So NOW they want to investigate war crimes?

The current situation in Gaza has been raging for two weeks now and all the while pressure has been mounting around the world for Israel to cease their offensive against Hamas.  Yesterday this pressure culminated, as it was bound to do, in allegations that Israel has and is committing war crimes.  Such allegations have commonly been hinted at on the web, and even here on this site, but things are a bit different when the person responsible for the remarks is one Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She [Pillay] said conditions currently being endured by the 1.5 million strong population of Gaza “constitute egregious violations of human rights”.

“Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,” she said.

“As a first step credible, independent and transparent investigations must be carried out to identify violations and establish responsibilities.

I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked.”

While I don’t know enough about this specific situation beyond that the Red Cross is claiming Israel refused to help the wounded in this particular strike and that the IDF denies the charges (and neither do you, unless you’re there), I do know a thing or two about war crimes and proportionality.  War crimes have a specific legal meaning; they aren’t a blanket statement used to fit whatever someone finds ugly or distasteful about the inevitably bloody and dark face of warfare.  This may come as a shock to many, I know, but just because you or I can’t stomach something or think it’s “unfair”, or “wrong”, or “evil” does not automatically make it a war crime.

So what then is  war crime, exactly?  In short it is an action deemed unlawful by the internationally recognized Law of Armed Conflict.  This law sets three parameters to warfare and armed responses: military necessity, distinction, and proportionality.   To find a full description of each of these parameters follow the link above.  Michael Totten recently wrote a piece for Commentary outlining the situation in Gaza as it relates to the LoAC and it really should be required reading:

The Law of Armed Conflict “arises from a desire among civilized nations to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction while not impeding the effective waging of war. A part of public international law, LOAC regulates the conduct of armed hostilities. It also aims to protect civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked.”

Proportionality, in short and according to the law, “prohibits the use of any kind or degree of force that exceeds that needed to accomplish the military objective.”

In other words, if a surgical strike is all that is needed to take out a Grad rocket launcher, carpet bombing the entire city or even the neighborhood isn’t allowed.

Hamas is still firing rockets; therefore, the IDF is not using more force than necessary to disrupt the firing of rockets. Israel, arguably, is using less force than necessary.

I find it morbidly humorous that it is this incident, allegedly not helping wounded noncombatants, is the catalyst for cries of war crimes and calls for prosecution against Israel.  Where are the calls against Hamas? There are allegations that they hide in hospitals, rig schools being used as fire bases to increase collateral damage when they are inevitably struck back, store weapons caches in the middle of civilian populations and in mosques, use ambulances as military transport (video link) and refusing to allow wounded to flee to Egypt for treatment.  The list goes on and on, and yet most of us on the left ignore it completely.

There is a marked double-standard going on here, and it’s one we liberals would do well to steer clear of.  If one deserves investigation the other absolutely does as well.

Is Israel above reproach? Absolutely not, but many in the liberal web act as if this situation is entirely Israel’s fault.  Oh sure, they may shake their heads and “tisk tisk” when people bring up Hama’s many alleged war crimes and aggressions, but they for some reason always give the impression of either A) not really caring about Hamas or B) wanting to change the subject because it doesn’t fit inside of their narrative.

This is only natural.  People instinctively ignore and filter the world to fit their preconceived notions.  This is a mistake though, and it’s not one I’ll be a part of.  You want to be taken seriously on the subject?  Know the history, but don’t obsess over it.  Know the laws, don’t invent them.  Know both sides, don’t become a propaganda tool.

This is an ugly conflict that will likely get worse before it gets better but this single-sided Israel bashing has got to stop.

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