Gaza ceasefire negotiations, Israeli airstrikes and ICC arrest warrants

ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND THE WAR ON GAZA

The strategy goes well beyond defeating an opponent: it seeks to destroy key infrastructure and the economy, with many civilian casualties. – Professor emeritus Paul Rogers

Israel’s misuse of force in the Gaza war

In our last post, we briefly focused on Israel’s “Dahiya doctrine” of using disproportionate military force against the entire civilian population, promising a closer look this week. The doctrine is named after the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, where Hezbollah was headquartered during the 2006 Lebanon War, which was “flattened” by the IDF.

For a detailed summary of this doctrine, see the excellent Wikipedia entry here.  See also the 5 December 2023 article by Professor Paul Rogers in the Guardian available here.

Use of Dahiya doctrine in 2008-09 Gaza War

The 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict states in paragraph 62:

The tactics used by the Israeli armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.

The Mission concludes from a review of the facts on the ground that it witnessed for itself that what was prescribed as the best strategy [the Dahiya doctinre] appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.

The Wikipedia entry also discusses the alleged retraction of the UN report and its conclusions by one of the lead authors, Judge Richard Goldstone, and the ensuing joint statement by his three co-authors, Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani; Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and former Irish peacekeeper Desmond Travers, who “firmly” stood by the report’s conclusion.

The Guardian, which received the joint statement, describes their response to Goldstone’s comments as “devastating,” adding:

Though they do not mention Goldstone by name, they shoot down several of the main contentions in his article and imply that he has bowed to intense political pressure….

In their joint statement, Goldstone’s three report co-authors point to the “personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission,” adding that

had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitise our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade.

Dahiya doctrine in use in the 2014 Gaza war

Palestinian American scholar Rashid Khalidi wrote in the fall of 2014:

Israeli military correspondents and security analysts repeatedly reported that the Dahiya doctrine was Israel’s strategy throughout the war in Gaza this past summer.

He added:

Let us be frank: this is actually less of a strategic doctrine than it is an explicit outline of collective punishment and probable war crimes.

IDF tactics in the current Gaza war may constitute an extension of the Dahiya doctrine

Commentators for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Mondoweiss have noted that the attacks of the Israeli Defense Forces on the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip during the current war may constitute an extension of the doctrine.

Haaretz, for example, reported that IDF had dropped “all restraint” in its war and killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure at an “unprecedented” rate.

[This is a] doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name: state terrorism – Richard Falk

Richard Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University who — from 2008 to 2014 — was also United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, has written that, under the doctrine,

the civilian infrastructure of adversaries such as Hamas or Hezbollah are treated as permissible military targets, which is not only an overt violation of the most elementary norms of the law of war and of universal morality, but an avowal of a doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name: state terrorism.

For his most recent writing on the Gaza conflict, see In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history (euromedmonitor.org, 25 February 2024).

The World Central Kitchen aid worker targeted killings

[The IDF] targeted the aid workers] systematically, car by car. – WCK CEO, Jose Andres

On Tuesday, 2 April 2024, Israeli air strikes killed six international aid workers and a Palestinian driver working for the US-based aid group World Central Kitchen. The dead were from Palestine, Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, as well as a US-Canada citizen.

According to a statement released by the charity:

The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle…

Despite coordinating movements with the [Israeli army], the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.

To be clear, after the first car was hit by an air strike, the survivors fled to the second car. It too was targeted, forcing the survivors to flee again to the third vehicle, which in turn was targeted, leaving none of them alive.

The WCK immediately suspended further aid deliveries due to the security situation, as did the World Food Program. UNRWA, for several weeks, had already been barred by Israel from making aid deliveries to Northern Gaza.

The Rideau Institute comments

It is hard not to see this action as a further effort by Israel to engender exactly the result it got — the suspension of further aid convoys to the North. A fact they did not count on, however, was that the aid workers killed were not Palestinians but Westerners.

Unexpectedly strong US reaction causes Israel to change course – slightly

The U.S. had warned its Middle Eastern ally to immediately adjust course in certain aspects of its war in Gaza during a half-hour phone call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – Alexander Panetta, CBC News

Amidst an international outcry and demands from the WCK CEO for an independent investigation of a “deliberate targeting” of the aid vehicles and an unexpectedly strong reaction from the US, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) launched an internal inquiry.

The military concluded that three major failings occurred:

  • The first is that the coordination plan agreed between the WCK and the IDF was not distributed down to the operational level.
  • The second is that a suspicion that an armed man had entered one of the vehicles [which was not the case] was not enough to justify identifying it as a target.
  • The third failing was to continue firing after the first missile had struck the first car.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in response stated in part:

The Israeli government has acknowledged mistakes. But the essential problem is not who made the mistakes, it is the military strategy and procedures in place that allow for those mistakes to multiply time and time again.

Fixing those failures requires independent investigations and meaningful and measurable changes on the ground.

196 humanitarian workers have been killed and we want to know why each one of them was killed.

Israeli investigation leaves key questions unanswered

In an article for the Guardian, their senior international reporter, Peter Beaumont, wrote:

The rapidly completed investigation failed to resolve key questions including why soldiers from the Nahal brigade responsible were unaware that humanitarian vehicles were operating in the area with IDF permission, and why commanders launched an attack that the IDF said was in flagrant breach of its operational rules.

Beaumont cites a tweet by Charlie Herbert, a retired British general who has been a trenchant critic of Israel’s operations during the current conflict:

Two quite junior officers dismissed…. Presumably for very bad judgment, with tragic consequences. But the real issue here is an institutional one with IDF rules of engagement and disregard for ‘collateral damage’. This is the reason for huge civilian casualties since October.

Systemic problems also highlighted by Oxfam

The Guardian also references Scott Paul, of Oxfam, who stated in a briefing with other relief organisations on 4 April before the results of Israel’s investigation were released:

Let’s be very clear. This is tragic but it is not an anomaly. The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.

As the UN Secretary-General himself underscored, 196 UN aid workers have been killed since the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Israel’s alleged AI-assisted targeting list: the Lavender programme

A report published on 3 April by Yuval Abraham, writing in  +972 magazine and Local Call  (and extensively reviewed in both the Washington Post and the Guardian among others), indicates that Israel has allegedly used an AI-powered database, dubbed Lavender, to select suspected Hamas and other militant targets in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The article reports that an Israeli intelligence officer told Abraham:

We were not interested in killing [Hamas] operatives only when they were in a military building or engaged in a military activity.  On the contrary, the IDF bombed them in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home.

The [Lavender] system is built to look for them in these situations.

Dumb bombs used for “junior operatives” in their homes with their families

Many of the munitions Israel dropped on targets allegedly selected by Lavender were “dumb” bombs — heavy, unguided weapons that inflicted significant damage and loss of civilian life.

According to Abraham’s reporting, Israeli officials didn’t want to “waste” more expensive precision-guided munitions on the many junior-level Hamas “operatives” identified by the program.

We attacked almost without considering collateral damage. – Israeli source knowledgeable about the Lavender programme

Collateral damage was authorized in the order of 15-20 civilians per strike when targeting junior Hamas operatives (a higher figure than in previous conflicts). And for senior-ranking Hamas commanders, Abraham was told:

the military is authorizing the killing of “hundreds” of civilians per target — an official policy for which there is no historical precedent in Israel….

Israel continues to maintain it follows the laws of war

In response to the article, the Israeli Defense Forces issued a statement, printed in the Guardian and available HERE, which relegates the Lavender programme to “a database,” not a “list of confirmed military operatives eligible for attack.”

The IDF does not carry out strikes when the expected collateral damage from the strike is excessive in relation to the military advantage. – IDF statement

In their response, the IDF reiterated its claim — despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary — that, in their air strikes, they follow the dictates of international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality.

US intelligence assessment also discloses widespread Israeli use of unguided, not precision, bombs

Almost half the munitions Israel has used in Gaza since the war began have been unguided bombs, a U.S. intelligence assessment has found. – Washington Post, 14 December 2023.

A 14 December 2023 Washington Post article discusses the revelation, disclosed in a US intelligence assessment, that despite its constant assertions of precision targeting, the IDF had used unguided dumb bombs in almost half of its strikes on Gaza.

