May 14, 1948 & May 14, 2018

Why Trump was right to move the US Embassy:

Each sovereign nation-state has the right to determine its own capital. The Israeli government has declared Jerusalem to be its capital, therefore the US Embassy should be in Jerusalem.

Why Trump was wrong to move the US Embassy:

Israel’s legal authority of both West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem are questionable.

Historical Context

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne recognized British authority for the Mandate for Palestine. This was a result of the defeat of the Central Powers (specifically the Ottoman Empire) in World War I, and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire as a functioning nation-state. Thus, the legal jurisdiction of Israel-Palestine belonged to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a mandate under the League of Nations and international law.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations (the successor regime to the League of Nations) adopted the Plan as Resolution 181(II), which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and an international authority for the city of Jerusalem. This UN Partition Plan for Palestine recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. The resolution also recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal with reservations, but the Arab Commission argued that partition violated the principals of national self-determination in the UN Charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.

Almost immediately after adoption of the Resolution by the General Assembly, a low-level civil war broke out and violence occurred by both religious groups. Adding to the complexity of the situation, post-World War II emigration of European Jews to the British Mandate for Palestine continued, which altered the population ratios in the Mandate.

On May 14, 1948, Jewish leaders in the Mandate for Palestine issued the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in defiance of the United Nation as Resolution 181(II) which set the stage for the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (or the First Arab–Israeli War) between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states and forming the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war. In the war, Israeli forces soundly defeated the Arab coalition and took complete control of West Jerusalem. As a result of the war, the State of Israel controlled both the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1948 Partition Plan, including Jaffa, Galilee, and some parts of the Negev Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. Transjordan, today known as Jordan, took control of East Jerusalem as well as what was left of the British Mandate, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At that point in history, at the Jericho Conference of 1948, Egypt and Transjordan could have created a Palestinian state out of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the rump Mandate, but no state was created. However, because the Israeli control of Jerusalem was a military conquest and violation of UN Resolution 181, the US Embassy was built in Tel Aviv, not West Jerusalem.

Fast forwarding to the Six-Day War of June 1967: On June 7, 1967, Israel captured the Old City of East Jerusalem. Again, because the West Bank and East Jerusalem were a military conquest, not a diplomatic agreement, neither US President Lyndon Johnson nor did his eight successors relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

International Law

Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. Period. That’s it really. It’s as simple as that. Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. For example:

  • The German invasion of Poland, etc.? Wrong.
  • The Japanese invasion of East Asian territories? Wrong.
  • North Korea’s invasion of South Korea? Wrong.
  • Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara? Wrong.
  • Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait? Wrong.
  • Russian conquest of Crimea? Wrong

What makes the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem any different?

Nothing under international law, that’s for sure, though I have heard this argument, that Israel was attacked, Israel did not initiate the war, so that makes it different; Essentially, the argument goes that it’s the Arabs fault because they started the war. If one has siblings, then we are all aware of the goading that can go on before conflict. Regardless, however, there is no legal basis for that argument, no international legal caveat that says if you get attacked, you can conquer the world legally…and, finally, it may be worth pointing out that the belligerents in the 1967 War were the nation-states of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt Syria, and not the Palestinian people.

Which only leaves this argument to justify the Israeli occupation and annexation of the West Bank: God. Well, specifically, the Torah. Yes, the Jewish holy texts record that God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. Unfortunately for Israel’s case before the international community, religious texts are not exactly admissible in international proceedings. After all, would the international community accept the words of Shiva or Krishna as binding legal documents? Do Israeli Jews accept the Qur’an’s legal weight? In fact, didn’t the Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater in WWII, Douglas MacArthur, didn’t MacArthur demand that the head of the Shinto faith, Emperor Hirohito, publicly change/alter/denounce the dogma of that religious tradition that the Emperor was the descendant of the Sun Goddess?

It seems that accepting Jewish scripture as an international legal document is playing favorites with world religion. The repatriation of European Jews was a decision made from guilt and cultural prejudice. The decision was made in wanton disregard for the existing Arab population in the British Mandate of Palestine, like European disregard for indigenous populations around the world. The decision is also a complete rejection for the principals of self-determination and territorial integrity spelled out in the Treaty of Versailles. International law cannot, ought not, to be henpecked.

