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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail