The response to Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas lobbed into rebel-held suburbs of Damascus has been fascinating. Finally, somebody is remembering that a treaty was signed by almost every country in the world banning poison gas at the end of World War I. The use of mustard gas in trench warfare decimated a whole generation of young men fighting on both sides of the war. This was the first time that any weapon had been declared unacceptable to human values. Poison gas is an effective genocidal weapon against soldiers and any civilians within range.
However, where was that outrage when the Nazis used gas to “exterminate” Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs? Even in the midst of World War II, the West was incredulous about rumors that the Nazis were doing this---and it was not until the war ended and the concentration death camps were exposed did we once more face the poison gas dilemma. “Never Again” was the response of the winners of that war (and the Jewish survivors in their new homeland, Israel).
Then it did happened again: Iraq used it against Iran during their decade long 1980s war and after that against civilian Kurdish villages. There was scarcely a peep from the “world community.” Iraq was the villain here, but I suspect that Iran would have used it too had the prevailing winds not been against them.
But how about all the other areas of double standard giving the lie to “International norms?”
• Genocide. We all said “Never Again” after the Nazi-driven holocaust, but what happened to that vow when Rwanda in Central Africa conducted a government-organized genocide against its ethnic minority? Did China stop to ask why Rwanda was ordering planeloads of machetes? Did France (Rwanda’s former colonial master) intervene by at least jamming the radio incitements to genocide? Did the UN punish “global law” offenders? Absolutely not! Nobody seemed to care enough to intervene, and had they done so, the UN would have complained that “national sovereignty” was being violated.
Genocide was in full flood in Cambodia (Killing Fields) until Vietnam invaded and stopped it. Did the world thank Vietnam? No, they were condemned by the UN for violating national sovereignty.
Did anyone thank Syria for ending a monstrous multi-ethnic genocidal war in Lebanon? No, they were condemned.
Why is national sovereignty more important than stopping genocide? It shouldn’t be, but don’t expect Russia or China to feel that way.
• Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The world clearly has different standards in condemning Israel and the Muslim world. A slaughter of 800 Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militia in a refugee camp was blamed on Israel which failed to stop it. However, there was not a peep when the Syrian government slaughtered tens of thousands of sleeping fellow Syrians in the town of Hama. Europeans weep tears over the fate of Palestinians in the “Occupied Territories” at the hands of Israelis (Jews) but do not bat an eye over thousands murdered by Muslim suicide bombers every day in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Is this a double standard because people hold Israelis to a higher standard of behavior? What does this say about the world’s lack of expectations of standards from Muslims?
• Refugee Camps. The UN created an entire department, still functioning since 1949, to house Palestinian refugees. No such care was given to the equal number of Jewish refugees kicked out of Arab lands, nor to millions of Pakistani and Indians displaced during their nations’ founding. Those refugees took care of themselves. What does this say about the Palestinians---or about the UN?
• The most candid attack on hypocrisy comes from Raheel Raza, a Muslim himself (“The Danger In Our Midst,” September 25, 2013, from Gatestone Institute): “Platitudes about Islam being a faith of peace are not credible anymore. Islam is only as good as the way its followers practice it; and if they have created killing fields in the name of Islam, then Islam will be recognized by the silence of those who did not speak out when their faith was being [trashed] to massacre humanity.”
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of How Do You Know That? You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.