So, am I saying that the State of Israel does not have a right to exist? Am I being anti-Semitic?

No, categorically, no. That is not what I’m saying. In the first place, there is a difference between de juro and de facto. For example, when the convention of delegates that was assembled in Philadelphia 1787 was charged with revising the Articles of Confederation, not replacing the US government; the Articles themselves states that the Articles could only be altered unanimously, but only 12 of the 13 states participated in the Constitutional Convention. So, what, we’re now going to abolish the US Government? No, of course not.

Yes, Israel came into being in 1948 in a dubious legal situation. But there is an equally important point to be made that, throughout history, Stateless People have been persecuted. Today, the Rohingya, as well as the Roma/Gypsies, the Kurds, and others, and yes, the Jewish people themselves. Kicked out of their historical homeland in 70 CE by the Roman Empire, the Jews were stateless people for almost 1900 years… and now, because of the creation of a Jewish Homeland, the Palestinian people have no homeland. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I was taught that “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.”

And, if that point doesn’t seem to have merit, let’s try an analogy. If the Native Americans rose up from every reservation and from all corners of the current United States, if Native Americans took up arms and waged war against the European-American population of the United States, would that be legitimate? After all, like the Jewish people, this land was Native American first. Again, there seems to be an inherent bias in how many Americans perceive the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Zero-Sum versus Positive Sum

In addition, too many Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians view the situation as a Zero-Sum Game. In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game a situation in which each participant(s) gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participant(s). That’s not the only option. The falsity and limitation of Zero-Sum thinking is pointed out by the Nash Equilibrium, and perhaps more importantly, by Positive-Sum thinking.

One of the falsehoods in the general discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the binary belief in Identity Politics. No, not all Israelis are opposed to the Two-State Solution; many Israelis recognize the dehumanizing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And no, not all Palestinians are supporters of violence who deny the right of Israel to exist. Remember Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish murderer, not a Palestinian terrorist. If it seems that Palestinians are more angry and expressive of their feelings, ask yourself who was more angry and expressive in the American Civil Rights movement.

Conclusion

The United States has often neglected its potential as an arbiter for peace in the world, but not always. The American-brokered Good Friday Agreement is an example of US leadership in the world. Peace can happen when Americans recognize the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to self-determination. Peace can happen when settlements on the West Bank are not being constructed at the same time supposed negotiations occur. Peace can happen when the United States spends as much financial aid for Palestinian schools, hospitals, and police-training, as it sends in military hardware to Israel.

And, finally, peace will happen when Palestinians reject the politics of violence, and Israelis embrace the politics of humanitarianism.

The enemies of peace abound. They exist in the profit margins of the American military-industrial complex, and hidden corners of the Israeli government chambers; the enemies of peace exist in some of the madrasas and mosques of the West Bank and Gaza, just as much as they exist in the pulpits of many American Christian churches and some of the yeshivas of Israeli and America.

Yes, West Jerusalem is -and should be- the capital of Israel. But East Jerusalem should also be the capital of a Palestinian State as well. Opening one embassy, not two, was an expression of Zero Sum politics and an abdication of American leadership for peace in the world.

 

The First Fleet and Ethnoreligious Violence (May 13th)

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Avatar and the Concept of Colonization

On this day, May 13, 1787, Captain Arthur Phillip left Portsmouth, England, with eleven ships full of convicts (the “First Fleet”) to establish a penal colony in Australia. How exciting! Convicts were originally transported to the Thirteen Colonies in North America, but after the American War of Independence ended in 1783, the newly formed United States refused to accept further convicts. On December 6, 1785, Orders in Council were issued in London for the establishment of a penal colony in New South Wales, on land claimed for Britain by explorer James Cook in his first voyage to the Pacific in 1770.

This had a drastic impact on three peoples: the British, the Aborigines, and the Irish. The British were able to expand their sphere of influence and the deportation, of young Irish males, in particular, was also intended as a method of pacification of Ireland.

This is also part of Irish history from two separate perspectives.  First, there is the issue of the forced deportation of Irish; the British identified these Irish prisoners as criminals, yet their “crime” was usually Irish nationalism and the desire for equal rights under the law.  Secondly, as said earlier from the British perspective, the forced deportation of Irish and others to Australia and New Zealand increased the British control over Ireland.

