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Globalizing Gaza: Israel (& US) vs. International Law

Globalizing Gaza in both military and legal terms raises the slogan “we are all Palestinians” from one of political solidarity to literal accuracy. Its corollary also highlights a key element of international politics of which we must be keenly aware: our governments are all Israel. Jeff Halper


Why do the basic rules of international law continue to be forsaken?

Why have they been forsaken for so long now especially in relation to Israel?

Jeff Halper in “How Israel Undermines International Law Through ‘Lawfare’”:

Just as Israel exports its occupation – its weaponry and tactics of suppression – to such willing customers as US and European militaries, security agencies and police forces, so, too, does it export its legal expertise in manipulating IHL [International Humanitarian Law] and its effective PR/hasbara techniques.

Gaza itself represents little more than a testing ground for these varied instruments of suppression of Gaza. It is the globalization of Gaza that is a key Israeli export. Exports, however, need local agents to package the product and create a market for it in the local economy. Thus, B’nai Brith in the US spawned “The Lawfare Project” under the slogan “Protecting Against the Politicization of Human Rights”>, whose main strategy is to enlist prominent legal experts to delegitimize attempts to hold Israel accountable for its crimes under IHL.

In other words Israel’s war criminality aimed at Gaza and Israel’s craven -- but advanced and endorsed by US and EU countries -- faux-legal rationalizations for it, is a useful PROTOTYPE for future global state oppressions and mass killings of civilians, civilians who are supposedly under the protection of international law.

Before going more deeply into the amoral manipulations of international and domestic legal-speak role-modeled by Israel that already has contributed to the erosion of our own US Constitution by the vast numbers of US political and citizen accomplices to Israel’s defiance of international law, let’s take an honest look at the long-term and ever-escalating commission of war crimes by Israel.

For decades there has been a “double standard” by which Israel has escaped accountability for its war crimes. Our present US president continues to give public and unconditional support to Israel as the Israeli army slaughters hapless civilians in Gaza in clear defiance of the mandates of international law. So do leaders within the EU endorse the war criminal carnage by Israel in Gaza.

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian who teaches at the University of Exeter in the UK. In “The Historical Perspective of the 2014 Gaza Massacre” he spells out Israel’s history of employing an “incremental policy of massive killing.” He explains that the Zionist vision of a “Jewish state” includes the elimination of Palestinians.

Pappe asserts that the “self-defense” justification for attacks by Israelis on the Palestinians throughout the decades has constituted a massive charade.

The Israeli government has withheld basic human and civil rights from the Palestinians in Israel that the Israelis enjoy.

The Zionist agenda -- again, the elimination of the Palestinians from Israel -- according to Pappe includes the political demonization of the Palestinian people to aid in their “downsizing” via “ethnic cleansing.” It includes putting the Palestinians into ghettos -- “mega prisons” -- and economically “strangling, isolating and starving” them along with periodic “mowing the grass” massacres.

Pappe labels what has been and is being done to the Palestinian people as “incremental genocide.” Pappe lists the previous slaughter wars in Gaza: “First Rains” in 2006, “Cast Lead” in 2009, “Pillar of Smoke” in 2012 and the present and most vicious in 2014, “Operation Protective Edge”.

Jeff Halper, aforementioned, discloses that in 2001 Ariel Sharon was indicted by a Belgian court over Israel’s involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Sharon’s government was responsible for the demolishment of hundreds of Palestinian homes in the West Bank in 2002 with “Operation Defensive Shield.” 497 Palestinians were killed and 7000 people were arrested then. Though Israel was accused of war crimes it escaped a UN investigation.

According to Halper, In 2004 the the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled that Israel broke International law by constructing a wall inside the Palestinian territory. The vast majority of the UN General Assembly members concurred with the Hague’s ruling to dismantle the wall except for Israel, US, Australia and a few Pacific western-codependent countries.

In 2006 in the second Lebanon War, Israel destroyed the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut, a Hizbollah “stronghold”. This was the beginning of the “Dahiya Doctrine” in which Israel commits to using “disproportional force” in its fighting. The 2009 Goldstone Report on “Operation Cast Lead” highlighted these ruthless “disproportional force” tactics.

