New: Russell Tribunal on Palestine finds evidence of genocide in Gaza

The Emergency Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held 24th and 25th september in Brussels was supposed to focused only on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge but, even though the jury of the Tribunal found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, persecution and incitement of genocide in the recent military operation, the final veredict concerns the whole situation of Gaza during the last decades: ‘The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.’

After having analized the “escalation in the physical and rethorical violence deployed in Gaza in the summer of 2014”, the Tribunal also pointed out “the potential for a regime of persecution to become genocidal in effect” and, furthermore, on the Israeli case, the evidence showed a rise in “racist rethoric and incitement to genocide (…) manifested across many levels of Israeli society, on both social and traditional media, from football fans, police officers, media commentators, religious leaders, legislators, and government ministers.” For the prevention and suppression of these acts, the Tribunal emphasised the the obligation of all state parties to the 1948 Genocide Convention to take action.

But not only action to prevent genocide, but also against a long list of war crimes the evidence pointed: willful killing, extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and civilian objects, disproportionate use of force, attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and education, use of Palestinians as human shields, employing weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare and the use of violence to spread terror among the civilian population.

The Tribunal came to these and other conclusions after hearing the testimony of several eyewitnesses to he Israel’s Opertaion Protective Edge.

Russell's Tribunal on Palestine special session in Albert Hall, Brussels, 24th September

Russell’s Tribunal on Palestine special session in Albert Hall, Brussels, 24th September

Voices from Gaza

The Tribunal session was introduced with a legal overview of key issues of the Gaza Strip by Prof. John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Dugard underlined the legal status of Gaza as an occupied territory, seen by Israel as a “hostile entity”. The blockade was labelled as a “form of politically-motivated, collective punishment”. Alongside this, Israel’s claim to self-defence was labelled as confusing because the rocket fire did not originate in an independent or external state, but rather a part of the population fighting for resistance to occupation -rendering the claim to self-defence politically inaccurate. Following this introduction a series of testimonies intervened in a discussion about the nature of Isreal’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

Col Des Travers –a retired Irish Army officer- compared the Israeli Operation Protective Edge to past major conflict actions at Guernica or Dresden. Indeed, the consensus at the Tribunal was that “there were genocidal aspects to the latest operation”. The Tribunal was told that the IDF budget had been doubled which points towards the possibility of another operation rather soon. This is especially bad news according to Des Travers, as he noted that the operations against Gaza were becoming more frequent. Before, this occurred every three years, and currently just over a year and a half.


Col Des Travers at the Russell Tribunal

Micheal Mansfield, a respected lawyer within the area of human rights, declared at the Tribunal that action against Israeli attacks is urgently required because these actions are approaching the border of genocide. To some extent, the crimes have already met the criteria of the UN definition of genocide. Mansfield, who labelled the international community as the US and its prominent ally, the EU, declared that, the latter, by tightening its ties with Israel “is embracing a perpetrator of genocide”. A “public relations” label to such actions cannot hide such reality.


Michael Mansfield at the Russell Tribunal

And this reality, according to the Tribunal, is urging the whole International community to act, and Israel to fulfill its’ obligations under international law and for the state of Palestine to accede without further delay to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, fully cooperate with the human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and fully engage the mechanisms of international justice. “It is recognised that in a situation where patterns of crimes against humanity are perpetrated with impunity, and where direct and public incitement to genocide is manifest throughout society, it is very conceivable that individuals or the state may choose to exploit the conditions in order to perpetrate the crime of genocide.”

Know more about the Tribunal here: