Readers of daily newspapers are well acquainted with Yassir Arafat's calls, directly and indirectly, for the annihilation of Israel. What might not be apparent, however, is that such calls - sometimes in the whispered voice of the Palestine Authority, sometimes in the strident voice of the PA's accomplices in Hamas - constitute an especially serious crime under international law. Moreover, as this crime centers on genocide, Arafat's grotesque calls should have a special resonance for the Jewish State.
Genocide has always been prohibited by international law. In the words of the Genocide Convention, a binding multilateral treaty that codified post-Nuremberg norms and entered into force in 1951, the sorts of acts currently advocated by Arafat and company qualify very precisely as genocide. For example, the Fatah organization website now calls openly for the "eradication" of Israel. This call echoes earlier genocidal codifications in the still unchanged Palestinian National Charter, in Fatah's ongoing calls for Inqirad mujtama (the extinction of Israeli society), and in the Charter of Hamas ("There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad....I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.")
War and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. The Palestinian preparations for a Final Battle with "The Jews" are not only for an indispensable and unavoidable war, but also - ultimately - for the extermination of an entire People. Regarding ties with PLO, the Hamas Charter says the following: "The PLO is among the closest to the Hamas, for it constitutes a father, a brother, a relative a friend." On the primacy of hatred toward Judaism, not Israel, the Charter states: "Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish, and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims."
Under international law, PLO/Hamas calls for the killing of Jews - whether indirectly in Jihad or directly through mass murder - constitute calls for genocide. Ironically, the PA authorities who issue such calls, including of course Yasir Arafat, are generally recognized by the international community as official emissaries of "peace." It is time for this community to acknowledge that the same individuals who call for commission of the world's most egregious crime cannot be the proper source of partnership and reconciliation with Israel.
Following the July 30, 1997 Jerusalem marketplace suicide bombing, prominent Palestinian columnist Fahd al-Rimawi - writing with full approval of Yasir Arafat in Amman al-Majd, celebrated the genocidal act of terror:
"Let us rejoice and applaud the operation mounted by two Palestinian mujahidin with the sweetest of songs and ululations (sic) for having claimed 13 Jewish lives and wounded 150. We greet that act of ingeniousness with the sweetest of chants and we bid farewel to our bold martyrs who have lit the night of Jerusalem...and given luster and meaning to Arab valor....We will not apologize for the Jewish blood that will be spilt nor denounce the heroic actions of the mujahidin who represent the soul of this nation and echo the pulse of the masses and the Palestinian people's conscience...."
While the world, including even Israel, chooses to ignore such calls for the crime of genocide, international law has an obligation to take notice. Expressed by leaders of the major states in world politics, the norms and principles of international law should be invoked in time - before the calls for genocide against Israel's Jews are allowed to become the materialised foreign policy of several Islamic states.
Readers of daily newspapers understand that the Palestinian Authority and its associates are obligated to refrain from incitement against Israel. The Interim Agreement (Oslo 2) states, at Article XXII, that Israel and the PA "shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other...." In the Note for the Record which accompanies the Hebron Protocol of January 15, 1997, the PA reaffirmed its commitment regarding "Preventing Incitement and Hostile Propaganda, as specified in Article XXII of the Interim Agreement."
What is not widely understood is that the Genocide Convention criminalizes not only the various 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 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 step while there is still time. Israel, too, should be an obvious co-participant in this call, but it is hardly likely that a Government that does not even insist upon its basic rights under Oslo will now seek redress under much broader multilateral conventions.
The Genocide Convention is not the only authoritative criminalization that should be invoked against ongoing and illegal Palestinian calls for mass murder of 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 Yassir Arafat's and other Palestinian 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."
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. His work on Israeli security matters is known widely in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles. He is Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS and THE MACCABEAN. The only son of Austrian Jewish survivors, he was born in Switzerland in 1945.
E-MAIL the author at: BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU