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January 12, 2024

Letters to the Editor, Globe and Mail

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Rosalie Abella is wrong

Re: The genocide case against Israel is an abuse of post war legal order - Jan 9, 2024

Rosalie Abella, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is wrong in her defense of Israel. Here's why.

Genocide, as defined and taught in law schools today, owes its name, concept, and content to Polish-born Raphael Lemkin (1900 – 1959), a renowned human rights lawyer of Jewish descent.

As a law student, Lemkin was deeply affected by the horrific massacres of Armenians at the hands of Turkey (1915 – 1923), which moved him in 1933 to write proposals that such atrocities should be declared international crimes.

Following WWII, he dedicated the rest of his career to developing legal precedents that would better protect people under occupation and deter hostile occupiers from committing genocide, which until then had never been used in any law code or legislation.

Lemkin, who later fled war-torn Europe and became a law professor at Duke University, wrote and taught that genocide takes various forms: physical, moral, religious, political, social, biological, cultural, or economic. All of these them are crimes against humanity.

Incredibly, Lemkin’s detractors argued that genocidal crimes happened too seldom to legislate against them and would be too difficult to prosecute.

But Lemkin never gave up. In 1944 his classic 674-page study, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, was published. One of its most crucial chapters dealt with “Occupation Practices” and offered strong recommendations for preventing the genocide Lemkin had witnessed during WWI against the Armenians and in WWII against the Jews. 

In 1948 the United Nations approved the Genocide Convention to protect occupied peoples, thanks to Lemkin’s dedicated advocacy.

Today it is the Palestinians under Israeli occupation who desperately need the protection Lemkin’s principles on genocide gave to the world.

I would respectfully urge Judge Abella to familiarize herself with Lemkin’s work. 

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, Waterloo ON

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