ForeignPolicy  
comments_image Comments

Virtually the Entire Dem-Controlled Congress Supports Israel's War Crimes in Gaza

Congressional leaders are advancing a radical view of international law that would allow powerful countries to get away with war crimes.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share

Emboldened by this strong bipartisan support from the legislative branch of its most important ally, Israel rejected the U.N.'s terms for a cease-fire.

Also on Jan. 8, Israeli forces killed two U.N. humanitarian aid workers as they were attempting to provide relief supplies, and the International Red Cross released a strongly worded statement noting that the Israeli military had "failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded." The Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders noted that "Palestinian humanitarian aid and health workers have been killed, and hospitals and ambulances have been bombed."

Congress, however, went on record in the resolutions praising Israel for having "facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza."

Both resolutions "hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire," despite the fact that there had been scores of minor violations during the months of the cease-fire by both sides and that Israel had launched a major incursion into the Gaza Strip on Nov. 4, 2008, assassinating several Hamas leaders, an action the Israeli press speculated was designed to provoke Hamas into not renewing the cease-fire when it expired the following month. Israel then tightened its siege on Nov. 5, banning even humanitarian aid from coming through. Hamas appeared willing to renew the cease-fire in return for Israel renouncing further such incursions and lifting the siege, but Israel refused.

While these Israeli provocations do not justify Hamas' failure to renew the cease-fire and certainly not Hamas' decision to once again begin firing rockets into civilian-populated areas of Israel -- which is a war crime -- the language of the resolutions gives a very misleading understanding of the events leading up to the war. Ironically, despite blaming Hamas exclusively for not renewing the cease-fire, the resolutions also claim that returning to the terms of that cease-fire agreement "is unacceptable."

Yet these were by no means the most egregious misrepresentations in these Democratic-led congressional initiatives.

Redefining International Humanitarian Law

In perhaps the most dangerous clause of the resolution, the House called "on all nations … to condemn Hamas for deliberately embedding its fighters, leaders and weapons in private homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and otherwise using Palestinian civilians as human shields."

According to international humanitarian law, however, "human shields" require the deliberate use of civilians as a deterrent to avoid attack on one's troops or military objects. Despite repeated calls to the offices of the resolutions' principal Democratic sponsors, not one of them could provide a single example of this actually occurring during the current wave of fighting. Similar accusations in a 2006 resolution supported by Pelosi, Reid and other Democratic leaders during the five weeks of devastating Israeli attacks on Lebanon that summer were later systematically rebuked in a detailed and meticulously researched 249-page report by Human Rights Watch. (See my article " The Democrats and the "Human Shields" Myth").

In this resolution, the Democrats appear to be attempting to redefine just what constitutes human shields. Despite this desperate effort to rationalize the large-scale killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces, the fact that a Hamas leader lives in his own private home, attends a neighborhood mosque and seeks admittance in a local hospital does not constitute the use of human shields. Indeed, the vast majority of leaders of most governments and political parties live in private homes in civilian neighborhoods, go to local houses of worship and check in to hospitals when sick or injured, along with ordinary civilians. Furthermore, given that the armed wing of Hamas is a militia rather than a standing army, virtually all of their fighters live in private homes and go to neighborhood mosques and local hospitals, as well.

 
See more stories tagged with: