Cotler urges changing focus on Teheran

Canadian MP and human rights law scholar says true source of danger is "state-sanctioned, criminal incitement to genocide."

irwin cotler 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
irwin cotler 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The persistent focus by Israeli leaders and others on Iran's nuclear program is obscuring the true source of the danger from the Iranian regime, according to Canadian MP and human rights law scholar Irwin Cotler - that it actively incites to genocide. "The focus has been only on the nuclear," Cotler said Monday in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post. While the regime's access to nuclear weapons "is clearly an existential concern," it is the regime's incitement to genocide that makes it so. "Ignoring the genocidal [aspect of Iranian policy] ends up sanitizing it and undercutting the justification for [concern about] the nuclear issue," Cotler said. According to Cotler, the Iranian regime has already committed "a crime against humanity under international law" by engaging in "state-sanctioned incitement to genocide." Iran's reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called Israel a "false nation," "a stinking corpse" and "a cancer," has held Holocaust denial conferences and has blamed Israel for the troubles of the Middle East and the world. These statements frighteningly fit the "eight stages of genocide" outlined by former American diplomat and genocide scholar Gregory Stanton, including delegitimization of the "other," dehumanization, demonization and Satanization, denial of the genocide even as it is being planned or executed, falsely accusing the target of genocide of being a threat and expanding the accusation to claim that all of humanity is endangered by the target population. In varying degrees, all these elements were present in Bosnia, in Rwanda, under the Nazi regime and in all other recorded instances of modern genocide, Cotler explained. As Cotler noted in comparing Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to Stanton's genocide stages, the regime has even gone so far as to "frame its own aggression as self-defense." "According to Stanton, when he testified before our [parliamentary] hearing in Canada, Iran has already passed through the first six stages," Cotler said, a situation similar to that in Rwanda just before the 1994 genocide, when Tutsis were being called "cockroaches" on state media. While the world has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to allow international observers to oversee its nuclear program, it has done nothing to exact a price for this incitement. "We are inactive and nurturing a culture of impunity in which Iran is not being held accountable," said Cotler. Last week, Cotler introduced the Iran Accountability Act in Canada's parliament to begin to correct this gap. "As we speak, Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide. Preventing and combating this is not just a policy option, it is an international legal responsibility of the highest order."