s Key,” a powerful 2010 movie that reminds its viewers of overwhelming French collaboration with the Nazis. Even today it seems widely believed that France carried on more or less heroically under the German occupation, and that the 1942 roundups of Jews in occupied France must have been carried out by the SS or Gestapo directly. In fact, however, as “Sarah’s Key” instructs in understated yet utterly hideous detail, these roundups were executed, more or less enthusiastically, by the regular French police.

What is even less well known is that France, after the war, only rarely prosecuted Nazi war criminals for crimes committed during the occupation, and that these prosecutions often dishonored the Jewish victims – victims of the insidious French collaboration in deportation and mass murder – as much as of France’s wartime German masters. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the French trial of Klaus Barbie, the notorious “Butcher of Lyons.” The Barbie trial took place between May 11 and July 4 1987.

Though found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (there was no death penalty in France), Barbie succeeded, with undisguised prosecutorial complicity, in blurring the Nuremberg-based charge of “crimes against humanity.” This distortion continues to defile the very memory of justice.

Believing that crimes of war have a statute of limitations, and that crimes against humanity contain no such statute, the French authorities decided to indict Barbie only on the latter charge. This was a big mistake, however, and their elementary factual error led them to treat all of the defendant’s cruelties – deportation-related crimes, and crimes against the Resistance – as qualitatively indistinguishable. According to the authoritative Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: “…there is no period of limitation for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.”

There is an irreducible specificity to crimes against humanity; hence, France’s fusion of such crimes with crimes of war had the effect of diminishing the terribly unique fate of French Jews during the Holocaust. After the war, France received survivors and victims of the Resistance as heroes, but generally tried to ignore those who had been known simply as the “racially deported.” These were the ones in “zebra” clothes, the Jews.

This stark dichotomy had substantial consequences. Indeed, on November 11, 1945, Jewish victims were excluded from the mortal remains symbolically reunited around the flame of the Unknown Soldier. It was not until 1954 that a national day was even declared to memorialize “The Deportation.”

An implicit hierarchy of pertinent criminality arose in post-war France, one that elevated the victims of war crimes, i.e., the Resistance, to substantially higher status than that accorded to victims of crimes against humanity. In this vaguely obscene competition of memories, the Barbie trial reinvigorated the hierarchy. Because the French prosecutor believed, erroneously, that crimes of war were bounded by a statute of limitations while crimes against humanity were not so constrained, the magistrate in charge retained only the crimes inflicted upon the Jews.

As for Nazi actions against the fighters of the Resistance, against France’s “authentic heroes,” these were declared off limits to criminal prosecution. Never mind that in 1943, in German-occupied Poland, a tiny handful of beleaguered Jews had held off the extinction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and for an even longer period of time than it had taken France to surrender its entire armies.

First, the grand jury in Lyons confirmed the magistrate’s opinion. But when certain Resistance organizations objected strenuously, the criminal court of appeals, on December 20, 1985, accepted an interpretation of crimes against humanity that was less restrictive. This interpretation, it was agreed, would include crimes committed against the Resistance.

Thereafter, the French definition of crimes against humanity included “inhuman acts and persecutions that, in the name of a state practicing a politics of ideological hegemony, have been committed in a systematic way not only against people by reason of their belonging to a racial or religious group, but also against the opponents of this political system, whatever the form of their opposition.”

This greatly expanded definition of crimes against humanity was very troubling. The French authorities could have avoided blurring the lines between crimes of war and crimes against humanity by recognizing that both penal categories had been unaffected by those statutory limitations pertinent under international law. Failing such recognition, however, they came to sully the memory of the deported French Jews, and trivialized the indisputably core meanings of “humanity.”

The State Of The Union And The State Of The World

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

As President Bush likely realized in his recent speech, the true state of our union is intimately intertwined with the state of our whole world. Our fate as Americans will depend upon our willing identification as citizens on an imperiled planet. Surely we now have the Iraq War to re-evaluate, but even so substantial and overwhelming a problem is just the tip of much larger iceberg. This “iceberg” is the always-universal nature of humankind.

Our species contains deeply within itself the sources of its own disappearance through war, terror and genocide. “The horror, the horror,” mumbles the Marlon Brando character in “Apocalypse Now.” How thin, he reflects correctly, is the veneer of our planetary civilization.

Consider not just Iraq, but also the Sudan and Somalia and Iran and North Korea. Recall Rwanda. Remember Cambodia. Crimes Against Humanity – those crimes that formed a major portion of the post-Holocaust indictment at Nuremberg − are never truly remediable through law, politics or diplomacy. They can be understood and stopped only by a prior awareness of basic individual human needs and expectations.

In the final analysis, Crimes Against Humanity, about which we Jews know all too much, stem from the unbearable loneliness of individual human beings. “Normally” unable to find meaning and security outside of groups, literally billions of individuals will often stop at nothing to acquire membership in a crowd.

It is this frantic search to belong, to overcome individual loneliness that best defines what we smugly call “history.” It is precisely this search for membership that occasions the planetary predicament that must inevitably determine the state of our union.

