ODVV Interview: GAZA: After Genocide, What Next?

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Publish Date : 12/18/2023 8:55
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ODVV Interview: GAZA: After Genocide, What Next?
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Letters are not case-sensitive
more than 16,000 Palestinians have lost their lives as a result of continuous and deadly Israeli attacks. The main victims of this war are women and children; more than 6 thousand of the killed persons in Gaza are children; also, about 1,500,000 residents of Gaza have been internally displaced.

Gaza has an area of 364 square kilometers. This city has a population of 2,300,000 people. Gaza is the most densely populated place in the world (with more than 6,100 people per square kilometer). About 70% of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have been displaced to this area from other parts of Palestine. The people of this place have been suffering and under pressure for years and live in an area, heavily controlled by Israel. From time to time, several Palestinians have been killed by settlers or Israeli soldiers. These actions finally led to the attack of Hamas on Israel under the title of al-Aqsa Storm. An action that according to the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, did not happen in a vacuum. After that, more than 16,000 Palestinians have lost their lives as a result of continuous and deadly Israeli attacks. The main victims of this war are women and children; more than 6 thousand of the killed persons in Gaza are children; also, about 1,500,000 residents of Gaza have been internally displaced.


The situation became so dire that the protests of many human rights activists and United Nations officials could also be heard clearly. Antonio Guterres warned of a deepening 'catastrophe' in Gaza as he called on the Security Council to act. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, urging the UN Security Council to act on the war in Gaza. Due to the importance of the Gaza crisis and the need to observe humanitarian laws in this region, the Organization for the Defense of Victims of Violence (ODVV) conducted an interview with Dr. Richard Anderson Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, and Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor's Chairman of the Board of Trustees. In 2004, he was listed as the author or coauthor of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. Dr. Falk has published extensively with multiple books written about international law and the United Nations. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.


Below is Dr. Falk’s view GAZA: After Genocide, What Next?
At the moment many prayers call fervently for a permanent ceasefire, but the future is suspended in doubt, and the pre-pause Israeli genocidal onslaught casts a dark shadow over all of humanity. Many innocent lives in Gaza still remain in jeopardy if the pause or truce is not converted into a ceasefire and emergency relief on a large scale. My responses waver between fears of a resumed Israeli military operation and hopes of confronting day-after issues of post-genocidal economic reconstruction and scenarios of political transformation.]


1. Horrible media outlets focus on the access to food and other essential items for the Gaza civilians. What do you think of the starvation of civilians and children as a tool for war?
Policies of war combatants that deliberately focus on starvation or denial of access to food as a tactic or tool of war are guilty of war crimes. It is usual for such tactics to be disavowed by their perpetrators as collateral damage with no intention to target civilians of any category. If the targeting appears deliberate, continues in similar patterns disregarding predominant civilian targeting, and inflicts heavy civilian casualties, as has been the case with respect to the Israeli attacks in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attack, it is viewed as criminal activity. The fact that October 7 itself included severe war crimes does not in any way justify Israeli conduct in a retaliatory mode that is disproportional or criminal. Starvation intentionally directed at civilians is unconditionally prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and an inherent war crime, which if repeated or continuous can be prosecuted as a Crime against Humanity or even Genocide if the instrument of starvation seems to be used for the purpose of destroying a racial, ethnic, or religious group in whole or in part.


