War Crimes in Gaza


In my previous posts, I debunked some myths and laid bare the pretexts surrounding the Israeli assault on Gaza. Despite the awful carnage, some good news has emerged out of the Gaza Strip: There is a new, longer-term but indefinite ceasefire, and Hamas has declared support for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes. Hamas may be implicated for its practice of launching rockets at Israeli civilians, but unlike Israel, it might have a decent argument.

Hamas and Israel’s Arguments

Hamas could claim that its exercising the right of a people under occupation to resist using armed force. I don’t agree with this argument, and I think Hamas’ rocket fire doesn’t impose a real cost on Israel for its occupation; in contrast, it gives Israeli hawks a way to justify continued occupation to the Israeli public.

Israel, however, has no reasonable argument to defend its evident violations of international law. Though Israel denies it, the international community (including the US) considers Gaza under occupation. That means that Israel’s actions are governed by Occupation Law, which is much more stringent than law governing war between two countries. Israel cannot treat Gaza as a hostile state, and its military actions, which have resulted in over 2,000 Palestinian deaths, are clear war crimes.

Shoddy Defenses of War Crimes

Throughout the conflict, pro-Israel talking heads have tried to whitewash its crimes under international law. The Independent brought in a British Colonel to assure us that Israel has “made more efforts” than any army “in the history of warfare…to reduce civilian casualties,” while Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer wants to give the IDF a Nobel Peace Prize for their “unimaginable restraint.”

Others have minced no words and unabashedly revealed the disgusting military logic behind Israel’s assault. A Wall Street Journal op-ed argues that Gazan civilians lose their rights as “civilians” because they aid and abet Hamas. Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli Major General, takes this logic further, claiming that Gazan civilians are not innocent because they voted for Hamas.

This mindset eerily resembles the US’ military strategy when it bombed Vietnamese civilians because they were aiding and abetting the Viet Cong. These tactics resulted in 3.8 million Vietnamese deaths. It also harkens back to Israel’s own Dahiya Doctrine, which treats civilian villages as military bases. As an Israeli official recently put it, the IDF hoped “widespread desolation would force Gazan civilians” to pressure Hamas to stop fighting. By holding civilians liable for Hamas’ crimes, this mode of thinking practically justifies genocide. If we accept this frame of thinking, was Osama bin Laden justified in bombing the World Trade Center in response to the US government’s crimes? Surely, we can discard such genocidal logic in an age of international law and human rights.

What War Crimes Has Israel Committed?

Here’s a quick, comprehensive list of undeniable Israeli war crimes, given Article 85 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “…launching an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or civilian objects in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects.”

– Bombing 6 UN schools/shelters; Even the US government said it was “appalled.”
– Bombing 3 Gazan hospitals.
– Blockading Gaza, condemned by nearly all human rights organizations; this constitutes illegal collective punishment, according to the UN.
– Targeting medical professionals; This is a war crime under a different Article.
Targeting journalists; This is a war crime under international humanitarian law.
– Destroying Gaza’s only power plant, depriving Gazans of electricity and clean water.
– Bombing civilian structures like homes, mosques and offices; Israel claims that it warns civilians before striking, but this doesn’t give it carte blanche to bomb areas where there still are civilians.
– Shooting at civilians who were fleeing or looking for dead bodies in the rubble.

Legal organizations have also accused Israel of war crimes, and if the ICC ends up hearing this case, there may be compensation due to Gazan civilians. Israel may become even more isolated in the international community. And Gaza might finally be able to rebuild without a crippling blockade. As the rubble clears, the future for Gaza looks considerably less bleak.

Author: Edwin Jain

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