Gaza: After Genocide What Future?


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

29 Nov 2023 – Questions posed by the Organization for the Defense of Victims of Violence. At the moment, many prayers for a permanent ceasefire, but the future is suspended in doubt, and the pre-pause hostage/prisoner exchange casts a dark shadow over all of humanity. Many innocent lives in Gaza remain in jeopardy. My responses waver between fears of a resumed Israeli military operation and hopes of confronting day-after issues of post-genocidal economic reconstruction and scenarios of political transformation.


1. Horrible media outlets focus on the access to food and other essential items for the Gaza civilians. What do you think of the starvation of civilians and children as a tool for war?

Policies of war combatants that deliberately focus on starvation or denial of access to food as a tactic or tool of war are guilty of war crimes. It is usual for such tactics to be disavowed by their perpetrators as collateral damage with no intention to target civilians of any category. If the targeting appears deliberate, continues in similar patterns disregarding predominant civilian targeting, and inflicts heavy civilian casualties, as has been the case with respect to the Israeli attacks in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attack. The fact that the October 7 itself included severe war crimes does not justify Israeli conduct in a retaliatory mode that is disproportional or criminal. Starvation directed at civilians is unconditionally prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and an inherent war crime, which if repeated or continuous can be prosecuted as a Crime against Humanity or even Genocide if the instrument of starvation seems to be used for the purpose of destroying a racial, ethnic, or religious group in whole or in part.

2. How do you see the limitation of access to electricity, water, medicine, and hygiene items to be affecting people’s and children’s lives?

In the context of Israel’s ‘war’ on Gaza such restrictions, applied to an impoverished population without qualification, are genocidal examples of aggravated war crimes explicitly prohibited by provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention on Belligerent Occupation. Israel as the Occupying Power does not right enjoy any right of self-defense against an Occupied People, and is under a pervasive duty to protect the civilian population under all circumstances. Israel’s implementation of its government order totally cutting off Gaza’s access to food, fuel and electricity has contributed to the destruction of medical system, imperiling the entire population of Gaza, killing many children and women, as well as men.

Specific provisions are found in the Geneva Convention that confirm this assessment. Article 6 indicates the full reach of the protective legal duties of the Occupying Power to the civilian population under their control. The text of this provision underlies the commitment of International Humanitarian Law to the protection of civilians:

ART. 6. — “The present Convention shall apply from the outset of any conflict or occupation mentioned in Article 2.

In the territory of Parties to the conflict, the application of the present Convention shall cease on the general close of military operations.

In the case of occupied territory, the application of the present Convention shall cease one year after the general close of military operations; however, the Occupying Power shall be bound, for the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory, by the provisions of the following Articles of the present Convention: 1 to 12, 27, 29 to 34, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 59, 61 to 77, 143.”

Protected persons whose release, repatriation or re- establishment may take place after such dates shall meanwhile continue to benefit by the present Convention.”

In addition, because so responsive to inquiry as to the status of starvation under international humanitarian law, the partial texts of Article 55 & 56 is reproduced below:

ART. 55. — “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.”

ART. 56. — “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the co-operation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.“3.Over the decades, the world has witnessed a multitude of various rounds of attacks on Gaza, with no achievements, in your opinion, what is the reason for the inability of the international community to address the gross violations of human rights by Israel?

3. We have witnessed the dreadful attack on Gaza Hospital, what do you think of the air raids that seem to be indiscriminately targeting the places that are supposed to serve as civilians’ sanctuary in wartime?

The wording of the question suggests the confusion surrounding this important dimension of the most serious allegations of ‘indiscriminate targeting’ when the targets are obviously being selected and targeted by Israel’s precision weaponry against just such targets, including hospitals, refugee camps, sick and wounded patients, forced civilian evacuees compelled to leave the north for the south in Gaza. The entire military operation against Gaza is seemingly intended to create an ethnic cleansing phenomenon comparable to the forced dispossession of more than 700,000 Palestinians. This happened in the final phases of the 1948 War known to Palestinian as the Nakba (or catastrophe)

4. The message that the Palestinians were receiving from pressure against them by Israel including building settlements and killing civilians in Gaza is that Israel is against the two-state solution question. So, it’s a big question mark on the two-state solution. Do you think that a two-state solution is still a valid solution and can be a way to get out of this deadlock and war? or do you believe that these current incident events have also brought this solution to a dead end?

