Justice for Gaza will come, assures UN Special Rapporteur

In a conversation with health rights organizations, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Tlaleng Mofokeng, discussed the ongoing efforts of health workers and activists to ensure justice for the Gaza Strip

July 09, 2024 by Peoples Health Dispatch
Medicine for the People at a solidarity rally, 2024. (source: MPLP/GVHV)

“I’m appalled, horrified, angry, raging, and furious,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, describing her feelings after nine months of relentless Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. “And completely depleted and exhausted, mentally and emotionally,” she added during a conversation organized by Medicine for the People (MPLP/GVHV), Viva Salud, and the People’s Health Movement (PHM).

Since October 7 last year, Mofokeng and other UN Special Rapporteurs have issued numerous warnings about the devastating health impacts of these attacks. Despite widespread public awareness, up until today, no UN body has managed to compel Israel to adhere to international law. The continued mass peace demonstrations and international expressions of solidarity with Palestine, amidst violence that has increased each week, have brought hope, but also feelings of helplessness and frustration.

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Mofokeng, a South African who grew up under apartheid, emphasized the importance of continued protests and international solidarity with Palestinians, especially given the failure of peace initiatives to prosper in the context of the UN. She stated that member states of the UN have failed to prevent a genocide, even though supposed safeguards are in place. The targeting of humanitarian workers, including UN agency staff, by Israel, has created a chilling effect among organizations used to working in crisis situations. “Even those who could get permission to enter Gaza might not do so because the rules have been broken with absolute impunity,” she said.

In this context, contributions from international organizations and solidarity collectives are more crucial than ever. Mofokeng noted that it is not only mass mobilizations that make a difference but also more targeted actions like exposing the role of arms manufacturers in the conflict, campaigning for their accountability through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, and documenting events on the ground to advance justice for Palestine.

“In the midst of this mass killing and destruction, it’s hard to imagine what process, if not leading to an immediate ceasefire, is necessary and why we’re even putting time and energy into it,” Mofokeng acknowledged. She cited South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which, despite not resulting in a ceasefire, is significant as it has effectively dismantled Israel’s justification of its aggression as self-defense.

Documenting attacks on healthcare is crucial

“I think justice will come, and it will come in various ways,” Mofokeng asserted. “It may come in different bites from different directions until we get to the center and to the heart of the beast, but we have to start somewhere.”

Documenting attacks on healthcare is a concrete contribution that health workers and activists worldwide can provide to holding Israel accountable. These records are invaluable for those working internationally to uphold basic human rights and for observers to understand the extent of atrocities committed in Gaza.

Mofokeng implied that future generations would question why the world failed to intervene decisively during Israel’s relentless bombardment. Records will provide a basis to understand and judge the response. “As people of the world who know what oppression is, who know what colonial power does, it is important that we know how important it is to humanize and illustrate the resilience of life in Gaza despite the odds,” she said, “making survival itself an act of resistance.”

“This war and its impact will endure for a long time. For many children and people, it will be a lifetime,” Mofokeng concluded. “But through our pursuit of substantive equality, questioning power, and intentional reparative justice, I know we will reach a point where the people of Gaza are not just surviving but thriving.”

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and to subscribe to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.