Tarik Cyril Amar – Escalation, Euphemism, Genocide, and Gaza

How avoiding “worse” is used to do the worst

Tarik Cyril Amar (@TarikCyrilAmar) is a historian from Germany, currently at Koç University, Istanbul, expert on Ukraine, Russia, and Europe, and the author of “The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists.”

Cross-posted from Tarik Cyril Amar’s substack

Tomorrow the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ), sometimes also called the World Court, will announce its decision on South Africa’s request to issue so-called “emergency measures” against Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.

I will not waste time on arguing or illustrating the screamingly obvious: This genocide is taking place. (No, this is not “self-defense”; it is not “merely” about various war crimes and crimes against humanity either. There are plenty of those, too, but this is genocide on top of them.) To be in denial about this fact merely betrays abysmal ignorance and/or bad faith. But what to expect from the likes of Robert Habeck, Olaf Scholz, Joe Biden, Antony Blinken and the anonymous propagandists at The Economist? Hence, among informed and honest people, the question now is not about the existence of the crime, but whether the ICJ will acknowledge it.

The court, it is important to recall, at this point, will not pronounce on the issue whether it recognizes that genocide as taking place, but, in essence, “only” on the question if genocide is probable enough to require immediate action. If the court should find this to be the case, it can take various measures. Israel, with its usual open, rogue-regime disdain for law, rules, and basic ethics has already declared, it would not give a shit (yes, that’s the appropriate summary). The court itself lacks any power to enforce. That would have to come from the UN Security Council, where the US has shown no signs of abandoning its criminal stance of backing Israel whatever Israel does.

In sum, there are good reasons to be pessimistic: Even an ICJ ruling against Israel may have little effect. And yet, this is still a very important day in a crucial case. For one thing, while the ICJ is, in essence, literally power-less (and was, of course, designed this way on purpose), it could still help undermine Israel’s ability to mobilize the West.

The West, make no mistake, has been eager to serve as Israel’s accomplice in genocide. But opportunism is a force as well: An ICJ ruling officially stating a likelihood of genocide may make for some cold feet, even among inveterate genocide supporters, such as Ursula von der Leyen or Rishi Sunak. After all, one never knows what the future may bring, and no one wants to be in the dock in the International Criminal Court (which, unlike the ICJ, can go after individuals, although it has been doing its very worst to turn two blind eyes to Israel and its friends).

Yet what would be certain to have a greater immediate impact than the ICJ recognizing Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians would be the court joining the foul ranks of the genocide deniers. As has been pointed out before, if the ICJ goes down that path, then it will have pronounced a death sentence on itself: After such a horrendous failure, it would lose all and any legitimacy with most of humanity. It could then keep sitting or dissolve itself – it would not matter: it would be dead either way.

While, for non-insiders, it is still open what tomorrow will bring, it is, unfortunately, not unimaginable that the ICJ will fail. If so, many will ask why. It is virtually certain that the main reason will be detected in the fact that the court is thoroughly politicized. Its judges do not stand above politics and, especially geopolitics. Maybe one or the other among them does (or, at least is trying), but, as a whole, it would be naïve to pretend they do. So, if the court lets Israel get away with genocide, then the politics of complicity will have prevailed again.

But that does not exclude another factor: The politics of euphemism. The euphemism at work here is the notion of “avoiding escalation.” All the time while Palestinians have been starved, bombed, shot, tortured, deprived of water, medicine, and fuel, crushed and burned and maimed – all that time, our Western “elites” have assured us that they are busy preventing this “crisis” from “escalating.”

What has this phrase actually meant in this context? Certainly not what it would mean to an honest and reasonable user of words. How do we know that? Empirically, from the facts. Because, while preaching their non-escalation sermon to us, those same elites have not done the one thing that would immediately de-escalate the situation, namely force Israel into a ceasefire.

In addition, they are mightily working on promoting regional escalation: By attacking Yemen, which, under Ansar Allah (“Houthi”) leadership has taken the 1948 UN Genocide Convention seriously and taken military action against the Israeli perpetrator regime, as every other signatory state should, in a normal world. Our “elites” have also shielded Israel, while it terrorizes Syria and Lebanon and provokes Iran even worse than usually. Last but not least, they have indulged in constant talk about Iran as the “real problem,” showing all too clearly that it is they, our “elites,” who cannot let go of the idea of escalating to all-out war all across Western Asia (the Middle East) – and, perhaps, beyond, too.

So, if “avoiding escalation” does certainly not mean avoiding escalation, what does it mean? It is not complicated: It means “Leave Israel alone while it finishes off the Palestinians.” Our decrepit “elites” have turned the notion of avoiding escalation into a tool to promote and protect an ongoing genocide, that is, an ultimate escalation in violence and crime.

In reality, the world needs escalation. An escalation against Israel. Israel is a genocidal apartheid state that shows every sign not only of never letting go off its victims but of wanting more: More territory (Greater Israel); more influence abroad, so that all its critics will be repressed everywhere; and more war and genocide: If this regime marches into Lebanon (again), for instance, it will of course try (though it may not succeed) to not “only” wage war there, but to commit another genocide.

The world needs to stop Israel, defeat its murderous military, demilitarize and de-radicalize its largely insane society, and force it to acknowledge its crimes, at long last. Zionism must become a proscribed ideology, like Nazism. Those who shield Israel must be defeated, too, or at least forced to step aside by massive threats and deterrence. That is the way forward, and it will require escalation.

It may look unlikely now. But only fools and/or hubristic mass murderers underestimate history’s ability to surprise.

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