Some experts believe this high percentage of unguided bombs helps explain the conflict’s enormous civilian death toll. Brian Castner, senior crisis adviser and weapons investigator at Amnesty International, elaborates:

It is challenging in the best of circumstances to differentiate between valid military targets and civilians [in Gaza]….  And so just under basic rules of discretion, the Israeli military should be using the most precise weapons that it can that it has available and be using the smallest weapon appropriate for the target.

Children in Gaza killed by sniper bullets and “quadcopter” drones.

A recent article in the Guardian recounts evidence from doctors, including a Canadian, and from UN experts, of children as young as seven or eight years with “sniper shots to the brain.”

They also describe Palestinian children killed by a “quadcopter” drone which is fitted with a gun, camera, and a speaker and which can hover over the targets and fire “single high-velocity” shots.

The article gives the last word to the Canadian physician Dr. Fozi Alvi:

This is not a normal war. The war in Ukraine has killed 500 kids in two years and the war in Gaza has killed over 10,000 in less than five months. We have seen wars before but this is something that is a dark stain on our shared humanity.

IDF and deliberate targeting of journalists

In mid-March 2024 an investigation by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) concluded that, in violation of international law,

An Israeli tank that killed a Reuters journalist and wounded six others in Lebanon last year fired two 120mm rounds at a group of “clearly identifiable journalists.”

A Guardian article about the report indicated that UNIFIL personnel did not record any exchange of fire across the border between Israel and Lebanon for more than 40 minutes before the tank opened fire, killing Issam Abdallah, a 37-year-old video journalist.

In a 2 April article for Al Jazeera, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Arab Center Washington Rami Khouri writes:

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported that at least 90 Palestinian journalists have been killed since October 7 alongside two Israelis and three Lebanese.

This is the highest death toll of journalists in any modern conflict that CPJ has monitored. Another 25 Palestinian journalists have been detained by Israeli forces, and four are missing.

As we have previously reported, Israel also bans foreign media outlets from entering Gaza, forcing them to report from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or southern Israel.

Rami Khouri elaborates:

On Israeli territory, they must comply with the rules and censorship of the Israeli Military Censor, which is part of the Israeli army and requires media materials be submitted for its review prior to publication or broadcasting.

Israeli attacks on journalists are backfiring

Khouri argues that Israel’s strategy of killing journalists and censoring media operating in Israel — intended to ensure global coverage reflects Israel’s spin on events or ignores aspects of its scorched earth conduct in Gaza — is failing for three reasons:

  • Scores of highly motivated Palestinian journalists continue to “brave Israeli bombardment” to report on events on the ground.
  • Ordinary Palestinians document and share on social media their coverage of events.
  • International media increasingly question Israeli accounts of events and demand more verified facts.

In Khouri’s view the Israeli strategy is not only failing but “backfiring,” generating a “backlash” apparent even in American mainstream media.

He writes:

The Washington Post, for example, investigated the killings of two Palestinian journalists — Al Jazeera’s Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya — by an Israeli missile that hit their car on January 7 near Khan Younis. Its research raised significant doubts about Israel’s explanation that the men were “terrorists” who threatened Israeli troops.

Similarly, various nonprofit organisations, including Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have dedicated significant resources to covering the violations against, and killings of, Palestinian journalists.

The United Nations has also extensively documented the plight of Palestinian journalists.

In early February, five special rapporteurs of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights warned:

We have received disturbing reports that, despite being clearly identifiable in jackets and helmets marked ‘press’ or traveling in well-marked press vehicles, journalists have come under attack, which would seem to indicate that the killings, injury, and detention are a deliberate strategy by Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reporting.

Their statement concluded with an appeal to the ICJ and the ICC:

In closing, we urge the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to give particular attention to the dangerous pattern of attacks and impunity for crimes against journalists, which has intensified since October 7. Targeting and killing of journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must stop.

Rami Khouri also quotes Julia Bacha, an award-winning producer of Boycott and other documentaries on Palestine-Israel, who explains that Israel’s criminal actions in Gaza endanger journalists everywhere:

This issue is critical because what happens here will impact journalism elsewhere for years. We cannot let this moment in modern history of the unprecedented rate of killing journalists pass without urgent action to protect the media during wars.

