Monday, June 1, 2009

News Talk Online June 1, 2009: Did Israel Commit War Crimes During Gaza Assault?

A United Nations team is investigating whether Israel committed war crimes during last year's invasion of the Gaza.

This is an oft-repeated claim fired at the Israelis by that nation's detractors. And, because of the history of UN resolutions disfavoring Israel, the Jewish state is less-than-enthusiastic about this investigation and its conclusions. Israel is not cooperating with the investigators who entered the Gaza via Egypt.

Clearly, Israel is obligated to not commit war crimes. But the same is apparently not true for the other side because those who attack Israel are not nation-states. It's a double standard that, despite the UN's pronounced intention to investigate Hamas as well, seemingly will continue without redress.

For example, if by war crimes one means targeting civilians, what of the Israeli claims that those who were firing missiles into Israel from the Gaza did so from population bases? Is Israel, then, not in its rights to defend itself because civilians will likely be killed? If Israel retaliates and civilians are targeted then it's a war crime, but if Hamas is firing missiles at Israeli towns it is not? (The issue of the use of white phosphorus is another matter altogether. If used to light up the battle field, as Israel maintains, it is legal. If turned on civilian populations, it is not.)

Israel's biggest crime, seemingly, is its overwhelming military prowess. If it were a military midget then Israel would likely be accused of nothing but defending itself. But if Israel does take steps to protect its civilian population, its successes are considered, at the very least, disproportional responses, and at the worst, war crimes.


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