IDF Agrees to Forego Use of White Phosphorus…Sorta
Yesh Din and other Israeli human rights NGOs sued the IDF over its use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead and in similar conflicts. It is deemed by many as a chemical weapon, especially when used as the IDF does. It is not allowed to be used in or near civilian populations, which is precisely how Israel uses it. It also dropped the napalm-like substance directly on civilians targets causing grievous injuries. Scores of Gazans died or were maimed by the toxic, highly flammable material during the 2009 war. The only time it’s legal to use it in combat is to provide smokescreen cover for combat operations. While the IDF maintains that was what it did, the evidence in the form of civilian casualties refutes that.
Recently, facing a difficult hearing before what would likely have been a skeptical Supreme Court, the IDF announced it would stop using white phosphorus in populated areas. So far so good. But as in every matter concerning Israel’s army, the devil is in the details:
The IDF has decided “to avoid the use in built-up areas of artillery shells containing white phosphorus, with two narrow exceptions,” the state said in an announcement to the court.
Yuval Roitman, who represented the state in the petition, added: This “has been decided in the IDF as a matter of policy … even though this is not a commitment in a legal sense.” The state’s decision emphasizes that while this is current IDF policy it could change in the future.
The State wants to appear to have renounced use of white phosphorus while not really doing so. Note those “two narrow exceptions.” I’m trying to ascertain what they are. They have been conveniently omitted from any court filings or documents. But I’m guessing they may be wide enough to drive a Mack truck through. Also note the State affirms that the policy is only temporary and may be changed at the discretion of the army itself. Further, the army makes a big deal out of the fact that while this is a change of policy, it isn’t a legally binding agreement forced upon it. This is the equivalent of the defendant who cops a plea without an admission of guilt.
23 thoughts on “IDF Agrees to Forego Use of White Phosphorus…Sorta – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I hate be in judge Richard Goldstone’s shoes – but ……
On April 4, 2011 – Israel-Firster Dr. Alan Dershowitz in an Op-Ed in Jewish daily FORWARD, entitled “Goldstone Needs To Do Teshuvah“, wrote: “The Goldstone Report did much harm by lending an aura of credibility to some of the most defamatory and false charges ever made against Israel and its defense forces. But the Jewish tradition of teshuvah, or repentance, demands that we look forward, not backward. It also demands that the person seeking teshuvah do everything in his power to right the wrong he has committed”.
@Rehmat: Adding links to your own blog in the body of your comment is not the way I do things here. If you want to add such a link it goes into the URL field on your comment. My blog isn’t here to promote yours.
Hi Richard, I try to be respectful even if I disagree with you on a number of issues, and it’s important for you to have a diverse crowd of commenters, to a point. That point can be too pro-Israel, or it can be anti-Semitic. I’m referring to rehmat above, and his views and comments. If you follow him back to his site, this is how his current top post reads:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Crypto-Jew propaganda minister, who had Jewish family roots.
Hi Bruce T – would it not be more appropriate to refute the link I provided, instead of usual hasbara whining?
As for “anti-Semitism” label is concerned – you should study professor Shmuel Almog (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), who claims that the term “Anti-Semitism” with hyphen and without it has different meanings. The term ‘Antisemitism’ was coined by Wilhelm Marr in the 1870s. It was applied to European Christians who hated Jews. However, when it’s written with hyphen ‘Anti-Semitism’ – it means hatred toward Semite people who are found in far greater numbers among Arab Muslims and Christians than the entire world Jewry….
@Rehmat: None of us needs any lectures on the meaning of the term anti-Semitism. Please stay on topic. This is NOT on-topic.
I plan on reviewing his comments here & keeping a closer eye on them. I don’t generally monitor what commenters here say on their own or other websites. If I did I’d have no time to write my own blog posts. My general rule is to consider what they write here.
But I will keep that comment to which you referred in mind when reviewing his contributions here.
And yes, you are right. I do want a broad debate with diversity of opinions (within standards defined in the comment rules). So I walk a fine line in terms of how much & how extreme I allow the debate to be.
