In the aftermath of the Holocaust, which has left an indelible stain on humanity, the human conscience was so affected that legal mechanisms were swiftly put in place to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Nuremberg Trials were the main instrument for ensuring that there was no impunity for the Third Reich for murdering millions of Jews. Of equal importance was the belief, or at least the expectation, that the Nuremberg Trials would serve as a powerful deterrent to those who might feel that they could commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide with impunity. In terms of fulfilling its mandate, the Nuremberg Trials were successful to a large extent. Many of the leading Third Reich’s protagonists were prosecuted. As far as serving as a deterrent, however, the records are disappointing and painful.
Nowhere is this disappointment more evident than in the case of the Palestinians.
Violation of International Law
When a people are in the throes of genocide, as the Palestinians are right now, you would expect that the lessons of the Nuremberg Trials and their conclusions would be adopted as the framework on how to deal with the perpetrators.
The Nuremberg Principles clearly state that individuals who commit violations of International Law, such as war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity should be punished. In other words, no one could commit barbaric acts with impunity. Today the Rome Statue has jurisdiction over all types of crimes that were prosecuted in Nuremberg. This means that, under international law, all the horrible things Israel is unleashing against the Palestinians are considered war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity.
Interior of Courtroom 600 – Media installation “Courtroom 600: Time Travel”| Memorium Nuremberg Trials (nuernberg.de)
Israeli Bombings – Sustained Barbarity
The sad truth is Israel commits these heinous crimes daily with impunity, and in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions which clearly place the burden of occupation on Israel. Yet, Israel continues to defy the United Nations and arrogates to itself the right to decide whether Palestinians live or die; it claims the right to determine how and where Palestinians live. And in keeping with the belief that Palestinians are “human animals”,[i] the decision is to inflict as many deaths upon the Palestinians as they deem fit.
What is more indicative of this than the siege and the massively indiscriminate bombings of Gaza that we have been witnessing for the last two weeks? The magnitude of the bombings and their targets speak to a level of insanity that is simply hard to come to grips with. Yes, it is true that the whole history of Israel is soaked in the blood of Palestinians. The Nakba, the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and other crimes against humanity testify to this. What is happening now, however, shows a level of sustained barbarity and insanity that might not have a parallel in its recent history. It is worth noting that the siege of Gaza did not start with Hamas’ incursions into Palestinians’ lands that are currently occupied by Israel. On the contrary, Palestinians have endured this unbearable confinement and incarceration for the last sixteen years.
On the question of where and how Palestinians live, two words, concentration camps, encapsulate the answer to that question. In Israel’s worldview, Palestinians are wretched and dispensable. They are entitled to nothing. Their lands could be taken away for settlements to be built upon them for Israeli settlers; their farms could be confiscated and given to Israeli farmers; and their most sacred place of worship, Masjid Al- Aqsa, could be desecrated at will. The quintessential posture of Israeli courts -when the sham procedures of taking these so-called disputes over land to the courts occur- is Israel is fully justified. Of course, all of this begs the question: how could such a thing happen in our modern world where global conferences are punctuated with so much talk about human rights, the rule of law, and international conventions on the rights of the occupied that have been adopted? Treating any people in this degraded manner should evoke the strongest condemnation and warrant maximum punishment, the kind that the Nuremberg Trials meted out to the Nazi perpetrators of genocide.
This, of course, presupposes that the institutions of the international community charged with enacting such justice are truly champions of human rights and the rule of law, not merely puppets in the hands of the geopolitical power brokers.
Complicity of Western Powers
It is obvious to many that Israel’s grip on Palestine would have been broken had it not been for the unwavering support of the United States and its Western allies. Israel’s worldview of establishing a Zionist state in Palestine would not have materialized; and all the tragedies that have befallen the Palestinians would have been prevented. Israel’s conception of itself as the natural inheritors of the land of Palestine would never have come to fruition but for the British and the Americans.
In 1917, the British made a pledge, known as the Balfour Declaration, to the Zionists that Britain would help them to fulfill their aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The pledge was the forerunner of the Nakba-the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.On May 4,1948, U.S. President Harry Truman became the first world leader to officially recognize Israel as a legitimate state. So, it is not surprising that today, notwithstanding their much-touted praise of democracy and the rule of law, their support for Israel’s carnage in Gaza remains unflinching. Israel’s horrible crimes against the Palestinians are a round-the-clock phenomenon-a never ending cycle of violence and ethnic cleansing that has been ongoing for over seventy-five years. Palestinians are called animals and are treated like animals. While this is expected of an occupying power with a history of aggressions, one must admit that the level of brazenness that Israel and the West display is mind -blogging. The atrocities-indiscriminate bombings of civilians, of Churches, of Mosques, of hospitals, of infrastructure, and the denial of food, water, and electricity-unfold right before our eyes. The truth cannot be hidden despite the complicity of the Western media in promoting Israel’s lies and propaganda. The West is silent. It is as though what is happening is inconsequential. Or when it speaks, it openly and shamelessly twists the narrative so that Israel’s crimes against humanity and its genocidal actions can continue with impunity.
A Shifting Tide
This situation shows that the international community has abdicated its moral responsibility towards the oppressed and brutalized people of Palestine. The one positive out of all this insanity is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people-Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others-are joining together in peaceful demonstrations across the globe to expose the lies and propaganda which undergird Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians. This -the resolve of the Palestinians, coupled with the unprecedented show of solidarity-could very well be the defining moment in the Palestinians’ quest and struggle for freedom from a brutal Apartheid regime.
[i] “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” – Defense Minister Yoav Gallant Israeli Defense Minister: ‘We Are Fighting Human Animals’ | HuffPost Latest News October 9, 2023