Anatomy of a genocide

Although she may receive threats and insults, nothing stops jurist Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories. For months, she has been on every platform to loudly denounce the atrocities committed in Palestine and implore the international community and civil society not to look away.

During a videoconference from Tunis, I had the opportunity to hear the expert specializing in international law who participated on Friday in a press conference of the Quebec URGENCE Palestine Coalition highlighting the 76e anniversary of the Nakba, the forced exodus of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

“The Nakba is still ongoing and must be stopped once and for all,” she said.

Francesca Albanese spoke about her report Anatomy of a genocide, presented to the UN Human Rights Committee at the end of March. A devastating report, rejected out of hand by Israel and the United States, where the expert concludes, after analyzing the patterns of violence and Israeli policies of the offensive on Gaza, that there are reasons reasonable to believe that the threshold indicating that Israel has committed genocide has been reached1.

According to the independent expert’s well-supported analysis, the Israeli government and army intentionally distorted the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law in order to legitimize “genocidal violence against the Palestinian people.”2 “.

According to her, the Israeli authorities have, for example, distorted the notion of “human shields”, the use of which, strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law, constitutes a war crime. Although prohibited, their possible use does not make Israel’s indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks against the civilian population legal. Unless we transform Gaza into a “world without civilians” by claiming that the entire population is largely “accomplice” of Hamas and therefore “killable”, explains in her report the lawyer, banned from staying in Israel due to comments deemed “anti-Semitic” by the Israeli authorities.

“International law does not allow us to state in general that an opposing force uses the entire population as human shields en bloc,” she recalls. Yet this is what Israeli authorities have done by describing churches, mosques, schools, UN facilities, universities, hospitals and even ambulances as being linked to Hamas.

Result: since October 7, Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 15,000 children, recalled Francesca Albanese. More than 10,000 people are presumed dead under the rubble. More than 70% of residential areas in Gaza have been destroyed and 90% of the population has been forcibly displaced.

“Thousands of families have lost loved ones or been completely devastated. Many were unable to bury or mourn their loved ones, forced to leave their decomposing bodies in homes, in the streets or under the rubble. Thousands of Palestinians have been detained and systematically subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment. Two million were forced into starvation in Gaza. The collective trauma, which certainly did not spare the hostages, is incalculable and will be experienced by generations to come. »


The United Nations special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, last March

After leading a mission to Jordan and Egypt which notably allowed her to speak with doctors who had treated Palestinian patients, the special rapporteur considers that her report underestimates the horror experienced by the Palestinians.

The situation in Gaza is worse than I personally assessed in my report.

Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories

Worse in what sense? What is particularly appalling are the consequences of the destruction of hospitals. Previously, patients arrived with war injuries, hit by bombs, for example. But more and more, we see patients who suffer the effects of malnutrition, lack of drinking water and lack of medicine.

“I give you an example that really struck me: that of a child who developed pancreatitis after eating animal food and drinking contaminated water. » In the absence of other medications to calm his pain, he was given morphine to which he became dependent. The child, tortured by pain, was in a state of extreme thinness. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to be treated or not. »

When I asked her if the figures for the number of Palestinian civilian victims were reliable even if they come from the Hamas Ministry of Health, Francesca Albanese recalled that the international commissions of inquiry which carried out verifications after previous wars which took place in Gaza have never found cause for dispute.

It is very likely that the final figure is much higher than what the Ministry of Health gives regarding the number of deaths because, since the first attack at the al-Chifa hospital, the possibility of verifying all the data. That is to say, we can no longer count the dead. That is the truth.

Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories

It should also be noted that the level of destruction in Gaza is not documented only by the Hamas Ministry of Health. The World Bank, jointly with the United Nations, has notably published a file which shows that the destruction there is much more serious than has been estimated, although the death by bombs of numerous Palestinian journalists and the ban on entry in Gaza that Israel imposes on foreign media makes it difficult to gather evidence3. “Why does Israel not allow any foreign observers or the press to enter the Gaza Strip? »

And what should Canada do about all this? Like any signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, he has obligations, recalled Diane Lamoureux, professor emeritus of the department of political science at Laval University, and spokesperson for the Quebec Coalition EMERGENCY Palestine. To avoid being complicit in genocide, she said, the Canadian government should impose a complete and immediate embargo on weapons sent to Israel.

Even if we sense fatigue in the population and in the media in the face of the desperate news coming from Gaza, “it is more than necessary to stand up en masse so that “never again” with regard to the genocide finally becomes reality”, said Diane Lamoureux.

The fatigue that makes us look away and no longer stand up in the face of injustices is a sign of privilege, recalled the tireless Francesca Albanese.

“We are privileged people who can avoid dealing with what is happening in Gaza. But it is our obligation, to me as a European, to you as Canadians, to take care of it and manage this conflict, because it is also happening with your money and in your name. »

1. Read the article “UN Rapporteur: Francesca Albanese accuses Israel of committing several “acts of genocide””

2. View the report Anatomy of a genocide (in English)

3. Watch the France 24 report “World Press Freedom Day: 135 journalists killed in Gaza in 7 months”


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