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US guilty of war crimes in Palestine

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The U.S. is not a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is an active participant and is guilty of the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians, most recently, the mass killings and destruction Israel wrought on the Gaza Strip during the summer. The reality that the U.S. is an active supporter of unimaginable suffering may very well be the motivating force behind the U.S.’s adamant attempts to block the Palestinians from using any of the internationally recognized tools of accountability to hold Israel responsible, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong—deadly wrong.

While Israeli bombs were hammering Gaza, Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd, drafted a 32-page pamphlet which was published by the Palestine-Israel Working Group of Historians Against the War (HAW) titled, Violations by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (August 2014). The policy paper places the U.S. in front of its own mirror and meticulously documents how one hand of the U.S. government systematically documents Israeli violations of U.S. law and international law, while the other hand unconditionally dishes out financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel.

The study notes that “United States law states that no military assistance will be provided to a government that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Yet the United States gives more military assistance to Israel than to any other country, currently in excess of $3.1 billion per year. The U.S. participates in joint military exercises, military research, and weapons development.”

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo: Amnesty International)

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo: Amnesty International)

This contradiction of its own policy would seem incriminating enough, but if all the other means of U.S. support to Israel are added—especially the U.S.’s unwavering role in the UN Security Council as a proxy for Israel’s interests by vetoing and thereby blocking international steps for justice—the evidence that the U.S. is an active player in Israel’s onslaught and continued military occupation becomes overwhelming.

It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.

While this new document was being researched, the Historians Against the War circulated a letter to President Obama and members of Congress that begins: “We deplore the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel. We also recognize the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” (July 31, 2014). The pamphlet’s contents strike this point home with incriminating details.

The pamphlet quotes historian Robin D. G. Kelley who recently said about the ongoing conflict, “Determining next steps requires that we go back many steps—before the siege, before the election of Hamas, before the withdrawal of Jewish settlements in Gaza, before the Oslo Accords, even before the strip came under Israeli occupation in 1967.” (“When the smoke clears in Gaza,” Aug. 8, 2014, Black Educator).

I had the honor of working with both authors of this pamphlet following the First Gulf War (1990-1991) when they suggested we co-edit an oral history of Palestine as a tool to understand the centrality of Palestine to the entire destabilization of the Middle East, a reality that is even more true today. Following several field visits to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Golan Heights, that effort resulted in the publishing of Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (1993). Their new effort revisits many familiar topics that we addressed in our book, with chapter headings such as International Agreements and U.S. Law, International Agreements on Human Rights, U.S. Law on Foreign Assistance, Violations of Internationally Recognized Human Rights, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Arbitrary Arrest or Detention, Collective Punishment, among many more.

Perhaps the most important chapter in this brief pamphlet is “The Problem of Enforcement.” One need not be a historian or political scientist to understand that as long as global enforcement mechanisms of accountability are denied to Palestinians due to the political whims of a superpower, Israel has the green light to attack Gaza and the West Bank at any time with impunity.

Israel’s senseless military attack this summer (deceptively coined “Operation Protective Edge” in English, and more accurately “Solid Cliff” in Hebrew) left 2,168 Palestinians dead, more than 500 of them children. The Institute for Middle East Understanding compared the proportionate impact of these deaths to the population in the U.S. Gaza’s devastating human loss would be equivalent to 376,680 Americans killed in 51 days if such events were undertaken in the U.S. To put this in perspective, this number is slightly fewer than the 407,000 U.S. soldiers killed in World War II. It is not hyperbole to say that everyone in Gaza knows at least one person who died or was injured in this atrocity, with each person left wondering if he or she would be next.

If humanity is to be served, citizens who believe in equal access to international tools of justice must speak up and denounce the continued U.S. hegemony over Palestine. If you support nonviolent means for addressing crimes against humanity—especially if you are American or Israeli—act now by contacting your elected representative to demand a change in policy so that marginalized populations are not shut out of systems of justice when they are the victims of crimes against humanity. Holding individuals responsible for their crimes is a core American value; it’s a value we should not compromise for any country, especially our own.

This post was first published in The Hill.

Sam Bahour

Sam Bahour is a board member with Just Vision, a policy analyst with Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and a secretariat member of the Palestine Strategy Group. He blogs at Twitter: @SamBahour

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41 Responses

  1. Andrew5 on September 19, 2014, 11:23 am

    This is a “dog bites man” story.
    Also it’s old news,
    Zionism backed unconditionally by US imperialism is the root cause of this conflict.

  2. Palikari on September 19, 2014, 11:30 am

    The current US administration doesn’t support Israel at all.

    • just on September 19, 2014, 2:39 pm

      Care to share your proof of this?

      • talknic on September 20, 2014, 1:09 am

        @ just Pssssssssst …. is a Hasbarista, proof isn’t in their brief

      • Kay24 on September 20, 2014, 7:21 am

        You are seeing an example of zionist ungratefulness. They basically dislike Obama, despite the fact that he increased the charity going there, gives unwavering support and protection, and okayed more weapons, for their forces to attack Palestinians. They want more. That also includes a US President that will obey Netanyahu, and keep kissing the zio ring.

    • ckg on September 19, 2014, 4:27 pm

      The key point is that the current US administration resupplied Israel with ammunition while Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza. The Pentagon honored a request from Israel for 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers. If you give bullets to a mass murderer, don’t expect to walk free.

      • Palikari on September 19, 2014, 5:16 pm

        That’s business.

    • eljay on September 19, 2014, 6:15 pm

      >> Palikareee: The current US administration doesn’t support Israel at all.

      The U.S. should not support any state – including Israel – that is an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state. No state should support such a state.

    • talknic on September 20, 2014, 1:06 am

      @ Palikari shows that an idiot for Israel will say absolutely anything, no matter how nonsensical, untrue, transparent or un-believable

      “The current US administration doesn’t support Israel at all”

      So Israel DIDN’T receive any military aid under the Obama administration. WOW!!! That’s ^&(*ng AMAZING!!! I wonder if Israel or the US know?

    • Citizen on September 20, 2014, 3:40 am

      @ Palikari
      Snowden’s documentation reveals Obama’s heightened aid to Israel:

      Fact is that US is funding Israeli aggression even while Obama acts as if he has nothing to do with this:

  3. ckg on September 19, 2014, 11:39 am

    I am reminded of this exchange on Democracy Now, 8/6/2014:

    AMY GOODMAN: Could the U.S. be charged with war crimes, as well? I mean, in United States common law, felony murder, it’s both the person who commits the murder and the one who provides the gun. By Friday, when I don’t know how many people had been killed at that point, say, 1,400 Palestinians, the U.S. said they were resupplying Israel with ammunition.

    KENNETH ROTH: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t hold your breath on a prosecution, but I do think you bring up a valid point, Amy, which is that the U.S., under U.S. law, should not be sending weapons when they’re going to be used to commit war crimes. And so, if U.S. wants to send, you know, the Iron Dome anti-missile defense to Israel, nobody’s going to quarrel with that. But to continue sending Israel the kind of weapons that it’s using to commit war crimes in Gaza should stop. And, you know, there is a precedent for this. I mean, even Ronald Reagan stopped sending cluster munitions to Israel when it was using them indiscriminately in Lebanon. But President Obama, you know, isn’t going to touch that.

    AMY GOODMAN: John Dugard, we only have a minute. Your response?

    JOHN DUGARD: Yes, I agree with Ken completely. I think it’s important to realize that under the Rome Statute, a state which assists, aids or abets a state in the commission of an international crime is also guilty. And I suspect that one of the reasons why the United States is opposed to Palestine joining the International Criminal Court is that inevitably its own complicity in these crimes will become an issue.

    Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch. John Dugard is the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories at The Hague.

    • just on September 19, 2014, 11:44 am

      bingo, ckg.


    • Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:08 am

      And Israel will point to the USA as an example it’s only doing what is now considered normal.

    • MSeveral on September 20, 2014, 10:43 am

      I assume the war crimes that are alleged that Israel committed are the use of disproportionate force, failing to distinguish between civilians and military. Though it appears that Israel committed war crimes, the actions have to be investigated, which Israel is doing. It would be much better to have a credible independent body to do it than Israel conducting an in-house investigation. Nevertheless, at this point in time, there are only alleged war crimes committed by Israel. The assertion that supplying weapons to Israel because it committed war crimes (if it turns out it did) does not make the U.S. guilty. Supplying weapons to Israel was not done so Israel could commit war crimes, but to defend itself, which it does quite effectively. The argument Amy uses is inadequate. If someone sells a weapon to a person who subsequently commits a crime does not make the person who sold the weapon equally responsible and guilty. I would also say that the reason Palestine is hesitating to join the ICC is because they are in a box. If they join, they will not be able file charges against Israel because the ICC will take action only if Israel does not investigate the crimes that are alleged, which Israel is doing. So the ICC won’t take action against Israel. However, since the PA is not investigating the war crimes committed by Hamas, Israel could file action against the PA.

  4. just on September 19, 2014, 11:43 am

    Bravo Sam!

    This IS the “elephant” in the room.

