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Explosions and fire envelop a building in Gaza
Explosions and fire envelop a building in Gaza
Wafa / Wikimedia Commons

Editorial

Israel/Palestine Part 4: War Crimes Against Humanity?

Is Israel committing war crimes? Or crimes against humanity?

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This article is Part 4 of a series of on the current conflict in Gaza. The opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Valiant News. Please click here for Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Bonus Round as they are published.

The topic of Israel has a way of turning normally-objective and otherwise-sane people into rabid unthinking animals, for one side or the other (this author included). Due to the abundance of propaganda on both sides of the current conflict, I found while researching this article series that most fairly well-informed people – even experts – were completely misinformed about what’s actually going on. So this will be an attempt to distill something resembling the truth from the raging torrent of propaganda and blinding fury that has flooded the internet, not to mention practically every mainstream media outlet covering the conflict.

I will attempt to apply a filter of sanity to the biggest questions and myths surrounding the conflict:

  1. Are we headed to World War III?
  2. Were the 10/7 attacks an Iranian operation or an inside job?
  3. Is the U.S. government run by Israel or vice versa? What role does Christian Dispensationalism play?
  4. Is Israel committing war crimes or crimes against humanity?
  5. What does this mean for the peace process?

BONUS ROUND: What’s the deal with the USS Liberty, Jonathan Pollard and the Talmud? Also the one conspiracy theory that’s factually true.

4) Is Israel committing war crimes or crimes against humanity?

It depends on your definition. It even depends on whether “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” have meaning any more beyond: “The things that the Bad Guys I don’t like do.” If international law and conventions on warfare were on life support for decades before, 10/7 may have been the pillow that finally smothered it to death.

“Israel is dropping in less than a week what the U.S. was dropping in Afghanistan in a year, in a much smaller, much more densely populated area, where mistakes are going to be magnified,” Marc Garlasco, a military adviser at the Dutch organization PAX for Peace and a former U.N. war crimes investigator in Libya, told the Washington Post in early October.

The IDF has treasured its arguably-earned reputation as the world’s “most moral army” with the most precise strikes of any air force and the most restrictive Rules of Engagement of any ground force, but there is only so “moral” one can be while dropping an estimated three kilotons of ordnance in a densely-populated city in the first six days after the most vomit-inducing terrorist attack in human history – when all of the people involved in planning these “precise” attacks would be blinded by rage.

For reference: assuming they’re all Mk. 84’s, that’s roughly a fifth of the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

6,000 Joint Directed Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs likely represent a significant proportion – possibly a majority – of Israel’s total stockpile of Mk. 84 2,000lb bombs fitted with GBU-31 GPS guidance systems.

“They’re burning through the U.S. stockpile of JDAMs the way Ukraine burned through our artillery,” said retired U.S. Army artillery officer Major Tyler Weaver in an exclusive interview with Valiant News. Weaver is a fantasy author and attorney who makes international conflict commentary on Twitter and Telegram as Armchair Warlord.

“I’d say they’ve made decent progress in the north Gaza Strip by surrounding Gaza City, although incursions deep into the urban zone have not turned out well for them and they seem to have lost a lot of armor and more people than they’re admitting publicly. But the fact that they’ve gone from talking about destroying Hamas to agreeing to a cease-fire after three weeks of fighting is extremely damning.”

There is a very legitimate argument to be made that dropping six 2,000lb bombs into an urban neighborhood that vaporizes an unknown number children in an attempt to kill a terrorist commander who might be in tunnels underneath it is more “moral” than throwing one baby into an oven while gang-raping the mother next to the corpse of the father.

Note: Whether or not you believe that the oven story is real – there is hard video evidence of less viral crimes that are just as cruel – keep in mind that the people in the IDF pulling the trigger believe it happened, so recognizing that is key to understanding their actions.

There’s an even easier legal argument that it doesn’t violate conventions on war, either. American forces – under “Shock and Awe” doctrine – routinely use the legal loophole allowing the destruction of “dual-use” infrastructure to annihilate power facilities that tens of millions need to survive.

Americans killed more civilians in the first days of the invasion of Iraq (7,299 documented in 5 weeks) than died in the first months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (4,523 documented in 5 weeks – roughly a third of which were allegedly inflicted by the defenders).

In theory, attacks on civilian infrastructure that are used or able to be used by combatants are fair game as long as the lives of the innocent are balanced against the military value of the true target. This justification cracks under the strain of Israel’s attacks on targets like hospitals and mosques, which they argue – not entirely without justification – are routinely used by Hamas as headquarters and weapons stockpiles.