Richard, the “wp” munition in the picture above is the us made M825A, 155mm artillery shell. It is the same shell that was widely used in Iraq by USMC forces.
Just google “shake & bake” and read all about it.
@Nimrod: I continually marvel at hasbarists like you who think you can score points if you can point out that Israel does something illegal that the U.S. also does, thereby making what Israel does…what? Kosher? The U.S. use of white phosphorus and uranium depleted munitions in Falluja was horrible & inexcusable. Likely a war crime. Just as the IDF use of white phosphorus in Gaza was.
@Richard, I’m afraid that you missed my point.
I did not mean to say that Israel is not that bad because the U.S. used the same weapons and the exact same tactics in Fallujah 4 years earlier.
I was expecting you to read a little bit about the M825A round which is used for smoke screening and not as an offensive weapon.
I bet you could provide proof that a single person in Gaza was killed by this “horrible & inexcusable” weapon.
I don’t care what you or manuals say about the specific round to which you’re referring. It’s used as an offensive weapon when it kills civilians indiscriminately.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but even though it was widely used, and indiscriminately as you put it, it has not actually killed any civilians. Not a single one.
If the IDF wanted to kill civilians, it would have used HE rounds.
@Nimrod: Surely you jest? White phosphorus didn’t kill civilians? Did you read anything during Cast Lead? THere were specific stories about families & individuals severely burned by it & a good number killed as well. There were harrowing testimonies by burn victim survivors about it. If it didn’t kill anyone why do you think it would be so controversial?? Or do you think Palestinian victims howl & scream about these matters just for the hell of it, because they have nothing better to do? I suggest you use Google Images to find “cast lead & white phosphorus.” But I warn you what you see will be disturbing.
I don’t know whether the IDF deliberately wanted to kill civilians using white phosphorus or it just didn’t give a shit & used it anyway. Possibly the latter. But “not giving a shit,” while different than outright murder is still a war crime.
I am familiar with most of the weapons that were used in cast lead, and the use of WP in the M825A round.
I am not familiar with with a single case where Palestinian civilians (or combatants for that matter) were harmed by this particular shell, or any other WP used by the IDF.
If there were victims of WP (and an burn injury which was caused by WP is very easy to identify and distinguish between it an a “regular” burn injury), than I’m sure we would have seen the photographed evidence. I did run a search on google and all I found was photos of the Medusa-like shape of the M825A round, and pictures of regular burn injuries – yes, I CAN tell the difference.
I’m think that Palestinian victims howl & scream about WP just like they did about the used of depleted uranium after it became “popular”, after the 1991 war, in all cases, they failed to provide a single evidence of use of those weapons.
We keep hearing these stories because people keep spreading them, and some people will believe everything bad someone would say about Israel. I’d believe it when I see some evidence which cannot be discredited.
@Nimrod: There are 3 choices here: either this is the stupidest comment you’ve ever published here; you’re simply ignorant and lazy; or you are willfully advancing a hasbarist agenda. But I must tell you that I hate being forced to do what you’ve forced me to do. I have much better things to do than to prove people like you are full of crap.
So I consider the following evidence conclusive. That means I won’t countenance any rebuttal by you on this subject. The idea that white phosphorus didn’t kill and maim Palestinians is monstrous. And I will not allow you to even hint at it. If you want to propound fantasies of Israeli purity you’ll do it elsehwere.
Here is what Google Images brings up for “white phosphorus & Gaza:”
Here are some links to credible human rights NGO and media sources which document the devastating impact of white phosphorus on Palestinian civilians:
Do not pursue this subject again here. If you do, your comment privileges will be restricted or cancelled.
“….not as an offensive weapon….”
Just out of curiosity and since you first used the term – do you know what the ‘bake’ in ‘shake and bake’ refers to?
