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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘genocide’

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

American Pride Undermined by Inaction in Syria

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

I’ve heard many people say that America has no vital national interest in Syria. Well, how about this.

When I was an American living in England for 11 years it stuck me that one of the principal differences between my country and the UK was the lack of Union Jacks flying from people’s homes and businesses. In America countless homes have the stars and stripes flying as do many stores. It’s ubiquitous.

Why the difference? I always believed it was the fact that Americans have immense pride in being American while other countries don’t celebrate their national heritage as much. Yes, the British do so on special occasions like a royal wedding. But we Americans do so on ordinary days as well.

The reason: because America stands for something. It was the world’s first modern constitutional democracy. It threw off the yoke of a tyrant and established the people’s rule. More recently it liberated Europe from the tyranny of Nazism, liberated Iraq from the mass murderer Saddam Hussein, and was instrumental in purging Libya of the butcher Gaddafi.

Americans are justly proud of how we embody human liberty. Europe was once part of this alliance, especially in the Second World War where Britain, especially, was exemplary. But since them, the Europeans have taken a cynical approach to liberating incarcerated peoples and the prevention of genocide.

But what happens to American pride when we begin to watch bodies of gassed children and choose to remain innocent bystanders? What are we to be proud of then? A lofty standard of living? High speed internet? Cheaper gas then Europe?

Americans are driven to advance their country because they believe in their country. Our national promise is predicated on an affirmation of our values.

I cannot imagine loving America with the same passion that courses through my veins if America doesn’t use its righteous might to protect the innocent and the weak. I will always be a proud American. But that pride stems from the values we espouse and promote.

Yes, I realize we can’t be the world’s policeman. Even our strength and resources are limited. But I come back to a famous Rabbinical teaching in Ethics of Our Fathers that says, “It is not for you to complete the work, but neither can you wash your hands of it, either.” We’re not obligated to intervene in every atrocity. Nor are we capable. But neither can we turn a blind eye to the most egregious violations of human rights. If we do so then we are misusing the wealth and strength of our nation.

The Rwandan genocide, whose twentieth anniversary is this coming April, was all coordinated from a single radio antenna. The United States was asked to fire a single missile that would have destroyed the transmitter. The Clinton Administration refused because it was spooked by the events of Black Hawk down that had transpired a few months earlier in October, 1993. But that one missile could have largely prevented a mass atrocity that claimed the lives of nearly one million people.

We are not the world’s policeman. And our national debt is becoming a crisis of its own. But we can afford a few cruise missiles fired at Bashar Assad’s air force and presidential palaces, which will force the tyrant to live in the underground bunkers that should be the abode of monsters who gas their people.

Dare We Be Silent on Syria?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Rabbi Chanina the deputy [High] Priest said: Pray for the welfare of the government (lit., monarchy), for if not for its fear, a person would swallow his fellow live. Pirkei Avos, Chapter 3, Mishna 2

Syria presents a fascinatingly real, morbid ethical question, similar to the questions of Darfur and Rowanda.

At first glance, Syria is no more than a civil war; the reality is that it is turning into a brutal massacre of innocents – by all sides.

People are gunned down in their homes, hearts are ripped out of corpses and eaten, at least one, if not all sides are using poison gas.

It’s easy to say, “Let them kill each other, it keeps them busy and not fighting with us.”

And there’s truth to that statement.

It’s their civil war, and they need to figure out how to divide their country, or live together, and sometimes war is the only way.

It’s also true that if they are busy entangled with destroying each other, it sets them back from being in a position or having the capacity to attack us in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, more than 120,000 people have been killed. Children have been massacred.

Rabbi Chanina was right, that without a working, healthy government – even one that is a brutal dictatorship, chaos, anarchy and even (literal) cannibalism follows.

As Jews, who have been under the threat and execution of Arab terror and war for so long by these very same neighbors, it’s easy to sit back and say they are getting what they deserve in Syria, Egypt, and wherever else is next.

More importantly, as we learned in the first Lebanon war, getting involved in the Arab’s civil war will drag us into places we don’t want to go, and we’ll end up having to pay a price we’d didn’t need to pay.

On the other hand, when mass murder of innocents (not combatants) is happening at our doorstep, don’t we have some obligation to try to prevent that?

True, Israel has been (quietly) helping many of the Syrian injured. Perhaps, that’s enough, but perhaps it’s not.

I don’t have an answer to this question, but it needs to be asked.

The West’s New Syrian War

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

One day people will ask how the United States and several European countries became involved in mass killings, genocide, corruption, arms smuggling, and the creation of another anti-Western and regionally destabilizing government. Even if a single Western soldier is never sent, the West is on the verge of serious intervention in Syria. The choices are unpalatable and decisions are very tough to make but it appears to be still another in a long history of Western leaps in the dark, not based on a real consideration of the consequences.

At least people should be more aware of the dangers. As I entitled a previous book on Iran (Paved with Good Intentions), the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. People are dying and suffering in Syria. That’s true. But will this make more people or fewer people die and suffer?

So now we are seeing the trial balloons rise. As the Bashar al-Assad regime proves to be holding on—but not recapturing the country or winning the war—the West is panicked into sending aid to the rebels.  In fact, the government is merely holding the northwest area (where the ruling Alawite group lives), the region along the Lebanese border (with Hizbollah’s help), Damascus (where the best troops are based and there is a favorable strategic situation in the army holding the high ground), and part of Aleppo. It seems that U.S. decision makers are panicking over these relatively small gains. If the Syrian army plus Hizbollah tries to advance too far it will stretch its resources then and face a successful rebel counteroffensive.

Understandably, the opposition is demanding arms. If the opposition did not consist mostly of al-Qaida, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood, that would be a good idea perhaps. But since the opposition is overwhelmingly radical—even the official “moderate” opposition politicians are mostly Muslim Brotherhood—this is a tragedy in which the West does not have a great incentive to say “yes.”

President Barack Obama is said to be close to sending weapons to carefully chosen rebel units who are moderates. Now, pay close attention here. The Western options for giving assistance are:

The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. This is Muslim Brotherhood type people including, most importantly, the Farouk Brigades from the Homs area and Aleppo’s Tawhid Brigade. Around 50-60,000 fighters in total who are autonomous.

Do you want to give arms to them? Weapons that might soon end up in the hands of (other) terrorists? Weapons to be turned against not only Israel, but Jordan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. diplomats, and who knows who else?

Or perhaps you like the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), an alliance of more hardline Islamist forces, including Ahrar al-Sham from the north.  Ahrar al-Sham is probably around 15,000 fighters. The SIF as a whole probably around 25,000.   These people are Salafists meaning that the Brotherhood is too moderate for them. They are the kind of people who attack churches in Egypt, who want to wage jihad alongside Hamas, and so on.

Do you want to arm them so they can establish another Sharia state?

How about Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise with around 6,000 fighters and reportedly the fastest growing militia.

Want to give guns to those who committed the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Benghazi attack? Of course not! You want the Free Syrian Army (FSA), headed by the untested General Salim Idris, who Senator John McCain met with. Now those are moderates who, after all, are just led by former officers in the repressive, historically anti-American Syrian army. And the FSA is just not a serious factor in military terms.

The West will say it supports the FSA; the FSA will be pushed aside by an Islamist regime if it wins, its Western-supplied weapons seized even during the course of the war. Moderates–even if we define radical Arab nationalists as moderates–don’t have the troops on the ground. It’s too late to organize and train a moderate force now. That should have been done two years ago.

On the political level, U.S. pressure failed to force the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated exile leadership to add the real political moderates! Even as financial aid is being (temporarily?) withheld the “official” opposition won’t expand its base. How about withholding all money and aid until they yield or choosing a new official leadership?  If the United States can’t stop–or doesn’t want to–the Brotherhood from dominating an exile leadership how is it ever going to do after a victory in the civil war?

Genocides All Over the Place

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Last night I received the following press release from my new Secretary of State, John Kerry, which caused me an initial double take:

Commemoration of 19th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

The United States stands in solidarity with the Rwandan people as together we remember and honor the victims of those tragic 100 days 19 years ago. We mourn with you not only for the lives lost, but for the families torn apart, and for the survivors of the genocide who continue to live with their grief to this day. At the same time, we admire the resilience and spirit of the Rwandan people who have made such progress in overcoming this tragedy.

We look with you to the future and pay tribute to the gracious and determined character of the Rwandan people.

Is it possible? I asked myself. Two memorials for national genocides on the same day? Are we so packed with genocidal events on this miserable blue ball that we now have to observe them two at a time?

I checked the Rwanda.net website, and came back with the following information:

April 7th is the beginning of the Genocide Memorial Week. It is a time to remember the atrocities committed against our fellow man while the world sat back and watched. If you are not familiar with the genocide in Rwanda, I would recommend reading about it. There are many books that shed light on this terrible event in our history. Below is a summary from the government about why they have time each year to remember such a horrific event. Remember, it happened before, it happened in 1994, and it can happen again. The only way to prevent events in the future is to learn from the past. I know there is a lot below, so if you don’t read all of it, PLEASE at least read what I think are the important parts highlighted.

April 7th is Rwanda’s National Mourning Day for the Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. It is observed:

- To remember what happened during the Genocide

- To sympathize with, and provide support to, Genocide survivors as they go through tough moments of remembering atrocities

- To restore the dignity of our beloved ones who were killed, by burying them properly, remembering the good things about them and giving tribute to those who struggled to save lives during that period.

