Prosecute Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Incitement to Genocide

The crime of genocide is unlike any other. Genocide does not happen in a moment of passion. It cannot arise spontaneously. Genocide requires groundwork. The victims must be dehumanized and debased. The future persecutors must be filled with hate and resentment and given a justification to resort to barbaric behaviors. The tools of murder must be obtained and readied. In other words, genocide requires incitement and preparation. Since genocide requires incitement, it can be derailed by stopping such incitement. 

This insight into genocide is neither new nor controversial. The international community has already recognized both the unique nature of the crime of genocide and the important opportunity this presents for stopping it. Indeed, in 1948 -- in direct response to the Nazi murder of six million Jews -- the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. To date, 140 nations -- including Iran -- have ratified this most important agreement, which outlaws not only the commission of genocide, but also "the direct and public incitement to commit genocide." By so doing, the Genocide Convention empowers the international community to prevent future genocide by prosecuting the very actions that make genocide possible.

Yet, tragically, this far-sighted provision has never been applied to prevent genocide. While international tribunals have prosecuted those guilty of genocide, they have done so only after the fact. Thus, we have seen some of the monsters responsible for the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia brought to justice only after they have completed their massacres. We can and must do better. 

For those wishing to see these legal provisions applied to a case of incitement to genocide, there is no need to engage in hypotheticals. For the past few years, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has presented the international community with a clear and present case of such incitement. The only unknown is whether the international community will finally, belatedly learn the lessons of the past and prosecute the act of incitement before preparation yields to execution. 

An application of international law to Ahmadinejad's statements and actions demonstrates the compelling case for such a prosecution. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a clear record of incitement to genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention and its application to date. He has repeatedly sought to dehumanize Israelis and demonize Jews. He has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction in direct and stark terms, from stating that Israel must be "wiped off the map" to noting that Israel "is on its way to annihilation." And in his most cynical of tactics, he accuses Jews of creating the "myth" of the Nazi genocide of six million Jews as a means of generating the kind of hatred and resentment that could fuel the genocide of Israel's almost six million Jews. 

We must also note that Ahmadinejad's incitement to genocide has gone well beyond words to actual preparation. He is getting close to acquiring the nuclear arms with which to make good on his genocidal threats. And through his active support of Hezb'allah and Hamas, he has clearly demonstrated that he is prepared to turn his talk of killing Israelis into deadly action.

The United Nations Security Council has the power to refer such violations directly to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction over violations of the Genocide Convention. This is why we are calling upon the United Nations Security Council to act now and refer the case of President Ahmadinejad to the ICC for prosecution for the crime of incitement to genocide. And to date, over 125,000 Americans have joined us in this call by signing a petition calling upon United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and our U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to pursue this referral. 

Had the world taken Hitler's words seriously and watched his actions, the Holocaust could have been prevented. The same goes for the words and actions of those who perpetrated the more recent genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Sudan. The time has come to learn from these tragedies. The time has come to apply the wise legal measures adopted to prevent such atrocities. The time has come to indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.

Pastor John Hagee is the founder and Chairman of Christians United for Israel. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik is the Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis.