The damning letter from the main Palestinian civil society organizations to President Macron.
As you are convening the so-called Humanitarian Conference for civilian population in Gaza and the Paris peace Forum, we are compelled to write to you.
The vengeful and full-scale military offensive on the Palestinian people in Gaza, trapped there by a full 16-year military blockade and closure, has reached the unfathomable toll of 10,328 Palestinians killed, including 4,237 children, as of 7 November 2023. As we write, two percent of Gaza’s population are either dead, injured, or trapped under the rubble, while hundreds of thousands are left homeless and forcibly displaced.
Since 7 October 2023, 158 Palestinians, including 46 children have been killed by Israeli Occupying Forces and colonial settlers in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, where the situation has radically deteriorated. Mass arrests and arbitrary detentions have been carried out in a sweeping collective punishment of the Palestinian people, widespread movement restrictions and checkpoints, along with escalations in violent settler attacks on Palestinians, including sexual assaults and the forced displacement of 12 villages.
In Gaza, the enforcement of a full siege and total warfare, preventing fuel, electricity, food, medical supplies, and water from entering the Strip to serve the basic survival needs of the civilian population, along with dehumanizing references to the Palestinian people as “human animals”, has even sounded alarms with UN human rights experts that the “Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide”.
In an unprecedented plea, President Mirjana Spoljaric from the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “The images of suffering, dead and wounded children will haunt us all. This is a moral failing”. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres also warned, “The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity. The intensifying conflict is shaking the world, rattling the region and, most tragically, destroying so many innocent lives”.
Given the international notice on genocide sounded by the UN experts, France is under clear international law obligations, to intervene to prevent the unfolding genocide, and to bring the unlawful conduct to an end.
By proactively supporting Israel’s ongoing military actions and failing up to now to call for an immediate ceasefire, France is effectively greenlighting Israel’s international crimes.
That France has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, places even greater international responsibility on France to use the international mechanisms in which it has influence.
France’s deference to Israel’s right to use aggressive force in self-defence is in breach of the UN Charter. As noted by the International Court of Justice, in the Wall advisory opinion, there is no right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter to use force against non-State actors in territory already held by the aggressor under belligerent occupation.
Therefore, France must clearly step up to its international responsibilities, and take concrete actions to bring Israel’s aggression, and genocidal acts, to an end.
Paying lip service to “peace”, by inviting “Palestinian civil society” representatives to participate in mundane forums and raising humanitarian funds alone will not absolve France of the moral and political failure to comply with its responsibilities to uphold international law. We note that given the absence of all the leading Palestinian civil society organizations and the invitation of Israeli representatives who do not fully recognize the UN-affirmed inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, this convening is hardly “representative” of Palestinian civil society voices.
We therefore emphatically reject any attempts at portraying these efforts as being endorsed by the Palestinian people.
Regarding the convening of the humanitarian conference; we unequivocally call for the unconditional and unobstructed provision and delivery of humanitarian aid and the opening of all crossings.
But we also have not-so-distant memories, Mr. President with regards to failed international interventions and initiatives. Our colleagues in Gaza have lived through six devastating bombing campaigns since 2009, and the international community has each time failed to address the root cause of violence, instead creating mechanisms that have entrenched Israel’s isolation and marginalization of Gaza.
The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), set up in 2014 as a temporary mechanism managed by the World Bank in which countries have invested billions, has proven that humanitarianism managed by Israeli allies has normalized the illegal blockade. It was more focused on responding to Israel’s “security” concerns, than being a good faith effort to rebuild Palestinian lives and agency, and liberation from occupation and colonial rule. Long before the GRM, UN agencies had already warned that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 if the blockade was not lifted.
Humanitarianism has depoliticized the reality of a man-made system of control that aims at erasing and invisibilizing Gaza and the Palestinians, in a slow genocide. Coupled with a failed peace process based on the false premise of equal responsibility and blame, these political approaches have entrenched Israel’s domination and control over Palestinian lives in blatant acts of apartheid.
As a French PhD thesis once pinned back in 2005 “the US decides, the World Bank leads, the EU pays, the UN feeds”, allowing Israel’s erasure of the Palestinian people to continue at an accelerated pace, with total impunity.
Pledging funds and humanitarian supplies without a genuine political path to dismantle Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime, prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians, and the denial of their inalienable right to self-determination and return, will only perpetuate brutal cycles of violence.
Our demands to you as you are hosting these platforms are clear:
- Take all actions to bring about an immediate ceasefire, including through a reconvened emergency session of the UN General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace resolution;
- Demand immediate, continuous, sufficient equitable and unimpeded provision of humanitarian aid, including fuel, and distribute it equitably to all civilians in Gaza;
- Immediately file an Article IX Genocide Convention case at the International Court of Justice, to seek emergency measures to prevent genocide;
- Respond with adequate countermeasures commensurate to Israel’s internationally wrongful acts of an aggressive use of force.
- Such includes placing economic sanctions and trade restrictions on Israel;
- Individual sanctions including assets bans and travel freezes;
- Remove diplomatic missions from Israel;
- Place a two-way arms embargo on Israel;
- Hold Israel accountable for its continued international crimes, including the crime of apartheid and crimes underpinning its settler colonial enterprise;
- Introduce domestic legislation prohibiting the import of settlement goods and services;
- Prosecute Israeli nationals with dual French citizenship, for international crimes committed against the Palestinian people, including apartheid and genocide;
- Increase funding to the International Criminal Court for the Situation in Palestine.
Addameer for Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Bisan Center for Research and Development
The Community Action Center at Al-Quds University
The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy – MIFTAH