Palestine: Preventing a Genocide in Gaza and a New “Nakba”

Over twenty United Nations independent experts* reiterated their concerns about an ongoing genocide and a second Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, refering to the mass exodus of Palestinians following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

“Grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the aftermath of 7 October, particularly in Gaza, point to a genocide in the making”, the UN experts said.

They illustrated evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, overt intent to “destroy the Palestinian people under occupation”, along with loud calls for a ‘second Nakba’.

They also denounced the “use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure”.

“We are deeply distressed at the failure of Israel to agree to – and the unwillingness of the international community to press more decisively for – an immediate ceasefire. The failure to urgently implement a ceasefire risks this situation spiralling towards a genocide conducted with 21st century means and methods of warfare,” the experts warned.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days.”


Genocidal and Dehumanising Rhetoric

The experts also expressed alarm over discernibly genocidal and dehumanising rhetoric coming from senior Israeli government officials, as well as some professional groups and public figures, calling for the “total destruction”, and “erasure” of Gaza, the need to “finish them all” and force Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem into Jordan.

The experts warned that Israel has demonstrated it has the military capacity to implement such criminal intentions.

“Many of us already raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza.” Indeed, on 2 November, seven United Nations rapporteurs raised the alarm about this risk, warning that time was running out “to prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

“We are deeply disturbed by the failure of governments to heed our call and to achieve an immediate ceasefire. We are also profoundly concerned about the support of certain governments for Israel’s strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza, and the failure of the international system to mobilise to prevent genocide,” they said.


Respect for international humanitarian law

The bombardment and siege of Gaza have reportedly killed over 11,000 people, injured more than 27,000 and displaced 1.6 million persons since 7 October 2023.

To the experts, Israel is strengthening… tightening of its 16-year unlawful blockade of Gaza, which has prevented people from escaping and left them without food, water, medicine and fuel for weeks now, despite international appeals to provide access for critical humanitarian aid.”

“As we previously said, intentional starvation amounts to a war crime,” the experts said. The  destruction of housing units, as well as hospitals, schools, mosques, bakeries, water pipes, sewage and electricity networks threaten to make the continuation of Palestinian life in Gaza impossible.

“Such egregious violations cannot be justified in the name of self-defense after attacks by Hamas on 7 October, which we have condemned in the strongest possible terms,” the experts said.

“In order to be legitimate, Israel’s response must be strictly within the framework of international humanitarian law,”


Escalation of Violence in the West Bank

The experts also raised the alarm about the escalation of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, by soldiers and armed settlers. Since 7 October 2023, at least 190 Palestinians have been killed, more than 2,700 injured, and over 1,100 individuals displaced in the occupied West Bank.

On 9 November, Israeli forces also bombed, for the second time, the Jenin refugee camp with heavy artillery and airstrikes, killing at least 14 Palestinians.

According to the experts, “The increasingly coercive environment has also led to forcible displacement of several communities of pastoralists and Bedouin People in the Jordan Valley and south of the Hebron Hills.”


International Community’s Responsibility in Preventing Genocide

“The international community has an obligation to prevent atrocity crimes, including genocide, and should immediately consider all diplomatic, political and economic measures to that end,” the experts said. They urged immediate action by UN Member States and the UN system as a whole.

In the short-term, the experts reiterated their call to Israel and Hamas to implement an immediate ceasefire, and:

  1. Allow unimpeded delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza;
  2. Ensure the unconditional, safe and secure release of the hostages taken by Hamas;
  3. Ensure that Palestinians arbitrarily detained by Israel are released immediately;
  4. Open humanitarian corridors toward the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Israel, especially for those that have been most affected by this war, the sick, persons with disabilities, older persons, pregnant women and children;

They also recommended:

  1. The deployment of an international protective presence in the occupied Palestinian territory under the supervision of the UN;
  2. Collaboration of all parties with the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the investigation opened in March 2021, as well as crimes arising from the recent events, underlining that the crimes committed today are partly due to a lack of deterrence and continued impunity;
  3. Implement an arms embargo on all warring parties;
  4. Address the underlying causes of the conflict by ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

“The international community, including not only States but also non-State actors such as businesses, must do everything it can to immediately end the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people, and ultimately end Israeli apartheid and occupation of the Palestinian territory,” the experts said.

“We remind Member States that what is at stake is not only the fate of Israelis and Palestinians, but a serious conflagration of the conflict in the region, leading to more human rights violations and suffering of innocent civilians,” they said.


Les experts signataires : Francesca Albanese,  Margaret Satterthwaite,Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi Surya Deva,  Ravindran Daniel (Chair-Rapporteur), Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Jovana Jezdimirovic RanitoCarlos Salazar CoutoBarbara G. Reynolds(Chair), Bina D’CostaDominique DayCatherine Namakula Pedro Arrojo-AgudoOlivier De Schutter,  Farida ShaheedDamilola Olawuyi (Chairperson), Robert McCorquodale (Vice-Chairperson), Elżbieta KarskaFernanda Hopenhaym, and Pichamon YeophantongSiobhán Mullally,; Livingstone Sewanyana,; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, ; Ashwini K.P. ; Paula Gaviria Betancur, ; Mary Lawlor, ; Claudia Mahler, ; Ben Saul, ; Irene Khan

* UN independent experts, also known as special rapporteurs, are individuals appointed by the Human Rights Council to investigate and report on specific human rights issues or situations. They serve in their personal capacity and are not paid for their work. Their responsibilities include conducting independent investigations, preparing and submitting reports to the HRC and the General Assembly, and advocating for the protection of human rights. These experts play a crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.

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