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Who Will “Punish” Us? Photographs and Testimony about United States’ Use of Chemical and Radiation Weapons September 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Roger’s note: These photos are pretty gruesome, and the accusation against the U.S. for using chemical weapons in Fallujah is serious.  I cannot veryify the legitimacy of the photos, you can check the source yourself, but it is historical fact the the U.S. used nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945 and supported the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s war against Iran.  We also know the the U.S. has enormous stockpiles of chemical weapons and is not in compliance with its treaty obligations to destroy them.  All this, of course, to demonstrate the hypocrisy of its accusations against Syria.

http://www.opednews.com, September 27, 2013

By (about the author)

 

White Phosphorus
Fallujah White Phosphorous Victim by
www.uruknet.de

It is extremely interesting to compare the U.S. response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and its suppression of evidence of similar weapons use by the U.S. and U.K. in Fallujah in March and November of 2004.

We all know about the U.S. reaction to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In the face of denials by the Syrian government, and on evidence that remains secret and other indications provided by photographs, testimonies of eye-witnesses, accusations of the al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels, and deductions derived from consideration of the delivery mechanisms necessary to launch such weapons, the U.S. government was determined to “punish” the al-Assad government for the heinous crime of using chemical weapons.

Such circumstantial evidence was considered more than sufficient for president Obama and secretary of state Kerry.

In his speech to the nation on Tuesday, September 10th president Obama paid particular attention to the photographic evidence of chemical weapons use by the al-Assad government. Specifically he reminded us of the child victims involved.

The pictures Mr. Obama was referring to included this one:

chemical weapons Syria
Syria Chemical Weapons Victims by
www.behance.net

And this one:

Syria chemical weapons 3
Syria Chemical Weapons Victims by
www.demotix.com

But what about the U.S.-inflicted atrocities behind photos like this one?:

Fallujah 1
Fallujah Weapons Victim by
www.uruknet.de

Or this one?:

Fallujah 2
Fallujah Aborted Fetuses by
www.m0ri.com

According to a study published in 2010,” Beyond Hiroshima — The Non-Reporting Of Fallujah’s Cancer Catastrophe ,” those are pictures of the deaths and birth defects directly resulting from “American” use of depleted uranium and chemical weapons including white phosphorous in Fallujah in 2004.

And it’s not simply a question of birth defects.

According to the same study infant mortality, cancer, and leukemia rates in Fallujah have surpassed the rates recorded among survivors of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Following the Fallujah offensives, the rates in question rose by 60%. Dr Mushin Sabbak of the Basra Maternity Hospital explained the rises as resulting from weapons used by the U.S. and U.K. “We have no other explanation than this,” he said.

And the problem extends far beyond Fallujah. Increased cancer rates and astronomical rises in birth defects have been recorded in Mosul, Najaf, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh, and Baghdad. As documented by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan, there is “an epidemic of birth defects in Iraq.” She writes,

“Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects — some never described in any medical books — are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.”

Australian anti-war activist, Donna Mulhearn, who has travelled repeatedly to Fallujah, talking with Iraqi doctors as well as affected families, added to the list:

“babies born with parts of their skulls missing, various tumors, missing genitalia, limbs and eyes, severe brain damage, unusual rates of paralyzing spina bifida (marked by the gruesome holes found in the tiny infants’ backs), Encephalocele (a neural tube defect marked by swollen sac-like protrusions from the head), and more.”

Several highly remarkable aspects of the situation just described immediately present themselves. For one there is the almost total silence of the media about the crimes of the U.S. and U.K. Then there is the lack of outrage by president Obama and secretary of state Kerry. And what about those members of Congress so concerned about damage and pain to unborn fetuses? (I mean, what we have here in effect is a massive abortion campaign by the United States in an entirely illegal war which has already claimed more than a million mostly civilian casualties.)

However, what is most remarkable about the contrast between responses to Syria and Iraq is the continued surprise of “Americans” by reprisal attacks by Muslims, which continue to be identified by our media as irrational and evil “terrorist attacks.”

That is, on the one hand, the U.S. feels free to self-righteously rush to judgment and “punish” the suspected perpetrators of the Syrian attacks. But on the other, it hides, classifies, and otherwise suppresses photographs and scientific reports testifying to its own much worse crimes. Once again, those outrages are carried out against unborn fetuses, living children, women, the elderly and male adults — the very same population cohorts that so concern our “leaders” when they are attacked by designated enemies.

The logic is inescapable. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the U.S. is outraged by the killing of innocents and feels the need to “punish” the suspected perpetrators, someone else has the right to treat the United States in the same way. (We might not know of the crimes of our government and military, but the whole Arab world knows!)

