Newly appointed United States of America Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday chastised the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for saying Zionism is a crime against humanity.
Actually, Mr. Erdogan was saying that the international community should consider Islamophobia, or prejudice against people who have Islam as a religion, as a crime against humanity "like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism."
There are so many problems with both Mr. Erdogan's and Mr. Kerry's statements that it is worth teasing out the many facts and ideas encompassed by them. Is Zionism a crime against humanity? Let's begin by understanding that Erdogan used the term "crime against humanity" in a rather loose manner.
Crimes against humanity have been defined by international agreement to be serious attacks on humans, possibly including humiliation or degradation, that are a result of government policy. They include, but are not limited to, government-sponsored or enabled murder (particularly mass murder), torture, and physical brutality including rape, as well as denial of human rights for political, racial, gender, or religious reasons. In the context of war they become war crimes. In the worst case they include genocide, the mass murdering of an ethnic or national group, and ethnic cleansing, the murder or expulsion of people from a state for ethnic reasons.
On its face, the general term Zionism is simply the wish of ethnically Jewish people to live in the region near Jerusalem. There is nothing inherently criminal about that, any more than wishing to live in Paris or Nebraska.
Then again, being anti-Semitic is not a crime against humanity, unless it is government policy. Being anti-Islamic is not a crime against humanity, unless it is government policy. Even being fascist is not a crime against humanity; there were fascist states that did not commit such crimes, such as Austria before it was united with Germany in 1938.
However, in practice crimes against humanity have been committed. Fascist crimes against humanity and war crimes are well-documented. Where does Zionism stand in the historic record?
In the 1800s when the modern Zionist movement picked up steam, modern Palestine (including what would become the State of Israel) was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Many Jews had long lived peacefully in Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem. Zionists were able to move to Palestine and buy land there, expanding the Jewish population. Perhaps there was some illegal immigration, but for the most part Zionism was characterized by legal immigration into Palestine.
When the British Empire took over Palestine (and most of the Middle East) after World War I, they were obligated to Jews for helping them to win the war. They allowed much more Jewish immigration into Palestine, which created some Arab discontent, but still the immigration was legal and peaceful.
Then came the Holocaust. Many Jewish survivors were angry, militant, and did not feel bound to the old system of ethics or law. Zionism changed. Terrorist Jewish groups appeared in Palestine (they mainly targeted the British at first) and Zionist organizations brought in large numbers of Jewish settlers illegally (by then the British were limiting Jewish immigration to try to placate the increasingly powerful Arab states).
Then the United Nations, which was still largely a military coalition, interfered. The Jewish minority (particularly the newly-arrived European Jews) wanted to create a Jewish State. The native Palestinians wanted to kick out the British Empire and have a democratic state, in which they would be a 65% majority, more if illegal immigrants were expelled. The British and United States pushed the U.N. to favor the Jewish nationalist plan.
U.N. Resolution 181 (November 29, 1947) was also not, in itself, a war crime or crime against humanity, but it acted as an enabler. Rather than calling for elections within a united Palestine, which would have led to peaceful electoral struggle, it called for partition, or racial segregation. It was actually just a recommendation to the British Empire, not a law. While the word independence was used for Arab-Palestinian and Jewish-Palestinian "states," they were to be in an economic union together, with recognized rights for minorities in each.
Another interpretation would be there would be two autonomous regions within the State of Palestine. It should also be noted that the vote was rigged. 13 nations voted against the resolution, including most neutral nations. The 33 votes in favor came mainly from the U.S. and its puppets in Latin America, the Soviet block, and the British imperial block.
There was no declaration of war. Violence escalated. Both Arab and Jewish militias were encouraged by Resolution 181 iteself. Both sides weaponed up and outsiders (more Zionists, including American Jewish organized criminals, and Arab hotheads from several nations) helped promote the situation into a civil war. Both sides had factions that engaged in ethnic cleansing (and both sides had citizens and groups that were appalled by the violence). The better armed, trained, and motivated Jews won. The new State of Israel came into existence on May 14, 1948 when the British quit the scene.
I cannot recount all the wars since that time, or all the crimes against humanity and war crimes on both sides.
Is Zionism a crime against humanity? In the post 1948 setting we find the most troubling evidence that Zionists, now controlling the Israeli government, committed crimes against humanity. There was clearly a great deal of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians driven off by violence were not allowed to return, and so their lands were seized and occupied by Jewish settlers. This was the policy of the State of Israel, and its courts, not just individual Zionists. The process has continued decade by decade since that time, punctuated by attempts by Arab states to obtain a military victory over Israel.
On the other hand, a large number of non-Jewish persons remained within the State of Israel, and they have at least nominal human rights, including the right to vote.
While it is worth examining all the actions that might be construed as crimes against humanity committed in the region, that would take a voluminous study.
I would refrain, and would recommend politicians refrain, from calling Zionism a crime against humanity. The thing to do is to address current injustices by restoring private property that has been stolen from anyone in occupied Palestine since 1948, and by carefully investigating all deaths of unarmed civilians on both sides.
Few nations and ideologies are truly free of the taint of crimes against humanity. The goal of the "law" is to eliminate these practices. In particular, the treatment of African Americans in the officially segregated States of the United States before roughly 1968 appears to amount to a crime against humanity.
Mr. Kerry should help clean up his own house before busying himself with lecturing other national leaders, Israeli, Turkish, or Palestinian. Perhaps, thrust into a prominent role, he is thinking of running for President in his old age. Perhaps he is just prepping to do the traditional campaign shake down of Zionists in the United States.
Resolution 181 is worth a read (see link above). The nation as a whole is called the Economic Union of Palestine.
It is my fond hope that any Palestinian state will be secular and tolerant of all religions, rather than Islamic. Given the definition of crimes against humanity, any state that plays favorites, or promotes segregation of religious or ethnic groups is engaging in crimes against humanity. That should include the United States and the United Nations.