“The more things change,” goes the well-worn maxim, “the more they remain the same.” Readers of The Jewish Press are already well acquainted with now incessant Iranian calls for the annihilation of Israel. What might not be so apparent, however, is that such calls to “wipe Israel off the map” constitute a serious crime under international law. And as this particular crime centers on genocide, such calls for crimes against humanity should have an especially disturbing resonance for the Jewish State.
Genocide has always been prohibited by international law. According to the Genocide Convention, a binding multilateral treaty that codified post-Nuremberg norms and entered into force in 1951, precisely the sorts of murderous acts openly advocated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s surrogate terror groups qualify straightforwardly as genocide.
It follows that if international law is ever to be taken seriously, some pertinent authorities in our so-called “international community” must immediately step forward with both condemnation and conclusive enforcement action.
In this connection, it is also important to understand that war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. More specifically, war can be an entirely efficient instrument of genocide. Our enemies no longer need to work out the complex logistics of bringing Jews to the gas. Rather, the “gas” can now be brought directly to the Jews.
Current Iranian preparations for a Final Battle with “The Jews” are not only for a presumably indispensable and unavoidable war but – ultimately and religiously – for the planned extermination of an entire people. Under international law, President Ahmadinejad’s calls for the mass murder of Jews – whether indirectly in Jihad or directly through missile attack – constitute authentic calls for genocide.
The international community, therefore, must now acknowledge that the very same individuals who continually call for commission of the world’s most egregious crime cannot be a proper partner for honest negotiation or diplomatic reconciliation.
While most of the world outside of Washington and Jerusalem still chooses to ignore explicit Iranian calls for the commission of genocide, international law does have an unswerving obligation to stop and take notice. Expressed by leaders of the major states in world politics, the relevant norms and principles of international law should be invoked in time.
Certainly, this must happen before the calls for genocide against Israel’s Jews are allowed to become the materialized foreign policy of a rogue state that has been allowed to arm with nuclear weapons.
Lest anyone be overly optimistic, the fusion of genocidal intent with genocidal capacity is now well within reach for Iran. As my readers here are well aware, a failure to preemptively destroy Iran’s key nuclear infrastructures in a timely fashion will place Israel at existential risk.
Significantly, it is jurisprudentially clear that such preemption could assuredly meet the settled criteria of anticipatory self-defense. No Israeli government would need to put off life-saving preemptions for fear that it would be acting in violation of international law.
Naturally, any lawful expression of anticipatory self-defense would still have to be consistent with expectations of the law of war – that is, discrimination, proportionality and military necessity. Under international law, even where there isjust cause, there must also be just means.
Iran and its assorted proxy terror groups (most notably, Hizbullah in Lebanon and also Hamas in Gaza) are obligated to refrain from incitement against Israel.
What is not widely understood is that the Genocide Convention criminalizes not only the various actual acts of genocide, but also (Article III) conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Articles II, III and IV of the Genocide Convention are fully applicable to Iran in all cases of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
For the Convention to be invoked, it is sufficient that any one of the state parties call for a meeting – through the United Nations – of all the state parties (Article VIII). Although this has never been done, the United States should consider very seriously taking this imperative step. From a purely jurisprudential point of view, Israel, too, should be an obvious co-participant in this call, but it is unlikely – for entirely pragmatic reasons – that any Israeli government would seek legal redress under broad multilateral conventions.
The Genocide Convention is not the only authoritative criminalization that should be invoked against interminable Iranian calls for the mass murder of Israel’s Jews. The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination could also come productively into play.
This treaty condemns “all propaganda and all organizations which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form,” obliging, at Article 4(a) state parties to declare as “an offense punishable by law, all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons.”
Article 4(b) affirms that state parties “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offense punishable by law.”
Further authority for curtailing and punishing Iranian calls for genocidal destruction of Jews can be found at Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” All of these treaty norms are now an incontestable part of customary international law, and are therefore binding upon all states – whether or not they are actual parties to the particular conventions.
The chief message of the law-making judgments at Nuremberg was to ensure that all future crimes against humanity be identified, prosecuted and punished. This point should now be kept in mind as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his surrogates advocate the genocidal extermination of Israel.
In essence, because it is a process that is accompanied by genocidal threats, steady Iranian nuclearization has already become a punishable crime against humanity.
Let me conclude with a non-legal but still altogether vital observation on the deeper meaning of Iran’s intended genocide. Iran’s aggressive behavior represents a crime against humanity not only because of its obvious violation of certain major legal norms, but also because the fate of the entire world – the fate of humanity – is utterly and always inseparable from the fate of Israel. The genocidal destruction of Israel by Iran would have unimaginably dire implications for all of humanity.
As he has written so movingly in The Jewish Press, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman reminds us that the “eternal flame of Jewish life in Israel” burns brightly on behalf of all humankind. By preventing genocide against Israel, we protect the entire planet. By working for the redemption of Israel, we work to bring a blessing to all peoples of the world.
If there is ever to be any sort of meaningful international community, there must first be a safe and secure State of Israel.
Copyright The Jewish Press, March 16, 2007. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, war and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS.