The Week That Wuz Wuz Wuz

Benjamin NetanyahuProactive on war crimes and other bits and pieces

It’s been an interesting week (month, whatever): Back-to-back Abbas/Netanyahu speeches at the UN; Qatar receives a human rights commendation; Rosh Hashana and the first rains – sprinkles if you must; the bombing of the self-declared Islamic State with no mention of civilian casualties and Ireland’s Defence Minister denying that the IDF helped Irish soldiers in Syria while at the UN Ban Ki Moon thanked the IDF for its help so this latest Five Minutes for Israel is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas that didn’t quite reach momentum for a fully dedicated post. Gefilte Fish with spicy Dag Marrokai† in honour of the festival just passed, if you will.

(dis)United Nations

Perhaps the best, and maybe only reason, I can think of, for Israel to remain at the United Nations is the stage it gives Israeli representatives and heroic advocates like UN Watch and Anne Bashefski to put Israel’s case.

Defining genocide

Defining genocide – Armenia

Mahmud Abbas accused Israel of genocide. It’s surprising or perhaps not how much of the world media seized on that part of his speech, even if in BBC tradition they used the plausible deniability of ‘scare quotes’. Few called bullshit, which is rather the point.

Many Israel advocates have pointed out that a genocide which doesn’t reduce the numbers of the genocidee is no genocide at all. I recommend Ryan Bellerose’s Genocide? Why not for an eloquent discussion. It doesn’t matter. The purveyors of the libel, definitely including Mahmud Abbas, are not interested in whether the charge is verifiable or not because they know their target audience won’t check.

I may have mentioned some time ago a brief discussion I had with an Israel Hater who produced the Genocide libel in a discussion group. I countered with my standard, Must be the least efficient genocide in history. The Palestinian population is rising at 1.5X the world average (Gaza 2.5X). She countered that she didn’t mean the commonly understood meaning of the term but other meanings, like Cultural Genocide.

Israel couldn’t care less about Palestinian Culture, even in its far more identifiable Levantine Arab form. It has never attempted to suppress Arabic culture, as the Turks did until recently with Kurdish culture or the Moroccans and Libyans until recently with Amazigh/Berber culture. I insisted on her providing an example of cultural genocide of the Palestinians and when she couldn’t, she pulled out the UN Convention.

Internet debates are good that way. Wikipedia is only a click away.

When I pointed out that under the very wide provisions of the convention it was not necessary to actually have successfully committed genocide as defined but to have intended to commit it or incited people to do it. Therefore the Palestinians are guilty of genocide. That ended our discussion and our relationship for good.

How many counts of Palestinian genocide against the Jews can you find?

Article II
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III
The following acts shall be punishable:

  1. Genocide;
  2. Conspiracy to commit genocide ;
  3. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  4. Attempt to commit genocide ;
  5. Complicity in genocide.

Had I won the argument? Yes. Would she continue to libel Israel with charges of genocide? Almost certainly.

semiotic - what's in a word?Palestine controls the language

The whole genocide discussion leads me to another area of Palestinian ‘success’. Semiotics!

What do these terms have in common? Apartheid–genocide–ethnic cleansing–war crimes–occupation–even antisemitism. They are all labels with a documented historical origin and precise if somewhat disputed definitions. The meaning of words changes with time and they have all changed to labels used against Jews and Israel.

We are the people of the book. How did we let this happen?

Our standard response is to say, “No, we are not”. Israel is not an Apartheid state – it is nothing like Apartheid era South Africa. It is not committing genocide – Palestinian numbers are skyrocketing. No ethnic cleansing is going on – anywhere in the world building not to code are demolished – the real ethnic cleansing is of Jews, Christians and other minorities from the Muslim world. Do I need to go on?

Are our responses correct? Yes, all of them. Will that make the slightest bit of difference? Probably not.

The people who lay those charges against Israel couldn’t be less interested whether they are true or not. We need another strategy.

Another strategy

Start with war crimes – not committing them, defining them. Hopefully you read Five Minutes for Israel on writing a new convention to suit the weapons and political landscape of the 21st century. Refresh your memory with Something good might come … from this?

Every time someone accuses Israel of war crimes it glues the label of war criminal more firmly to our collective foreheads.

Abbas may or may not be able to initiate charges. My feeling is he is quite aware of what a double-edged sword that could become but it’s not the law or justice that interests him as recognition as a state, by yet another world body, without having to fulfill the basic conditions for statehood. Reinforcing the image that Israel has done something really wrong and is dodging justice is another big plus.

Let’s be proactive

If the measures Israel has taken to avoid killing noncombatants aren’t enough, what will be?

The Hague Conventions which codified modern rules for states to kill each other legally are over one hundred years old. The Geneva Conventions which concentrate on prisoners and civilian protected person are over sixty years old. It is more than time for a revised or new convention defining what an army needs to do – for that matter what is acceptable for an air or a missile force.

For too long Israel has been pilloried by pseudo investigations,  like the Russell Commission and the upcoming UNHRC farce. Real experts would be falling over themselves to take part.

Qatar? What Qatar?

History is repeated. The first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Seriously, you don’t get more farcical than Qatar being celebrated for its human rights. Some jokes don’t need to be explained. although Kuwait praising Qatar’s human rights record must come close.

The United Nations praised Gaddafi’s human rights record in 2012. I sense a trend.


Traditionally the rains arrive after Rosh Hashana. Water was supposed to be the cause of the next Middle East war. is it reassuring to know it will be ISIL/ISIS/IS?

Time to stop and eat before Yom Kippur. Five Minutes for Israel wishes all Israel advocates who celebrate Yom Kippur and those who don’t: May you be incribed in the Book of Life.

Extra Credit

† In my family Rosh Hashana is noted for, among other things, two competing types of food on the table. On one hand iconic Ashkenazi, sweetish and rather bland Gefilte Fish (should that be Fisch?) and on the other hot, spiced Mizrachi Morroccan Fish (דג מרוקאי). We’re an Israeli family.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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