    This article goes directly to the heart of the problem of the US-Israel ‘special relationship’. It is one marked by unpunished criminality and blatant violations of our own laws. I have felt guilty with every death, every theft, every kidnapping, etc. by Israel.

    I can’t thank you enough for this straightforward article. Every American should read this. Alas, most aren’t even concerned that we are again increasing our war making.

    “It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.”

    We are responsible.

  5. American on September 19, 2014, 12:12 pm

    OF COURSE, the US is guilty of aiding and abetting Israel war crimes!

    But because of our controlled media most Americans have no idea that ‘legally’ America could put in the dock for its part.

    Traitor accusation, pitchforks, tar, feathers, threats, intimation, fear……..better start using those on your politicians.
    Cause it should be F’ing obvious by now ..You Cannot Appeal to their Morals, Humanity or US Loyalty…they dont have any.

  6. jenin on September 19, 2014, 12:16 pm

    great article. our support of Israel shows just how hypocritical we are. We support human rights when it’s convenient and politically expedient, but have no problem enabling gross human rights violations when it’s inconvenient and not politically expedient. our complicity in Israel’s war crimes demonstrates once again that we are not a moral country at all, and we only “do the right thing” when it’s easy. these days, anyway.

  7. a blah chick on September 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

    I just love that shot of Butcher Bibi. The camera really captured his essence there.

    • Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:13 am

      Yeah, I think the photo captures both Kerry ‘s calculated boyish naiveté and Netanyahu’s constipated Zionist mentality perfectly.

  8. seafoid on September 19, 2014, 1:02 pm

    Nathan thrall of the International Crisis Group echoes what Sam says above

    US policy is designed to thwart actions that would raise the costs of the status quo, in effect sustaining it. At the same time, the US expends considerable effort preaching to unconvinced Israeli and Palestinian leaders that the continuing impasse cannot be sustained. But most Israeli voters, and many among the Palestinian elite, are quite at ease with existing conditions, thanks in no small part to the United States. This will remain so as long as the different proponents of the US-led peace process insist on mediating the conflict even as they help perpetuate it.

    The potential benefits of creating a small, poor, and strategically inconsequential Palestinian state are tiny when compared to the costs of heavily pressuring a close ally wielding significant regional and US domestic power. Even if the steps I have mentioned were taken, they would be no guarantee of a peaceful future. But unlike current policies, they at least offer the possibility of a better one.”

    This reminds me of the problem in finance with inappropriate incentives (banker salaries) which fuel reckless risk taking that ends in disaster.

    YESHA is one of those risks .

  9. Kay24 on September 19, 2014, 1:52 pm

    I have commented many times that I find the US complicit in Israel’s crimes, but to read this article, can still make me feeling shocked and disgusted. We are such a hypocritical nation, and those we have voted for, play this terrible game, of aiding and arming a criminal nation, while tut-tutting at Israel illegal settlements, and protecting Israel’s brutality with very lame statements of having to “defend” itself. The irony, that the world can see is, those who they brutally slaughter with OUR weapons, are the very ones who need our help desperately, and need our protection.

    The criminals have not only got our iron dome, but billions and billions of dollars, to keep this convenient occupation going, and the regular slaughter of civilians, at the slightest excuse. Let’s hand it over to Israel, they know how to be devious in maintaining their victim status, using a complicit US media, to keep the charade going. This good cop/bad cop routine by the US is getting old, but only the rest of the world can see it, not the American people.

    Any American with a conscience, should be ashamed that we hand over the tools and weapons, to a brutal criminal nation, while show false outrage at other nations that do the same. Israel’s occupation has lasted decades, but has the US blessing, but it is laughable the way they carry on about Russia’s occupation and invasion of Ukraine.

    • Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:22 am

      Yeah, well, by IQ definition half of all Americans are below-average in IQ and most of them don’t care about US foreign policy because there’s no military draft. Further, AIPAC will continually rule by virtue of its tunnel vision, focus and big Zionist donation dollars. And the US main media nowadays is simply the propaganda arm of the US government when it comes to anything touching on Israel.

      • annie on September 20, 2014, 5:18 am

        half of all Americans are below-average in IQ

        and the other 1/2?

      • lyn117 on September 20, 2014, 11:27 am

        The other half don’t watch fox news

  10. ivri on September 19, 2014, 2:03 pm

    If you want to embroil the US in “war crimes” why sweat with the tenuous Israeli case – as the world`s policeman the US has been involved in so many conflicts that it is baby stuff to find a bit of that everywhere. If we are going to measure a police force by the same yardstick that we use for ordinary citizens it will be effectively paralyzed, which comes with the bigger risk of no law and order at all. It is this self-interest that dictates the different approach and criteria.
    Blowing up the US support for Israel into a “war crime” makes good headlines but no much real-world sense.

