We have been witness of late to a critical mass of Iranian state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide – the crime whose name we should even shudder to mention – without parallel or precedent even by Iran’s wanton international criminality. As an all-party parliamentary committee of the Canadian Parliament put it, “Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide” – and it is all the more ominous as this incitement is the terrifying and vilifying context in which Iran’s nuclear weaponization is being accelerated.
This genocidal incitement has included – in August alone – President Ahmadinejad’s call to “remove the Zionist black stain from the human society,” adding that “the very existence of Israel is an insult to humankind and an affront to all world nations,” and requiring the wiping out of this “scarlet letter from the… forehead of humanity”.
Earlier in August, Ahmadinejad had — in a speech to ambassadors of Islamic countries in advance of Quds Day that was also published on his website — declared that “anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.” Similar incendiary statements proceeded from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, yet again, speaking of Israel as “cancerous tumor” that must be “annihilated.”
Moreover, these cruel and incendiary statements from the Iranian leadership have been comingled and conflated with ugly anti-Semitic hate, including classical anti-Semitic tropes blaming the Jews for the poisoning of the wells “these past 400 years,” adding that “the Zionists have been inflicting very heavy damage and suffering on the whole of humanity for over 2,000 years, especially over the last four centuries.”
Indeed, this state-sanctioned culture of hate and incitement to genocide has been persistent, pervasive, and pernicious. The 21st century began with Khamenei calling for “the annihilation of the Jewish state.” It was followed by the parading in the streets of Tehran of a Shahab-3 missile draped in the emblem “Wipe Israel off the map, as the Imam says.” It has continued with the use of epidemiological metaphors referring to Jews as “filthy bacteria,” and Israel as “a cancer that must be removed,” reminiscent of the Nazis calling the Jews “vermin” and the Rwandan Hutus calling the Tutsis “cockroaches,” the whole as prologue to and justification for a genocide foretold.
In particular, this genocidal incitement began to intensify and escalate in 2012, with the website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declaring in February that there is religious “justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm.” Former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar disclosed in May that the supreme leader of Iran warned him that Israel was a “cancer” and must be “burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth.” Several days later, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, declared: “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause — that is the full annihilation of Israel,” implicating unfairly the people of Iran – otherwise the targets of mass Iranian domestic repression – in the statements of its leaders.
The Iranian regime’s criminal incitement has been long documented; yet, not one state party to the Genocide Convention has undertaken any of its mandated responsibilities to prevent and punish such incitement — an appalling example of the international community as bystander – reminding us also that genocide occurred not only because of cultures of hate, but because of crimes of indifference.
The juridical remedies provided in international law include (a) referring this genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council for accountability and sanction; (b) initiating an inter-state complaint against Iran, also a state party to the Genocide Convention, before the International Court of Justice for its standing violation of the Convention; (c) calling upon the UN secretary general to refer the situation in Iran to the UN Security Council as one threatening international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter; or (d) requesting that the Security Council itself refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which can indict Iranian leaders as it has others.
Simply put, this panoply of juridical remedies — which have brought about the indictment of seemingly immune dictatorial leaders — should be added to the existing political, diplomatic, and economic initiatives invoked to sanction Iran.
Silence is not an option when states threaten genocide — especially when they, like Iran, are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and even boast that they can thereby bring about a holocaust “in a matter of minutes.” Condemnation has not served as an effective deterrent, nor will it sanction Iranian incitement. The time for action is now.