Gaza and the Laws of Humanitarian War


Among the most heartfelt stories to have emerged from the slaughter in Gaza is that of a father writing his daughter’s name on her arms and legs.  His explanation:  When she is blown up, he wants to collect all of the pieces and give her a burial so that he can have a grave to visit to talk to her to console himself.   

Yes, war is appalling and a one-sided killing is hardly a propaganda coup for Bibi Natanyahu.  Going by the spontaneous demonstrations supporting Palestinians on almost every continent, he has already lost in the court of world opinion.

Moreover as UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierres has already pointed out the laws of humanitarian war call for proportionate response.  Promulgated in 1949 after extensive debate, the Geneva Convention is an extensive document but the basic principles require that wars be fought with honor, i.e. with conduct clearly within the rules of war.

The Geneva Convention states these as follows:  (1) Amelioration of the condition of wounded and sick in battle and (2) Applying the same at sea.  (3) Reasonable treatment of prisoners of war and (4) Protection of Civilians.

Grave breaches include wanton destruction of property as applicable in Gaza, also using a poison weapon (read phosphorous bombs in Netanyahu’s case); taking hostages which applies to Hamas; attacking humanitarian workers or UN Peacekeepers (Netanyahu); and allowing settlers on occupied territory, hence the term illegal settlements used by UN and other observers.

The killing of civilians applies against Hamas except in the case of armed farmer settlers, who apart from terrorizing Palestinian farmers also claim to be defending the borders of Israel. 

If our esteemed president is among the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for Netanyahu and the slaughter, (refusing for a long time to call for an end to the killings) he should be aware that being an accessory to war crimes can have consequences.  It only requires a formal complaint naming them filed against the two countries with the International Court of Justice, and the indictment will make them fugitives from justice restricting travel opportunities.  Well, he likes to be first and this would become a legal test putting him in the history books.

The vice president is no less a cheerleader and she, too, continues to express vociferous support for Israel and Netanyahu’s response in Gaza.  The latest death count is over 7000 of which about 3000 are minors.  One would guess the rest are mainly women and old men since the young will be probably facing the Israeli onslaught — a prospect of death or prison given the imbalance in weapons, and the human conscience in abeyance.

On a different plane, we can also imagine the two sides living peaceably together, cultivating the rich land without either side claiming exclusive rights to it.  When that happens and Palestinians no longer have to spend half a day going through checkpoints, the whole will be a happier place with one less flashpoint for the world.    

While we wait — and it is going to be a long wait — Palestinian children continue to be scarred for life.  How sad! 

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.


Pressure Tactic has little results

Political and diplomatic processes regarding the unrecognized Islamic Emirate...

The Plight of Christian Communities in Africa: A Tale of Persecution and Hope

Across the African continent, Christian communities have faced profound...

Counterintuitive Palestinian politics: Is Hamas treading a path paved by the PLO?

Spanish philosopher George Santayana didn’t have Palestine in mind...

Will the IMEC Survive after New Delhi G20 summit?

To comfort people who doubt the future of the...