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UN Human Rights Expert Says Israel Is Committing Genocide in Gaza

“The state of Israel in its entirety is culpable” in genocide, the UN’s top expert on food rights said.



In an especially frank statement from a UN-affiliated figure, the UN’s top expert on food rights has said that Israel’s massacre of Palestinians is a genocide, due to Israeli officials’ deliberate starvation of the entire population of Gaza.


In an interview with The Guardian published Tuesday, UN special rapporteur on the right to food and University of Oregon law professor Michael Fakhri said that Israel’s starvation campaign is “clearly a war crime” in which the entire state of Israel is complicit.


“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza — other than to deny people access to food,” Fakhri said.


“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime,” Fakhri continued. “Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. In my view as a UN human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the state of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable – not just individuals or this government or that person.”


Indeed, Israeli forces have been systematically destroying farmland in Gaza, attacking fishing boats and, crucially, ramping up their deadly blockade of humanitarian aid. According to relief groups, no food has entered the northern part of Gaza — where people were already starving — since late January.


The government in Gaza warned recently that 700,000 people in northern Gaza are on the verge of starving to death. As of January, the rate of “wasting,” or a state of acute and dangerous malnourishment among children, had already risen significantly across the region compared to times before the current assault. Sixteen percent of children under five in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished, as are 5 percent in the southern city of Rafah, compared to 0.8 percent across the region before October of last year.


UN-sponsored surveys from January and December found that 90 percent of children under the age of two are facing severe food shortages, while 90 percent of children under five are also being affected by one or more infectious diseases.


Israel’s starvation campaign has led to abominable conditions. Recent reports and footage showed a two-month old baby boy dying from starvation, with baby formula nowhere to be found in Gaza and parents no longer nourished enough to breastfeed.


Human Rights Watch has said that the blockade is in violation of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) order in its initial genocide ruling for Israel to avoid escalating its assault. Rather, the group said, Israel is starving Palestinians more fervently now than before the ruling.


“The Israeli government is starving Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, putting them in even more peril than before the World Court’s binding order,” said Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, in a statement. “The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid.”


Amnesty International also accused Israel of directly disobeying the ICJ order on Monday, saying that Israel has “failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply.”


“As the occupying power, under international law, Israel has a clear obligation to ensure the basic needs of Gaza’s population are met. Israel has not only woefully failed to provide for Gazans’ basic needs, but it has also been blocking and impeding the passage of sufficient aid into the Gaza Strip, in particular to the north which is virtually inaccessible, in a clear show of contempt for the ICJ ruling and in flagrant violation of its obligation to prevent genocide,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s regional director for Middle East and North Africa.


Experts have said that Israel’s starvation of Gaza has no precedent in modern times in terms of speed and intention, as Fakhri said.


“It was already a very fragile situation due to Israel’s chokehold on what goes in and out of Gaza. So when the war started, Israel was very easily able to make everyone go hungry because they had most people on the brink,” the UN expert noted. “We have never seen a civilian population made to go so hungry so quickly and so completely, that is the consensus among starvation experts. Israel is not just targeting civilians, it is trying to damn the future of the Palestinian people by harming their children.”

Actions like the defunding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by the U.S. and other countries are even further accelerating Israel’s genocide, Fakhri added.


“Ending funding almost instantaneously based on unsubstantiated claims against a small number of people has no other purpose other than collective punishment of all Palestinians in multiple countries,” he said. “The countries that withdrew this lifeline are undoubtedly complicit in the starvation of Palestinians.”


 

Truthout, 2024

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