US Says Israel Likely Committed War Crimes

A Congressionally-mandated report finds "reasonable" evidence but acknowledges limitations.

Flags of Israel and Palestine painted on the concrete wall with soldier shadow. Gaza and Israel conflict

AP (“US says Israel’s use of US arms likely violated international law, but evidence is incomplete“):

The Biden administration said Friday that Israel’s use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law but that wartime conditions prevented U.S. officials from determining that for certain in specific airstrikes.

The finding of “reasonable” evidence to conclude that the U.S. ally had breached international law protecting civilians in the way it conducted its war against Hamas was the strongest statement that the Biden administration has yet made on the matter. It was released in a summary of a report being delivered to Congress on Friday.

But the caveat that the administration wasn’t able to link specific U.S. weapons to individual attacks by Israeli forces in Gaza could give the administration leeway in any future decision on whether to restrict provisions of offensive weapons to Israel.

The first-of-its-kind assessment, which was compelled by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats in Congress, comes after seven months of airstrikes, ground fighting and aid restrictions that have claimed the lives of nearly 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

While U.S. officials were unable to gather all the information they needed on specific strikes, the report said that given Israel’s “significant reliance” on U.S.-made weapons, it was “reasonable to assess” that they had been used by Israel’s security forces in instances “inconsistent” with its obligations under international humanitarian law “or with best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

Israel’s military has the experience, technology and know-how to minimize harm to civilians, but “the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases,” the report said.

International human rights groups and a review by an unofficial panel of former State and military officials, academic experts and others had pointed to more than a dozen Israeli airstrikes for which they said there were credible evidence of violations of the laws of war and humanitarian law. Targets included aid convoys, medical workers, hospitals, journalists, schools and refugee centers and other sites that have broad protection under international law.

They argued that the civilian death toll in many strikes in Gaza — such as an Oct. 31 strike on an apartment building reported to have killed 106 civilians — was disproportionate to the value of any military target.

Israel says it is following all U.S. and international law, that it investigates allegations of abuse by its security forces and that its campaign in Gaza is proportional to the existential threat it says is posed by Hamas.

WaPo (“Biden’s isolation grows as Gaza report both criticizes and clears Israel“):

The State Department’s report on the war in Gaza — which suggested Israel had likely violated international law yet remained eligible to receive U.S. military aid — has left President Biden increasingly isolated on an issue that has consumed his presidency and complicated his reelection bid.

Like much of Biden’s, at times, halting approach toward the war, the report released to Congress on Friday drew criticism from across the political spectrum. Progressives described the report as lacking moral clarity about a humanitarian catastrophe, while pro-Israel groups called it the latest example of the president undermining a key ally in the middle of a war.

The bipartisan praise Biden received for his early response to the Oct. 7 attack against Israel has all but disappeared, replaced instead by acrimony. In an election year already marked by protests and counterprotests, Biden faces the risk that voters who disapprove of his handling of the war in Gaza for disparate reasons could disrupt his path to a second term.

“There are two large groups of voters in the United States today when it comes to the domestic protests: people who want the president to stop the rage and people who want the president to solve the issues that have created the rage,” said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “The president’s fundamental problem is that he has little real power to do either.”

NYT (“The U.S. criticizes Israel for failure to protect civilians in the Gaza conflict“) adds:

[T]he report — which seemed at odds with itself in places — said the United States had no hard proof of Israeli violations. It noted the difficulty of collecting reliable information from Gaza, Hamas’s tactic of operating in civilian areas and the fact that “Israel has not shared complete information to verify” whether U.S. weapons have been used in specific incidents alleged to have involved human rights law violations.

[…]

The report said its findings were hampered in part by the challenges of collecting reliable information from the war zone and the way Hamas operates in densely populated areas. It also stressed that Israel has begun pursuing possible accountability for suspected violations of the law, a key component in the U.S. assessment about whether to provide military aid to allies accused of human rights violations.

Israel has opened criminal investigations into the conduct of its military in Gaza, the report said, and the Israel Defense Forces “are examining hundreds of incidents” that may involve wartime misconduct.

The report also did not find that Israel had intentionally obstructed humanitarian aid into Gaza.

While it concluded that both “action and inaction by Israel” had slowed the flow of aid into Gaza, which is desperately short of necessities like food and medicine, it said that “we do not currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance” into the territory.

