Will There Be Justice?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

You read Jeffrey St. Clair’s recent description of the arrest of Rasha Kareem, a Palestinian beauty parlor owner, in CounterPunch and want to scream. You read Adam Shatz’s book review in The London Review of Review and can’t believe how Israel’s Zionist state has conspired for three-quarters of a century to systematically destroy the Palestinian people.  You checko ut daily reports in +972 Magazine,  Haaretezand Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now on the suffering in Palestine and you want to cry. And then you ask a simple question: Will there be justice?

After the U.K/U.S.-Russian military victory over the German Nazi movement, people may recall that the Nuremberg trials which took place in 1945-1946 sought to impose “victor’s justice” by prosecuting 77 defendants, 24 of whom were sentenced to death. In Japan, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) convened in 1946 where seven defendants were sentenced to death by hanging and 16 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.

As of May 2024, the International Rescue Committee estimates that “Israeli military operations” have killed “more than 36,000 Palestinians and injured more than 81,000 others. More than 50% of the identified fatalities are said to be women and children.” In addition, Mondoweiss estimates “some 9,300 Palestinians continue to be held behind bars, including 78 women, 250 children, and more than 3,400 detainees without charge or trial under the military legal system of administrative detention.”

Will Israel’s Zionist war against Hamas and the Palestinian people ever face justice? If recent history is any guide, the answer is, sadly, no.

The Vietnam War took its toll.  A total of 58,220 U.S. military personnel died.  However, Guenter Lewy estimated 1,353,000 total deaths in North and South Vietnam during the period 1965–1974 in which the U.S. was most engaged in the war.  In addition, between 275,000–310,000 Cambodians and 20,000–62,000 Laotians died.  No war crimes tribunal followed.

However, in the wake of Seymour Hersh’s revelations in The New Yorker about the 1968 My Lai massacre in which 500 Vietnamese people were slaughtered, the U.S. military established the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (VWCWG) to ascertain the extent of war crimes and other atrocities committed by U.S. armed forces. Some 203 soldiers were accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners and were formally charged; 57 faced court martial; and only 23 were convicted, of whom 14 received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years.

Looking back, one can only ask if this was America’s Nuremberg trials?

On August 7, 1990, Pres. George H. W. Bush launched Operation Desert Shield in response Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.  A coalition of 38 countries joined the U.S.’s war against Iraq.  The war lasted from Aug. ’90 to July ’91 and a total of 1,769 U.S. active-duty persons died, 372 in the Persian Gulf region and 1,397 elsewhere.  According to the Imperial War Museum, between20,000 and 35,000 Iraqi soldiers died during the war and, in addition, between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqi civilians died.

There was no formal Nuremberg-type trial on the Gulf War.  The U.S. Dept. of Defense issued a “Report to Congress on the Conduct of the Persian Gulf War.”  It white-washed the military campaign, insisting:

Central Command (CENTCOM) forces adhered to these fundamental law of war proscriptions in conducting military operations during Operation Desert Storm through discriminating target selection and careful matching of available forces and weapons systems to selected targets and Iraqi defenses, without regard to Iraqi violations of its law of war obligations toward the civilian population and civilian objects.

In retaliation for al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, Pres. George W. Bush signed a joint resolution of Congress on September 18th that called for the invasion of Afghanistan, eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a court order and the setting-up of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  On October 11th Bush launched Operation Enduring Freedom — aka the “global war on terror (GWOT).”  In March 2003, he declared war on Iraq based on claims that it harbored weapons of mass destruction and provided training to al Qaeda.

On May 1, 2003, in a speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner behind him proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” Pres. Bush declared “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  Pres. Barack Obama formally ended hostilities in Afghanistan as of yearend 2014; 10,000 or so U.S. troops remained in an ostensible support capacity.  U.S. troops finally begin withdrawing in November 2020 and, in August 2021, the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed.

The U.S Institute of Peace estimates that the war cost the U.S. $2.3 trillion, and resulted in the deaths of 2,324 U.S. military personnel, 3,917 U.S. contractors and 1,144 allied troops.  The Afghans paid a far heavier price. It reports: “70,000 Afghan military and police deaths, 46,319 Afghan civilians (although that is likely a significant underestimation) and some 53,000 opposition fighters killed. Almost 67,000 other people were killed in Pakistan in relation to the Afghan war.”

There was no Nuremberg-type trial regarding the Afghan war.

In March 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation into alleged crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court in relation to the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Amnesty International documents that between 2003 and 2011, U.S. forces engaged in rampant violations, including indiscriminate attacks that killed and injured civilians, secret detention, secret detainee transfers, enforced disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In 2020, as Reuters and other media reported, faced with the ICC investigation, U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo imposed sanctions on the Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda; in addition, Pompeo authorized the blacklisting under sanctions authorized by Pres. Donald Trump for asset freezes and travel bans onPhakiso Mochochoko, the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division.

Israel’s war against Palestine is now in its ninth month with no end in sight. Israel’s military’s most recent assault on the Gaza town of Nuseirat saw the freeing of four Israeli hostages of October 7th but at a cost of at least 274 Palestinians killed and 698 wounded. In addition, the Israeli military killedthree hostages, including a U.S. citizen. What comes next is anyone guess.

The Israeli state is now imposing the third “catastrophe” on the Palestinian people.  The first Nakba was imposed between 1947 and 1949 and saw at least 750,000 Palestinians forced beyond the borders of the state.  The second or Naksa (aka “setback”) followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War and saw 300,000 Palestinians flee, mostly into Jordan.

In the wake of the ’67 war, Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, refusing to adhere to Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 that called for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.  This became the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (OPT), a postmodern concentration territory.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a concentration camp is “a place in which large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution.”  Sounds like the OPT?  The concentration camp of old has morphed into the 21st-century, post-modern concentration territory.

The National WW-II Museum notes that during the Nuremberg Trials, “Footage of Nazi concentration camps taken by Allied military photographers during liberation was shown to the court.”  It adds,

Other memorable moments of the trial were the screenings of the Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps and The Nazi Plan filmsthe detailed description of the Final Solution, the murders of prisoners of war, atrocities in extermination camps, and countless cruel acts to prosecute Jews.

Both the Nuremberg and Tokyo post-WW-II trails have been criticized as exercises of what is known as “victor’s justice.” As William Schabas notes, the Nuremberg trials were “a trial that had to a large extent been an example of justice for the victors, pushing crimes perpetrated by the Nazis, while allowing notorious criminal acts by the Allies to go unpublished.”

In all likelihood, when Isael’s war against Hamas and the Palestinian people finally comes to some end, it will be accompanied by “victor’s justice.”  Neither Israel nor its co-conspirator, the U.S., will be held accountable for the mass genocide they committed. A couple of Israeli soldiers who were involved in select mass-killings may be subject to a slap-on-the-wrist prosecution not unlike that faced by Lt. William Calley for his role in the My Lai massacre.

Whatever happens, there will likely be no justice for the Palestinian people.david

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.