Lawfare Project Calls on Legal Tribunals to Prosecute PA Officials for Incitement to Genocide and Acts of Genocide

Recent statements by Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have directly incited numerous violent attacks against Israelis in patent violation of national and international laws.

Palestinian leaders are inciting violence based on a blatant lie. They claim that Israel is seeking to change the 50-year-old status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which protects the right of Muslims to pray at the site and denies Jews this same right — despite that the site is the holiest in all of Judaism. Senior PA and Fatah leaders have directed a stream of inflammatory misinformation at Palestinian civilians, attempting to convince them that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is “in danger” and must be defended through religious war. Abbas sparked further uproar by accusing Israel of “executing” a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who, along with an older relative, had carried out a stabbing attack against two innocent Israelis in Jerusalem. To the contrary, as proven by photos released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, the boy is very much alive and, thanks to treatment at Israel’s Hadassah University Hospital, recovering. More importantly, these statements have been accompanied by repeated directives to murder Jews, against a backdrop of anti-Israel an anti-Semitic hate and violence perpetuated by the Palestinian media and schools.

On September 16, Abbas said, “[The] Al-Aqsa [mosque on the Temple Mount] is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.” He added, “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will.” As reported by Palestinian Media Watch, Fatah Central Committee Member Jamal Muhaisen said that “[t]he settlers’ presence is illegal, and therefore every measure taken against them is legitimate and legal,” and PLO Executive Committee member Mahmoud Ismail deemed the killing of two Israelis in their car in front of their four children as not only legal but also the fulfillment of Palestinian “national duty.” Official PA publications encourage the continuation of such violence, even if it means self-sacrifice. Particularly egregious is the incitement directed at Palestinian children to commit suicide-homicide attacks, which further violates the most fundamental human rights of the children. Additionally, Fatah claimed responsibility for the murder of two Israelis, in furtherance of the Palestinians’ genocidal aspirations for the total eradication of the Jewish state.

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the PA is obligated to refrain from incitement against Israel and to take measures to prevent others from engaging in it. True to Abbas’s statement before the UN General Assembly that the PA would no longer be bound by Oslo, he and other PA officials have breached these key requirements of the accords, not only affirmatively inciting violence and hatred against Israel and the Jews but failing to condemn the onslaught of terrorism being waged against innocent civilians.

Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, an individual is guilty of the crime of genocide when: (1) the individual kills or causes serious bodily injury to one or more persons; (2) the victim(s) belonged to a particular national, ethnic, racial, or religious group; (3) the perpetrator intended to destroy, in whole or in part, that national, ethnic, racial, or religious group; and (4) the conduct took place in the context of a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group or was conduct that could itself effect such destruction. Moreover, the individual need not directly carry out the killing himself; criminal liability can attach if the individual orders, solicits, or induces the commission of genocide. Directly and publicly inciting others to commit genocide is further punishable.

The statements of PA officials calling upon their audience (Palestinian civilians) to take action, specifically to murder Jews, are exactly what was deemed to constitute “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The context of ongoing violence being waged against Israelis, and the climate of hatred drummed up by Palestinian leadership, would further support a finding that the PA is culpable for incitement to genocide under international law.

It is also worth noting that the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the Palestinians acceded in 2014, does not require that a genocide be completed in order for genocidal conduct to warrant the designation (and consequent criminal liability). In the present context, it is the motivation to bring about the physical destruction of the Jews “in whole or in part” that matters, not the number of Jews who are killed.

Additionally, the 2007 International Court of Justice decision in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, which concerned responsibilities of state signatories to the Genocide Convention, established that all states are obligated to take “all means reasonably available to them so as to prevent genocide so far as possible.” While a Palestinian state does not exist (despite valiant lawfare attempts by the PA to secure recognition through illegitimate methods), the PA would be hard-pressed to present any valid argument that it is not similarly obligated to prevent genocide. As discussed herein, the PA has not merely failed to attempt to prevent genocide, but instead has vehemently encouraged it.

Israel also has its own anti-genocide law, Israeli Law No. 5710-1950, the language of which mirrors that of the Rome Statute and Genocide Convention. Like a number of other national laws that prohibit and punish genocide, the Israeli law applies to individuals who committed genocidal acts outside of Israel, and is also enforceable even when the perpetrator is a “legally responsible ruler.”

Whether at the national or international level, it is imperative that a judicial proceeding be brought against Palestinian leaders for these criminal and terrorist acts.

Benjamin Ryberg