Samantha Power, Incitement: Rwanda and Iran: Abandon the Double Standard


Positive words from Shmuely Boteach, Alan Dershowitz and JJ Goldberg on Samantha Power’s appointment to the position of Ambassador to the UN led me to recall my own unpleasant experience with her in 2007. Based on this experience, and her subsequent track record, I regret to say that criticisms of this appointment in the blogosphere may perhaps be closer to the mark.

These critics say she is anti-Israel. They are missing the point. When it comes to genocidal incitement against Israel, she is ignoring the lessons of Rwanda, where journalists were convicted of inciting to genocide.  Power wrote eloquently about the precedent setting trials of the International Criminal Court Tribunal-Rwanda. for incitement to genocide-—a crime against humanity according to the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and the Rome Statute of the ICC.  She told the story of how journalists, announcers, broadcasters and entertainers in Rwanda’s most influential radio station used hate language to incite frenzied Hutu terror squads to use machetes to butcher Tutsis and moderate Hutus, killing some 800,000 over a period of 3 to 4 months—a rate exceeding that in the crematoria of Auschwitz. They were later convicted by International Criminal Tribunal –Rwanda (ICT-R) and sent to prison for incitement to genocide, itself a crime against humanity, even if they did not participate in the killing.

Power is a strong advocate of preventing genocide by applying UN Resolution 1674, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P),–i.e. intervening after perpetrators start killing, raping, plundering and expelling victim populations. But R2P is an oxymoron, since once the killing starts it is often too late to do anything, as we have seen in Syria. There is a need to exercise the Responsibility to Prevent—prosecuting state sponsored hate language-before the killing starts.  Power and virtually the entire foreign policy elite of the US, Europe and the UN,  have been silent  on invoking Responsibility to Prevent to prosecute Iran’s leaders and their allies in the Axis of Genocide, for  using hate language to incite  to genocidal terror and genocide.

Hate language and incitement are early warning signs, initiators, promoters and catalysts of genocidal terror and genocide, especially when those putting out such messages suppress human rights, use extrajudicial executions to persecute minorities, support terror, and, most ominously, seek nuclear weapons and export terror.  Such hate language and incitement includes dehumanization, delegitimization, disinformation, denial of past genocide, and intimidation.

Today, jihadist anti-Semitic genocidal incitement. and hate language is endemic in the entire Islamic world coming especially from Hezbulloh and Hamas in Gaza and, yes, Fatah in the West Bank, and Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Such incitement remains the core of what is called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but in reality powers the Muslim war against Israel.  It drives the discrimination, persecution, intimidation and genocidal terror which threaten non-Muslim victim groups as well as moderates throughout much of the Muslim world for decades if not centuries.

Experts on genocide and other mass atrocities know that perpetrators use incitement and the toxic language and motifs of hate language symbols and motifs to mobilize followers and, desensitize and intimidate bystanders. Exposing children to such language in schools, mosques, summer camps, and TV programs promotes intergenerational transmission.  Everyone knows that Iran is the epicenter of   jihadist anti-Semitic genocidal incitement as it leaders repress and suppress their own population.

So why has Power been a passive bystander to such incitement today in the Mideast, especially from Iran, given her past work on its role in the Rwandan genocide.

In February 2006, the International Association of Genocide Scholars endorsed a Resolution calling upon the world to indict Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide, Holocaust denial, human rights abuses and pursuit of nuclear weapons. In 2007, following the passage of a US House of Representatives Resolution (HCONRES21) I personally wrote Power, then a Professor at Harvard, asking her to use her celebrity to lobby for US Government executive action to promote action.  My words:  “the clock is ticking. … President Ahmadinejad will be in the US for the annual UN General Assembly. Iran is racing towards nuclear capacity and already has missile delivery systems…. Endorse this resolution [because it is]..the template case for a proactive approach to genocide prevention… [Join] our calls.. to serve him with a subpoena containing such an indictment…”

Others wrote Power in the same spirit. I personally called her research assistant to follow up. She never answered.