[…]

Brian Finucane, a former State Department lawyer now with International Crisis Group, said the report “bends over backwards” to avoid concluding that Israel violated any laws, a finding that would place major new pressure on Mr. Biden to restrict arms to the country.

Mr. Finucane, a critic of Israel’s military operations, said that the report was “more forthcoming” than he had expected, but that he still found it “watered down” and heavily “lawyered.”

The findings further angered a vocal minority of Democrats in Congress who have grown increasingly critical of Israel’s conduct in Gaza. They argue that Israel has indiscriminately killed civilians with American arms and intentionally hindered U.S.-supplied humanitarian aid.

[…]

The State Department report showed clear sympathy for Israel’s military challenge, repeating past statements by the Biden administration that Israel has a “right to defend itself” in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. It also noted that military experts call Gaza “as difficult a battlespace as any military has faced in modern warfare.”

“Because Hamas uses civilian infrastructure for military purposes and civilians as human shields, it is often difficult to determine facts on the ground in an active war zone of this nature and the presence of legitimate military targets across Gaza,” it said.

Even so, it singled out numerous specific incidents where Israel’s military had killed civilians or aid workers, the latter of which it called a “specific area of concern.”

WaPo has posted the entire 46-page report in PDF form. It contains a lengthy discussion of US laws and assesses several countries receiving US military assistance engaged in active conflict: Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Ukraine. The Israel country report is contained on pages 18-32.

The above reports adequately cover the section but I’d like to highlight some other language.

The Government of Israel has asserted that approximately half of the 34,700 killed in Gaza have been Hamas fighters, though we do not have the ability to verify this estimate.

These are both true statements. But, even as one who supports Israel’s war aims and is sympathetic to the challenges of protecting noncombatants in an environment Hamas deliberately created, I find it wildly implausible that anywhere close to half of the deaths are Hamas fighters. Indeed, I’d be shocked if it was as much as a quarter.

Israel has had to confront an extraordinary military challenge: Hamas has embedded itself deliberately within and underneath the civilian population to use civilians as human shields. Hamas intentionally uses schools, hospitals, residential buildings, and international organization facilities for military purposes. It has constructed a vast tunnel network beneath this civilian infrastructure not to protect civilians, but to hide its leaders and fighters and from which it stages and launches attacks. Hamas has not expressed regret for the intentional targeting of Israeli civilians, and its charter and statements by its leadership continue to call for the destruction of Israel. Hamas continues to hold more than 100 hostages, continues to fire rockets into Israel indiscriminately, and has pledged to conduct attacks on the scale of October 7th again. Military experts describe Gaza as being as difficult a battlespace as any military has faced in modern warfare.

This is absolutely crucial context. While Israel absolutely has a duty to minimize noncombatant casualties—and has, for example, constantly ordered evacuations of areas being targeted—it’s essentially impossible to do under the circumstances. Hamas isn’t immune from being attacked because it is hiding amongst the civilian population.

There is, on pp. 19-20, a rather detailed description of the institutions, training, processes, etc. Israel takes with regard to International Humanitarian Law. They are extensive, as befitting a modern country with a professional military. Not noted is that Hamas has none of these and, indeed, is routinely engaged in perfidy, hiding among the civilian population in civilian clothing, conducting operations from hospitals and other protected spaces, and otherwise using the laws of war against their enemy.

That said, this is concerning:

One specific area of concern is the impact of Israel’s military operations on humanitarian actors. Despite regular engagement from humanitarian actors and repeated USG interventions with Israeli officials on deconfliction/coordination procedures, the IDF has struck humanitarian workers and facilities. While Israel repeatedly committed to improve deconfliction and implemented some additional measures, those changes did not fully prevent subsequent strikes involving humanitarian workers and facilities during the reporting period. The USG will continue to press the Government of Israel on the need to do more to create a permissive and safe environment for delivery and distribution of aid. The UN reports that more than 250 humanitarian workers have been killed in the course of their work or in other circumstances. Multiple military operations have taken place in protected or de-conflicted sites or in areas designated for evacuees. Some of these incidents during the reporting period that have received widespread attention in media or are cited by humanitarian organizations as illustrative of the operating environment in Gaza are noted below.

