Statement by Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights for the Palestininan Territories, on Israel’s Agression in Gaza. In an unprecedented move, Israel expelled Falk from Israel on Dec. 17, 2008.
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.
Such a flurry of denunciations 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 enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish the 1.5 million Gazans for political developments within the strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as set forth in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It is long past time when talk suffices. The UN is obligated to respond under these conditions. Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing their support politically and economically for the Israeli punitive approach, and even at this stage by passivity. In light of such persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life and in view of the emergency situation that could produce an outright humanitarian catastrophe any day, 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.
It should be noted that the breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel 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 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.