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If so many of us, including myself, argue that the forced deportation of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians from Turkey is evidence of genocide, why is the Irish Diaspora, in all its forms, not considered genocide?

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Nowadays, under modern International Law:

 

  • The Charter of the Nuremberg Trials (1945) states forced deportation of civilian populations to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity.
  • Article 49 of Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) prohibits mass movement of people out of or into of occupied territory under belligerent military occupation.
  • United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (1993) states that historical cases reflect a now-foregone belief that population transfer may serve as an option for resolving various types of conflict, within a country or between countries.

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There seems to a morality not recognized, a history not fully owned, and a deafening absence of equal application of international law to historical events.

As the Aborigines of Australia about that First Fleet: At the time of first European contact, it is estimated that between 315,000 and 750,000 people lived in Australia, perhaps as many as high as 1.25 million…

By the 1920s, the Indigenous population had declined to between 50 000 and 90 000. 30-90% fatality in just 130ish years. It was so bad that it was a commonly held belief that the Indigenous Australians would soon die out. But by about 1930, those Indigenous Australians who had survived had acquired better resistance to imported diseases, and birthrates began to rise again as communities were able to adapt to changed circumstances.

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However, Indigenous Australians were systematically discriminated against. Read the book or watch the movie, Rabbit-Proof Fences. Aborigines were not even given the right to vote until 1962.

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Finally, though, in 1992, the Australian High Court handed down its decision in the Mabo Case, declaring the previous legal concept of terra nullius to be invalid. That decision legally recognized certain land claims of Indigenous Australians in Australia prior to British Settlement. Later, legislation was subsequently passed to recognize Native Title claims over land in Australia.

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Also on this day, May 13, 1948, the Kfar Etzion massacre occurred in the British Mandate of Palestine. The massacre occurred after a two-day battle in which Jewish Kfar Etzion kibbutz residents and Haganah militia fought a combined force of the Arab Legion and local Arab men. Allegedly, the Kfar Etzion Massacre was motivated by revenge for the Deir Yassin massacre of Arabs several months earlier by Jews. Another example of the cycle of ethnoreligious violence…. Whether it be Ireland, IsraeloPalestine, or even Uzbekistan.

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You see, on this day, May 13, 2005, Uzbek Interior Ministry (MVD) and National Security Service (SNB) troops fired into a crowd of protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan.

Estimated fatalities range from 187 to 1500… Some of the bodies were hidden in mass graves, others were thrown into the Karasu River. Still, other bodies were allegedly flown out of the city on 18 flights to hide the extent of the massacre…

The Uzbek government said the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had organized the protest, while others have argued that the Islamist radical label is just a pretext for the repressive regime and policies. There is certainly continued political conflict between secular absolutist powers and Islamic fundamentalists. Whether the Islamic fundamentalists are terrorists is another story, after all, are Christian fundamentalists terrorists? Are fundamentalists Orthodox Jews all terrorists? Clearly, there are violent fundamentalists in all religions, but it’s often too quick of a go-to excuse for politicians to play the terrorist card.

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Finally, another explanation or interpretation of the mass slaughter involves the inter-clan struggle between the Tashkent-Ferghana clan alliance and the rival Samarkand clan… Shockingly, another example of ethnoreligious and ideological violence in our world.

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Listen, I know that, like Billy Joel, we didn’t start the fire, ethnoreligious and political violence is a part of everyone’s history, ever since the world’s been turning, but let’s see the patterns of behavior, call it out when we see it, own our own demographic tribal sins, and then, maybe, just maybe we can better understand what happened… This Day in Today…

Thank you for listening!

Remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.
My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor

Two Nazis and a Military Analyst Walk into a Bar… (May11th)

~May 11~

On this day, May 11, 1960, four Israeli Mossad agents, with the help of Simon Wiesenthal/the Nazi Hunter, captured fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann who was living under the alias of Ricardo Klement in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After his trial in Israel and the denial of his appeal, Eichmann was scheduled for execution. He refused a last meal, instead, Eichmann requested a bottle of wine, and he also refused the traditional black execution hood.  His last words were:

“Long live Germany.  Long live Argentina.  Long live Austria.  These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget.  I greet my wife, my family, and my friends.  I am ready.  We’ll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men.  I die believing in God.”