Real history, the president may have failed to observe, is pretty much the sum total of private souls seeking redemption. Expressions of the desperate human search for redemption in groups can sometimes be found in the ideas of sovereignty and self-determination.

But the “self” in this legal principle refers always to entire peoples, never to individuals. The ironic result is often a measureless orgy of mass killing that we mistakenly describe as international relations or power politics.

Divided into thousands of hostile tribes, almost 200 of which are now called states, we human beings routinely find it easy to slay “others.” Empathy is reserved almost exclusively for those within our own tribe, within our own union. It would follow that an expansion of empathy to include all outsiders is a basic condition of authentic peace and global union, and that without such expansion our species will remain ruthlessly dedicated to and victimized by mega-violence.

But how shall we proceed? What must be done in our particular union to encourage empathy and to foster deeply caring feelings between as well as within tribes? And how can we improve the state of our world so as to ensure a viable and prosperous state of our own union?

Sadly, the essential expansion of empathy for the many would be dreadful, improving human community but only at the expense of private sanity. We humans are designed with particular boundaries of feeling. Were it otherwise, an extended range of compassion toward others would bring about our total emotional collapse.

Humankind must therefore confront a very strange understanding: A widening circle of human compassion is both indispensable to civilizational survival and a potential source of private anguish.

Truth emerges through paradox. According to ancient Jewish tradition, the world rests upon 36 just men – the Lamed-Vav. For them, the spectacle of the world is insufferable.

There are many meanings to this tradition, but one meaning is special. A whole world of just men (and women) is impossible. It is because ordinary individuals cannot bear the torments of others beyond a narrow circle that G-d has created the Lamed-Vav. Empathy on a grand scale, however necessary, is at the same time a prescription for individual despair.

What is to be done? How shall human union now deal with a requirement for global civilization that is both essential and unbearable? Newly informed that empathy for the many is a precondition of a decent world union, what can create such empathy without producing intolerable emotional pain? How can we deal with the ongoing expressions of war, terrorism and genocide?

The answer cannot be found in ordinary political speeches and programs. It lies only in a resolute detachment of individuals from certain lethally competitive tribes and from certain other collective “selves.”

A more perfect union, both national and international, lies ultimately in a determined replacement of “civilization” with “planetization.” This

in turn, will depend upon prior affirmations of true Self, upon a steadily expanding acceptance of the sacredness of individuals.

Although the speech is past, President Bush should understand that the state of our union could never be better than the state of our world. To act upon this essential understanding, he must now go far beyond all of the usual public inventories of risk and reward to a working acknowledgment of absolutely critical global interdependence. The state of our American union can never be built apart from much broader considerations of planetary survival.

Copyright The Jewish Press, February 9, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D. Princeton 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

France, Jews And The Absence Of Memory

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Truly, there can never be any virtue without memory, and France – it would seem – displays a persistent penchant for forgetting. Now unambiguously aligned with the Arab/Islamic states in global geopolitics, France’s staunchly oppositional posture toward Israel is a predictable continuation of official French policy toward the Jews during and immediately after World War II.

Today, Israel is undeniably the solitary Jew in macrocosm, and France behaves toward this imperiled nation-state exactly as it once did toward those universally abandoned individual Jews caught up in the maelstrom of Nazi genocide.

There is no virtue without memory. Generally ignoring terror violence against Jewish women and children in Israel, and largely supportive of rewarding Palestinian murderers with a state of their own, the people and government of France should soon be reminded of their country’s Holocaust and post-Holocaust history from the standpoint of justice. France, after the Second World War, only rarely prosecuted Nazi war criminals for crimes committed during the Nazi occupation, and even these prosecutions often defiled the Jewish victims. Moreover, these Jews were as much victims of the extensive French collaboration in Nazi deportation and mass murder as of France’s wartime German masters.

All this was glaringly apparent in the French trial of Klaus Barbie, the notorious “Butcher of Lyons.” The Barbie trial took place between May 11 and July 4, 1987. Although found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (there was no death penalty in France), Barbie succeeded, with undisguised prosecutorial complicity, in blurring the Nuremberg-based charge of “Crimes Against Humanity.” This distortion was an affront to long- established international criminal law. Today, it continues to subvert the collective French memory of justice toward Jews generally, and to the Jewish State in particular. To be sure, matters are not helped much by the substantial and steadily increasing Islamicization of France.

Believing that Crimes of War have a statute of limitations, and that Crimes Against Humanity contain no such statute, the French authorities decided to indict Barbie only on the latter charge. They were manifestly mistaken, however, and their particular jurisprudential mistake led them to treat all of the defendant’s cruelties – deportation-related crimes AND crimes against the resistance – as qualitatively indistinguishable. According to the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: “…there is no period of limitation for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.”

There is, furthermore, an irreducible specificity to Crimes Against Humanity; hence, France’s fusion of such crimes with Crimes of War had the effect of diminishing the terribly unique fate of French Jews during the Holocaust. After the War, France (more or less honestly) received survivors and victims of the resistance as heroes, but generally tried to ignore those who were known simply as the “racially deported” – the ones in “zebra” clothes, the Jews. This sharp dichotomy went so far as to exclude Jewish victims from the mortal remains symbolically reunited around the flame of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1945. It was not until 1954 that a national day was declared to memorialize the Jewish Deportation. And these days, ironically, that national day is one of special hazard to French Jews, both from traditional French anti-Semites and from French Muslims.

