The Rules-Based International Order Has Died in Gaza

Hamzah Khan

Managing Editor

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The “crime of crimes” is how Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, described the ongoing Israeli genocide against the people of Gaza in her address to the UN Human Rights Council on March 26. She is one of the foremost UN officials to openly accuse Israel of genocide and released a comprehensive report outlining the evidence against Israel, called “The Anatomy of a Genocide” on March 25. Since the attack by Hamas on October 7, Israel has launched an overwhelming offensive that has nearly obliterated Gaza and any semblance of normal life in the besieged enclave. Gaza had already suffered under a suffocating blockade for 15 years which made it the world’s largest open-air prison, according to Human Rights Watch. In the aftermath of October 7, that prison has become a killing zone, as Haaretz writes. 

Since Israel launched its campaign, it has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 13,000 children, 100 journalists, and 200 relief workers, and destroyed or damaged more than 60 percent of residential buildings and 80 percent of commercial facilities, according to Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. It has also displaced nearly the entire population of 2 million in Gaza while severely limiting the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into the Strip, putting around 1 million Gazans at risk of famine, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies

Al Jazeera reports that nearly 25,000 tons of explosives have been dropped on Gaza, and the chief of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini has said “bombardment and a merciless siege have transformed Gaza beyond recognition.” The International Court of Justice also stated in January that the acts committed by Israel in Gaza can plausibly amount to genocide and provided a number of demands that Israel must abide by to prevent the humanitarian crisis from worsening. Now three months after the ICJ’s ruling, Israel has yet to substantially comply with the world court’s demands, instead increasing its brutality. 

Israel has repeatedly targeted schools, hospitals, and UN facilities using the catch-all defense of Hamas when confronted about its atrocities. While Hamas may utilize some civilian infrastructure, this does not justify the total obliteration of civilian infrastructure in Gaza which has left around 11 out of 35 hospitals only partially functioning and 80 percent of schools destroyed.  Human Rights Watch alleges that the actions of the Israeli military go far beyond the right to self-defense and constitute major violations of international humanitarian law, something anyone with eyes can see unfolding with impunity as Israeli soldiers gleefully post their war crimes on social media, according to French newspaper Le Monde. Israel even targeted aid convoys and killed seven aid workers from the renowned international NGO, World Central Kitchen, leading its founder, celebrity chef Jose Andres, to describe Israel’s actions as “a war against humanity itself.” Invoking Hamas does not absolve Israel of its obligations under international law, and the responsibility for the unconscionable collective punishment employed against the Palestinian people in this war rests solely on Israel. 


Despite the mountains of evidence against Israel, the Biden Administration and U.S. government continue to provide carte blanche to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his far-right government. The Washington Post reports that despite the laundry list of war crimes and mountains of evidence available to anyone who opens social media, the Biden Administration approved over 100 individual arms sales to Israel that were done incrementally to avoid Congressional authorization. The Department of Justice has also taken a strong stance against war crimes committed by Russia and Hamas, rightfully so, but has stayed embarrassingly silent on Gaza, according to NPR

This hypocrisy is on display to the entire world as more and more countries in the Global South voice their opposition to the conflict and demand a ceasefire. The UN Security Council even passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire and the lifting of all restrictions on aid, spearheaded by the elected 10 members which consisted of various countries from Guyana and Algeria to U.S. allies like Japan and Switzerland. The U.S., however, immediately threw all widely accepted norms of international law out the window and said this UN Security Council measure was non-binding, despite it being internationally accepted that UN member states are required to enforce and abide by UN Security Council resolutions, according to The Conversation

Israel not only refused to comply with the UNSC ceasefire resolution, it is now trying to expand the war to Lebanon and Iran, carrying out a reckless and illegal bombing of Iran’s embassy in Damascus on April 1, according to Reuters. This embassy attack was a clear violation of diplomatic norms under the Vienna Convention of 1961, and yet the U.S. refused to criticize this action as well. The world is watching U.S. hypocrisy on full display as it continues to provide unconditional support to Israel despite their continuous violations of international conventions, while lecturing other countries to follow international law and criticizing identical actions committed by others. Gaza has become not only the graveyard for the thousands of Palestinians killed in this brutal genocide, but also for the rules-based international order that the U.S. once professed to champion. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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