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Israel-Hamas Conflict is ‘Not a Law-Free Zone’: Ex-UN Special Rapporteur

As the humanitarian pauses in the Gaza Strip come to an end, a former UN special rapporteur has reiterated “deep concerns” over violations of international laws in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

There are “deep concerns about breaches of the law of war and I, like many others have been very clear, including the (UN) Secretary General (Antonio Guterres) that the law of war applies,” Fionnuala Ni Aolain, who served as the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, told Anadolu.

“This is not a law-free zone,” said Ni Aolain, who held the mandate until last month.

She stressed that no matter “how grievous the violence committed by a non-state armed group is, the response also must be lawful.”

This “isn’t the only place in the world where non-state armed groups commit grievous and singular acts of violence against the civilian population,” she added.

Calling for an end to hostilities, Ni Aolain said: “We need a cease-fire. The secretary general has called for it. Many other, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for it. And I think we are past time for a cease-fire.”

In a particularly strongly worded statement last month, a group of UN experts called on the international community to “prevent genocide against the Palestinian people,” warning that “violations committed by Israel against Palestinians” in the aftermath of Oct. 7 attacks “point to a genocide in the making.”

“We are deeply disturbed by the failure of governments to heed our call and to achieve an immediate cease-fire. We are also profoundly concerned about the support of certain governments for Israel’s strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza, and the failure of the international system to mobilize to prevent genocide,” the group said in the Nov. 16 statement.

‘Genocidal operation’

Many other experts around the world have also issued similar warnings, among them M. Muhannad Ayyash, professor of sociology at Mount Royal University in Canada, who says Israel has used the Oct. 7 attacks as a pretext to unleash a “genocidal operation against the Gaza Strip.”

It did this with the aim of “colonizing” as much Palestinian land as possible and expelling as many Palestinians as possible from that land, he told Anadolu.

In his view, the atrocities that Palestinians are currently facing are a part of Israel’s ongoing settler colonial project to create “exclusive Israeli Jewish sovereignty across the entire land of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

“That is their stated goal. Netanyahu has said that in his election campaigns. He showed a map at the UN prior to October 7, that showed the entire territory, including all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and all of East Jerusalem, as part of the new map of the Middle East, and it was all called Israel,” he said.

Ayyash argues that there are several indicators that Israel is engaging in a genocide of the Palestinian people, from dehumanizing statements to denying civilian casualties and excessively violent actions.

“When you cut off water, food, electricity and fuel, and you are bombing hospitals, schools, refugee camps, residential homes, bakeries, you are basically turning the Gaza strip into an uninhabitable piece of land,” he said.

“They’re actively encouraging Palestinians to leave the northern parts of the Gaza Strip and move into the southern parts. And now we hear reports of them telling people in the southern Gaza Strip to move to the western part of the Gaza Strip.”

This, in Ayyash’s opinion, is a clear and deliberate attempt to eliminate Palestinian human life in the Gaza Strip.

“So, that’s genocide. That’s ethnic cleansing. It’s clear, it’s deliberate,” he said.

Role of Global South and Arab nations

Ayyash slammed the international community for being “complicit” in Israel’s actions, saying they know exactly that its intentions are of “genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

“I want to specifically highlight Western Europe, and especially the United States, and places like Canada and Australia as well,” he said.

He called on countries from the Global South to stand up to Western Europe, North America and the Israeli state, which he said is part of a Euro-American imperial hegemonic bloc.

These countries should follow in the footsteps of Bolivia and South Africa and cut off ties with Israel, he added.

Ayyash further emphasized the need for other measures such as economic and political sanctions on Israel.

“If world leaders and an organizations and institutions are not doing that, then they are not doing enough and are not standing on the right side of history,” he said, adding that this is an opportunity the Global South to really assert itself on the world stage.

He suggested that Arab countries should be the ones leading the creation of such a coalition, reiterating that it would give the Global South an enormous amount of credibility across the world.

This is an opportunity for them to have a direct influence on the world order to “start to change it away from American dominance, which has brought a lot of death and destruction everywhere,” he said.

“I do strongly believe that countries from the Global South will join them … I believe that, you know, even European countries like Turkey (Türkiye) would join such a project, maybe even Ireland,” Ayyash explained.

He said this is a critical moment for Arab states to “finally stand up to American imperial power,” stressing that Arab leaders right now are missing a huge opportunity.

“If you’re not going to do it for the sake of the Palestinian people, at least do it for the sake of yourselves, for your own dignity, for your own freedom, for your own liberation from American imperialism,” he added.

He asserted that the Palestinian struggle for liberation is bigger than just Palestine, terming it more about remaking the current imperial world order.

The imperial world order was constructed through Euro-American settler colonial and imperial projects and spans more than 400 years, and it “has brought much death and destruction for people across the world and throughout history,” said Ayyash.

The Palestinian struggle speaks to people across the world, precisely because it gives them hope that “they can also free themselves from this Euro-American imperialism,” he added.

However, people in power are not very keen on the Palestinian liberation struggle because “it challenges their power, it challenges their dominance,” Ayyash explained.

Allowing Israel to continue with genocide against the Palestinians sets the standard for what states can get away with, and “this is becoming a very dangerous precedent” that could even lead to “world wars,” he warned.

Source : aa