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U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Global Protection of Gaza Civilians from U.S.-Backed Israeli Assault

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  • Ed Pearl
    http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/19/un_special_rapporteur_calls_for_globa l U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Global Protection of Gaza Civilians from
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      U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Global Protection of Gaza Civilians from
      U.S.-Backed Israeli Assault


      Richard <http://www.democracynow.org/appearances/richard_falk> Falk, United
      Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories,
      professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, and the
      author of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law. He
      now teaches at University of California at Santa Barbara.

      Raji <http://www.democracynow.org/appearances/raji_sourani> Sourani, an
      award-winning human rights lawyer. He is the director of the Palestinian
      Center for Human Rights in Gaza. He is on the executive board of the
      International Federation for Human Rights and is a winner of the J.F.Kennedy
      prize for Human Rights.

      AMY GOODMAN: For more on the attack on Gaza, we're joined by Richard Falk,
      United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian
      territories. He's a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton
      University, author of more than 50 books on war, human rights, international
      law. He now teaches at University of California at Santa Barbara. We're also
      joined by Raji Sourani, joining us from Gaza City, the director of the
      Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

      I wanted to go to Richard Falk right now. Can you talk about international
      law in relation to what has happened so far? The latest numbers we have, at
      least 95 Palestinians have been killed, at least half of them believed to be
      civilians, since the Israeli assault began last week. The number of
      Palestinians wounded, over 600. At the same time, Palestinian rocket firings
      were about 75 on Sunday after a two-day average of 230 rockets. According to
      Israeli government statistics, Israel has carried out over 1,350 attacks
      since launching the offensive last week. The number of Israelis that have
      been killed is three. Your response to what is taking place?

      RICHARD FALK: I share very much the legal assessment that Raji Sourani has
      been offering a few minutes ago. There is no question in my mind that to
      launch this kind of all-out attack on a defenseless civilian society is
      something that must be viewed with the greatest alarm by those that take
      international law and international humanitarian law seriously as a way of
      governing the behavior of sovereign states.

      And in this setting, it's particularly shocking because there existed a
      diplomatic alternative. It was clear that Hamas had agreed to an informal
      truce and had proposed, through its Israeli interlocutor, a long-term truce,
      and there's no question that this was a choice made by Israel to assassinate
      a Hamas leader-in fact, the person that had endorsed the truce-a few days
      after it had been established. So one has to question any kind of recourse
      to this kind of violence in a setting where a peaceful alternative seems to
      have existed and was rebuffed. And that's-that's a very serious element
      that's been almost totally ignored in the media reaction in the West,
      particularly the United States, and certainly in the Obama misleading
      presentation of the issue as the right of a country to defend itself.
      There's-no one questions that right. The question is: When and how is it

      And here, as before in 2008, when Israel launched a similar devastating
      attack on the population and people of Gaza, there were alternatives, and
      this kind of approach to security ends up with a new cycle of violence at
      higher levels of intensity. So it's time, it seems to me, for the
      international community to take some responsibility for protecting the
      people of Gaza. The responsibility to protect norm was very self-righteously
      invoked in relation to Gaddafi's Libya, but there's utter silence when it
      comes to the people of Gaza.

      AMY GOODMAN: Gilad Sharon, the son of the former Israeli prime minister,
      Ariel Sharon, who remains in a coma, wrote in an op-ed
      utm_> in the Jerusalem Post over the weekend, quote, "We need to flatten
      entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop
      with Hiroshima - the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit
      Nagasaki, too.

      "There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles,

      Richard Falk, that's-those are the words of the son of Ariel Sharon.

      RICHARD FALK: And those words have also been repeated in more or less those
      same terms by the deputy prime minister of Israel, and it is a shocking
      embrace of criminality, of crimes against humanity of the most severe kind.
      Indeed it has a genocidal edge to it, when you talk about depriving a
      population of its entire infrastructure, as if that's the way to produce
      security. It's a very perverse notion, and, as I say, in a setting where it
      is clear that if Israel were prepared to lift the blockade and to-which is
      unlawful form of collective punishment that is prohibited by Article 33 of
      the Fourth Geneva Convention-and was willing to deal with the governing
      authorities in Gaza as if they're a political actor, this would produce real
      security, at least as a foundation for the relations between this portion of
      the Palestinian people and the state of Israel.

      AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Raji Sourani back into the conversation to
      respond to Israeli President Shimon Peres saying that the country is being
      pushed to fight against its will, talking about Israel.

      PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES: This strange war, we don't have any ambitions or any
      claims of this war. We don't want to get rid of-by war with Hamas, we don't
      want to change the state of Gaza. We don't want to fire at all. But we were
      left without a choice.

