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The 21 century genocide: Would wrongdoings be compatible with democracy?

November 3, 2023 at 7:15 pm

A citizen takes part in a demonstartion to support Gaza in Washington DC, United States on October 18, 2023 [Celal Güneş/Anadolu Agency]

The course of the events taking place in Palestine and on its people is the antitheses of law and freedom. Each and every ‘inalienable’ human right is being violated in Palestine on an hourly basis, minute by minute. They are indeed a plethora of horrific events ravaging Palestine. Perhaps the most tragic, however, is genocide, which is underway right now in Gaza. Genocide is unfolding under the watch of everyone on this planet, with world leaders unwilling to demand an end to it, as well as demonstrating a weak commitment to international law and a rules based international order by failing to call it what it is: Genocide. On the contrary, many actors continue to tout familiar facile comments related to the ‘right to self-defence’ and the importance of adhering to international law, yet the failure  making everyone in the international community to hold Israel accountable to internationally established values and laws; it is a shameful mark, we will never forget.

In the midst of prevailing statements that turn a blind eye to the mass killings and genocide, the targeting of civilians, the use of chemical weapons in densely populated civilian areas, one might wonder: where does international law and international humanitarian law stand on all this? Was not this law a binding slogan that every nation and government promised to abide by in order to maintain global peace and security? Where are human rights and the value of human beings? Have all these values and principles vanished for the sake of pleasing the Israeli State, a State which has been proven to be the orchestrator of a state of apartheid?

EXPLAINER – What war crimes laws apply to the Israel-Palestinian conflict?

The occupying power, Israel, has not only found itself entangled in several shady affairs, but has also boldly contravened– literally – every line in the book of international law, not only since 7 October, but decades before that. The blatant violations of international law have exceeded all limits and have gone beyond imagination. Let us have a look on some of the violations the occupying power, Israel, has been committing recently:

Bombing residential facilities and schools – a clear violation of international law (more than 443 thousand housing units were destroyed making 54 per cent of Gaza housing units either destroyed or damaged by Israeli attacks, in addition to 22 schools which were either fully or partially destroyed).

Bombing medical facilities – including the destruction and damage of more than 107 hospital, clinics and medical centres, in addition to the destruction of 25 ambulances.

Intentionally targeting medical and UN staff –Israeli attacks left 66 doctors and paramedics killed, and injured more than 110, in addition to 35 UN staff.

The unprecedented Israeli bombardment intentionally targeted journalists with the aim of silencing the truth– making the number of journalists killed 32.

The soaring death toll exceeded 8,700 Palestinians, that includes purposefully killing children, women, and the elderly and – (62 per cent of the causalities) bringing the current numbers to: more than 3,718 children, 1,929 women 1,200 elderly killed while, by the time this is published, the numbers will surely be higher.

Cutting off water, electricity, medical supplies and communications – collective punishment that constitutes a war crime by international law.

Displacing citizens from their homes and lands (more than one million 400 thousand civilians forced to leave their homes).

The unabated attacks and bombardment have clear signs of the use of internationally prohibited weapons such as white phosphorous, not to mention the horrendous amount of explosives dropped on Gaza (12 thousand tons of explosives, equal to the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima).

In this context, Israel is an occupying power, yet is clearly violating International Humanitarian Law, as represented in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, particularly, the Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.  And, assuming that this is a war as promoted by Israel, then even war has rules under International Humanitarian Law. Israel must spare the lives of civilians, journalists, medical persons and related infrastructures, including; residential areas, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools and UN grounds. Nonetheless, provision of vital supplies like water, food and medicine remain a priority. Israel should stop the destruction of civilian infrastructure, forced displacement and collective punishments.

READ: Zimbabwe describes Israel’s cutting off water, electricity from Gaza as a war crime

Still, Israel, the occupying power, has been violating International Law long before October of this year. For example, Israel has systematically worked on replacing the indigenous Palestinian population with newcomers (and here we mean settlers and settlements) in the West Bank. This is another violation to international law, as settlements are considered illegal under international law, many of which are even considered illegal under Israeli law.

To add insult to injury, Israeli Forces have, for decades, kidnapped (arrested) 1,913 Palestinian citizens, including 170 minors, 39 women, without trial under the pretext of administrative detention. This number does not account for the thousands of trials in Occupation courts that deny Palestinian defendants representation, making the sheer number of Palestinian hostages (detainees) 5,750, including almost 2,000 Palestinians in the past two weeks.

The list of violations preceding the current events is extensive, serving nothing but broadening the clouds of tension hanging over the region. How can a State excuse its illegal activity, blatant disregard for the rule of law and violation of moral, legal and political obligations? It is dumbfounding how some still argue that it is the only democracy in the region. Would such wrongdoings be compatible with democracy? It might be confusion; but confusion spawns uncertainty, and uncertainty is dangerous, for it increases the risk of a misstep that could go opposite to values and morals.

One might wonder how the baseless propaganda of Israel’s ‘right to self-defence’ could fly! It begs the question: does the Occupying Force have the right to defend its illegal occupation and blockade? Instead of ensuring the safety and security of people under Occupation – which is stated clearly in international law – such positions are granting the Occupation Forces a license to commit apartheid, genocide, further massacres and mass killings.

Outlandish! Disqualifying all the events that preceded the 7 October nullifies one basic element of humanity that every adult is the steward of every child’s life. No child is more important to our future than another! As a matter of fact, any such calls of Israel’s right to self-defence, particularly under such bloodshed and atrocities committed, should be considered a promotion of war crimes. Instead of insisting on propagating this justification of war crimes, enforcing a ceasing-fire, opening humanitarian corridors and launching peace talks should be the top priority.

But you started it on October 7! People cannot just choose one point in history as a starting point, thus erasing the context from which an event arises. The broader context within which the current state of affairs is located is in the midst of the establishment and expansion of a settler colonial state, facilitated by a 75 year-long occupation of historical Palestine, 56 year-long Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a 17 year-long illegal blockade of Gaza. Israel killed thousands before 7 October; targeted children, women and the elderly, built and expanded illegal settlements, confiscated Palestinian lands and demolished homes, oppressed and pirated Palestinian water and natural resources. No one should disqualify the long list of atrocities committed by Israel and limit it to one day; needless to say the long list of Israeli massacres committed against Palestinian citizens since 1948.

READ: Director of New York Office of UN human rights body resigns

Massacres and oppression against the Palestinians has not spared Muslim or Christian. Perhaps people have not seen the continuous attacks by Jewish settlers, protected by Israeli Occupation Forces, against churches, priests, church-goers. The last of which was just last month, when settlers spat on Palestinian Christian church-goers, simply because they were next to their church. As a matter of fact, Israel has been working hard in finding any solution but the two-state solution, believing that it can maintain its Occupation of Palestine forever! This is exactly what the Palestinian leadership has been warning about for a long time … do not kill the hopes for peace.

But “they are using civilians as human shields”! Really, Israel with its highly sophisticated technology and surveillance on every inch in Gaza was unable to provide any proof to confirm these allegations. Very similar to the propaganda spread, stating that the Palestinians are the ones who bombed the Baptist Hospital. The Occupation might be able to fake some images and use Artificial intelligence (AI) – like they did with the 40 babies’ images – yet, the facts suggest that Palestinian home-made rockets have not killed 70 Israelis in more than 20 years; how then, would one rocket kill hundreds of Palestinians? Do they have such highly explosive rockets? The answer is “no”. Israeli fake news, false propaganda and lies do not fly for long, like the assassination of Journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by an Israeli sniper. Israel denied any responsibility and blamed the Palestinians for her murder, and a few months later, it turned out that it was an Israeli sniper.

But “Israel left the Gaza Strip”! Well, Gaza is part and parcel of Palestine. Perhaps Israeli troops are not physically in Gaza yet, since 2007, Israel turned it into the “world’s largest open air prison”, with 2.3 million Palestinians living within 365 square kilometres. People in Gaza have been under land, air and sea illegal blockade that has impeded the movement of people and goods.

At this juncture, it becomes truly distressing to see officials criticising pro-Palestine demonstrations and attributing them to supporting terrorism. Millions from Tokyo to New York, from Sweden to South Africa and Australia … Do they all support terrorism? Do all of these people see something that those who describe them as supporters of terrorism do not see? Examining demonstrations, north and south, east and west, we did not see any sign or indication of any party or political affiliations. Rather, all these crowds spoke up out of conscience, after seeing the horror of the massacres and genocide carried out by Israel. Masses have gathered to show their support for human lives, their support for humanity and their support for dignity, for the basic rights of the Palestinians to live and live freely.

The double standards demonstrated by many leaders can be interpreted as nothing short of a shocking admission that they believe the value of a Palestinian child, woman or citizen is not equal to the value of other citizens. If the killing of innocent children and civilians of Palestine was intentional, then this is a war crime that must be called by what it is. And, if their killing was a “mistake”, then it deserves condemnation from international parties, recognition and an apology.

Responsibility must prevail now; responsibility dictates charting a path forward where enmity must replace amity. However, for this to happen, amity needs peace and peace cannot be made without the meaningful involvement of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine – the Palestinians. As indigenous to the land of Palestine, Palestinians have one and only one aspiration: ending the Occupation and realising the independent State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.

READ: Accused of ‘genocide’ in Gaza and fearing ICC prosecution: US seeks to hide arms deal with Israel

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.