- Throughout its history, Israel has willfully and repeatedly
committed crimes of war and against humanity, always with impunity. Yet
under customary legal standards and norms (including Geneva, Hague, the
UN Charter, S.C. and G.A. resolutions), it's lawless, a serial abuser,
a threat to the region and humanity, mostly as an oppressive occupier.
Attacking Gaza is the latest episode in its six-decade reign of terror
satisfying the definition of genocide against defenseless Palestinian civilians.
This article covers more evidence from some disturbing but unsurprising
newly published information.
- On March 19, in the first of a series of articles, Haaretz
headlined: "IDF killed civilians in Gaza under loose rules of engagement."
Military correspondent Amos Harel revealed Israeli soldier and pilot ("dirty
secret") testimonies of being ordered to kill unarmed civilians and
destroy their property - accounts at variance with official claims that
only military targets were attacked and that "Israeli troops observed
a high level of moral behavior during the operation." Defense Minister
Ehud Barak calls the IDF "the most moral army in the world."
- "Moral" examples included an infantry squad
leader recounting the shooting of a mother and her two children: "There
was a house with a family inside....We put them in a room. Later we left
the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there
was an order to release the family....The platoon commander let the family
go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't
understand and went to the left," after which a rooftop sniper "shot
them straight away....I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after
all, as far as he was concerned, he (followed orders, and, besides, Palestinian
lives are) less important" than our own soldiers.
- Other incidents included:
- -- a squad leader telling of a company commander ordering
an elderly Palestinian woman to be shot and killed;
- -- soldiers saying "we should kill everyone (in
the center of Gaza); everyone there is a terrorist;"
- -- soldiers writing "death to the Arabs on walls"
and spitting on family pictures;
- -- a squad leader saying: "At the beginning, the
directive was to enter a house with an armored vehicle, break the door
down, (and) start shooting inside - I call it murder - to shoot at everyone
we identify;" commanders called it OK "because everyone left
in the city is culpable because they didn't run away;"
- -- soldiers ordered to indiscriminately destroy property
- -- orders given to enter a house, "switch on loudspeakers
and tell (occupants) you have five minutes to run away and whoever doesn't
will be killed;"
- These and other accounts typify regular incidents in
occupied Gaza and the West Bank. When revealed, official denials follow
or in response to clear evidence, officers, like military advocate general
Avichai Mendelblit, say the incidents will be investigated, after which
everything is whitewashed, quietly forgotten, none of the guilty are prosecuted,
and security forces keep using disproportionate force against defenseless
- In a March 19 analysis, Harel concluded that this "happen(s)
in the field most of the time (and) as usual, reality is completely different
from the gentler version provided by the military commanders to the public
and media during (an) operation and after. The soldiers are not lying,
for the simple reason that they have no reason to" and every reason
to stay silent. The rule is: "You don't ask, we won't tell,"
but these soldiers, squad leaders, pilots and commanders did.
- Further, there's a "continuity of testimony from
different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture"
of a rogue military willfully committing war crimes because they know they
can get away with them. Harel concluded: "The IDF's ethical problems
did not start in 2009." They go back decades, but according to some,
military "deterioration" has been continuous from the 1967 war
to Operation Cast Lead. Worse still is that Israeli history reveals six
decades of relentless and continuous terror. Attacking Gaza for 22 days
is just the latest episode.
- On March 21, the London Independent's Donald Macintyre
wrote: "Israelis (were) told to fight a 'holy war' in Gaza....a religious
war" against Arabs, according to a soldier citing "the martial
role of military rabbis during the operation." In rabbinate literature
distributed to the troops, the message was: "We are the Jewish people,
we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land, and
now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our
conquest of this holy land."
- According to the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din,
IDF head chaplain, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, a brigadier general, distributed
booklet material saying that it was "terribly immoral" to show
mercy to a "cruel enemy" and that soldiers were fighting "murderers."
Imagine rabbis claiming to be men of God, yet violating core Jewish dogma
by preaching hate, premeditated murder, and lying about innocent civilians
they're vilifying. Another example of the viciousness of a so-called civilized
state, acting like barbarians (in the name of God) and calling it just.
- There's more. On March 22 in Haaretz, Amira Hass headlined:
"IDF soldiers ordered to shoot at Gaza rescuers" in citing a
Hebrew handwritten document, "Rules of Engagement - Open fire also
upon rescue." It confirms numerous reports and testimonies like the
above that soldiers shot Palestinian civilians in cold blood, murdered
them (and their rescuers), or in cases where they were still alive prevented
their evacuation and let them bleed to death.
