Friday, January 23, 2009

Israeli War Crimes in Gaza

While Israel has for years violated Palestinian human rights and committed war crimes in the occupied territories, it has rarely been sanctioned by the international community. The US has provided a blanket of protection for Israel at the United Nations, vetoing any significant resolution that would hold Israel accountable for its actions in the territories or in Lebanon. As a result, human rights organizations and other bodies are turning to national laws and the international criminal court to prosecute responsible Israeli officials for war crimes.

It is increasingly clear that in the assault on Gaza Israel transgressed the accepted laws of war as they are laid out in the Geneva Conventions. The Observer (Jan 18, 2009) documents a particularly obvious instance of Israel's war crimes on the village of Khuza'a. More generally, Amira Hass reports in Haaretz (Jan 16, 2009) on Israel's use of illegal weapons in the Gaza assault. Apart from the virtually indisputable fact that Israel used white phosphorous in an illegal manner on a civilian population, it apparently also experimented with DIME (dense inert material explosives) weapons, which are particularly indiscriminate in their effects.

Fear of international legal actions against Israelis who participated in the assault on Gaza has lead Israel to withhold the names of officers and to appoint a special legal task force to defend any Israelis who may face criminal prosecution abroad. (See the article in the The Telegraph Jan 23, 2009).

Posted on an Israeli website is a "wanted" list of Israeli government officials for violations of the Rome Statute and the Fourth Geneva Convention. There is also a worldwide on-line petition to try Israelis for war crimes. Over 15,000 people have signed the petition.

Perhaps the intensity of violence visited upon Gaza's civilian population will incite the world community finally to hold Israeli government and military officials accountable for their violations of international law.

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