An implicit hierarchy of pertinent criminality arose in post-war France, one that elevated the victims of war crimes – i.e., the resistance – to much higher status than that accorded to victims of Crimes Against Humanity. In this obscene competition of memories, the Barbie trial reinvigorated the hierarchy. Because the French prosecutor believed, erroneously, that Crimes of War were bounded by a statute of limitations while Crimes Against Humanity were not so constrained, the magistrate in charge retained only the crimes inflicted upon the Jews. As for Nazi actions against the fighters of the resistance, against France’s authentic “heroes,” these were declared off limits to criminal prosecution.

The grand jury in Lyons first confirmed the magistrate’s opinion, but when certain resistance organizations objected strenuously, the criminal court of appeals, on December 20, 1985, accepted an interpretation of Crimes Against Humanity that was less restrictive and that would include crimes committed against the resistance. Thereafter, the French definition of Crimes Against Humanity included “inhuman acts and persecutions that, in the name of a state practicing a politics of ideological hegemony, have been committed in a systematic way not only against people by reason of their belonging to a racial or religious group, but also against the opponents of this political system, whatever the form of their opposition.”

This greatly expanded definition of Crimes Against Humanity was very troubling. The French authorities could have avoided blurring the lines between Crimes of War and Crimes Against Humanity by recognizing that both penal categories are unaffected by statutory limitations under international law. Failing such recognition, however, they sullied the memory of the deported French Jews and trivialized the core meaning of “humanity.”

There was also something quite paradoxical in this spectacle of the resistance organizations demanding the broadened view of Crimes Against Humanity. After all, having previously accepted the hierarchic superiority of war crimes, they were now asserting their right to a status that had formerly been rejected as unheroic. “We the victims have never asked to be considered as heroes,” Simone Weil intoned on behalf of the deported, “so why do the heroes now want to be treated as victims?”

The answer is plain. On account of the incorrect presumption that only Crimes Against Humanity have no statute of limitations, the hierarchic ranking of war crimes and Crimes Against Humanity had been surreptitiously inverted by the French criminal justice system.

A consequence of this inversion, additional to demeaning the Holocaust and enlarging Holocaust denials, was Barbie’s own inversion of the role between defender and accused. If one only listened to Jacques Verges, Barbie’s defense lawyer, not only was the Holocaust a trifling matter of minor significance, but French colonial crimes were even more serious than those of the Nazis. This argument was intended to highlight France’s alleged lack of moral authority to even try Klaus Barbie. Known in law as TU QUOQUE, this defense strategy focused attention on all post-war crimes that had remained unpunished, especially the crimes of imperialism and racism in which France was so deeply and obviously involved.

In essence, the three lawyers for Barbie – the Congolese M’Bemba, the Algerian Bouaita, and the French-Vietnamese Verges – spoke as delegates of a despised nonwhite humanity, transferring the racism of the crime itself onto the MEMORY of the crime. The six million Jews condemned by the Final Solution, therefore, had no right to universal commiseration. The Final Solution was simply a family affair – white prisoners and white executioners. Here one could not expect sympathies of any kind from oppressed peoples of the Third World.

France’s 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie allowed the manipulation of Third World rhetoric to defend a notorious Nazi criminal. Rather than serve to allow France, in a very small way, to “make up” for its shameful wartime behavior, it concluded as one more glaring example of that country’s unconcern for Jewish memory and Jewish justice. It should hardly surprise us, therefore, to have seen present-day France prostrating itself yet again before major criminals, this time before terrorists and aspiring genociders throughout the Arab/Islamic world.

France has been roundly criticized by Americans and others for having refused to take an honorable stand against Saddam Hussein’s regime. In part, this French position can be understood in light of France’s economic ties to Iraq before the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Approximately 60 French companies did an estimated $1.5 billion in trade annually with Baghdad. France controlled over 22.5 percent of Iraq’s imports. In 2001, France became Iraq’s largest European trading partner. And from 1981 to 2001, France was responsible for more than 13 percent of Iraqi arms imports.

To be sure, America’s earlier ties to Iraq are less than commendable, and our current war in Iraq is not going well. Operationally, it has produced a steady series of setbacks and a tragically growing number of casualties. Yet, America HAS memory and America is at least consciously embarked upon a path of justice. Unlike France, which has made a determined ritual of forgetting, America – in principle and in action – is now firmly dedicated to remembrance.

Sometimes, even if his description is premature, the poet can tell us far more than the scholar. “There is no longer a virtuous nation,” says W.B. Yeats, “and the best of us live by candle light.” For the moment, at least, with no thanks to France, America and Israel stand proudly to remind us that the poet’s dark vision has yet to arrive.

(c) Copyright The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was born in Switzerland at the end of World War II. He lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law, and is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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