The most recent definition of crimes against humanity under customary international law is contained in Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It includes the following acts, among others, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the perpetrators or supporters of the attack: murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and apartheid.
On November 1st the New York-based international human rights organization Human Rights Watch released a report titled Erased in a Moment: Suicide bombing Attacks Against Israeli Civilians. The report finds that Palestinians who plan and execute suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are guilty of crimes against humanity. Last May the same organization released another report, Jenin: IDF Military Operations, in which it charged that the Israeli military committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes, during its incursion into the Jenin refugee camp. Amnesty International presented Israeli authorities with a report containing similar charges on November 2nd.
Of the many impressions made by the Human Rights Watch reports, one of the most salient is that while Palestinian crimes against humanity are committed by individuals and groups that are outside the national chain of command, Israeli war crimes are committed by the most prominent institution of the state, the IDF, a military establishment largely equipped and funded by the United States of America.
While the HRW report on the suicide bombings singles out four Palestinian groups–Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade–as criminally culpable for planning and executing suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets, it notably exonerates the Palestinian Authority and its president, Yaser Arafat, of the same charge. According to the report the PA bears political, but not criminal, responsibility for suicide bombings, for failing to do all it could to stop the bombings and bring the perpetrators to justice when it had the means to do so. HRW studied documents presented by Israel and found no evidence that Arafat or the PA planned or ordered suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
The Jenin report saddles Israel with the primary obligation to carry out criminal investigations to ascertain and prosecute those responsible for Israeli war crimes. Israel has predictably ignored that obligation. Indeed, Shaul Mofaz, who was IDF Chief of Staff at the time of the Jenin incursion and who is widely regarded an extremist among Israel’s hawks, is now Israel’s Defense Minister.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–who a few days ago became Israel’s new foreign minister–sponsored a resolution rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza at a meeting of the Likud party’s central committee last May. It passed overwhelmingly. Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud colleagues did not comment on what was to become of the 3.5 million Muslims and Christians who make up the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, but the options are clear. The first is to perpetuate their status as non-citizen residents in a form of apartheid. The second is to transfer them to Jordan, an option widely discussed in Israel and strongly advocated by some members of Israel’s parliament. The third is to grant them Israeli citizenship.
Israel dismisses the third option out of hand, as demographic projections indicate it would take less than two decades for Jews to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, at which point Israel would have to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic one. That leaves the first and second options, both of which, according to international law, are crimes against humanity.
A large number of Americans would do well to recognize that fact. They include the tens of millions of evangelicals, fundamentalists and Pentecostals that form the rank and file of the Christian Coalition, as well as prominent elected representatives like House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-TX) and House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-TX). By maintaining that biblical Judea and Samaria are an inextricable part of Israel and supporting Israel’s rejection of the third option regarding the future of the indigenous population, they in effect invoke the name of God to advocate a crime against humanity.
Tarif Abboushi lives in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org