Amnesty’s great campaign for Israel-Hamas arms embargo

Huge kudos to Amnesty International for having pulled together a well-researched and intelligent report on the international arms suppliers who were complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the recent Israel-Gaza war, and for concluding it with a forthright call to all there arms suppliers to cease their arms shipments to the belligerents forthwith.
The news release about the report is here, and the PDF of the report’s full text is here.
(Astute readers of JWN will recall that one of the first things I called for when the recent Gaza war broke out was a complete embargo on all arms shipments to the warring parties.)
Of course, the lethal and destructive capabilities of the arsenals of the two sides are completely asymmetrical. And regarding the shipments of arms to each sides by outside arms suppliers, we can recall Kathy Kelly’s poignant recent speculation regarding the sheer size of the “tunnels” that would be required if all Israel’s arms imports had to be brought in in such a way.
The Amnesty report does three things particularly well:

    1. It pulls together a lot of details about the size, nature, and provenance of the arms transfers made to each side– and, too, of the effects some of these transferred arms had on the communities targeted. And while it is careful to do this for both sides, the report makes quite clear the stark disparity between the level and lethality of the arms level on each side. In particular, though the report is careful to list all the suppliers of significant amounts of arms to srael, the figures it provides show that the overwhelming majority of these outside-supplied arms– $7.9 billion-worth in the four years 2004-2007– came from the United States. The second place was occupied by France, which provided only $59 million-worth.
    2. It provides a very clear explanation (p. 19 of the full report) of the duty all states have under international law to avoid aiding or assisting other states in the commission of unlawful acts. This duty is spelled out in Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001), which states: “A State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if: (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State.” After the way the Israelis used their foreign-supplied weapons in and against Lebanon in 2006, surely no state officials elsewhere could thereafter argue that “they did not know” that Israel had a propensity to use such weapons in ways that were grossly disproportionate to the military task at hand and often grossly indiscriminate… Also, in addition to the duties states have under international law, most states– including the US– also have their own domestic legislation governing the end use of weapons it supplies to others. In the case of the US, such arms can be used only for defensive purposes.
    3. Finally, the Amnesty report is quite clear on the policies it advocates. It calls for the immediate imposition of a “comprehensive UN Security Council arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons or munitions and other military equipment will not be used to commit serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the establishment of a ” thorough, independent and impartial investigation of violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the Israeli attacks which have been directed at civilians or civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip, or which are disproportionate, and Palestinian armed groups’ indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian centres in southern Israel.”

So now, let’s see what the AI organization in the US, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli occupation can do with this information and this campaign.
Addendum, at 2:00 p.m., EST:
I see that Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has “slammed” Amnesty for its report, which he described as “unbalanced and unfair because it equates the criminal with the victim.” Doubtless the government of Israel won’t be far behind in denouncing the report.
Regarding Barhoum’s criticism, I would note that the provisions of international humanitarian law on which Amnesty bases its argument deal overwhelmingly with questions of how belligerent parties fight their wars rather than why they fight them. International law does, certainly, give a general right to people living under foreign military occupation to resist their occupiers, including by using military force to do so. (And also, by inviting other states to come and join them in doing so– as the Kuwaitis did, in 1990-91.) So any actions that Hamas takes that can be seen as constituting direct resistance to Israel’s military occupation of Gaza or the West Bank would be considered legitimate.
Thus, for example, just about all the military operations Hamas and others undertook against IOF forces who invaded Gaza during the war– or any actions they might have taken to defend against air or naval assaults against Gaza– would be completely legal.
You could certainly argue that if, during the recent war or in the immediate and quite evident run-up to it, the Palestinian resistance groups had sent rockets or against valid military targets inside Israel, that would have been legal too. What’s illegal as a way of war-fighting is to send out rockets or other ordnance that is not targeted as carefully as possible onto valid military targets.
One important point is that there is good evidence that in the past Hamas has tried to target military targets– mainly, military bases– inside Israel. But the Israeli censorship system forbids any reporting or mention of that. Another is that the targetability of the rockets used by Hamas and other groups is pretty darn poor in many cases. And another is that groups other than Hamas– including, as the Amnesty report notes, groups affiliated with Fateh– are also militarily active inside Gaza; and they may have targeting philosophies that are different from Hamas’s. (However, Hamas, as the predominant authority in the Gaza Strip, has a responsibility to try to curb the actions of any other groups that are committing war-crimes through the indiscriminate firing of missiles into Israel.)
… All in all, Barhoum has something of an argument, but not I think a 100% watertight argument.
Meanwhile, for myself, as a US citizen, I am most concerned with the involvement of my government in this whole business. If the US government were supplying any weapons to Hamas or other Palestinian factions, I would probably want to examine their practices and targeting philosophies much more rigorously. But it is not. It is massively supplying arms to a country that has used many of them to commit war crimes. I shall therefore focus centrally on the responsibilities that that entails.