Several incidents, which I won’t excerpt here because formatting from PDFs is slow, are detailed on pp. 23-25. None of them are conclusive but, in at least two incidents (the World Food Kitchen incident on 1 April and Medecins Sans Frontieres incident on 20 February) there was prior coordination between aid workers and the IDF.

All in all, an unsettling report but not a shocking one. We’ve known since the beginning of the attacks that Israel is relying on overwhelming force in an urban environment. That a lot of civilians, including aid workers, are getting killed is all but inevitable.

The larger question of whether these deaths are proportional to the military value of the targets is ultimately a judgment call that will be made well after the fact in international legal tribunals. “Proportionality” is not a mathematical formula but rather a post hoc assessment.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. drj says:

    “Proportionality” is not a mathematical formula but rather a post hoc assessment.

    This is incorrect. It’s not post hoc.

    The relevant law says:

    Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. […]

    Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: […]

    an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

    There are credible reports that the IDF, as a matter of policy, accepted up to 20 non-combatant casualties in exchange for a single low-level militant at home, i.e., not posing a direct military threat.

    They knew what they were doing and they knew they were breaking the law while they were doing it.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    International law is more aspirational than real. I mean, maybe if we all keep pretending real hard it will ‘manifest’ as the kids say. Russia and China ignore international law, so does Israel as does literally everyone in the ME. And so do we when it suits our purpose. For example, you’re not really supposed to send helicopters loaded with special forces into sovereign nations to kill suspected terrorists. Laws applied randomly and seldom enforced don’t amount to much.

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  3. JKB says:

    I find it wildly implausible that anywhere close to half of the deaths are Hamas fighters. Indeed, I’d be shocked if it was as much as a quarter.

    That is only implausible because of your assumption that Israel has not surpassed other militaries in targeting combatants. Not impossible that it will turn out the IDF has been more discerning than other urban combat forces.

    Also, it would be interesting to know, do the aid worker bed down behind IDF or Hamas lines at night? Who do they trust when they are asleep?

    John Spencer, the West Point modern urban warfare expert:

    In their criticism, Israel’s opponents are erasing a remarkable, historic new standard Israel has set. In my long career studying and advising on urban warfare for the U.S. military, I’ve never known an army to take such measures [as the IDF has] to attend to the enemy’s civilian population, especially while simultaneously combating the enemy in the very same buildings. In fact, by my analysis, Israel has implemented more precautions to prevent civilian harm than any military in history—above and beyond what international law requires and more than the U.S. did in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The international community, and increasingly the United States, barely acknowledges these measures while repeatedly excoriating the IDF for not doing enough to protect civilians—even as it confronts a ruthless terror organization holding its citizens hostage. Instead, the U.S. and its allies should be studying how they can apply the IDF’s tactics for protecting civilians, despite the fact that these militaries would almost certainly be extremely reluctant to employ these techniques because of how it would disadvantage them in any fight with an urban terrorist army like Hamas.

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  4. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    According to WaPo, Israeli civilians are blocking aid trucks, so it’s likely that aid workers bed down wherever they happen to be.

    https://x.com/washingtonpost/status/1789317037904568757

    Israeli protesters blocked roads to prevent aid trucks from entering into Gaza, as civilians “are being starved and killed, and we are prevented from helping them,” a U.N. official said. Drone footage shows traffic at a standstill.

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    The only real investigation which has happened concerned who hit the al-Ahli Hospital in October. That took a day to find the truth. Everything else is just an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounding a puzzle. Israel’s claims about the Flour Massacre and the UNRWA? Well, the jury is still out. Official ETA late 2027. CNN just ran a story about an alleged torture site where suspected Hamas members are taken. Some detainees required amputations because of being handcuffed. I’m sure the US will be able to figure out the truth by 2030, give or take a year.

    And per @drj’s point–it’s obvious that human shield is a meaningless term. The alibi for the attack on World Kitchen convoy was the existence of one Hamas operative. What was he doing there? Most likely, his job: guarding the convoy. There’s a difference between assassination and killing someone in combat. Maybe Israel should cross the line in certain cases, just like America. But you have to the intelligence and moral sense to know about the line.

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    I think part of the problem that needs to be addressed is whether the Israeli government still actually controls the IDF, or has it essentially become the military wing of the religious zionist parties?

    Israel’s religious right has a clear plan for Gaza: ‘We are occupying, deporting and settling’

    The rise of religious military academies like this one has dramatically changed the makeup of the army, said Levy, the sociologist. Religious Zionists made up about 3% of officer school graduates in 1990, Levy’s research shows; in 2018, they accounted for over a third.

    Levy, who has written about what he calls the “theocratization of the Israeli military,” said the trend has caused conflicts, with some religious soldiers refusing to serve alongside women.

    A pressing question, he said, is whether religious soldiers would comply with orders to forcibly remove Jewish residents from a settlement — a scenario that could play out under the creation of a Palestinian state.

    Sadan said he teaches his students to always heed commands from military superiors. But during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, other rabbis called on soldiers to refuse orders, and some did.

    “What we see is growing resistance in the ranks,” Levy said. “They’re trying to challenge the formal codes of the military.”

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  7. gVOR10 says:

    Atrios’ title today is a pretty good summary of this investigation, It Seems There Are Some War Crimes, HOWEVER…

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The alibi for the attack on World Kitchen convoy was the existence of one Hamas operative. What was he doing there? Most likely, his job: guarding the convoy.

    Has the existence of the Hamas operative ever been proven? I’ve always assumed it was a complete lie. The only people killed were aid workers.

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  9. drj says:

    @Gustopher:

    Has the existence of the Hamas operative ever been proven?

    Nope.

    The lone Hamas operative was the IDF’s excuse for repeatedly striking the convoy.

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @drj:

    There’s also the question of whether the “Hamas operative” was Hamas Hamas, or only a “Hamas operative” in the sense that the janitor at the Gaza City city hall is technically a “Hamas operative” because they’re a government employee in the Gaza Strip.

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  11. Andy says:

    There’s no doubt Israel’s committed war crimes. In a long, complex, intense conflict such as this, it’s inevitable. Every military force will.

    The distinction is the extent to which war crimes are policy or what a military does when crimes or allegations of crimes are discovered. You look at Hamas, war crimes are an inherent part of their tactics and doctrine – not committing war crimes is the exception. You look at the US, and we do not intend to at all – to such an extent that we’ve embedded lawyers in our targeting processes. And generally, when allegations are made, we investigate and there is accountability and changes. I don’t think Israel achieves the US standard in that regard but they are closer than most other military forces globally. They are certainly better than any other force in the region to say nothing of Hamas.

    @drj:

    There are credible reports that the IDF, as a matter of policy, accepted up to 20 non-combatant casualties in exchange for a single low-level militant at home, i.e., not posing a direct military threat.

    They knew what they were doing and they knew they were breaking the law while they were doing it.

    You are incorrect in a couple of ways here. First, there is no defined standard for an incidental loss of civilian life compared to an expected military advantage. If you’re going to claim that Israel knew it was “breaking the law” then you must have some idea of where that line is drawn, or there must be some know standard that Israel knew it crossed – and there simply isn’t.

    Secondly, your point about posing a direct military threat is completely irrelevant. In war, you can attack the enemy wherever they are regardless of any threat they pose. Just ask the Ukrainians who have been striking all kinds of targets deep behind the front lines and even conducting assassinations.

    Here, for example, is a very recent HIMARS strike. It hit a restaurant in Donetsk in occupied Ukraine that reportedly was holding a celebration of DNR officials celebrating the 10th anniversary of their rebellion from Ukraine. There may have been some military DNR people here, but probably they were mostly political and civilian DNR leadership. Despite that, they were almost certainly legitimate targets to kill despite the fact they were neither military nor posed any direct threat.

    But they were at a civilian restaurant in a civilian area in occupied Ukraine. It’s quite likely these DNR people brought their families who aren’t legal targets. The restaurant staff are not legal targets for killing. Any other patrons in the restaurant are not legal targets for killing. Other civilians in the area are not legal targets for killing. The restaurant itself is not a legal target and it’s highly subjective whether an enemy merely dining at a restaurant turns a restaurant into a legal target. It’s one of those subjective and gray areas that’s open to interpretation, but generally, I think the strike would probably be considered legal.

    Say 50 non-combatants were killed. What about 150. War crime or not? Explain your reasoning. Where is the line drawn?

