After the horrors of WWII and the countless civilian atrocities, especially the Holocaust, the international community formed a coalition of nations and international institutions, all with the ostensible objective of promoting peace throughout the world and preventing an atrocity like the Holocaust from ever happening again. In 1945, the United Nations was formed; from 1948- 1950, the Nuremberg Trials were prosecuted, with Nazi and Japanese war criminals brought to justice under the first application of international law; 1950, the Geneva Conventions entered into force. During this time, this coalition of nations codified into law definitions of genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and various war crimes, barring their use to prevent the total destruction of a civilian population or nation during the brutalities of war. It is clear within international law that the taking of Israeli hostages– including Holocaust survivors and activists for Palestinian rights living in Jewish communes, or Kibbutz– and the violence against civilians that Hamas perpetuated in the October 7th terror attack is illegal and condemnable. We heard many public figures, politicians, and mass media organizations condemn this violence against civilians, appropriately horrified by the massive loss of life and the sheer terror innocent children and non-combatants endured. However, we have seen almost no such condemnation of the indiscriminate bombings of civilians in Gaza, despite the rising death tolls and humanitarian crisis documented by the UN, the WHO, Amnesty International, and many more human rights organizations. See, under international law, Israel’s retaliation in response to the terror attacks is nothing short of a travesty, overstepping countless boundaries to commit crimes against humanity and repeated war crimes.
It is vital at this point to emphasize that to conflate criticism of Israeli actions with anti-semitism is an insidious usage of a straw man logical fallacy to obscure the humanitarian crisis people are protesting. To assert, as many have, that any criticism of Israel is anti-semitic is not just facially absurd, it is logically inconsistent. No one seriously refers to criticism of Iran or Saudi Arabia’s human rights records as Islamophobic, they rightly recognize that criticisms are geared towards state policy and behavior, regardless of their religious affiliation. Countless Jewish people throughout the world stand in support of Israel, and countless Jewish people have been on the streets advocating for an end to the bombings of Gaza. It is not as simplistic as a sectarian religious conflict, despite what the media would have you believe. In the past week, we’ve seen ‘reputable’ institutions like the BBC malign Pro-Palestinian protesters as “pro-Hamas,” and were subsequently forced to walk their comments back due to public pressure. Whichever stance you take as an individual, whichever stance our government officials make, all should recognize the importance and value of human life. If you are told a child has been killed, you should not need to know the religion or ethnicity of that child to feel heartbreak and despair. The absurdly sectarian rhetoric throughout the American political ecosystem since the October 7th attack has only served to accelerate hatred and ignore the humanitarian crisis Israel is creating in Gaza.
Since WWII, Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign direct investment, with much of that aid dedicated to military purposes, comprising about 71% of Foreign Aid the State of Israel has ever received. The United States is not a neutral country in this dynamic. As significant funders of the Israeli military, our government has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that American-made planes and bombs aren’t used by the Israeli government to commit war crimes.
Those who haven’t been exposed to constant influxes of information from reporters on the ground in Gaza and Israel likely are unaware of the extent of the war crimes Israel has engaged in in their retaliation, and may understandably see my referring to them as an overstatement. To alleviate those concerns, I’ll provide a documented list of the war crimes committed in the past week against Gazans, along with the specific law barring this behavior. At the conclusion of this list, I find it hard to believe that any objective reader would deny the severity of the crisis in Gaza or the necessity of a ceasefire, despite the fact that Congressional members of the ‘Squad’ were just excoriated for daring to propose an end to the violence. In response to these congresswomen, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded by calling proposals for deescalation and peace “wrong,” “repugnant,” and “disgraceful.” This is not just a slip-up by the Press Secretary either. The Huffington Post obtained (and the Washington Post confirmed) email communiques throughout the State Department advising US diplomats about the use of three phrases in any rhetoric related to the violence: “de-escalation/ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed,” and “restoring calm.” Peace is not what is repugnant. A ceasefire is not what is repugnant. What is repugnant is bombing mosques, UN safe houses, schools, hospitals, residences, and everything in between. See, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on earth, with over 2 million people living on a piece of land about twice the size of D.C. When Israel decided to pelt the Gaza Strip with bombs, they were fully aware of the fact that it would be impossible to not kill civilians, journalists, and even the very hostages they were ostensibly seeking the return of. Many have attempted to justify Israel’s carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip with their right to defend themselves from terrorism under the UN Charter, and the necessity of retaliation to get the civilian hostages returned. But a ‘right to defend yourself’ does not justify verified targeting of UN safe houses, paramedics, civilian residences, schools, and more; you don’t get to engage in collective punishment because of a terror assault. And if the goal is to secure the return of the hostages, it’s probably not the smartest strategy to bomb the place they were all taken to smithereens– in fact, 22 of the hostages taken on October 7th have already been killed by Israeli airstrikes.
