Please note: This is a more detail post of an article I wrote to the University Chronicle on Israeli and U.S. war crimes, which can be read here. (Link fixed.)
In humanitarian international law, the United States is a “High Contracting Party” of the Fourth Geneva Convention. As such, it has the obligation under Article 146 to prosecute those responsible for grave breaches of the Convention, including its leadership. Israel, as a signatory of the Convention, has the same responsibility.
Considering this, the United States has forsaken its legal and, indeed, moral obligation to work within its power to stop Israeli war crimes. How can we honestly call ourselves defenders of peace when we do not act to stop and simply ignore criminal violence perpetrated by our allies and even ourselves?
The Fourth Geneva Convention, created in 1949 to protect civilians from the horrors of war, has been systematically disregarded by Israel for over 30 years.
The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories of Palestine-affirmed by Theodor Meron in 1967, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice in 2004-is not in doubt: Israel is an occupying force.
This means virtually everything the United States and Israel do there is in violation of international law. Of the innumerable examples, this includes illegal settlement within Palestine; the building of annexation walls; restricting the freedom of movement within Palestine; and the attack on Gaza earlier this year, which was condemned as representing “severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law” by UN Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government cheers on Israel’s oppressive violence and expansionist policies, supporting it publicly, materially, diplomatically and monetarily.
The American media and general public, firmly in lockstep with U.S. foreign policy, also ignorantly defend Israel, usually blissfully unaware of Israeli war crimes.
Noam Chomsky, one of the most important public intellectuals of our time, explains these sentiments: “The basic doctrine is that Israel has been a hapless victim of terrorism, of military attack, of implacable and irrational hatred. . . . Israel is sometimes chided for its response to terrorist attack, a reaction that is deemed wrong though understandable. The belief that Israel may have had a substantial role in initiating and perpetuating violence and conflict is expressed only far from the mainstream, as a general rule.”
These words, though written nearly 30 years ago, remain true today.
U.S. Justice Robert Jackson, the chief of counsel for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Tribunal, spoke of a “poisoned chalice” from which Nazi criminals drank. We, too, have drank from this chalice. Jackson was making a fundamentally crucial point on universality: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”
To wholly ignore U.S. and Israeli war crimes is to render the Nuremberg Trials farcical. We absolutely must universally apply our standards, including to ourselves and our allies. We must move away from the perception that the U.S. and Israel can do no wrong. It is critically important that we not ignore our own wrongdoings.
Educate yourselves: review the facts, read the documents, and stand firmly against all aggressive violence.