We now move from an examination of Israeli breaches of international law in its conduct of the Gaza war to consideration of the state of play in the ongoing ceasefire and hostage release negotiations.

Hamas reviewing Israel’s latest Gaza ceasefire proposal

The Guardian reported on 27 April that

Hamas has said it is studying the latest Israeli counterproposal regarding a potential ceasefire in Gaza, a day after media reports said a delegation from Egypt had arrived in Israel in an attempt to jumpstart stalled negotiations.

According to a 26 April report in Axios, which details each side’s latest position:

Israeli officials told their Egyptian counterparts on Friday that Israel is ready to give hostage negotiations “one last chance” to reach a deal with Hamas, but if there isn’t progress soon it will move forward with a ground invasion of Rafah.

Prior rounds of talks have failed to bridge the gaps in the two sides’ positions. Hamas wants an accord for a permanent end to the war and for Israel to pull its forces out of the Gaza Strip.

Israel for its part,  as summarized by the Guardian on 28 April,

has previously only offered a temporary ceasefire to free about 130 hostages remaining in captivity and to allow the delivery of more humanitarian aid. It has said it won’t end its operations until it has achieved its aim of destroying Hamas.

On 27 April Axios, citing two Israeli officials, further reported:

A new Israeli proposal for a possible hostage deal with Hamas includes a willingness to discuss the “restoration of sustainable calm” in Gaza after an initial release of hostages on humanitarian grounds.

Axios underscored the importance of this Israeli move:

It is the first time since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that Israeli leaders have suggested they are open to discussing an end to the war in Gaza as part of a hostage deal.

The signs of renewed truce talks come as the UN warned that “famine thresholds in Gaza will be breached within the next six weeks” unless massive food assistance arrives.

More information on the Israeli counteroffer emerges

A BBC report on 29 April 2024 introduced further details of the Israeli counterproposal, delivered to mediators from Qatar and Egypt meeting in Cairo, including:

An [Israeli] willingness for the return of people to northern Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the east-west corridor that divides the territory and prevents freedom of movement.

US Secretary of State calls Israeli proposal “extraordinarily generous”

Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel. – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

At a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Saudi capital Riyadh on 29 April, US Secretary of State Blinken praised the Israeli counterproposal and further stated:

The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas.

What about the far-right members of Israeli cabinet adamantly opposed to a deal?

Reuters reported on 29 April that far-right allies in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government are adamantly opposed to a ceasefire agreement, quoting a video on X where Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich tells Netanyahu that if he fails to stamp out Hamas,

a government headed by you will have no right to exist.

Smotrich was swiftly followed by police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who reposted on X a January 30 remark made during a previous round of ceasefire talks:

Reminder: An irresponsible deal = the government’s dissolution.

Bear in mind also that some recent polls indicate the Israeli public is almost evenly divided over which of the two Netanyahu goals is more important — securing the release of the hostages or victory in the war against Hamas.

The Rideau Institute comments:

In such circumstances, how can Blinken’s characterization of the Israeli counterproposal as “extraordinarily generous” possibly help Netanyahu sell the deal to his Cabinet?

Hamas leadership studying the Israeli counterproposal

The news as of 30 April appears to be that the Hamas delegation has left Cairo to consult with its leadership on a written response to Israel’s latest Gaza ceasefire proposal.

A Hamas senior official is reported to have told Saudi television on the evening of 29 April that, regarding the Israeli proposal,

There’s a different atmosphere and different conditions this time.

That assessment, however, was made before Netanyahu’s latest pronouncements on the ceasefire deal and the Rafah ground offensive, discussed below.

Humanitarians warn of famine if Rafah ground offensive proceeds

In the meantime, the humanitarian situation in Rafah and the rest of Gaza worsens and more Palestinian civilians are killed and injured as Israel continues its relentless bombardment of Rafah.

