Justifying Genocide, a Shameful Transparent Spectacle


Richard Falk | Global Justice in the 21st Century – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Nov 2023 – Revised version of an interview by Mohaddeseh Pakravan of Mehr News Agency published in the Tehran Times on 16 Nov 2023.

1-How do you assess the international developments taking place around the Gaza war? Can the support of the United States and some European countries to the Israeli regime be justified?

There are two broad responses to this question. The first distinguishes between the Global West, including several EU countries, especially the US that are supportive enablers of Israel and the Global South in which there is present on every continent widespread opposition to the genocidal violence of the Israeli response to the October 7 Hamas attack.

The second line of response is to distinguish between the people in the countries supporting Israel and their governments. Even in the United States and Western Europe, street protests and demonstrations, as confirmed by public opinion polls, suggest that the people are calling for, even demanding, a Gaza ceasefire while governments continues to abstain or even continue to endorse Israel’s military operations despite its daily atrocities, although the support for Israel is expressed in a less unqualified way verbally as the Hamas attacks recedes from consciousness and as Palestinian bodies pile up, especially those of infant children.

The Israeli justification for unleashing this tsunami of violence against an entrapped civilian population was initially expressed in the vengeful language of its leaders in response to the Hamas attack. Such an outrageous embrace of violence failed to produce any dissenting comments from official circles in the Global West. Later Israel and supporters put forward somewhat more standard justifications based on its claimed right to defend itself, which seems to imply that Israel is exercising its international law right of self-defense, but the vague language used may be a deliberate attempt to gain greater latitude than is associated with the scope of self-defense under international law. Israel seems to be issuing itself a license for an unlimited recourse to punitive violence which is not permissible under international law. In any event, Israel’s disproportionate, indiscriminate, and grossly excessive violence that is further aggravated by the targeting of such protected sites as hospitals, mosques and churches, crowded refugee camps, UN buildings, and schools throughout Gaza. Such behavior discredits any Israeli defensive security justifications both legally and morally.

There are additional problems with Israel’s onslaught being carried out against the civilian population of Gaza under the glare of journalistic coverage and TV cameras. Because Israel remains the Occupying Power in Gaza it is subject to the legal framework set forth in the 4th Geneva Convention on Belligerent Occupation, and possesses a primary duty that is spelled out in the provisions of the treaty to protect the wellbeing and rights of the occupied population. It has no right of self-defense as the concept is understood in international law, or set forth in the constraining language of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which presupposes a prior sustained armed attack across an international border by a foreign actor, and not just a single incident of the sort caused by  Hamas, an actor internal to Israel’s de facto domain of sovereign authority, although limited by its duties in relation to the administration of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which has been Israel’s responsibility since the end of the 1967 War.

In 2005 for a variety of reasons associated with a pragmatic approach to national interests, Israel implemented a ‘disengagement’ plan in Gaza, which included withdrawing its troops and security forces from occupied Palestinian territories to Israel proper and dismantling the unlawful settlements that had been established in Gaza between 1967 and 2005. Israel contended that these moves of disengagement ended its responsibilities under international humanitarian law as the Occupying Power. This view was rejected by the UN and the weight of assessment by international jurists because Israel retained effective control over the borders, including the entry and exit of persons and traded goods, as well as exerting its authority to impose continuing control of Gaza’s air space and coastal waters, including a highly restrictive blockade since 2007, confining the identity of Hamas to that of ‘terrorists’ despite its success in internationally monitored election in 2006. Israel made no secret of its policy of keeping the population on what governmental officials called ‘a subsistence diet’ as periodically reinforced by major military incursions luridly described by Tel Aviv as ‘mowing the lawn.’ Such genocidal tropes anticipate the behavior and language relied upon in the ongoing all out attack on Gaza.

From 1967 until the present there have been resistance initiatives undertaken by the Palestinians in Gaza, including the Intifada of 1987, the Great March of Return in 2018, and rocket launches that did minimal damage and always were either in response to Israeli provocations or followed by disproportionate Israel air strikes. Even after its disengagement plan was put in operation the people of Gaza were subjected to a variety of serious forms of collective punishment as prohibited by Ariticle 33 of Geneva IV. The overall conditions of Gaza led prominent international observers to describe  Gaza ‘the world’s largest open air prison,’ a damning indictment of Israel’s dereliction of its duties as Occupying Power.

By way of open diplomacy and by concerted recourse to back channel efforts Hamas from the time of its election victory in 2006 put forward a variety of proposals for an extended ceasefire for as long as 50 years, but Israel showed no interest in exploring such a prospect.

During this period UN Special Rapporteurs chosen by the Human Rights Commission in Geneva reported on Israeli violations of human rights, making various policy recommendations that were never carried out due to geopolitical leverage exerted to insulate Israel from legal accountability.

2-Although the Israeli regime is clearly violating international law, international organizations including the United Nations have failed to take a decisive practical measure against Tel Aviv. Why cannot such organizations take serious measures to stop Israeli crimes?

In the last years i=of World War II the founders designed the UN to be weak regarding the management of power and strategic rivalry, giving a veto power in the Security Council to the winners in the war, presumed then to be the most powerful and dangerous countries in the world. This view seemed to reflect accurately power hierarchies as of 1945. In one respect it was confirm by the fact of the first five nuclear powers were the same five countries given this privileged status in the UN System.

