Summary: world opinion is moving strongly against Israel as it continues its massive military assault on Gaza and from the MENA region comes a request to the UN that it deem what is being inflicted on Palestinians a genocide.
On Tuesday the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a ceasefire in the Gaza war. It was noteworthy that several countries that had previously abstained or supported Israel, amongst them staunch allies like Canada, shifted their position. As US President Joe Biden warned, Israel is steadily losing global support because of what he called the IDF’s “indiscriminate bombing.”
Just ten countries voted with Israel: the US, Austria and Czech Republic were the most prominent.
Twenty three countries abstained among them the UK, Germany and Ukraine. That the first two mentioned did so represents another shift. For Ukraine, despite its increasingly precarious military situation and the need to keep the US onside, choosing to abstain may be the result of lingering resentment that the Israelis have not shown much in the way of support to President Zelensky.
Arab states voted with one voice in support of the resolution.
The number of Palestinians killed since the 7 October Hamas attack stands at nearly 18,000 with close to 50,000 wounded. That is in Gaza. Al Jazeera reports that In the West Bank the IDF and settler vigilante attacks have killed at least 275. The official death toll on the Israeli side from the 7 October attack is 1,157.
On 11 December representatives from human rights organisations, parliamentarians and experts from 15 countries across the Middle East and North Africa wrote to UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis: “(we) are writing to you today to request your immediate action to recognize and declare Israel’s atrocities during its military assault on Gaza as constituting a genocide in the making.”
The term “genocide” is one that MENA leaders have thus far eschewed. What makes the letter noteworthy is that roughly one-third of the signatories come from Bahrain and of that number ten are serving members of parliament. The parliament itself functions as a rubber stamp for the ruling Al Khalifa family. And the Al Khalifa are very much constrained in any foreign policy initiatives by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is unlikely then that the letter could have gone forward without prior approval from those two states for whom Bahrain has often proved a stalking horse.
After noting the numbers killed and wounded thus far, the letter lays out in clear and unequivocal terms the destruction of Gaza and its people:
(The) unprecedented number of causalities in Gaza is taking place alongside vast and systematic destruction and targeting of almost all kinds of civilian infrastructure including schools, universities, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, churches, cultural centres, homes, residential high-rise buildings, shelters, media offices, private businesses, industrial facilities, agricultural lands and greenhouses, international organizations, and even United Nations’ facilities and premises.
This is all in addition to forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of Gazans and imposing a full siege on the entire enclave that includes cutting off all electricity and fuel supplies and banning the entry of food, water and medicine except to a fraction of a bare minimum.
These acts together are rendering Gaza uninhabitable and constitute a clear genocide in the making aimed at destroying a group in part or whole; creating conditions that would bring about the group’s collapse; and inflict serious physical or mental damage on the group.
There are clear and unquestionable features of Israel’s genocidal action in Gaza:
- Mass killing,
- Forced displacement,
- Deliberate mass starvation,
- Destruction of vital infrastructure,
- Denial of life saving and urgent critical health care,
- Large volume of children killed,
- Exponentially growing genocidal speech of incitement to kill and dehumanise the Palestinian population in Gaza (and elsewhere).
As members of the United Nations General Assembly, you have the duty to uphold the UN Charter and fulfill its mandate through the prevention of actions that aim to destroy the existence of a group of people in whole or in part.
As we have written (see the 23 November newsletter) Israel is losing the hasbara war. Global opinion is moving strongly against the brutal way in which the IDF is prosecuting its offensive against Hamas. A government that has politicised and weaponised the holocaust to justify its actions is increasingly at risk of committing the crime of genocide and being seen and judged by the world to be doing so.