issue 130: How to Fight Incitement to Genocide

On Monday, UN Watch testified before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), at its Thematic Discussion on the Prevention of Genocide. UN Watch’s remarks, delivered by Fellow Leon Saltiel, focused on how to fight incitement to genocide. During the statements delivered by ambassadors, Syria accused Israel of committing genocide, making the Jewish state the only one to be so singled out.

(To see a RealPlayer video of the remarks, please click here.)

Mr. Chairperson,

I wish to discuss the precursor to genocide:  incitement.  We can fight incitement to genocide only if we learn the lessons of its history, and translate them into action.

For me, this topic is hardly academic.  My family, from Thessaloniki, Greece – part of the Jewish community that flourished there for 2,000 years – was decimated by the greatest genocide in modern history, the Holocaust.  In 1943, the Nazis rounded up Thessaloniki’s 50,000 Jews and crammed them into freight-cars for Auschwitz.  My grandparents were among the four percent that survived.  But virtually all their loved ones – parents, brothers, sisters, cousins – were murdered.

The Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers. It began with words. Words that described the Jew as “a parasite, an enemy, an evil-doer, a disseminator of diseases who must be destroyed in the interest of mankind.”[1]  As the Nuremburg court found, Nazi speeches and articles “infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism and incited the German people to active persecution.”[2]  Genocide begins with words.

It began with words in Cambodia.  The authors of the Genocide Convention never envisioned that leaders of a country would exterminate their own kind.  But thats precisely what the Khmer Rouge did during the 1970s, when it murdered an astonishing 25 percent of the population.[3]  Calling for “class and national hatred”, Pol Pot’s regime declared as subhuman a completely manufactured group labelled the “new people”, consisting of businessmen, city dwellers, foreigners, and virtually anyone with an education.[4]

It began with words, too, in Rwanda. In April 1994, Radio Television des Milles Collines urged Hutus to wage “final war” against the Tutsi, to “exterminate the cockroaches.”[5] The station read out lists of people to be killed and where to find them. “The graves are not yet full”, repeated the radio.[6] Eight hundred thousand were slaughtered in just a hundred days. Importantly, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has convicted three of the radio inciters.

In the Middle East, recent developments offer new hope for peace.  To achieve realpeace, however, we need to end what Professor Irwin Cotler, Canadian human rights activist and now Attorney General, has called “an existential or genocidal anti-Semitism.”[7]  This finds expression in the “public advocacy of the destruction of the state of Israel and the Jewish people for example, in the charter of terrorist organizations like Hamas.”[8]  And its not only Hamas.  A few weeks ago, Palestinian Authority TV broadcast its Friday sermon with Preacher Ibrahim Mudyris calling for the destruction of Israel, “the way Muhammad returned there as a conqueror.
[9]  Finally, there is Iran, where former President Rafsanjani boasted that “even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.”[10]  Will the world sit and watch as Iran now matches genocidal incitement with genocidal weaponry?

Last week the New York Times published “The Secret Genocide Archive”, revealing material collected by African Union monitors in Darfur.[11]  One document seized from a Janjaweed official urges regional commanders to follow orders from the Sudanese president and “Change the demography of Darfur and make it void of African tribes.”[12]  It encourages “killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur.”[13]  Meanwhile, the International Commission of Inquiry reported how the Janjaweed view their victims as “slaves”, telling them “you are very cheap people, you have to be killed.”[14]

Mr. Chairperson,

How can we attempt to stop these words that kill?

First, by instituting media monitoring in potential genocide zones.[15]  This task, with needed resources, could be assigned to the Secretary-General’s new Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide.

Second, we should consider the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a Genocide Alert Committee.  A good model exists:  the Committee of Conscience of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It has effectively raised public awareness about acts of genocide, for instance about the killings in Darfur.[16]  An international version of such a committee ought to include victims of genocide, who, as Elie Wiesel has noted, are “antennas” for genocide.

Finally, as Professor Cotler said in Stockholm one year ago, what we need above all is courage.  This year we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, whom the UN has called the greatest humanitarian of the 20th century.  As a Swedish diplomat in Hungary during the Holocaust, he saved more Jews than almost any single government.  He confronted the Nazi killing machine and showed “not only that one person can make a difference but that one person can resist, that one person can indeed prevail over radical evil.”[17]

I wonder:  How many from my family would have been saved if, six decades ago, there had been more people like Raoul Wallenberg?  And in our generation, how many families would have been saved if there had been more Wallenbergs in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan?

Only with courage can we confront the evils before us today, and those that lie ahead.



[1] From Der Sturmer, September 1938, as cited in Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of the German Major War Criminals, Nuremberg, 30th September and 1st October, 1946.  (

[2] Judgment of the International Military Tribunal, supra note 1.

[3] Pol Pot incited against the “counterrevolutionary elements” who, he said, were “not to be regarded as being our people.”  Karl D. Jackson, Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 56.

[4] David P. Chandler, Brother Number One: a Political Biography of Pol Pot, (Boulder, Colo., Westview Press, 1992), p. 108.

[5] “Rwandan hate broadcasters jailed for life”, BBC Worldwide Monitoring, December 4, 2003.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Irwin Cotler, “Human rights and the new anti-Jewishness”, Jerusalem Post, February 5, 2004.  Professor Cotler was a member of the board of UN Watch until his 2004 appointment as Canadian Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Palestinian Authority TV, Feb. 4, 2004, as reported in Itamar Marcus & Barbara Crook, PA Religious leader: Goal is Israels Destruction, Feb. 8, 2005, Palestinian Media Watch.  ( also Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Kill A Jew – Go To Heaven”, A Study of the Palestinian Authoritys Promotion of Genocide, January 2005, Palestinian Media Watch.  (  Using propaganda directly borrowed from 1930s Nazi Germany, state-controlled media throughout the Middle East is replete with the dehumanization and demonization of Israelis and Jews.  For example, during the holy Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2002, Egyptian television broadcast “Horseman without a Horse”, a 41-episode “docudrama” based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, the notorious Czarist forgery that purports to document an evil Jewish conspiracy of world domination.  The series was later rebroadcast on satellite channels throughout Europe.  An even uglier version was broadcast by Al Manar, Hezbollah satellite TV, which aired its own 30-part series called “Al-Shatat” (or The Diaspora).  Produced in Syria, the series tells about a Protocols-like secret “global Jewish government” whose mission is ruling the world.  In an admirable step, France has recently banned Al Manars genocidal propaganda from its airwaves.  See generally, “Report on Global Anti-Semitism”, U.S. State Department, December 30, 2004 (

[10] “[T]he use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.”  Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian) December 14, 2001, as reported in BBC Worldwide Monitoring, December 15, 2001.

[11] N. Kristof, “The Secret Genocide Archive”, The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2005.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] According to the International Crisis Group, “government policies were instrumental in transforming ‘traditional’ tribal conflict over access to receding grazing land and water into a new type of conflict driven by a broader ethnic agenda.”  International Crisis Group, Sudans Other Wars, Africa Briefing, Khartoum/Brussels, June 25, 2003, p. 11.  The report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur documented hate and derogatory speech used by the Janjaweed militias including the words “slaves”, “blacks” and phrases such as “the Fur are slaves, we will kill them”, and y”ou are very cheap people, you have to be killed.”  Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, January 25, 2005, pp. 65 and 130.

[15] Indeed, at the January 2004 Stockholm conference on prevention of genocide, 55 nations pledged “to monitor and report genocidal threats to human life and society.”

[16] See

[17] Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Address to the Raoul Wallenberg Symposium, Toronto, Canada, January 17, 2005. (


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