Tag Archives: International Criminal Court

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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U.N. Commission makes recommendations — is anyone listening?

Now that Obama has a veto-proof Congress in favor of his Iran nuke deal, I’m wondering how Netanyahu is going to spin this. Will he dig in his heels and rant about this treachery? Or will he try to rebuild bridges between Israel and the U.S.?

Given Bibi’s response in June to the recommendations of the Independent U.N. Commission of Inquiry charged with investigating Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, I suspect Netanyahu lives in a bubble — a bubble of his own reality untouched by contrary evidence.

The Israeli government’s response to the U.N. report was also predictable.

It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted. This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate.

The State of Israel has never taken any U.N. recommendations to heart, so it’s unlikely there will be a change of heart in 2015.

676.        The persistent lack of implementation of recommendations – made by previous commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions, United Nations treaty bodies, special procedures and other United Nations bodies, in particular the Secretary-General and OHCHR – lies at the heart of the systematic recurrence of violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

Israel is the recalcitrant child who rejects authority figures and refuses to take any responsibility for his own predicament.

recalcitrant child

The U.N. recommendations are quite rational. Hopefully, the adults in the community of nations will take note and recognize that these reasonable recommendations must be implemented to avert another humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

677.     The commission calls upon all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the main principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and to establish promptly credible, effective, transparent and independent accountability mechanisms. The right of all victims to an effective remedy, including full reparations, must be ensured without further delay. In this context, the parties should cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened.

The Palestinians are pressing the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza and for continued settlement expansion in the West Bank. Israel

678.    The commission also calls upon Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate political leadership by both refraining from and taking active steps to prevent statements that dehumanize the other side, incite hatred, and only serve to perpetuate a culture of violence.

I think #678 is a very important recommendation, but I haven’t seen any evidence that either side acknowledges or takes it seriously.  Bruce Katz, co-founder of Palestinian & Jewish Unity, was recently interviewed on Press TV — see here.http://presstv.ir/Default/embed/426545

Katz: There is nothing surprising and it is absolutely inhuman but it is part of the overall process of dehumanization that the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Israel’s successive apartheid governments and the Netanyahu government simply seems to be the worst of all. Obviously you can only do what they have done to the Palestinians in Gaza, if you consider them to be subhumans which is exactly what the Israeli officials believe and that was reflected just recently by a statement coming from Moshe Ya’alon who is Israel’s defense minister; he as a matter of fact threatened Iran with a nuclear attack that would rival Nagasaki and Hiroshima [attacks]. He also said in that statement that he would kill as many children in Iran as in Gaza.

The remaining recommendations from the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry address Israel, Palestine and the international community.

679.    The commission calls upon the Government of Israel to conduct a thorough, transparent, objective and credible review of policies governing military operations and of law enforcement activities in the context of the occupation, as defined by political and military decision-makers, to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law, specifically with regard to:

       (a)           The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas, including in the vicinity of specifically protected objects;

       (b)           The definition of military objectives;

       (c)           The tactics of targeting residential buildings;

       (d)           The effectiveness of precautionary measures;

       (e)           The protection of civilians in the context of the application of the Hannibal directive;

       (f)            Ensuring that the principle of distinction is respected when active neighbourhoods are declared “sterile combat zones”;

       (g)           The use of live ammunition in crowd control situations.

680.   The review should also examine mechanisms for continuous review of respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law during military operations and in the course of law enforcement activities in the context of the occupation.

In June, Israel exonerated itself over the killings of the four Bakr children on the Gaza beach. Does anyone have any hope that Israel can investigate itself?

