Gaza: Silence is not an option

(AP Photo/Majed Hamdan)

United Nations

Richard Falk – Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
9 December 2008

GENEVA — In recent days the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid.

And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is long past the time when talk suffices. As AbuZayd has written, “the chasm between word and deed” with respect to upholding human rights in occupied Palestine creates a situation where “radicalism and extremism easily take root.” The UN is obligated to respond under these conditions. Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing their support politically and economically for Israel’s punitive approach.

Protective action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in view of the emergency situation that is producing a humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding day by day. However difficult politically, it is time to act. At the very least, an urgent effort should be made at the United Nations to implement the agreed norm of a ‘responsibility to protect’ a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity.

In a similar vein, it would seem mandatory for the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law. As AbuZayd has declared, “This is a humanitarian crisis deliberately imposed by political actors.”

It should be noted that the situation worsened in recent days due to the breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel that had been observed for several months by both sides. The truce was maintained by Hamas despite the failure of Israel to fulfill its obligation under the agreement to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza.

The recent upsurge of violence occurred after an Israeli incursion that killed several alleged Palestinian militants within Gaza. It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the UN or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.

Shortly after writing this letter, Falk was expelled from Israel:

Days After Calling Israeli Blockade of Gaza “A Crime Against Humanity,” UN Human Rights Investigator Richard Falk Detained, Expelled from Israel

Watch this entire interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman – December 17, 2008:

The United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused Israel of “unprecedented and deeply regrettable” treatment of UN human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk was deported from Israel Monday after being detained at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for twenty hours. Falk’s detention and expulsion came days after he condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a “flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law” and “Crime Against Humanity.”

(Part 1)

(Part 2)


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7 thoughts on “Gaza: Silence is not an option

  1. I’ve just been watching some of the coverage of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

    Ehud Barak had the nerve to say in his news conference that Israel is seeking peace — by bombing the fuck out of Gaza? — and something about all people deserving a peaceful and safe life — except the Palestinians, apparently.

  2. Zooey, I think I heard him actually say they were entitled to live in tranquility.. Why are they entitled to peace and tranquility, and the Palestineans deserve to be boxed in, cut off from all they need to survive, and then destroyed like dogs in order to achieve their ‘peace and tranquility’.. I don’t believe they see the Palestineans as human beings, therefore they are not entitled to anything – including life.
    I know this history goes back a LOT of years, and there is great pain on all sides for actions taken by both Israelis and Palestineans, but there is nothing simple about any of this, and neither side is blameless.
    What Israel is doing now is overkill, and heinous beyond words..
    It doesn’t help when the press paints all Palestineans as ‘terrorists’, a word meant to bring about a strong emotional response globally, and every thing they do to fight back is seen as a terrorist act, and yet the Israelis are painted as just doing what they need to protect themselves (even when all those acts are meant to terrorize Palestineans throughout Gaza – let alone kill indiscriminately no matter what they say about ‘targeting’ terrorists).

    What Israel is doing is creating even more generations of hate and rage against them, and not just in Gaza.

  3. Muse, the video is on MSNBC, but I don’t know how to post it. In the video section of “Explore” right under the headline section.

  4. Here is one more article to read from The Nation:

    To Live and Die in Gaza by Laila al-Arian

    This is another story with a very human face.. She writes of her grandfather and his life journey to find his way back to Gaza, only to find himself in the midst of this bombardment, and she is unable to contact him.
    It’s a very compelling story.

  5. Zooey and Nwmuse,
    You gals certainly performed awesomely today with the reporting on Gaza. I’ve been reading and checking different places and I honestly think that there was more information from more sources here than almost anywhere. TP didn’t even drop a thread on the ground assault (although they may have a reason), and you beat them to the Franken story this evening too.

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