UN investigator calls for sanctions and arms embargo against Israel

Francesca Albanese says violent and dehumanising language by Israeli officials show genocidal intent

UN rapporteur Francesca Albanese rejected allegations of bias by Israel and its supporters. AFP
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A UN investigator accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza urged countries on Wednesday to use sanctions and arms embargoes to force the Israeli leadership to change course.

Francesca Albanese said Israel would not “change on its own” after more than five months of bloodshed in Gaza.

Her Anatomy of a Genocide report presented to the UN on Tuesday alleged Israel is intentionally killing and harming Palestinians and making Gaza impossible for them to live in.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Albanese brushed off allegations from Israel and its supporters of bias as she vowed their criticism would “not change my work”.

Asked for proof of Israel's intent, she spoke of violent and dehumanising language by senior leaders that she said had “reverberated across the conduct of troops on the ground”.

“Do you think that in Rwanda and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, any government officials wrote a document saying 'I want to commit genocide'?” she asked, referring to previous allegations of genocide.

Prosecutors would be “busy for decades” if the International Criminal Court is “serious about investigating what has been done in Gaza”, she said.

Israel denies genocidal intent, saying its objective is to defeat Hamas and blaming the militants for the severe humanitarian toll.

Appeal to allies

The International Court of Justice in January ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent genocide, while saving for another day a ruling on whether one is occurring.

Allies of Israel, whose main military backer is the US, have urged a pause to the fighting but stopped short of sanctioning Israeli officials or alleging genocide.

Ms Albanese said they should turn to sanctions and arms embargoes “because there is no other way” of forcing an Israeli rethink.

“Because Israel is not going to change its pattern on its own and you won’t stop [it] by inertia, I urged member states to take measures,” she said.

“What I want to see is sanctions and an arms embargo as soon as possible, as it’s been done with other states which violate international law.”

UN expert says Israel has committed genocide in Gaza

UN expert says Israel has committed genocide in Gaza

Ms Albanese courted controversy last month by saying Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel was motivated by “oppression” rather than anti-Semitism.

Israel reacted with outrage by banning Ms Albanese, a special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, from entering the country.

Her comments were described as “scandalous” by France and a “disgrace” by Germany, but she said on Wednesday she had no regrets.

She told reporters in Geneva that “everyone who dares to utter a word of criticism against Israel is accused of anti-Semitism”.

Blaming October 7 purely on anti-Jewish hatred “takes out of the context completely Israel’s responsibilities in creating the conditions that have led to the violence that was committed against Israeli civilians,” she said.

In addition, she said it “feeds this discourse that Israel is facing an existential threat because the Palestinians are anti-Semitic and therefore each means is justified.

“I’m happy I did what I did, saying, sorry, this is not anti-Semitism. I faced the consequences and I’m still alive.”

Ms Albanese accused Israel of “humanitarian camouflage” by using the language of international law, such as “human shields”, to justify killings.

Israeli representatives say Hamas's use of human shields is a reason why the death toll, estimated at more than 30,000, is so high.

In Israel's narrative “everyone is a human shield … women, children, anything that is between the troops and whatever is their objective,” Ms Albanese said.

“One thing is to neutralise, destroy the mil capacity of an organisation. Another thing is to target also the civilian components and this is what has been done. Every Hamas affiliate has been considered targetable, killable and so [have] their family members.”

Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:17 PM