No precedent for peace

International community must stop turning a blind eye to genocide

The Libyan people have been met with fighter jets, bullets, and clubs as Moammar Gadhafi attempts to quell the uprisings overtaking his country. The violence being used against the protesters has been unrivaled in any other Arab country, and what began as protests now resembles something closer to civil war. Thousands have tried fleeing the brutality in fear of their lives, creating a refugee crisis in the process. However, it seems unlikely that Gadhafi picked up such a violent disposition overnight. Why, then, was more international effort not spent exposing Gadhafi’s cruelty before the situation deteriorated to the point of hundreds of people being murdered in the streets?

Since Gadhafi seized control of Libya in 1969, he has been responsible for a number of lethal terrorist attacks, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 to New York that left 270 dead. In addition, he has funded a number of guerilla terrorist groups and has denied his people the basic freedoms of democracy. Now, his 40-year rule is culminating with government troops using automatic weapons to ruthlessly exterminate protesters in mosques.

Ironically, amidst Gadhafi’s repressive rule, the international community embraced what is only now emerging as tyranny. In the past few years, for example, the U.S. has had full diplomatic relations with Libya, the prestigious London School of Economics has signed a training contract with the Libyan government, and Libya has been a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The oppression of the Libyan people seems to have, at best, been largely overlooked by the global community, and at worst extolled for exemplifying “human rights.”

A trend is emerging in the international community where legitimate human rights violations are ignored until the tension erupts or until mass genocide has taken place. The U.N. knew exactly what Gadhafi represented, and yet chose to ignore it by offering Libya a place on the Human Rights Council. If they did not know Gadhafi’s true nature, it was their obligation to investigate the despot further.

International unawareness is a wide and far-reaching problem, and seems to be getting worse with time. Instead of looking deep into conflicts and considering historical context in formulating decisions, the news and international policy-making bodies seem to take things at superficial face value. To the world at large, if there is no obvious violence or immediate danger, all is fine, and it is okay to embrace leaders of oppressed countries where dissatisfaction is teeming beneath the surface. It is only when huge, drastic riots break out across an entire region and women and children are being massacred publicly that suddenly the misdeeds of decades are recognized.

For example, what was done to save the 800,000 people murdered in Rwanda in 1994, or to prevent Hamas from indiscriminately showering Israel with thousands of rockets, or to mediate the tension between Georgia and Russia? And surely not nearly enough attention has been paid to Sudan, where over 2.2 million people have been killed by civil war. Right now, who is effectively helping the 2.7 million people displaced from Darfur by the Janjaweed, where the violence is only escalating? Yes, the Middle East is taking center stage at the moment, but genocide is occurring globally and nothing is actually being done — lofty discourse and rhetoric alone do not accomplish much.

The media needs to broaden its focus and to learn proactive investigative reporting; once genocide has occurred, it is already too late. Furthermore, serious study of international conflicts should be encouraged, so that a historical understanding of any culture or conflict can contribute to decisions, and not just a naïve labeling of “victim” and “bad guy.”

By learning from our mistakes with Libya, we can actively combat threats before they occur. The U.S. is now taking a strong stance against Libya, seizing over $30 billion in assets and threatening to enforce a no-fly zone. Hopefully, things will change internationally, and we can transform our mindset from reactionary to proactive.

Dima Ayyash almost 12 years ago

"A trend is emerging in the international community where legitimate human rights violations are ignored until the tension erupts or until mass genocide has taken place."

I find it quite hypocritical that Bandler is criticizing the international community for ignoring acts of genocide and human rights violations by Gadhafi, yet in one of her previous articles (25 Feb issue), she completely ignores the public acts of mass genocide that Israel committed against Palestinians in Gaza in Decemeber 2008-January 2009 (which were criticized by the UN), or the fact that building Israeli settlements in the West Bank is also a violation of international law that the U.N. has condemned several times, but the USA continues to turn a blind eye to (just like the USA continued to turn a blind eye to Gadhafi's tyranny until the recent uprisings in Libya). Instead Bandler draws a similar example by citing Hamas's attacks against Israel in the form of "thousands of rockets", a fact that has been highly exaggerated, choosing once again to focus her criticism on one side of the conflict. While I do agree that Gadhafi's actions towards his own people are quite despicable and he should be punished by international law, I ask that Bandler draws legitimate comparisons and keeps a certain level of consistency and objectivity across her articles when her opinions are based on skewed facts that can be easily refuted by a simple google search.

