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UN rights official quits over 'genocide' of Palestinians

Top UN human rights official quits over 'genocide' of Palestinians
3 min read
01 November, 2023
The UN has found itself powerless in applying a ceasefire as Israel's ground invasion of Gaza escalated earlier this week.
Mokhiber directly attacks Western powers for the loss of lives of thousands of Palestinians for years and since October 7 [GETTY]

A senior United Nations human rights official has quit over the body's inability to prevent a "text-book case of genocide" against Palestinians in Gaza.

Craig Mokhiber, who was the director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), wrote to the head of the commission, Volker Turk, on 28 October to express his disdain at the UN’s failure to stop decades-long persecution and murder of Palestinians by Israel.

He also said the UK and US governments were wholly complicit in Israel's brutal bombardment and siege on Gaza, which has killed over 8,800 Palestinians, including 3,648 children.  

"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 on 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," Mokhiber wrote. 

"Not only are these governments refusing to meet their treaty obligations 'to ensure respect' for the Geneva Conventions, but they are in fact actively arming the assault, providing economic and intelligence support, and giving political and diplomatic cover for Israel’s atrocities." 

Whole neighbourhoods have been razed to the ground in Gaza since Israel's bombing began on 7 October, including strikes on the enclave's largest refugee camp, Jabalia, which killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians. 

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"Once again we are seeing a genocide unfold before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it," he wrote in the address to Turk. 

He cited the genocides against Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, Yazidis and Rohingya Muslims as previous occasions where the UN failed to intervene to prevent mass atrocities or hold perpetrators accountable.  

"And so it has been with successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the UN," he said.  

Human rights group, Amnesty International, released a detailed report in 2022 slamming Israel for enforcing an 'apartheid' system on Palestinians. It documents unlawful killings, land and property confiscation, and denial of nationality and citizenship as evidence of Israel's desire to maintain Jewish hegemony. 

Mokhiber, a human rights lawyer, has documented human rights abuses in Palestine since the 1980s and went on to work in Gaza as a human rights advisor in the 1990s. 

In the letter, he sets out a case for a "norm-based UN position" which would include abandoning the "Oslo paradigm and its two-state solution" in reference to the 1990s Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, bartered by the US. 

Instead, he writes that the UN should propose a single state: "We must support 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 end to apartheid across the land." 

The UN agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, has had 67 staff members killed by Israeli air strikes since 7 October, with three people killed in the past day. The head of the agency said this week that the level of human suffering in Gaza was "unbearable".