On this Human Rights Day 2023, there is no doubt that Israel’s human rights atrocities in Gaza in the last two months are the worst we have witnessed in modern times. The bombardment and siege of Gaza since Oct 7 have killed over 17,000 people including more than 7,000 children, injured more than 40,000 and displaced 1.6 million persons, while thousands are still unaccounted for under the rubble. Of those killed, about 41% are children and 25% are women, turning Gaza into a “graveyard for children”, according to the UN secretary-general.
More than 200 medics, 102 UN staff, 56 journalists, frontline and human rights defenders, have also been killed. The most recent casualty is the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer who was killed in a strike on Gaza on Friday. Alareer, who fiercely denounced Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians, was one of the leaders of a young generation of writers in Gaza.
After the US vetoed a security council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory on Friday, Human Rights Watch has accused the US of "complicity in war crimes" by giving Israel weapons and "diplomatic cover" as it commits atrocities in Gaza.
UN experts have said that there is evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, overt intent to “destroy the Palestinian people under occupation”, loud calls for a "second Nakba" in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.
“This occurs amid Israel’s tightening of its 16-year unlawful blockade of Gaza, which has prevented people from escaping and left them without food, water, medicine, and fuel for weeks now, despite international appeals to provide access for critical humanitarian aid. As we previously said, intentional starvation amounts to a war crime,” the experts said.
They noted that half of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed, including more than 40,000 housing units, as well as hospitals, schools, mosques, bakeries, water pipes, sewage, and electricity networks.
“Israel remains the occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territory, which also includes the Gaza Strip, and therefore cannot wage a war against the population under its belligerent occupation,” they said.
More than a dozen member states of the World Health Organization including Malaysia, China, and Indonesia, submitted a draft resolution on Friday that urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza.
The member states expressed their “grave concern about the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, especially the military operations in the Gaza Strip”. They called for Israel to “respect and protect” medical and humanitarian workers exclusively involved in carrying out medical duties, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.
On this Human Rights Day, I urge all human rights defenders and journalists, all concerned NGOs not only in Malaysia but throughout Asia to stand with the Palestinian people, to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and to condemn the war crimes by Israel with the complicity of the US and the West.
Days before his death, Refaat Alareer wrote the following poem:
If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale…
Kua Kia Soong is a human rights activist.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.