A top United Nations human rights official has stepped down over the organization’s response to the war in Gaza. Craig Mokhiber has called on the UN to attach the same standards to Israel as it does when assessing human rights violations in other countries around the world.
Craig Mokhiber was the director of the New York office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. In his October 28 resignation letter, he criticized Israel’s military actions in Gaza as “textbook genocide”. He accused the UN of again “failing” to act, referring to previous genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Myanmar.
In his letter, he says,
“This will be my last official communication to you as Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I write at a moment of great anguish for the world, including for many of our colleagues. Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfold before our eyes, and the organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it.”
He has investigated human rights in Palestine since the 1980s and lived in Gaza as a UN human rights advisor in the 1990s. He also carried out several human rights missions to the country before and since, therefore making the situation deeply personal to him.
He stresses that he has worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. When the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenceless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of the prevention of mass atrocities.
In all cases, there was a push for protecting the vulnerable and accountability for perpetrators. However, it has been quite the opposite due to the successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the UN.
At least 8,805 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7. This came as retaliation after the armed group Hamas launched a surprise assault on Israel, killing at least 1,400 people and taking more than 200 people captive. Israel says the attack was unprovoked.
“High Commissioner, we are failing again. As a human rights lawyer with more than three decades of experience in the field, I know well that the concept of genocide has often been subject to political abuse.”
Craig Mokhiber says that the UN has failed
He knows the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people is rooted in ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology.
Israel has continued decades of systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs, coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military. That has left no room for doubt or debate.
In Gaza, civilian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and medical institutions are wantonly attacked as thousands of civilians are massacred. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, homes are seized and reassigned based entirely on race, and Israeli military units accompany violent settler pogroms. Across the land, apartheid rules.
Craig Mokhiber acknowledges that what is happening in Gaza is a textbook case of genocide. The European, ethno-nationalist settler colonial project in Palestine has entered its final phase. The situation is geared toward the expedited destruction of the last remnants of indigenous Palestinian life in Palestine.
The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe are wholly complicit in the horrific assault. Not only are these governments refusing to meet their treaty obligations “to ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions, but they are actively arming the assault, providing economic and intelligence support, and giving political and diplomatic cover for Israel’s atrocities.
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