I’ve been away from the computer, mostly moving cardboard boxes from one place to another, but I do check in on Gaza every day and noticed last night that the 900-person mark had been broken. And when I do go online, I perversely go to American and Israeli sites to see how these deaths are being justified.
Every once in a while, though, I’m pleasantly surprised. That was the case when I saw that the Wall Street Journal had published a piece calling these deaths what they are — war crimes:
Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire — yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel’s own violation.
An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.
Israel has also failed to adequately discriminate between military and nonmilitary targets. Israel’s American-made F-16s and Apache helicopters have destroyed mosques, the education and justice ministries, a university, prisons, courts and police stations. These institutions were part of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. And when nonmilitary institutions are targeted, civilians die. Many killed in the last week were young police recruits with no military roles. Civilian employees in the Hamas-led government deserve the protections of international law like all others. Hamas’s ideology — which employees may or may not share — is abhorrent, but civilized nations do not kill people merely for what they think.
Deliberate attacks on civilians that lack strict military necessity are war crimes. Israel’s current violations of international law extend a long pattern of abuse of the rights of Gaza Palestinians. Eighty percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorist attacks in 1948. For 60 years, Israel has denied the internationally recognized rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes — because they are not Jews.
Although Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, it continues to tightly regulate Gaza’s coast, airspace and borders. Thus, Israel remains an occupying power with a legal duty to protect Gaza’s civilian population. But Israel’s 18-month siege of the Gaza Strip preceding the current crisis violated this obligation egregiously. It brought economic activity to a near standstill, left children hungry and malnourished, and denied Palestinian students opportunities to study abroad.
Israel should be held accountable for its crimes, and the U.S. should stop abetting it with unconditional military and diplomatic support.