Posts Tagged ‘international law’


I was not surprised that my recent article which, in part, discussed Mahmoud Abbas’ assertion that Israel committed genocide in Gaza caused russell-tribunal-on-palestinesome controversy and discussion. Indeed, I was gratified by it.

This is an important question, one that goes well beyond the rhetorical issue and one that I did not delve nearly as deeply into as I probably should have in my piece. Richard Falk’s article in The Nation has now done that job for me. I don’t always agree with Falk, but in this case, I think he and the Tribunal got it exactly right. I see this even though I get the sense from this piece that the Tribunal, and possibly Falk as well, believe in their hearts that genocide was committed in Gaza, while I do not.

One point bears some stress. Falk points out that genocide is regarded as “the crime of crimes.” Some of the debate over the use of this word to describe not only the Gaza horror of 2014 but the occupation more broadly has centered on the legal definition of genocide. I maintain that Israel’s crimes do not reach that level. But beyond the legal semantic question is the very important colloquial understanding of that word.

When people hear “genocide” they think of the Nazis, Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge and the Armenians. These were all incidents where huge numbers and huge percentages of particular populations were exterminated. As Falk points out, the legal definition actually holds a higher standard, where intent to annihilate a particular group must be proven. But colloquially, the understanding most people have of genocide plainly doesn’t fit Gaza. That’s the biggest reason I disagree with the use of that word.

But there was also a demonstrably “genocidal atmosphere” in Israel over the summer, whether it be tweens proudly stating that killing Arabs is a good thing, to plans put forth by Knesset members to empty Gaza of Arabs to statements by another MK that all Palestinians are legitimate targets. That makes the accusation worth investigating. So does the fact that the attack happened in the context of an ongoing blockade of Gaza which left Gazans nowhere to flee to, either outside their borders or within the sardine-can-like Strip.

When the Tribunal did so, they came to this conclusion, as described by Falk: “Despite these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime itself. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and they purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. The tribunal convincingly documented the government’s goal of intensifying the regime of collective punishment, but there was no clear official expression of intent to commit genocide. The presence of genocidal behavior and language, even if used in government circles, is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its enormity, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.”

I think that’s right. You make your own decision, but I strongly urge us all to hold the accusation of “genocide” to the highest standard, because there is nothing worse.

Read Full Post »


An edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Like many of us, I’ve been very busy on social media since this started. I see a lot of ignorant nonsense there, and it’s not limited to Used to be our housethe pro-Israel side. I also see a lot of shoddy thinking and ignorance of the facts. Since I had to study up on a lot of this for my job as the Director of the US Office of B’Tselem, I thought I might clear a few of those up.

“War crimes”

Various memes make the rounds in discussions of war crimes. One that I found particularly laughable was “Even the UN says Hamas is committing war crimes but they say Israel only might be.” I’ve also seen defenses of Hamas’ firing of missiles at civilian targets at Israel based on Palestinians’ right of self-defense.

Here is the long and short of it: War crimes are defined as “Serious violations of international humanitarian law constitute war crimes.” That’s going to encompass pretty much every violation that might become a public issue in any conflict. (more…)

Read Full Post »


Israel seems to be failing to make the (false) case that it is not trying to harm civilians in Gaza. People aren’t buying it this time. True, the politicians haven’t changed. But the public response has been sharp. There are still plenty of people to whom Palestinian life has no value, and they fully support what is Israel is doing, but that now seems to be the dividing line. I explore today at LobeLog.

Read Full Post »


A slightly edited version of this article first appeared at LobeLog. It’s the best resource on the web for analysis of US foreign policy. Please check it out. 

The two ceasefire proposals aimed at ending the accelerated violence in Gaza and Israel offer one of the best illustrations of the

Relatives and friends of the al-Kaware family carry 7 bodies to the mosque during their funeral in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2014. The father, a member of the Fatah movement, and his 6 sons were all killed the day before in an Israeli air strike that targeted their home. Credit: AFP/Thomas Coexthomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images/Used under a Creative Commons license

Relatives and friends of the al-Kaware family carry 7 bodies to the mosque during their funeral in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2014. The father, a member of the Fatah movement, and his 6 sons were all killed the day before in an Israeli air strike that targeted their home. Credit: AFP/Thomas Coexthomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images/Used under a Creative Commons license

Israel-Palestine conflict one could ask for. The circumstances and the content of each proposal demonstrate very well why outside pressure is necessary to end this vexing, seemingly endless struggle and just how differently Israelis and Palestinians view both current events and the conflict as a whole.

Let’s look at the two proposals. Egypt, acting as the United States normally does, worked out the details of their ceasefire idea with Israel primarily. The deal reflects the Israeli and Egyptian agenda: it mostly follows the formula of “quiet for quiet,” essentially bringing back the status quo ante of early June. It offers Hamas a vague promise of future negotiations to address the siege of the Strip. But this is hardly something Hamas will put stock in. The 2012 ceasefire agreement, which was negotiated by then-Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a man much friendlier to Hamas than the current Egyptian leadership, also made such a promise and it never came to anything. Finally, Egypt says it is willing to open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt more widely but only if Hamas allows PA security to police it instead of their own people. (more…)

Read Full Post »


2016789967_39c0399e3b_b

 

The Oslo Process is dead. Does that mean that we must only consider single-state options to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict? I say no, and I outline what a practical and fair (two things Oslo never was)  two-state option might look like today at LobeLog.

Read Full Post »


Just what was it that sent the US and Israel into apoplectic fits last week? What egregious sin did the Palestinians commit to re-ignite American threats to cut of funding to the PA and Israeli ones to once again start pocketing for themselves the Palestinian tax monies they collect? Why, they are trying to sign on to human rights commitments. The temerity! The US has sent a clear message: Israel is to be coddled or even rewarded for breaking its commitments to the US, by reneging on its prisoner release deal, and to international law by expanding settlements; but the Palestinians must be punished for joning international human rights conventions. I explain and explore at LobeLog today.

Read Full Post »


There is a word in Hebrew that marvelously describes what Benjamin Netanyahu has turned both the Palestinian Authority and the

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

Obama Administration into. That word is “frier.” Not as in a vat of oil to make chips, but as in what would be most closely translated as “sucker,” a person who is easily scammed, who buys the Brooklyn Bridge with their life savings.

The deal which, according to the New York Times, US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to sell today to the Palestinians exemplifies everything that is wrong with the American-brokered Oslo process. The deal itself was hammered out only between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It reflects the absence of the Palestinians in the discussions, because it offers them nothing but the opportunity to capitulate again to American and Israeli power.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States would release Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish American who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. Pollard has been a cause celebre for the right wings of both the American-Jewish and Israeli communities for years, but no president has ever seriously considered releasing him before. Israel would, essentially, concede nothing in exchange.

The Israelis would agree to “show restraint” in expanding settlements in the West Bank. That is a vague and meaningless wording which, given the amount of construction Israel has undertaken when they’ve actually agreed to what they call a “freeze” cannot possibly have any real impact. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,312 other followers

%d bloggers like this: