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the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the
Palestinian territories, calls on the international community to help defend
the people of Gaza from the ongoing U.S.- backed Israeli assault. “It’s
time, it seems to me, for the international community to take some responsibility
for protecting the people of Gaza,” Falk says. “The responsibility to
protect norm was very self-righteously invoked in relation to Gaddafi’s Libya,
but there’s utter silence when it comes to the people of Gaza.” Falk is a
professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the author
of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law. We also speak
with Raji Sourani, an award-winning human rights lawyer and director of the
Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. [includes rush
Richard Falk, United
Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories,
professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, and the author
of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law. He now
teaches at University of California at Santa Barbara.
Raji Sourani, an
award-winning human rights lawyer. He is the director of the Palestinian Center
for Human Rights in Gaza. He is on the executive board of the International
Federation for Human Right
AMY GOODMAN: For more on
the attack on Gaza, we’re joined by Richard Falk, United Nations special
rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. He’s a professor
emeritus of international law at Princeton University, author of more than 50
books on war, human rights, international law. He now teaches at University of
California at Santa Barbara. We’re also joined by Raji Sourani, joining us from
Gaza City, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
I wanted to
go to Richard Falk right now. Can you talk about international law in relation
to what has happened so far? The latest numbers we have, at least 95
Palestinians have been killed, at least half of them believed to be civilians,
since the Israeli assault began last week. The number of Palestinians wounded,
over 600. At the same time, Palestinian rocket firings were about 75 on Sunday
after a two-day average of 230 rockets. According to Israeli government
statistics, Israel has carried out over 1,350 attacks since launching the
offensive last week. The number of Israelis that have been killed is three.
Your response to what is taking place?
RICHARD FALK: I share very
much the legal assessment that Raji Sourani has been offering a few minutes
ago. There is no question in my mind that to launch this kind of all-out attack
on a defenseless civilian society is something that must be viewed with the
greatest alarm by those that take international law and international
humanitarian law seriously as a way of governing the behavior of sovereign
And in this
setting, it’s particularly shocking because there existed a diplomatic
alternative. It was clear that Hamas had agreed to an informal truce and had
proposed, through its Israeli interlocutor, a long-term truce, and there’s no
question that this was a choice made by Israel to assassinate a Hamas leader—in
fact, the person that had endorsed the truce—a few days after it had been
established. So one has to question any kind of recourse to this kind of
violence in a setting where a peaceful alternative seems to have existed and
was rebuffed. And that’s—that’s a very serious element that’s been almost
totally ignored in the media reaction in the West, particularly the United
States, and certainly in the Obama misleading presentation of the issue as the
right of a country to defend itself. There’s—no one questions that right. The
question is: When and how is it appropriate?
And here, as
before in 2008, when Israel launched a similar devastating attack on the
population and people of Gaza, there were alternatives, and this kind of
approach to security ends up with a new cycle of violence at higher levels of
intensity. So it’s time, it seems to me, for the international community to
take some responsibility for protecting the people of Gaza. The responsibility
to protect norm was very self-righteously invoked in relation to Gaddafi’s
Libya, but there’s utter silence when it comes to the people of Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN:Gilad Sharon,
the son of the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who remains in a
coma, wrote in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post over the weekend, quote, “We need
to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans
didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so
they hit Nagasaki, too.
should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles,
that’s—those are the words of the son of Ariel Sharon.
RICHARD FALK: And those
words have also been repeated in more or less those same terms by the deputy
prime minister of Israel, and it is a shocking embrace of criminality, of
crimes against humanity of the most severe kind. Indeed it has a genocidal edge
to it, when you talk about depriving a population of its entire infrastructure,
as if that’s the way to produce security. It’s a very perverse notion, and, as
I say, in a setting where it is clear that if Israel were prepared to lift the
blockade and to—which is unlawful form of collective punishment that is
prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention—and was willing to
deal with the governing authorities in Gaza as if they’re a political actor,
this would produce real security, at least as a foundation for the relations
between this portion of the Palestinian people and the state of Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to
bring Raji Sourani back into the conversation to respond to Israeli President
Shimon Peres saying that the country is being pushed to fight against its will,
talking about Israel.
PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES: This strange
war, we don’t have any ambitions or any claims of this war. We don’t want to
get rid of—by war with Hamas, we don’t want to change the state of Gaza. We
don’t want to fire at all. But we were left without a choice.
AMY GOODMAN: That is the
Israeli president, Shimon Peres, saying “We [were] left without a
choice.” Raji Sourani, three Israelis have been killed by the rocket fire,
about 80 wounded. Your response?
RAJI SOURANI: Well, I mean,
it’s very interesting what Mr. Peres is saying. Even he blames the victim. I
mean, we are criminals because we push them to kill us, to bomb us, to destroy
us, to launch a war against us. That’s obscene. That’s the absurd. I mean, it’s
Gilad Sharon, a Dahiya doctrine, it’s not a theory; it’s a practice. And this
practice had happened during the Lebanon war. And I’m sure, with all the
introductions we have for Gaza for the last six days, that the worst is yet to
come. In the last five days, things were going really—I mean, every day worse
than the other. But in the last 24 hours, things are escalating in a very
drastic way. Just half an hour ago, ambulance with a doctor and nurse has been
targeted and killed. These are the last victims, I mean, we are having in Gaza.
And all over Gaza, there is no safe haven.
triggered this war really? What triggered it? The assassination of one of Hamas
leaders who was negotiating with the Egyptian and the Israelis the truce. And
that’s what triggered, Amy, everything. Mr. Peres is forgetting that Gaza, for
the last seven years, suffer a criminal siege, suffocating socially and
economically 1.7 million people, unable to move in or out, and no movement for
goods whatsoever. And they shifted Gaza to be a first-class,
human-disaster-made, de-developed place. And, you know, they are practicing all
kinds of suffocation on it through that criminal siege, which all international
human rights organizations said this is illegal, inhumane, as Mr. Falk rightly
AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani,
President Obama, the Israeli government, the U.S. media, overall, says what’s
triggered this Israeli military assault on Gaza are the missiles, the rocket
attacks that are coming from Gaza.
RAJI SOURANI: It’s not true
at all. It’s not true at all. There was assassination, and there was bombing
immediately after assassination all over Gaza Strip. And this you can—being
asked by any local observer, whether local, international, neutral or—I mean,
these are given facts. But obviously, U.S. and Mr. Obama try to provide Israel
with full excuse, with full legal, political immunity to do whatever they want
to do against Gazans. This is—this is unjust. This is unfair. This makes U.S.
on the same foot, I mean, equal to Israel and real partner of what they are
doing, of war crimes or crimes against humanity, against Gazan civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced plans to travel to Egypt to seek a
ceasefire, but many residents of Gaza say they’re skeptical of Ban’s trip to
the Middle East. This is one resident of Gaza named Yousif.
I do not welcome him, because he came here during the last war, 2008-2009, and
did nothing for us. He will come again for the second war but will never do
anything for us. He will speak about taking action but will not do anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you share
that view, Raji Sourani?
RAJI SOURANI: I want him to
come, and I want him to be the real international conscience of the most
important system on earth, the U.N., in order to bring rule of law, not the
rule of jungle, to this part of the world. Gaza is not part of his visit. He’s
going to Israel, and he’s going to the West Bank. But those who need his visit,
Gazans, he’s not going to visit them. And he, in advance, once and again,
blamed the victim. He says, you know, Gaza deserve what had happened, for
simple reason: They are bombarding Israel. Once again, Amy, it’s Kafka. It’s
absurd. How can occupied people, those who are entitled by law, by
international humanitarian law, to protection, can be victimizers for
belligerent, criminal occupation practicing war crime, not this time, but just
in Cast Lead operation, as well, and wasn’t held accountable?
AMY GOODMAN: The latest
news around the attack on the media center: On Sunday, six Palestinian
journalists wounded when Israeli missiles slammed into the offices of the Hamas
TV station, Al Aqsa, and the Lebanon-based Al Quds TV, a number of
international media outlets, including Fox, CBS, Sky, have used the studios in targeted buildings. One of
the victims lost his leg. And I’m looking at a tweet from the Netanyahu
spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, who said, “No Western journalists were hurt
during the IAF operation aimed to destroy Hamas’
military comm. situated on the roof of a media building.” And I’d like to
get the U.N. rapporteur Richard Falk’s response.
