Dear Senator Mitchell:
I am a medical researcher whose background includes more than 30 years of work in epidemiology and environmental toxicology and injury prevention with Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians, the design and supervision of joint projects in asthma in Gazan refugee camps. I have worked with the US CDC and USAID MERC on these projects. Currently, I am doing work to apply the tools of prediction and prevention to genocide and genocidal terror, with an emphasis on the role of state sponsored hate language and incitement. Sadly, the wars and terror in the region have compelled me to move from the epidemiology of peacetime exposures to those having to do with genocide, genocidal terror, violence, war and mass atrocities.
Like many Israelis who supported the Oslo Accords, I have been mugged by reality. We have discovered that “land for peace” has morphed into “territory for terror”. Like many who have thought long and hard about the troubles in our region, I have concluded that we have to stop talking about “the peace process”–a nebulous term, and use something more binding: respect for life, live and let live and human dignity for all. The “peace process” has resulted in thousands of Israeli and Palestinian dead..
As much as I respect your commitment to mediating the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or more accurately, much of the Islamic world, I believe your model of “conflict resolution” -(i.e.”all conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians can be solved”) is no longer relevant to the region. This conflict is now being driven and overshadowed by the asymmetrically existential threats to Israel posed by Iran’s race to nuclear capacity, its leaders’ crude and explicit incitement to genocide and hate language, and their support for genocidal terror, and more. As we know from the Rwandan genocide, hate language and incitement by leaders is a predictor, initiator, catalyst and promoter of genocide. Iran, with its nuclear enrichment and missile development system, poses a far greater potential threat than that of the Rwandan genocidaires. It is now the epicenter of a global axis of genocide and genocidal terror, together with Sudan, North Korea, Hamas and Hizbulloh, Venezuela, and an array of enablers, allies of convenience, and protectors. In the light of the foregoing, I wish to pose seven questions to you and your colleagues.
The first is: What vigorous and aggressive steps are being taken by President Obama to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons?
The second is: Will the new Administration take vigorous and aggressive actions to prosecute Ahmadinejad, his superiors and his accomplices for their incitement to genocide-as they feed the fires of hatred and violence with their calls for the destruction of Israel and their use of dehumanizing hate language? Their language is the language of Mein Kampf. I refer you to HConRes 21 of the past Congress, which called for such prosecutions. Note the Rwandan precedent. The incitement by Ahmadinejad and his associates is a direct violation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and the International Criminal Court.
The third is: Does the new Administration stand for use of the existing tools of international law, or does it not to exercise the Responsibility to Protect vulnerable groups from genocidal threats, or does it not ? A distinguished list of legal scholars and human rights activists from around the world have supported the petition to bring Ahmadinejad to trial for his incitement to genocide, which is a crime against humanity. They know that if the rockets and bombs are the hardware of genocide, the words are the software. Words kill.
The fourth is: What vigorous and aggressive measures will the new Administration take to stop Iran’s and Syria’s aid and support for missiles and rockets directed at civilian populations, as well as the know how and financial aid for Hezbulloh and Hamas, two organizations committed to Israel’s destruction-and, as we now read, regional destabilization of the regimes which are US allies-e.g. Egypt and Morocco?
The fifth is: What vigorous and aggressive measures will the US take to support the petition already submitted on behalf of the previous mayor of Shderot to the International Criminal Court to bring Khaled Maashal to justice for ordering the rocket attacks against Israeli civilian centers–a crime against humanity? These attacks have been going on for 8 years.
The sixth is: What vigorous and aggressive steps will the Administration be taking to sponsor political and legal action against state sanctioned hate language and incitement in the mosques, mass media, school texts, academic centers and the parliaments not only by Iran, but the entire Islamic world, including the Palestinian Authority? If the Kassams, Grads and Katushyas are the hardware, the hate language and incitement coming from these sources are the software of genocidal terror and genocide itself. Region wide incitement and hate language which is the barrier to peace and reconciliation
The seventh is: Now that President Obama has made the decision to close Guantanimo, what vigorous and aggressive measures will you take to exploit this powerful moral precedent and ensure that Gilad Shalit receives his most basic human right–IRC visitation rights—in keeping with his status as a prisoner of war? (Classification and separation are early warning signs of genocide).
As someone committed to respect for life and human dignity, and live and let live, –and concerned about the future of our seven grandchildren here, I have to state the following. If the new Administration wobbles on any one of the foregoing issues, it should not expect any responsible leader in Israel to take it seriously. In fact, it would be reckless for us to do so. To repeat, we in Israel are terrified of the existential threats to our lives and our country posed by Iran and its terror surrogates. It is only after these very real threats are removed that we can move to conflict resolution between Israel and the Palestinians.
National, religious, ethnic and racial groups exposed to genocidal threats usually learn the hard way that they cannot rely on the world community to exercise the responsibility to protect. Anyone can see the similarity of today’s regional situation to the incitement and hate language used against Jews in pre-WWII Europe. The democratic world cannot allow itself to wait until it is too late and later ask forgiveness for having stood by while genocide was occurring. Like then, here too, a morbid plan is unfolding before our very eyes, combining nuclear threats, terror proxies, and regional incitement. I ask: Will the new Administration’s slogan–“Stand for Change” disguise its becoming a “Bystander for Genocide”?
Since its establishment in 1948 by the UN, Israel, though always reluctant to use force, has always relied on itself, not others, to do whatever is necessary to protect itself, in keeping with the Zionist ethos of self-reliance and self-respect. But that ethos includes a reluctance to use force (Israel endured 6000 rocket attacks over 8 years before launching Cast Lead). It also includes a commitment to preventing war by instilling in the next generation the values of life and respect for life and human dignity, albeit not always consistently and evenly. It also includes the fostering of regional projects in cooperation which apply these values in everyday life–in agriculture, conservation, environmental protection, and technology.
The values of Live and Let Live need to replace the cults of Death, Demonization and Dehumanization which are now endemic throughout the Islamic world. These cults have already cost 12 million lives in the Islamic World since the end of World War II.
Asking whether Israel is for or against a Palestinian State is looking for the right answer to the wrong question. The question you should be asking is: what will the world do to remove the asymmetrically existential threats to Israel from the dangers of Iranian nuclear enrichment, arming, supplying, training and inciting genocidal terror throughout the region. No agreement will have any sustainability without addressing these existential threats.
Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH (Emeritus)
The author is Head of the Genocide Prevention Program at Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine and Associate Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem and
Head of World Genocide Situation Room in GENOCIDE PREVENTION NOW (GPN) worldwide Web site