Palestinian rights advocates at UN call out US complicity amid accusations of genocide

Geneva, Switzerland - Palestinian rights advocates spoke out against US government complicity in the extinguishing of Palestine lives in Gaza and Palestinian voices at home during the 139th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Houses and buildings are destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 11, 2023.
Houses and buildings are destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 11, 2023.  © REUTERS

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the US in 1992, states that all people have the inherent right to life, but that freedom to exist is under extreme assault in Gaza, civil society representatives testified to members of the UN Human Rights Committee on Monday.

"There is unambiguous evidence that Israel is committing the crime of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza," said Ahmad Abuznaid of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Indiscriminate airstrikes; the denial of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies; and attacks on civilian escape routes have marked Israel's campaign in Gaza since October 7.

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The siege comes after Hamas launched an attack on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilian. But human rights advocates have described the devastating response, which has already killed more than 3,000 Palestinians, as nothing short of attempted ethnic cleansing – with full US government approval.

"Israel has revealed its genocidal intent through statements by top government officials and it has acted upon them. And with full knowledge of this, the US has doubled down on its support of this genocide by pledging additional military aid, diplomatic and political backing," Abuznaid said.

"The US must cease its support of a regime that is committing genocide of the Palestinian people. If we don't act now, then the words 'never again' will be just that: words."

Right to protest under attack in the US

Palestinian rights protesters rally in Times Square in New York City on October 13, 2023.
Palestinian rights protesters rally in Times Square in New York City on October 13, 2023.  © KENA BETANCUR / AFP

Advocates also pointed toward concerning developments in the United States as the bombardment of Gaza continues.

"As we're watching a genocide unfold in Palestine with what looks like full complicity of the United States, we're also witnessing a parallel assault on those rising up to protest this genocide domestically," Diala Shamas, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said during Monday remarks before the Human Rights Committee.

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"The public dehumanization of Palestinians at the highest level of US government has led to skyrocketing repression of activism and all expressions of support for Palestine," she added.

Elected officials, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, have accused Palestinian rights demonstrators of supporting terrorism in a blanket rebuke of protests. There are also increased reports of FBI agents interrogating Palestinians at mosques and immigration officials questioning Palestinians in detention, as well as acts of private violence against people perceived as Palestinian or Muslim.

The dangerous effects of such violent rhetoric are no more apparent than in the case of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was fatally stabbed 26 times by a neighbor in Chicago in a horrific act of anti-Palestinian hate.

"When you dehumanize people over there, it has consequences domestically, and we have seen that unfold very quickly at a terrifying speed in the US," Shamas said in a Monday afternoon press conference in Geneva.

UN Human Rights Committee urged to take action

Protestors participate in a demonstration, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and the IfNotNow, to support Gaza and call for a ceasefire in the Middle East outside the White House on October 16, 2023.
Protestors participate in a demonstration, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and the IfNotNow, to support Gaza and call for a ceasefire in the Middle East outside the White House on October 16, 2023.  © Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Shamas and Abuznaid are at the UN to demand measures to protect Palestinian and Muslim communities around the world from rising waves of violence.

"We call for the United States to end its complicity in genocide and call for an immediate ceasefire. We also, of course, need to address the dehumanization and ask the United States what it is going to do to clearly roll back the process that we see unfolding: the dehumanization of Palestinian life, the repression of Palestinian protesters, the equation of Palestinians with terrorists at every turn, and the complete disregard for our deaths," Shamas said.

To that end, the Center for Constitutional Rights and supporting organizations are urging the Human Rights Committee to affirm the need for accountability for Israeli and US abuse of Palestinians.

Shamas hopes the committee will ask the US delegation to lay out the steps the government will take to ensure Palestinians and their allies have the ability to exercise their freedoms of speech and assembly – without fear of surveillance or retaliation.

"People have lost their jobs, been subjected to online harassment, contracts canceled, all for expressing their opinions or associating with those calling out atrocities committed by Israel," she said.

"The Human Rights Committee must act."

Cover photo: KENA BETANCUR / AFP

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