- To reflect on the crime of Genocide, and other related crimes against humanity, and to resolve to “Never Again” allow Genocide to occur.

- To observe a minute of silence at 12 noon on April 7th.

Now, to be fair, the reason we observed the Jewish Holocaust memorial day on April 7th at night is because this year this is when the 27th of Nissan fell, and next year it’ll be observed on Sunday, April 27. So the day actually belongs permanently to the Rwandan people, and we’re only using it this year.

Next year, we’ll be competing for memorial turf with the commemoration of the institution of Apartheid in South Africa — the passing of the “Group Areas Act,” which formally segregated the races, on April 7, 1950.

Also, in 1813, American troops captured Toronto. But, I suppose, whether this was a sad or a joyous event would depend on your current location vis-à-vis the border.

Iran’s Unhidden Plan for Genocide: A Legal Right to Prevent Genocide? (Second of Three Parts)

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Originally published under the title “Iran’s Unhidden Plan for Genocide: A Legal Assessment (Second of Three Parts).” 

On June 7, 1981, Israel launched Operation Opera against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor outside Baghdad. Officially, this preemptive attack on Osiraq – which ultimately saved a great many American and other lives ten years later, during the first Gulf War, was an expression of anticipatory self-defense. Interestingly, however, because Iraq had always considered itself to be formally at war with Israel, the Jewish state could just as easily and correctly have regarded this essential act of preemptive self-defense as something else.

Back in 1981, taking an alternative legal position, Prime Minister Menachem Begin could have justified Operation Opera as a permissible tactical action in the wider context of a longstanding and ongoing belligerency. Had he done so, Israel could then have pointed out that both of the pertinent legal obligations applying here had also been fully satisfied. These are the always twin obligations of “just cause” (facing an existential threat), and “just means” (minimizing collateral harms). To be acceptable, any act of anticipatory self-defense would have to fulfill classic law of war expectations that the means used to injure an enemy are not unlimited.

Jurisprudentially, it is significant that Begin chose, explicitly, to link Operation Opera to preventing, in his words, “another Holocaust.” Historically, of course, the rationale of including anticipatory self-defense under customary international law had been the prevention of aggression, not genocide. Logically, it was not until 1951, when the Genocide Convention first entered into force, that the legal question of defensive first strikes to forestall such crimes against humanity could even have been raised.

After the Holocaust, and subsequent Nuremberg Trials, it became plain that the prerogatives of sovereignty in world law could no longer remain absolute, and that the once-legitimate cover of “domestic jurisdiction” would now have to exclude certain crimes against human rights. With this very fundamental transformation, individual human life was to be held sacred everywhere, and individual states were no longer automatically precluded from entering into the “territorial sphere of validity” of other states. On the contrary, from then on the traditional norm of “non-intervention” would need to yield to indisputably compelling judgments of “international concern.”

It was now the reasonable expectation that all states, either individually or collectively, would acknowledge a distinct and overriding legal obligation to prevent Nuremberg-category crimes (after 1951, crimes of genocide) in other states, even to the extent of undertaking active intervention within those sovereign states.

This critical obligation was strongly reinforced at Articles 55 and 56 of the United Nations Charter, a core document that has the formal status of a multilateral treaty. Today we speak of all such permissible interventions as “humanitarian.” Sometimes diplomats and scholars prefer the closely related term “The Responsibility to Protect.”

Whichever term is preferred, the international legal order now accepts and expects that all states will feel co-responsible for each other, including the prevention of genocide and certain corollary crimes against humanity. Examples of this collaborative expectation, a concept that makes incontestably good sense in our still-anarchic system of world law – a system that first came into being in 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War and that has yet to be replaced with genuinely effective supra-national legal institutions – can be found in at least four prominent post-Holocaust cases:

(1) the Tanzania-led invasion of Uganda in 1979, which put an end to Idi Amin’s almost decade-long genocide against the Acholi and Langi tribes;

(2) the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, which put an end to the Khmer Rouge mass murder of almost 2,000,000 people, a genocide that had targeted several diverse populations along many different ethnic, cultural, and tribal lines;

(3) the 1971 genocide against Bengali people, the “Bangladesh Genocide,” which covered an area then originally known as “East Pakistan,” and that was finally stopped by massive Indian military intervention; and

(4) the 1994 invasion of Rwanda by Tutsi rebels who had been “hosted” in neighboring Burundi, and also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This genocide, perpetrated largely by Hutu extremists (the interahamwe) produced almost 1,000,000 deaths in ninety-days, making it the “fastest” genocidal mass murder in human history. It is also infamously noteworthy because the European powers, the United States, and the United Nations had all abandoned every shred of responsibility for humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect.

