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A Tale of Two Ethnic Cleansings
by Kim Petersen
June 17, 2004

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How can we talk of human rights and ignore them for Palestinians?


-- I.F. Stone


Intra-ethnic fighting between the North and the South has for decades beset Sudan. News coming out of Sudan indicates that government-backed Arab militias have ethnically cleansed up to 120,000 members of Black tribes in the western Dafur region of Sudan. The reports of devastation are horrible and the term genocide is properly being wielded.


Africa Action Director Salih Booker reminds the world of its failure not to act quickly enough to avert the genocide in Rwanda. Booker warns, “Now, up to one million people face a similar fate in Darfur. Unless there is an immediate military intervention to stop the killing and facilitate a massive humanitarian operation, the loss of life in Darfur may even dwarf the horrific toll we saw in Rwanda.” (1)


Memories of having stood by during the initial stages of the genocide in Rwanda combined with the looming danger in Darfur have started to reach the public consciousness and the US government finds itself compelled to act. US State Department official Charles Snyder who leads the Bureau for African Affairs said,  “It is also essential that the results of ethnic cleansing not be allowed to stand.” Snyder insisted, “The African ethnic groups forced from the land must be allowed to return voluntarily and their protection must be ensured.” He added that those responsible must face justice. (2)


What a difference a few weeks can make. It was 14 April when US President George Bush met his “friend” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the White House. Israel is a renegade country that ethnically cleansed hundreds-of-thousands of Palestinians during the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. Ever since, Israel has been expanding its territory and illegally building settlements in occupied territory, seeking to establish facts-on-the-ground.


Bush made his usual wholly one-sided pronouncements calling on the Palestinians to “renounce the terror and violence that impede their aspirations and take a terrible toll on innocent life.” Of course the Zionists never engage in terror.


In his continuing crusade for freedom and democracy he insisted upon the removal of the Palestinians’ democratically-elected leader.


Bush repeated his strong commitment to “the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state … to Israel’s security and to preserving and strengthening Israel’s self-defense capability, including its right to defend itself against terror.” No words were uttered about a commitment to Palestine’s supposedly equal right to security or defense against terror.


Bush stated that the apartheid wall being erected inside Palestinian territory does “not prejudice any final status issues, including final borders. And its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.” This nonsense was exposed by Bush’s following words.


“The goal of two independent states has repeatedly been recognized in international resolutions and agreements, and it remains the key to resolving this conflict. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security [again] and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel.”


Former Israeli leader David Ben Gurion saw with different, and arguably clearer, eyes than Bush, what the facts were. He said,


Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that? (3)


Bush spoke of “secure and recognized borders … in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” Then Bush pulled a volte-face and acknowledged Sharon’s “new realities on the ground” and decided that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” If the territorial encroachments of the settlements had prejudiced Palestinian rights then why shouldn’t a territory-devouring wall not also become a new reality in the future? How can anyone take Bush seriously? In other words Bush had just stated that there was a statute of limitations on ethnic cleansing. This is not wholly unsurprising given that the US is a nation born out of the mother of all genocides and ethnic cleansing. This was followed by, among others, the territorial theft from Mexico, Hawaii, and Pacific islands; and the not-so-long-ago ethnic cleansing of Diego Garcia. The US has taken it upon itself to not only forgive its own racist land grabs but that of its client states.


UN General Assembly resolution 273 admitted Israel to the UN in 1950 upon condition that it implement UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that defines the borders of Israel and Palestine, and Resolution 194 that recognizes the right of return for Palestinian refugees.


Two months later the Israeli Knesset unanimously legislated the Law of Return, which guarantees every Jew the right to emigrate to Israel. So the rights of foreign-born Jews superseded that of the Indigenous Arabs. It was no wonder that the late Israeli activist Israel Shahak lamented, “The State of Israel is a racist state in the full meaning of this term.” (4)


The Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return home renders its recognition by the UN de facto invalid and furthermore it is also in contravention of Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states all citizens have the right to return to their country.


Well, if it is unreal for Israel to atone for its ethnic cleansing and genocide of the indigenous from Palestine then logic dictates this should apply across the board. Hence all hunts for former Nazis still living should cease. Reparations dating from WWII should expire. This would certainly put out the “outright extortion racket…and double shakedown of European countries as well as legitimate Jewish claimants” by the Holocaust Industry. (5)


But certainly UN Security Council resolutions do not come with an expiration date. It is not a case of mouthing platitudes of support and then disposing of resolutions that one superpower doesn’t like. UN security Council resolutions are international law. Failure to adhere to such resolutions is ergo a violation of international law.


Bush and Sharon’s duplicity makes a mockery of international law. It does nothing to discourage territorial theft and excuses the outrageous crime of genocide. In 1997 Francis A. Boyle urged that legal proceedings be launched against Israel in the International Court of Justice for contravening the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Boyle confidently declared, “I am sure we can all agree that Israel has indeed perpetrated the international crime of genocide against the Palestinian People. The purpose of this lawsuit would be to demonstrate that undeniable fact to the entire world.” (6)


A law-of-the-jungle may suit an overwhelming military power but then pretenses to law and morality should be dispensed with; otherwise the US government mocks itself. To sit in moral judgment of the iniquity of other nations when it excuses likewise behavior on the part of itself and its allies only undermines its own credibility. Justice must be for all, not just one. Only by leading by example can any person or nation earn the respect of others.


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:




(1) Jim Lobe, “Rights Group Urges U.S. to Lead Troops Into Sudan’s Darfur,”, 16 June 2004.


(2) Staff writers, “US threatens Sudan with ‘consequences’ over Darfur,” afrol News, 16 June 2004.


(3) Quoted in Nathan Goldman, The Jewish Paradox in Tony Seed and Gary Zatzman (Eds.)

Dossier on Palestine (shunpiking, 2002) p 72.


(4) Quoted in Ardi Imseis, “Zionism, Racism & the Palestinian people,” in Tony Seed and Gary Zatzman (Eds.) Dossier on Palestine (shunpiking, 2002) p 93.


(5) Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry (2nd Edition, Verso, 2003) p 89.


(6) Francis A. Boyle “Palestine Should Sue Israel for Genocide before the International Court of Justice,” Media Monitors, 2 December 2000.


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* The Pornography of War

* The Fairy Tale of Liberation
* The Lesser-of-Two Evils
* The Etiology of Hate
* The New York Times’ Search for Missing Friends
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* Canada’s Political Hypocrisy on the Palestinian Right to Live in Their Homeland
* The Ethnic Cleansing of Africville: Identity Politics in Canada
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