By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
Israel’s weeks-long bombardment of Gaza and recently-launched ground invasion has killed over 9,000 Palestinians, among them 3,700 children, with full U.S. government support. Global demands for a ceasefire go unheeded. This week, one senior United Nations human rights official had enough.
“I write at a moment of great anguish for the world, including for many of our colleagues,” wrote longtime human rights attorney Craig Mokhiber, opening his letter of resignation as director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it.”
Mokhiber’s resignation serves as a powerful, personal critique of the UN. The 193-member General Assembly passed a Gaza ceasefire resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions, but Security Council motions for a ceasefire are consistently vetoed by the U.S.
Mokhiber’s resignation letter noted a protest last Friday night when more than a thousand Jews and their allies descended on New York City’s Grand Central Station for a mass rally demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Protesters scaled the station’s historic train departure boards and hung banners with messages like, “Never Again for Anyone,” “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living” and “Palestinians Should Be Free.” About 400 protesters were arrested.
“We are here to protest the genocide that is happening in our name. It has to stop,” Hunter College Distinguished Professor Emerita Rosalind Petchesky told the Democracy Now! news hour. “Palestinians have been the victims of oppression for 75 years, and it has to stop.”
Jane Hirschmann was there with 13 members of her family – her husband, her children and grandchildren. Moments before her arrest, she explained, “My parents were Holocaust survivors. There’s one thing I learned: Never again means never again for anyone. We don’t condone this, and Netanyahu better stop the bombing of Gaza…Jews, American Jews, have to step up and say, ‘Not in our name. Not with our tax money.’”
Dr. Steve Auerbach stood in the middle of the protest in a white medical coat holding a hand-made sign reading, “Jewish Pediatricians Say Stop Killing Kids and Families.”
“I’ve never been prouder to be a pediatrician than when, on Friday, October 13th, a thoroughly mainstream organization, the New York state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that ‘We stand with the children of Israel and the children of Gaza. We love all children, all families equally,’ and calling for an immediate ceasefire,” Auerbach said. “Unfortunately, children and their families continue to be killed…It is not a Jewish value to be dropping bombs on children, killing children and their families.”
Speaking on Democracy Now! Craig Mokhiber said the Grand Central protesters were “stripping away the Israeli propaganda point that they are somehow acting in the defense of Jews. Israel pushes an old antisemitic trope that it somehow represents Jewish people around the world. Not only is that not factual, but it’s very dangerous. Everyone needs to know that Israel is a state that’s responsible for its own crimes, and that responsibility does not extend to our Jewish brothers and sisters, many of whom are standing up alongside Muslim and Christian and others in demonstrations across this country and across Europe, saying that this must end.”
At a fundraising event in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, President Biden was interrupted by Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, who shouted, “Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.” Later, Biden said, for the one of the first times publicly, he supported a pause in hostilities in Gaza. The Rabbi asked, “What is a pause,” to which Biden replied, “A pause means it gives time to get the prisoners out.”
So far, the Israeli leadership seems unmoved by Biden’s quiet suggestions. He has publicly repeated that he has not encouraged Israel to exercise restraint, following the surprise October 7th attack in which Hamas killed up to 1,400 people in Israel and took over 200 hostages.
On Thursday, Israel bombed a UN school building in Gaza, killing at least 27 people. This comes after multiple strikes on the densely-populated refugee camp of Jabalia in northern Gaza, with a death toll of over one hundred civilians – ostensibly to kill a Hamas commander. The UN has said the bombing may be a war crime. At least 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed to date in the ground invasion. It’s not clear how many Israeli hostages have been killed since Israel began its attack on Gaza.
Saving Palestinian lives will save Israeli lives.