Israel gets off scot-free, again

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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.

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