I told my Russian friend yesterday about war in Gaza and said it was a war of aggression, and he agreed that was the case. This is different from the mass media, as Electronic Intifada reports: “international academics who recently participated in a conference on linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza which decries major media outlets’ failure to report on recent killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza.” Even though the war hasn’t completely ramped up, I believe that Israel is committing crimes against peace (starting a war of aggression), war crimes (violating the laws of war and wanton killing) and crimes against humanity (murdering Palestinian civilians).
Of course, I am using definitions from the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal which formulated the “Nuremberg Principles.” In this article, you’ll learn how Israel has committed war crimes in its war of aggression, as I go through the applicable laws of war. Starting with the UN Charter, the core of international law, there are some clear violations. One could try to justify this war under Article 1, Clause 1, as “maintain[ing] international peace and security” and removing “threats to the peace,” but yet this action violates that because it making more violence, not peace in anyway. Hamas’s right to self defense in firing rockets into Israel shows that Israel’s war is not one that is bringing peace. Article 51 gives a state the right to retaliate if an “armed attack occurs,” yet only one anti-tank missile fell into Israel before the war, which doesn’t constitute this, meaning this article is being violated. Additionally, since Israel assassinated the commander of Hamas before the war when peace was being negotiated means Israel by engaging in this war instead of peaceful diplomacy is violating Article 2, Clause 3 and Clause 4 through the action of the war itself. Since Israel isn’t seeking peace, but wants an expanded armed conflict in Gaza, this violates Article 33 which says “the parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all seek solution by…peaceful means.” In summary, Israel has violated these parts in the UN Charter:
- Article 1, Clause 1
- Article 2, Clause 3
- Article 2, Section 4
- Article 33
- Article 51
Now I turn to the little-known Hague Conventions. Israel has only ratified the 1907 one, so I’ll just mention that one. For the issue of peace, since Israel went to war rather than solve its disputes diplomatically, it violated Article 1 of the CONVENTION FOR THE PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES (1907) , which states: “the Contracting Powers agree to use their best efforts to ensure the pacific settlement of international differences.” Has Israel really used its “best efforts?” No, it hasn’t. Also, it hasn’t followed the procedure set out in the rest of the treaty to have a mediator come to the conflict, which means article 2, which requires mediation of a conflict, is being violated.
After this, I turn to the Geneva Conventions. In this case, one parts of the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to this conflict. Article 3, section 1, clearly says that “the following acts are and shall remain prohibited…violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” which seems to be the only article that applies now since there aren’t boots on the ground at this time. By killing over 30 and wounding more than 250, the state of Israel has clearly violated this section of the Geneva Conventions. Antiwar.com’s Jason Ditz elaborates: “Israeli warplanes attacked the Interior Ministry today in the Gaza Strip and killed two senior Hamas military commanders in some of what were ultimately at least 200 distinct attacks against the tiny strip today alone. Other strikes hit refugee camps in the strip, and several children were among the dead overall. The bulk of the strikes never had any obvious target and seemingly just hit random residential neighborhoods. Estimates on the ground say that some 250 civilians have been wounded since Israel started the war on Wednesday…The relative lack of retaliation [from Hamas] doesn’t appear to enter into the equation for Israeli officials right now…and other suggesting that the attacks on the strip could go on for weeks, regardless of the reaction or lack thereof.” The factors I just described make it seem that more of the Hague Conventions are being violated. These include parts of the CONVENTION RESPECTING THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF WAR ON LAND (1907) including Article 25 which says that it is prohibited to “to kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army…To employ arms, projectiles, or material of a nature to cause superfluous injury” and Article 26 which reads as follows: “The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited.” The bombing of a refugee camp and fact bombs are going everywhere without aim is a violation of these two articles. This convention and Article I of CONVENTION RELATIVE TO THE OPENING OF HOSTILITIES (1907) have sections saying the aggressor nation must either have a “reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war.” Israel, in bombing Gaza, supposedly in “retaliation” has not done this in the slightest.
If the Manual of the Laws and Customs of War at Oxford, a basis for International Law was applicable, then Israel would have violated Article 15 (“Open towns, agglomerations of dwellings, or villages which are not defended can neither be attacked nor bombarded”) and Art. 13. (Saying it was forbidden to “Murder by treachery of individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army…employment of arms, projectiles or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering…[and] Any destruction or seizure of the enemy’s property that is not imperatively demanded by the necessity of war”). Additionally, this war would have violated, if in effect, the 1938 Amsterdam Draft Convention for the Protection of Civilian Populations Against New Engines of War. Specifically articles 2 (“The bombardment by whatever means of towns, ports, villages or buildings which are undefended is prohibited in all circumstances. A town, port, village or isolated building shall be considered undefended provided that not only (a) no combatant troops, but also (b) no military, naval or air establishment, or barracks, arsenal, munition stores or factories, aerodromes or aeroplane workshops or ships of war, naval dockyards, forts, or fortifications for defensive or offensive purposes, or entrenchments”), Article 3 (“The bombardment by whatever means of towns, ports, villages or buildings which are defended is prohibited at any time (whether at night or day) when objects of military character cannot be clearly recognized”) and Article 4 (“Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorising the civilian population is expressly prohibited.”)
To conclude, I’d like to summarize what war crimes Israel has committed in terms of violations of the laws of war, which are as follows:
- Violation of Article 1, Clause 1; Article 2, Clauses 3 & 4; Article 33; and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter
- Violation of Articles 1 and 2 of the CONVENTION FOR THE PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES (1907)
- Violation of Article 3, section 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
- Violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the CONVENTION RESPECTING THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF WAR ON LAND (1907)
In order to spread this information, I’d say you should talk with your co-workers, friends, students or others about the war crimes Israel is committing in Gaza, then participate in and/or help organize direct action against this war, as its going to get worse, not better and more Palestinians will die at the mercy of a US-backed military force, so this must be stopped as soon as possible.
By Burkely Hermann, the sole HermannView blogger