۱۴ تیر ۱۴۰۱ |۵ ذیحجهٔ ۱۴۴۳ | Jul 5, 2022
News Code: 364362
23 March 2022 - 12:00
Genocide Memorial Day

We in our labelling in fighting for justice, we have a debt to pay because if we live in these lands such as Britain and America that many of us who aren’t black our standard of living and some of the things that we enjoy in these societies, it is directly tied to the genocide and the human exploitation.

Hawzah News Agency – On Sunday 16th January 2022, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) hosted online its thirteenth Genocide Memorial Day. The IHRC launched its annual GMD to commemorate past and on-going genocides with the aim of raising awareness about genocide prevention. The third Sunday of every January was chosen as the date for the event in 2010 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the end of Operation Cast Lead, an example of ongoing genocidal acts in the current age.

Diversity and inclusion have been key elements of the GMD project since its inception in 2010. GMD’s speakers, presenters, audience, and volunteers come from all walks of life, different experiences, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and no-beliefs. Our GMD project has been successful in other locations such as France, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Malaysia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Palestine.

This year’s theme was How states sanitise genocide and genocidal acts. Wherever and whenever genocidal acts have been committed the perpetrators have made great efforts to conceal, justify or dress up their crimes. Slavery was justified as the white man’s burden, a humanitarian and even divinely mandated mission to civilise people who were sub-human. Colonialism sought legitimacy on the same basis. In their home countries, the champions of these projects were decorated as heroes and histories were woven to beatify them. Even today, bloody imperial adventures such as the occupation of Afghanistan are defended under false pretexts of liberating women, nation building and promoting social progress. Israel continues to justify its brutal occupation of Palestine with the unqualified support of the West on the grounds that it is defending itself and fighting terrorism.

The event was held online on YouTube and Facebook, with over 700 views combined worldwide. It was opened up by a Quran recitation by Syed Wajahat Ali who recited different verses from Surat An-Nisa which was translated by Fatima Merchant. Please watch the recitation below.

Raza Kazim, the Chair of IHRC Trust, introduced the event remembering the Commemoration of the Genocide Memorial Day by IHRC. Kazim noted that ‘the theme of this year’s GMD is “How states sanitise genocide and genocidal acts.” Considering that this GMD is commemorated on the anniversary on the end of Operation Cast Lead, a genocidal act committed by the Tel Aviv regime in 2008-2009 it is appropriate to mention the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu labelled this Tel Aviv regime as worse than the Apartheid regime of South Africa. The word Apartheid, amongst other things, symbolizes the process of dehumanizing a people which creates the environment for genocidal acts to take place. So, it seems somewhat ironical that while these leaders are quick to pay tribute to a man who spent his life challenging apartheid, they say nothing about the modern-day dehumanizing apartheid of the Tel- Aviv regime and in fact seem to sanitise its successors’.

Kazim ended his introduction by emphasising that “over the years we have had many different types of genocides discussed to highlight the variety of people that have been exterminated over the centuries. In the context of the UK, our schooling system is overall pushing a narrow perspective of remembrance and genocides that need to be remembered. By choosing this path, many educational spaces are limiting the ability of our children to have a wider understanding that truly allows them to not develop the racist idea that some genocides are more worthy of remembering than others”.

Professor Ilan Pappé is an expatriate Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. Even though his talk ‘Settler Colonialism leads to genocide’ was centred on the issue of Israel-Palestine, it covered themes based on the history of colonialism, the implementation of international law, the logic of the elimination of the natives, the dehumanisation of the natives, racism, and the exceptionalism of settler-colonial state.

Professor Pappé began his lecture by emphasizing that “the European settlers wanted to stay in Europe but were forced out of it for religious, cultural and economic reasons. They wanted to recreate a new Europe somewhere else instead of the one that stabbed them. Their obstacle was the presence of another people and unlike classical colonial projects that sought to exploit the native for the sake of the empire, the white settler, the native was a threat and had to be removed. In Palestine, the PLO and the liberation movement today are the main reason that the prospect that the project of displacement and replacement of the Palestinians is incomplete and will, I strongly believe, fail in the future.

In other places, very few survived the logic of the elimination of the native in places such as North America or Australia, although they are still struggling for recognition and justice. After the second world war, after Europeans genocided the Europeans, the Western political elite began to think of legal frameworks that might prevent, in the future, a genocide, at least in Europe. And what they did, they tried to institutionalise this idea through a large number of bodies that represented what became known as the International Law”.

Imam Dawud Walid is a leader, academic, lecturer and author who has delivered talks related to Islam and Blackness and other contemporary issues. He is an established Imam within the United States who is regularly sought after on any issue related to Islam in the west.

Imam Dawud’s talk “Governmental whitewashing of the Maafa” focused on the victims of the transatlantic slave trade and how they were exploited for profit making purposes in the west. He highlighted the glaring contradictions in regard to how the victims of other genocides have been treated but still, the victims of the African holocaust still not have received reparations. By centring on the victims of the African Holocaust, Imam Dawud addresses the issue of slavery and dehumanisation as part and parcel of the conveyor belt towards genocide or genocidal acts.

In his opinion, “the Maafa is perhaps the worst genocide in the history of human civilisation in regard to genocide that’s frequently not talked about and was not videotaped, unlike some genocidal events that have taken place in the 20th century. He noted that one of the greatest parts of how government sanitise genocidal acts other genocide in particular the Maafa is by not even recognising it as genocide meaning that governments to this day still won’t recognise the Maafa as a genocide sanitising what took place and giving lukewarm apologies that basically tries to get people to move on, especially the victims or the descendants of the victims of this Maafa in which to this day there are direct benefits that certain lands as well as institutions still reap from the Maafa”. He further added: “there’s a level of cultural chauvinism that’s involved but a lot of it has to do with money and also the continued social political exploitation of land and people who are the descendants of the Maafa”. He finalised by remembering that “we in our labelling in fighting for justice, we have a debt to pay because if we live in these lands such as Britain and America that many of us who aren’t black our standard of living and some of the things that we enjoy in these societies, it is directly tied to the genocide and the human exploitation of the descendants of the Maafa who helped build up these societies in which much of its wealth was gained from human genocide and colonialism”.

Professor Ramón Grosfoguel is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate of the Maison des Science de l’Homme in Paris. He has published extensively in the fields of Political-Economy of the World-System, International Migration and Decolonial Studies. In his lecture, Professor Grosfoguel discussed how genocide in the Americas has been sanitised by state policies. He explained in detail how the foundations of settler-colonial states were premised on acts of genocide, erasure and how there is continued denial of current genocides taking place.

“The notion of discovery is probably the first racist term used to conceal what happened. When you claim discovery, you’re claiming that you are the first human being to be in that part of the world when we all know there were human beings there for thousands and thousands of years before European arrival”. He empathised that “states hide the genocidal nature of this enterprise by killing millions of human beings of African descent in the process of kidnapping, in the process of forced transportation to the Americas and in the process of enslavement in the plantations of the Americas. Therefore, this happened on a continental scale”.

Professor Grosfoguel concluded his presentation by stating “the denial of the genocidal process going on from the arrival of the Europeans until today in all these instances is enormous and the educational system is just part of the problem, not part of the solution. They continue teaching a narrative of history that is basically concealing, wiping out the reality of the process of genocide that happened in many of these countries in the Americas. So, states as perpetrators are also the same ones who are concealers, the ones that produce policy to basically don’t take responsibility wash their hands and keep going as if nothing happened. And the indoctrination in the educational system is central to erase the memory of these events in the contemporary population and citizens of these countries”.

Professor Penny Green is a professor of Law and Globalisation at Queen Mary University of London and Head of the Law Department. She has published extensively on state crime theory, state violence, genocide, mass forced evictions, and resistance to state violence. She has a long track record of researching in hostile environments and has conducted fieldwork in the UK, Turkey, Egypt, Kurdistan, Palestine/Israel, Tunisia and Myanmar.

