Israel does not have the right to self-defense against Hamas under international law, and must be investigated for "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories.
Francesca Albanese used her speech during an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday to call out the members of the international community and media who she said have forgotten that the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian governments began decades ago, when Israeli settlers forcibly expelled Palestinians from their land.
“Since 1967, Israel has built 300 colonies which are a war crime in and of themselves in the occupied Palestinian territory," she said. "This has meant establishing a system of structural violence made of dispossession, confiscation of land, and forcible displacement of Palestinians."
"What Israel was allowed to do was to act to establish law and order, to repel the attack, neutralize whomever was carrying out the attacks, and then proceed with law and order measures. Not waging a war," she added.
Just under 1,200 Israelis were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, with over 200 more taken as hostages. Since then, nearly 12,000 Palestinians, more than 4,500 of them children, have been killed by airstrikes or by Israel's complete blockade on humanitarian aid, which included cutting off Gaza's access to food, water, electricity, fuel, and telecommunications.
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According to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
While an armed attack did occur against Israel on Oct. 7, it was not by another recognized member of the UN. Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank are considered states occupied by the Israeli government, as opposed to their own sovereign country, which Albanese said discredits the idea that Israel is acting in self-defense under the Charter.
“Israel cannot claim the right of self-defense against a threat that emanates from a territory it occupies, from a territory that is under belligerent occupation,” she said.
Albanese noted that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which outlines protections for civilians during times of war, prevents the "collective punishment" of a civilian population, regardless of if a nation is on the offensive or defensive.
She continued to say there is currently a very real concern that Israel “might commit the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people."
Albanese also heavily condemned the international community for its response to the conflict, noting that their ignoring of the fact "there were already war crimes being committed [against Gaza] before October 7" is reflective of “amnesia and myopia and living in an alternative reality."
“In the face of all of this, the international community is almost completely paralyzed,” Albanese said. "I am being generous when I say the UN is experiencing its most epic political and humanitarian failure since its creation. Individual member states, especially in the West, are on the margins. Muttering notable words of condemnation for Israel’s success at best or staying silent in fear of restraining Israel’s ... claimed right to self-defense, whatever that means.”
She added: "What is being done is wrong ... How many more people need to die?”
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