Human Rights Watch: Israel’s Recent Attacks on Gaza Constitute War Crimes

If you’re not an expert on International Law but if Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza looked like war crimes to you, your questions have now been answered.

War crimes: this is what Human Rights Watch has concluded in its recent report.

Before we proceed, I’d like to clarify that ‘war crimes’ is not an accusatory or shaming concept that one can – or should – be throwing around.

I talk about it in my podcast episode on Gaza: the questions we have to ask regarding Israel’s conduct, even if we accept that the occupier is defending itself from the people it is occupying.

Just like International Law is real, war crimes are real in that we have an actual definition for them. This is exactly what HRW was using when investigating what has been happening in Gaza and Israel in May.

In their report, HRW remind us of International Law principles that guide conflicts:

“Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited. The laws of war also prohibit indiscriminate attacks, which include attacks that do not distinguish between civilians and military targets or do not target a military objective. Attacks in which the expected harm to civilians and civilian property is disproportionate to the anticipated military gain are also prohibited.

Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent – that is, deliberately or recklessly– are responsible for war crimes.”⁣

I highly encourage you to read this article and watch the video that HRW has produced. It’s not an easy video to watch, but, in the end, it’s not about our discomfort, is it?

It’s about identifying what happened in Gaza and pointing to the large scale injustice and suffering that it all has caused.

It’s about making the people of Gaza just a bit more seen.

It’s about turning the people of Gaza from – a concept that award-wining journalist John Pilger likes to use – unpeople to people.

(This is what a recent photo piece by The Guardian on the traumatised children of Gaza tries to do, excruciatingly beautifully.)

If you’re still unsure you’d like to speak out against a crippling 14-year-old siege on Gaza, against bombings of civilian infrastructure, and wiping of entire families out, I encourage you to do so.

Because speaking out against war crimes – on both sides! – shouldn’t be difficult.

And, especially when we talk about Palestine, it is very much needed.

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