Jewish civil rights activist condemns Israel's Gaza blockade as ‘genocide’

Genocide occurring in Gaza due to humanitarian aid blockade, says Aryeh Neier

Gizem Nisa Çebi  | 05.06.2024 - Update : 05.06.2024
Jewish civil rights activist condemns Israel's Gaza blockade as ‘genocide’ Palestinian child gazes through the shattered remnants of a window in an apartment building marred by bullet holes at Jabalia Refugee Camp as Israeli attacks continue during Eid Al-Fitr in Jabalia, Gaza on April 10, 2024.

- Genocide occurring in Gaza due to humanitarian aid blockade, says Aryeh Neier

- If Biden fails to gain the support of university students and other young people, it could cost him dearly in the elections, says Neier   


Jewish civil rights activist Aryeh Neier, one of the founders of Human Rights Watch, condemned Israel's prevention of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as a “genocide.”

"The continuous obstruction of humanitarian aid has led me to conclude that genocide is occurring in Gaza," said Neier, who evaluated for Anadolu the genocide discussions and related developments surrounding Israel's ongoing attacks on Gaza for eight months.

Neier, who lives in New York and still serves as the Honorary President of the Open Society Institute at the age of 87, noted that he "did not support" South Africa's filing a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in late December, although he was deeply disturbed by Israel's use of nearly one-ton bombs in densely populated urban areas in Gaza, and he did not think it was genocide at that time.

"But since then, Israel has continued a practice of obstructing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and those who have suffered (are mostly) young children. So young children are malnourished, some of them will die of starvation. Some of them will be physically or psychologically damaged for life because of malnourishment," he said.

Neier pointed out that the legal initiatives of the "ICJ and the International Criminal Court (ICC)" concerning Israel "have had a positive impact so far," but he is "not sure" if "they are capable of bringing this war to an end," and he expressed doubt that "the war could continue for quite a long time."

He noted that the ICJ and ICC lack enforcement powers to implement their decisions against Israel and the two courts rely on the governments of UN member states to do so.

Neier said support for Israel continues despite the Biden administration temporarily halting some bomb shipments, and what is happening in Gaza will affect the upcoming US presidential elections in November.

He also said he believes that many young people are dissatisfied with Biden's performance but are unlikely to vote for the Republican candidate, former President Donald Trump, suggesting that they might stay home and not vote at all.

He warned further that if Biden fails to secure the support of university students and other young people, it could cost him dearly in the elections.

Noting Biden's long-standing support for Israel throughout his career, Neier noted that it would be very difficult for the president to take a different position.

He also noted that Evangelical Christian groups in the US have long supported Israel.

Regarding the influence of pro-Israel lobbies on the US Congress, Neier acknowledged some influence from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, but he believes it pales in comparison to the influence of Evangelical Christians in the US.

Discussing Biden's proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza, which the president first announced May 29, Neier expressed skepticism about its success.

He cited the presence of extremist or right-wing members necessary for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain his position as the leader of Israel, which he believes makes it impossible for his government to adhere to the cease-fire proposal.

When asked what might happen if Biden's cease-fire proposal fails, Neier responded that it is very difficult to predict the future in the region.

He suggested that while "Israel had a right to retaliate against Hamas," many Palestinians could become so enraged by Israel's actions in this war that they would support other groups playing similar or even more ruthless roles in attacking Israel.

Neier doubted that Israel could prevent Palestinians from feeling deeply hurt and victimized by the current events and he believes there is a high "likelihood that Palestinians will be more antagonistic to Israel than ever before as a result of this war."

Regarding a "two-state solution" frequently proposed by the US for the Israel-Palestine conflict, Neier said that while he supports it in the long term, leadership renewal is necessary before such a solution can emerge.

He also expressed skepticism about seeing it implemented in his "lifetime."  

Who is Aryeh Neier?

Born in Berlin in 1937 to a Jewish family, Neier moved to the US at the age of two to escape the Nazi genocide. He studied law in the US and taught at New York University.

He joined the American Civil Liberties Union in 1963, during the peak of the civil liberties movement, and served there for years. In 1978, he was among the founders of the Helsinki Watch, later renamed Human Rights Watch.  

*Writing by Gizem Nisa Cebi in Istanbul

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