Thursday, January 15, 2009

Questions for the International Community in the Prosecution of Israeli War Crimes

What is terrorism? This is the core question if we are to address whether Israel is waging a war of terror on the Palestinian people.

It is widely recognized that both Allies and Axis powers engaged in terror bombing during the Second World War. The US, Israel, Britain, and all the other world powers recognize "state terror" — just not by themselves and their allies.

None dispute that a bombing of a bus full of civilians in Jerusalem or flying planes into two towers in New York is terrorism.

BUT the US and Israel routinely characterize attacks upon combatants as terrorism. The US government and the media routinely name as terrorism any attack upon US forces in Iraq.

Moreover, the US and Israel regularly reject any suggestion that either has ever deliberately attacked civilians. In the case of Israel, there is now volumes of eyewitness accounts going all the way back to the 1940s detailing Israeli attacks upon civilians. Yet, it is taken as axiomatic that Israel does not attack civilians, just as George W. Bush asserted as axiomatic that "the United States does not torture."

So US and Israeli claims are two-fold:
1. [Axiom] Neither the US nor Israel deliberately attack civilians — ever.

2. [Assertion] All instances of civilian deaths at American or Israeli hands are either accidental or misidentified attacks by the civilians' compatriots.
So what account of terrorism exempts what Israel is visiting upon Gazans?

Alternatively, what should we be asking if we are to prepare a charge of war crimes and terrorism against Israel and Israeli forces?
1. Does the sheer number of civilian dead, particularly the ratio of Palestinian civilians to Palestinian combatants and the ratio of Palestinian dead and insured to Israeli dead and injured constitute sufficient evidence of Israeli war crimes?

2. Does the blockade, which began in 2007 and which no person can pretend is 'surgically targeted' at combatants alone, count as evidence of Israeli war crimes? Princeton professor Richard Falk answers "Yes."

3. Is Israel using white phosphorus and does that constitute a war crime?

4. Half of Israeli military fatalities are "friendly fire" cases. What does this say of the much vaunted Israel military professionalism?

5. Has Israel used coordinates submitted by the UN to target the UN? The UN and other relief organizations submitted GPS coordinates of their locations expressly to prevent "accidental" Israeli attacks. Al-Jazeera and others did this for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not long after, the US "accidentally" attacked al-Jazeera headquarters in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to be outdone, Israel has attacked marked Red Cross vehicles and the UN headquarters in Gaza City.

New York Israel advocate Zev Chafets state on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show" that the "UN always lies". This is a common sentiment among Israel's most rabid supporters, so it seems perfectly plausible that Israel's conservative warmongers would have targeted the UN.

6. Has Israel blocked journalists to prevent first-hand coverage of war crimes?

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