Genocide in Word and Deed
GPM # 43
This coming Thursday and Friday, the international community’s highest judicial body, the International Court of Justice, will be hearing arguments for and against the proposition that Israel is committing genocide in its war on Gaza.
That proposition has been put forward by the Republic of South Africa. In an 84-page submission to the ICJ, lawyers for South Africa argue that Israel’s assault on Gaza matches the definition of genocide set forth in the 1949 Genocide Convention.
The ICJ could take years to adjudicate South Africa’s claim. In the meantime, South Africa has asked the court to issue an injunction, calling on Israel to halt its assault on Gaza.
The court’s decision turns largely on one question: Are Israeli political and military leaders “deliberately inflicting … conditions of life calculated to bring about [the] physical destruction [of the Gazan people], in whole or in part,” as genocide is defined?
It’s a tough question. Nothing harder than proving genocidal intent, among those directly involved in killing.
One thing is clear. Genocidal rhetoric permeates Israeli society. In a December 28 letter to Israel’s Attorney General and state prosecutors, fifteen prominent Israeli figures document “extensive and blatant incitement to genocide, expulsion, and ethnic cleansing by Israeli politicians, media commentators, activists and social influencers, and the absolute silence of the judicial system.
Wars are easy to start, and supposedly hard to stop.
In truth, halting bloody conflicts is easy, if the world’s most powerful nations resolve to do it.
Take Israel’s war on Gaza, now into its fourth month. If the US demanded that the violence stop, immediately, it would.
Israel has now killed over 22,000 Gazans, including almost 8000 children. Another 8000 are missing and presumed dead under the rubble. Fifty-five thousand have been injured. Over 355,000 homes have been destroyed — two-thirds of Gaza’s housing stock.
So have bakeries, schools, universities, businesses, mosques, churches, cemeteries, cultural sites, municipal buildings, critical infrastructure and most of Gaza’s hospitals.
How to halt Israeli bloodshed? A sharply worded order by the world’s highest court will not do it. An international enforcement operation under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, issued by the UN Security Council, almost certainly would.
Pure fantasy. The Council can’t even call for a ceasefire. The US won’t allow it.
There is an alternative: the Uniting for Peace Resolution, codified by the UN General Assembly in 1951. By a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly, the Resolution could be re-invoked in response to Israel’s war on Gaza.
To learn more about Chapter VII and the Uniting for Peace Resolution, the GPM spoke with Ardi Imseis. Imseis is Assistant Professor of Law at Queen’s University, in Ontario. Between 2002 and 2014, Imseis served in senior legal and policy capacities with UNRWA in the occupied Palestinian territory. His scholarship has appeared in the American Journal of International Law, the Harvard International Law Journal, and the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.
Imseis’s latest book — The United Nations and the Question of Palestine — has just been published by Cambridge University Press.
Listen to our conversation in today’s GPM podcast. Click on the play button above, or go here.
Back in the early 2000s, Dutch chemist Paul Crützen suggested that humans have pushed Planet Earth into a brand new age, terminating the one geologists say we’ve been in for the past 12,000 years, the Holocene. The Anthropocene, Crützen called his proposed, human-engineered Epoch.
This past spring, a scientific panel presented its own proposal for how the Anthropocene should be defined. That proposal is now being considered by its parent body, a subcommission of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. If it approves, the proposal will move up the geo-bureaucratic hierarchy, ultimately to the arbiter of all matters geological, the International Union of Geological Sciences.
Martin Head is a geologist at Canada’s Brock University. He’s been involved in all this from the start. Last Spring, Martin Head spoke about the Anthropocene to an audience at Leiden University, in the Netherlands. If the Anthropocene is accepted as a new geological Epoch, Head said, it’ll only be 72 years-old. Head invited his listeners to gaze into the future.
Listen to excerpts from Martin Head’s talk in today’s GPM podcast. Click on the play button above, or go here.
Thanks to Dan Weisenberger for his fabulous guitar instrumentals.