He was executed shortly after midnight on June 1, 1962; his body was cremated at a secret location, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters by an Israeli Navy patrol boat…

And, I guess, that’s the end of the story, right?

Well, no, in my opinion, there’s more. How did Eichmann get to Argentina, how was he able to hide for so long, how was he found, and perhaps, most importantly, why was he not extradited, why was he kidnapped by one nation-state from inside another nation-state. Could you imagine the outcry if the Russian’s kidnapped an American in the US, and snuck him to Russia for trial?  Look at the situation in the UK, where Russians have assassinated and attempted to assassinate British residents twice in the past several years… if its outrageous for Russian operatives to work inside the UK, isn’t it somewhat outrageous that the Israeli Mossad operated within Argentina? Or are international norms only for the bad guys to follow? It seems, at times, that we have Double Standard in terms of expected international norms by state actors, and, additionally we don’t even always know what our government is doing.

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Take this other example: On this day, May 11, 1973, the charges against Daniel Ellsberg, for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, were dismissed. Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the Pentagon Papers, officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, had leaked/released the report to the Times. The report was a history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 and had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress”. More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

The Pentagon Papers were announced and described on the front page of The New York Times in 1971. Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, because of the leaks… but on May 11, 1973, the charges were dismissed after the Watergate prosecutors discovered evidence that the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

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Finally, on this day, May 11, 1987, Klaus Barbie went on trial in Lyon, France, for war crimes committed during World War II. Known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Barbie personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon. After the war, United States intelligence agencies used Barbie for their anti-Marxist efforts and also helped Barbie and others escape to South America. Later, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the West German intelligence agency) recruited Barbie. Barbie is even rumored to have helped the CIA capture Che Guevara in 1967, as well as assisting in the Bolivian coup d’état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980 [I mentioned that coup briefly on the May 5th podcast of This Day Today]. After the fall of that dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government. In 1983, Barbie was extradited to France, not kidnapped by French intelligence agents, and he was ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity. He died of cancer in prison on September 23, 1991.

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May 11th: An Israeli operation, quite illegal from an objective point of view, to capture a Nazi; the arrest of an American who leaked to the public the truth of what the government was hiding from the American people, and the doll-faced Nazi named Barbie, who was recruited to work for the US Government as well as West Germany, even though both agencies knew him to be a war criminal.