2. How do you see the limitation of access to electricity, water, medicine, and hygiene items to be affecting people's and children's lives?
In the context of Israel’s ‘war’ on Gaza such restrictions, applied to an impoverished population without qualification, are genocidal examples of aggravated war crimes explicitly prohibited by provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention on Belligerent Occupation. Israel as the Occupying Power does not right enjoy any right of self-defense against an Occupied People and is under a pervasive duty to protect the civilian population under all circumstances. Israel’s implementation of its government order totally cutting off Gaza’s access to food, fuel, and electricity has contributed to the destruction of the medical system, imperiling the entire population of Gaza, killing many children and women, as well as men, and the cause of widespread suffering of all Gazans, including children at women. Specific provisions are found in the Geneva Convention that confirm this assessment. Article 6 indicates the full reach of the protective legal duties of the Occupying Power to the civilian population under their control. The text of this provision underlies the commitment of International Humanitarian Law to the protection of civilians:
ART. 6. — “The present Convention shall apply from the outset of any conflict or occupation mentioned in Article 2.
In the territory of Parties to the conflict, the application of the present Convention shall cease on the general close of military operations.
In the case of occupied territory, the application of the present Convention shall cease one year after the general close of military operations; however, the Occupying Power shall be bound, for the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory, by the provisions of the following Articles of the present Convention: 1 to 12, 27, 29 to 34, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 59, 61 to 77, 143.”
Protected persons whose release, repatriation or re- establishment may take place after such dates shall meanwhile continue to benefit by the present Convention.”
In addition, because so responsive to inquiry as to the status of starvation under international humanitarian law, the partial texts of Article 55 & 56 is reproduced below:
ART. 55. — “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.”
ART. 56. — “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the co-operation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.“3.Over the decades, the world has witnessed a multitude of various rounds of attacks on Gaza, with no achievements, in your opinion, what is the reason for the inability of the international community to address the gross violations of human rights by Israel? 


3.We have witnessed the dreadful attack on Gaza Hospital, what do you think of the air raids that seem to be indiscriminately targeting the places that are supposed to serve as civilians' sanctuary in wartime?
The wording of the question suggests the confusion surrounding this important dimension of the most serious allegations of ‘indiscriminate targeting’ when contrary to the literalness of the alllegations, the targets are obviously being selected and targeted by Israel’s precision weaponry against just such legally protected sites and civilians, including hospitals, refugee camps, sick and wounded patients, forced civilian evacuees compelled by Israel mandatory order to leave their homes in the north of Gaza for the southern portion of the strip. The entire military operation against Gaza is seemingly intended to create an ethnic cleansing phenomenon comparable to the forced dispossession of more than 700,000 Palestinians. This happened in the final phases of the 1948 War known to Palestinians as the Nakba (or catastrophe).


4.The message that the Palestinians were receiving from pressure against them by Israel including building settlements and killing civilians in Gaza is that Israel is against the two-state solution question. So, it’s a big question mark on the two-state solution. Do you think that a two-state solution is still a valid solution and can be a way to get out of this deadlock and war? or do you believe that these current incident events have also brought this solution to a dead end?
This is a puzzling time for those thinking about a benevolent future for both Palestinians and Israelis. At the moment external voices that are seeking a permanent ceasefire, including the UN Secretary-General, as well as many longtime Jewish supporters of Israel, continue to act as if a two-state is the best and only feasible solution despite seemingly formidable obstacles that are being overlooked. The first set of obstacles is the extensive and militant settler phenomenon, which has been consistently viewed at the UN and most international venues as being in direct violation of Article 49(6) of Geneva IV. There are currently about 250 settlements spread around the West Bank and as many as 500,000 settlers who would resist by force any arrangement calling for their relocation in pre-1967 Israel (as did the 2005 'Disengagement' from Gaza). The second obstacle is the known opposition of Likud leadership, including Netanyahu, to meaningful forms of Palestinian statehood, most dogmatically and openly by Netanyahu's coalition partner, the Religious Right Party, as most prominently represented in the current so-called 'unity government' by Ben Gvir and Smotrich. A possible third obstacle relates to the likelihood of a Palestinian refusal to accept an inferior form of statehood involving permanent demilitarization, Israel’s retention of West Bank settler enclaves, and some West Bank land transfers to Israel.
A sustainable peace depends on political arrangements based on equality between the two peoples as well as upholding the dignity of other minorities (Druze, Bedoin). If this skepticism about a two-state solution seems to imply a single state it would highlight the principal obstacle that would doubtless come from Zionists who remain deeply committed to a Jewish supremacist state and to a lesser extent from Palestinians demanding the full right of return of the five million or more Palestinian refugees and involuntary exiles living in camps or spread around the world. Given the depth of resentment that is associated with events since October 7 even a confederal union of the two peoples is hardly even thinkable under present conditions. At the same time, restoring the former status quo seems impossible given the devastation of Gaza, underscored by the lingering prospect of mass homelessness affecting the entire population of northern Gaza. Innovative solutions involving federation or confederation with either Lebanon or Egypt seems also non-viable at this point, although given the absence of a feasible peace arrangement are making the advocacy of innovative solutions is the least bad of plausible day-after options.