10 thoughts on “Amnesty’s great campaign for Israel-Hamas arms embargo

  1. Hamzi Ham

    I didnt see AI condemning Iran for prodding Hamas to fire rockets into Israel. Do Iranian leaders worry about being extradited to the Hague for war crimes committed using Iranian made Grad missiles?

  2. Helena

    There is no evidence that Iran “prodded” Hamas to do this– or, that the US “prodded” Israel to crush Gaza. Hamzi, if you’re a real person, you should know you’re raising a quite irrelevant point.
    The evidence regarding Iranian arms supplies to Gaza is scant. That regarding US arms supplies to Israel is completely overwhelming. Anyway, let all these infusions of machines of destruction and terror into the area be frozen while a UN-mandated investigatory commission investigates the use and the effects of the arms used in the recent war.

  3. Helena

    There is no evidence that Iran “prodded” Hamas to do this– or, that the US “prodded” Israel to crush Gaza. Hamzi, if you’re a real person, you should know you’re raising a quite irrelevant point.
    The evidence regarding Iranian arms supplies to Gaza is scant. That regarding US arms supplies to Israel is gigantic, completely overwhelming. Anyway, as Amnesty and I say, let ALL infusions of these machines of destruction and terror into the area be frozen while a UN-mandated investigatory commission investigates the use and the effects of the arms used in the recent war.
    Also, I don’t think Iran makes Grads. It may have supplied some, in apparently small numbers. But it’s important to try to keep the facts straight and clear.

  4. John Francis Lee

    Take Action: President Obama to Sanction Israel?
    …there are growing indications that the Obama Administration is considering sanctioning Israel. According to a senior Israeli security official in a Feb. 17 article in Ma’ariv, Israel fears that Special Envoy George Mitchell will convince the White House to cut military aid as a response to Israel’s ongoing settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. A Feb. 15 Ha’aretz article speculated that amounts available for U.S. loan guarantees to Israel would be cut for the same reason.
    It may just be that the folks at endtheoccupation.org are just borrowing a page from the Obama organization’s book and leaking “impending” events hoping that their “prophecy” will then fulfill itself.
    I wish them luck. This would be a wonderful change from politics as usual.

  5. Michael Jansen

    A key point is that there is no attempt at equivalence in the report. Pages 3-15 cover
    “Misuse of conventional arms by Israel” while
    page 16-15 (one page) deals with “Unlawful use
    of indiscriminate rockets by Hamas and other
    Palestinian armed groups.” “Arms supplies to
    Israel” begins on page 16 and ends at the top
    of 30 while “Arms supplies to Hamas and other
    Palestinian armed groups” covers the rest of
    page 30 and half of 31. Pages 33-38 contain
    tables on proposed US arms and fuel sales to
    Israel.
    Amnesty also points out that the arms Israel uses are extremely lethal while those used by the Palestinians are not very lethal – as the low casualty rate shows.