In her talk, “Genocide Denial and the Myanmar State”, Professor Penny Green highlights the different stages of Genocide denial by the Myanmar State in regards to the Rohingya. In her presentation, she connected the different stages of genocide and concluded that the ultimate sanitisation is to not remember the existence of the victims.

She discussed her experience conducting fieldwork in Myanmar primarily in Rakhine state between 2013 and 2015. She explained to the audience “temporarily these fieldwork sites represent different key stages in the genocide process. In Myanmar, we witnessed the concurrent stages of institutionalised and state-sponsored stigmatisation, isolation and systemic weakening of the Rohingya. And in Bangladesh, we were confronted with the penultimate stage of the genocide, the human consequences of mass annihilation and a deeper understanding of the Myanmar government’s continuing campaign of erasure denial and the reorganisation of Rakhine state where the Rohingya previously lived”. Professor Penny continued her presentation by emphasising “throughout the genocidal process, the Myanmar state engaged in a number of strategies to justify, to deny, to conceal. In other words, to sanitize its crimes. It’s important to understand that genocide does not end and nor does it begin with the physical annihilation of victims. Genocide occurs as a process the final phase of which combines denial by state perpetrators with the symbolic reorganisation of the society that remains and what Daniel Fierstein calls the imposition of the national life of the oppressor”.

She concluded by saying; “most people simply wouldn’t recognise where they had once lived. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published analysis of satellite imagery demonstrating the continued destruction of Rohingya villages and property, including religious buildings and vegetation in an attempt to completely wipe out all memory that the Rohingya once lived in the region. Many of those we interviewed reported the targeting of Rohingya leaders, teachers, mullahs and Imams. Those members of the community who traditionally held and passed on cultural, social and religious history. I think that the implications of this targeting extend vary widely and remembering which is the desired impact of these erasure practices is surely the ultimate sanitizing”.

Professor Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. He also taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

In his presentation, “Responding to Genocide: Law, Morality & Politics”, Professor Falk explained the inner workings of the UN in regards to how it deals with genocide, the differences between the terms ‘Genocide’ and ‘Crimes against Humanity” and how these apply to different cases.

He begins his presentation on the issue of the discourse on genocide explaining that in his view “it is important to distinguish the legal, political and moral usage of the term genocide, each of which within its own sphere is a valid and helpful but there’s a lot of implication in some of the usages that what is appropriately labelled as genocide politically and morally also is genocide in a legal sense and that as far as the press and international law is concerned is misleading. Because the international legal concept of genocide as it’s been delimited by a large majority of the judges in the International Court of Justice in The Hague during the Bosnian case of 2007, the idea of genocide legally requires very high documentary proof of the intent to eliminate or destroy some identifiable group, whether it be Jews, Muslims or Rohingya”.

He stated that “when we are thinking about how to address genocide in the present world, it’s very important to understand that if we wish to proscribe the behaviour that is to subject it to punitive action, we probably cannot in most of these instances, satisfy the legal tests of genocide but we can criminalise by way of crimes against humanity, which have in the sphere of legal, political and moral discourse the acceptability of the use of the terminology of genocidal”.

He concluded by saying “the dilemma is, do you weaken genocide as a crime against crime in order to incorporate the psycho-political consequences of that word and then correct these distinctions that I’ve been drawing between legal political and moral? This question needs to be addressed in a careful and sensitive way because there are good reasons especially in the cases of Israel and Myanmar to treat their abusive behaviour towards the Palestinians in one instance and the Rohingya in the other as genocide. But there are also good reasons to refrain from that terminology in instances where the perpetrators are soldiers of an ordinary sort carrying out superior order and although superior orders would not be a defence in crimes against humanity, they might at least influence the court in trying to assess whether genocide was committed.”

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