Halper declares that the “Dahiya Doctrine” violates the “principle of distinction” and the “principle of disproportionality” according to international humanitarian law. Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and two additional Protocols of 1977 lay down the rule that civilians cannot be targeted. “Violence to life and person is prohibited” along with “outrages upon personal dignity.”

The 1977 Protocols to the Fourth Geneva Conventions consider it a war crime to intentionally excessively militarily attack for advantage. They assert that the general population has a “civilian character” and that that protective identification must be honored.

Israel also readily employs a so-called “Hannibal Doctrine” which violates both international mandates. it ignores the protection of “civilian status distinction” and commits to “intentional disproportionality.” If an Israeli soldier is captured, rescuing him becomes the main mission and disproportional force is to be used, no matter how many civilians are killed or injured or how much damage is caused in the rescue.

Halper reveals how when an IDF soldier was captured by Hamas in the Rafah area of Gaza, an entire urban area came under massive assault. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed and 130 people killed.

Countless times Israel has breached these “distinction” and “disproportionality” rulings of international law.

Now Israel is going even further. It is striving to “adjust” and “finesse” international humanitarian law rhetoric to cover itself and its allies like the US from past, present and future international law court prosecution susceptibility.

We in America have witnessed the Bush administration’s and now Obama administration’s “rhetorical finessing” -- that is, steady demolishment -- of US constitutional law civil protections as well as these administrations' war crimes in brazen defiance of international law excused by post-9/11, “war on terror”, “security over liberty” rationalizations.

Halper perceives that the Palestinians of Gaza are being used as “guinea pigs” in a continuing campaign by Israel, aided and abetted by the US and EU leaders, to disempower international law to keep Israel, the US, NATO countries free from prosecution for their war crimes.

Halper explains that Israel is using something described as “lawfare” against the present precepts of international humanitarian law. Israel wants to create a new and broad category of combatants made up of “terrorists” “insurgents” and “non-state actors” -- a “civilian population that supports them.” Thus, anyone not actively complying with state oppression and willfully being amidst the state’s resisters can no longer claim protection as an innocent civilian under international law.

Non-state actors have been steadily “delegitimized” since 9/11, losing self-determining rights to resist oppression -- their own stance of “self-defense” that Israel so often calls on for itself. The so-called “new paradigm of asymmetrical warfare,” Halper explains, is being exploited by Israel and its allies to strengthen and call upon the “vast power differential” advantage they hold against any resistance. Halper labels it “mighty states vs. weak non-state forces.”

The 1960 UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples endorsed the right of “self-determination” to people threatened by a state. Yet Israel, Obama, the EU refuse to recognize the right of an occupied people to defend themselves. To them such human beings are legally delegitimized, as non-state actors easily labeled as “terrorists” for propaganda purposes.

These state authorities want to cast a wide military targeting net over all insurgents, revolutionaries, protesters and to label them “terrorists” and “combatants” of the state to be legitimately destroyed as the enemy. Again, civilians existing among these “elements” would be included in this net. This is what is currently going on in the slaughter of ethnic Russian Eastern Ukrainians by the coup neo-Nazi Kiev government enabled by an anti-international law and Russia-baiting US as well as in Gaza.

Halper sees this all as an effort “to remove constraints against people to pursue war against other peoples.”

Of course, disproportionality is a given in the “new aymmetrical warfare paradigm” to fight supposed “terrorism”. The distinction of civilian protection is eliminated. "Terrorism" would readily be applied by a state against any resisters as well as inconvenient civilians. "Terrorism" would never be applied by the state to itself in any newly finessed Orwellianly twisted international law rationalizations,

Halper reveals that Israel’s lawfare “campaign” is led by two prominent Israelis. Asa Kasher, professor of philosophy and “practical ethics” at Tel Aviv University and author of the Israeli army’s Code of Conduct. Maybe he was the one to self-servingly declare Israel “the most moral army in the world”? The second Israeli is Major General Amos Yadlin, former head of the IDF’s National Defense College who also assisted in the Israeli army’s Code of Conduct book. Today he heads Military intelligence.

Kasher’s dangerous rationalizing:

We in Israel are in a key position in the development of law in this field because we are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. This is gradually being recognized both in the Israeli legal system and abroad…. What we are doing is becoming the law. These are concepts that are not purely legal, but also contain strong ethical elements.

