Thursday, February 5, 2009

Opinion: Hold Israel Accountable for Gaza - George Bisharat

The Seattle Times, February 5, 2009 - Israel's Gaza invasion provides evidence of at least seven serious violations of international law, notes George E. Bisharat, a University of California Hastings law professor. If Israel will not be held accountable in international venues, the "court of last resort" might be international civil society, whose tools for nonviolent enforcement include boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

The boss has lost it," many Israeli military and political officials, and people on the street, were reportedly joking after their army's recent devastation of the Gaza Strip. As Israeli journalist Uri Avnery observed, the jest means that: " ... in order to deter our enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage, kill and destroy mercilessly."

In fact, the "boss has lost it" is an unselfconscious admission of policies that violate international law, and could at some point be used against Israeli leaders in a criminal prosecution.

Evidence suggests that Israel may have committed at least seven serious offenses during its Gaza invasion: launching a war of aggression (because Israel itself triggered the breakdown of a six-month truce, and therefore did not have a valid claim of self-defense); deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure; deliberate killings of civilians; collective punishment; illegal use of weapons, including white phosphorous; preventing care to the wounded; and disproportionate use of force.

These constitute grave breaches of customary and conventional international law, and some amount to war crimes. Hamas' indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were also war crimes, but did not justify Israel's violations.

What is the likelihood that Israel leaders faced with allegations of war crimes will ever be investigated and brought to justice?....

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