Tom Arms’ World Review

Donald Trump and NATO

While NATO and its partners pull together to protect world shipping it has emerged that ex-president Donald Trump has been doing his best to pull the Western Alliance apart.

According to French EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for EU defense issues, Trump told commission president Ursula von der Leyen that NATO is dead and that America would refuse to defend Europe.

M. Breton, told the European Parliament this week, that the threat was issued in 2020 during a private bilateral at the World Economic Forum between Trump and Ms. Van der Leyen.

According to Breton, Trump told the commission president: “You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and support you. NATO is dead, and we will leave. We will quit NATO.”

Trump then made reference to van Der Leyen’s previous job as German Defense Minister and added: “By the way, you owe me $400 billion because you didn’t pay. You Germans, you had to pay for defense.”

Trump is odds-on favourite to win Monday’s Iowa caucus for the Republican nomination.

Israel

Israel was the first to sign the 1948 Convention on Genocide. This is not surprising as the international law was a direct result of the horrors of The Holocaust.

This week, however, the Israeli government is appearing before the International Court of Justice at The Hague charged with the same crime that they levelled against Hitler.

The case is being brought by South Africa’s ANC government. It should be noted that there is little love between the ANC and Israel.

There is historic animosity between Jewish state and the ANC. Israel provided South African Whites with nuclear weapons technology and Mossad and the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) regularly exchanged information. Many South Africans also believe that the Likud government’s policies on the West Bank and Gaza are at least partially modelled on the Bantustans and pass laws of the apartheid era.

So, it is unsurprising that the South African government took the lead this week in pursuing a charge of “genocide” in the International Court of Justice in relation to Israel’s attack on Gaza. They claim that Israeli attacks and blockades that have so far cost 23,357 lives qualify as genocide under the 1948 convention that Israel was so keen to sign.

The lead lawyer, Adila Hassian, told the 17 judges of the ICJ that Israel’s actions show “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide.

At the end of the first day of a two-day hearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted: “We are fighting terrorists. We are fighting lies. Today we saw an upside down world. Israel Is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide.”

The 1948 convention states that “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide. It further states that acts of genocide include: “killing members of the group; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group; preventing births and forcibly transferring children of the group.”

Usually the ICJ takes months to make a ruling. But South Africa has asked for an interim ruling which means that a decision may be published as early as next week.

ICJ rulings are final. There is no appeal. But they are not enforceable. Russia, for instance, was recently branded guilty of genocide in Ukraine. Putin ignored it. If the court rules against Israel Netanyahu will likely do the same. But Israel’s democratic mantle will be severely damaged.

Ecuador

Ecuador was South America’s oasis of peace. After this week’s state of emergency it can no longer claim the title.

It started when notorious drug kingpin Aolfo “Fito” Macias escaped from prison while being transferred. He had been serving 34 years for murder and drug trafficking.

Macias is leader of the drug cartel Los Choneros which has linked to the drug trafficking networks in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.  The gang members are scattered throughout Ecuador’s streets and prison system. As soon as they learned of Macias’s escape the prisoners started to riot in support of their leader and the gang members at large started attacking police stations.

Three thousand police and military personnel have been deployed to find Macias and crackdown on the gang violence. President Daniel Naboa has named 22 gangs as terrorists.

Gang violence in Central and South America is one of the main reasons given by asylum seekers flooding across America’s southern border. The problems in Ecuador add to the problems on the US southern border which in turn adds to the problems of the Biden Administration. And because House Republicans are trying aid to Ukraine to a crackdown on immigration, Ecuador’s problems impact on Europe and the rest of the world.

France

Europe’s millennials and Generation Z have a new pin-up – Gabriel Attal who this week was appointed Prime Minister of France.

The younger political generation has complained loudly at the baby boomers are clinging to power. Biden is 81, Trump 77, Putin 71, Olof Scholz 65, to name and age just a few.

Well now they have a fresh young 34-year-old face in the Hotel Matignon and at President Emmanuel Macron’s right-hand. And he ticks another woke box as France’s first openly gay prime minister.

Attal replaces 60-year-old Elisabeth Borne, who had made herself unpopular pushing through Macron’s increase in the pension age.

The new prime minister has his political roots in the centre-left of Macron’s En Marche. But like Macron he bends with the political wind and at the moment that means shifting to the right of the political spectrum. In his last post – education minister – he won praise for banning girls from wearing the Muslim abaya in French classrooms.

This shift to the right could be interpreted as Macron’s answer to Marine Le Pen’s continuing lead in French polls. Macron is especially worried about the European Parliamentary elections in June.

But the problem Macron faces is that the electorate will view the appointment of Attal as mere window dressing.

Germany

Meanwhile, across the border in Germany, a new political party has emerged which claims to be on both the left and right wing of the political spectrum.

The party was launched this week by 54-year-old Sahra Wagenknecht. Not one to hide her light, Ms Wagenknecht has called the party the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance for Reason and Fairness, or BSW for short.

Ms Wagenknecht was born and raised in East Germany and joined the communist SED shortly before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. In post-Cold War reunified Germany she joined the left-wing Der Linke Party.

Ms Wagenknecht says her new party will be left-wing on economic issues and right-wing on social issues. This translates as spending more and stopping immigrants.

Ms Wagenknecht is well-known and personally popular with German voters, especially those in the former East Germany. At the moment she has only ten seats in the Bundestag, but German political pundits believe that she could soon start pulling votes away from the far-right Afd (Alternative for Deutschland).

 

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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One Comment

  • The big issue with the legal definition of genocide is intent. It’s not enough to have done things that look like genocide, it has to be demonstrably deliberate. In the case brought to the ICJ by South Africa, intent appears to be there for all to see; the Israeli president, numerous government ministers, and members of the Knesset (MKs) have said things like “Palestinians are animals”, “all Palestinians in Gaza are to blame for what Hamas did on October 7” and “Gaza should be obliterated and made uninhabitable for humans”.
    These kinds of statement have stirred up the desire for revenge among the population of Israel, and acted as dog-whistles for extremists, including those within Israel’s army and air force for whom they legitimise what many say is indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and the deliberate deprivation of food, water, and other essentials, yet there are claims that they don’t prove intent to commit genocide, because even when they come from senior government figures, they aren’t ‘official’ policy. It will be interesting to see what the ICJ makes of that argument.

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