A cousin of renowned jurist Dr. Raphael Lemkin, who coined the the term ‘genocide’ and who drafted and pushed for the adoption, in the UN, of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, has spoken out on what he sees as UN hypocrisy.
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Program, in partnership with the United Nations office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, commemorated the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention on December 9 with a program titled, “From Prevention to Protection: The UN Genocide Convention 65 Years On.”
Several members of the Lemkin family in the New York area attended the prestigious event honoring the memory of their esteemed relative.
Adopted by the UN in 1948, the Genocide Convention affirms genocide as a violation of human rights under international law. Lemkin, a Holocaust survivor who died in 1959 at the age of 59, lost 49 family members, including his parents, in the Shoah; he arrived in America in 1942.
Even before the Holocaust, Lemkin had been acutely disturbed by what he later described as the “crime of genocide,” which “should be recognized therein as a conspiracy to exterminate national, religious or racial groups.” The massacre of Armenians by Turks and, later, of Christian Assyrians by Iraqis, had inspired him to devote his life to this heroic endeavor.
In fact, according to his writings, Lemkin had predicted the extermination of European Jewry, as pointed out by his relative, Binyamin Lemkin, also an attorney, in an interview with United with Israel.
Binyamin’s late father, Daniel, also a Holocaust survivor, was a first cousin of Raphael. Notwithstanding the profound honor at the UN, Binyamin pointed out what he sees as a “great dissonance between the UN’s official proclamations and professed identification with the principles that Raphael Lemkin promoted and the actual course of action the UN takes day-to-day.”
Indeed, just two weeks ago, in a vote of 110-to-7, the UN approved its latest anti-Israel resolution, declaring 2014 as the “Year of Palestinian Solidarity.”
“I view the UN as a hotbed of anti-Israel activity,” Binyamin stated. “The enemies of Israel, these days most notably Iran, pose a genocidal threat to the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We must remember that the Arab countries in previous years, when they thought they were capable of doing so, sought to liquidate the State of Israel and its Jewish residents. Raphael Lemkin himself considered the Arab riots in the 1920s and 1930s against the Jews in the Land of Israel to be genocidal in nature,” as his writings reveal.
“If the UN really wished to live up to Raphael Lemkin’s legacy, it would be acting forcefully and unambiguously against the regime in Iran, which is in flagrant violation of the Genocide Convention,” Binyamin asserted.
“We must remember that those who are remiss in fulfilling their moral obligations towards the Jewish nation ultimately are not only leaving Israel and the Jewish people vulnerable to genocidal threat, but the entire world,” he stressed. “I have no doubt that Iran’s genocidal intentions will be translated into genocidal action, which will ultimately result in disastrous consequences for the world. I believe that the world’s neglect up until now to enforce the Genocide Convention will lead to tragic cataclysmic consequences not yet seen.”
Binyamin, born and raised in the US, moved to Israel in 1992 at the age of 25 for “idealistic reasons,” he explained. “I believe the Jewish people are obligated to settle in the Land of Israel.”
“I feel that right now, by choosing to speak out, I’m contributing to carrying out the legacy of Raphael Lemkin,” he said. “If he were alive, he would expect the world to act to prevent another Holocaust.”
“The world loves to commemorate the Holocaust, but the slogan ‘Never Again’ is meaningless if nothing is actually done to prevent it from happening again,” he declared.
Raphael Lemkin was described by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as “one of the unsung heroes of the international human rights movement.”
He is the subject of the plays Lemkin’s House by Catherine Filloux (2005) and If the Whole Body Dies: Raphael Lemkin and the Treaty Against Genocide by Robert Skloot (2006).
In June of this year, Yale University Press published Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin, edited by Donna-Lee Frieze.
Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Dec. 11, 2013