Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]