Israel gets off scot-free, again

on 14 Comments

Yesterday the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli foreign ministry has successfully thwarted an attempted meeting between the signatories of the Geneva Convention which would have convened in Switzerland.

According to the article, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was motivated to block the meeting because it “could have resulted in a public statement that Israel has violated the charter during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip during 2009.” The article also credits Lieberman with “preventing the establishment of the victim’s compensation fund of those injured in Cast Lead, which was decided by the UN Human Rights Council.” (What a fantastic human being)

Such a development should come as no surprise, as it speaks to culture of impunity the international community affords Israel with respect to its military operations (among other things). It is almost as if the more egregious Israel is in its violations of international law, the more the country’s leaders are able to shield it from criticism. With each new operation, this list of violations grows longer. According to the Goldstone Report, apart from the Geneva Conventions, Israel has acted in direct contravention of numerous articles of the following international agreements (in no particular order): 

  • The Hague Regulations; (394)
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (395)
  • The Convention Against Torture; (395)
  • The Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; (398)
  • The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; (398)
  • The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; (421)
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (407)
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; (421)
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; (434)
  • And the 1995 Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information among others(493)

Even more frightening, apart from simply breaching these agreements, Israel has so gravely violated international standards as to be accused by Goldstone, the United Nations, and countless reputable human rights organizations of the following war crimes with respect to three recent notable military operations:

War Crimes Committed During Operation Defensive Shield (Palestinian Territories; 2002)

According to a United Nations report:

  • Willful killing
  • Inhuman treatment
  • Unlawful confinement of protected persons
  • Extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly and destructively
  • State and settler terrorism

According to an Amnesty International report:

  • Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure
  • Violating the principle of proportionality
  • Using methods of indiscriminate attack 

War Crimes Committed During the July War (Lebanon; 2006)

According to a United Nations report:

  • Willful killing of protected persons
  • Violating the principle of proportionality
  • Violating the principle of distinction
  • Violating the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks

War Crimes Committed During Operation Cast Lead (Gaza; 2008-2009)

According to the Goldstone report:

  • Unlawful, wanton destruction which is not justified by military necessity (259)
  • The use of human shields (299)
  • Acts amounting to perfidy resulting in death or serious personal injury (300)
  • The rounding-up of large civilians [which is] a collective penalty on those persons, [amounting] to measures of intimidation and terrorism (323)
  • Outrages on personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment…and inhumane treatment (323)
  • Forcing women to endure especially distressing circumstances during their unlawful detention (323)
  • Illegal treatment of unlawful detainees including shackling, severe beatings during detention and interrogation, being held in foul conditions and solitary confinement -actions which violate prohibitions against physical or moral coercion of protected persons (324)
  • Torture (324)

Goldstone also found evidence for crimes against humanity as a result of a “series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country,” (371) as well as the “systematic discrimination, both in law and in practice, against Palestinians, in legislation…and in practice during detention, trial and sentence compared with Israeli citizens.” (422)

A well-documented pattern of eviscerating civilian infrastructure, killing a disproportionately large number of protected persons including women and children, barring medical aid, human rights monitors and journalists from entry to military zones, and utilizing extremely destructive weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus in densely populated areas is also evident in all three operations. (None of these remarks should be construed to obfuscate the reality of acts committed by Hezbollah, various resistance movements or Hamas respectively in each operation. However it must be noted that in scope, such abuses pale in comparison, nor do they make Israel any less guilty).             

In light of the magnitude and breadth of these violations, the foreign ministry’s ability to disrupt even a possible condemnation is a slap in the face to international standards of justice. Yet once again, through political maneuvering, Israel has managed to shield itself from criticism.

In the face of such repugnant arrogance, is it any wonder that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement “singles out” Israel? No other country with such a despicable human rights record has managed to maintain such flourishing relationships with world super-powers.

Imagine, with all the attention Israel’s continued settlement expansion has received in the past few months (in direct and flagrant contravention of the united international consensus on the program’s inadmissibility) and yet still, Lieberman has the ability to disband a potential meeting of the signatories for the very agreement that makes Israel’s actions illegal!? It is absolutely ludicrous.

14 Responses

  1. potsherd
    October 30, 2010, 7:54 am

    Most frightening to me is the fact that the Lobby’s control over the corrupt US Congress leads it to a total refusal to even consider such charges, to turn their back on evidence that US citizens have been the victims of war crimes, to place the national signature on one statement of lies after the other.

  2. seafoid
    October 30, 2010, 9:22 am

    Israel still has decent political capital but how sustainable is it? The best tactic would be to bring this latest GC outrage to the attention of the wider world. Israel will get away with it this time but there is going to be another war of choice along shortly and it is the aftermath that is worth playing for. Israel should be made to pay for such blatant brutality and contempt for human rights.

