In a startling turn of events, Craig Mokhiber, the Director of the UN’s New York office for human rights, has resigned from his position. His resignation is a vehement protest against what he perceives as the UN’s failure to prevent a genocide of Palestinian civilians in Gaza under Israeli bombardment. Mokhiber does not mince words, stating that the US, UK, and much of Europe are “wholly complicit in the horrific assault.”
Mokhiber’s resignation letter, dated October 28, addressed to the UN High Commissioner in Geneva, Volker Turk, bluntly declares, “This will be my last communication to you,” signifying the depth of his convictions. His departure comes as he reaches retirement age, but it is evident that this is more than a simple retirement; it’s a passionate protest against the unfolding crisis.
A History of Failures
In his letter, Mokhiber condemns the UN for its past failures in preventing genocides. He references previous atrocities, including the genocides of the Tutsis in Rwanda, Muslims in Bosnia, the Yazidi in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Rohingya in Myanmar. He directly challenges the UN High Commissioner, stating, “High Commissioner, we are failing again.”
He goes on to assert that the ongoing violence in Gaza, driven by what he describes as an “ethno-nationalist colonial settler ideology,” has systematically persecuted and purged the Palestinian population based on their Arab identity. He unequivocally declares it a “textbook case of genocide.”
Controversial Calls and Mixed Reactions
Perhaps the most contentious aspect of Mokhiber’s resignation letter is his call for the effective end to the state of Israel. He advocates for “the establishment of a single, democratic secular state in all of historic Palestine,” where Christians, Muslims, and Jews have equal rights. This vision involves the dismantling of what he terms a “deeply racist, settler-colonial project” and an end to apartheid across the land.
NEW: @UNHumanRights NY Office Director @CraigMokhiber resigns in protest over timidity of key parts of #UN system on issues pertaining to Palestinian Human Rights. In letter to @volker_turk he says: "This is a text-book case of genocide. The European, ethno-nationalist, settler… pic.twitter.com/lss1EvdLb3
— Rami Ayari (@Raminho) October 31, 2023
Mokhiber’s departure has not gone unnoticed, sparking mixed reactions. Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at Human Rights Watch, acknowledges the powerful case Mokhiber has made against double standards in the UN’s approach to human rights in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In contrast, Anne Bayefsky, who directs Touro College’s Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust in New York, accuses Mokhiber of “overt antisemitism.” She alleges that he used a UN letterhead to call for “wiping Israel off the map.”
Mokhiber’s resignation highlights the complexities and deep-seated divisions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of international organizations like the UN in addressing these issues.