681.    The commission further calls upon the Government of Israel:

       (a)           To ensure that investigations comply with international human rights standards and that allegations of international crimes, where substantiated, are met with indictments, prosecutions and convictions, with sentences commensurate to the crime, and to take all measures necessary to ensure that such investigations will not be  confined to individual soldiers alone, but will also encompass members of the political and military establishment, including at the senior level, where appropriate;

       (b)           To implement all the recommendations contained in the second Turkel report, in particular recommendation no. 2 calling for the enactment of provisions that impose direct criminal liability on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates, in line with the doctrine of command responsibility;

       (c)           To grant access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory for, and cooperate with, international human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations concerned with investigating alleged violations of international law by all duty bearers and any mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to follow up on the present report;

       (d)           To address structural issues that fuel the conflict and have a negative impact on a wide range of human rights, including the right to self-determination; in particular, to lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza; to cease all settlement-related activity, including the transfer of Israel’s own population to the occupied territory; and to implement the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

       (e)           To accede to the Rome Statute.

682.    The commission calls upon the State of Palestine:

       (a)           To ensure that investigations into violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including international crimes, by the Palestinian Authority, the authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups, where substantiated, comply with international human rights standards and that full accountability is achieved, including through criminal proceedings;

       (b)           To accelerate efforts to translate the declarations on Palestinian unity into tangible measures on grounds that would enable the Government of national consensus to ensure the protection of human rights and to achieve accountability for victims.

683.    The commission calls upon the authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups:

       (a)           To respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, including by ending all attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian objects, and stopping all rocket attacks and other actions that may spread terror among the civilian population in Israel;

       (b)           To take measures to prevent extrajudicial executions and eradicate torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; to cooperate with national investigations aimed to bring those responsible for violations of international law to justice; and to combat the stigma faced by families of alleged collaborators.

684.    The commission calls upon the international community:

       (a)           To promote compliance with human rights obligations, and to respect, and to ensure respect for, international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, in accordance with article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions;

       (b)           To use its influence to prevent and end violations, and to refrain from encouraging violations by other parties;

       (c)           To accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards that would limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities;

       (d)           To support actively the work of the International Criminal Court in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory; to exercise universal jurisdiction to try international crimes in national courts; and to comply with extradition requests pertaining to suspects of such crimes to countries where they would face a fair trial.

685.   The commission recommends that the Human Rights Council consider conducting a comprehensive review of the implementation of the numerous recommendations addressed to the parties by its own mechanisms, in particular relevant commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions and explore mechanisms to ensure their implementation.

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Day #48 – August 23, 2014 – Gaza’s 9/11?

According to the Israeli  military, since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, Israel had launched more than 5,000 airstrikes in Gaza, while fighters in Gaza had fired close to 4,000 rockets and mortars into Israel by August 23, 2014. Something changed on that date.

Israel destroyed one of the largest buildings in Gaza, a 12-story apartment building in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City. This might be considered the 9/11 moment of the war. Within seconds, 44 apartments were destroyed, 44 families were made homeless. Israel claimed that Hamas used an apartment in the building as a base of operations, but a resident of the building denied that claim and said the Israelis were lying.

Although the IDF had targeted specific apartments within buildings before, this was the first time the IDF destroyed an entire building. It appeared that Israel was putting pressure on the elites in Gaza to end the battle which had raged for 48 days.

On that same day, Hamas signed a pledge to back any Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court which could expose Israel, as well as Hamas, to possible war crimes prosecution.

If the Palestinian resistance fighters could have brought down a multi-story building in Tel Aviv, I have no doubt they would have. The IDF’s attack on this apartment building in the middle of Gaza City highlighted once again the asymmetric nature of last summer’s battle.

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Human Rights Council demands accountability for war crimes in Gaza

UN HRC vote

Today (July 3, 2015) the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for accountability for possible war crimes committed in Gaza last summer.  The USA was the only member to vote NO.

Does President Obama and the others in the Administration understand the message this vote sends to the rest of the world?

Human Rights Council

Twenty-ninth session

Agenda item 7

Human rights situation in Palestine and other
occupied Arab territories

                         Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Cuba, Ecuador,* Namibia, Nicaragua,* Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Tunisia* (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of): draft resolution

29/…  Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

       The Human Rights Council,

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recalling the relevant rules and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, in particular the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, which is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,

Recalling also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other human rights covenants, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling further its relevant resolutions, including resolutions S-9/1 of 12 January 2009 and S-21/1 of 23 July 2014, and the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,[1]

Expressing its appreciation to the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict for its comprehensive report,[2]

Affirming the obligation of all parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law,

Emphasizing the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians, reaffirming the obligation to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and deploring the civilian deaths that resulted from the conflict in and around the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014, including the killing of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, including 551 children and 299 women, and six Israeli civilians,

Gravely concerned by reports regarding serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes, committed in the context of the military operations conducted in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2008 and 2009 and in 2014, particularly in the Gaza Strip, including the findings of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, of the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict, and of the boards of inquiry convened by the Secretary-General,

Condemning all violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, and appalled at the widespread and unprecedented levels of destruction, death and human suffering caused,

Stressing the urgency of achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967,

Deploring the non-cooperation by Israel with the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict and the refusal to grant access to or to cooperate with international human rights bodies seeking to investigate alleged violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,

Regretting the lack of implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which follows a pattern of lack of implementation of recommendations made by United Nations mechanisms and bodies,

Alarmed that long-standing systemic impunity for international law violations has allowed for the recurrence of grave violations without consequence, and stressing the need to ensure accountability for all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in order to end impunity, ensure justice, deter further violations, protect civilians and promote peace,

Emphasizing the need for States to investigate grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to end impunity, uphold their obligations to ensure respect, and promote international accountability,

Noting the accession by Palestine to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 2 January 2015,

  1. Welcomes the report of the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict;2
  2. Calls upon all duty bearers and United Nations bodies to pursue the implementation of all recommendations contained in the report of the commission of inquiry, in accordance with their respective mandates;
  3. Notes the importance of the work of the commission of inquiry and of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2009 and the information collected regarding grave violations in support of future accountability efforts, in particular, information on alleged perpetrators of violations of international law;
  4. Emphasizes the need to ensure that all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are held to account through appropriate fair and independent domestic or international criminal justice mechanisms, and to ensure the right of all victims to an effective remedy, including full reparations, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards these goals;
  5. Calls upon the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened;
  6. Calls upon all States to promote compliance with human rights obligations and all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to respect, and to ensure respect for, international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in accordance with article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions, and to fulfil their obligations under articles 146, 147 and 148 of the said Convention with regard to penal sanctions, grave breaches and the responsibilities of the High Contracting Parties;
  7. Recommends that the General Assembly remain apprised of the matter until it is satisfied that appropriate action with regard to implementing the recommendations made by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in its report has been or is being taken appropriately at the domestic or international levels to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators;
  8. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present, as part of the reporting requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolutions S-9/1 and S-12/1, a report on the implementation of the present resolution, as well as on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict and of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, to the Council at its thirty-first session;
  9. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

                                *    Non-member State of the Human Rights Council.

                     [1]   A/HRC/12/48.

                     [2]   A/HRC/29/52.

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UN Commission Finds Possible War Crimes – Next Step ICC

Rumor has it that the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will have an opportunity to vote tomorrow (July 3, 2015) on a Resolution supporting the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict. The United States is an HRC member, and I’m making calls to the White House and State Department today urging our support. The Administration has already signaled its opinion that nothing further should be done with the UN report.

One year following the brutal 2014 Operation Protective Edge, and people in Gaza are still waiting for reconstruction to begin, for some healing, if possible. They certainly don’t want to be forgotten.

Palestinian child's drawing in Gaza

Palestinian child’s drawing in Gaza

The U.N. Report generated considerable criticism, although most readers only look for facts to support their predetermined ideas or bias, with objectivity in short supply. Instead, we find confirmation bias operating like a software program quietly beneath the surface, behind our active thought processes, so we don’t even recognize it’s there.

“What is my bias?” I ask myself.

I must have been wearing my super-duper law professor goggles when I read the U.N. Report because I kept thinking “this would make a wonderful syllabus for a law school class focused on international humanitarian and human rights law.”  The summary of the applicable laws, the presentation of the facts, the description of the “reasonable person standard” and how the law is applied to the facts —- it was all there.

A reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have reason to believe that such an incident or pattern of conduct had occurred. (A lower standard than is required in criminal trials.) (para. 19)

With methodological detail, the Commissioners even “schooled” Israel’s Military Advocate General on using proper investigative techniques (para. 630-633) and corrected the drafter of the IDF Code of Ethics that the new term “enemy civilian” does not exist in international law.

“One of the most elementary principles of international humanitarian law is the obligation to distinguish between combatants and civilians; however it never establishes different categories of civilians. The commission reiterates that a civilian is a civilian regardless of nationality, race or the place where he or she lives.” (para. 395)

Commissioners Davis and Diene, each highly qualified for the difficult task assigned to them, stuck to the facts without hyperbole or exaggeration.

Mary McGowan Davis (USA) and Doudou Diene (Senegal)

Mary McGowan Davis (USA) and Doudou Diene (Senegal)

Many advocates on both sides (Israel & Palestine) were not pleased with the UN Report, as I posted earlier.  Perhaps they were expecting something different or didn’t understand the role and responsibilities of this Commission. Davis and Diene were not appointed to be judge and jury, and were certainly not going to render a verdict or deliver justice. They were appointed as an investigative team to ferret out the facts, and to ensure that the voices of all victims were heard. (para.6) 

Although Israel denied them access to Gaza, and refused to cooperate with the investigation, the Commission conducted more than 280 confidential interviews on both sides, reviewed more than 500 written submissions, including satellite imagery, expert weapons analyses, video file & photos. (para. 14)

What follows are some snippets from the U.N. Report that I wish had been highlighted in the mainstream media, but were not.

  • The Commission found that Israel has “effective control” over Gaza. (para. 30) Despite Israel’s assertions that it evacuated Gaza in 2005, and thus the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied territory, the Commission disagreed.
  • Israel claims that the international human rights (IHR) laws and international humanitarian laws (laws of war) are mutually exclusive and so the IHR do not apply to Gaza, but the Commission didn’t buy that notion for a second. (para. 39-40)
  • In a breath of fresh air, the Commission noted that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has observed that the “existence of a ‘Palestinian people’ is no longer in issue.  The right of self-determination is part of the ‘legitimate rights’ of the Palestinian people.” (para. 42)
  • Some commentators have criticised the U.N. Report for not establishing the proper “context” and for equating the State of Israel with its nemesis and archrival Hamas. The Commission, however, placed the hostilities in the context of the prolonged occupation, an increasing number of rocket attacks on Israel and no “political prospects for reaching a solution to the conflict that would achieve peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis and realize the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.” The Commission also noted Israel’s blockade since 2007 is strangling the people in Gaza (para. 53-54) and that the impact of the 2014 war cannot be assessed separately from the blockade. (para. 598). The Commission asserted that the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism established in September 2014 is not a substitute for lifting the blockade. (para. 599).
  • Some commentators have objected to the Report’s perceived “balance” and “evenhandedness” as if both sides experienced equal levels of trauma and loss, and both sides were equally to blame. The facts are duly catalogued and speak for themselves — the number of casualties on either side, the number of buildings and neighborhoods destroyed, the numbers of whole families killed, and the types of weapons used by the IDF and militants — and no one can set this Report down believing there was any equivalency between Israel and Gaza in Operation Protective Edge. (paras. 59 – 215) More than 1,500 Palestinian children were orphaned. (para. 594). Almost 800 women were widowed last summer. (para. 596). 18,000 homes were destroyed, and an estimated 80,000 homes and properties need to be rehabilitated. (para. 576) One hospital and 5 clinics were destroyed in Gaza. Fifteen hospitals and 51 clinics were damaged. (para. 591). 209 schools in Gaza were damaged or destroyed, 3 universities were directly hit by Israeli strikes, while eight sustained collateral damage, 274 kindergartens were damaged and 11 were destroyed. (para. 585)  During the hostilities, approximately 1/2 million Palestinians were displaced (28% of the population in Gaza) (para.577) and more than 300,000 Palestinians took shelter in 85 UNRWA schools thinking they were safe havens, only to find that Israel attacked these shelters 7 times, killing between 44 and 47 people, including 14 children and 4 women. (para. 421) 63 water facilities were damaged and 23 were completely destroyed. 60% of the sewage treatment plants, along with 27% of the pumping stations were destroyed. (para. 584) Contrary to one critical headline, the UN Report was not attempting to hide massive Israeli war crimes behind ‘balance’ smokescreen.
  • Regarding the notorious tunnels between Gaza and Israel that Americans heard so much about on TV last summer, the Commission said it doesn’t know what the purpose of the tunnels might have been but noted that during the time period under investigation, they were only used to attack military targets. (para. 108) The IDF uncovered 32 tunnels. (para.562)
  • The IDF launched more than 6,000 airstrikes on Gaza, 142 families had 3 or more family members killed in the same incident because of the destruction of residential buildings. (para. 111) The testimony of many families was provided in their own words. (para. 117). “A significant % of civilians in Gaza killed during the conflict died inside their home as a direct result of air-strikes or artillery shelling of their neighborhoods, making attacks on houses a key feature of the conflict. These strikes may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decisionmakers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel.” (para. 243)
  • Israel demolished several neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip beginning with Beit Hanoun on July 18-19 and  Shuja’iya on July 19-20. (para. 251 – 299) and Khuza’a from July 20 – August 1. (para. 300  et seq) The Commission concluded that razing entire areas in Khuza’a indicates that the IDF carried out destruction that were not required by military necessity, and was carried out unlawfully and wantonly, possibly a war crime. (para. 340)  “The vast scale of destruction may have been adopted as tactics of war.” (para.418)

