Palestine continues to struggle with mourning, grief, and loss. However, The Palestinian people remain proud, refusing to surrender to humiliation, murder, and wanton destruction that is borne out of racism and fueled by a resounding international failure of morals and responsibility.
28 July, 2014, Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the UN, NY
More than 1036 Palestinian lives have been stolen; thousands others have been crushed by injury, grief and loss. Nearly 300 children are among the Palestinians killed during the Israeli occupation’s ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and across the Occupied Palestinian Territory. On average, a Palestinian child is killed every two hours.
By all measures, this is a human tragedy and it continues. At least 150 bodies have been recovered so far in the ongoing search in several neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. The scenes of devastation, destruction, and wholesale death stand testament to the disgraceful failure of the international community to protect and uphold the principles and values it claims to stand for.
Overnight, the Security Council, meeting for the fifth time during this onslaught, adopted a Presidential statement regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip. While Palestine welcomes this unanimous call for a ceasefire, it considers that this statement falls far short from the responsibilities incumbent upon the Security Council in protecting international peace and security as well as the principle of the United Nations Charter. The statement also fails to address the underlying cause for all escalations: the continued Israeli occupation, the denial of basic Palestinian rights, and the dehumanization and demonization of Palestinians as a way to justify brutality. As such, the Security Council failed, once again, to protect the rights and lives of the Palestinian people from the vicious attacks carried out by Israel, the occupying Power, with impunity and belligerence.
The Security Council has an unmistakable duty to ensure an end to Israeli aggression as well as address the underlying and fundamental causes for this continued tragedy, which are Israel’s continued inhumane and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip and more broadly the continued Israeli occupation and unjustified denial of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and independence. Furthermore, the Council is bound by the responsibility, as per the United Nations Charter, to achieve accountability for the wide-scale crime committed against our people.
The unfolding tragedy in occupied Palestine is not a guarded secret. Indeed, no State can claim that it is not aware of the wide-scale murder Israel has been committing against the Palestinian people. We have communicated the names of the victims, the dates of their death and their ages to the United Nations Security Council, Member States, and other actors. The list is long, heartbreaking, and still growing. Entire families like Abu Jame’ and Al-Hilou, Al-Batsh, Al-Najjar, and dozens other, were obliterated by the invading Israeli troops; So far, 285 Palestinians were killed during these attacks that wiped out entire families. These facts and accompanying images must trouble any conscience in the world. More pertinently, failing to clearly condemn the killing of children and the targeting of civilians is nothing short of a betrayal of the principles of human rights on which the international system was founded on.
The international community, including the United Nations, has a standing obligation to intervene at once to provide protection to the Palestinian people, stop the war crimes and crimes against humanity Israel is committing in the Gaza Strip. This is not optional; it is the cornerstone of international law.
Furthermore, while these egregious crimes continue, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to receive financial and military assistance that enables and emboldens it to continue carrying out these crimes against civilians in the Gaza Strip. This assistance must be conditioned upon Israel’s respect for international law and the obligations therein; conditions that it now clearly fails to adhere to. As such, there is no moral or legal grounds for this continued assistance, which now enables the Israeli occupying army to murder civilians at will.
In the face of mounting evidence of atrocities and war crimes, some government continue to refer to Israel’s so-called right to self-defense, thus placing less value on the principles of human rights, which are supposed to be universal. More dangerously, these statements give credence to Israel’s erroneous claims and encourage it to continue committing crimes against innocent civilians. Such statements also ignore that Israel is an occupying Power and that its argument of self-defense and other fallacious pretexts stand no legal ground in the confines of international humanitarian law that Israel stands in violation of.
Occupation law prohibits an occupying Power from initiating armed force against the territory it occupies, and precludes the use of “self-defense” as a justification for military force in territory for which a State is responsible as the occupant. Furthermore, Israel’s actions violate fundamental norms of human rights and humanitarian law and cannot be justified on grounds of self-defense or necessity. As such, Israel cannot justify its attack on Palestinian civilians based upon the right to self-defense according to Article 51 of the UN Charter and must therefore act in accordance with the laws regulating the conduct of hostilities. Failing to respect these articles and provisions or judge current Israeli transgressions in their context is tantamount to no less than a blanket endorsement of the egregious crimes committed against our people and an encouragement to carry on with these crimes with shameless impunity. In effect, these positions undermine the foundations upon which the international system was founded and strip the system’s commitment to the universality of human rights of any credibility.
The will of the majority of States is clear and it stands in direct contradiction with Israel’s campaign of death and destruction against the Palestinian people. Many principled governments have voiced their position, which is in line with the will of their people as well as international law reflected in statements and the universal principles of human rights. Regrettably, many other governments have willfully ignored international law and international human rights as well as the will of their people, who have to taken to the streets in their tens of thousands to demand an end to the Israeli aggression, by adopting positions that directly or indirectly lend support to these atrocities. This contradiction is neither comprehensible nor justifiable. Others have even gone further and appeased Israel, ensuring its protection from accountability from documented war crimes.
The immeasurable suffering that has been forced upon our people by Israel, the occupying Power, is the direct consequence of decades of failure by the international community to assume its responsibilities and ensure that accountability, justice, and the rule of law are the solid foundations upon which peace in the region must be built. Yet, despite this failure and disappointment, we are certain that our date with freedom and a future of dignity and prosperity is near.
Furthermore, the moral lapse evident in positions adopted by various states shall not dissuade the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership from pursuing any and all available legal and political recourse to ensure that those responsible for crimes against our people are held to account. Palestine shall spare no effort in activating and pursuing all available international mechanisms to achieve that aim. The proud Palestinian people are in mourning and their faith in international norms is tested, once again, given the blatant display of double standards and outright hypocrisy. However, this proud people are not alone. It shall continue to march towards freedom, empowered by our unity and heart-warmed by the moral support of the majority of peoples around the whole who refuse to accept these indignities and injustices and stand with us in confronting the practices that contradict and combat the humanity that unites us.