Opinion: International justice system could help avert tragedies

According to the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948, “genocide means any of the following acts (five possible acts are listed) committed with INTENT to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Intent means that your words clearly state what you want to accomplish.  It should also be noted that complicity in genocide is also a crime under international law.

With regard to the current crisis in Gaza, charges are now being filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Neither the United States nor Israel has ratified the agreement that established this court, nor have Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, and several other countries.  Usually, these nations claim the ICC charter in some way violates their national sovereignty. 

Leaders of Hamas have demonstrated clear genocidal intent.  They have also committed very clear war crimes.  There is little doubt that they will be held accountable by the ICC, especially since Palestine is a signatory. 

Craig Mokhiber, the former director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had this to say regarding Israel’s intent: “Usually the most difficult part of proving genocide is intent because there has to be an intention to destroy in whole, or in part, a particular group.  In this case, the intent by Israeli leaders has been so explicitly stated and publicly stated – by the prime minister, by senior cabinet ministers, by military leaders – that that is an easy case to make.  It’s on the public record.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman has stated, “I am very puzzled by the constant concern which the world is showing for the Palestinian people…these horrible inhuman animals.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the current situation with Palestinians to the biblical story of Amalek.  “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them…put to death men and women, children and infants.”

This is, unfortunately, only a partial list of statements made by Israeli officials, but these attitudes seem quite pervasive.

It is indeed disturbing how socially acceptable it is to voice genocidal intent toward Palestinians.  When a Florida state representative asked in her legislature, “We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians. How many will be enough?”  Representative Michelle Salzman shouted out, “All of them!”  American federal legislators Tom Cotton and Max Miller have made similar comments.

We live in a world turned upside down.  While those who call for Gaza to be eviscerated face no sanctions, members of American and Canadian legislatures are officially censured for speaking up for all human life.  Educators are losing their jobs and writers, myself included, risk censorship and vitriolic feedback for saying that Palestinians, like Israelis, have the right to live in peace and security. 

To find sanity, many are now turning to the legal system.  In Canada, for example, the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute has served notice that Justin Trudeau and several members of his government will be pursued for aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes in the ICC.  Similar charges are also being laid against Israeli and American officials.

Unfortunately, without the support of powerful nations, the ICC has been largely ineffective to date, as have the Genocide Convention and international humanitarian law.  

After the death and tyranny of the Second World War era, decent people came together and put structures in place to guarantee a better future.  Without a robust international justice system, however, we are at serious risk of destroying their efforts and falling into the same chaos.

Of course, a lasting ceasefire and a resolution to end the current strife in Israel and Palestine would calm calls for the intervention of international courts. 

May there be respect for life and for all humanity.  May the shouts for justice and peace be heard, and may we honour the legacy of those who dedicated their lives to giving us a better and a safer world.

Gerry Chidiac is a Prince George writer


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