    • maggielorraine
      October 30, 2010, 3:23 pm

      it’s horrific to think that even more people need to suffer for israel to be punished.

      • Avi
        October 30, 2010, 5:19 pm

        <maggielorraine October 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

        it’s horrific to think that even more people need to suffer for israel to be punished.

        I would characterize that as “yield” instead of “punished”. The goal is to bring Israel to yield. If punishment is required to achieve that outcome, then so be it. But, I think the end result is more important than the process in this context. That’s, at least, my opinion.

        As an aside, Maggie, I look forward to reading more of your articles in the near future. The handful of articles you’ve have had on Mondoweiss so far have been about highly important subjects.

      • maggielorraine
        October 30, 2010, 6:47 pm

        i actually agree with you 100%, thank you for the correction.

        however, i hope one couldn’t construe your words as implying that things like victims’ compensation (which israel has refused to pay when it comes to cast lead) aren’t important, correct?

        thank you for your aside. i’m new to this and the encouragement i’ve received thus far is really quite amazing. i appreciate having a place to talk about this stuff.

        take care!

      • Avi
        October 30, 2010, 8:16 pm

        however, i hope one couldn’t construe your words as implying that things like victims’ compensation (which israel has refused to pay when it comes to cast lead) aren’t important, correct?

        That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about that.

        Sometimes I think about how Israeli hasbara chooses its phraseology carefully and its words — often buzzwords — more carefully; so I find myself double checking my own choice of words when describing the impasse or the conditions on the ground, but often — as you can see above — I do a lousy job of it.

  3. tommy
    October 30, 2010, 11:29 am

    It is amazing, considering the history of the Twentieth Century, how an ideologically defined nationalism is able to so easily oppose international law and condemnation for crimes committed that everyone except the nationalists recognize as horrific. The power of an ideologically themed nationalism backed by immense wealth and practically unlimited military might continues to define the very worst of human nature despite the historical lessons of the recent past. Israel represents the failure of of the US and UN to impose a new world order of peace after the victories of WW II. The victors against the forces of ideologically defined nationalism have not only failed to prevent a recurrence of the very worst crimes of the Twentieth Century, they actively participate in them, providing aid, comfort and arms to the new totalitarians. That has to change before Israel’s militant expansionism can be defeated.

  4. Dan Crowther
    October 30, 2010, 11:35 am

    To borrow a favorite phrase from our dear friend Tom Friedman -ha: “The next six months”….really will decide the next decade or longer.
    If the Republicans take one or both houses of Congress in this election, Bibi can keep his coalition together- if that happens, Israel will be in southern Lebanon by summer. It is highly unlikely that this “small” war stays small for too long- all roads lead to Iran. But Israel cannot attack Iran, it must have another country do it for her…..And note Iran’s recent behavior- requesting new nuclear talks with the EU as financial sanctions bite- they know what time it is- they saw the same thing take place in Iraq; sanctions, warnings, American “frustration”, more sanctions, threats by the US and Israel…….if Israel attacks southern Lebanon again, Iran will be forced into overt action; taking out hezbollah will be the Israeli rationale, Iran has already pledged it will come to the defense of hezbollah and Lebanon in general if it were attacked. Iran’s big brother, Russia will also not take lightly further Israeli aggrression, if it means that Iran could end up occupied by the American military- nor will China. The US will have a decision to make: total war or the end of the Zionist state. Hopefully we take the side of the 99.98% of the world’s population.

    • RoHa
      November 1, 2010, 6:10 am

      Turkey is not too happy about Israel either.

      “The Turkish national security council recently designated Israel as a “major threat” in a document known as the “red book,” which lists threats to Turkey, ”

      link to

      link to

      “Turkey has also conditioned its consent to stationing a NATO missile-defense system in its territory on a guarantee no information collected by the system be transferred to Israel”- Haaretz

      If things heat up over Iran, Turkey is going to have something to say about it.

      • Shingo
        November 1, 2010, 7:16 am

        “If things heat up over Iran, Turkey is going to have something to say about it.”

        Yes, Israel might have a real army to face down, not a defenseless population.

      • yonira
        November 1, 2010, 8:48 am


        And how would Turkey’s NATO membership fit into that equation Shingo?

  5. Les
    October 30, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Lieberman could not possibly have carried this off on his own and the article gives the credit due to the Clinton’s State Department. Nevertheless Lieberman surely required the support, as opposed to the acquiescence, of both Britain and the EU.

    • maggielorraine
      October 30, 2010, 10:11 pm

      if you click on the specific article i cited, it gives primary credit to the foreign ministry mentioning specific israeli embassies, and says “with help from Washington.” because of the phraseology used, i chose to accept that the state department “helped” rather than orchestrated blocking the meeting, though you could be correct (i haven’t read other reports of the incident).

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