- Hass stated: "The (above-mentioned) document provides
written proof that IDF commanders ordered their troops to shoot at rescuers"
besides ordering the killing of unarmed civilians and destruction of their
- On March 22, London Observer writer Peter Beaumont headlined:
"Gaza war crime claims gather pace as (still) more troops speak out."
He cited a yet to be published "Breaking the Silence" report
containing statements from 15 former soldiers. From their contacts with
Operation Cast Lead participants, they corroborate the above claims of
random killings and vandalism. According to the group's Mikhael Manekin:
- "We have spoken to a lot of different people who
served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking
about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy.
So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having
to restrain the orders given." According to one, Amir Marmor, orders
from a Lt. Col. who briefed the troops were: "Shoot and don't worry
about the consequences."
- On March 20, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau disclosed that
IDF soldiers ordered T-shirts marking the end of Operation Cast Lead featuring
grotesque images of dead babies, mothers weeping at their children's graves,
a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosque, and a pregnant Palestinian
woman with a bull's eye depicted on her stomach with the English slogan,
"1 shot, 2 kills."
- These aren't just anecdotes from what Ehud Barak calls
"the most moral army in the world." On March 22, Haaretz correspondent
Gideon Levy wrote: "IDF ceased long ago being 'most moral army in
the world.' " Moreover, imagining the military will investigate the
charges is "propagandistic, ridiculous (and) meant not only to deceive
the public, but also to offer shameless lies" as part of a cover-up
the way these revelations are always handled.
- These practices have gone on for decades. Orders come
right from the top - to kill Arabs and commit atrocities and vandalism,
and according to one Operation Cast lead soldier: "That's what is
so nice, as it were, about Gaza - You see a person on a road....and you
can just shoot him." This message is ingrained in young recruits,
to see Jews as superior, Arabs as sub-humans, so it's "morally"
OK to slaughter them.
- Yet on March 22, Haaretz published GOC Home Front Command
General Yair Golan's reply saying: "The reports were exaggerated and
any deviations from the IDF's moral standards will be dealt with."
- Then on March 23, it added IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi's
claim that he did not believe Israeli soldiers harmed Palestinian civilians
in "cold blood." He and Golan lied the way top commanders and
government officials always do.
- Yet Ashkenazi echoed Ehud Barak saying that "the
IDF is the most moral army in the world" despite volumes of clear
evidence to the contrary. He added that any "incidents" were
"isolated," but Haaretz stated:
- "The soldiers' testimonies run counter to the IDF's
claims throughout the operation that troops observed a high level of moral
behavior. A number of officers told Haaretz....that the testimonies did
not surprise them, as 'anyone with eyes in his head knows that these things
happened during the fighting in Gaza,' and they weren't 'isolated' incidents."
- Gaza Civilian Testimonies
- Documented by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
(PCHR), they recount Operation Cast Lead's horror - highlighted by an Israeli
soldier's message on Abu Hajaj's bedroom wall: "Death will find you....Soon."
- PCHR noted the importance of finding "sanctuary
in the comfort of one's home" at times of trauma, but Gazans lost
it for 22 days and still suffer the effects. Briefly some examples:
- -- the IDF occupied Mos'ab Dardona's Jabal Al Rayes northeast
Gaza home, leaving behind wall drawings of soldiers urinating on toppled
mosques and "devouring Palestinians villages;"
- -- next door in Ibrahim Dardona's home, instead of using
the bathroom, they left behind dozens of bags of feces and crude sexual
diagrams on walls;
- -- the defacing and other actions show a disturbing picture
of racial hatred throughout Israeli society, according to PCHR's democratic
development director, Hamdi Shaqqura; PCHR says thousands of Gazans are
homeless, displaced, and forced to find shelter with relatives or move
back to partially destroyed homes and cope as best they can;
- -- in the agricultural area of Johr-ad-Dik, the IDF took
over homes, displaced half the 2500 population and maliciously destroyed
hundreds of olive and citrus trees;
- -- the IDF ordered local residents near Saleh Abu Hajaj's
home to leave; Saleh's daughter tied a white scarf to a stick, led out
a group of civilians, then along with her mother was shot dead by the military;
- -- in the Zeytoun district, IDF desecrated walls with
messages like: "Die you all..Make war not peace..Arabs need to die,"
and on a gravestone "Arabs 1948 - 2009;"
- -- inside Rashad Helmi Al Samouni's home, soldiers wrote:
"There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs....Bad for the Arabs
is good for me....A good Arab is an Arab in the grave (and) Peace now,
but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs."
- PCHR's conclusion was that whatever war crimes investigations
reveal and what, if anything, follows from them, "it will do little
to comfort the thousands of civilians whose sense of safety (in their own
homes was) so categorically violated," something they no longer feel
and for many never did.
- PCHR published the names of 1417 Gazans killed by Israeli
forces. It said 926 were civilians, 236 fighters, and 255 others civilian
security forces, mostly police. Israel disputes the list claiming most
targets "legitimate" despite clear evidence to the contrary,
including from its own soldiers. In response, it's preparing its own list
identifying most of the slain as "combatants or legitimate targets"
without a shred of evidence for proof and plenty to disprove it.
- PCHR also reported that in the week ending March 18:
- -- IDF forces shot and injured 19 Palestinian civilians,
including nine children and a US human rights activist;
- -- the Israeli air force bombed selected Gaza sites,
forcing civilians to abandon their homes and property in the areas;
- -- Israeli forces conducted 39 incursions into West Bank
communities, a practice occurring nearly daily; 39 Palestinian civilians
were arrested, including six children for the crime of being Arab under
- -- additional IDF arrests occurred at West Bank checkpoints,
and measures to remove East Jerusalem Palestinians continue to make room
for new Jewish settlements;
- -- five West Bank homes were demolished leaving 49 Palestinians
homeless; three other families were ordered from their homes in preparation
- -- West Bank settlement construction goes on unabated
as part of an ethnic cleansing process;
- -- settlers regularly attack Palestinians with impunity,
and the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens reported (on March 21)
a 1000% rise in 2008 crime rates over 2007 on Israeli Arab citizens; its
leader, Jafar Farah, called it a "moral collapse;"
- -- Gaza remains under siege with no progress made to
end it; and
- -- on March 23, PCHR reported that the IDF violated medical
ethics during Operation Cast Lead by preventing Palestinian and ICRC medical
teams from reaching the wounded; it also said Israel attacked 34 medical
facilities, including eight hospitals, killing 16 medics and wounding 25
- Meanwhile on March 19, Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur
on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, said: "If the (IDF)
cannot (distinguish between civilians and military targets), its attack
becomes unlawful and constitutes a war crime of the greatest magnitude
under international law." He added that the UN (and human rights groups
like Amnesty International) has clear evidence to support this conclusion
and called for a formal investigation of IDF shelling of schools, mosques,
ambulances, educational facilities, and homes as well as use of illegal
weapons like white phosphorus.
- Whatever follows, Gaza remains under siege. Allowed in
humanitarian aid falls way short of supplying 1.5 million people with the
barest subsistence they need. Through March 2, the UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israeli violence continues
and "authorities (still) limit the amount and range of goods allowed
into Gaza....A range of essential goods, including supplies and equipment
needed for rebuilding, are not being allowed into the territory."
They're still kept out.
- Basic items like medical equipment, veterinary supplies,
macaroni, chickpeas, and lentils were suspended or delayed, and border
crossings remain closed, except for brief periods. Like before, everything
is in short supply or not available, including essential medical care,
food and fuel. Earlier Amnesty International said "Gaza (was) reduced
to bare survival." Today, it's no better under a continuing Israeli
siege, illegal and brutal in the extreme, yet not denounced by world leaders
to give Israel cover to maintain it.
- The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel's
Position Paper on Israeli Civilian Killings in Gaza
- Adalah (meaning justice in Arabic) is a 1996-established
independent, non-profit, human rights organization serving Arab Israeli
citizens' rights on issues of land, civil, political, cultural, social,
religious, and economic matters among others. In February 2009, it examined
the legality of Israel's 22 day Gaza attack, specifically the killing of
civilian police and bombing of government buildings and Hamas institutions.
- In citing the laws of war, it identified four central
- -- military necessity - that only those targets intended
to "weaken or overcome the enemy or bring the battle to an end may
- -- distinction - that must be drawn between combatants
and military targets on the one hand, and civilians and non-military objects
on the other; international law prohibits attacking the latter; doing so
is a war crime; non-combatant civilians are protected by law under all
circumstances; also, targets must clearly be military ones and nearby civilians
must be warned in advance so they may leave;
- -- proportionality - that prohibits disproportionate
force likely to cause damage to or loss of human lives or objects; in other
words, disproportionate to an intended military objective or that in any
way is indiscriminate; and
- -- the prevention of unnecessary suffering, especially
for non-combatant civilians.
