If we are to err as Americans on any side in our critique of other countries, it should be in the direction of being...
By Amitabh Pal
The Gaza conflict may be over, but the repercussions for Israel linger on, not least whether Israel can be held accountable for violating international law.
More than 400 children in Gaza were among the almost 2,000 Palestinians killed in the assault, according to the United Nations.
Several human rights organizations have called out Israel for its actions.
"Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25, 2014," Human Rights Watch reports. "Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes."
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem also questions Israel's rationale.
"Israel states that all the attacks on Gaza were only aimed at military targets -- yet it defines 'military target' so broadly that the term loses all meaning," the group says. "Israel states that all its strikes in Gaza were proportionate, and that the fact that civilians were killed does not in itself contradict that. Yet after dozens of strikes, each killing many uninvolved civilians, while Israel did not prove or even claim military gains significant enough to render such damage proportionate, this argument is no longer tenable."
Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois, and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law, says the Palestinians leadership should begin legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the basis of the 1948 Genocide Convention. He has given up hope on the International Criminal Court, saying it is biased toward the United States and Israel.
Human Rights Watch and others take a different view.
Legal proceedings at the International Criminal Court "could ensure access to international justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Palestinian territories, and would send an important message that such crimes cannot be committed with impunity," Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and several other human rights groups state in an open letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"People who want to end the lack of accountability in Palestine and deter future abuse should urge President Abbas to seek access to the ICC," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of the organization, states in a press release.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has already established a commission to investigate any violations during the Gaza war. While John Quigley, professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, is supportive of the move, he also points out its limitations.
"It is appropriate for the U.N. Human Rights Council to set up an inquiry," he says. "Such an inquiry, though, will not result in any finding that would have binding effect. What should be happening is that the Security Council should deal with war crimes in Gaza with a view to imposing sanctions on Israel. But with a U.S. veto in the Security Council this is not likely to happen. So an inquiry by the Human Rights Council is the next best option."
The commission is expected to issue its report sometime next year.