It is our assessment that if an offensive occurs and the aid architecture collapses across the Gaza Strip, there is no credible or executable humanitarian plan to prevent a famine affecting hundreds of thousands of people. – CARE and 49 other organizations

A letter addressed to President Biden and signed by the heads of more than 50 international humanitarian nonprofits, including CARE and the International Rescue Committee, warned of the catastrophic results of a Rafah ground incursion, given that city’s role as the centre for the emergency international humanitarian response structure in Gaza and site of crucial warehouses and distribution centers:

Israel’s Rafah incursion plans

The IDF announced on 24 April it had readied two brigades — the 679th Armored Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Brigade — to deploy to central Gaza to hold an Israeli-controlled corridor.

The move, Israeli Army Radio reported, will free up the 933rd “Nahal” Brigade to join the 162nd Infantry Division ahead of future operations, including an anticipated push into the southern Gaza enclave of Rafah.

Concerning the timing of the invasion, Al-Monitor’s Jared Szuba wrote in his paywalled 25 April Security Briefing Newsletter:

Yet an Israeli incursion could still be weeks away. The operation does not yet have Washington’s green light…. Biden administration officials are signaling they are not yet satisfied [with Israel’s humanitarian plan].

White House says Israel has agreed to listen to US concerns before any Rafah invasion

Reuters reported on 28 April that, according to White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, Israel has agreed to listen to US concerns and thoughts before it launches an invasion of the city of Rafah in Gaza. In particular, Kirby stated:

They’ve assured us that they won’t go into Rafah until we’ve had a chance to really share our perspectives and our concerns with them.

President Biden has previously warned that Israel should not go into Rafah without credible plans to protect civilians.

The Riedau Institute comments:

Let this sink in for a moment.

Kirby does not say that Israel will “seriously consider” US concerns, much less heed them. Rather the country that is the recent recipient of a further $26 billion in US military aid will give the US  “a chance to really share” its perspectives and concerns before the invasion is launched.

Netanyahu: Israel will enter Rafah with or without a deal

As if in direct response to futile US importuning, on 30 April 2024, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement indicating:

Israel will carry out an operation against Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah regardless of whether or not a ceasefire and hostage release deal is reached….The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all its objectives is out of the question.

It is not clear what impact this declaration will have on the ongoing deliberations by Hamas over the Israeli counterproposal.

UK Deputy Foreign Secretary decries possible Rafah operation

Given the number of civilians sheltering in Rafah, it’s not easy to see how such an offensive could be compliant with international humanitarian law in the current circumstances.” – Andrew Mitchell, UK Deputy Foreign Secretary

Speaking to lawmakers in Parliament on 30 April 2024, the UK Deputy Foreign Secretary also said the British government was doing everything it could to prevent an assault on Rafah while it was sheltering civilians.

Blinken is sitting on staff recommendations to sanction Israeli military units linked to killings or rapes

A 17 April report from Pro Publica, a non-profit newsroom that investigates abuses of power, provides yet more disturbing evidence of the unwillingness of the Biden administration to hold the Israeli military to account, even to the point of failing to implement American laws.

The report indicates that:

A special State Department panel [known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum] recommended months ago that Secretary of State Antony Blinken disqualify multiple Israeli military and police units from receiving U.S. aid after reviewing allegations that they committed serious human rights abuses.

But Blinken has failed to act on the proposal…

The incidents under review, which mostly took place in the West Bank and occurred before 7 October 2024, include reports of extrajudicial killings by the Israeli Border Police.

Josh Paul, a former director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and a member of the vetting forum, who in October resigned in protest as a director in the State Department bureau overseeing arms transfers, commented:

If we had been applying Leahy effectively in Israel like we do in other countries, maybe you wouldn’t have the IDF filming TikToks of their war crimes now because we have contributed to a culture of impunity.

The problem is Biden himself and his rigid Zionism

The president’s rigid ideological commitment has led him to shut out government dissenters—and his own voters. –  The Nation

We turn now to a further examination of why the Biden Administration is so loath to take any real steps to rein in even the most egregious Israeli actions.

In his Nation article, Jeet Heer writes:

In holding fast to his position that there should be no red lines for Israel, Biden is shutting his ears to not just Muslim Americans but also the large majority of his own voters, and a growing body of dissent inside his own administration.

He continues:

The simmering dissent inside the administration has run into the same fate as the wave of public protests and polls showing that Biden’s policy is unpopular: the brick fortress of Biden’s ideological commitment to Zionism.