As for casualties in Gaza do to use of WP, the relevant report is from Human Rights Watch – http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/03/25/rain-fire
You’re allowed to use white phosphorus to mask troop movements, a technique used by all modern western militaries. Furthermore, civilian casualties are permitted if the military operation is responding to hostile forces operating within a civilian area, something which is itself contrary to international law. In such a case, two wrongs do in fact make a right, as international law itself recognizes. This difficult area of law is not meant to be a suicide pact, where if one side doesn’t follow the rules, you are required to simply sit there and get killed. In fact, civilians injured or killed as a result of the use of white phosphorus utilized in civilian areas are the responsibility of the side operating from within civilian areas in the first place, in this case the various Palestinian factions and terrorist groups.
That’s not quite right. You’re allowed to use it to form a smokescreen in non-populated areas. Gaza is one of the most densely populated spots on earth. Hence white phosphorus used in any built up portion of Gaza is a violation of the laws of war.
That’s bullshit you just made up. Show us a source for this. White phosphorus may not be used period in any population center.
Wow, that’s part of the Geneva Convention? Which one? You’re so full of crap you might just explode from the pressure.
This is a perfect example of what happens when someone appoints themselves an expert in a field about which they know nothing. Bullshit results. And you embarrass yourself & you embarrass the pro-Israel argument.
If this is the best you can offer, you’re worse than pathetic.
That’s not true. You’re allowed to use white phosphorus in civilian areas if you’re being attacked from there; only deliberate and indiscriminate use is forbidden. Israel never attacks civilians deliberately, and virtually all Palestinian civilians that are hurt or killed are due to the palestinian terrorist groups forcing israel to operate in civilian areas, which the Palestinains do on purpose so that their own civilians can get killed, and then they can benefit from all the international and media scrutiny against Israel that follows.
@BruceT: That is false. You are not allowed to use white phosphorus in populated areas. Period. I insist that you offer credible support for your nonsense claim. There is nothing in international law that says what you claim.
This blog has offered scores of incidents in which the IDF has done precisely that. It attacks, kills & maims civilians routinely.
More horseshit. I’m really tired of this. You’re moderated till you offer credible evidence for every claim you offer. Do you hear me? Every one. I will not publish a single future comment of yours without every claim supported. And supported by credible sources.
It seems you censored my previous comment.
I hope you will find the dignity to allow this one:
Section III. FORBIDDEN MEANS OF WAGING WARFARE
35. “The use of weapons which employ fire, such as tracer ammunition, flamethrowers, napalm and other incendiary agents, against targets requiring their use is not violative of international law.”
and in wiki:
In an 2005 interview with RAI, Peter Kaiser, spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (an organization overseeing the CWC and reporting directly to the UN General Assembly), questioned whether the weapon should fall under the convention’s provisions:
No it’s not forbidden by the CWC if it is used within the context of a military application which does not require or does not intend to use the toxic properties of white phosphorus. White phosphorus is normally used to produce smoke, to camouflage movement.
If that is the purpose for which the white phosphorus is used, then that is considered under the convention legitimate use.
If on the other hand the toxic properties of white phosphorus are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because the way the convention is structured or the way it is in fact applied, any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons”.
I’m offended that you use the term “censored.” You are moderated because you’ve violated the comment rules in the past. When your comments consistently show you to respect them I will remove moderation. In the meantime, I will approve your comments when they don’t violate comment rules.
In Cast Lead, white phosphorus was used as a weapon. Any use of white phosphorus in civilian-populated areas is an offensive act in which it is a weapon. Therefore its use illegal.
[comment deleted for comment rule violation–unsupported claim]
Some of these commenters are unbelievable. The use of white phosphorus in Gaza is okay as long as the generals say that its toxic properties are not specifically intended to be used as a weapon. It’s only used as a fiery screen! … smack dab in the middle of the most densely populated city in the region. Because the Gazans have the temerity to wage resistance in Gaza, of all places!
Where do they get this stuff? Do they ever look themselves in the mirror? It reminds me of what Cato said about ancient Roman fortune-tellers; he said he was surprised that one haruspex didn’t burst out laughing when he saw another one. I say the same of hasbaristas.
I admire your fortitude in rebuking these people, Mr Silverstein.