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U.N. Rapporteur Francesca Albanese Urges Arms Embargo & Sanctions on Israel over War Crimes in Gaza

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We speak with Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory, who says the “monstrosity” of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, including attacks on civilians and restrictions on aid, shows that the International Court of Justice’s provisional orders to protect civilians are being ignored. “What should be done is an arms embargo right now and sanctions, because Israel is not in compliance with the critical measures ordered by the ICJ,” says Albanese.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

As we continue to report on Gaza, we’re joined by Francesca Albanese, United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, joining us from Tunis today. As you listen to the report on the ground in Rafah and you hear also, in addition to international groups, a dozen Israeli human rights organizations are demanding of the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, that Israel abide by its demand, request — you can explain whether it’s legally binding — to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and Netanyahu’s denial that there is a famine problem.

FRANCESCA ALBANESE: Hi, Amy and Juan. And thank you for having me back.

First of all, it’s very painful to listen to the testimonies from Gaza, because as someone who has seen this tragedy unfolding, this catastrophe unfolding, from the very beginning, and knowing that the situation in Gaza was already desperate for many before the 7th of October, again, I hear them in pain, especially at a time that is holy like the Ramadan.

I’m glad Israeli organizations are forcefully asking for compliance with international law, because this is what has been violated through and through. International law sets clear obligation on warring parties to deliver aid and allow in and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to the civilians in need in a situation of armed conflict.

And this is all the more serious in Gaza, given that on the 26th of January, the International Court of Justice issued an order that requested Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the permission of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life facing the Palestinians in Gaza. This has not happened. On the contrary, after the 26th of January, we have seen, on the one hand, increasing fighting, increasing shelling and killing of civilians desperately gathering for aid, the bombing of convoys and airdropped food, although the airdropped food, in any case, is dangerous, as we have seen. It has killed people in Gaza. And it’s a false factor. It cannot deliver the aid to everyone in need. On the other hand, we have seen also the deliberate targeting of UNRWA, which is the only organization who can orderly deliver humanitarian aid and food, on top of the increasing restrictions on the aid that can come in.

In the face of all this, Amy, I certainly welcome the opening of a humanitarian corridor, of a maritime corridor between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip. At the same time, this risks to be a drop in the ocean, as if, it was said before, the crossings between Israel and Gaza are not open, and if the humanitarian access is not fully guaranteed, within the scope of a ceasefire, because, ultimately, the only way to save lives is to stop bombing the Gaza Strip.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Francesca Albanese, we’ve been hearing now for weeks that negotiations were proceeding. Any day there would be a ceasefire. Any day. But the days keep passing, and the war continues. Do you feel that the United States and the Western powers are doing enough to pressure Israel on the issue of ceasefire?

FRANCESCA ALBANESE: I see the United States and most Western powers doing enough to continue this situation, this monstrosity, because there is no other way to qualify this. And certainly not enough is being done to prevent it, because the only thing at this point — and again, I want to stress once again, there is an order of the ICJ which imposes obligations not just on Israel, but also on third states, and these obligations are being violated. They send back to the — I mean, they refer back to the Genocide Convention. So it’s very critical, what they are doing and not doing. And this entails — this might entail responsibilities for these states, as well. But what should be done is an arms embargo right now and sanctions, because Israel is not in compliance with critical measures ordered by the ICJ, and this is not something that should be treated with negligence.

AMY GOODMAN: Francesca Albanese, do you know why Karim Khan of the International Criminal Court, the other court, outside of the International Court of Justice, has not brought Netanyahu up on charges? He immediately did after Putin invaded Ukraine. I think something like 10,000 Ukrainians, with a far larger population, have died, and that, in itself, is horrific, but we’re talking about 30,000 — more than 30,000 Palestinians, all agree, overwhelmingly civilian. And yet the International Criminal Court has not bring charges.

FRANCESCA ALBANESE: I cannot say with certainty, because I don’t know what his motives are. I want to imagine that his team is diligently preparing arrest warrants for anyone who needs to receive an arrest warrant. The fact that it has not happened yet is shocking. But to be honest, for me, it’s shocking that there had been no effective move by the ICC even before the 7th of October, because the continuous building of settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza — sorry, and East Jerusalem, the taking of land, the advancing of the annexation plans, these were already war crimes falling squarely in the jurisdiction of the ICC. So, there has been a delay in the situation of Palestine that might also be understandable as representing the political pressure that is on anyone operating at the international level. So, I don’t want to put the burden only on the ICC prosecutor.

There is a clear double standard when it comes to Palestine, also possibly resented across other parts of the Global South. But, clearly, Amy, the fact that in Ukraine we have had 0.2% of the population killed, and in Gaza, 1.3% of the population killed, and 4.5% of the population either killed, reported missing or injured, and no arrest warrant, in the face of genocidal incitement and clear orders given that have targeted the entire population as a whole as responsible for what happened, the tragic events of the 7th of October, this is disappointing, to say the least.

AMY GOODMAN: We have less than a minute. UNRWA, you talked about, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, although more than a dozen countries, 16, 17 countries, stopped funding, Canada and Sweden have resumed, Israel not presenting evidence that they said Hamas was — UNRWA was involved with Hamas. Yet the United States, by far the largest funder of UNRWA, has not. What is the effect of this, in 30 seconds?

FRANCESCA ALBANESE: The effect is that it undermines the operations of UNRWA across the region, not only in Gaza, but the entire Near East, in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And there is no legal basis to do so. So this only aggravates the responsibility of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Francesca Albanese, we want to thank you for being with us, United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory, today speaking to us from Tunis, Tunisia.

Next up, as President Biden pushes a bipartisan bill to crack down on immigrants, a Washington [state] group is reporting a death and two suicide attempts at the Northwest Detention Center run by the private GEO Group. Back in 20 seconds.

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