    We have no idea and likely never will know the total casualty figures, and when Ukraine authorized the strike they certainly only had a rough estimate of how many civilians they’d end up killing, and that’s not unusual. In war you often have to decide whether to strike or not to strike not knowing what the full effects will be. And then there is the fact that weapons have flight times and even with perfect information, the situation at the target can change between launch and weapon impact. Suffice it to say, that this gets complicated very fast, and in a high-stress environment when lives are literally on the line it’s very challenging to make the right call every time. So if you wonder why I tend to push back against monday morning quarterbacking, this is why.

    Back to Israel, if a standard of a maximum of 20 civilians for 1 fighter is too much and constitutes a war crime, then what ratio is acceptable in your view and wouldn’t be a war crime? What about for killing Sinwar? He’s more important than a low-level fighter, does that mean you would be OK with Israel killing more civilians if it could find and strike him? If so, how many more would be OK for you to kill him?

    Just to add some additional personal perspective I do not recall ever seeing a US policy that had a set ratio like I’ve seen in some reports for Israel. Decisions were situationally based and I’ve seen cases where we waited four months for a guy to leave his compound with his family before we killed him, to cases where we struck a compound with fighters shooting at our troops that we knew had families inside. This is where the “direct threat” or more correctly called the “inherent right to self defense” comes in such that concerns about civilian casualties go down significantly in priority when your guys are pinned down, dying, or bleeding out and you need to kill threats quickly and decisively. One of the realities of warfare is that military forces will always prioritize the safety and security of their own forces over others when things become existential.

    And you may not like to hear this, but there is a lot of that going on in Gaza. Hamas is not sitting on their asses in tunnels. They come out to fight, not just with guns, but with mortar teams, rpgs, machine guns, and fire and maneuver from terrain they know very well. They are not a bunch of dumb militia idiots with AK’s. Israeli forces are not going to just sit there and go mano on mano against Hamas who has a terrain, local knowledge, and defensive advantage, Israel is going to do what we do, which is use its firepower and other advantages.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    I’m sure there will be a multitude of rational responses to this excellent comment. /s

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  13. JohnSF says:

    I have a background bias on these matters. I suspect.
    Some forty years ago, I had a fairly long conversation with a former WW2 RAF Operations Staff planning officer, the elder brother of a friend of my father, who was also RAF.
    In short, the general RAF pov was that, given the means, they’d have burned Germany down to the bedrock.
    TUBE ALLOYS was not initiated for entertainment value.

    Similarly, one cousin was in RAF V-force, whose purpose was to reduce much of Russia to a radioacative wasteland.

    I spent a merry evening getting rather inebriated on vintage calvados in Normandy with another friend of Dad, a modest, amusing, and urbane chap, who was going to be inducted into the Legion d’Honneur. And who was perhaps the most dangerous man I’ve ever met. SOE.

    Then again, grandfather Lewis was an KSLI assault rifleman on the Somme.
    Grandfather Farren was artillery at Megiddo (“Armageddon? Been there. Done that.”)
    And this is a small sample of those I’ve known who’ve been engaged in the horrors of war, actual or potential, over the past century.

    The point of all this?
    War, actual or planned, is highly unpleasant.
    The Allies killed tens of thousands of French civilians, knowingly, and with the approval of the french government in exile in the execution of the invasions of 1944.

    It is foolish to expect Israel to exercise a surgically precise elimination of Hamas.
    However, it is even more foolish for Israel, in large part due to Netanyahu’s political moves, in hope of remaining in power (a forlorn hope if ever there was one) to fail to realistically address either Gaza refugee relocation or post-operation order in Gaza.

    It is also rather foolish of Americans to try to shoe-horn Israeli politics into an American framework of “European white guys oppress people of color”.
    For instance, take Itamar Ben-Gvir.
    His parents were both Mizrahi Iraqi, native speakers of Arabic or Kurdish respectively.
    His politics are, IMO, both pernicious and mistaken.
    But trying to fit them into a frame of “white settlers colonial apartheid BOO!” is a mistake.
    In many respects, the thing that gets missed about modern Israel is that it IS NOT some alien European or (per the silly students) pseudo-American enclave in the Middle East.
    It is a Middle Eastern country in many aspects; including the willingness of Arabs (which most Israelis are, by descent, much as both sides may shriek their denial of it) to happily slaughter other Arabs.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: Ukraine has a clear stated goal. What they do is a means to an ends, which makes it possible to weigh the costs against the benefits.

