Category Archives: Israel Defense Forces

Accountability for war crimes? ICC

When and how will Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed during its 51-day Operation Protective Edge in 2014?  The operation killed 2,251 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. The operation also caused massive destruction to 18,000 homes and other civilian property, including hospitals and vital infrastructure.

Most of the destruction and damage has not been repaired in the past three years. Neither has any serious investigation been conducted.

Two legal NGOs in Israel — Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Adalah — have been absolute bull dogs, pushing the Israeli authorities to comply with their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). For the past three years, they have submitted petitions, complaints, claims and every manner of documentation to press for justice for the victims of Operation Protective Edge. To no avail.

IHL and IHRL require Israel to investigate allegations of suspected violations committed during Operation Protective Edge, with independence, impartiality, effectiveness, promptness and transparency and to prosecute those allegedly responsible.

But as with its inquiries into past military operations, Israel has delayed, denied, deflected and dismissed every attempt by the United Nations and others to come clean with its actions in Operation Protective Edge.

That hasn’t stopped Israeli soldiers from talking about their experience in Operation Protective Edge.

On August 28, 2017, Al-Mezan and Adalah published their 9-page report documenting their attempts to hold Israel accountable — Gaza 3 Years On: Impunity over accountability Israel’s unwillingness to investigate violations of international law
in the Gaza Strip. No surprises here.

The cases concerned severe events that resulted in the killing and serious injury of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and the massive destruction of civilian objects. The evidence in these cases suggested that the attacks were carried out in violation of the principles of distinction and proportionality, which could amount to grave breaches of IHL. These cases mostly concerned incidents of:
 Direct attacks on homes causing many civilian deaths and injuries;
 Direct attacks on children (e.g. the four Bakr children playing on the beach and the Shuheibar children feeding pigeons on a house rooftop);
 Direct attacks on five UNRWA schools that were sheltering civilians;
 The bombing of mosques, hospitals and a shelter for people with severe disabilities;
 Attacks on civilian infrastructure and the municipality workers fixing them.

After Operation Protective Edge, Israel cynically created the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism (FFAM) to improve its investigative abilities but after three years, 46.4% of the complaints filed by Adalah and Al Mezan were referred to the FFAM for examination and then closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved. 43% of the complaints remain under examination by the FFAM or received no response.

The Military Advocate General’s responses to such cases:
 Secret evidence: The materials collected by the FFAM and other intelligence materials cannot be revealed because they are classified;
 Military necessity: Certain incidents in question were undertaken based on military necessity (these arguments were written vaguely and did not include any supporting evidence);
 No non-military witnesses: The FFAM did not find any need or use in taking testimonies from non-military witnesses.

This whole exercise may seem pointless because when has Israel ever been held accountable for its violations of international law?

This time things might be different.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

The Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary investigation. (pp. 25-32) But the ICC can’t assume jurisdiction in this case if the State of Israel has an effective mechanism for investigating and prosecuting these claims. In November 2016, the Prosecutor said she would “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

That’s why this report from Al-Mezan and Adalah is so very important. It clearly shows that Israel is incapable and unwilling to investigate and hold itself accountable. If the Prosecutor agrees, she can recommend that the ICC take the case.

Israel needs to be held accountable, sooner rather than later. This report provides the ammunition to open the courthouse doors. Bravo Al-Mezan and Adalah!

The case of the Abu Dahrouj family provides another illustration of Israel’s unwillingness to investigate. On the night of 22 August 2014, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a home belonging to the Abu Dahrouj family in central Gaza. The Israeli missile strike killed five members of the Abu Dahrouj family, including two children, and wounded multiple civilians and caused extensive damage to neighboring homes. Although [Israel] acknowledged that the missile attack was carried out directly on a civilian home and did not target any combatant or military object, no investigation was opened and the case was closed without any action against those involved.

 

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Day #30 – August 5, 2014 – Operation Protective Edge

Three years ago, on this date, Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, Baroness Warsi, a British-Pakistani lawyer, politician and Senior Minister for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, handed in her letter of resignation over her disagreement with the government’s policy on the Gaza conflict.

I admire her. I wish there had been some politicians in the United States Congress who had spoken so directly and honestly about the atrocities in Gaza.

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Day #27 – The reality of Operation Protective Edge

Three years ago, in the middle of Israel’s murderous onslaught in Gaza, the reality was seeping through in the U.S. media.

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Day #25 – Hannibal Directive

Three years ago, August 1, 2014 is known as Black Friday in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.    This video provides a forensic analysis of what occurred that day.  Will it provide the evidence for war crimes?

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Cameraman in Gaza films the attack that killed him #OperationProtectiveEdge

Two years after Operation Protective Edge, Aljazeera World produced this video to remember the journalists and cameramen killed during Israel’s assault on Gaza.

On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, aimed at stopping alleged rocket fire from Gaza into the occupied territories.

One of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip, Shujayea was claimed by Israel to be the site of Hamas “terror tunnels”.

The attack started late on July 19, initiating 24 hours of sustained air bombardment and artillery fire.

An American military officer talking to Al Jazeera said 11 Israeli artillery battalions fired around 7,000 shells into Shujayea over that 24-hour period, in which at least 65 Palestinians were killed and 288 wounded.

One paramedic reported more than 200 calls for help at the peak of demand, one from virtually every house on targeted streets.

The emergency services responded to every callout with scant regard for their own safety.

In this film, cameraman Khaled Hamad joins local paramedics in Shujayea as they attend to the dead and wounded at the height of the raid. Risking his life, he documents the atrocities committed against civilians in the neighbourhood during Operation Protective Edge.

A number of journalists were killed. News photographer Rami Rayan died while shooting stills of a busy market where locals were shopping during a brief humanitarian truce.

Knowing the risks, Hamad continues to film until his camera dramatically captures the raid in which he and paramedic Fouad Jaber come under direct attack.

Paramedics, Hamad’s fellow journalists and family all maintain that Israel targeted journalists in order to try and minimise coverage of what the Palestinians described as a “massacre”.

Most of the footage in the film is Hamad’s, his camera never stops shooting even after he is struck, and continues rolling long after he has taken his final breath.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Day #3 – July 9, 2014 – Why should Americans care?

Source: Day #3 – July 9, 2014 – Why should Americans care?

Palestinian women hold night prayers in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli AFP/Getty Images

Why should Americans care about the Palestinian side of the equation in the Middle East? That’s the MILLION $$ question. And why should members of Congress care specifically?

The U.S. gives Israel ALOT of money every year under very favorable terms. By one estimate, American taxpayers have given more than $130 Billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Our subsidy appears to be growing. Can the U.S. afford to be so generous with Israel while ignoring basic needs at home (infrastructure and education to name a couple) and in other less-developed countries?

Riyad H Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, holds up a picture from the Israeli operation in Gaza during a Security Council meeting at the UN. Photograph: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

In the international arena, the U.S. routinely stands alone, or with the small minority, when voting on Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The U.S. cast the only NO vote at the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva against a resolution calling for parties to be held accountable for potential war crimes committed in Operation Protective Edge. The U.S. knee-jerk support for anything and everything that Israel wants, endangers U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in the volatile Middle East.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush told the world that the terrorists hate American values. He was wrong. Extremists hate our foreign policies, not our values. We continue down this path of genuflecting before the State of Israel at our peril, and Israel’s peril too. America’s unwavering support for the State of Israel, even when the cold, hard facts show that Israel likely committed war crimes last summer in Gaza, only fuels the extremists. President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that “extreme ideologies are not defeated by guns but by better ideas.”

Our basic common decency and humanity calls us to empathize with our fellow human beings — all of them — not just the Israelis running for cover under the Iron Dome. We lose our humanity when we ignore the tremendous lopsided death tolls, the assymetric battles, and the root causes of the conflict.

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We don’t have to choose violence

In a follow-up to my post on September 6, Choosing Violence, I’m mailing letters to the President, and my members of Congress, with a copy of the article from the Boston Review.

(L to R – President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham)

September 14, 2016

An Open Letter to President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham:

We need to address someone who might actually listen, even if at present they cannot hear. They might be distant, but we must believe, if our conviction is to make sense to us, that there is a real chance they will receive our message. Conviction relies on a community, real or really possible, that subscribes to different standards than those of the majority.” — Oded Na’aman in Choosing Violence (Boston Review, August 15, 2016)

This letter is about choosing a different path.

I am writing because I believe each of you may hear my message. If you can’t hear it today, I’m convinced you will in the near future because each of you has shown intelligent compassion mixed with creative thinking in actions that you’ve taken in the past.  Those are the qualities we need today more than ever before.

I’m referring specifically to the tragedy in Israel-Palestine unfolding for all sides there, but my message is just as germane in every conflict the U.S. is engaged in abroad, as well as conflicts at home.

Oded Na’aman, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 2000s, and he’s written an insightful article entitled Choosing Violence which I’ve enclosed and encourage you to read.

The take-away message from Mr. Na’aman’s article is that violence and war are not tragedies that befall us but rather a choice we make. We choose war as a tool to respond to difficult challenges. I’m convinced we can make other choices using our compassionate intelligence and creative thinking.

The common wisdom in the United States, in Congress, and in the mainstream media, is that we must use violence to fight the terrorists. We must defend ourselves and our values with violence. We believe that our violence, as abhorrent as we may agree it is, is not by choice but by necessity.

I’ve wondered (especially after returning from my 9-month teaching sabbatical in Gaza three years ago) whether I’m a kook for believing that we can choose another path. In 2012-2013, while I was teaching young people about climate change in Gaza, I didn’t find the terrorists that my government warned me about before I traveled. I met with Hamas officials at their offices and in their homes, and I found humans struggling to lead under a long-term siege and occupation. I found humans making mistakes, as all leaders do, but trying to make life better for their people. Hamas’ tactics might be ill-advised, just as I would argue that many of Israel’s tactics are ill-advised, but I didn’t meet any terrorists.

Certainly each side argues why its use of violence is one of necessity and is justified. I’ve heard justifications ad nauseum from people in both Israel and Palestine. The truth, however, is that regardless of which side initiates the violence or defends itself against violence – both are trapped in a cycle of violence which must stop. Neither can get off the treadmill by himself. The United States must help.

Given our significant military aid to Israel, the U.S. has leverage to hold each side accountable for choosing a different path.  Why aren’t we using our leverage?

this-way-that-way-signpost

The MOU expected to be signed this week embodies our decision to choose violence once again by pledging to give Israel $38 billion in military aid over ten years. The agreement might speak about “security” but the weapons do not represent future security for Israel but rather prolong Israel’s illegal occupation and humiliation of Palestinians.

Israel’s “qualitative military edge” undermines the possibility of building a just and long-term peace with its neighbors. Instead, we should be helping Israel build a “qualitative peaceful edge.” Israel must remain strong militarily but even stronger as a role model for respecting human dignity and human rights. What path would the U.S. be forging if our financial aid to Israel was directed towards sustainable development projects for both Israel and Palestine?

There may be quiet, private reasons for Congress’s decision to add fuel to the fire in the Middle East. I understand the historical relationship between Israel and the United States; the powerful influence that AIPAC wields in Congress and in elections. I understand how the military aid package to Israel benefits our laboratories and jobs in the U.S., which translates into votes each election cycle. There is no justification, however, for the tremendous pain and destruction perpetrated by the violence we support.

We have a choice.  Violence doesn’t choose us, we choose violence.  

I may sound like a “deluded crank” to you, but I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that true justice and the moral high ground will prove me right, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I simply ask that you step on the right side of history.  Please choose a different path away from violence.

albert_einstein_quotes2

 

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