FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Failing to Hold Israel Accountable for War Crimes in Lebanon

by MICHAEL F. BROWN

In late January the State Department delivered a potentially explosive report to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The classified report asserts that Israel may have violated the Arms Export Control Act with its use of American-made cluster munitions this past summer in Lebanon.

Multiple contacts to both offices indicate neither Biden nor Pelosi has any intention of pursuing the matter. In contrast, a congressional investigation 25 years ago helped persuade President Ronald Reagan to suspend cluster munitions to Israel for six years. This Congress, however, will not call Israel to account for its actions.

Cluster munitions are a ghastly creation on two levels. First, these bombs blow apart into hundreds of smaller bomblets, thus spreading death over a wide radius. Second, a terrifying percentage of them fail to explode at least initially. These “duds” then sit on the ground like mines until the curious child or plowing farmer stumbles across them – often with devastating results.

As recently as July, the US House of Representatives voted 410-8 for a resolution including recognition of “Israel’s longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss” and welcoming “Israel’s continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties” in Lebanon and elsewhere. The language was an open insult to the hundreds of Lebanese civilians already killed and injured in the previous few days by the Israeli military.

Many at the State Department appear uncomfortable addressing Israel’s seeming culpability. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, normally quite articulate, provided journalists with this circumlocution: “There may likely could have been some violations.”

Indeed there were. And a bloody mess it is. Amnesty International asserted in late January that in the previous six months, “Thirty people, eight of them de-mining personnel, have been killed, and more than 180 people have been injured, including 20 mine clearers.” Amnesty has called on Israel to turn over maps of where these munitions were used as a means to prevent future loss of civilian life. Israel has yet to provide sufficient information.

Israeli officials have defended the use of cluster bombs and other attacks by contending that they warned civilians to leave southern Lebanon, as though such warnings gave them carte-blanche to do as they pleased. But what if Hezbollah gave similar blanket warnings to Israelis in the north of Israel? Surely it is madness to suggest that a warning provides the liberty to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel or to litter Lebanese villages and farmland with hundreds of thousands of deadly bomblets. Do the infirm and impoverished with no way out have no rights?

De-mining groups estimate that some 2.6 to 4 million submunitions were fired into Lebanon during the five-week war. Israeli Member of Knesset Ran Cohen stated, “The massive use by the IDF of cluster bombs during the war suggests an absolute loss of control and hysteria.” It’s a loss of control with munitions mostly produced in the United States.

We already know from the Israeli press that the Israeli military did not use the cluster munitions in keeping with the orders of then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. “I don’t know if this is surprising,” said Halutz, “it is more disappointing.”

In fact, it is more than disappointing. It is criminal and a violation of US law.

Yet there is a real danger nothing will come of the State Department’s report. Pelosi and Biden may not push hard because they dare not aggravate AIPAC. Silence, however, will harm American standing in the region, damage American commitment to human rights principles, and undercut (once again) American national security interests. Congress ought to grapple seriously with this issue rather than suppress the unpleasant facts about Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon.

The failure to hold Israel accountable for its actions against Palestinian civilians (and, for that matter, American civilians) in the occupied Palestinian territories undoubtedly contributed to a climate in which many Israeli military leaders thought they could pummel Lebanese civilians with American-made weapons with no repercussions. So far American officials are proving them right.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while not addressing the possible AECA violation by Israel, introduced legislation earlier this year to “limit the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions.” She cited heart-rending examples from around the world of the harm these weapons cause to civilians, including to “Hassan Hammade, a 13 year old Lebanese boy, [who] lost four fingers and sustained injuries to his stomach and shoulder after he picked up an unexploded cluster bomb in front of an orange tree.”

Her legislation would do much to limit future harm to children such as Hassan in Lebanon and other innocent civilians in war-ravaged nations. She and co-sponsors Patrick Leahy, Barbara Mikulski, and Bernard Sanders ought to be commended for this legislative initiative. So, too, should Representatives James McGovern, Darrell Issa, and Betty McCollum for their accompanying legislation in the House.

Pelosi and Biden have shrunk from holding Israel accountable for its actions in Lebanon, but could exhibit some overdue leadership by signaling their support for the new cluster bomb legislation.

MICHAEL F. BROWN is a fellow at the Palestine Center. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Center.

 

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail