During Operation Protective Edge, seven Israeli civilians were killed as a result of rockets fired from Gaza. Now, Israeli police plan on opening murder investigations (Hebrew) into each of these deaths. The purpose would be to prepare for possible war crimes charges against those militants responsible for killing Israeli civilians. The clear intent is to warn Hamas that joining the International Criminal Court, as it’s agreed to do should the PA apply for membership, is a two-edged sword that could swing back and hit the Islamist group itself.
There are two ways of looking at this development: the first is that it takes an amazing amount of chutzpah to investigate killings of seven Israeli civilians as war crimes when the IDF killed 1,700 (out of a total of 2,100 dead) civilians in Gaza during the war. That’s 200 times more civilian dead than Hamas caused.
The second way of looking at this is that Israel is cooking its own goose by investigating the deaths as war crimes. Once Israel accepts the premise that the killing of its own civilian citizens are war crimes it must perforce accept that the killing of Gaza civilians is also a war crime. I don’t know if anyone in Israel bothered to consider this fact. But whether they did or not, I hope they do open such investigations. I’ve always said that there were war crimes committed by both sides of this conflict.
But if the ratio I mentioned above holds up, there should be 200 times as many prosecutions of Israelis as Palestinians before the ICC after Palestine’s membership is accepted. Perhaps Bibi Netanyahu may want to chew on that for a bit.
Arie Brand says
The slightest sense of proportion should have prevented this ridiculous undertaking. But it didn’t and thus we can, once again, conclude that Israel is entirely self absorbed and out of touch with reality as it appears to the rest of the world’s population.
I suspect the motive is what Richard suggested–that this is Israel’s way of trying to warn Hamas off of a war crimes investigation by the ICC.
I agree with Richard on the larger issue. War crimes on both sides, with Israel’s being vastly larger. So bring it on. Any fair investigation will show this. But the Israelis and their apologists will argue that Hamas killings were deliberate, while Israel’s vastly larger killings were, you know, just tragic accidents and all Hamas’s fault. Which would be ridiculous and childish if it weren’t so obscene, but I’ve seen plenty of self-described liberal Zionists adopting this framework.
arie brand says
What virtually everybody knows about the Gaza slaughter is the difference in the number of victims on both sides. Israel might have “a deep laid” plan here but it cannot prevent that this difference, which is of no consequence to its own panjandrums, will in any legal proceedings once again be highlighted. If it assumes that the difference it makes between Hamas’ untargeted rockets and its own supposedly strictly military targeting will impress outsiders it is the victim of its own propaganda.
So yes,bring it on.
Where do people pull this 1700 civilians killed number from? How accurate are its numbers? Did the numbers also include those who die from natural causes? What about infant mortality rate? How come the bulk of civilians were male from age 20 to 28? Do those numbers include deaths of collaborators? Or deaths caused by errant hamas rockets (I read that a good percentage of rockets launched in gaza landed in gaza). I know the numbers come from the UN but how did they fact check the numbers they were given to by the gaza health authority. I read that one of the ngo to find out would call and conduct an interview with family. .. how reliable are these interviews? By what messures does the authority use to determine if the victim is civilian or militant?
The reason I ask is that everyone seems to take the 1700 at face value which just seems like lazy journalism to me.
Richard Silverstein says
@ ben: I resent the term “pulled a number.” No one pulled anything. The figure is that 78% of Gazan dead are civilian and it is from al Mezan, an independent Palestinian NGO which researches every death very carefully. Stop with the bullshit about natural causes & all the other smokescreen crap. al Mezan knows far better than you or I who died & how they died. If you don’t like their figures find credibly provable figures of your own or better yet go to Gaza & help them do the research instead of writing insulting, offensive comments like this one.
Either you don’t realize how insulting you are, or you’re being incredibly disingenous. Whatever it is, respect the dead. Do your homework before you ask inane questions here.
Black Canary says
After Operation Cast Lead ended, Israel initially reported that 1/2 the casualties were militants. Months and months passed and Hamas eventually admitted that about 1/2 the casualties were, in fact, militants.
Israel is now reporting that 1/2 the casualties in Protective Edge were militants.
Let’s wait a few months and see if the truths outs again.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Black Canary:
THis is an outright lie. I am on the verge of banning you outright since you’ve published an outright lie (major comment rule violation). Your next violation is your last.
Richard you missunder stand me. I have no wish to be disrespectfull. I only wish to come to an understanding. I am from a pretty hard core zionist household so i actually ask these quesitons ernestly because these are they types of comments i have heard my brother and father say.
With that in mind I did google al mezan and in the Goldstone report was quoted as saying that Al Mezan was highly unreliable when it came to stats on civilian deaths. Are there any israeli NGO’s that are also gathering data?
One day i would love to visit Gaza and help out… though that would have to wait since i am a jewish canadian with family in Israel so i doubt i would be welcome with open arms.
“How come the bulk of civilians were male from age 20 to 28? ”
This is how rumors get started or how the game of telephone works. The NYT and the BBC ran stories on this–roughly a third of the dead were males in their 20’s, which is the grain of truth behind your misstatement. About one third were women and children under the age of 15 and the remaining third would be males between 15 and 20 and 30 and above.
As for why males in the 20-something category died, some were no doubt fighters, but as the BBC article pointed out (and I may look for the link later), one would also expect that in wartime conditions the 20-something men would be the ones sent out to find food and supplies and rescue the wounded. They are also the ones most likely to be targeted mistakenly or not, as “militants” by the Israelis. You could figure this out for yourself, you know.
And if you look at the demographics they don’t really conflict with the idea that the vast majority of the dead were noncombatants. The one third who were women and children are noncombatants. Richard cites a figure of78 percent noncombatants, which means 22 percent as combatants. That would be one third of the male dead, with probably the majority being in the 20-something category. What is hard to believe about that? Ultimately, though, the only way to know is to investigate case by case.
Here’s the BBC article I mentioned. It contains a link to Rudoren’s piece, which was pretty crappy in many respects. The BBC piece in its amended form at least contained the common sense reasons why you’d expect to see a higher percentage of young men among the dead, and not only because they would be more likely to be fighters, but also for the other reasons I mentioned.
One other point–given the fact that many of these young men probably died trying to rescue others or to help their families, there’s really something ugly about people wondering why they died in disproportionate numbers, the implication being that they deserved to die.
Slight correction to my remark above–I meant that 22 percent would be 1/3 of the adult male dead.
Donald I agree i think at the end of the day each case will have to be don ad hoc. Yes I also agree that there must have been legit 20 something men killed who were mistaken as militans… I recall Richard even linked a video of this.
Richard Silverstein says
@ ben: These 20 yr olds weren’t “mistaken” for militants. IDF killed civilians deliberately.
Say that again? says
ben: “How come the bulk of civilians were male from age 20 to 28?”
Well, gosh, there could well be a preponderance of Males aged 20-28 if the IDF decided that it was open-season on…. Palestinian Males aged 20-28.
There’s also the possibility that Israel is counting on the Nuremberg trials effect —
Recall that Robert MacNamara said that had the Allies not won WWII, they would have been tried for crimes against humanity in the fire bombings of Germany & Japan, and the use of nuclear weapons against Japan.
As it was, the Nuremberg trials were a gross distortion of justice, with three of the “victors” joined in prosecution vs. one defendant. Each of the Allies were well aware that they had each exceeded all bounds of accepted behavior in war, but by joining together they defended each the other against the embarrassment of being called to account for their crimes.
Bibi & the Israelis are surely counting on the USA to sit on Israel’s side of the table, against Hamas, because if USA does not, then Israel will demonstrate that USA supplied illicit weapons, or supported Israel in some other way in Israel’s crimes against the people of Gaza.
Israel is bringing this suit because it thinks it can win. And it may be correct in that assumption. It worked at Nuremberg to keep Eisenhower & Bomber Harris out of the dock.
That’s a good point. If Israel is guilty, so is the US to some degree. And I’ll add to that–the last thing the US wants is to set a precedent where Western officials are held accountable for war crimes. Think of our invasion of Iraq, our torturing, our own “collateral damage” which might not always be so defensible, and think of Obama’s drone assassination program. The US government has some good self-interested reasons why it wouldn’t want to see Israeli officials convicted of war crimes.
I think that it is a PR campaign by Israel and has nothing to do with the fear of the Palestinians joining ICC. All 28 cases brought formally by this body have been lodged against Africans. Only the weak and already defeated have a place in the ICC. The strong and the powerful ,whose actions might be classed as a ‘war crime’ , have nothing to fear.
Arie Brand says
I understand that Hamas has consented to the Palestinians becoming a party to the Rome Statute. If that came about the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction regarding crimes committed by Israelis and Americans on Palestinian territory.
Neither Israel nor the US are parties to this statute. So the ICC would have no jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed on Israeli territory. That might be one reason why Israel has started its own criminal investigation to counter a possible step by the Palestinians at the ICC. This might backfire on the hasbara front.
As far as the US is concerned: Clinton indicated willingness to join the Rome statute but did not go as far as submitting this to the Senate. The administration of Bush the Lesser was absolutely hostile to the ICC. Obama seems to be on the same track as Clinton: a more or less positive attitude to the ICC but nothing definite.
At any rate I cannot see any legal means the US would have to thwart ICC proceedings on war crimes committed against the Palestinians. But it has political means. It could threaten to withhold any financial support for them if they decide to go ahead with a case at the ICC.
I remember the mainstream discussion about the US possibly joining the ICC back in the Clinton era. It drove me a little nuts, because both sides were delusional. The Republicans opposed it, on the grounds that it would give other countries a way to drag US soldiers into court on trumped up charges of war crimes. The liberals responded by saying that there was a provision that would prevent this–the idea was that if a country had a functioning justice system and could be trusted to investigate its own war crimes, then the ICC wouldn’t have jurisdiction. It would only jump in in cases where that wasn’t true.
That was ridiculous then and even more ridiculous now. The US never did a serious investigation of its war crimes in Vietnam, except for a few scapegoats. And after the Iraq war and the torture scandal, the idea that the US can be trusted to investigate and prosecute its own war criminals has been so utterly disproven not even a mainstream editorial writer could be stupid enough to believe it at this stage. The only people Obama really wants to prosecute are the people who expose US war crimes, like Chelsea Manning, not the people who commit them.
Anyway, I think the US would do everything in its power to protect Israeli officials from war crimes trials. Bad precedent from their pov–in fact, the worst possible precedent short of a US official being arrested somewhere else and brought to trial.
That's a very good point says
“Neither Israel nor the US are parties to this statute. So the ICC would have no jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed on Israeli territory.”
Indeed true, which raises an interesting point: When does a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel become a “war crime”?
Is it a war crime the moment that it is fired? Or when it strikes a civilian inside Israel?
If the former then Hamas is leaving itself open to prosecution by accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC.
If the latter then Hamas simply can’t be prosecuted by the ICC unless/until Israel also accepts the jurisdiction of the court.
I don’t really see how Hamas has much to fear from the ICC, to be honest.
Mary Hughes Thompson says
I question the figure of seven Israeli civilians killed. One of the victims was a Thai worker, not Israeli. Ironically, one victim was a Bedouin. While he was technically Israeli, as a Bedouin he lived in an unrecognized village and was not entitled to an air raid shelter or even an air raid warning siren. Had he been Jewish and been afforded those benefits available to all Jewish Israelis it’s likely he would not have been killed.. One of the early victims was delivering food packages to soldiers; I wonder if he was a civilian.. And of course there was the saddest victim of all, a little boy.
The debate about numbers shows that that the numbers killed on both sides are unequal and disproportionate.
But if one looks at the number of rockets launched at Israel’s civilian population as attempted murder – i.e. at the intent and desire and not only at the outcome, then clearly Hamas is guilty of a hugely disproportionate and ongoing attempt at killing and maiming civilians.
When a terror organization tries to kill and maim, to disrupt life and spread terror – it is the attempts themselves which should be judged and not only their outcome. Israel’s Iron Dome system prevented much damage and very many deaths. But Hamas’s intent to cause that damage and those deaths was there all along.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Bruno: The fatal fallacy of your argument is that you claim only Hamas attempts deliberately to attack civilians. When in truth the IDF deliberately attacked entire neighborhoods in Gaza, most of which contained civilians. THe sheer 80% of civilians deaths proves the IDF didn’t give a crap who it killed, which is sheer wanton slaughter.
Say that again? says
Bruno: “But if one looks at the number of rockets launched at Israel’s civilian population as attempted murder”
Errr, no, that’s not how the ICC would “look at it”. The concept of “attempted murder” is a civil criminal offense, which is something that is completely outside the jurisdiction of the ICC.
That court is interested in violations of international humanitarian law i.e. the Laws of War.
It is indeed an interesting point to ponder if an “intent to violate” those Laws of War is important at all, certainly not when compared with The Dead Bodies Strewn On The Streets.
And this is indisputable: there were far, far, far more Dead Bodies Strewn On The Streets Of Gaza than were to be found in the streets of Tel Aviv or Sderot.
To be honest, Hamas has an excellent defence against those war crimes charges: everyone knows that those rockets are incapable of doing much more than symbolic damage. We knew that. Israel knew that. So what’s your problem?
That's a very good point says
“One of the early victims was delivering food packages to soldiers; I wonder if he was a civilian”
Geneva Convention I covers the treatment of sick and wounded members of an “armed forces”, and if you look at the definition of who falls under that category you will see this: “(4) Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civil members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany.”
If that Israeli had been “authorized” by the IDF to delivery those food packages to the soldiers then he fits the criteria of a “supply contractor” and as such he is not a “protected person”.
Kathleen ow says
Great point!Also Israel deliberately killed civilians.They targeted and bombed 50,000 residences destroyinf 17,200.Plus shelters UN told them were filled with civilians.Rockets are random.Israel kills with precision.Clearly they were trying to kill as many as possible.
Hamas knew rockets weren’t killing and knew
Israelis have warnjngs and shelters.Israel even had citizens watch bombing on oublically provjded big screens outdoors