Anonymous almost 12 years ago

There has been no "mass genocide" committed by Israel, and therefore your points are null Dima.

Anonymous almost 12 years ago

whoever this anonymous is, just look up Sabra and Shatila massacre. And try to follow links to the tens of massacres that Zionists committed against Palestinians in the past 60 years.

You should also know that Palestinian casualties in Gaza eclipsed 1000, many of which were listed as civilian casualties. Not to mention the damage to infrastructure.

Comparing Israel's army which ranks in the top 10 strongest armies worldwide to Georgia's arms or that of the other victim populations that are mentioned is simply shameful. Israel is not an unarmed state under massacre, they have some of the highest military technology in the world (thanks to the US). If anything, the comparison should be drawn with the unarmed Palestinian people who are up against the stronger Israel.

By the way, regarding the "1000 missiles", look up "al-qassam" missiles to learn how non-destructive those missiles are: they're not comparable to the weapons Israel used in her war against Gaza. I'm not saying that Hamas did not try to attack Israel, but I'm arguing against the statement that Israel is the one being bullied. It is a simple statement in this article, but it conveys a great deal of misunderstanding of the facts. Also, after all, one should note that Israel broke the armistice leading up to the Gaza war.

Mark almost 12 years ago

Anonymous, you're right: "mass genocide" is a bit too much. The best term to describe what Israel, and the Zionist movement before it, has done in Palestine is "ethnic cleansing". See Israeli historian Illan Pappe to see why this is the case. As for the current situation in the occupied territories, "Apartheid" is a better word to describe the West Bank, and a "ghetto" for Gaza. That said, the misuse of a term does not make all the points above null :-).

On a side note, you don't seem to be offended or disgusted by Rachel's comparison between the Rwandan, during which 800,000 people were slaughtered, with the sporadic, and futile launching of missiles from the tightly sealed Gaza strip on southern Israel. Apparently, miss Bandler believes that the (at most) 15 Israeli victims of these rockets are the same as 800,000 souls. Only a fanatic would go that far.

Ariana M almost 12 years ago

It seems to me that all of you are a little confused.

Israel initiated Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 after 8,165 rockets and mortar had been fired at Israel, with the numbers continuously escalating after Israel handed Gaza over to Palestinian control in 2005, after Israel forcibly removed 8,600 Israelis from the Gush Katif area in Gaza. Following the hand-over, Hamas tortured and murdered hundreds of Fatah leaders, the political party in charge of the Palestinian Authority, in order to gain sole control of Gaza. As the years past and more rockets came over, Hamas sent over not just kassam rockets and mortar, but up-ed their assault to include GRAD or katyushas rockets. Yes, there were less than 20 Israeli causalities and several hundred injuries from Hamas's rockets, but that was only because Israel built extensive bomb shelters into all their building and set up warning systems in area that were constantly being attacked. Hamas launched rockets at the schools, hospitals, day care centers, homes, and playgrounds of near-by Israeli cities. On September 3, 2008 they sent rockets when they knew parents would be taking their children to the first day of school, calling it a gift for the first day back. Hamas has explicitly stated their intentions to attack Israel citizens, and have many recordings of the celebrations after successfully doing so.

A few days ago, on March 6th, it was the third anniversary of an attack on a high school library located in downtown Jerusalem, far from any disputed area. A gunman entered the library that evening on a firing rampage. He killed eight young men, most of whom were only fifteen years of age. That evening there were large celebrations in the streets of Gaza.

After the cease-fire agreement was made in June, Hamas continued to send 362 missiles and rockets into Israel before the 6-month agreement ended in mid-December. Eight days after the truce ended, Israel initiated Operation Cast Lead, seeing no other option with an average of 40 rockets being sent by Hamas into Israel now that the cease-fire had officially concluded.

Ariana M almost 12 years ago

Israel conducted a military operation. They had military goals, and went after military targets, not civilians. Yes, there were a large number of what was called civilian casualties. That was incredibly unfortunate, but it came only after Israel dropped pamphlets, and made phone calls to the areas they were going to attack in order to achieve their military targets of Hamas leaders and weapon supplies. Not only did the civilians not take the warnings and evacuate, but Hamas placed them as human shields. Al-Aqsa TV and PalMedia Web told civilians to come to the homes of the leaders to try and prevent Israel from attacking them. With its actions, Hamas acknowledged that Israel does not want to harm the civilians, and hoped to protect their leaders by surrounding them with civilians and protect their weapons by placing them under schools and hospitals in Gaza. Israel had a right to protect itself from constant attack. The number of causalities was only as low as it was because of a strong Israeli effort to make it so, and it could have been much lower if Hamas had cared to try and protect the lives of the Palestinian people.

