I found the definition of Genocide according to the UN’s Genocide Convention, and a list of genocides that have occurred since 1945 in an article by Ronnie Landau, ‘Never Again?’ in the March 1994 issue of History Today, pp. 6-8. Landau was the head of Humanities at the City Literary Institute, and the author of The Nazi Holocaust, published by I.B. Tauris in 1992. Her article traces the origins of the word and the concept of genocide, coined by the international jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943, examining and criticising the repeated failure of the international community to stop genocides recurring and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The article is worth discussing here, as it deals with many of the issues involved in the latest anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker.
Landau notes in the article that Lemkin was concerned not just with the punishment of existing crimes against humanity, but also with prevent further atrocities. The UN responded three year later, in 1946, by setting up a committee to consider drafting a convention on such crimes. The committee’s provisional definition of genocide declared it to be ‘deliberate acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, racial, religious or political group on grounds of the national or racial origin, religious belief or political opinion of its members.’ This led to the final Convention, which left out the references to economic and political groups. (p. 6).
The UN Convention on genocides states that
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:
A) Killing members of the group;
B) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
D) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
E) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Landau goes on to describe how various nations attempted to eviscerate this convention. The Soviets did so by stating that genocide, like the Holocaust, was the result of decaying imperialism and implied that the convention would be inapplicable in the future. In the Soviet bloc, the Holocaust was considered part of the wider crimes by the Nazis against the peoples of eastern Europe. Furthermore, the UN caused massive popular outrage around the world by failing to invoke the Convention against Pol Pot and the vile Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This has resulted in many believing that the UN has lost its right to be regarded as a serious preventative force against such mass murders.
The article goes on to list the post-1945 atrocities, which may be defined as genocide according to the UN Convention as follows:
The Bengalis, 1971;
the Hutu of Burundi, 1972;
Ache Indians of Paraguay, 1968-72;
East Timor Islanders, 1975-present;
The French against the Algerians, 1945-62;
Governing Sudanese against Black Christians in South Sudan, 1955-present;
Post-Sukarno regime against Indonesian Communists, 1965-70;
General Pinochet in Chile against political opposition 1965-67;
Nigerian army against Ibo people in Biafra, 1966-70;
Guatemalan army against Mayan Indians, 1980-present;
Ethiopian regime against Tigre and Eritreans, 1980-present;
Iraqi government against Kurds, 1988 and 1991;
Pakistan, later Bangladesh, against Chittagong Hill Tract tribes, late 1940s-present;
Brazilian and Paraguayan governments against Ache and other Amerindians, 1960s-present.
Communist China against Tibet, 1959-present;
Indonesia against West Papua, 1969-present.
Stalin’s regime against the Communist party and selected elements of the population, up to 1953;
Macias government of Equatorial Guinea, 1968-79;
Idi Amin against the Ugandans, and particularly the Ugandan Asians, 1972-85;
the Argentinian junta against the ‘Left’, 1978-79. (p. 7).
The article then discusses the issue of whether aging Nazis should be tried for their complicity in the Holocaust, especially as those responsible for other horrors, such as Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein et al have never been hunted down or punished. It also notes that the Nuremberg Trials were remarkable in that they were ever held at all. When Landau was writing, there had been no further international trials either of Nazis or other genocides. She also states that there is a clear difference between the treatment of homicide and genocide. Those responsible for individual murders know that this is a crime, and that the police and other authorities will attempt to arrest and punish them. This is in contrast to genocides, who, as people in authority, rarely feel remorse, or are found guilty and punished.
She also discusses the difficulties in treating each genocide as equally serious, and not privileging the extermination of one group over others. She states
How can the international community show even-handedness i9n their investigation of such monstrous crimes, and thus avoid the construction of a hierarchy of suffering which condemns some genocides and atrocities to virtual oblivion, while others remain at the forefront of our consciousness? While preserving the distinctiveness and unique character of each genocide, are we prepared to make ‘connections’ between different genocides- identify common features – which may enable us to establish early warning systems to prevent the continuing abuse, persecution and destruction of groups, and the possible obliteration of cultures? (p. 8).
She goes on to discuss some of the features common to genocides, which may allow for its effective prosecution and prevention.
She also raises the question of whether it is possible to formulate a new code, based on previous conventions and what has been learned from the Nazi Holocaust, to set up systems for the international monitoring of potential genocides, with, if necessary, the deployment of UN forces. She then goes on to criticise current international inactivity over the war crimes in Bosnia, and compares it to the dilatory stance the international community took to the Holocaust, which led to the deaths of 6 million Jews and 5 1/2 million other innocents before the Nazi regime was wiped from the Earth.
The Holocaust, Jackie Walker and the Anti-Semitism Allegations
This article is acutely relevant to the latest smear against Jackie Walker, the former vice-chair of Momentum. Walker was accused and dismissed from her post because she had behaved ‘insensitively’ at a Labour party training day on Holocaust Memorial Day, because she had raised the issue of why it should not include other Holocausts. The organisers have claimed that it does, but this is refuted by the fact that it does not cover genocides committed before 1945. The definition of anti-Semitism they used also considers as anti-Semitic criticism of Israel, because of which it is not generally accepted. Furthermore, her Jewish supporters in Momentum have pointed out that the Israeli authorities and academics consider the Holocaust to be an experience unique to Jews. This list shows that this is clearly not the case, and that Walker was quite right to question the unique focus on the Jewish Holocaust.
This sole focus of the Israelis on the Jewish Holocaust also raises the issue of whether Israel can be considered an enabler of genocide. Israel is certainly guilty of the mass murder of Palestinians, and has followed a policy of ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab population since its foundation. In that sense, it would be guilty of genocide. But as Landau notes, the formulation of the whole concept of genocide by Lemkin was intended to prevent it from recurring. In this, the Jewish experience of the Holocaust was seen not just as unique in itself, but also an example of the horrors perpetrated against multitudes of others. By stressing the uniqueness of the Shoah, the Israeli authorities are undercutting part of the historical framework for the prosecution of other, similar crimes.
Finally, the initial smear against Jackie Walker as an anti-Semite came from a very selectively argued complaint about a conversation she was having on Facebook several months previously with two others. There she discussed Jewish complicity – but crucially, not complete responsibility – in the slave trade. But her point was to do exactly what Landau also raised in her article – make the point that there should be no ‘hierarchy of suffering’ which privileges some groups over others.
Tony Greenstein, one of the others, who was suspended from the Labour party by the Blairites for unspecified thoughtcrimes, has written an excellent article in the Weekly Worker demanding that Walker should be reinstalled as Momentum’s vice-chair and criticising Lansman, Momentum’s leader, for caving in to the Zionists. Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged Mr Greenstein’s article, with his own comments. He notes that Mrs Walker has a case for prosecuting those involved in the smears for libel and invasion of privacy under the data protection act. And as I’ve mentioned in a previous piece, far from being anti-Semitic, Mrs Walker’s discussion of the involvement of some Jews in the slave trade is certain not unique. Other historians have also, including several mentioned by Mrs Walker herself in her statement clarifying her comments.
The Israel lobby, as I have said before, are smearing decent people as anti-Semites, simply because they dare to criticise Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In doing so, and insisting on the Holocaust as an experience unique to Jews, they are obstructing its application as a template of what constitutes genocides to other cases, and are therefore weakening the ability of the international community to protect other groups. This is to be resisted, as is the smearing of individuals.