    As Stalin* said: you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. People die in war, no army has ever not committed war crimes, and all we can ask is smaller, fewer war crimes and a purpose.

    Israel has no stated goal beyond “destroy Hamas”. There’s no definition of what “destroy Hamas” means, nor any plan for a new status quo that won’t just lead to three guys and a shovel digging new tunnels are creating Hamas 2: The Revenge of Hamas.

    There are also a lot of statements from the minor cabinet ministers stating that their goal is ethnic cleansing. It’s hard to discount these statements when they are the only statements about the future of Gaza.

    So, we have mass civilian deaths and famine to…

    Look, at least the mythical Stalin** was breaking a few eggs to make an omelet. There is no evidence of omelet with Israel — their goal is either ethnic cleansing (if we believe the minor cabinet ministers) or nothing.

    They’ve had six months to come up with some vision of a new status quo that they are fighting for. They’ve got nothing.

    The killing isn’t a means to an ends, it’s just the ends itself.

    And then blocking of aid, cutting off water, targeting aid workers, killing a shocking number of journalists, suspending Al Jazeera within Israel… that all makes sense.

    ——
    *: sure he never really said this. Nor anything about beating a lot of beets to make a borscht.

    **: the real Stalin doesn’t rank with the mythical Stalin, at least in terms of egg-based analogies.

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  15. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnSF:

    The Soviet Union lost 20 million of its citizens due to the German invasion, so the idea that Allies used disproportionate violence against the Nazis is just dumb.

    Look at the numbers on the Algerian war of independence. French dead 30K. Algerian civilian dead maybe 300K or more. I don’t think the colonialist model fits exactly, but the numbers line up.

    Frankly, most of the pro-Israel arguments in this conflict amount to people having no actual moral development and then being happy that the spectacle of terrorism exists, because finally you have something to be against. The lack of actual public righteousness and justice after what was a barbaric massacre on 10/7 has been obvious from about 10/8 on, unless you read what slips through the cracks of propaganda.

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  16. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF:

    In many respects, the thing that gets missed about modern Israel is that it IS NOT some alien European or (per the silly students) pseudo-American enclave in the Middle East.
    It is a Middle Eastern country in many aspects; including the willingness of Arabs (which most Israelis are, by descent, much as both sides may shriek their denial of it) to happily slaughter other Arabs.

    Israel (and its proxies) has, for many, many years aggressively marketed itself to Americans as the beacon of democracy and western values in the Middle East.

    And this propaganda has continued. You saw elements of that early in the war when nearly every pro-Israel voice in America simultaneously started the pink-washing arguing that the left should support Israeli war crimes because Hamas would kill gay people and only Israel has our values at heart*.

    If people actually started believing that propaganda, and want to hold Israel to those western values, that seems like a problem of Israel’s own making.

    ——
    *: Given that Israel has killed 2.5% of the Gaza population, and assuming an even distribution of queer folks in Gaza, Israel has killed 2.5% of the queer population in Gaza, which seems like more than Hamas could get to in a similar time period.

    I’m also not willing to weigh cishet lives at 0 value, which would be needed to get any of the math even close. I value cishet lives as at least 0.6 times the value of a human life.

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  17. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Propaganda.
    Meh.
    I have little interest in such.
    A somewhat distant cousin of mine was killed by the Irgun in 1947.
    Had I had my my way, I’d have merrily arrested and hung Menachim Begin from Tower Bridge in 1977.
    But that’s just me.
    Obtaining a solution in “regio Palestinia” today is another matter.
    Hamas, however, is not inclined to a solution, short of a “final” one.
    It really is necessary to recognise what the various parties in this matter aim to obchieve.

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @Gustopher:

    And this propaganda has continued. You saw elements of that early in the war when nearly every pro-Israel voice in America simultaneously started the pink-washing arguing that the left should support Israeli war crimes because Hamas would kill gay people and only Israel has our values at heart*.

    But these were idiotic and obviously flawed arguments. Very few people in the modern world are given the means to think for themselves about life and death. Arendt’s conception of the banality of evil has taken a great deal of criticism. But there is a truth to it. Scaled-upwards into insane heights, this lack of means becomes Eichmann’s testimony in Jerusalem: a clown, an idiot, a babbling normal man. Not everybody is Eichmann and most people are given shoddy means by a broken system to justify the next day and the day after that. The shoddy stuff should forgotten in a second.

