[News] US Leaders Aid and Abet Israeli War Crimes, Genocide & Crimes against Humanity
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Fri Aug 8 13:58:13 EDT 2014
US Leaders Aid and Abet Israeli War Crimes, Genocide & Crimes
Friday 8 August 2014 at 8:12 AM ET edited by Alex Ferraro
JURIST Contributing Editor Marjorie Cohn of the Thomas Jefferson School
of Law discusses the ongoing conflict in Gaza ...
*B*y sending vast amounts of military aid to Israel, members of the US
Congress, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel have aided and abetted the commission of war
crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity by Israeli officials and
commanders in Gaza. An individual can be convicted of a war crime,
genocide or a crime against humanity
[PDF] in the ICC if he or she "aids, abets or otherwise assists" in the
commission or attempted commission of the crime, "including providing
the means for its commission."
There is growing evidence that Israeli leaders and commanders have
committed the following war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity
as defined in the Rome Statute for the ICC. US military aid has aided,
abetted and assisted the commission of these crimes by providing Israel
with the military means to commit them.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israeli forces again used the Dahiye
Doctrine, which, according to the UN Human Rights Council [Goldstone]
[PDF], involves "the application of disproportionate force and causing
of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure,
and suffering to civilian populations."
A summary of Israeli leaders' extensive crimes is presented below.
*US military aid to Israel*
According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2007, the Bush
Administration agreed to provide Israel with $30 billion
<http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf> [PDF] in military
assistance from 2009 to 2018, provided in annual increments of $3.1
billion. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, Obama pledged
that the US would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments
of military aid subject to the approval of Congress.
Since 2012, the US has sent
$276 million worth of weapons and munitions to Israel, not including
exports of military transport equipment and high technologies. From
January to May 2014, the US transferred to Israel almost $27 million for
rocket launchers, $9.3 million worth of parts of guided missiles and
nearly $762,000 for bombs, grenades and munitions of war.
On July 20, 2014, Israel requested
additional ammunition, including 140mm tank rounds and 40mm illumination
grenades, and the Defense Department approved the sale three days later.
It came from a $1 billion stockpile of ammunition the US military stores
in Israel for that country's use; it is called War Reserve Stockpile
Ammunition-Israel. In early August 2014, both houses of Congress
and Obama signed, an appropriation of $225 billion for Israel's Iron
Dome missile defense system, which has also been used in Gaza. The
Senate vote was unanimous. With no debate, the House of Representatives
voted 395 to 8 to approve the deal.
Here is a summary of the crimes, as defined in the Rome Statute, Israeli
leaders have committed and US leaders have aided and abetted:
(1) *Willful killing*: Israeli forces have killed
nearly 2,000 Palestinians (more than 400 children
and over 80% civilians). Israel used 155-millimeter artillery, which,
Human Rights Watch, is "utterly inappropriate in a densely populated
area, because this kind of artillery is considered accurate if it lands
anyplace within a 50-meter radius."
(2) *Willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or
health*: Nearly 10,000 people
of them children, have been wounded. Naban Abu Shaar told
the Daily Beast that the dead bodies from what appeared to be a "mass
execution" in Khuza'a looked like they were "melted" and were piled on
top of each other; assault rifle bullet casings found in the house were
marked "IMI" (Israel Military Industries). UNICEF said
the Israeli offensive has had a "catastrophic and tragic impact" on
children in Gaza; about 373,000 children have had traumatic experiences
and need psychological help. The UN Relief and Works Agency for
Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said
"There's a public health catastrophe going on. You know, most of the
medical facilities in Gaza are non-operational."
(3) *Unlawful and wanton, extensive destruction and appropriation of
property not justified by military necessity*: Tens of thousands of
Palestinians have lost their homes
More than 1,300 buildings were destroyed and 752 were severely damaged.
Damage to sewer and water infrastructure has affected
two-thirds of Gazans. On July 20, Israeli forces virtually flattened the
small town of Khuza'a; one man counted
360 shell attacks in one hour. Reconstruction of Gaza is estimated to
$6 billion. Israel shrunk
Gaza's habitable land mass by 44 percent, establishing a 3 km "no-go"
zone for Palestinians; 147 square miles of land will be compressed into
82 square miles. Oxfam described
the level of destruction as "outrageous ... much worse than anything we
have seen in previous [Israeli] military operations."