Certainly, politics makes strange bedfellows. Yes, the enemy of my enemy, maybe my friend, but shouldn’t we have some standards? If its ok for the US to lie to the American people, to hire known war criminals, and to look the other way as Israel violates the national sovereignty of other nation-states… then, are we any better than those we criticize in the world community? Are we really the beacon on the hill, the New Jerusalem? …Or are we just another rogue state ourselves?

~~~

And that’s what happened This Day in Today…

Remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

The Iran Agreement

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First of all, the “billions” that opponents of the Iranian Agreement often cite was not American money; it was the Iranian people’s own money that has been held since the hostage crisis.

Secondly, nuclear technology is a product of cultural diffusion, it can’t be permanently stopped, but what the violated agreement had done was buy both countries time to detente.

Thirdly, no one in the US wakes up worried about UK or French nukes, or really even Chinese or Russian nukes, because we have relationships. The abridged agreement had given both parties time to build a relationship that would make the weaponization of nuclear technology meaningless.

And now it’s on life support, but not gone yet, because someone’s ego was hurt in the 2011 Washington Correspondents Dinner. The master of the Art of the Deal will hopefully repackage the agreement with his name on it after getting his ego soothed by ridding the agreement of Obama’s name, and then we can continue the path of building sustainable peace.

I am also unaware of how/why the same voices denouncing the Iran Agreement are congratulating the apparent diplomatic movement with North Korea. At this point, we have words, not action. Engaging with a rival is either a good strategy or it isn’t. Either Obama and Trump are to be encouraged for engaging Iran and NoKo, or both Administrations ought to be ridiculed. To choose one engagement over another is myopic partisanship.

May 7th ~ Mass Graves in Iraq and the Rohingya

~May 7~

  On this day, May 7, 2016, UN Special Representative Ján Kubiš said more than 50 mass graves have so far been found in parts of Iraq that were previously controlled by so-called Islamic State (IS).  Ján Kubiš is a Slovak diplomat and was formerly Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL (IS), which may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide.”

Ján Kubiš

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Mass graves and ethnic cleansing is not new in Iraq. After the deposing of Saddam Hussein, International Experts found an estimated 300,000 victims in mass graves of Shia Muslims and ethnic Kurds killed for opposing the regime between 1983 and 1991.

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In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.

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Then ISIS/ISIL/IS came to town… Hawija, Kirkuk, Mosul… you name it….

…2014, the peak of the Yazidi Genocide. Civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar… hundred of Yazidi women were taken as slaves and over hundreds more men, women, and children were killed, some beheaded or buried alive in the foothills, as part of an effort to instill fear and to supposedly desecrate the mountain the Yazidis consider sacred.

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The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq…  beginning before ISIS, back during the Iraq War in 2003, but continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq’s Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population has fled or been internally displaced. Reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Assyrians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Basra; and that Sunni insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians over the years. Following the campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in August 2014, one-quarter of the remaining Iraqi Assyrians fled, finding refuge to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, ironically in Turkey…

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On February 3, 2016, the European Union recognized the persecution of Christians by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as genocide. The vote was unanimous. The United States followed suit on March 15, 2016, declaring these atrocities as genocide. The vote was unanimous. On April 20, 2016, British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the actions as genocide. And where are those voices today as the Rohingya are murdered, assaulted, and exiled in Burma?

The ability of the predominantly Christian countries and the mostly Christian members of the US Congress’ to recognize a Christian genocide but not Muslim genocide is almost as self-serving as those perpetrating religious and ethnic violence against civilians around the world. It is a manifestation of the selective indignation, selective application of legal principals, and the inability to see all men and women as sisters and brothers.

If you’ve never read it, read Jeff Stein’s piece from October 17, 2006, in the New York Times. Still, to this day, one of the best and most disturbing journalistic articles. Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI’s national security branch, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis, Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, Congressman Terry Everett, Vice Chair of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. The very people who voted to invade Iraq. Don’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shi’as. Do we think they know the difference between an Assyrian-Iraqi, a Kurdish-Iraqi, a Yezidi-Iraqi, and an Arab Iraqi?

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/opinion/17stein.html

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It’s easy to blame the crimes against humanity on the sectarian violence in Iraq, but those same pointing fingers seem to avoid asking the question of who destabilized the region and who armed Saddam Hussein with all those weapons in the 1980s. Perhaps it’s time to think more about American national responsibility, than labeling other acts of violence as genocide. After all, those Americans who identified the Assyrian Genocide so correctly are woefully silent on asking what happened to the pre-Columbian Native Americans population of the United States or even, if you want to stick to a more recent century, what happened to the Armenians in 1915. The same Administration that labeled the Assyrian, Yazidi crimes against humanity as a genocide, has not called the 1915 massacres by our Turkish allies a genocide… I mean, sure, they call it a genocide on the campaign trail while pandering for votes, but Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all seem to have genocidal amnesia once entering the Oval Office.

