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Gazan Attorney Who Has Lost 60 Relatives in Israeli Attacks Says U.S. Is “Complicit in Genocide”

Written by on 23/12/2023


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The United Nations Security Council is preparing to vote on a watered-down resolution on aid to Gaza, after the United States pushed for the vote to be delayed four times this week as Israel continued its massive assault on Gaza that’s killed at this point over 20,000 Palestinians, reaching about the death of 1% of the Gazan population. Health officials in Gaza say at least 390 Palestinians have been killed over the last 48 hours. The United Nations is warning more than half a million Palestinians in Gaza — about a quarter of the population — face catastrophic hunger and starvation.

We go now to Ahmed Abofoul. He is a Gaza-born attorney who works as a legal research and advocacy officer at Al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian human rights organization. He recent wrote an article headlined “We are Witnessing a Genocide Unfolding in Gaza: To Stop it, the ICC Prosecutor Must Apply the Law Without Fear or Favour.” Ahmed is joining us from New York City.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! When you use the term “genocide” — you’re an international human rights lawyer — explain exactly what you mean and why you believe this applies to Gaza, Ahmed Abofoul.

AHMED ABOFOUL: Thank you for having me, first of all.

Second of all, the word “genocide” is a legal term that is specifically defined in international law, and it’s also a crime that has elements. Once these elements are met, the crime is committed. And as you know, this is a term that has not been used a lot before in the context of Palestine, although the crime, we believe, it has been committed. So, for example, what happened in 1948, many would argue, and I agree, was an act of genocide. The only reason we didn’t call it genocide then, that we didn’t have the concept of genocide had crystallized yet. We didn’t have the Genocide Convention. We didn’t have the definition. It was also used in the context of Palestine in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. And this is the only time that the U.N. described the situation as genocide. Genocide in international law is a crime, and it’s defined when there are — certain underlying acts are being committed with the special intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a certain ethnic or religious or political group. And in this case, we believe the situation in Gaza is that of genocide.

Usually in genocide, the hardest thing to prove is the mental element and the special intent to commit genocide. And in order to prove that, courts usually recourse to statements of the perpetrators. In this particular situation, we have numerous statements of genocidal intent, that are also being translated into actions on the ground. We see the level of destruction, the disregard of human life, the — in the words of Biden, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. And this is not only our conclusion as Palestinian human rights organizations. As a matter fact, 800 genocide and Holocaust scholars have also described the situation as genocide. And certain scholars describe it a textbook case of genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Ahmed Abofoul, if you can talk personally about Gaza, about your homeland? You grew up in Gaza or were born in Gaza. In fact, your name, Ahmed Abofoul, didn’t someone in your family by that same name just die?

AHMED ABOFOUL: Well, now over 60 of my family have died, including my — have been killed, to be accurate, including my eldest uncle, some of my cousins. And like most Palestinians, we don’t feel like we even have the luxury to grieve, considering the level of destruction and the horrific crimes that are being committed. It’s really heartbreaking. We’ve always grew up to hear the stories of the Nakba. We’ve never imagined that we would live it. It happened in 1948 because it wasn’t televised. The world didn’t know what’s going on in Palestine. But now it’s quite disgraceful that it’s a televised carnage, and the world is literally watching.

You mentioned the Security Council resolution that was watered down and will be voted on today. But if you look at this situation and if you look at the voting record, it’s basically the U.S. versus the world. The U.S. is actually promoting this genocide, supporting this genocide. I would never know, and most probably my family was killed by American weapons. Our children are being torn apart on TV, on your TV screens, by American tax money, by the support of the American government. The American government is complicit in this genocide. There is blood of Palestinian children on their hands.

And that’s why, with our partners in the U.S., with the Center for Constitutional Rights — and I know you interviewed Katie Gallagher, who spoke more about this — but we’re suing Biden and — President Biden, but also Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin, not only for their complicity in genocide, but also for the failure to prevent genocide. If there is any country in the world that can influence Israeli policies, it’s the U.S.