So we shouldn’t be surprised by a Boston Marathon “massacre,” or by militants seizing hotels or malls and killing randomly.

That’s the cost of hypocrisy, double standards, wars of aggression, and the use of outlawed weapons of mass destruction. In war ghastly offensives elicit ghastly counter-offensives.

Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea’s Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more…)

From Hiroshima to Syria, the enemy whose name we dare not speak September 11, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, War.
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Roger’s note: In referring to the United States of America, celebrated documentary film maker John Pilger states, ” The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.”   This is the “inconvenient truth” most Americans are either to uninformed or willfully naive to acknowledge.  Any U.S. president, of either party, unless she/he is willing to face some form of assassination at the hands of the imperial military-industrial complex, has no choice other than to play the role of war criminal, the present Nobel Peace Laureate included.

 
OpEdNews Op Eds 9/10/2013 at 15:43:17

By (about the author)

 

1bb-jpg_72413_20130910-237

On my wall is the front page of Daily Express of September 5, 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.
Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again, we are held hostage to the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.
John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With Al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.”
When the public is “psychologically scarred,” as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, reinforcing the unmentionable is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US not Syria that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons. In 1970, the Senate reported, “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Rand Hand: the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe.”
I have seen generations of young children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq, too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorous, as did the Israelis in Gaza, raining it down on UN schools and hospitals. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.
The repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (i.e., cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, emeritus professor of international law and UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence.” This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable.”
It is the biggest lie: the product of “liberal realists” in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and the media who ordain themselves as the world’s crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark “failed,” “rogue” or “evil” states for “humanitarian intervention.”
An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US “demon” would draw on a fashionable variant, “Responsibility to Protect,” or R2P, whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a “Global Centre”, based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the “international community” to attack countries where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time.”
Evans has form. He appears in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra’s smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having just signed a treaty that pirated the oil and gas of the stricken country below where Indonesia’s tyrant, Suharto, killed or starved a third of the population.
Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, and piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year, 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.
The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism.” “For goose-steppers,” he wrote, “substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”
Every Tuesday, the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement: Obama’s singular achievement.
In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self respect, deserve nothing less now.
John Pilger grew up in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, author and documentary film-maker. He is one of only two to win British journalism’s highest award twice, for his work all over the world. On 1 November, he was awarded (more…)

Ten Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn’t Want You to Talk About September 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, History, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Vietnam.
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3342 124 32 4948
by Wesley Messamore

Washington doesn’t merely lack the legal authority for a military intervention in Syria.

It lacks the moral authority. We’re talking about a government with a history of using chemical weapons against innocent people far more prolific and deadly than the mere accusations Assad faces from a trigger-happy Western military-industrial complex, bent on stifling further investigation before striking.

Here is a list of 10 chemical weapons attacks carried out by the U.S. government or its allies against civilians..

1. The U.S. Military Dumped 20 Million Gallons of Chemicals on Vietnam from 1962 – 1971

10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,
Via: AP

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of chemicals, including the very toxic Agent Orange, on the forests and farmlands of Vietnam and neighboring countries, deliberately destroying food supplies, shattering the jungle ecology, and ravaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Vietnam estimates that as a result of the decade-long chemical attack, 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 babies have been born with birth defects, and 2 million have suffered from cancer or other illnesses. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or health problems related to Agent Orange.

2. Israel Attacked Palestinian Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2008 – 2009
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,
Via: AP

White phosphorus is a horrific incendiary chemical weapon that melts human flesh right down to the bone.

In 2009, multiple human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Red Cross reported that the Israeli government was attacking civilians in their own country with chemical weapons. An Amnesty International team claimed to find “indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus” as a weapon in densely-populated civilian areas. The Israeli military denied the allegations at first, but eventually admitted they were true.

After the string of allegations by these NGOs, the Israeli military even hit a UN headquarters(!) in Gaza with a chemical attack. How do you think all this evidence compares to the case against Syria? Why didn’t Obama try to bomb Israel?

3. Washington Attacked Iraqi Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2004
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,
Via: AP

In 2004, journalists embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq began reporting the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents. First the military lied and said that it was only using white phosphorus to create smokescreens or illuminate targets. Then it admitted to using the volatile chemical as an incendiary weapon. At the time, Italian television broadcaster RAI aired a documentary entitled, “Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre,” including grim video footage and photographs, as well as eyewitness interviews with Fallujah residents and U.S. soldiers revealing how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white chemical fire down on the Iraqi city and melted women and children to death.

4. The CIA Helped Saddam Hussein Massacre Iranians and Kurds with Chemical Weapons in 1988
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

CIA records now prove that Washington knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons (including sarin, nerve gas, and mustard gas) in the Iran-Iraq War, yet continued to pour intelligence into the hands of the Iraqi military, informing Hussein of Iranian troop movements while knowing that he would be using the information to launch chemical attacks. At one point in early 1988, Washington warned Hussein of an Iranian troop movement that would have ended the war in a decisive defeat for the Iraqi government. By March an emboldened Hussein with new friends in Washington struck a Kurdish village occupied by Iranian troops with multiple chemical agents, killing as many as 5,000 people and injuring as many as 10,000 more, most of them civilians. Thousands more died in the following years from complications, diseases, and birth defects.

5. The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s

10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

In the early 1950s, the Army set up motorized blowers on top of residential high-rises in low-income, mostly black St. Louis neighborhoods, including areas where as much as 70% of the residents were children under 12. The government told residents that it was experimenting with a smokescreen to protect the city from Russian attacks, but it was actually pumping the air full of hundreds of pounds of finely powdered zinc cadmium sulfide. The government admits that there was a second ingredient in the chemical powder, but whether or not that ingredient was radioactive remains classified. Of course it does. Since the tests, an alarming number of the area’s residents have developed cancer. In 1955, Doris Spates was born in one of the buildings the Army used to fill the air with chemicals from 1953 – 1954. Her father died inexplicably that same year, she has seen four siblings die from cancer, and Doris herself is a survivor of cervical cancer.

6. Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

The savage violence of the police against Occupy protesters in 2011 was well documented, and included the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Can’t police give civilian protesters in Oakland, California the same courtesy and protection that international law requires for enemy soldiers on a battlefield?

7. The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993

10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

At the infamous Waco siege of a peaceful community of Seventh Day Adventists, the FBI pumped tear gas into buildings knowing that women, children, and babies were inside. The tear gas was highly flammable and ignited, engulfing the buildings in flames and killing 49 men and women, and 27 children, including babies and toddlers. Remember, attacking an armed enemy soldier on a battlefield with tear gas is a war crime. What kind of crime is attacking a baby with tear gas?

8. The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,
Via: AP

In Iraq, the U.S. military has littered the environment with thousands of tons of munitions made from depleted uranium, a toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. As a result, more than half of babies born in Fallujah from 2007 – 2010 were born with birth defects. Some of these defects have never been seen before outside of textbooks with photos of babies born near nuclear tests in the Pacific. Cancer and infant mortality have also seen a dramatic rise in Iraq. According to Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, “These are weapons which have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.” After authoring two of four reports published in 2012 on the health crisis in Iraq, Busby described Fallujah as having, “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

9. The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945

10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Napalm is a sticky and highly flammable gel which has been used as a weapon of terror by the U.S. military. In 1980, the UN declared the use of napalm on swaths of civilian population a war crime. That’s exactly what the U.S. military did in World War II, dropping enough napalm in one bombing raid on Tokyo to burn 100,000 people to death, injure a million more, and leave a million without homes in the single deadliest air raid of World War II.

10. The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Although nuclear bombs may not be considered chemical weapons, I believe we can agree they belong to the same category. They certainly disperse an awful lot of deadly radioactive chemicals. They are every bit as horrifying as chemical weapons if not more, and by their very nature, suitable for only one purpose: wiping out an entire city full of civilians. It seems odd that the only regime to ever use one of these weapons of terror on other human beings has busied itself with the pretense of keeping the world safe from dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous governments.

Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They “Protect” Civilians? March 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Libya, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Wednesday 23 March 2011

by: Dave Lindorff  |  This Can’t Be Happening | News Analysis

Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They "Protect" Civilians?
On a tour led by an official of the Libyan government, a girl is seen next to a house covered in shrapnel marks on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli that government officials said was targeted by western air strikes, March 25, 2011. (Photo: Moises Saman / The New York Times)

President Obama’s criminal launch of an undeclared and Congressionally unauthorized war against Libya may be compounded by the crime of spreading toxic uranium oxide in populated areas of that country.

This is latest concern of groups like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, which monitor the military use of so-called depleted-uranium (DU) anti-tank and bunker-penetrating shells.

Images of Libyan civilians and rebels celebrating around the burning hulks of the Libyan army’s tanks and armored personnel carriers, which had been hit by US, French and British aircraft ordinance in the early hours of the US-led assault on the forces of Col. Muammar Gaddafy, could well have been unknowingly inhaling the deadly dust of the uranium weapons favored by Western military forces for anti-tank warfare.

Specifically, the British-built Harrier jets used by British naval air forces and also by US Marine pilots, are often equipped with pod-mounted cannons that fire 20 mm shells–shells that often have uranium projectiles designed to penetrate heavy armor.