- Beginning December 27 and continuing for 22 days, the
IDF attacked uniformed police cadets and officers killing them and other
civilians. During the period of fighting, non-combatant civilian Hamas
members were also struck, including from its government.
- International law prohibits attacking non-combatant civilian
security forces, especially police whose role is to maintain law enforcement
and public order.
- Further, and despite using "rocket attacks"
as a pretext, Israel attacked preemptively and aggressively, not in response
to Hamas-initiated hostilities, and most initial targets were civilian
ones. The IDF erroneously claimed that attacking uniformed police was legitimate
because their role for 22 days changed from enforcers to combatants. By
this logic, all civilians are legitimate targets because under attack they
may defend themselves. That, in fact, is what Israel claims.
- Under international law, civilians may only be harmed
accidently or inadvertently as a result of attacks on legitimate military
targets but never for reasons of military necessity, even when large numbers
of combatants are present.
- Adalah concluded:
- "Members of a civilian police should benefit from
the protection which is conferred upon them as civilians under customary
international law. Given that the conditions for the exception to this
rule - i.e., taking a direct part in hostilities at the time of the attack
- were not met, the attack ran counter to customary international humanitarian
law" and was illegal.
- The same holds for attacking government buildings and
institutions - a total of 68 buildings plus 31 offices belonging to NGOs,
completely destroyed or damaged during the conflict. According to Major
Avital Leibovitz, Head of International Communications Section in the IDF's
Spokesperson's Office: "Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate
target," meaning all 1.5 million Gazans, the vast majority being non-combatant
civilians, including women, children, and infants.
- International law refutes Israeli policy, including under
the principles of military necessity and distinction. These principles
demand that military targets be differentiated from civilians and civilian
objects (including government ones) to prevent deliberate attacks on them.
- The only allowed exceptions relate to narrowly defined
"vital and immediate military need" to defeat the enemy and end
the battle, matters to which Israel didn't comply. Also, Israel ignored
the requirement "to take all feasible precautions in attack, in particular
the obligation to verify that objects (and individuals) to be attacked
are military objectives," legitimate targets under international law.
- Again Adalah: "Thus it is apparent that the attack
on government buildings and institutions (as well as non-combatant civilians)
on the basis of the claim that they formed part of the Hamas regime is
illegal" under international law.
- "Attacks that fail to distinguish between combatants
and military targets and civilians and civilian objects constitute grave
breaches of customary international law and are considered as war crimes.
Attacks perpetrated against a civilian population may also be considered
crimes against humanity if they are committed 'as part of a wide or systematic
attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the
- Planned months in advance, Israel's attack was premeditated,
and under Article 8(2)(a)(1) and Article 8(2)(b)(1) of the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court (ICC) constitutes a war crime. It's
also a crime against humanity under the statute's Article 7(1) relating
to the deliberate killing of civilians or deliberately attacking non-combatant
- Further, attacking government buildings and institutions
is also a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(1), Article 8(2)(b)(8), and Article
8(2)(b)(13) of the Rome Statute that prohibits the destruction of property
and civilian objects for non-military necessity reasons.
- Even though Israel is not party to the Statute, its Articles
7 and 8, relating to crimes of war and against humanity, reflect customary
international law under which Israel, its officials, and military commanders
at all levels may and should be held accountable.
- Under international law, responsibility relates to perpetration,
planning, inciting, and/or ordering a crime to be committed as well as
"vicarious" (indirect) responsibility of civilian leaders and
commanders for crimes committed by their subordinates. These conditions
apply in the case of the 22 day Gaza attack - planned well in advance by
high-level government and military officials and launched with overwhelming
force against multiple targets on December 27.
- Again, the evidence is clear, unequivocal, overwhelming,
and conclusive that high-level Israeli government and military officials
planned and willfully committed systematic crimes of war and against humanity
of such gravity that justice demands they be held to account in an international
court of law - either the ICC in the Hague or a special International
Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI).
- Doing so will warn future Israeli governments and all
others that no one is exempt from the law and they, too, will be prosecuted
if evidence provides justification. The rule of law is sacrosanct, especially
for wanton killing that when ongoing for sustained periods satisfies the
definition of genocide. Israel long ago passed that threshold. No longer
can its lawlessness go unpunished.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.