Having considered the declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world,
Recognizing that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity, and
Being convinced that, in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation is required,
Hereby agree as hereinafter provided :
Article I The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
Article II In the present Convention, 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.
Article III The following acts shall be punishable: (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide.
There is a point in every person’s life when they ask themselves what would I do if I found myself in an awful and morally reprehensible situation? Some ask what would I do if I were alive in slavery days, rebel or submit? What would I do in the days of WW2, would I collaborate, be silent, or become a partisan? What would I do if I were in a crashing plane, or sinking ship, would I put the needs of others before myself? For the religious, would you be willing to go to the lion’s pit for Christ, tortured for Baha’u’llah or simply deny the faith?
These, or questions like these, deep pressing moral questions, are things that we have all, in one form or another, asked ourselves. Many of us like to comfort ourselves that we no longer have to make those decisions. Probably all of us like to believe that gun to our head we would do the moral thing. Many, if not all, of us, at the very least, like to believe that at the very least we would speak out against oppression if we saw it.
Today the world finds itself facing another deep moral question as the people of Palestine, specifically Gaza, suffer under the brutal onslaught of the Israeli military in response to attacks launched by Hamas on 7 October. In case it is forgotten, any aggressive action taken by Hamas must be viewed as an occupying people (Palestinians) seeking to remove their occupier (Israel) who have been illegally occupying their land for over 60 years.
In response to the actions of Hamas, Israel has engaged in a 100-day campaign of terror which has resulted in well over 23,000 civilians being killed. Of that number, 9,000 are children and a further 8,000 women. This number does not include the thousands who have been left trapped under the rubble of bombed-out buildings. Israel has cut off water, cut electricity, access to food and medicine.
In their rhetoric, Israeli politicians from the PM to the deputy speaker of the House, minister of defence and head of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) have called for the extermination, removal, re-settlement and total destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza. They have gone so far as to say that every citizen in Gaza bears responsibility for Hamas’s actions and must pay.
What we are witnessing in real-time, HD image is genocide, there are no two ways about it.
Genocide does not have to include gas chambers, all members of the ethnic group don’t have to be killed for something to be labelled as genocide. If that was the case the Namibian people would have no case, nor would the Armenians or the Kurds.
We are witnessing a level of evil which we have not been privy to since World War 2, with leaders of countries openly extolling the destruction of another ethnic group and couching it in terms of national and demographic security. Like every party guilty of genocide, they point to the action taken by Hamas but do not look at the 6th of October 2023, the 10th of June, or 2018-19 when the great march of return, a peaceful action, was met by deadly violence on the part of Israel.
South Africa has done the noble and bold action of charging Israel with genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and while the court, which is stacked in favour of Israel may rule in their favour, the die has been cast and it opens the door to more legal action against the apartheid state.
Many countries have joined South Africa as backers of their case. A glaring omission however, has been Jamaica.
Rather than take a stance on this matter — which has seen the global south, in both metaphorical and literal terms, take the global north to task in institutions it fashioned, and we ostensibly support — we have remained silent on the matter.
Our silence on the charge of Israel committing genocide follows our mealy-mouthed position on Israel and seems to reflect a serious issue within the government with at least one minister expressing full support for any and all Israeli actions.
Jamaica cannot afford to be silent as this case winds its way through the ICJ.
We live in a region where historically, crimes against humanity — bordering on and including genocide — have taken place and are in our living memory. We are a region which, though we hate to admit it, has strong racial tensions, and a firm position must be taken by the State to show that, not only in words but in actions, we have to truck for genocide.
Many Jamaicans will say that this matter in Palestine has nothing to do with us, it is a faraway issue that we should not be bothered about because it will mean alienating powerful countries. South Africa is further from us in distance than we are from Israel and we supported it. We recognised that what black South Africans were going through was a crime and should be called out even if it meant alienating large swaths of capital.
South Africa, the nation which endured apartheid and genocide, has labelled what is going on in Palestine at the hands of Israel as the same. If they can do that then we must follow suit. We, the ones who got the ball rolling in dismantling the oppressive apartheid regime, should be backing the claims made by Israel.
Instead, we continue to destroy the international credibility we have built up. If we do not side with South Africa we will be the laughingstock of the global south, a spent force and a lesson in how a country once punching above its weight can be destroyed through inaction, fear and kowtowing to western dictates.
As the world quickly moves from unipolar to multipolar, and the rules which have governed international diplomacy get rewritten, certain things must remain sacrosanct, especially if you are a small nation like Jamaica. This means taking stances which will fly in the face of those who are in power, but that is what is needed, not only to be empathetic, but to also save one’s own bacon.
Genocide is a crime. Israel is and has been committing genocide on the people of Palestine, in this specific case Gaza, and they need to be held to account. Jamaica must make clear where we stand and not in a mealy-mouthed fashion where we say we want a two-state solution which has been clearly rejected by the Israeli Government.
Are we against genocide or are we okay with it, are we with South Africa or are we with Israel? This is the moral question of our day. I am with South Africa and Palestine just as I know I would be fighting Nazis and burning cane fields.
Where do you stand, and more importantly, where does our Government?