(4) *Willfully depriving a prisoner of war or a civilian the rights of
fair and regular trial*: Nearly 2,000 Palestinians were arrested by
Israeli forces during July 2014, according
to the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies. Prisoners include 15
members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, about 240 children,
dozens of women, journalists, activists, academics and 62 former
prisoners previously released in a prisoner exchange. Israeli forces
executed many prisoners after arrest, either by directly firing on them,
refusing to allow treatment or allowing them to bleed to death. More
than 445 prisoners are being held without charge or trial under
(5) *Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population,
civilian objects, or humanitarian vehicles, installations and
personnel*: "The civilian population in the Gaza Strip is under direct
a joint declaration of over 150 international law experts. Israeli
forces violated the principle of "distinction," which forbids deliberate
attacks on civilians or civilian objects. Israeli forces bombed 142
schools (89 run by the UN), including six UN schools in which civilians
were taking refuge. Israeli forces shot and killed fleeing civilians
(warnings, which must effectively give civilians time to flee before
bombing, do not relieve Israel from its legal obligations not to target
civilians). Israeli forces repeatedly bombed Gaza's only power plant and
other infrastructure, which are "beyond repair." Israeli forces bombed
one-third of Gaza's hospitals, 14 primary healthcare clinics and 29
ambulances. At least five medical staff were killed and tens of others
(6) *Intentionally launching attacks with knowledge they will cause
incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian
objects or long-term severe damage to the natural environment, if they
are clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military
advantage*: The principle of "proportionality" forbids disproportionate
and excessive civilian casualties compared to the claimed military
advantage gained in the attack. The Dahiye Doctrine directly violates
this principle. Responding to Hamas' rockets with 155-millimeter
artillery is disproportionate
Although nearly 2,000 Palestinians (over 80 percent civilians) have been
67 Israelis (all but three of them soldiers) have been killed. The
coordinates of all UN facilities were repeatedly communicated
<http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230160.htm> to the Israeli
forces; they nevertheless bombed
them multiple times. Civilians were attacked
in Shuja'iyyah market.
(7) *Attacking or bombarding undefended towns, villages, dwellings or
buildings, or intentionally attacking religious, educational and medical
buildings, which are not military objectives*: On July 20, Israeli
forces virtually flattened the small town of Khuza'a; one man counted
360 shell attacks in one hour. Israeli forces bombed
142 schools (89 run by the UN), one-third of Gaza's hospitals, 14
primary healthcare clinics, and 29 ambulances
Israeli shelling completely destroyed
41 mosques and partially destroyed 120 mosques.
(a) *With the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,
ethnical, racial or religious group:* Palestinians, including primarily
civilians, and Palestinian infrastructure necessary to sustain life were
deliberately targeted by Israeli forces.
(b) *The commission of any of the following acts*
(i) *killing members of the group*: Israeli forces killed
(ii) *causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group*:
Israeli forces wounded
(iii) *deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part*: Israeli
forces devastated Gaza's infrastructure, knocking out Gaza's only power
plant, and destroying homes, schools, buildings, mosques and hospitals.
*Crimes against humanity*
(A) *The commission of murder as part of a widespread or systematic
attack against any civilian population*: Israeli forces relentlessly
Gaza for one month, killing nearly 2,000 Palestinians
more than 80 percent of whom were civilians. Israeli forces
intentionally destroyed Gaza's infrastructure, knocking out
Gaza's only power plant, and destroying
homes, schools, buildings, mosques and hospitals.
(B) *Persecution against a group or collectivity based on its political,
racial, national, ethnic or religious character, as part of a widespread
or systematic attack against any civilian population*: Israeli forces
killed, wounded, summarily executed, and administratively detained
Palestinians, Hamas forces and civilians alike. Israel forces
intentionally destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza, populated by
Palestinians. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said
"the massive death and destruction in Gaza have shocked and shamed the
world." He added the repeated bombing of UN shelters facilities in Gaza
was "outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable."
