Jared Kushner is back in the news. He has touched a nerve with some comments about what can or should be done to ease the humanitarian challenges in Gaza.

The comments appear to have been made Feb. 15 at a Harvard Kennedy School of Government event about current events in the Middle East. They were reported by the Guardian last week and have since garnered much attention. Much of the online criticism has been wildly dishonest but unintentionally gives us a window into a concept that may not survive the discourse around the current war: genocide.

At one point in the 90-minute discussion with Harvard’s Tarek Masoud, including a brief question-and-answer portion, Kushner mentioned the potential for Palestinian economic development in addition to a political and security program that would give the people of Gaza stability. He noted how valuable the Strip’s waterfront property could be. This comment was taken out of its clear context—that Palestinians themselves would benefit from economic development—along with another line in which Kushner suggested that if Egypt refused to temporarily take in Gazans on humanitarian grounds, Israel should do so in order to get them out of harm’s way until parts of southern Gaza were safer for civilians.

For reasons that are not difficult to assess, Democratic Party figures claimed these remarks meant Kushner was advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza so he could build waterfront property. Rep. Gerry Connolly called it “ethnic cleansing at its worst.” The phrase was echoed by Bernie Sanders adviser Jeremy Slevin, Obama national security spokesman Tommy Vietor, and a host of others. Slevin compared Kushner’s comments unfavorably to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s obsessive promotion of the blood libel that Israel is committing “genocide,” the new left’s favorite form of Holocaust inversion.

This incident really is the pinnacle of the “genocide” hysteria, which has been building for some time. Kushner is accused of ethnic cleansing for advocating two outcomes: one, that Palestinian household wealth goes through the roof thanks to a prospering Palestinian-run Gaza Strip; two, that Israel give every internally displaced Palestinian a piece of Israeli land to live on until Gaza has been liberated from its Iranian colonial oppressors, Hamas.

I can assure you that those persecuting the Jews of Europe in the 20th century did not loudly and publicly wish for Jewish wealth to skyrocket as a result of the war.

But that’s because Holocaust inversion is a literal description of this trick. Genocide, like apartheid before it, is an explicitly defined crime and one of which Israel is obviously not guilty. Israel is fighting a war against an army that has made unprecedented use of civilian shields and yet the IDF has achieved what is likely a lower civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio than has been reached in any remotely similar theaters of combat. Whatever the inverse of ethnic cleansing is, that’s what Israel is doing.

The question of why AOC and so many others insist on leveling such a serious false accusation isn’t the most pressing aspect of the controversy, but it does have some relevance. After all, the end result of this campaign is going to be the delegitimization of the “genocide” accusation once and for all. And that does comport with the goals of the anti-Israel crowd: If “genocide,” the category of crime created to explain what happened to the Jews, is rendered meaningless, then the Holocaust loses its force and so does the victim status of the Jewish people.

That would also mean that the 20th century’s blood-and-soil nationalism, which is gaining favor on the left in the form of “decolonization” and other variations on “the Jews will not replace us,” would see apologists on both sides of the political aisle grow in number and influence.

The tragedy is that for those who may consider themselves humanitarians and thus justify the accusation on the grounds that it will force intervention in a crisis, it will not have been necessary to shred the concept of genocide.

Raphael Lemkin, the man whose mantle these “humanitarians” claim, saw their machinations coming a mile away. In his 1946 essay on the concept, Lemkin made clear that the prosecution of genocide was made possible by the fact that there were already existing international crimes—crimes that justified foreign intervention. There were treaties governing how countries could expect their own nationals to be treated abroad, for example, as well as the minority treaties signed after World War I. “Again, the declaration of the Eighth International Conference of American States provides that any persecution on account of racial or religious motives which makes it impossible for a group of human beings to live decently is contrary to the political and judicial systems of America,” Lemkin wrote. “The Charter of the United Nations Organization also provides for the international protection of human rights, indicating that the denial of such rights by any state is a matter of concern to all mankind.”

Those who have deliberately ruined Lemkin’s legacy, as well as those who have unintentionally done so by dint of their self-image as humanitarians, have set back the cause of true humanitarianism a century or more. And the consequences will not be pretty.

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