Iran Charges Israel with ‘Genocide’ at IAEA Meeting

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

U.S., Canadian and Australian officials stalked out of a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog when the Iranian envoy accused Israel of genocide on Wednesday.

Joseph Macmanus, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, stormed out of the meeting in Vienna on Wednesday after Ali Asghar Soltaneh made the accusation, Reuters reported, as did Canadian and Australian officials.

Macmanus earlier had accused Iran of “deception, defiance and delay” in its dealing with the agency.

The meeting Wednesday comes weeks ahead of a renewed effort at talks in Istanbul by major powers, led by the United States, to negotiate terms with Iran to make more transparent its nuclear program.

Western powers and Israel believe Iran is close to being able to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Iran denies this, and Soltaneh repeated these denials on Wednesday, calling the accusations “baseless.”

The UN Plan For ‘Palestine’: Terror Without End

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article appeared in print under the title, “The U.N. Plan For ‘Palestine’ and its Aftermath (Fourth of Four Parts).” Find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

“NAIL IN BRAIN; nail in heart.” For a time, such graphic labels attached to X-Rays in Israeli hospitals had become routine. Several years ago, a victim of Palestinian suicide terror arrived at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva with nearly fifteen nails and metal fragments embedded in his body. One of the “merely wounded,” this thirty-one year old man had multiple shrapnel penetrations along the left-side of his body and second and first-degree burns on the left side of his face and chest, on his hands, and on his left leg. His injuries required five types of surgery. After regaining consciousness, he was weaned from a ventilator and now – in 2013 – still faces additional years of painful rehabilitation.

What kind of people fighting for “national self-determination” inflicts such harms on defenseless noncombatant populations, and then cheers the most awful casualties in gleeful ceremonies conducted with their own young children? What kind of an America or U.N. General Assembly could ever accept such harms as understandable, or even permissible? Is there any reasonable way in which any civilized international community could justifiably equate the search for self-determination of such a people with the victims of the Holocaust?

Palestinian terror seeks national self-determination but shouts endlessly to the world that even after statehood violence will continue against “The Jews.” Significantly, every map of every Palestinian group features a new Arab state (the 23rd) that incorporates all of Israel. Therefore, not only Hamas but also “moderate” Fatah has already exterminated Israel cartographically.

Terrorism has brought suffering throughout the world, but Palestinian terrorism in particular will remain fiendishly unique even where it is manifestly counterproductive. Given the opportunity, it is probable that, ultimately, Palestinian terror groups will seek to exploit the particular horrors that still lie latent in weaponized pathogens and/or fissile materials. Earlier, in Latin America, groups such as MRTAand Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”) had resorted to extensive bloodshed in a more or less class-based fight for social, economic and political equality.

But their violence was plainly instrumental, and limited by specific objectives. Their ultimate goals had nothing to do with genocide. In Peru, moreover, whenever Sendero Luminoso exploded bombs in cars and buses, the citizens themselves uniformly condemned the terror.

If undertaken by Palestinians, who would openly condemn bioterrorism against Israel? Certainly President Obama would, but to what end? The proper position of any American president seeking peace in the Middle East must be to prevent war and terror, not to use American resources after the fact to help bury the dead.

All Palestinian terror groups are relentlessly determined to use violence against noncombatants, even on those occasions where it is plainly unsuitable for political gain. To these organizations, “Palestine” refers to all of Israel proper, as well as to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As for Palestinian civilian populations, they still regularly applaud even the most heinous forms of anti-Jewish terrorism.

When, years back, two lost Israelis were lynched outside a P.A. “police station” in Ramallah, a mob of literally thousands danced a frenzied bacchanal on top of the mutilated bodies. This is undeniable. We know this because of the heroic film work done that day by an Italian television crew in the area.

What defensible human emotions can move a mob of “ordinary” Palestinians to torture, gouge out the eyes of, beat and then burn two utterly helpless human beings? What, one must inquire, was more incomprehensible that October morning in Ramallah, the elbows-deep-in-blood attacks launched by a desensitized people, or the spontaneously twisted celebrations of the multiple Arab bystanders?

Arab women as well as men could not contain the ecstasy of their cruel involvement. What kind of human beings can commit the horrors that Palestinian mobs inflicted on that terrible day upon Vadim Norjitz and Yossi Avrahami? While the answers to these questions are complex, they have a great deal to do with understanding the incessantly distinctive barbarism of Palestinian terror groups, a barbarism that now frequently manifests itself in intra-Palestinian battles between Fatah and Hamas as well.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/the-un-plan-for-palestine-and-its-aftermath-fourth-of-four-parts/2013/02/20/

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