warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Israeli War Crimes Cannot Be Ignored

Faiz Jaspar Abu-Jaber |
February 5, 2013 | 1:54 p.m. PST


The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has formally concluded that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank violate international law and has called for the immediate withdrawal of all settlers.

Israel's settlements in occupied Palestinian territory must stop. (ActiveStills, Creative Commons)
Israel's settlements in occupied Palestinian territory must stop. (ActiveStills, Creative Commons)

Right now, there are over half a million Israelis living in what would presumably be Palestinian territory if a two state solution were ever achieved. The report issued by the HRC finds Israel in violation of sections of Article VIII of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, most notably those forbidding: “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

Article VIII is the chapter describing war crimes.

Predictably, Israeli officials responded with claims that the Council was “systematically one-sided and biased,” but such complaints ring a bit hollow after Israel withdrew from the Council last March when the investigation of Israeli settlements was first announced. Boycotting their own human rights review was an unprecedented move in the history of the United Nations. Perhaps the Israeli government thought that by dodging a standard investigation it would make some sort of bold statement, but the point was apparently lost on the UN investigators.

Unable to go to the West Bank due to Israel’s bizarre defiance of international law, the investigators were forced to go to the nearby capital of Jordan, Amman, to hear the testimony of 67 Palestinian civilians, diplomats, Israeli peace activists and others. Israeli officials who have complained about the report being unfair seem to have forgotten that the Israeli government forfeited its participation in the process in the first place. Instead of whining about “one-sided” reports, perhaps they should have provided the other side of the argument during the months the investigation was underway.

The term ‘war crimes’ will undoubtedly raise hackles. It is a serious accusation, but one that seems justified in this case. There is a common adage among those who support Israel that if Palestinian militants in Gaza were to lay down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace, but if Israel laid down its arms, there would be no Israel. The HRC report challenges this assumption by decisively laying out how hostile Israel can be despite Palestinian attempts to cooperate. The West Bank is now under de facto Israeli control, effectively creating a caste system that disempowers the Palestinians who live there.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry claims that, “The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions… Counterproductive measures—such as the report before us—will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

In light of statements like these, one cannot help but feel that the Israeli government is not overly concerned with finding a peaceful resolution. Israel benefits from prolonging the conflict and preventing Palestine from becoming a state. If Palestine’s borders were defined and its sovereignty recognized, the settlements would have to end instantly. Now that the United Nations has recognized the settlements as illegal, Israel must decide whether to remain a pariah state, guilty of breaking international law, or to own up to its racist occupation program and charter a new, more respectful relationship with its neighbors.


Reach Contributor Jaspar Abu-Jaber here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.