In Shuja’iya, at about 3.30 p.m., Salem Shamaly, a local resident who had joined a group of international volunteers while searching for his missing cousin, was killed. As the volunteers were crossing a small alley, they heard a shot. The group immediately divided into two and took cover at opposite ends of the alley. Shortly afterwards, Salem Shamaly moved out of the area where he was taking cover and was shot. As he lay injured on the ground, he was shot twice again and killed. This incident was recorded on video. (para. 280)

  • Netanyahu has made Israel’s case for the morality of the Gaza campaign, but “morality” flew the coop when the IDF refused to allow Red Cross ambulances access to help victims, or in the case when the ambulance was permitted to enter but not allowed to leave and so rescue workers had to carry the injured victims out on their shoulders. (para. 332)  The IDF was clearly targeting ambulances (para. 459) and eyewitness testimony described the death of one ambulance driver. (para. 458)  In Khuza’a, a family was forced to leave Ghalia Abu Reda, a 70-year-old woman in a wheelchair, behind as they fled their home. Before shooting her in the head at close range, an IDF soldier posted a photo on Twitter showing the soldiers offering this old woman water. Family members later saw her picture on Twitter. (para. 333)
  • The IDF said that 5000 tons of munitions were supplied last summer.(para. 408) The Commission shared its concern about the explosive power of the weapons and the amount of ordnance used, and noted that it represented a 533% increase over the ordnance used during Operation Cast Lead in (2008-2009) on Gaza. (para. 409). At least 7,000 explosives wait to be recovered in Gaza. (para.575)
  • The U.N. Commission also examined events in the West Bank last summer, noting the murder of 3 Israeli teens (para.503) and the vicious murder of the Palestinian teen, Mohammad Abu Khdeir, (para.505). Israel’s Operation Brother’s Keeper included mass arrests, (para. 509) administrative detentions doubled last summer, (para. 513) approximately 1,400 houses were raided, (para. 519), punitive home demolitions (para.526) and there were serious restrictions on movement. (para.524). Between June 12 and August 26, 2014 — 27 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, including 5 kids, with over 3,100 injured. (para.533)  A well-known civil society activist was killed by a sniper in the Hebron area with IDF snipers stationed on rooftops. (para.536)

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The take-away message — accountability is the key.

