When you’re feeling down and out and thinking this world has killed every blushing ashes of imagination, take comfort in the fact Israel will always spark up new ideas and acting on them. Taking the concept of mad scientistry to a whole new level, they may now have a new kink in their steel: the creation of a new crime against humanity. Surely that’s something to be proud of.

crimes against humanity vs collateral damage: more than just legal rhetoric.

crimes against humanity vs collateral damage: more than just legal rhetoric.

According to Richard Falk, the United Nations’ rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, Israel’s systematic attempt to gather Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and regularly bomb them, without giving them any chance to flee or to retreat into other areas – increasingly taken over by new settlements – constitute a crime against humanity. “Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity, and should be formally recognised as such, and explicitly prohibited,” Falk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. Under the pretense of attempting to destroy Hamas, allegedly hiding within civilian zones and humanitarian buildings, Israel killed over 1,300 Palestinians last January, in just three weeks.  For the United Nations, this is closing in on genocide a little too much.

Lest we shake in fear for Israel’s Nobel Prize in military strategy: the United States has vehemently reacted to the report, saying it was “biased” and “anything but fair”, which is, really, a case of misunderstanding, as the United States’ Department of Defense has never shown anything resembling, even remotely, fairness and impartiality in the five-decades long conflict that has divided the post-Cold War world in allies and axes of evil. The clash of civilization we all thought we were too evolved to ever experience is now blowing in our faces.  Falk wasn’t the only one to blow the whistle on Israel’s cleansing policies – his commentary on human rights violations were a part of a nine-part report regarding access to health care, food availability, adequate housing and education, adding to legal issue posed by summary executions and the treatment of women. The Gaza Strip is nothing more than what the name describes  – a strip of land covering 40km in length and hardly 10 in width, in which are crammed approx. 1.5 million people. The fear of carpet bombing and Israeli retaliation is just one side of the desperate scheme of their lives.

As usual, victimization seems to be the only response to factual accusations based on statistic and empirical evidence.  The only answer Aharon Leshno Yar, Israel’s ambassador the United Nations council, could come up with is a year-old badly rehearsed speech on how Hamas destroyed South Israel with their rockets; obviously, and obnoxiously so, this appeared as a legitimate ground to completely legally bomb and destroy Palestinians, falling into the collateral damage category as human shield between a vehemently belligerent party and a state that has never known the rule of law. Political chaos and legal values pushed aside in the name of national pride has driven Palestinians outside of their own homes, that is, if they had any to begin with. 40% of the Gaza population are unemployed, and 72% are living under the poverty threshold.

In this context, common sense is hardly ever common, and absurdity prevails. Richard Falk, pressured by the United States to justify himself on a topic that should be self-explanatory, explained that if Israel is not capable of differentiating military targets from civilians, then it shouldn’t strike at all. In Gaza’s case, “the attacks [are] inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”, Falk underlines with the greatest possible emphasis on the legal side of the coin, which he believes should have a stronger appeal to nation states than “simple” and perhaps “biased” visions of human rights. Taking as much distance as one possibly can in such circumstances, appealing to reason and objectivity, Falk is basing his conclusions on what he witnessed first-hand, empirical information given to him not as a human rights fighter, but a United Nations rapporteur, in all the complexity and respectability the position entails. In return, Falk has been expelled from Israel, who didn’t really appreciate Falk’s interpretation of international criminal law.

Under international criminal law, as defined by the article 6 of the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity consist in “particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings.”  Law precises that “[…] political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice.” If the term was first coined in 1915 to describe the Armenian Genocide, crimes against humanity entered international law with the Nüremberg Trials, where officiers of the Nazi regime were judged for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Jewish population in Europe.

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