Craig Mokhiber

Former U.N. official Craig Mokhiber speaks during a November 1, 2023 interview on Democracy Now!

(Photo: Democracy Now! screen grab)

Ex-UN Official: Israel Committing 'Most Clear-Cut Case of Genocide' in Gaza

Meanwhile, a Biden administration spokesperson says it is "too soon" to judge whether Israel is protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

A former United Nations human rights official who resigned from his job in October over what he called the world body's refusal to prevent Israel's slaughter of thousands of Palestinian civilians said this week that Israeli forces are undeniably committing genocide in Gaza.

In a Sunday interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed translated by The New Arab, Craig Mokhiber—formerly the New York director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights—described Israel's Gaza onslaught as the "most clear-cut case of genocide I have seen in my career."

"We are witnessing genocide in the 21st century, and it seems that the United Nations is once again unable to stop it," the American attorney added. "I realize that the term 'genocide' is being politicized and misused in some circumstances—so as a human rights lawyer, I am careful to apply the term only when there is a prima facie case and the evidence is clear."

"We are witnessing genocide in the 21st century, and it seems that the United Nations is once again unable to stop it."

Mokhiber, who is 63 years old, worked at the U.N. for more than 30 years as a human rights specialist, serving in places including Gaza, Afghanistan, and Darfur. He also worked during the Tutsi, Bosnian, Yazidi, and Rohingya genocides.

He quit in late October, penning a scathing resignation letter excoriating the U.N. Echoing earlier comments by Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal, Mokhiber called Israel's conduct "a textbook case of genocide."

"What's interesting about this case compared to others is that generally when you try to prove genocidal intent, you need to get secret government documents and files, and dig through old secret archives to find indicators of intent," Mokhiber said Sunday.

"Here we have frank and clear statements of genocidal intent by senior Israeli officials, both public and official," he added.

Numerous senior Israeli officials have made what critics have called genocidal statements, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, and a number of Knesset lawmakers.

"They have a strong sense of impunity, frankly because of the protection they enjoy from the United States, Britain, and Europe in international forums," said Mokhiber.

During a Monday press conference, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about Mokhiber's genocide assertion.

"The State Department has a rigorous process for evaluating... what constitutes genocide, ethnic cleansing, or a crime against humanity," he replied. "Those are terms we only use with very explicit care."

"We are monitoring the evolving situations and are examining facts as they develop," Miller continued. "It's an extremely challenging space to get all the information... But we support Israel's right to continue to take action to ensure that Hamas can never conduct terrorist attacks like it did on October 7th again. And as part of that, we urge Israel to take all possible measures to minimize civilian harm."

Asked if Israel is heeding Biden administration exhortations to protect civilians in Gaza, Miller said that "I think it's too early to draw a definitive assessment. I will say that unfortunately, we do expect to see civilian casualties as a result of this campaign."

"We believe that far too many civilians have been killed," Miller said later during the press conference. "But again, this goes back to the underlying problem of this entire situation, which is that Hamas has embedded itself inside civilians—inside civilian homes, inside its mosques, in schools, in churches. It is Hamas that is putting these civilians in harm's way."

Gaza officials said Tuesday that nearly 16,000 Palestinians—including more than 4,000 women and over 6,000 children—have been killed by Israeli bombs and bullets, with upward of 42,000 others wounded, around 80% of the besieged strip's 2.3 million people forcibly displaced, and approximately 60% of the territory's homes destroyed or damaged.

President Joe Biden—who is seeking $14.3 billion in additional military aid for Israel—and other U.S. officials have been accused of genocide denial for aspersing Gaza authorities' casualty reports because they were issued by Hamas. However, Israeli military officials said off the record this week that Hamas' figures are accurate.

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