And if you’ll allow me, I mentioned that I come from a refugee family. So I’m not originally from Gaza. Like over 75% of the population in Gaza are refugees. So, when we say this is a second Nakba, it is a second Nakba. In 1948, over 80% of the Palestinian population were forcibly displaced. Now we have over 90% of the population that is displaced. We have over 60% of Gaza’s residential units have been destroyed. Most of the population are on the edge of starvation. It’s quite shameful, to be honest, that until this very moment the U.S. cannot do the bare minimum of human decency, which is calling for a ceasefire, and trying to provide diplomatic coverage for the genocide that is unfolding in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you account for — on the one hand, you have President Biden warning Israel about indiscriminate bombing, and, on the other hand, you have the U.S. dragging its feet all week. Yesterday, we thought right after the show, I think 10 a.m., they were going to be voting. But now it is Friday. Four times this vote has been delayed, a resolution that will clearly not be for a ceasefire. Can you explain the significance of — what difference does a U.N. Security Council resolution even make? Is it binding? What would it mean? And what it has been watered down to at this point today?

AHMED ABOFOUL: Of course. Well, the Security Council resolutions are binding, although Israel has a history of not respecting those resolutions. The U.S. has been trying to water down the language not to include clear call for an immediate ceasefire. In the same time, they call for safe and unhindered humanitarian supplies and humanitarian aid. But in the same time, they don’t call for a ceasefire. And quite strange formula from the U.S., on the one hand, to want safe and unhindered humanitarian access, but without stopping the fire. So, basically, it wants humanitarian aid workers to work under the hell that Israel unleashed on the Palestinian civilian population.

And as you mentioned, Biden didn’t only warn the Israelis; he actually made a determination, and we agree with him. He said Israel is engaged in indiscriminate bombing. This is a war crime. So, the question is: Why do you then send weapons to Israel? The position of the U.S. is quite hypocritical. And the U.S. cannot claim leadership in the world, because it’s not showing us that leadership. Actions speak louder than words. The U.S. — or, President Biden, only yesterday, tweeted that the U.S. supports the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Two days before that, the U.S. voted against the resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. So, we don’t want to see words. We want to see actions. And the hypocrisy of the U.S. is quite flagrant. You know, a principal leadership and true leadership is about the consistent application of international law, the principal application of international law on your foes and your allies alike. Hypocrisy, double standards and selectivity don’t reflect characteristics of leadership, but of complicity in genocide.

And if you’ll allow me, what’s at stake at the moment is not only the dehumanization of the Palestinian people and the genocide that they’re facing, but also the whole body of international law is being put to test, because, basically, we saw how the West, led by the U.S., mobilized this body of international law in the case of Ukraine, but in the case of Gaza, they’re preventing or failing to do the bare minimum, which is call for a ceasefire. So I think what’s also at stake is the credibility and the reputation of the U.S., which always portrays itself as a beacon of democracy, but, in fact, is showing us that it supports genocide.

And what’s also, I think, interesting in this situation, that it’s also putting all of these, quote-unquote, “liberal democracies” to test, because all polls show that most Americans want a ceasefire, most Democrats in Congress want a ceasefire, but there seems to be a disconnect between what the people want and what the U.S. leadership is doing. So, we call on Biden and the Biden administration to listen to their people, to listen to their people and do the bare minimum, which is calling for a ceasefire.

AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed, I want to thank you so much for being with us. And also, our condolences on the death of so many members of your family in Gaza. Ahmed Abofoul is legal research and advocacy officer at the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq. We’ll link to your piece, “We are Witnessing a Genocide Unfolding in Gaza: To Stop it, the ICC Prosecutor Must Apply the Law Without Fear or Favour.”

Coming up, we speak to Brazil’s first-ever minister of Indigenous peoples. Back in 20 seconds.



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