The track record for holding anyone accountable is dismal. Following Operation Cast Lead (2008-09), 52 investigations were opened, 3 were prosecuted, resulting in 4 convictions, not against the most serious violations. Operation Pillar of Defense (Nov. 2012) did not result in any criminal investigations. (para.650) 

A year following Operation Protective Edge, the only indictment has been for a relatively minor offense of theft while Israel has closed its criminal investigation into killing the 4 Bakr boys on the Gaza beach. (para.633)

Left to its own devices, Israel hasn’t shown itself capable of conducting credible investigations in the past, and prefers to obfuscate, discredit the U.N., find generals from other countries to bless its conduct of Operation Protective Edge, and weave its Orwellian tale about “enemy civilians” and being the “most moral army in the world.”

The Commission is concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed by the IDF, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza, or the killings, torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. (para.644)

Among the recommendations that jump out at me:

  • The U.N. Commission asks “both sides to refrain from making statements that dehumanize the other side, incite hatred and only serve to perpetuate a culture of violence.” (para.678)
  • Israel should implement the Turkel recommendations, an initiative of the State of Israel two years ago following the Mavi Marmara killings. I want to learn more about the Turkel recommendations. (para.662)
  • The State of Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute January 1, 2015 which gives the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute potential war crimes. Palestine also acceded to 7 of 9 core human rights treaties and one substantive protocol. The State of Israel has not acceded to the Rome Statute — it should. (para. 658, 659, 660, 681) Although Israel’s position is that its own internal investigation precludes an ICC investigation, I don’t agree. (para.661) The subject of another blog post.

Rumor has it that the next stop in securing justice for the victims is the ICC. The U.N. Commission’s Report will undoubtedly be an important part of the ICC’s deliberations.

Dahlia Scheindlin’s and Natasha Roth’s commentary “The oddity of finding hope while investigating war crimes” (July 1, 2015) is one of the best I’ve read about the U.N. Report. In it, Commissioner Diène summed up the investigation: “We have heard testimonies from people who have lost relatives, yet have expressed a very deep feeling for the suffering of the other side.” He went on: “The father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir told me that many Israelis came to his house to express their solidarity [after the murder of his son]. …On the other side, the [Israeli] mother of a 4-year-old child that was killed [by a Palestinian rocket] expressed very emotionally her deep thoughts for mothers on the Palestinian side. There was a human side to this war that was not really perceived by the outside world.”

…And that is what international human rights law and

humanitarian law is all about … the people!

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation, People, Politics, United Nations, Video

Abbas wants what?!?

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants NATO troops in Palestine. For a very long time. Yes! He really said that. Read it here and here.

Abbas is responding to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns about security. Netanyahu says he only trusts his own military, not a third party like NATO. So this proposal is probably going nowhere, just like Secretary Kerry’s framework.

No Palestinians I’ve talked with in Gaza, the West Bank or the Diaspora believe these current talks between Abbas, Netanyahu and Kerry are going to result in anything good. They are just a smokescreen for continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. Nothing more.

Maybe my Palestinian “contacts” are limited, representing only the fringe element. Perhaps there are thousands of Palestinians somewhere cheering Abbas on and expecting a successful end to these talks.  I haven’t found them, and they haven’t shared their opinions in any publication that I’m aware of, but maybe they’re out there somewhere.

I think Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu are all blowing smoke. Here’s why.

Although Netanyahu is the duly elected representative of Israelis, Abbas can’t make any such claim to legitimacy on behalf of Palestinians. He was originally elected to a 4 year term in 2005. His term ended in 2009 and there haven’t been any elections in Palestine since. Why?

Maybe because the US likes a compliant leader who does what US leaders instruct him to do.  Just sayin’

Maybe because the discord between Fatah and Hamas prevent elections. Maybe the US and Israel have a vested interest in maintaining that discord. Just sayin’

Maybe because if  elections were held in Palestine, the outcome could not be predicted (aka manipulated) because there are just too many young, new voters. Just sayin’

No one has asked me for my opinion (no one has asked the opinion of Palestinians for whom Abbas says he speaks) but I think this farce is going to blow up in their faces …… in the faces of Kerry, Netanyahu and Abbas …… big time!

