Friday the 13th (of November) was a very bad day. My Friday began with a report of an Israeli family ambushed on the road south of Hebron, father and son dead, mother and daughter injured in the back of their van, when the Red Crescent ambulance passed by and decided not to stop for Israelis.
It ended with the six separate systematic attacks and 129 deaths in Paris. President Obama said it was not an attack on Paris or France, but an attack on humanity. Premier Hollande called it an act of war and sent fighter jets to bomb the ISIS headquarters at Raqqah.
Crimes against humanity? War crimes? And there’s a third category — genocide — which generally includes crimes against humanity and may include war crimes.
The broadest category is crimes against humanity — acts such as murder and massacre committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population or an identifiable part of a population. No treaty has defined crimes against humanity. These are not limited to crimes against a particular race, religion or ethnicity and may be committed during peace or war. War crimes and genocide, by contrast, are the subject of treaties and a number of prosecutions.
The Continuing Search for Justice
Recently, the BHBA participated in two programs which explored crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide:
First, a talk on November 17 for BHBA leadership by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the last Nazi Hunter, who coordinates the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s worldwide research on Nazi war criminals. Second, a screening on November 19 of Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, followed by a panel discussion with Holocaust historians and a Court of Appeal Justice.
Dr. Zuroff, whose operation is responsible for 3,500 investigations, 98 new indictments, and 102 convictions of Nazi war criminals in the last 13 years, explained the Center’s “Operation Last Chance.” He answered the question, “What do you want from these old people?” The basic answer is justice. Old age should not afford protection to murderers. Continuing the search for war criminals sends a powerful message to perpetrators of war crimes and genocide. And the prosecution of these criminals is owed to the victims.
The second program — jointly sponsored by the BHBA and the American Jewish University — features a remarkable restoration of the official film about the Nuremberg trial released in 1946 shortly after its conclusion. This is the 70th anniversary of Nuremberg, which was the first trial to prosecute crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes and genocide. It laid the foundation for the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as domestic prosecutions.
The Nuremberg Panel Discussion was led by Sandra Schulberg, co-creator and producer of the film; Dr. Michael Bazyler, author of Forgotten Trials of the Holocaust; Dr. Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust expert who explored its ethical and religious implications; and Justice Laurence Rubin of the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, who discussed the legal dimensions of this landmark trial.
Making Sense of Paris
So what should we make of Paris? Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in LA, remarked: “The attacks in Paris were horrific and despicable, and taking innocent life violates the principles of every faith. The orchestration of multiple locations and maximization of casualties shows a sinister disregard for life that is grossly at odds with any and all of us as human beings....”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks had a different take: As explained by NY Times Columnist David Brooks, Sacks attributed Paris to a “pathological dualism, a mentality that divides the world between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad.” This mentality can’t reconcile the dualist’s “humiliated place in the world with his own moral superiority. He embraces a politicized religion – restoring the caliphate – and seeks to destroy those outside his group by apocalyptic force.” That leads to acts of terror “in which the self-sacrifice involved somehow is thought to confer the right to be merciless and unfathomably cruel.” Not unlike Germany’s embrace of Nazi ideology.
A truly bad Friday the 13th.
Howard Fredman is a business litigation partner at Fredman Lieberman Pearl LLP,
www.flpllp.com, with extensive trial and appellate experience, especially in federal court.
Contact him online today.