RICHARD FALK: It is clear
that any kind of deliberate attack on journalists is itself a deliberate,
intentional war crime. The U.N. has clearly declared that journalists are
civilians. And this isn’t as if there is an attack on a communications system
that manipulates the weapons that Hamas has been using. It is an attack on
journalists that are doing their professional job, and it represents an attempt
by Israel, I suppose, to avoid any kind of effort to tell the story of what is
really happening. And we’re thankful to media personalities such as yourself
that are at least trying to get at the truth of what is going on and the
terrible ordeal that the people of Gaza are once again subjected to without the
kind of protection that international law and international morality should be
AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani,
what is life like on the ground right now? You are in your office. How are
Gazans dealing with the attacks right now?
RAJI SOURANI: Well, I mean,
if you are sitting in my office, I mean, you will hear the bombs, I mean, all
over the place. Every minute or two passes, I mean, you will hear, you know,
one bomb from Apache or a drone or F-16 hitting, bombing. And just half an hour
ago, the Shoroq Tower, where these journalists were targeted at dawn yesterday,
have been bombed again, under fire right now at this tower. For the second
consecutive time in less than 30 hours, this tower has been targeted. And this
tower, I mean, full of media people—yesterday, six has been injured, one have
leg amputated. And again, I mean, they are doing this once and again. And
yesterday, another building full of journalists were actually threatened to
evacuate. And they sent message to international journalists—not Gazan
journalists, international—to evacuate and leave the place. And we went there,
all the human rights organization leaders, in solidarity, I mean, with them,
and we held a press conference at that building, in front of that building, and
in solidarity with them.
again, Israel feel immune: they are not going to be held accountable. They
count too much in U.S., and they count too much in Europe, and they know that,
you know, they are not going to be criticized or blamed, as far, I mean, all
these superpowers giving them that protection. And that’s why they feel almost
having a free hand to do whatever they want to do.
And by the
way, yesterday, when they bombarded al-Dalo three-stories house, and they
killed these 12 people, 10 from one family, they said, “Well, we committed
minor mistake. We just didn’t pick the right house. We think the house which
was supposed to be targeted, the one next to it.” So they mean, I mean,
even choosing houses, choosing inhabited houses, choosing houses full of
civilians, it’s very legitimate target for one reason, because the owner of
that house is in Hamas or Fatah or belong to this or that group. This is a
clear policy, again Israel putting in the eye of the storm civilians, and they
are doing a Dahiya doctrine. And I believe all introductions, especially in the
last 24 hours, indicates in a very clear way that the worst is yet to come. And
I’m anticipating and expecting soon, I mean, drastic change and much more
killings and injuries and destruction going to happen in this part of the
world, as if what had happened so far is not enough.
AMY GOODMAN: As you were
saying, Raji Sourani, this is a tweet from the BBC:
“Tower block gaza housing offices Arab tv channels & Al Aqsa tv of
Hamas hit 3 times. Reports 7 injured.” And we are showing live on Democracy Now! right now the tower where the—where
the Palestinian media is. And for our radio listeners, you can go to our
website at democracynow.org to see those images. As we wrap up, what you feel
needs to be done now? Raji Sourani, you wrote a piece called
“History is Repeated as the International Community Turns Its Back on
Gaza,” referring to what happened four years ago soon after President
Obama was elected the first time in that interim before he was inaugurated,
similar to what we’re seeing now, with Operation Cast Lead. What about the
world community? What about Egypt now with a president from the Muslim
Brotherhood? Who are you looking to to help? And I want to put that question
also to Richard Falk after.
RAJI SOURANI: I want a
free, committed people across the globe break this conspiratorial silence and
to ask for rule of law and justice for this part of the world. All what we
want, rule of law, not the rule of jungle. And Israel is effectively doing the
rule of jungle in this part of the world. I think and I’m sure if Israel were
held accountable in Cast Lead operation, wouldn’t dare to do this. As a citizen
of the world who believes in the world of law, asking individuals, groups,
states, to do something effective to have an end for this criminal offensive by
Israel. Egypt and other states, they are good, but I don’t believe, I mean,
they are in capacity to stop that. I think what we need, something very simple:
very strong intervention to have an end for this crime and to bring peace to
this part of the world, which only can it be brought by one thing: have an end
for this Israeli belligerent occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani,
do you also call on Hamas to stop hitting Israel with their missiles?
RAJI SOURANI: Well, right
of self-determination and right of self-defense, it’s a very basic fundamental
right for any occupied people, but that should be abide with the rule of law,
as well. And I think, you know, we should be on higher moral ground than this
Israeli belligerent occupation.