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This, too, is genocide

That an Israeli minister states that he intends to work to reduce the birthrate among a specific ethnic group, and does not find himself sent home that same day or under arrest until the end of legal proceedings, is a new low of degeneration and disgrace.

By  | Oct. 8, 2014 | 5:57 AM
The Bedouin  of the Negev have one of the world's highest birth rates.

 Bedouin children take part in the annual Land Day rally in the Bedouin village of Abu Quedar in the Negev Desert, southern Israel, Sunday, March 30, 2014. Photo by AP
Last Monday morning, one hand holding the newspaper, the other grasping a coffee cup, my eyes scanning the front page. And then they freeze, refusing to believe what is written in one of the headlines: “Minister: Israel looking at ways to lower Bedouin birthrate.”

My eyes opened wide in amazement. A minister of a country that calls itself democratic seriously proposed a reduction in the birthrate of a specific ethnic group. And let us be exact: Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir was not proposing passing an amendment that would apply to all citizens, or even all groups with high birth rates in Israeli society. He wants to lower the birthrate of a single ethnic group. Concerned that the Bedouin community will constitute half a million people by 2035, Shamir suggests outlawing polygamy as a way to lower the number of births. It seems that such racist discourse has not come from any sane administration since the days of Pharaoh.

My nausea rose as my fingers continued to turn the pages of the newspaper, until I reached the last page. It was then that my revulsion turned into bitter laughter. These two headlines, together, created a spectacular unconscious irony, as newspapers do without intending to: “Swiss initiative to limit cat overpopulation. Switzerland has 1.48 million cats living there, as compared with 8.1 million human inhabitants. Over the past few months, several ideas for limiting cats’ freedom of movement have been proposed.”

In other words, we are not alone! Like Israel, Switzerland suffers from animals multiplying too rapidly. There it is cats; here it is Bedouin. A wonderful basis for strengthening the relationship between both countries, and exchanging information and ideas. Israel can import the methods accepted in Switzerland (spaying and neutering), and Switzerland can propose the ideas of Minister Shamir: only one mate per cat. And we can suggest another well-tried Israeli method as well: not constructing protected spaces for cats in case Switzerland should find itself under mortar fire.

But at this point we ought to stop kidding around and get serious. The fact that an Israeli minister states that he intends to work to reduce the birthrate among a specific ethnic group, and does not find himself sent home that same day or under arrest until the end of legal proceedings, is a new low of degeneration and disgrace.

Maybe the following will aid in the understanding of how serious this is: The ideas proposed by Shamir have a name in international law. They also have a name in Israeli law. That name is genocide. Not indirectly, not by sophistry, not with the help of disgusting left-wing interpretation, but precisely, explicitly, specifically.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which Israel also signed and ratified, defines the term “genocide.” Israel passed a similar law in 1951 adopting that definition word for word (with a small error in translation, not a deliberate one, in my opinion). The UN convention lists among those acts that are considered acts of genocide against an ethnic, national, racial or religious group (or public incitement to do the same) “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,” in Article 2 (d).

Precedents have been set in the International Criminal Court that imposing limitations on marriage as a way to reduce the birth rate falls into the category of what is forbidden. Short and to the point. As if Shamir had read the convention and its articles, and decided to act according to what it forbade. (It would be a very good idea for Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu to read the full definition of the term “genocide” in that convention as well. He would definitely start squirming uncomfortably in his chair.)

And one more thing: According to Israeli law, the punishment for a crime that falls under the heading of genocide is death. But Mr. Shamir has no need to worry. The death penalty is no longer meted out in Israel’s courts, thank Heaven. Only outside them.