So far, the US has not introduced its A-10 Thunderbolts, known also as Warthogs, into the Libyan campaign, probably because these sub-sonic, straight-wing craft, while heavily armored, are vulnerable to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles which Libyan forces are known to possess in large numbers. Once the air-control situation is improved by continued bombardment, however, these specialized ground-attack aircraft will probably be added to the attacking forces. The A-10 has a particularly large automatic cannon which fires an unusually large 30 mm shell. These shells are often fitted with solid uranium projectiles for attacking tanks, APCs or groups of fighters holed up in concrete bunkers.

A-10s were heavily used in the Balkan conflict, and officials of Kosovo were dismayed to learn that some 11 tons of uranium weapons were fired there, leaving dangerous uranium dust fallout in their wake.

The US military is fond of DU weapons because the material, made from uranium from which the fissionable U-235 has been removed, because it is extremely heavy, and, in alloy form, also extremely hard. Because of its mass, such projectiles can penetrate even the heaviest armor. Then, in the heat caused by the collision with an object, the uranium bursts into flame at extreme heat, causing an explosive (and toxic) inferno inside a tank or other vehicle, which usually also ignites any ammunition being carried. Soldiers inside a target vehicle are incinerated. The problem is that the resulting uranium oxide produced by such explosions, besides being highly toxic chemically, is also a microscopic alpha-emitter, which if inhaled or ingested by human beings is extremely carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Cities in Iraq where DU weapons were heavily used, such as Basra, Samara, Baghdad, Mosul and probably especially Fallujah, which was virtually leveled in a November 2004 Marine assault, are showing high rates of birth defects, many of which, along with unusually high rates of leukemia, medical experts say are emblematic of fetal radiation damage.

A University of Michigan peer-reviewed study of births in Fallujah published in December 2010 found that of 547 births in Fallujah General Hospital in May of 2010, six years after the all-out US assault on that city of 300,000, in which DU weapons were reportedly used widely, 15% of babies had birth defects–a rate more than five times higher than the global average of 2-3%.

It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other NATO countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country’s long-time tyrant Gaddafy, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust–the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. 

Article 51: Israel’s false claim February 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Reza Nasri

17 – 02 – 2009. www.opendemocracy.net

Both opponents and supporters of Israel’s attacks on Gaza fail to see how deep its breach of international law and norms really runs

“In its military operation, Israel exercised its inherent right to self-defence, enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Any other State would have acted in the same manner faced with similar terrorist threats.”

Later on, the Permanent mission of Israel reiterates this position in a letter addressed to the Secretary General. Once again, Israel officially claims that:

“In response to Hamas’ continuous terrorist attacks, Israel has been acting in accordance with its inherent right to self-defence enshrined in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

To counter Israel’s assertion, opponents argue that the right to self-defence – while being an inherent right of States – is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity. They note that Israel’s massive military operations in Gaza do not meet these two conditions (the military operations are excessively violent compared to the alleged attacks that provoked them) and conclude that they are therefore illegal under international law.  

Non-applicability of Article 51 in occupied territories

The right to self-defence – as recognized by Article 51 of the Charter – is a right attributable to “States” only in their “international” relations. A State is allowed to recourse to self-defence if it is subject to another State‘s unlawful use of force. The situation must involve:

a) An armed attack (of sufficient gravity);

b) Conducted between States (or from one State territory) - as main subjects of international law;

c) And be of an international character.

Article 51 does not apply to a situation that involves an Occupying Power (the State of Israel) acting within occupied territories under its own authority and responsibility. In legal terms, Israel cannot invoke the right to self-defence under Article 51 to justify the use of military force in territories on which Israel itself exercises effective control, at least since 1967. (Although Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza under the “disengagement plan” in 2005, Israel’s relocation of its troops from the occupied land does not end its status as the “Occupying power”. Israel continuously maintained control over Gaza’s borders, air and sea space, water, electricity, sewage and telecommunication systems and because of that, Gaza remains an occupied territory as defined in international law. In fact, UN Security Council resolution 1860 (pdf) issued on January 8, 2009 clearly notes that: “the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967″.)

Indeed, it would be inconceivable for most of us to imagine any other country barricading a city or a district within a territory under its own watch, then use F-16 fire jets, high-tech Cobra helicopters, ground troops, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and depleted uranium ammunition, killing thousands of its inhabitants under the pretext of combating, for instance, street gang criminality. It would be even more absurd if that country justified all that by invoking an extraneous right under the UN Charter. Yet, this is exactly what Israel has done in Gaza.