Operation Cast Lead was in no way an ethnic cleansing, much less a mass genocide. A country has a right to protect itself from constant attacks. Gaza is not a ghetto, with Israel delivering tens of thousands of trucks of aid to Gaza both during the operation and after. The West Bank hold no comparison to apartheid as was seen in South Africa. There are Arabs in Israels government, and on the Supreme Court. Yes, a barrier was put up, only 3 of which was wall, and it decreased the terrorist attacks by 90. The checkpoints are actually starting to be removed because of the successful decrease in terrorist attacks.

I believe the point of Ms. Bandler's article now stands out even stronger after all of your comments. She raised a question not only as to why there is no attention to humanitarian crisis given until it is too late, but also why should so much attention be given to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while none is given to the hundreds of thousands of people being k

Ariana M. almost 12 years ago

She raised a question not only as to why there is no attention to humanitarian crisis given until it is too late, but also why should so much attention be given to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while none is given to the hundreds of thousands of people being killed by the countries around the world.

Anonymous almost 12 years ago

Great points Ariana M.

Thank you for not tolerating those hateful lies and presenting the truth.

Jonathan almost 12 years ago

Ariana, you're right about the effectiveness of the wall in improving security for Israel. But how do you explain checkpoints between Palestinian towns within the West Bank? The wall doesn't only separate Israel form Palestinian territory, it also separates Palestinian towns from each other.

Also, the quote 'For example, what was done to save the 800,000 people murdered in Rwanda in 1994, or to prevent Hamas from indiscriminately showering Israel with thousands of rockets' clearly implies that there is a comparison between victims in Rwanda and in Israel, to me at least. Anyway if you still don't interpret it that way it's not an issue, just thought I'd give my thought on it.

Lastly, before Hamas showered Israel, Israel had broken the last armistice agreement, which is why Hamas attacked Israel. Of course I'm not saying Hamas is right to kill people for that, but they only did exactly what Israel did, (actually on a much smaller scale and with much less victims) so if what Hamas did is wrong, so is what Israel did.

Now if Hamas was able to do similar damage to Israel, am I to say they wouldn't? I cannot say that knowing it would be true. Nevertheless, this is not the case, and Israel can keep it that way without carrying out disproportionate attacks. The fact that it is a planned military operation does not make it OK, Iraq was a military operation, we all know how that went...

Anonymous almost 12 years ago


I think the point of miss bandler's referencing Rwanda and hamas's rockets were not to equate the two, but rather, to put forth an example of injustices being performed and ignored by the global community. She never said the two are equal, which they are clearly not.

Jonathan almost 12 years ago

I see. Well I felt their importance was equated in that sentence, but that's probably not what she meant...

Andrew Farrell almost 12 years ago

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is controversial. News at 11.

Lets stop trying to use the non-existent consensus about I-P to make an analogy.

Lets take the case of Sudan. Genocide in Darfur. Rape, murder, arson, resulting refugee crisis. Clearly these are some bad dudes doing unambiguously unacceptable things. Should we go in with military force to stop them? Not the author's question.

Do we have a moral obligation to go in?


This is a nation of 43 million people and

2.5 million square kilometers. Compare this to Iraq with 31 million people and 0.4 million square kilometers. This nation does not have nearly the road infrastructure that Iraq does any has already fought a civil war.

I suspect that you don't actually understand what it would take to end the genocide in Sudan. We would have to actively hunt down and suppress the Janjaweed militia even as it is being given support from the local population in Sudan. There would be civilian casualties. It would be a bloody drawn-out quagmire. Fighting two Counterinsurgencies is hard enough. Do you want to add third?

"But don't we have a moral obligation to help? Even if it would be hard?"


No we don't.

Its worth asking under what conditions someone has a moral obligation kill people. Its word asking when one has a moral obligation to go to war even knowing that its going to result in a large amount of innocent people suffering.

But upon asking that, I hold it to be self evident that a such a moral obligation, absent any promises you've made, does not exist.

The only people responsible for the Genocide in Darfur are the Sudanese.

Evil doesn't happen because good men do nothing.

Evil happens because men do bad things.