Such an arrangement was also expressed by making the General Assembly’s authority expressly limited to making recommendations and specific fact-finding initiatives despite it being the UN political organ most representative of the peoples of the world. It is made clear in numerous provisions of the Charter that the Organization formally defers to the primacy of geopolitics in a large variety of situations that occur within the UN, including the selection of the Secretary-General, the amendment of the Charter and reform of the UN, the enforcement of International Court of Justice decisions, and the implementation of policy recommendations from the various entities comprising the UN System. This means in practice, the UN can only be effective when P5 reach agreement, and paralyzed when disagreement is fundamental as it is with respect to the present unfolding genocide victimizing the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza, and less directly the whole of the Palestinian presence in both the entire occupied territories and Israel itself.

Even if the Security Council reaches an agreement, the UN does not. possess the capabilities to implement its decisions without the voluntary provision of funds and personnel for peacekeeping and humanitarian undertakings, which presupposes the presence of a supportive political will. The UN can be effective, perhaps too effective, if a Security Council resolution as was the case in 2011, which authorized a limited intervention in Libya. The use of force was implemented by NATO capabilities in a manner that greatly exceeded what the Security Council, producing a regime-changing intervention, angering countries that had abstained and undermining trust among the P5, as well as causing chaos in the country that has lasted up to the present. In the Libyan case the UN allowed itself to be geopolitically manipulated by NATO seeking to legitimize its regime-changing mission that violated Libya’s sovereign rights.

 3- How successful do you see the Zionist-affiliated world stream media in justifying the Israeli regime’s brutal attacks on civilians in Gaza?

The global media, by and large, did provide credibility for the initial phases of the Israeli response. It became harder to do this as the narrative about the Hamas attack of October 7 receded in time and the Israeli attack took on such visibly vicious characteristics of disproportionate violence and genocide, given an explicit transparency by the statements of numerous Israeli leaders including Netanyahu and the Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant. Gallant issued a notorious decree denying the people of Gaza food, fuel, and electricity and comparing the beleaguered Palestinian civilians to ‘human animals’ who deserved to be treated “accordingly”, a dehumanizing language confirming genocidal intent. Such intent was manifest in the repeated attacks on prohibited targets, producing high casualties including among children, sick and disabled Palestinians, health and aid workers, and those sheltering in UN buildings and hospitals. Israel completely abandoned the canons of responsible statecraft and made no effort to uphold the duties of an Occupying Power. Even before this eruption the UN was seeking guidance from the ICJ and a specially constituted Commission of Inquiry as to whether the UN should formally terminate Israel’s status as Occupying Power and call for Israel’s withdrawal to its former borders from the three Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. It should be remembered that an unanimous Security Council Resolution, 242, anticipating a temporary occupation followed by such a withdrawal. Such thinking was shaped by the view that international law prohibited the acquisition of foreign territory by forcible means. It should also be appreciated that Israel was deemed an apartheid by a wide range of respected civil society human rights civil society non-governmental organizations, which is a serious crime that is continuous as embedded in the structure of Israel’s system of oppressive control of the Palestinian people in their distinct circumstances.

4-What Should Muslim leading countries do to stop Israeli crimes?

This is the most important challenge faced by Muslim majority countries since the end of the Cold War. In essence, the governments of Muslim countries should feel obligated to do more than call for a ceasefire, but they should certainly at least do this, and have yet to do. More is needed by way of punitive and substantive action in the form of boycotts and sanctions, censure for genocide to halt and oppose the Israeli war machine. More is also needed as to the future, ideally accountability for Israel, major reconstruction aid and pressure for a just peace that realizes the Palestinian right of self-determination. This is a. moment of truth for the entire world, and it could become a turning point for a better future for humanity, but only if actions taken are done to oppose Israel’s genocidal campaign in a spirit of urgency, sacrifice, sufficiency, and a re-humanizing solidarity. We cannot let ourselves, wherever located, become resigned to a toxic fate for the Palestinians imposed by Israeli criminality. Better to heed the words and slogans of the enraged masses in the streets of cities throughout the world than resign ourselves to the rhetoric of governmental leaders that condemns but stays on the sidelines. Of course, worse than a failure of commitment to take action in opposition to genocide and Palestinian victimization, is the continuing unwillingness of leading Western countries to show concern for acute and massive patterns of victimization except with respect to the hostages seized by Hamas in the course of their attack that combined armed resistance with terrifying criminal acts of violence inflicted on innocent Jewish civilians as well as on Israeli military forces.

From a Western perspective it may be relevant to reconsider the Huntington contention that after the Cold War the West would face a challenge from the Islamic world, what he labeled ‘a clash of civilizations’ along the faultlines where Muslim majority countries are in direct contact with Western states. It is notable that the Hamas allies in Gaza are all Muslim, and the allies of Israel are European or whit settler colonial countries.


Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global Law, Faculty of Law, at Queen Mary University London, Research Associate the Orfalea Center of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Fellow of the Tellus Institute. He directed the project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy at UCSB and formerly served as director the North American group in the World Order Models Project. Between 2008 and 2014, Falk served as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine. His book, (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance (2014), proposes a value-oriented assessment of world order and future trends. His most recent books are Power Shift (2016); Revisiting the Vietnam War (2017); On Nuclear Weapons: Denuclearization, Demilitarization and Disarmament (2019); and On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative, ed. with Victor Faessel & Michael Curtin (2019). He is the author or coauthor of other books, including Religion and Humane Global Governance (2001), Explorations at the Edge of Time (1993), Revolutionaries and Functionaries (1988), The Promise of World Order (1988), Indefensible Weapons (with Robert Jay Lifton, 1983), A Study of Future Worlds (1975), and This Endangered Planet (1972). His memoir, Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim was published in March 2021 and received an award from Global Policy Institute at Loyala Marymount University as ‘the best book of 2021.’ He has been nominated frequently for the Nobel Peace Prize since 2009.

Go to Original – richardfalk.org


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