  6. Michael J. Totten

    I’ve just returned from a week-long trip through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Israel’s border with Gaza, and I’m reminded all over again of what has been beaten into me during my many visits to the Middle East: there is no solution to the problems that vex that region right now. Most Americans are inherently optimistic and think just about any problem in the world can be solved. We put a man on the moon before I was born, but that was easy compared with securing peace between Israelis and Arabs.
    The American Jewish Committee brought me and seven of my colleagues to Israel and set up interviews with Israeli military officers, politicians, academics, and journalists on the far-left, the far-right and at every point in between. One of my colleagues asked the eternal question during one of our meetings. “What is the solution to this problem?” He meant the Arab-Israeli conflict, of course, and the answer from our Israeli host was revealing in more ways than one. “You Americans are always asking us that,” he said and laughed darkly.
    Americans aren’t the only ones who have a hard time grasping the idea of an intractable problem. “Unfortunately we Westerners are impatient,” said an Israeli politician who preferred not to be named. “We want fast food and peace now. But it won’t happen. We need a long strategy.” “Most of Israel’s serious problems don’t have a solution,” said Dr. Dan Schueftan, Director of National Security Studies at the University of Haifa. “Israelis have only recently understood this, and most foreign analysts still don’t understand it.”
    A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but that’s not an option. Most Arab governments at least implicitly say they will recognize Israel’s right to exist inside its pre-1967 borders, but far too many Palestinians still won’t recognize Israel’s right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist inside any borders at all.
    “We will never recognize Israel,” senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan said before he was killed by an air strike in Gaza during the recent fighting. “There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination.”
    Hamas does not speak for all Palestinians. I’ve met Palestinians who sincerely despise Hamas and everything it stands for. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Hamas speaks for a genuinely enormous number of Palestinians, and peace is impossible as long as that’s true. An-Najah University conducted a poll of Palestinian public opinion a few months ago and found that 53.4 percent persist in their rejection of a two-state solution.
    Far too many Westerners make the mistake of projecting their own views onto Palestinians without really understanding the Palestinian narrative. The “occupation” doesn’t refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The “occupation” refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is “occupied Palestine” according to most. “It makes no sense to a Palestinian to think about a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Martin Kramer from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem said to me a few days ago. “From the Palestinian perspective, Israel will always exist inside Palestine.”
    “Making peace with the Palestinians is harder than making peace with other Arabs,” said Asher Susser, Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University. “With the Palestinians we have a 1948 file as well as a 1967 file. With other Arabs we only have a 1967 file. The 1967 file relates to our size, but the 1948 file relates to our very being. It is nearly impossible to resolve because we cannot compromise on our being.”
    The problem here isn’t just with the worst of the violent rejectionists. Even the moderates on each side remain too far apart.
    Fatah Party leader Mahmoud Abbas is clearly more moderate and reasonable than the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but even he can’t compromise on the “right of return,” the so-far non-negotiable demand that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war be allowed to return to settle in Israel. Israel would become an Arab-majority country if that were to happen, and most of the would-be arrivals have been radicalized in politically toxic refugee camps. The “right of return” would ignite a civil war worse than Lebanon’s.
    Listen to Ran Cohen, Member of the Knesset for the left-wing Meretz Party and former leader of the Left Camp of Israel peace movement. “Even I refuse the right of return,” he said. “It’s impossible. It’s the opposite of a solution. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the others know our position on the right of return. Who are they going [to] negotiate this with? Not me, not Meretz, not Peace Now. Who? The Communist Party? Not even the radical left supports this.”
    Palestinian right-of-returners aren’t the only ones to contend with. “We cannot look at Israel-Syrian talks or Israeli-Palestinian talks without looking at how Iran influences these talks,” said an Israeli intelligence officer who asked not to be named. “Iran has its fingers all over these talks. The situation is much more difficult now than it was in 2000.”
    All wars end, and this mother of all quagmires will eventually end like the others. But the Middle East will have to change before it is solvable. President Barack Obama no doubt will pull out all the stops to broker a peace agreement no matter how bleak the prospects may look. There is something to be said for struggling against long odds, and an excessively negative attitude can be self-defeating. Perhaps it’s even worth sponsoring a doomed peace process just to keep up appearances so the United States won’t be blamed when it continues to fail. But President Obama should take care to proceed as though failure – through no fault of his own – is the most likely outcome right now.
    Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a cautionary note to Israelis in the New York Times that applies just as well to the Obama Administration. “There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation,” he wrote. “This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief. The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.”
    Dan Schueftan made a similar point much more bluntly when I met him last week in Israel. “Ariel Sharon believed we could change the world by force,” he said. “Shimon Peres believed we could change it by being nice and stupid. They are both megalomaniacs.”

  7. Shirin

    Thank you so much, Michael, for sharing with us this excellent compilation of the standard Israeli tripe. Not that we haven’t heard it all before thousands of times, but it was nice of you to put it here all in one place for us in such a well-organized, and beautifully one-sided manner.
    I am sure the Israeli hosts who paid for and managed your trip for you are very pleased with you indeed.

  8. Yann

    Amnesty’s scandalous obliquity
    http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/en/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87MDI46m9rUxJEpMO%2bi1s7UjoULHVXog95NRxsiC59kOAeFApZYBA07w5Klgj4cTs2sCplfSsfoXgxb3cz6N3D4YrX9l6Ei1IRHGBylzEl2RaKPr6Zc9na6wfwhVFLyJA%3d
    (Khalid Amayreh, The Palestinian Information Center, 25/02/09)
    “To be sure, no one claims that Hamas is completely blameless. Targeting innocent civilians is unacceptable.
    (…)
    (…) instead of blaming the victims for resisting their oppressors, the world, including AI, ought to tell Israel that it can’t just incarcerate 1.5 million civilians within the confines of an open-air prison, surrounded by barbed wire, watchtowers, tanks, landmines, and other state-of-the-art machines of death, and then expect the victims to display love and understanding toward their tormentors and oppressors.
    (…)
    Failing to do so, by cowering before Israeli pressure, would further corrode AI image as the world’s premier human rights organization.”

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