    • just on September 19, 2014, 2:43 pm


      thanks anyway.

    • Kay24 on September 19, 2014, 2:48 pm

      Certainly not in the unreal zio- world sense. Without the US Israel would’t get away with murder and mayhem.

      • Marnie on September 20, 2014, 12:58 am

        Really appreciate this article. The US and israel are partners in crime – each government holding the other hostage to keep the criminal enterprise(s) afloat. The two idiots pictured above – devils making deals and ultimately everyone suffers. I haven’t heard any pseudo-consternation from the US about the huge settler land grab. the israeli supreme courts decision to uphold discrimination against palestinians, etc. What’s up with that? Bibi got your tongue too?

    • ckg on September 19, 2014, 10:34 pm

      If the U.S. provides the police force, then the world must be Ferguson and Israel must be Darren Wilson.

  11. HarryLaw on September 19, 2014, 2:40 pm

    “as long as global enforcement mechanisms of accountability are denied Palestinians due to the political whims of a superpower” Sam I think you need to look a little closer to home, when Saleem Al-Saqqa Palestinian Justice Minister put in a complaint to the ICC on 30th July 2014, Abbas sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Maliki to the ICC, the representatives of the ICC’s jaws dropped when the Minister was asked whether this complaint had the endorsement of Abbas or himself a necessary precondition for a states complaint to go forward, he refused to give the consent. WHY.

    • ckg on September 19, 2014, 10:21 pm

      Abbas wants to wait three years so he and his pals can continue to ride the gravy train. Those suits aren’t cheap, after all.

      • Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:29 am

        I read Abbas’s sons are very wealthy, in building construction and real estate? He’s very American, this Abbas–he follows the money because he’s a good daddy, nurturing his family.

  12. Kay24 on September 19, 2014, 10:12 pm

    Barbara Boxer and Roy Blunt loves Israel this much:

    “The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill that would further enhance U.S.-Israel ties.

    The bill approved Thursday, initiated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), enhances Israel’s status as entitled to license-free defense technology, adds items to the weapons stockpile the United States maintains in Israel and which is available for Israeli use, requires increased congressional oversight to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, encourages U.S.-Israel cooperation on developing energy technologies and encourages Israel’s entry into the visa waiver program, which would allow Israel visa-free travel to the United States.”

    This article is right, the US is guilty of crimes against the Palestinians, it keeps giving, and giving, so much to Israel, they might as well make Israel the 51st state. We are complicit in their war crimes, send our tax money, and we protect is from the rest of the world, so why not?

    • ckg on September 19, 2014, 10:43 pm

      Wonderful. One hundred new suspects for the Hague.

  13. Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:35 am

    Yes to all the comments (except the obvious dumb hasbara one); nobody in personally know and have physical contact with cares a hoot about how much of their tax money is given to Israel, nor how the US immunizes Israel from accountability at the UN SC. I think US politicians rely on this phenomen with their common sense. It’s not at all painful to rubber-stamp Israel as there’s no effective lobby competition, and it’s always a campaign finance blessing to be on AIPAC’s star list, not its shit list.

    • Kay24 on September 20, 2014, 7:29 am

      Citizen, I agree that many are indifferent to how their tax money is being spent, they prefer to watch reality shows rather than be concerned. However, I think much of it is also depended on how the media covers this. If there were more honest reporting, highlighting Israel’s crimes, how it has spied on us, the corruption of our congress by AIPAC, how bills are passed faster for Israel than the American people, and that the generous aid can be used here, to help Americans at home, there might be a shift in that support. The Bush administration beat the drums of war through the media, and got that support to attack Iraq, so some honest coverage by the media, could make that happen too.

  14. Citizen on September 20, 2014, 4:37 am

    And this seems also true in Canada and Australia. I think it’s changing a tad in England.

  15. fayez chergui on September 20, 2014, 8:41 am

    Israel is doing what US did to the american native and what Hitler tried to the jews. How do you expect that US won’t support criminals?

  16. ivri on September 20, 2014, 10:58 am

    Yes, curiously there is this new formation of the “New World alliance”. Israel, which is a new country, composed of immigrants from many places, added to the other ones in the West in this position: US, Canada and Australia (NZ is unclear). Ties are very close among them. Western Europe , as typical Old World, is routinely just half way. This political formation may have an upcoming partner in India, with its new PM, Modi, given his ideology and past ties as governor of Gujarat with Israel.

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