5. Considering the scope and intensity of the destruction of the civilian infrastructure and the blockade which is imposed on Gaza, in your opinion, what strategy should be implemented to firstly end the siege of Gaza (permanently and not return to the pre-conflict situation that practically turned Gaza a prison) and secondly, what should be done to heal this 75-year-old wound which was created since the establishment of Israel?
These are difficult questions for which there may be no satisfactory answers to long as Israel is governed by such an extreme government and continues to enjoy the support of the US and the strongest members of the EU. I think that even these governments supporting Israel throughout the horrifying genocidal spectacle feel increasing pressure from their own citizenry to find a more humane future for the people of Gaza and all of occupied Palestine, and in this sense, the devastation wrought by Israel has backfired as a strategy that coupled security concerns with expansionist ambitions, although it is too soon to be confident of such an assessment. 

I think the first priority after a permanent ceasefire is established would be to secure the withdrawal of Israel's armed forces from Gaza, followed by an emergency international relief effort that gave priority to rebuilding destroyed residential neighborhoods and family residences, as well as the dispatch of some form of an international peacekeeping force, whether under UN auspices or otherwise. The forced evacuations together with the intensity of bombardment have destroyed over 76% of the residences in northern Gaza. Of course, the rebuilding of hospitals and the repair of damage to UN structures, mosques and churches, and refugee facilities should also be included by international donors in their effort to meet this gigantic challenge of devastation at a time of cold weather and overcrowding.


More difficult by far is to end the iron grip on Gaza that has been maintained in different cruel forms ever since 1967. A first step would be a demand by the UNSC, and possibly such other intergovernmental groupings as the BRICs, to lift the blockade imposed in 2007 and agree with a Palestinian unity governance council on mutually administered border controls and an international protection force to monitor arms inputs ideally to both Gaza and Israel. It is virtually certain that these steps could not be taken until certain political preconditions were met. Of vital political, perhaps indispensable, importance in day-after contexts would be the replacement of the Netanyahu government by a new coalition with a commitment to sustainable peace. Hopefully, a new Israeli leadership committed to finding a neutral framework for negotiating a genuine political compromise that must finally give recognition to the basic rights of the Palestinian people.
These ideas may seem utopian at present, but they represent the only practical alternative to the sort of extremist politics that Israel has so far relied upon in responding to the October 7 attack, which was immediately seized upon as an opportunity by the Israeli government to carry out the expansionist final phases of the Zionist Project, which included sovereign control and Palestinian dispossession in the West Bank and overall international erasure of the Palestinian people and extinguishing any remaining statehood expectations. Destroying Hamas was never the entire, and perhaps not the main, rationale for the disproportionate Israeli response, and may have also been motivated by the perceived need of the Tel Aviv leaders to divert the attention of Israelis and the world from the inexcusable security failures of the Israeli government that allowed Hamas to plan and carry out its October 7 attack. For Israel to achieve the political space required to fulfill the maximalist Zionist vision required several developments: the demonization of Hamas, the exaggeration of future security threats facing Israel, and the genocidal onslaught that inflicted undeserved and horrifying punishment upon 99% innocent and previously victimized Gaza civilians while distracting the attention of the world to the wider policy agenda of the Tel Aviv leadership. In thinking about the future, it is helpful to separate the humanitarian urgency of funding livable conditions for the people of Gaza from a politics that aimed at the transformation of the underlying conflict. Yet to leave the political track to the parties would invite future tragedies arising from the contradictory goals inherent in settler colonialism and those of a national movement of resistance in a post-colonial setting.

“ ODVV Interview: GAZA: After Genocide, What Next? ”