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Official Resigns Over UN Response To Israeli War On Gaza

Above photo: Craig Mokhiber then the New York deputy director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke about the findings of a global survey in 2009. Paulo Filgueiras/U.N.

A ‘Textbook Case Of Genocide.’

Craig Mokhiber called out “the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging.”

Human rights attorney Craig Mokhiber left his United Nations post with a resignation letter excoriating the U.N. response to Israel’s devastating war on the Gaza Strip—a four-page document that has been circulating on social media this week.

Mokhiber, who has spent decades with the U.N., was serving as the New York director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). His letter to the agency’s leader, Volker Türk, is dated October 28—when Israeli forces were shifting to the “second stage” of a war that has killed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in retaliation for a deadly Hamas-led attack on Israel.

“Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it,” Mokhiber wrote. “As someone who has investigated human rights in Palestine since the 1980s, lived in Gaza as a U.N. human rights adviser in the 1990s, and carried out several human rights missions to the country before and since, this is deeply personal to me.”

“We have lost a lot in this abandonment, not least our own global credibility. But the Palestinian people have sustained the biggest losses as a result of our failures.”

“I also worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. In each case, when the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenseless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocities, of protection of the vulnerable, and of accountability for perpetrators. And so it has been with successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the U.N.,” he continued. “High commissioner, we are failing again.”

The attorney asserted that “the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs, and coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military, leaves no room for doubt or debate.”

While the death toll in Gaza has risen—topping 8,500 on Tuesday, including over 3,500 children—hundreds of legal scholars have said Israel’s war could amount to genocide. Human rights defenders have sounded the alarm over recent comments from Israeli leaders and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an “explicit call to genocide” in a Saturday speech.

As Mokhiber noted: “In Gaza, civilian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and medical institutions are wantonly attacked as thousands of civilians are massacred. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, homes are seized and reassigned based entirely on race, and violent settler pogroms are accompanied by Israeli military units. Across the land, apartheid rules.”

Echoing experts including Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal, the ex-U.N. director wrote that “this is a textbook case of genocide.”

“What’s more, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, are wholly complicit in the horrific assault,” he stressed. Mokhiber also slammed U.S.-based social media companies for “suppressing the voices of human rights defenders while amplifying pro-Israel propaganda” and the “Western corporate media, increasingly captured and state-adjacent,” for “continuously dehumanizing Palestinians to facilitate the genocide, and broadcasting propaganda for war and advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence.”

In addition to supplying Israel with billions of dollars in military support, the U.S. earlier this month vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza and advocating for “humanitarian pauses” to let aid into the strip. While the U.N. General Assembly on Friday passed a resolution—opposed by the United States and Israel—stressing the importance of protecting civilians and calling for “an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” it is nonbinding.

As Mokhiber wrote:

High commissioner, I came to this organization first in the 1980s, because I found in it a principled, norm-based institution that was squarely on the side of human rights, including in cases where the powerful U.S., U.K., and Europe were not on our side. While my own government, its subsidiarity institutions, and much of the U.S. media were still supporting or justifying South African apartheid, Israeli oppression, and Central American death squads, the U.N. was standing up for the oppressed peoples of those lands. We had international law on our side. We had human rights on our side. We had principle on our side. Our authority was rooted in our integrity. But no more.

In recent decades, key parts of the U.N. have surrendered to the power of the U.S., and to fear of the Israel lobby, to abandon these principles, and to retreat from international law itself. We have lost a lot in this abandonment, not least our own global credibility. But the Palestinian people have sustained the biggest losses as a result of our failures.

The attorney also argued that “the path to atonement is clear,” and “Palestinians and their allies, human rights defenders of every stripe, Christian and Muslim organizations, and progressive Jewish voices saying ‘not in our name,’ are all leading the way.” He pointed to the hundreds of people who were arrested Friday in a Jewish-led protest at New York’s Grand Central Station.

“In the immediate term,” he said, “we must work for an immediate cease-fire and an end to the long-standing siege on Gaza, stand up against the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank (and elsewhere), document the genocidal assault in Gaza, help to bring massive humanitarian aid and reconstruction to the Palestinians, take care of our traumatized colleagues and their families, and fight like hell for a principled approach in the U.N.’s political offices.”

As for long-term goals, Mokhiber provided a 10-point list that included disarmament, mediation, return and compensation, and “the establishment of a single, democratic, secular state in all of historic Palestine, with equal rights for Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and, therefore, the dismantling of the deeply racist, settler-colonial project and an end to apartheid across the land.”

While sharply criticizing the United Nations, the attorney also said that he found “hope in those parts of the U.N. that have refused to compromise the organization’s human rights principles in spite of enormous pressures to do so,” acknowledging the special rapporteurs, commissions, treaty body experts, and staff who “have continued to stand up for the human rights of the Palestinian people, even as other parts of the U.N. (even at the highest levels) have shamefully bowed their heads to power.”

As allegations of Israeli war crimes continued to mount on Tuesday, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson James Elder said during a press briefing that “Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It’s a living hell for everyone else.” His agency and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are calling for an immediate cease-fire.

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