The Geneva Conventions are based on hundreds of years of tradition of the fair rules of combat. They were appropriate for classic warfare, where one army fought another. But in our time the whole business of rules of fair combat has been pushed aside. There are international efforts underway to revise the rules to accommodate the war against terrorism. According to the new provisions, there is still a distinction between who can and cannot be hit, but not in the blatant approach which existed in the past. The concept of proportionality has also changed….

I am not optimistic enough to assume that the world will soon acknowledge Israel’s lead in developing customary international law. My hope is that our doctrine, give or take some amendments, will in this fashion be incorporated into customary international law in order to regulate warfare and limit its calamities."

Kasher and Yadlin posture that they are putting forth a “new doctrine of military ethics”. They want Israel and other states to enjoy the privilege to label any adversary a “terrorist” which has no definition in historical International Human Law and thus to be without any legal protection from an avenging, oppressive state.

This conforms with the already Israeli-employed “Dahiya Doctrine”. According to Major General Giora-Eiland, harming the civilian population pressures the enemy combatants. Halper sees this as “reducing a popular struggle to a series of “discreet” acts. Labeling an entire resistance movement as “terrorist” over one particular act “criminalizes non-state resistance.”

Kasher, one of the two Israeli master minds of “lawfare”, explains that since “terrorism is utterly immoral” then full-spectrum targeting of the population accused of "terrorism" and disproportional force against it are justified.

Halper explains further:

Kasher and Yadlin also imply that states cannot engage in terrorism – only because they are states which have a “legitimate monopoly” over the use of force. In fact, the non-state “terrorism from below” which so concerns them pales in scale when compared to “terrorism from above,” State Terrorism. In his book Death By Government, R.J. Rummel points out that over the course of the 20th century about 170,000 innocent civilians were killed by non-state actors, a significant figure to be sure. But, he adds,

“during the first eighty-eight years of this [20th] century, almost 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people.”

And that, written in 1994, does not include Zaire, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Saddam Hussein’s reign, the impact of UN sanctions on the Iraqi civilian population and other state-sponsored murders that occurred after Rummel compiled his figures. It also does not account for all the forms of State Terrorism that do not result in death: torture, imprisonment, repression, house demolitions, induced starvation, intimidation and all the rest.

Kasher concedes that a state may be held accountable if it kills numerous citizens of another state in order to terrorize that citizenry at one point, but Halper points out this lets Israel off the hook because there is no mention of a state like Israel terrorizing its own non-citizen Gazan occupation residents.


Israel’s strategy of lawfare rests on repeating illegal acts while continuing to justify them with “new military ethics.”

“If you do something for long enough,” says Colonel (res.) Daniel Reisner, former head of the IDF’s Legal Department, “the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries…. International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassinations thesis [that extra-judicial killings are permitted when it is necessary to stop a certain operation against the citizens of Israel and when the role played by the target is crucial to the operation] and we had to push it. Eight years later it is in the center of the bounds of legality.”

“The more often Western states apply principles that originated in Israel to their own non-traditional conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Kasher, “then the greater the chance these principles have of becoming a valuable part of international law.”

So repetition will normalize and help institutionalize lawlessness says Col. Reisner formerly of the IDF Legal Department. Bevel away the boundaries of international humanitarian law. So principles used in Afghanistan and Iraq are valuable parts of a new international law says low-life faux-ethicist, Kasher. Total state immunity for blatant war criminality is the colossally ruthless agenda. How many years will, say, Chelsea Manning serve in prison for revealing evidence of mass murder of a group of Iraqi civilians by apparently immune from prosecution operatives of the imperialist US? This is the kind of Orwellian flipping of international law Israel and cohorts in the US and Europe are advocating. Will we keep bobbling our heads in compliance with the escalation of war criminality and the destruction of real international law until the day comes when we become the direct targets of vicious lawlessness by our own government?

The slaughter war in Gaza, Israel’s “lawfare” advanced by the US and other amoral allies against the true and just essence of international humanitarian law -- the “globalization of Gaza” -- will impact all of us, our descendants and the rest of the global human family with even more profound suffering if not stopped.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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