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How many war crimes does Israel have to commit for it to be reprimanded?

8th Jul 2022
How many war crimes does Israel have to commit for it to be reprimanded?

(Photo credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr)

This May alone, Israel committed no fewer than 148 crimes against journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The surge in attacks, documented by the Journalists Support Committee, comes in the wake of the killing of the Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11. The Palestinian American Christian was killed by Israeli soldiers while doing what she had done for 25 years: covering the brutal military occupation.

At least 50 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces in the past 20 years. Suffice to say, no one has been held to account for any of the targeted state assassinations. Like the vast majority of Israel’s victims, Abu Akleh was shot in the head despite wearing the famed blue vest with “PRESS” written on it, body armour, and a helmet. Yet, no inquiry has taken place, and the chances of a truly independent probe are slim.

During a debate in the British Parliament, there were many critical voices from most parties condemning the killing. However, unsurprisingly, UK ministers fell far short of unambiguously condemning Israel. When challenged, the British government hid behind the UN Security Council as to why it was not calling for the case to be investigated by the International Criminal Court, as her employer has suggested.

It was always going to be a non-starter to drag Israel, the most notorious serial abuser of human rights, to the international tribunal in The Hague, when it, like the US, is not a member, let alone recognise, the world court. While the UK negates its historic responsibility toward the Palestinian territories, Washington is facing growing domestic criticism for not doing enough to seek justice for one of its citizens.

Also receding were hopes that lessons could be drawn from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Such was the appalling reaction in the West. But there has been little sign of states being condemned or similarly isolated and sanctioned for conducting atrocities and military acts of aggression, as has been the case of Saudi-led attacks against battle-worn Yemen.

The crimes against journalists committed by Israel last month included intimidation, shooting, verbal and physical assaults, car-ramming incidents, as well as 11 unlawful detentions in the West Bank, five of which were extended without trial. Earlier this year, Amnesty International declared Israel was carrying out “the crime of apartheid against Palestinians” and said the regime must be held accountable for treating them as “an inferior racial group.”

Global Responsibility to Protect reported this month that 1,200 Palestinians were forcibly displaced in the Occupied West Bank in 2021. It described that “an institutionalised regime of systematic racial oppression has been established through a two-tiered legal and political system.”

The systematic nature of human rights violations and inhumane acts “likely amounts to crimes against humanity, while the collective punishment of Palestinians as a coercive measure of population control may amount to a war crime,” it concluded. The country has been carrying on a war of attrition ever since its establishment in 1948. Yet, regardless of the extent of the crimes, it remains questionable what the regime must do to be reprimanded.

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