(C) *The crime of apartheid (inhumane acts committed in the context of
an institutional regime of systematic oppression and domination by one
racial group over another racial group, with the intent to maintain that
regime)*: Ali Hayek, head of Gaza's federation of industries
representing 3,900 businesses that employ 35,000 people, said
"After 30 days of war, the economic situation has become, like, dead. It
seems the occupation intentionally destroyed these vital factories that
constitute the backbone of the society." Israel maintains an illegal
barrier wall that encroaches on Palestinian territory and builds illegal
Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands. Israel keeps Gazans caged in
what many call "the world's largest open air prison." Israel controls
all ingress and egress to Gaza, limits Gazans' access to medicine,
subjects Palestinians to arbitrary arrest, expropriates their property,
maintains separate areas and roads, segregated housing, different legal
and educational systems for Palestinians and Jews and prevents mixed
marriages. Only Jews, not Palestinians, have the right to return to
*Collective punishment *
Although the Rome Statute does not include the crime of collective
punishment, it is considered a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva
Convention <http://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/380>, which constitutes a war
crime. Collective punishment means punishing a civilian for an offense
he or she has not personally committed; it forbids reprisals against
civilians and their property (civilian objects).
Ostensibly to rout out Hamas fighters, Israel has wreaked
unprecedented devastation on the people of Gaza, killing nearly 2,000
people (more than 80 percent of them civilians) and destroying much of
the infrastructure of Gaza. This constitutes collective punishment.
On August 5, 2014, veteran Israeli military advisor Giora Eiland
advocated collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, saying
"In order to guarantee our interests versus the other side's demands, we
must avoid the artificial, wrong and dangerous distinction between the
Hamas people, who are 'the bad guys,' and Gaza's residents, which are
allegedly 'the good guys.'" That is precisely the strategy Israel has
employed during Operation Protective Edge.
Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands also constitutes collective
punishment. Israel maintains effective control over Gaza's land,
airspace, seaport, electricity, water, telecommunications and population
registry. Israel deprives Gazans of food, medicine, fuel and basic
*Prospects for criminal accountability*
Both Israel and the US have refused to ratify the Rome Statute. But if
Palestine were a party to the statute, the ICC could exercise
jurisdiction over crimes committed by Israelis and Americans in
Palestinian territory. The ICC could also take jurisdiction if the UN
Security Council refers the matter to the ICC, or if the ICC prosecutor
initiates an investigation of the crime. The US would veto any Security
Council referral to the ICC. And the ICC prosecutor has not initiated an
investigation. So the question is whether Palestine can ratify the
statute, thereby becoming a party to the ICC.
In 2009, the Palestinian National Authority filed a declaration
[PDF] with the ICC accepting the court's jurisdiction. In 2012, the UN
General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized
Palestine as a non-member observer state. During the present war, the
Palestinian minister of justice and the deputy minister of justice both
submitted documents to the ICC indicating that the 2009 declaration is
still valid. On August 5, 2014, the Palestinian minister of foreign
affairs met with officials from the ICC and inquired about the
procedures for Palestine to become a party to the statute.
On July 25, 2014, a French lawyer filed
a complaint with the ICC on behalf of the Palestinian justice minister.
Citing Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territories, Israel's
blockade of the Gaza Strip and the ongoing military operations there,
the complaint alleges that Israel committed war crimes and other crimes.
The Palestinian government has not formally commented on this complaint.
On July 23, 2014, the UN Human Rights Council established
a commission of inquiry into Israeli violations of international human
rights and international humanitarian law. The resolution also called on
parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene and respond to the
alleged violations. That convention requires parties to prosecute
violators. Countries can bring foreign nationals to justice for war
crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity under the well-established
doctrine of universal jurisdiction. Genocide charges could also be
brought under the Genocide Convention, to which both Israel and the
United States are parties. That convention also punishes complicity in
genocide; US leaders' provision of military aid would constitute complicity.
Although the Israeli and US governments continue to maintain that Israel
has only acted in self-defense against Hamas' terrorism, the weight of
world opinion points in the opposite direction. There is overwhelming
opposition to Israeli aggression in Gaza and calls for justice and
Both Israeli and US leaders must be criminally prosecuted for committing
and aiding and abetting these crimes.
/Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, deputy
secretary general of the International Association of Democratic
Lawyers, and a former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her next
book, "Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical
Issues," will be published in September./
*Suggested Citation: *Marjorie Cohn, /US Leaders Aid and Abet Israeli
War Crimes, Genocide & Crimes against Humanity/, JURIST - Forum, August
8, 2014, http://jurist.org/forum/2014/08/marjorie-cohn-israel-crimes.php.
This article was prepared for publication by Alex Ferraro
<http://jurist.org/jurist_search.php?q=Alex+Ferrarot>, JURIST's Managing
Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at
academiccommentary at jurist.org <mailto:academiccommentary at jurist.org>
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