      AMY GOODMAN: That is the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, saying "We [were]
      left without a choice." Raji Sourani, three Israelis have been killed by the
      rocket fire, about 80 wounded. Your response?

      RAJI SOURANI: Well, I mean, it's very interesting what Mr. Peres is saying.
      Even he blames the victim. I mean, we are criminals because we push them to
      kill us, to bomb us, to destroy us, to launch a war against us. That's
      obscene. That's the absurd. I mean, it's too much.

      Regarding Gilad Sharon, a Dahiya doctrine, it's not a theory; it's a
      practice. And this practice had happened during the Lebanon war. And I'm
      sure, with all the introductions we have for Gaza for the last six days,
      that the worst is yet to come. In the last five days, things were going
      really-I mean, every day worse than the other. But in the last 24 hours,
      things are escalating in a very drastic way. Just half an hour ago,
      ambulance with a doctor and nurse has been targeted and killed. These are
      the last victims, I mean, we are having in Gaza. And all over Gaza, there is
      no safe haven.

      What triggered this war really? What triggered it? The assassination of one
      of Hamas leaders who was negotiating with the Egyptian and the Israelis the
      truce. And that's what triggered, Amy, everything. Mr. Peres is forgetting
      that Gaza, for the last seven years, suffer a criminal siege, suffocating
      socially and economically 1.7 million people, unable to move in or out, and
      no movement for goods whatsoever. And they shifted Gaza to be a first-class,
      human-disaster-made, de-developed place. And, you know, they are practicing
      all kinds of suffocation on it through that criminal siege, which all
      international human rights organizations said this is illegal, inhumane, as
      Mr. Falk rightly said.

      AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani, President Obama, the Israeli government, the U.S.
      media, overall, says what's triggered this Israeli military assault on Gaza
      are the missiles, the rocket attacks that are coming from Gaza.

      RAJI SOURANI: It's not true at all. It's not true at all. There was
      assassination, and there was bombing immediately after assassination all
      over Gaza Strip. And this you can-being asked by any local observer, whether
      local, international, neutral or-I mean, these are given facts. But
      obviously, U.S. and Mr. Obama try to provide Israel with full excuse, with
      full legal, political immunity to do whatever they want to do against
      Gazans. This is-this is unjust. This is unfair. This makes U.S. on the same
      foot, I mean, equal to Israel and real partner of what they are doing, of
      war crimes or crimes against humanity, against Gazan civilians.

      AMY GOODMAN: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced plans to
      travel to Egypt to seek a ceasefire, but many residents of Gaza say they're
      skeptical of Ban's trip to the Middle East. This is one resident of Gaza
      named Yousif.

      YOUSIF: [translated] I do not welcome him, because he came here during the
      last war, 2008-2009, and did nothing for us. He will come again for the
      second war but will never do anything for us. He will speak about taking
      action but will not do anything.

      AMY GOODMAN: Do you share that view, Raji Sourani?

      RAJI SOURANI: I want him to come, and I want him to be the real
      international conscience of the most important system on earth, the U.N., in
      order to bring rule of law, not the rule of jungle, to this part of the
      world. Gaza is not part of his visit. He's going to Israel, and he's going
      to the West Bank. But those who need his visit, Gazans, he's not going to
      visit them. And he, in advance, once and again, blamed the victim. He says,
      you know, Gaza deserve what had happened, for simple reason: They are
      bombarding Israel. Once again, Amy, it's Kafka. It's absurd. How can
      occupied people, those who are entitled by law, by international
      humanitarian law, to protection, can be victimizers for belligerent,
      criminal occupation practicing war crime, not this time, but just in Cast
      Lead operation, as well, and wasn't held accountable?

      AMY GOODMAN: The latest news around the attack on the media center: On
      Sunday, six Palestinian journalists wounded when Israeli missiles slammed
      into the offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and the Lebanon-based Al
      Quds TV, a number of international media outlets, including Fox, CBS, Sky,
      have used the studios in targeted buildings. One of the victims lost his
      leg. And I'm looking at a tweet from the Netanyahu spokesperson, Ofir
      Gendelman, who said, "No Western journalists were hurt during the IAF
      operation aimed to destroy Hamas' military comm. situated on the roof of a
      media building." And I'd like to get the U.N. rapporteur Richard Falk's

      RICHARD FALK: It is clear that any kind of deliberate attack on journalists
      is itself a deliberate, intentional war crime. The U.N. has clearly declared
      that journalists are civilians. And this isn't as if there is an attack on a
      communications system that manipulates the weapons that Hamas has been
      using. It is an attack on journalists that are doing their professional job,
      and it represents an attempt by Israel, I suppose, to avoid any kind of
      effort to tell the story of what is really happening. And we're thankful to
      media personalities such as yourself that are at least trying to get at the
      truth of what is going on and the terrible ordeal that the people of Gaza
      are once again subjected to without the kind of protection that
      international law and international morality should be according them.

      AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani, what is life like on the ground right now? You
      are in your office. How are Gazans dealing with the attacks right now?

      RAJI SOURANI: Well, I mean, if you are sitting in my office, I mean, you
      will hear the bombs, I mean, all over the place. Every minute or two passes,
      I mean, you will hear, you know, one bomb from Apache or a drone or F-16
      hitting, bombing. And just half an hour ago, the Shoroq Tower, where these
      journalists were targeted at dawn yesterday, have been bombed again, under
      fire right now at this tower. For the second consecutive time in less than
      30 hours, this tower has been targeted. And this tower, I mean, full of
      media people-yesterday, six has been injured, one have leg amputated. And
      again, I mean, they are doing this once and again. And yesterday, another
      building full of journalists were actually threatened to evacuate. And they
      sent message to international journalists-not Gazan journalists,
      international-to evacuate and leave the place. And we went there, all the
      human rights organization leaders, in solidarity, I mean, with them, and we
      held a press conference at that building, in front of that building, and in
      solidarity with them.

      Once and again, Israel feel immune: they are not going to be held
      accountable. They count too much in U.S., and they count too much in Europe,
      and they know that, you know, they are not going to be criticized or blamed,
      as far, I mean, all these superpowers giving them that protection. And
      that's why they feel almost having a free hand to do whatever they want to

      And by the way, yesterday, when they bombarded al-Dalo three-stories house,
      and they killed these 12 people, 10 from one family, they said, "Well, we
      committed minor mistake. We just didn't pick the right house. We think the
      house which was supposed to be targeted, the one next to it." So they mean,
      I mean, even choosing houses, choosing inhabited houses, choosing houses
      full of civilians, it's very legitimate target for one reason, because the
      owner of that house is in Hamas or Fatah or belong to this or that group.
      This is a clear policy, again Israel putting in the eye of the storm
      civilians, and they are doing a Dahiya doctrine. And I believe all
      introductions, especially in the last 24 hours, indicates in a very clear
      way that the worst is yet to come. And I'm anticipating and expecting soon,
      I mean, drastic change and much more killings and injuries and destruction
      going to happen in this part of the world, as if what had happened so far is
      not enough.

      AMY GOODMAN: As you were saying, Raji Sourani, this is a tweet from the BBC:
      "Tower block gaza housing offices Arab tv channels & Al Aqsa tv of Hamas hit
      3 times. Reports 7 injured." And we are showing live on Democracy Now! right
      now the tower where the-where the Palestinian media is. And for our radio
      listeners, you can go to our website at democracynow.org to see those
      images. As we wrap up, what you feel needs to be done now? Raji Sourani, you
      wrote a piece
      called "History is Repeated as the International Community Turns Its Back on
      Gaza," referring to what happened four years ago soon after President Obama
      was elected the first time in that interim before he was inaugurated,
      similar to what we're seeing now, with Operation Cast Lead. What about the
      world community? What about Egypt now with a president from the Muslim
      Brotherhood? Who are you looking to to help? And I want to put that question
      also to Richard Falk after.

      RAJI SOURANI: I want a free, committed people across the globe break this
      conspiratorial silence and to ask for rule of law and justice for this part
      of the world. All what we want, rule of law, not the rule of jungle. And
      Israel is effectively doing the rule of jungle in this part of the world. I
      think and I'm sure if Israel were held accountable in Cast Lead operation,
      wouldn't dare to do this. As a citizen of the world who believes in the
      world of law, asking individuals, groups, states, to do something effective
      to have an end for this criminal offensive by Israel. Egypt and other
      states, they are good, but I don't believe, I mean, they are in capacity to
      stop that. I think what we need, something very simple: very strong
      intervention to have an end for this crime and to bring peace to this part
      of the world, which only can it be brought by one thing: have an end for
      this Israeli belligerent occupation.

      AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani, do you also call on Hamas to stop hitting Israel
      with their missiles?

      RAJI SOURANI: Well, right of self-determination and right of self-defense,
      it's a very basic fundamental right for any occupied people, but that should
      be abide with the rule of law, as well. And I think, you know, we should be
      on higher moral ground than this Israeli belligerent occupation.


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