Francesca Albanese (46 years old, Ariano Irpino, Campania, Italy) is blunt when she bluntly describes the crimes Israel is committing in Gaza. This Italian lawyer, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories for a year and a half, avoids being categorical when speaking about genocide because the International Court of Justice has yet to “analyze” it. , but all her arguments lead to one conclusion: the war in Gaza “is the monstrosity of our century,” as she noted in an interview with this newspaper, sitting on the stairs of a hotel so as to be able to react without the noise of the surroundings . She recently landed in Spain at the invitation of United Left MEP Manu Pineda (chair of the delegation for relations with Palestine in the European Parliament) and believes it is time for Western governments to move from condemnation to action.
Questions. Do you think Israel is committing genocide in Gaza?
Answer. I strongly support South Africa's decision to call for preventive measures [ante el Tribunal Internacional de Justicia] because I think it is very likely that genocide will be committed in Gaza.
R. Because genocide is the total or partial destruction of a people through various massacres, leading to severe mental or physical harm and creating conditions that make life impossible. Look at the result of three months of bombing. Banned weapons that should not be used in densely populated areas like Gaza have been used against a population living trapped across 365 square kilometers, where the population has received mass evacuation orders and where 1.9 million forcibly displaced people are crowded together in the southern strip are currently being bombed. 24,000 people have already been confirmed dead, between 7,000 and 9,000 are missing and 10,000 children have been murdered. 70% of the victims are women and children.
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Q Is it then a genocide?
R. What is that? These numbers have no parallel to the current conflicts. Consider the Srebrenica genocide, in which 8,000 people were killed. Consider the two-year Russo-Ukrainian war, in which the death toll is probably less than 8,000. [en referencia a los civiles, una cifra que las autoridades de Ucrania elevan hasta casi 12.000 casos, sin incluir los registrados en los territorios ocupados]. It is the monstrosity of our century. And many more people will die because the 60,000 injured will not receive medical care. Palestinians are dying of cold and hunger and we all have no idea how to respond to this monstrosity.
Q. Do you think South Africa's lawsuit against Israel can succeed?
R. There are many factors. Technically I would say yes because they are calling for transitional measures, including a ceasefire. With this level of carnage, it seems like the most logical thing to do. As the South African team said, this is the first genocide in history to be televised by the victims. The court will then have to take time to analyze the connection between the genocidal intent, which South Africa has already fully documented, and the carnage, destruction and suffering. But there are also political factors.
We all have no idea how to react to this monstrosity.”
Q Do you think they can influence the court?
R. I hope they do not influence the independent court. However, we are human and it affects us in the environment in which we live. The judges will not travel to Gaza and will not send investigators. And the narrative that continues to be spread and reinforced in the West is that Israel's actions are self-defense.
Q Is this narrative false?
R. The right to defend itself is something different, which does not mean that Israel does not have the right to defend itself. This is the part that many people find difficult to understand because the concept of self-defense in international law is very specific, very limited and very technical. Because of the October 7 Hamas attacks, Israel would have this right to neutralize and repel the attack, restore law and order, and take measures to enforce it in Gaza. The right Israel invokes is the right to wage war and use military force, which does not exist under the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, especially since it still occupies Palestinian territory. But even if the right to self-defense existed, there would still be rules. But there are so many violations that they cannot be separated.
Francesca Albanese, on Thursday in Madrid, minutes before the interview.Samuel Sánchez
Q As such?
R. Israel knows that if it uses nearly one-ton bombs in densely populated areas without warning, it will lead to annihilation. They know that with the ban and introduction of water, food, medicine and fuel, the population will starve. Thousands of children were amputated without anesthesia. The principle of proportionality, precautionary measures, protection of civilians… Israel has bombed one hospital after another. And that is why it is important to examine the entire context that underpins genocidal rage.
Q What does it refer to?
R. All these genocidal statements made by military and political leaders like the Palestinians are human animals. Or the biblical concept of Amalek that he himself used [primer ministro israelí, Benjamín] Netanyahu, alluding to the destruction of everything, including women and children. It's hell and it's crazy that we can't stop it.
Q Netanyahu has said he will not stop until the hostages are released and Hamas is destroyed. How can a ceasefire be achieved?
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine, Francesca Albanese, in Madrid on Thursday.Samuel Sánchez
R. I'm very worried about the hostages. You cannot be safe in a place that is being bombed. There are hostages who were shot by Israeli soldiers because they thought they were Palestinians even though they were carrying a white flag.
“The message the world is sending to Palestinians is that they can continue to die.”
Q What can the international community do then?
R. Western countries are still in a state of condemnation or demand for moderation or respect for international law. But even before October 7th, international law was not respected. This level of impunity for violence is systemic and structural and risks creating more violence. There are decades of condemnation without action. Israel has not paid for the five previous wars against Gaza, in which 5,300 people were killed over 16 years, including 1,200 children. Hence the Secretary General [de la ONU, António Guterres] He said that October 7th did not start on October 7th. Peace is built with peace and not with war. So it is time for Western governments, including Spain, to act.
R. In my view, that's what a progressive leader does: have the courage that South Africa had. It takes courage and a great moral compass to be on the right side of history. And what I say should not be taken as harmful to Israelis. I think we need compassion for both peoples because they have both suffered different pains.
Q There are countries that continue to sell weapons to Israel.
R. For me this is complicity with a government that commits crimes. It is not necessary to support the thesis that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza in order to stop selling arms. This must happen when war crimes are committed. And Israel has disproportionately destroyed Gaza's infrastructure, made Gaza uninhabitable, wiped out entire families, doctors, journalists… If this is not enough to take high-level diplomatic, political and economic measures, then what else is needed? The message that Western countries are sending to Israel is that things can go on. And the message the world is sending to Palestinians is that they can continue to die.
Q Is the international legal system in danger?
R. Yes, because international law is only as strong as the will of states to enforce it.
Q You were accused of anti-Semitism because you claimed that the Jewish lobby controlled the United States. What consequences did this accusation have for you?
R. Anyone who dares to criticize Israel is confronted with accusations of anti-Semitism. It's a way to divert attention from my message and the work I've been doing for 18 months. They do not question my research, my legal interpretations, or my claims about the existence of an apartheid regime in the occupied Palestinian territories that functions as a military dictatorship. They've been combing through everything I've said on my Facebook account for decades. And I said that after the Gaza war in 2008. Today I would never say “Jewish lobby”. And that's not because I'm afraid of being accused of anti-Semitism, but because it's not right. First, because those who support Israel are not only Jews, but also Christian Zionists. And in the United States, for example, Jews are protesting and calling on Israel not to attack Gaza in their name. But does this unfortunate sentence make me an anti-Semite? I am someone who has dedicated my entire life to defending human rights, including the recognition of the Holocaust.
Q But she has to do her job as a rapporteur without being able to enter Palestine because Israel does not allow this. Do you think you can return?
R. I'm trying and it's not easy because Israel interprets international law the way it likes. But they didn't allow me for 18 months.
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