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Yes, on this day, May 7, 2016, UN envoy Ján Kubiš condemned the continued killings, kidnapping, rape, and torture of Iraqis which he said might constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even genocide. Would that he was wrong. Would that the ethnic and religious genocides in Iraq and around the world were limited to time and space. Sadly, humanity’s propensity to kill itself, is matched only by our ability to be blind to the blood on our own hands and deny genocide when it’s insignificant. After all, its not 2016 anymore. Its 2018, and genocide has now reared it’s evil in Burma, where are the same clamoring voices speaking out against the Rohingya Genocide now?

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

April 29th ~ War Crimes and Reconciliation

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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  On this day, April 29, 1946, The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened and indicted former Prime Minister of Japan Hideki Tojo, as well as 28 other former Japanese leaders, with war crimes. Tojo was the highest ranking Japanese national charged by the Tribunal. Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, had decided to give the Imperial Family immunity from prosecution in order to smooth the restructuring of Japan’s government. Thousands of other alleged war criminals were remanded to other countries for national criminal prosecution. Ultimately, seven defendants were later given death sentences and executed; 16 received prison sentences. A shout out to MY home state of Little Rhodey, The chief prosecutor, Joseph B.  Keenan, was from Pawtucket, RI, United States.

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Sixty-nine years later, on April 29, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Prime Minister of Japan to address a joint session of the US Congress and offered his “profound respect” and “eternal condolences” for US soldiers who died in World War II.  On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Pearl Harbor and laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial.  Earlier, in May of 2016, US President Barack Obama similarly became the first sitting US President to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.  Regardless of one’s opinion of the decision to drop the bomb, it is an inescapable fact that the US use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 220, 000 people combined…

That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

Genocide and the Naming of History

Genocide and the Naming of History

Naming is power. This is evident in so many cultures and religious traditions. The Vision Quest, the secret name in Mormonism, the naming ritual in Baptism, and the choice of a Conformational name in Catholicism. In the Genesis 2:20 and Exodus 3:14, we can see how important the power of naming is in the early Jewish Tradition. To know God’s true name, to know a person’s secret name is to have power over that person. Later in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the power of naming is illustrated again in Matthew 1:21 and Matthew 16:18. The power of naming is recognized outside of theology too, think of market branding in business or George Lakoff ‘s Don’t think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (2004); the power to name, identify, or label is the power to frame the context of any situation. Indeed, the power to identify good and bad, victim and perpetrator, plays out in our legal system as well (i.e., ask Richard Jewell about being labeled a “person of interest”). Naming is power.

But who names these horrific events? Indeed, there are no international naming conventions for historical events. Is it the American Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression? The Great War, or World War I? The power to name history is often written by the victors (Winston Churchill[1]) because to the victor, go the spoils (William L. Marcy[2]). Perhaps that is why there is no agreed-upon term for US military operations since September 11, 2001: America’s Long War, or is it the War on Terror, the War on Terrorism, the Global War on Terror? Naming an event, frames the event within a historical context and creates winners and losers.

Today, the international community recognizes six major genocides: the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. Of course, the world also acknowledges many other mass killings and events in history as well, including, but not limited to the Genocide of Indigenous Americans, the Circassian Genocide, the Greek and Assyrian Genocides, the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971, the Yazidi Genocide, the current Rohingya Genocide, and so many other examples of the systematic mass killing of each other. It would be impossible to list all the crimes against humanity committed across the eons. There seems to be no end to humanity’s ability to identify ethnic, racial, religious, ideological differences among our fellow humans and wage violence against the diversity of our species.

No, there is no international naming convention for the crime of genocide. Sadly, there is not even an agreement of what constitutes a genocide as opposed to crimes against humanity. Yes, Raphael Lemkin coined the term in the aftermath of the Holocaust, but does the term only apply to the Holocaust? The United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) clearly outlines the definition of genocide but does not designate an authority to recognize historical events as genocide. The Rome Statute (1998) however, grants the International Criminal Court the standing authority to charge nation-states and persons with genocide and crimes against humanity (similar to earlier ad hoc tribunals in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Cambodia). So, apparently, it is a prosecutorial privilege to name a genocide in legal briefs, and the decision of the bench to uphold such a designation.

And that’s ridiculous. History may have once been written by the victors, but it was never written by the lawyers. In fact, the democratization of information now allows almost anyone to write history, whether it is accepted as history, political spin, or fake news is another question.

