Palestine: anatomy of the genocide


The human rights situation of Palestinians was at the heart of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council. The report by the Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese, was highly commended.

Entitled The Anatomy of a Genocide1, this well-documented report analyses the ongoing war in Gaza. According to the Rapporteur, “historical patterns of genocide demonstrate that persecution, discrimination and other preliminary stages prepare the ground for the annihilation stage of genocide. In Palestine, displacing and erasing the Indigenous Arab presence has been an inevitable part of the forming of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’.”

The Rapporteur deplores the humanitarian camouflage used to justify the Israeli army’s targeting of civilians and infrastructure in Gaza, pointing out that “a core feature of Israel’s conduct since 7 October has been the intensification of its de-civilianization of Palestinians”. She further states that “Israel has used IHL [international humanitarian law] terminology to justify its systematic use of lethal violence against Palestinian civilians as a group and the extensive destruction of life-sustaining infrastructures.” This distortion of the concepts of humanitarian law aims to empty them of their normative content, thus “subverting their protective purpose and ultimately eroding the distinction between civilians and combatants in Israeli actions in Gaza.”

For the Rapporteur, considering Gaza as a total military objective, “Israel has thus de facto abolished the distinction between civilian objects and military objectives”, leading to the mass destruction of entire neighborhoods in Gaza. According to her, “This strategy reasonably and solely infers a genocidal policy”, especially as this policy was approved and implemented by high-ranking Israeli officials.

The Israeli narrative concerning the indiscriminate killing of civilians, considered as “collateral damage”, does not stand up to the Rapporteur’s analysis. Indeed, Israel has violated the legal requirements of proportionality “by defining military advantage, in each attack, in relation to the destruction of the whole Hamas organization both politically and militarily.”

The Israeli description of civilians as “human shields” does not stand up to the Rapporteur’s analysis either, as she states that Israel has used the concept of human shields to justify its attacks on Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza. However, independent investigations and human rights organisations have often questioned these allegations, going so far as to conclude that “evidence of human shields had been fabricated”.

The “medical shields” mentioned by the Israeli army seem to serve the same purpose: “Israeli army reportedly rearranged weaponry at the Al Shifa before news crews visits”. This reinforced suspicions that evidence had been fabricated “after the Israeli army had claimed that a ‘list of terrorists’ it had found in another Gaza hospital – the Al Rantisi – turned out to be a calendar of the days of the week in Arabic.”

For the Rapporteur, the targeting of fleeing civilians in the “humanitarian corridors” appears to have been used as a genocidal tool to achieve ethnic cleansing.

The Special Rapporteur considers that the context, facts and analysis presented in her report “lead to the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met.” Even worse, these elements “also indicate that Israel’s actions have been driven by a genocidal logic integral to its settler-colonial project in Palestine, signalling a tragedy foretold.”

In her recommendations, the Special Rapporteur urges, among other things, for:

– an arms embargo on Israel;

– an immediate and durable ceasefire;

– the reconstitution of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid to deal comprehensively with the situation in Palestine;

– an international protection presence to limit the violence;

– adequate funding for UNRWA to enable it to meet the increased needs of Palestinians in Gaza.

She also stresses that “Israel and the States that were complicit in what can reasonably be considered genocide must be held accountable and provide reparations commensurate with the destruction, death and harm inflicted on the Palestinian people”.

She further demands that “Israel, as well as States who have been complicit in the Gaza genocide, acknowledge the colossal harm done, commit to non-repetition, with measures for prevention, full reparations, including the full cost of the reconstruction of Gaza.”

In its resolution2 adopted at the end of its deliberations on this issue, the Human Rights Council expressed, among other things, its “grave concern at statements by Israeli officials amounting to incitement to genocide”, and demanded that “Israel uphold its legal responsibility to prevent genocide and fully abide by the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice on 26 January 2024.” It condemned “the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in Gaza, the unlawful denial of humanitarian access, wilful impediment to relief supplies and deprivation of objects indispensable to the survival of civilians, including food, water, electricity, fuel and telecommunications, by Israel, the occupying Power.” It further affirmed that no State shall recognise as lawful a serious violation of international law, or render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation, and that all States must cooperate to put an end to it.


As part of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council, CETIM gave the floor to Ms Yasmeen El-Hasan, representative of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (a Palestinian peasant organisation and member of La Via Campesina), who spoke about the situation in Gaza where access to food, water and healthcare is used as a weapon by the Israeli army.

Read the full statement

Watch the video of the oral statement

2 A/HRC/RES/55/28, adopted on 5 april 2024 by 28 votes in favour, 6 against (Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, Malawi, Paraguay, United States) and 13 abstentions (Albania, Benin, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Georgia, India, Japan, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, Romania).

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