Palestinians and pro-Palestinian press did themselves no favors by making claims of outrageous Israeli atrocities, only to be debunked by Israelis within minutes. The Israelis and pro-Israel press, in turn, did themselves no favors when they remained curiously silent – headlines unchanged – when some of those “debunkings” were proven in turn to be false within hours after that.

For instance, I have seen reams of data and analysis from both sides, but I still cannot say with any certainty what happened at the Al-Ahli Hospital on Oct. 17. Initial reports claimed that an Israeli airstrike had “demolished” the hospital and killed 500. Those reports proved false the next morning, when it was revealed that an explosion took place above the parking lot outside which did little damage to the hospital itself.

For days pro-Palestinian pundits continued to defend the “500 dead” number, insisting that Hamas’ Ministry of Health almost always posts accurate casualty counts (it’s the proportion of those casualties who are civilians or children that they routinely exaggerate). Journalist David Zweig eventually explained on his Substack that the number most likely originated with a mistranslation or misunderstanding of an initial Al Jazeera report that there were “500 victims” – including those wounded, displaced or otherwise affected.

The pro-Palestinian side claims that a U.S.-made JDAM exploded above the parking lot in airburst mode, in keeping with numerous alleged incidents of intimidation attacks on hospitals. The Pro-Israel side – and most of the Western press – claims that it was a misfired rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that exploded in a massive fireball because it was still filled with fuel (Israel claims that roughly 10% of Gazan rockets misfire and land in their own territory).

I cannot for the life of me say which side is telling the truth. Anyone who does is lying to you. If I had to bet, I’d say that the Israelis are likely right because the Palestinians failed to produce bomb debris pointing to Israeli culpability (which munitions experts say are always present at explosions like this); that’s wild considering that they have access to debris from thousands of JDAM strikes and could easily have planted some regardless of whether it was genuine.

To be fair, nobody is asking whether Hamas commits war crimes – at least nobody with an ounce of sense. Theocratic Islamist Hamas was founded as the radical alternative to the authoritarian Pan-Arab PLO, which practically invented modern terrorism. They don’t just commit war crimes in the course of military objectives or parallel to military objectives; for them war crimes are almost always the objective.

Aside from their massacre on 10/7, Hamas has routinely fired unguided rockets at Israeli civilian targets for decades. Even if these rockets don’t often kill Israelis – due to their inherent inaccuracy and the bleeding-edge anti-rocket systems Israelis counter them with – the cumulative traumatizing effect of years of regular terror bombings with innocent civilians having to race to bomb shelters on a regular basis cannot be underestimated. They also habitually fire them from Palestinian civilian centers and discourage the innocent people who live there from evacuating, to maximize civilian casualties (itself a war crime) when Israelis inevitably air-strike their launching sites.

In the current conflict, the IDF has allegedly decided – to ensure that Hamas-aligned rocket crews are killed even if they run away immediately after launch – to level every building in a one-block radius. This is – from a certain perspective – a rational military decision, but it is practically indistinguishable from systematically destroying every high-rise building in Gaza and (to somewhat unhinged anti-Israel detractors like Caitlin Johnstone) there is no real difference.

So, yes, it seems very difficult to escape the conclusion that both Israel and Hamas are breaking the laws of war, the former leading in scale and the latter in sheer gruesome cruelty.

The better question is: what alternative does Israel have? Pro-Israel pundits may say – in more dense vocabulary – that these tactics are necessary because otherwise Israel would lose, but that’s the same justification the Palestinians use for their terrorism.

The sad truth is that the Israelis are trapped and have no way out without more blood on their hands.

They cannot allow Hamas to survive, or further attacks like 10/7 will become commonplace and then inevitably accepted by the fickle international community as the new normal – the Israeli voting public would not stand for it, in any event. They probably don’t have the military capacity to reconquer, pacify and reoccupy the Gaza Strip without outside assistance for any considerable length of time, not without exposing a generation of young Israelis to death on a scale not imagined in generations… let alone the cost in Gazan lives.

Any choice they make has to take into account a possible uprising in the West Bank, as well as incursions from Lebanon or Syria. Turkey is unlikely to get involved – despite bluster from President Tayyip Erdogan – but continuation of the conflict risks endangering Israel’s long-standing relationship with Turkey, which was already on life support, and peace treaty with Egypt.

It is any wonder, then, that Israelis leaked a “concept paper” in late October widely viewed as a trial balloon for ethnically cleansing 2.2 million Gazans (nearly half of whom are children) into the Sinai desert? Or that rumors abound about Israel asking for U.S. troops to occupy Gaza as peacekeepers (a completely ridiculous notion, but one that certain out-of-touch American politicians might find persuasive)?

Ever since the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, ethnic cleansing has been widely recognized as both a war crime and crime against humanity, though some experts prefer to keep it under the umbrella term “genocide”.

Before then, however, it was known as “population transfer”. It wasn’t a crime against humanity, either:  it was official Allied and Soviet policy post-WWII. After the war, roughly 14.6 million ethnic Germans were cleansed from neighboring countries. Millions of German men were also used as slave conscript labor by the Allies and Soviets as part of German reparations, performing tasks like clearing mine-fields in France and picking cotton in the American South. The Germans, like the Palestinians, wanted land lost in previous wars and also wanted to exterminate Jews.

Is “ethnic cleansing” or “population transfer” no longer a crime against humanity when the population in question democratically elects a government (like Hamas or Hitler) to perform crimes against humanity first? Is it possible to forfeit one’s “right of return” after committing sufficient atrocities like those on 10/7?

It is more humane to once again purge Palestinians from their homes en masse than to subject them once more to military occupation without basic civil rights? After the 1948 war, a roughly similar number of Jews fled Muslim countries as Palestinians fled fledgling Israel – is it finally time for Palestinian Arabs to be resettled in Arab nations the same way that Jewish refugees were resettled with full rights in Israel, instead of being kept in legal limbo for another 85 years?

How are these arguments morally superior to those made by Osama Bin Laden in his Letter to America – arguing that American civilians are culpable for the actions of their elected government – that went viral on TikTok in recent weeks?

More importantly: who gets to decide what is right and wrong? Will “international law” be applied equally – applied only to the most powerful (Israel) or the most politically-popular (Palestine)?

What we’re witnessing in Israel – after two years of death-throes in Ukraine – is the end of the legitimacy of international law and the “Rules-Based International Order” which attempted to supplant it.

As Major Weaver astutely observed, “Rules-Based International Order” seems in retrospect like a deliberate attempt to water down international law: “Laws, after all, apply to everyone equally, while rules are enforced by authorities to whom the rules do not apply and against whom they are not enforced.”

Part of it is the absolute lack of proportion or reasonableness in its application. Consider that alleged violations of “international law” by Russia were used to demand – effectively – unconditional surrender of Russia’s leaders for show trials and dismemberment of the Russian state. Not only could no sane state agree to this, there was never a thought given to the notion that Ukraine or Western allies could ever be held to account for their own alleged violations.

While there’s been ample evidence of atrocities against innocent Ukrainians by both Russian invaders and fellow Ukrainians, the West in general seems more concerned with publicity than policing. Is it any wonder that the IDF reports – with a straight face – that they made roughly 3 kilotons of “precise strikes” on “Hamas infrastructure” in just 6 days, when – at the end of the day – the only truth that seems to matter is what gets reported on cable news and documented on Wikipedia?

“International law”, by design, is only applied to the losers and – cherry on top – is adjudicated by an “international community” consisting of 70% non-democratic nations. It certainly wasn’t applied during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, nor the 1999 bombing of former Yugoslavia, nor interventions by Russia, Iran and the United States into Syria since 2011.

Without a consistent effort to maintain them as standards applying equally to friends and foes, international laws specifically about crimes of war and atrocities against humanity have degenerated to nothing more than platitudes cynically repeated against a given state’s monster of the week.

The sad truth is that – whether or not Israel broke international law – international law is just broken, period. There are arguments pro and con that could be made in a fair court of law, but that court does not exist and it’s silly to pretend at this point that anything resembling justice exists in international politics.

This article is Part 4 of a series of on the current conflict in Gaza. Please click here for Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Bonus Round as they are published.

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A.J. Cooke
Written By

A.J. Cooke is Cuban-American freelance journalist and ghostwriter based in Northern Virginia. He grew up in Japan, Malaysia and Portugal. His father, Don Cooke, was one of the 1979 Iran Hostages and his grandfather, the late Ambassador Diego Asencio, was held hostage by M-19 guerrillas in the 1980 Bogota Embassy Siege. A veteran political campaigner, fundraiser and ghostwriter, Cooke writes mostly political news with a focus on data science and legal analysis.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ox

    December 12, 2023 at 12:28 am

    War crimes by Israel? I doubt it. That’s what HAMAS would like the world to believe. They are using the same tactics and propaganda that the N. Vietnam used, to turn America’s citizens against their own government, not to mention the screwed up in the head politicians. If one wants to talk about war crimes, the Palestinians better look in their own backyard. The IDF is a professional fighting force, not a rag tag outfit like HAMAS. The IDF doesn’t go in and intentionally kidnap civilians, murder women and children, rape the women, behead babies, such as HAMAS. The Palestinians like all the other countries that hate America’s guts, are making a bunch of suckers out of the American Taxpayer. One thinks all this aid and money is going to Palestinian Authority, or does one think the millions of dollars is being confiscated by HAMAS. HAmas is the Palestinian Authority.

