Craig Mokiber, director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights resigned on October 31, stating that “once again we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes and the organization we serve appears powerless to stop it.”
He noted that the UN had failed to prevent previous genocides against the Tutsis in Rwanda, Muslims in Bosnia, the Yazidi in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Rohingya in Myanmar and wrote: “High Commissioner we are failing again.
“The current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist colonial settler ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs … leaves no room for doubt.”
Mokhiber added: “This is textbook case of genocide” and said the US, UK and much of Europe were not only “refusing to meet their treaty obligations” under the Geneva Conventions but were also arming Israel’s assault and providing political and diplomatic cover for it.
“We must support the establishment of a single, democratic secular state in all of historic Palestine, with equal rights for Christians, Muslims, and Jews,” he wrote, adding: “and, therefore, the dismantling of the deeply racist, settler-colonial project and an end to apartheid across the land.”
Mokhiber, a lawyer who specializes in international human rights law, had worked for the UN since 1992. He led the high commissioner’s work on devising a human rights-based approach to development, and acted as a senior human rights adviser in Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan. In the 1990s he lived in Gaza.
Indifference to genocide, however, is the norm not the exception. The international community did little to halt the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. It is watching passively as hundreds of Palestinians are being killed and wounded a day while Israel blocks food, medicine, fuel and other basic supplies from entering the Gaza Strip where 80 percent of the some 2.3 million inhabitants are now homeless.
The few voices that denounce genocide pay with their careers. Josh Paul, who worked in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department for more than 11 years, resigned “due to a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.” Tariq Habash, a top adviser at the Education Department resigned in January saying he could no longer serve an administration that had “put millions of innocent lives in danger.” But, despite protest letters within government agencies, including the State Department and AID, there is no mass exodus.
Why do we decry genocide as the crime of crimes, teach class after class on the Holocaust, and yet do nothing to halt it when it occurs? Why are there so few people willing to stand up and call out the institutions and governments for their silence or complicity? Do we learn nothing from history? Joining me to discuss the historical indifference to genocide and what is taking place in Gaza is Craig Mokiber.