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University of California’s Hastings College of the Law Professor George Bisharat readily admits that he wasn’t sure he knew enough to write about U.S. sanctions against Iraq. And this comes from a man who has written many articles and a book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has lived, studied and traveled throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But in a new article for the University of Iowa College of Law’s Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems journal, Bisharat, 47, posits that sanctions against Iraq have come to constitute genocide within the meaning of 1948′s U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. “We are committing genocide. It shames me and it galls me deeply that no one knows much about this; there is no meaningful opposition,” said Bisharat. Marcella David, a law professor at the University of Iowa, had heard of Bisharat through a colleague and presented the topic to him for inclusion in the upcoming May issue. “In order to criticize you have to engage, as opposed to ignore. I thought he’d be a good fit,” said David. Bisharat’s article will be one in a series the journal will run on the topic. Bisharat admitted that while he didn’t know much about the topic at first, he knew it was “something I ought to know about.” He got to work and became fascinated by the policies behind the longest comprehensive, multilateral sanctions in modern history. “The more I learned, the more outraged — no, actually, the more shocked I was at what I learned,” he said. According to the U.N.’s convention on genocide in 1948, “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: • Killing members of the group; • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. In his article, Bisharat writes that “Sanctions avoid many of the costs of military force — generally not requiring the massive expenditures of funds that military exploits entail, and almost never involving the politically costly spectacle of body bags and tearful burials of native sons that wars do. … If sanctions are enforced on the other side of the world, as they have been in the case of Iraq, it is all the more likely that their impact will almost entirely escape public consciousness in the enforcing country.” Numerous articles have been written in opposition to the sanctions, but Bisharat says that as far as he knows, no one else has written about them against the backdrop of the 1948 convention. Bisharat expects to receive criticism for the article. “My goal is not to organize the prosecutions of U.S. officials, but I want to stimulate a discussion and debate,” he said. Bisharat asked for input from his peers, mainly at Hastings. “My colleagues may not have accepted in full what I wrote, but most are going away better informed,” he said. By opening the channels of discussion within his peer group, he noticed that “people were perceptive and critical with their comments. There was a great deal of interest over this paper.” Before becoming a professor at Hastings, Bisharat was a deputy public defender for four years in San Francisco. He says his experience in defending the city’s homeless factored into his interest in this latest topic: “I am accustomed to representing the under-represented.”

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