The Genocide Question Plus College Protest Follow-Up

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Liz Wolfe at the Reason: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague is expected to issue a decision today on whether military arms suppliers bear culpability for how the weapons are used.

Nicaragua has asked the United Nations (U.N.) highest court to issue an emergency order that would prevent Germany from giving weapons to Israel. “Appearing before the judges in early April, Nicaragua, a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause, told the court that Germany was not only failing in its obligations to help avoid genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, but was also facilitating crimes with its military assistance,” reports The New York Times. “Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and second only to the United States in providing it with arms.”

Both Germany and Nicaragua are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, in which the U.N. defines genocide as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.” Israel has repeatedly defended itself, saying that it works hard to preserve civilian life in Gaza, despite its military campaign, and that what it is doing to Palestinians does not constitute a genocide.

“In January, the I.C.J. issued separate interim orders requested by South Africa, specifying that Israel must prevent its forces in Gaza from taking actions that are banned under the Genocide Convention, must prevent and punish public statements that constitute incitements to genocide, and must allow more access to humanitarian aid,” reports the Times.

It will take the U.N. several years to issue a full ruling, but note the extraordinary gall of Nicaragua in particular taking issue with Israel’s actions. Nicaragua is no paragon of virtue; Daniel Ortega’s regime has crushed dissent and brutally suppressed protests while stripping Nicaraguans of press freedoms and cracking down on the opposition party. The regime has forced many Catholics and evangelicals into exile. “Indigenous people in northeast Nicaragua say armed settlers are pushing them off their land,” reports The Associated Press; Ortega supports the settlers and shields them from consequences. Rule of law is nonexistent.

It’s not clear that the United Nations ruling will do much of anything, or that the common refrain of “genocide” has sufficient evidence behind it. That’s not stopping people from repeating it over and over again, though.

College students won’t stop:
Students at Columbia University have now taken over Hamilton Hall and started barricading it. They claim they’ve renamed it Hind’s Hall, which honors Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old girl who was killed by the Israeli military. Some students have been suspended by administrators, and the campus has been closed to non-students and nonessential personnel, but the protests are still ongoing.

Students protest at a campus in US.

“Pro-Palestinian protesters at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) are being detained Tuesday morning after the university sent them a demand to vacate their encampment,” reports CNN. Also: “Portland State University (PSU) officials have asked the city’s police department to help remove dozens of protesters who they said had broken into and occupied a university library on Monday evening.”

Six protesters were arrested at Tulane University yesterday, as well as nine at Gainesville’s University of Florida campus. “Officers arrested over 90 people, including 54 students, at a protest encampment on the lawn at Virginia Tech’s Graduate Life Center,” reports CNN. More than 100 protesters were arrested Monday at the University of Texas at Austin. Police officers arrested 17 people at the University of Utah, as well. The Washington Post reports that police at Arizona State University removed the hijabs of at least four Muslims who were arrested during a protest this weekend. And a standoff is happening at Yale this morning, as this piece goes live.

What’s really going on here? “One very annoying thing about the way all this is covered is the way one angry group is treating these students as deranged Jew-hating zealots, while another is treating them as exemplars of pure altruistic virtue,” writes Jesse Singal over at his Substack. “They’re neither! They’re college students! A lot of them have no idea exactly what they’re asking for (something about the…S&P 500?), and are much more driven by outrage that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed. It’s fine to both laud them for the strength of their convictions while also acknowledging that convictions are a very easy thing for a (most likely privileged) 20-year-old to have and to signal at low cost.”

I think this is broadly correct. Similarly, expect lots of takes in the coming days about how we might be heading for violence on campus, akin to the Kent State killing on May 4, 1970. But I don’t believe this is quite right—detailed here—in part because these are mighty privileged kids with a lot to lose (and, most likely, summer internships to show up for). Their tactics are not similar to what transpired at Kent State, or even during the George Floyd Summer protests in 2020.