Noting that Biden’s top advisers—including national security adviser Jake Sullivan and deputy adviser to the president Brett McGurk—share his Zionist commitment, he turns to a Mother Jones article from December, where Noah Lanard has documented Biden’s history as an extreme pro-Israel hawk going back decades.

In that article, Lanard recounts that Biden’s indifference to Palestinian life even shocked right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, writing:

In 1982 Begin came to Washington to defend Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and found Biden, then the junior senator from Delaware, was the most strident defender of the controversial war, which even President Ronald Reagan eventually opposed.

Lanard continues, citing reporting in the New York Times, that

Biden told Begin that he was not critical of the Lebanon invasion.

After returning to Israel, Begin provided more detail to the Israeli press by describing how “a young senator” had given an “impassioned speech” during a private meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Begin said this senator argued that Americans

“wouldn’t pay attention as to whether men, women, or children were killed” if they had to retaliate against a comparable attack [to that of the PLO] from Canada.

Subsequent reporting confirmed Begin was referring to then-Senator Biden.

Jeet Heer next recalls the familiar pattern of Biden’s response to increasing criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, which is to

ratchet up his public and private criticism of Israel without changing policy.

In Jeet Heer’s view, Biden’s “Zionist worldview” is so deeply entrenched that possibly only the threat of losing the presidential election will convince him to exert real pressure on Israel.

World Central Kitchen killings led to apparent Biden threat of possible future aid conditionality

In the wake of the Israeli air strikes that killed World Central Kitchen aid workers (six of whom were Western, not Palestinian), the New York Times reported:

President Biden threatened … to condition future support for Israel on how it addresses his concerns about civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, trying for the first time to leverage American aid to influence the conduct of the war against Hamas.

Although the White House stopped short of directly saying the President would halt arms supplies or impose limits on their use, as fellow Democrats have urged him to do, the New York Times underscored that the Israeli government for the first time took Biden seriously enough to adjust policy.

Thinking along the same lines, Barak Ravid writes, in a non-paywalled article entitled Israel agrees to increase humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza under U.S. pressure (axios.com,4 April 2024):

The Israeli security cabinet approved the opening of the Erez crossing with the Gaza strip for the first time since October 7 in order to allow more humanitarian aid to go in.

Jeet Heer concludes his article in The Nation with the following assessment:

Months of protests have finally broken through Biden’s Zionist bubble. But this new development is just a start. It is going to take much more to pressure Biden to develop a sane foreign policy that both ends the current conflict and creates a just settlement of equality for Palestinians and Israelis.

Biden’s inaction will be a terrible historical legacy of his presidency

For a scathing critique of President Biden’s unwillingness to exert meaningful pressure on Israel (in striking contrast to past presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama), see the article by Professor Stephen Zunes entitled Biden Has Had the Power to Stop Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza Since Day 1 (truthout.org, 5 April 2024).

The under-banner reads:

Netanyahu’s decision to allow aid through the Erez crossing under US pressure shows how much more Biden could be doing.

Zunes too blames Biden’s “long-standing rigid ideological commitment to the Israel state that he has held throughout his long political career” for his refusal to follow “the precedent of previous administrations in pressuring Israel to end its military offensive,” concluding:

This refusal has fueled the current genocide, which has become a terrible historical legacy of his presidency.

Will the ICC end — or at least make a dent in — Israeli impunity?

NBC news reported on 29 April Israel’s great concern that, just as it has done with Russian President Putin and one other Russian official,

the International Criminal Court may issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and senior military officials as early as this week.

In addition, both Reuters and Al Jazeera are reporting that ICC investigators are gathering testimony from staff at al-Shifa Hospital and Nasser Hospital, on the grounds of which Palestinian officials say they have discovered mass graves following the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

The ICC, which launched an investigation three years ago into possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Palestinian militants going back to the Israel-Hamas war in 2014, an investigation that now also includes the current conflict, has declined to comment.

In December 2023, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, previously criticized for his seeming bias and inaction, confirmed that a probe by the court into possible crimes by Hamas militants and Israeli forces in Gaza in the ongoing conflict

is a priority for my office.