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  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnSF:

    Begin was born in Poland and he left in 1937, I think. I feel like you have the right to be a terrorist if you were born in a deeply antisemitic place like Poland and you got the hell out right before the Germans invaded and put everyone in Warsaw before sending them to the camps.

    Netanyahu, on the other hand, had a crank dad and suffered more normal defeats and horrors as a person.

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  20. JohnSF says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    The UK had little interest in any moral calculus that involved the Soviet Union.
    The bolsheviki were allies of convenience.
    As displayed by both the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and by Katyn, and the Soviet acts re the Polish resistance.
    How ironic: you survive the Gestapo, only to be murdered by the NKVD.

    My point was that the British were perfectly prepared to use massively disproportionate force against Germany.
    As I have mentioned, I’ve spoken to RAF ops planners who’d have been quite prepared, had the means been to hand, to have destroyed every sizable German city, industrial facility, or military centre they could have hit.
    At whatever cost in “innocent civilians”.
    Perhaps we are “better” than they were,
    Perhaps not.
    “There’s a place below zero,
    when all your dreams have gone to dust
    you no longer do what you may wish to
    you only do the things you must”

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself: @JohnSF:
    The firestorms that destroyed cities like Hamburg, were not accidents. The RAF had studied the matter. It seems the best approach was to drop high explosives to blow the roofs off, then drop the incendiaries because what’s inside of buildings burns more readily. In Hamburg people boiled in the river. 40,000 died. The firestorm caused a fire tornado 1500 feet high. People were trapped in melted pavement.

    The Brits were annoyed, and not having it.

    We did the thing modern sensibilities prefer, so-called precision daylight bombing. Which meant we lost a huge number of men, so when we got to Japan we had B-29’s dropping incendiaries on wooden cities, without pretense of their being military targets. And then the nukes. The alternative to nukes was starving the entire country to death.

    The point being no one starts a war thinking they’ll be butchers. Everyone thinks they’ll be a hero, everyone thinks their side is right, everyone rationalizes the descent into savagery. The Iowa farm boy finds himself taking enemy teeth as war trophies. War is evil.

    When judging Israel or any country, look at the issue in the context not of normalcy, but of war.

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  22. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Israel is a country, with a specific history.
    It is neither immaculate nor damnable.
    It just is.
    As far as such things goes, the Israeli operation in Gaza seems rather rather less extreme than, for instance, the Anfal.
    Whether it is in the interests of the US to continue to support Israel is another matter.
    It may well be that it might be considered optimal to accept the annihilation of Israel and the mass killing of its people, to both serve US policy, and to embrace the righteousness of anti-imperialism.
    On the other hand, the Israelis might not co-operate with such righteous plans.
    Oh dear.

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  23. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The Brits were annoyed

    Indeed.
    My father (roughly):
    “We were digging out the rubble of the old street. There was a whole family. As the dust and ash came off, they all had red hair. Odd, but that always stuck with me.”
    Subsequently, he volunteered for the RAF.
    Both Churchill and Air Marshal Harris quoted: “They have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.”
    There were quite a few Coventry folks who had the whirlwind tattoo.
    And it’s oft forgot that RAF planning included options for use of chemical weapons, anthrax, and “special explosives”.
    The Brits were, indeed, annoyed.
    And let’s not forget: unlike Japan or Germany re. the US, the Germans did not attack or declare war upon the UK.
    We declared war upon them.
    Because they were annoying.

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  24. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Ukraine has a clear stated goal. What they do is a means to an ends, which makes it possible to weigh the costs against the benefits.

    and

    Israel has no stated goal beyond “destroy Hamas”. There’s no definition of what “destroy Hamas” means, nor any plan for a new status quo that won’t just lead to three guys and a shovel digging new tunnels are creating Hamas 2: The Revenge of Hamas.

    I think your judgments about their goals are both incorrect and irrelevant to whether any particular strike is a war crime.

    Incorrect because Israel’s goal is not just “destroy Hamas.” That is both overly simplistic and incomplete.

    And incorrect because both are working towards ends via military means – the ability of either country to achieve those ends through military means or via specific military strategies is a different discussion. War crimes involve the conduct of war, not subjective judgments about goals.

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  25. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Thank you very much!

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