Here are the violations of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as it defines genocide: Article 6(c) states that deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part, is an act of genocide; the imposition of a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, entirely depriving Gazan residents of electricity, internet, food, and fuel meets this definition– what other objective is there in denying families, children, and hospitals water, food, medical supplies, electricity, and the internet? The Rome Statute also bars incitements to mass killing and genocide; many have argued that the statements of Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, where he stated Israel was fighting “human animals, and [would] act accordingly,” meet this legal bar. However, if you are unconvinced by these examples, there are, unfortunately, plenty more. Article 8(2)(a)(iii) of the Geneva Convention bars ‘willfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body and health,’ deeming that behavior a war crime. Last Thursday, the IDF confirmed that they had dropped over 6,000 bombs on Gaza in 6 days, equivalent to the number of airstrikes conducted by the US in Afghanistan over the course of a year. Based on the most recent data from a Saturday update, at minimum 2,215 Palestinian civilians, including 724 children, have been killed since October 7th; even more have been injured with 8,714 civilians reporting injuries from the bombing campaigns.
Due to the severity of the constant airstrikes, over 400,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes in Gaza, an example of forced deportation worsened still by Israel’s evacuation order of Friday the 13th, mandating over 1.1 million Gazans to leave their homes with just a 24 hour warning before their ground invasion. No matter your position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, you must recognize that this is a logistical impossibility. It is impossible for that many people to evacuate in that short of a time frame, especially for those who are wounded or sick, disabled, infants, or elderly. The WHO and other international institutions have repeatedly spoken out against the Israeli evacuation orders given to hospitals; in some instances, they were afforded less than 10 hours to evacuate patients, which is, again, a logistical impossibility. In a series of tweets on Sunday, human rights group Amnesty International verified that a convoy of about “30 people, 8 cars, and other nearby people, including women, children, and people with disabilities, was attacked.” In what’s known as a ‘double-tap’ operation, also a war crime, the first responders who arrived on the scene were immediately bombed upon arrival, killing a total of 70 civilian evacuees and medics. This was on one of the very paths of evacuation Israel recommended civilians fleeing Gaza take.
Additionally, a Human Rights Watch report published last week claims to have verified video of Israel’s use of White Phosphorus on civilian populations, a substance banned under international law which leaves serious burns on any skin it touches. 14 UN Officials have also been killed in the bombing. So have 12 journalists. And at least 22 of the approximately 150 hostages taken on the October 7th attack have now been killed by Israeli airstrikes.
I want to conclude by quoting Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer-winning American journalist: “If we owe a moral responsibility to Israeli children, then we owe the same moral responsibility to Palestinian children. Their lives have equal weight. If you care about human life only in Israel or only in Gaza, then you don’t actually care about human life.” I think this is an important note to end on because so many people seem to have lost their minds, uttering some of the most violent, genocidal rhetoric I’ve ever heard following politics. “Wipe them out.” “Flatten Gaza.” “They’re inhuman.” It is unacceptable to allow massacres of civilians on this scale to continue, and it’s disgusting to allow this dehumanizing rhetoric to exist without challenge or condemnation. It is unacceptable to use the killings of civilians and their family and nation’s collective grief to spur the mass killing of Palestinian civilians, subjecting them to torture by forcing people to starve to death, or die due to dehydration, lack of medical supplies, or indiscriminate bombing. The killing of civilians has never, and will never, justify the collective punishment and killing of other civilians. A right to defend yourself does not involve a right to commit Crimes against Humanity.
Note: Hours before publication, news broke that IDF airstrikes targeted a major hospital in Gaza, killing an estimated 500 wounded patients and doctors fighting to save them. This horrific atrocity has been denied by the IDF, claiming it was an errant Hamas missile aimed for Israel. It should be noted that Hamas is not known to have missiles of this capability, and that former misfired Hamas missiles, even in crowded areas, have not killed anywhere near as many people. Al Jazeera has also reported that the IDF gave the hospital an evacuation warning, indicating it was in fact an Israeli target.
The opinions expressed within this piece represent the views of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jefferson Independent.