  2. Avatar

    Ted Weiland

    December 12, 2023 at 10:10 am

    FOR ANYONE WHO’S BEEN HOODWINKED INTO BELIEVE that America’s biblically compelled to support the Israelis, should consider very carefully the following quotations.

    IDENTITY CRISIS!

    I wonder if the following quotations (all of them from recognized Jewish authorities) have something to say about the Zionists’ claims to alleged fulfilled prophecies and the never-ending Middle East conflicts:

    “Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a ‘Jew’ or to call a contemporary Jew an ‘Israelite’ or a ‘Hebrew.’” (Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins, eds., “Identity Crisis,” The Jewish Almanac, (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980) p. 3.)

    That sentence is the opening sentence of the First Chapter entitled “Identity Crisis” of the 1980 Jewish Almanac. That today’s Jews are not genetic Israelites is also admitted in “The Jewish Encyclopedia,” the “Encyclopedia Judaica,” “The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia,” “The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia,” and by many of their historians.

    According to three Jewish encyclopedias and Flavius Josephus, the entire Edomite nation was forced into converting to Judaism and became known as Judahites at the time of the high priest John Hyrcanus (Maccabaeus):

    “…in the days of John Hyrcanus (end of the second century B.C.E.) … the Edomites became a section of the Jewish people.” (“Edom,” Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Israel: Encyclopaedia Judaica Company, 1971) Volume 6, p. 378.)

    “They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation….” (“Edom, Idumea,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York & London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1904) Volume V, p. 41.)

    “…from then on they constituted a part of the Jewish people, Herod [King of Judea] being one of their descendants.” (Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoden, “Edom (Idumea),” The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977) p. 589.)

    “…they submitted to the use of circumcision, and the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time … they were hereafter no other than Jews.” (Flavius Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews,” Josephus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1960) Book XIII, Chapter IX, Verse 1, p. 279.)

    We keep hearing that if we don’t bless the modern State of Israel (which America has been doing since at least 1948) that we will be cursed. However, it seems it’s been just the opposite, Since 1948, you name it, and there’s not an area in America wherein she hasn’t become worse off.

    Could it because America has identified the wrong people as Israel.

    Today’s Jews are not the only ones with an identity crisis.

    For more, see free online book “The Mystery of the Gentiles: Where Are They and Where Are They Now?” at mission to israel dot org. Go to our Online Book page and scroll down to title.

    Take our 10-question In Defense of True Israel Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a free copy of the book “Israel’s Identity: It Matters!”

    • Avatar

      David Loring

      December 13, 2023 at 3:47 pm

      The information above cannot be refuted although it will be by those who have been indoctrinated by Jews in the west for decades. Ignorant “Christians” are steadily being duped that all of this is in support of the Book of Revelation. That is because most “pastors” are wolves in sheep’s clothing misusing Scripture for monetary gain. See which wolfy pastors are raking in the $$$ by the continual promoting of them by Jewish owned media sources.

  3. Avatar

    Ted Weiland

    December 12, 2023 at 10:13 am

    Very few people today, even among those claiming to be Christians, understand what’s occurring in this latest Middle East conflict.

    To understand what’s really going in the Middle East, it’s absolutely essential that the peoples known as Israelites, Edomites, and Ishmaelites be correctly identified.

    We’ve recently posted Parts 1 & 2 of my two-part series entitled “Israel, Edom, & Ishmael: Three Keys to Understanding the Bible & Current Events.”

    “Israel, Edom, & Ismael, Part 1” can be found at the bottom of our Broadcast Library page at mission to israel dot org.

    This two-part audio series has also been made into a video with maps and photocopies of some of the books I quote. Go to Video page and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the title.

    Take our 10-question “In Defense of True Israel” Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a free copy of the book “Israel’s Identity: It Matters!”

  4. Avatar

    CharlieSeattle

    March 7, 2024 at 11:23 pm

    20 years ago a little sweet Gazan baby boys, indoctrinated from birth, grew up to be a rapists and murderers. So will the little boys in Gaza today.

    Egypt and Jordan refuse to take these animals for the threat they pose to their rule.

    Kill’em all Israel.

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