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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gaza: Silence is not an option

Since the situation itself has received little attention in the US press (though much abroad) and the (American) UN Special Rapporteur's statement on it has passed without acknowledgment in our media, here for your information is the press release Richard Falk issued. Despite its title, it would appear that silence is an imperative even if is not an option.

UNITED NATIONS

Press Release

Gaza: Silence is not an option



9 December 2008

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian
territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, issued the following
statement:

GENEVA -- 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.

Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza,
offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and
unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although
many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza
blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally
cautious UN officials 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 barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and
disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to
punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip,
constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international
humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention.

It is long past the time when talk suffices. As AbuZayd has written,
"the chasm between word and deed" with respect to upholding human rights
in occupied Palestine creates a situation where "radicalism and
extremism easily take root." The UN is obligated to respond under these
conditions. Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing
their support politically and economically for Israel's punitive
approach.


Protective action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and
wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in
view of the emergency situation that is producing a humanitarian
catastrophe that is unfolding day by day. However difficult politically,
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. As AbuZayd has declared, "This is a
humanitarian crisis deliberately imposed by political actors."

It should be noted that the situation worsened in recent days due to the
breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel that 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 Palestinian 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, and should not distract the UN or international society
from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render
protection to the Palestinian people.

For further information on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and
work and mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, visit the
following website:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx

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