Editor’s note: As we have previously reported, the ICC has no jurisdiction over alleged Hamas crimes committed in Israel.

Regarding the potential impact of ICC warrants, Raf Sanchez of NBC writes:

Neither Israel nor the United States recognize the court’s jurisdiction, though any warrants would put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries, including much of Europe.

Sanchez further reports that Israel and the US have “dismissed the accusations”.

In separate reporting, a 29 April 2024 BNN Bloomberg headline states:

US Warns ICC action on Israel Would Hurt Cease-fire Chances

For an Al Jazeera Inside Story discussion of the implications of the possible issuance by the ICC of arrest warrants for senior Israeli political figures and military officials, click HERE.
Whither Canada?

Government of Canada failing to honour commitments under NDP Gaza motion

As we covered in detail in our 26 March 2024 blog post, on the evening of 18 March 2024, the House of Commons adopted an amended version of the NDP motion on Gaza by a vote of 204 in favour to 117 against, with only the Conservatives and three backbench Liberals in the NO column.

In short, the entire Liberal Cabinet supported the amended motion.

Among the commitments accepted by the government in their adoption of the motion were several concerning actions to be taken by Canada in response to illegal Israeli activities.

The relevant sections of the motion are included below:

(e) support the work of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court;

(h) sanction extremist settlers and maintain sanctions on Hamas leaders;

(i) reaffirm that settlements are illegal under international law and that settlements and settler violence are serious obstacles to a negotiated two-state solution, and advocate for an end to the decades long occupation of Palestinian territories;

Canada has still not sanctioned violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank

On 27 April 2024, CBC journalist Evan Dyer wrote that months after they were promised, Ottawa still hasn’t imposed sanctions on violent Israeli settlers.  The West Bank has seen an alarming escalation in settler attacks and killings of Palestinians since the formation of a coalition government in Israel in December 2022 which includes two far-right extremist parties.

Dyer elaborates:

The Government of Canada has announced multiple rounds of sanctions against various parties in the Middle East since October 7….

But there’s an important difference between the sanctions announced against Palestinians and Iranians and the ones announced against Israelis — the ones against Israelis have not been gazetted and therefore never took effect….

Editor’s note: Sanctions are imposed by a specific regulation under broader legislation providing for such actions. After a regulation has been approved by the Privy Council Office and then the Cabinet of Canada, the regulation is published in the Canada Gazette.

We call upon the Government of Canada to honour its commitment and forthwith complete all necessary procedures to sanction extremist settlers in the West Bank.

As Qatari and Egyptian mediators meeting in Cairo await the Hamas response to Israel’s “phased truce” proposal, it is essential that Western governments, including Canada’s, call on both sides to agree on an enduring ceasefire and release of hostages.

We reiterate our call on  Canada to demand that Israel and Hamas comply fully with the UN Security resolution passed on 25 March 2024, calling for:

  • an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages, immediate humanitarian access, full compliance with international law, and the removal of all barriers to humanitarian assistance.

We reiterate our call for the Government of Canada to:

  • call on Israel to abandon its ground invasion of Rafah and to urge the US to use its considerable leverage on Israel to this end.

To begin to create an irrevocable path toward a two-state solution, we reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to:

  • officially recognize the state of Palestine; and to
  • intervene in the ICJ case on Israeli’s occupation of Palestinian territories in support of a declaration by the Court that the occupation is illegal and should end forthwith.

 

TO STOP THE GAZA WAR, CONTINUED DIRECT PRESSURE ON THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA FROM CANADIAN CITIZENS IS ESSENTIAL AND EFFECTIVE.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: < justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca  >

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < melanie.joly@parl.gc.ca >; Parliamentary Secretary Rob Oliphant: < rob.oliphant@parl.gc.ca >

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen: < ahmed.hussen@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca >; NDP Foreign Affairs critic Heather McPherson: < Heather.McPherson@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < pierre.poilievre@parl.gc.ca >; Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Michael Chong: < michael.chong@parl.gc.ca >

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: < Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca>

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca >

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.

Photo credits: UNRWA/Ashraf Amra; UNICEF UK (Gaza destruction)

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