Palestine (Gaza strip and the West Bank) is not yet considered an independent sovereign State – especially not by Israel. The swath of land known as “Palestine” (which encompasses Gaza) is an inhabited territory under Israeli mandate and occupation since 1967. For Israel to become entitled to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter (which is a multilateral inter-state treaty) and benefit from its relevant rules of self-defence, Israel needs at least to recognize that it is dealing with another “State” (be it a State that directly commits armed attacks against Israel or a State whose territory is being used by an autonomous hostile group to mount attacks against Israel). But Israel cannot persistently rebuff Palestine’s Statehood on one hand, and, on the other hand, treat Palestine as a State whenever it needs to utilise the Charter to legitimise its use of force against.

In other words, Israel’s self-defence argument entails the precondition of recognising Palestinian Statehood; while not doing so entails setting the Charter’s legal subterfuges aside and solely complying with the strictures of Humanitarian law (especially the Geneva Conventions) regarding occupation.

The world court’s position

In its July 2004 advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had already established the non-applicability of “self-defence” under Article 51 in the situation between Israel and the Occupied Territories (a key point that most commentators seem to have forgotten). Just as it claims today, Israel had argued in the Wall case that the construction of a wall around the West Bank was an act of self-defence consistent with Article 51 of the Charter. According to Israel, Article 51 supported its right to build the wall to protect itself against terrorist attacks emanating from the occupied territories.

But the Court dismissed this argument as follows (pdf):

“Article 51 of the Charter thus recognizes the existence of an inherent right of self-defence in the case of armed attack by one State against another State. However, Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign State. The Court also notes that Israel exercises control in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and that, as Israel itself states, the threat which it regards as justifying the construction of the wall originates within, and not outside, that territory. [...] Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case” (emphasis added by author).

A fortiori, the Court’s position is also valid regarding the recent situation in Gaza.

In fact, there seems to be a growing consensus among prominent international law experts regarding the issue. In a document entitled “The Chatham House Principles of International Law on the Use of Force in Self-Defence”, the Royal Institute of International Affairs also confirmed the non-applicability of Article 51 by stressing that “unless an attack is directed from outside territory under the control of the defending State, the question of self-defence in the sense of Article 51 does not normally arise”.

The impermissible confusion: Jus ad bellum vs Jus in bello

The law of the use of force is composed of two distinct branches:

a) the law governing the recourse to force (jus ad bellum) and;

b) the law governing the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello).

The first set of laws refers to the reasons States may invoke to justify war, while the second set governs the means they may adopt in executing war or the way they should act in a post-war situation, such as occupation. The jus ad bellum rules are mostly enshrined in the UN Charter (i.e. article 2(4) and article 51), while the jus in bello rules are mostly to be found in the four Geneva Conventions, the Hague regulations and relevant customary norms. Self-defence logically belongs to the realm of jus ad bellum while “occupation” is naturally governed by the jus in bello.

As Georges Abi-Saab – Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva – explained in his oral pleading before the ICJ in the wall case:

“[S]elf-defence does not belong to international humanitarian law or the jus in bello, but to the jus ad bellum [the branch of law that defines the legitimate reasons a State may engage in war]. Israel makes here an impermissible confusion between the two branches of the law of war that have to be kept radically apart”.

As it did in the wall case, Israel still attempts to sustain that confusion, for good reason.

Israel has already exhausted its right to self-defence when it pre-emptively seized the West Bank and Gaza from neighbouring belligerent States in an international conflict in 1967. Since then, the only set of laws that govern the Israeli-Palestinian situation is the customary and treaty-based norms of “Humanitarian law” that regulate occupation (Jus in bello). According to the applicable law, Israel is not only proscribed from harming the inhabitants of these territories, but it is obliged to ensure their safety and security (Article 43 of The Hague regulations). Israel is also under the obligation to provide protection to their private properties (Arts. 46 and 47 of the Fourth Geneva convention), and to keep intact their “public buildings, real estate, forests and agricultural estates” (Art. 55 of the Fourth Geneva convention).

Israel’s recent massive bombardments and use of heavy artillery against Gaza cannot be reconciled with these obligations. In fact, Israel’s recent actions constitute, under Article 147 of the Fourth Convention, as well as Article 85 of Protocol I and Article 8 of the Rome Statute, grave breaches of international law which entail individual criminal responsibility.

By constantly alluding to the notion of self-defence as per Article 51 and by framing the military operations in Gaza solely in terms of necessity and proportionality, even the opponents of Israel unconsciously affirm the “impermissible confusion” that Israel is deliberately trying to disseminate.

Reza Nasri is an international lawyer based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.In my opinion, both sides miss a crucial point.

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