This is a puzzling time for those thinking about a benevolent future for both Palestinians and Israelis. At the moment external voices that are seeking a permanent ceasefire, including the UN Secretary-General, as well as many Jewish supporters of Israel, also the US President, continue to act as if a two-state is the best and only feasible solution despite obstacles that are overlooked despite their seeming insurmountable character. The first set of obstacles is the extensive and militant settler phenomenon, which has been consistently viewed at the UN and most international venues as being in direct violation of Article 49(6) of Geneva IV. There are currently about 250 settlements spread around the West Bank and as many as 500,000 settlers who would resist by force any arrangement that called for their relocation in pre-1967 Israel. The second obstacle is the known opposition of Likud leadership, including Netanyahu, to meaningful forms of Palestinian statehood, most dogmatically and openly by the Religious Right Party as represented in the current government by Ben Gvir and Smotrich. A possible third obstacle is Palestinian refusal to accept an inferior form of statehood involving permanent demilitarization or Israel’s retention of West Bank settler enclaves.

A sustainable peace depends on a political arrangements based on equality between the two peoples as well as upholding the dignity of other minorities (Druze, Bedoin). If this skepticism about a two-state solution seems to imply a single state, then the principal obstacle would probably come from Zionists who remain deeply committed to a Jewish supremacist state and to a lesser extent from Palestinians demanding the full right of return of the five million or more Palestinian refugees and involuntary exiles living in camps or spread around the world. Given the depth of resentment that is associated with events since October 7 any union of the two peoples is probably not even thinkable under present conditions. At the same time, to restore the former status quo seems impossible given the devastation of Gaza and the lingering prospect of mass homelessness. Innovative solutions involving federation or confederation with either Lebanon or Egypt seems also non-viable at this point, although given the absence of a feasible peace arrangement innovative solutions may be the least bad of plausible day after options.

5. Considering the scope and intensity of the destruction of the civilian infrastructure and the blockade which is imposed on Gaza, in your opinion, what strategy should be implemented to firstly end the siege of Gaza (permanently and not return to the pre-conflict situation that practically turned Gaza a prison) and secondly, what should be done to heal this 75-year-old wound which was created since the establishment of Israel?

These are difficult questions for which there may no satisfactory answers to long as Israel is governed by such an extreme government and continues to enjoy the support of the US and strongest members of the EU. I do think that even these governments supporting Israel throughout the horrifying genocidal spectacle feel increasing pressure from their own citizenry to find a more humane future for the people of Gaza and all of occupied Palestine, and in this sense, that the devastation wrought by Israel has backfired as a strategy, although it is too soon to be confident of such an assessment.

I think the first priority after a permanent ceasefire is established would be to secure the withdrawal of Israel armed forces from Gaza, followed by an emergency international relief effort that gave priority to rebuilding destroyed residential neighborhoods and family residences. The forced evacuations together with intensity of bombardment has destroyed over 76% of the residences in northern Gaza. Of course, the rebuilding of hospitals and the repair of damage to UN structures, mosques and churches, and refugee facilities should also be included by international donors in their effort to meet this gigantic challenge of devastation at a time of cold weather and overcrowding.

More difficult by far is to end the iron grip on Gaza that has been maintained in different cruel forms ever since 1967. A first step would be a demand by the UNSC, and possibly such other intergovernmental groupings as the BRICS, to lift the blockade imposed in 2007 and agree with a Palestinian unity governance council on mutually administered border controls and an international protection force to monitor arms inputs ideally to both Gaza and Israel. It is virtually certain that these steps could not be taken until the certain political preconditions were met. Of vital importance would be the replacement of the Netanyahu government by a new coalition with a commitment to a sustainable peace.. Hopefully a new Israeli leadership committed to finding a neutral framework for negotiating a genuine political compromise that must finally give recognition to the basic rights of the Palestinian people.

These ideas may seem utopian at present, but they represent the only practical alternative to the sort of exterminist politics that Israel has so far relied upon in responding to the October 7 attack, which were immediately seized upon as an opportunity by the Israeli government to carry out their expansionist final phases of the Zionist Project, which included sovereign control and Palestinian dispossession in the West Bank and overall international erasure of the Palestinian people and statehood expectations. Destroying Hamas was never the entire, and perhaps not the main, rationale for the disproportionate Israeli response, and may have also been motivated by the perceived need of the Tel Aviv leaders to divert attention of Israelis and the world from the inexcusable security failures of the Israeli government. To achieve this result required the demonization of Hamas, the exaggeration of future security threats, and the genocidal onslaught that inflicted undeserved and horrifying punishment upon 99% innocent and previously victimized Gaza civilians. In thinking about the future it is helpful to separate the humanitarian urgency of funding livable conditions for the people of Gaza from a politics that aimed at the.   transformation of the underlying conflict Yet to leave the political track to the parties would invite future tragedies arising from the contradictory goals inherent in settler colonialism and those of a national movement of resistance in a- post-colonial setting


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.

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