Lessons on genocide from Xinjiang and Gaza

Lessons on genocide from Xinjiang and Gaza

Nader Hashemi and James A. Millward write:

Days before the International Court of Justice’s initial ruling late last month that found there was a plausible risk of genocide being committed by Israel in Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council conducted its “universal periodic review” of China’s human rights record. China’s abusive treatment of Uyghur and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang province—which many governments around the world, including both U.S. administrations under Donald Trump and Joe Biden, have officially called a genocide—was the central focus. In 2022, a long-awaited report by outgoing U.N. High Commission for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet determined that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of perhaps more than a million people in Xinjiang “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

Of course, the Biden administration has taken a different view on the question of genocide in Gaza. “The charge of genocide is meritless,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the case against Israel at the ICJ, brought by South Africa. White House spokesman John Kirby repeated those talking points but went even further, calling the charges “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” Even after the ICJ’s ruling ordered Israel to abide by provisional measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, given what the court called a “real and imminent risk” of violations to the rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention, the Biden administration rejected the court’s judgement. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and France have replicated American behavior by condemning genocide in Xinjiang while ruling out its possibility in Gaza. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for example, parroted Washington by calling the ICJ’s case against Israel “completely unjustified and wrong.”

Despite a clear U.N. legal definition of genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention—based on “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such”—why is it that many countries condemning genocide by China are simultaneously defending Israel from such charges, while many of those condemning Israel are also defending China? Do so many countries, in fact, have starkly different views about genocide, the “crime of crimes, the darkest of humanity’s inhumanity”? Why this genocide Rashomon? Comparing events in Xinjiang and Gaza not only illuminates this hypocrisy and double standard, but reveals the hole at the heart of the supposedly rules-based international order. [Continue reading…]

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