The current colloquial practice of naming genocides seems inconsistent. As mentioned earlier, there are six generally recognized genocides in history: the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. This nomenclature seems to have four different naming conventions:

The Armenian Genocide refers to the genocide of Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire by Turkish Ottomans. While there is a rump-state of Armenia in the world today, much of the genocide occurred in eastern Anatolia. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Armenian Genocide refers to the ethnicity of the victims, not a geographic place.

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, refers to the genocidal acts by Nazi Germany both before and during World War II. Shoah was used as early as 1940 and is a Hebrew term meaning “destruction” whereas the term holocaust comes from the Greek hólos, meaning “whole” and kaustós meaning “burnt offering.” Yad Vashem strongly suggests using the term Shoah to refer to the destruction of European Jewry and the term Holocaust to refer to the wider genocidal acts of Nazi Germany.[3] It seems that de facto the term Holocaust has actually become synonymous with Shoah in the colloquial lexicon. Thus, the Holocaust could refer to the Jewish Shoah or may refer to all of the victims of Nazi Germany, including, but not limited to the Roma people, Poles, homosexuals, as well as personas with different mental and physical capabilities.

The Cambodian Genocide refers to the genocide of the Cambodian people by the political and military organization known as the Khmer Rouge. The designation of the genocide as the Cambodian Genocide, therefore, refers to the geographic place and not the ethnicity or ideology of the victims.

The Bosnian Genocide refers primarily to the genocide of Bosniak Muslim people of the former Yugoslavia by Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox peoples of the dissolved Yugoslav Federation. The Bosnian Genocide occurred within the context of the Croatian War of Independence, the Bosnian War, and even the later Kosovo War. As a result, there were many atrocities committed within and without the boundaries of Bosnia regardless of ethnic and religious identity. Indeed, designating of genocide based upon ethnic and religious demographics seems to be an oversimplification that ignores mixed marriages and ethnic miscegenation. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Bosnian Genocide refers primarily to the ethnicity of the victims, but also a geographic place.

The Rwandan Genocide refers to the genocide of Tutsi, moderate Hutu by Hutu government and Interahamwe. Like the genocide in Germany, and indeed every genocide more than likely, there were other minority groups affected by the genocidaire movements and governments. Rwanda has several smaller ethnic tribes, particularly the Twa, and it is impossible not to recognize Hutu hegemony negatively affected these other tribes as well. The designation of the genocide as the Rwandan Genocide, therefore, refers to a geographic place and not the ethnicity of the victims.

The Darfur Genocide refers to the genocide of sub-Saharan Muslim Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes by Sudanese Arab Muslims. In addition, the Darfur Genocide coincided with the Sudanese Civil War between northern Sudanese Arab Muslims and South Sudanese sub-Saharan Christian tribes. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Darfur Genocide refers to a geographic place and not the Fur people (Darfur, the abode of the Fur). Calling the atrocities, the Fur Genocide would denigrate the suffering of the Masalit and Zaghawa people.

Let us summarize the current colloquial names of the six generally recognized genocides in history. The Armenian Genocide takes its name from the ethnic victims of the genocide; the Holocaust is an etymologically created term (like Lemkin’s term ‘genocide’ itself) that is more conceptual and is used to refer to both the Shoah as well as the wider community of Nazi victims; Finally, the nomenclature of the Cambodian, Bosnian, Rwandan, and Darfur Genocides refers to regional and national geographic location. Three different naming conventions. Perhaps, in a field of research that studies systematic violence, systematic naming conventions should be employed as well.

Naming a genocide after a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group potentially exacerbates the demographic divisions that initially lay the foundation for the genocide. To do so is also an unfair oversimplification that ignores mixed marriages and ethnic miscegenation. Ethnically-based naming conventions also seem to support a binary interpretation of genocide. Yes, in the Bosnian Genocide, Bosniaks were systematically murdered by both Croats and Serbs, but there were also Croatians systematically killed by Serbians as well. There is enough blood in the Balkans to cover the hands of every religion and ethnicity. Victimhood should not be a competition. As mentioned earlier, the agricultural Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people are equally being targeted by the Janjaweed and Arab herding tribes. To identify a genocide by a singular ethnicity is to do the work of the genocidaires.

Though the vast number of victims in the Holocaust were Jewish, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Cambodian Genocide were non-Communist Khmer, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Bosnian Genocide were Bosniaks, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Rwandan Genocide were Tutsi, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Darfur Genocide were Fur, others died as well. Even the Armenian Genocide occurred concurrently with the Greek and Assyrian Genocides. Again, victimhood should not be a competition and to identify a genocide by a singular ethnicity is to do the work of the genocidaires.

Let me suggest that the six major genocides are the Ottoman Genocide, the German Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. Naming conventions are luxury of historical framing and an expression of power. Indeed, nomenclature is the power to identify good and bad, victim and perpetrator. Naming is power. Let us identify the evil in the world by recognizing its location in time and place, and not pit victims against victims for a place at the naming conventions of history.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3626376/History-as-written-by-the-victor.html

[2] https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/to-the-victor-go-the-spoils

[3] http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/the_holocaust.asp