They will do everything possible to extend, extend, extend the talks, a strategy which only works in Israel’s favor. Then, after squeezing the last drop of PR value from this effort to negotiate, each side will point fingers at the other and the blame game will commence.

This is all so predictable.

So, what might work?  No one has asked me this question either, but it’s plain to see for anyone looking clearly and dispassionately at the Middle East conflict.

Palestinians must go to the International Criminal Court. John Dugard, Professor of Law, thinks so too.

Abbas says he doesn’t like courts, but the status quo hasn’t worked for Palestinians for decades. He needs to shake things up.

A senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch notes:

Why isn’t Palestine playing ball in The Hague? Those responsible for rocket launches from Gaza targeting Israeli population centers could be held criminally responsible at the ICC, but that should not deter the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah from seeking the court’s jurisdiction, since it has stated that it is against such attacks.

The main reason, current and former Palestinian officials say, is that Israel has threatened unspecified retaliation if it seeks the court’s jurisdiction, and the US has reinforced the threat. As a former Palestinian legal adviser told me, “The US said to us clearly, conveying Israel’s position, ‘Don’t touch it.'” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his Senate confirmation hearings that the US was “very, very strongly against” any “effort to take Israel for instance … to the ICC.”

Enough is enough! Time for Abbas to head to the ICC. If he won’t, maybe Palestinians need to show him to the door and hold long overdue elections.

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Filed under Elections, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

December 27, 2008 – A date to remember.

Do you remember where you were on December 27, 2008?  

Neither do I.   Probably recuperating from the mad holiday rush, but I honestly don’t remember.

Every man, woman and child (older than 10 today) in Gaza has that day 4 years ago seared into his/her memory.   Israel launched a military campaign against Gaza (code name Operation Cast Lead).   Following three weeks of bombardment by air, sea and land, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that 1417 Palestinians were killed.   During the same period, the IDF reported that 13 Israelis were killed.     A timeline of the military operation is here.

cast-lead

I’m not going to rehash Operation Cast Lead.  The Goldstone Report is the most authoritative source.  I’ve read it (500+ pages) and recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the horrible atrocities that occurred in Gaza.  That report opened my eyes.  I will never be able to close them again.

cast-lead

Do military operations like Operation Cast Lead violate international humanitarian law?   Certainly Israel and the U.S. do not want that question examined.

In April 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) request that Israel be investigated for claimed war crimes in Gaza in 2009, holding that since the PA is recognized by the UN General Assembly as an “observer” rather than a “state”, the ICC lacked jurisdiction to hear its request.  The decision was heavily criticized by human rights groups.

Now that the UN General Assembly has voted to recognize Palestine as a non-Member Observer State (Nov. 29, 2012),   Palestine will have access to the International Criminal Court.  Will that change the equation in the Middle East?  

A top UNRWA official in Gaza told me in November that Palestine really has no options.  The Palestinian Authority has tried direct negotiations with Israel; the Palestinians have used peaceful, non-violent resistance; the world has witnessed the tragic consequences of suicide bombers and the military resistance waged by Hamas and others in Gaza.   Through it all, the Occupation continues.

If these were two relatively equal state-actors dueling it out, there would never have been an Operation Cast Lead.  I’m convinced of that.  The deterrence factor would have given Israel reason to pause. 

Instead, Israel has one of the best-equipped modern militaries in the world, thanks in large part to U.S. taxpayers.  Israel has the Iron Dome, a defensive shield to intercept rockets from Gaza, and bunkers for civilians to dash to when the sirens sound.   Families in Gaza have nowhere to go.

Israel controls the land, sea and air access to Gaza.  This is an Occupation in every sense of the word.

Israel needs to be held accountable for what it did to the Palestinians living in Gaza 4 years ago.  Where negotiations, peaceful demonstrations, and violent resistance have failed, maybe the international court is the only option remaining for the Palestinians to break the choke-hold of this Occupation.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Israel Defense Forces