GENEVA, Dec 4 — Israeli and Palestinian representatives at the United Nations today traded accusations of “genocide” over the war raging in Gaza, with both sides demanding an international response.

Israel’s war against Hamas was repeatedly mentioned during an event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

“The attacks by Hamas on October 7 were motivated by a genocidal ideology,” Yeela Cytrin, a legal advisor at the Israeli mission in Geneva, told the diplomats gathered at the UN’s European headquarters.

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Palestinian representative Dima Asfour meanwhile insisted to the council that the “man-made catastrophe” resulting from Israel’s massive bombing campaign and ground offensive was “a textbook case of genocide”.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas in retaliation for the Islamist militant group’s October 7 attacks that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw 240 hostages taken, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel has responded with heavy bombardments and a ground offensive that have killed more than 15,500 people in Gaza, about 70 per cent of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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The genocide convention, signed on December 9, 1948, was the first human rights treaty in the history of the UN, adopted even before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It was adopted after World War II, highlighting the horrors of the Holocaust and emphasising humanity’s obligation to prevent and punish all such genocidal acts.

‘Have we learnt anything?’

Yet, “75 years on, the Jewish people are still under attack, still feeling the brutality of anti-Semitism and Jew hatred,” Cytrin said, pointing out that “Hams and its supporters have encouraged the eradication of the Jewish people on social media for years”.

“Before the bodies of the victims of October 7 were even cold, anti-Semitism exploded both offline and online.”

She said that “many resorted to once again blame the Jews for their own massacre and looked to protect and defend those who carried out their slaughter. Many more chose to remain silent and indifferent”.

“Have we learnt anything in the past 75 years?”

Iran’s representative meanwhile said it was Israel which was carrying out a “horrifying genocide” against Palestinians, while other Muslim countries accused Israeli officials of “incitement” to genocide.

Asfour meanwhile stressed that under the genocide convention, “early warning to genocide must compel us to act”.

Yet, she told the council, “for the past eight weeks, and after issuing genocidal calls publicly, Israel proceeded to drop tonnes of explosives on Gaza, which have huge destructive power”.

She echoed a group of independent UN experts who last month voiced concern at “the failure of the international system to mobilise to prevent genocide”.

And she denounced “a wide campaign of digital repression, including disinformation, censorship, online harassment and shadow-banning” aimed as suppressing Palestinian voices.

“We urge tech companies and social media platforms to immediately take strict measures to protect their users from harm in light of the genocide unfolding in Palestine,” she said. — AFP