A petition calling on the United Nations to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with crimes against humanity is gaining momentum.
Christians United For Israel, a Christian Zionist organization, which began the petition drive in 2009, announced Wednesday it had garnered more than 133,000 signatures, including those of writer and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Pastor John Hagee, the founder and chairman of CUFI .
Hagee is a controversial figure in Jewish circles. Some see him as an unwavering supporter of Israel while others bristle at his ultra-conservative comments and positions.
“There is incredible support for this [petition] effort,” said CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern.
The petition calls for Ahmadinejad to be charged under Article III Part C of the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, specifically for the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
Incitement is one of five crimes allowed for under the convention. The others are genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide and complicity in genocide.
The convention, which was passed in 1948 to outlaw actions similar to the Holocaust, defines genocide as either killing members of a group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on a 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; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
According to Morgenstern, Hagee initiated the petition drive following an appearance by Wiesel on his show.
“Wiesel said during the show that Ahmadinejad should be indicted. That planted the seed in our heads and we decided to build grass roots support for that effort,” said Morgenstern.
The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes such as those spelled out in the convention. Further, the U.N. Security Council has the power to refer violations of the convention to the ICC.
Ahmadinejad has enraged Jews and non-Jews alike in the past with calls to wipe Israel off the map, his statements that Holocaust did not happen and support for Holocaust deniers.
Last week, when he was in New York to speak at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, he accused the United States or orchestrating the 9/11 attacks “to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.”
Morgenstern said CUFI noticed an uptick in interest in the petition immediately following Ahmadinejad’s speech.
“For a while there we seeing about a thousand signatures an hour,” he said.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)