At the time, then Senator Joseph Biden—chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, personally blocked introduction of the House Resolution to the Senate—.  Famously, Obama upon entering the White House removed the bust of Churchill—appeasement’s greatest enemy– from the Oval House. Obama and Biden pursued a prolonged policy of engagement –a euphemism for appeasement with Iran. Six years of delay and dithering followed. To date, Swiss cheese type economic sanctions so far have not stopped Iran’s brutal suppression of human rights, its incitement to genocide, support of terror, and race to acquire the Bomb—and the dangers of its exploiting revolutionary chaos to engineer takeovers by allies throughout the Arab world, and to suppress protest, Now Iran, not deterred by the US, is an enabler and accomplice to Bashir Assad’s brutal crimes of humanity against his own people in Syria. The US has been a bystander while Russia has protected Bashir. Now after 90,000 dead, it has been too late to exercise Responsibility to Protect Syrians from his crimes against humanity.

But Powers, the first and what appears to be the last director of the stillborn  US Atrocities Prevention Board  does not appear to have done anything   on the responsibility to protect by preventing  jihadist Islamist genocidal anti-Semitic incitement—an early warning sign ever since Mein Kampf.

Rwanda taught that Words Kill. But  the standard that held for indicting Rwanda’s journalists for incitement to genocide did not apply to Iran’s leadership, despite the dangers posed by their making nuclear weapons, exporting terror, and their suppressing human rights.

My colleagues and I have web-posted timelines of incitement by the entire Iranian leadership showing repeated, sustained and unrelenting recycling of the anti-Semitic motifs of Hitler and Goebbels.

Power, unless she apples the lesson of Rwanda, risks being remembered as a passive bystander—-the worst thing one can say about an expert in genocide who has real influence in the corridors of power.  Bystander indifference to the mullahs’ brutal rule goes projects the message that they can incite with impunity, and makes it easier for them to intimidate the general public by persecution, imprisonment, torture and executions of dissidents, members of religious and national minorities, women and gays, as they serve as enablers for Bashir Assad’s butchery.

Now that Power is the US’s Ambassador to the UN, it’s time to give Churchill’s bust to her. Power and her colleagues, if they are to be effective in protecting vulnerable populations from genocidal threats, need  to advance the locus of intervention from proof of intent after the killing starts  to interventions triggered by early warning signs of genocidal threats.  This advance requires her to use her bully pulpit to lobby for the following measures:

  1. Apply existing international laws to deter punish and prevent state sponsored hate language and incitement, persecution and human rights abuses by Iran, and Turkey, Hezbulloh and Hamas, and other members of the Axis of Jihadist Islamist Incitement against Jews and all other non-Muslims.

2.   Follow the Canadian government precedent of calling for the indictment of the    Iranian leadership for incitement to genocide.

3. Condition aid to the Palestinian Authority on its stopping Palestinian incitement, notably delegitimization. Such incitement remains the core issue of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Stopping Jihadist genocidal Incitement against all non Muslims is the core issue in the Mideast.

4. Mobilizing international pressures to protect and guarantee the human rights of threatened minorities. which include Copts in post-revolution Egypt, and Armenians, Christians and Assyrians in Turkey and Iraq and Bahai and Kurds in Iran, and Christians and Jews in the PA as well as dissidents, women,   homosexuals, and, of course, those subject to Price Tag hate crimes in Israel.

5. Setting up international surveillance and reporting systems to track incitement and persecution based on public models for tracking early warning signs of epidemic disease.


It’s time for all those concerned with life, human rights and dignity to speak Truth to Power. For starters, here are a set of syllogistic axioms to guide us in implementing Responsibility to Prevent.

First, human life is the most basic of all human rights, because without life there are no other human rights.

Second, genocide and genocidal terror are the most extreme assaults on these rights

Third, hate language and incitement predicts, promotes and catalyzes genocide and genocidal terror—especially when perpetrators suppress human rights

From the foregoing axioms, it follows that Power should be promoting the following principle: Those  ignoring, condoning or denying the need to stop incitement to genocidal terror  and genocide, the most extreme assaults on human rights,  are themselves denying and undermining  human rights.

Power needs to project the message that as Bashir’s forces continue to slaughter and butcher, Iran continues to torture and execute dissidents and members of threatened religious minorities. As of now, Power risks being remembered in history as a bystander whose actions when in power belied her words when she was powerless.

It is time for Power to use her new bully pulpit and prod the  US government to lead a world campaign to end state sponsored hate language and incitement  against Israel and other threatened  nations, peoples and groups in our region,  defined by national, racial, religious, ethnic or political origin.

So I say: Speak Truth to Power:  Remember Rwanda. Responsibility to Protect is not enough. There is a Responsibility to Prevent. The clock is ticking.


Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH

The writer is an epidemiologist and is a founder of the JerusalemCenter for Genocide Prevention Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine



About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention