STOP FUNDING ISRAEL'S MILITARY: TELL CONGRESS TO ENFORCE THE LEAHY LAW NOW!
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Section 620M of the United States Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, otherwise known as the Leahy Law, prohibits US aid to any state militia that commits “gross violations of human rights” (FAA, 1961, p.236). The United States has continued to provide support to Israel’s military despite its abysmal record of human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, most of which have targeted defenseless children and residents of internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been illegally occupied by the Israeli Defense Force and Israeli citizens.
The first category of gross human rights violations Israel commits against Palestinians involves illegal settlements. The 1947 UN Partition Plan clearly specifies Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank as part of Palestinian territory, but Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements on Gaza and the West Bank violates this international mandate. Further, in 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 determined Israel's settlements to have no legal basis, and that the state of Israel is and has been "in violation of international law" since 1967. Moreover, various NGOs report widespread abuses of Palestinians who have been forcibly removed from their own homes by IDF forces, murdered by Israeli settlers, shot at by IDF forces, extra judicially killed by IDF forces, arrested for protesting against Israel’s abuses, and tortured while in IDF custody.
The second category of Israel’s gross violation of human rights involve violations of the Geneva Convention’s International Law of Armed Conflict. The Law of Armed Conflict of the Geneva Convention prohibits the use of chemical weapons, and it states that parties to a conflict must “allow and facilitate impartial humanitarian relief for civilians in need.” In September 2007, Israel began to enforce a blockade against Palestinians, which has since obstructed Palestinian civilians’ access to humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, food, and tools necessary to rebuild homes destroyed by violent conflict. In December 2008, Israeli forces destroyed the humanitarian aid ship The Dignity, which was carrying medical volunteers and supplies that were bound for Gaza. In March 2009, Israel committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians when it detonated white phosphorous munitions over Gaza, causing Palestinian men, women, and children to suffer extensive burns, cardiovascular collapse, organ failure, and/or death upon exposure. On June 30, 2009, Israeli forces obstructed the humanitarian aid ship, The Spirit of Humanity from reaching Gaza, where they arrested and imprisoned at least 19 human rights workers that were on board this ship. In May 2010, Israel obstructed the Turkish humanitarian aid ship, Mavi Marmara from reaching Palestinian civilians besieged at Gaza, where at least nine human rights workers were killed by Israeli forces. In June 2010, Israel destroyed the humanitarian aid ship, MV Rachel Corrie that was bound for Gaza. The MV Rachel Corrie was named after US activist Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death by an armed Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to stop him from destroying a Palestinian home in March 2003. In October 2012, Israel obstructed the humanitarian aid ship, Estelle, from reaching the besieged Palestinian civilians of Gaza. In 2017, Israel destroyed EU-funded humanitarian projects meant for Palestinian civilians on the West Bank in order to make room for illegal Israeli settlements. Humanitarian relief is vital to the survival of Palestinian civilians besieged on Gaza and the West Bank, but the intentional obstruction of such relief by Israeli forces has caused Palestinian civilians to endure inhabitable conditions, and these constitute gross violations of human rights.
The third category of gross violations of human rights is against Palestinian children and in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights. IDF forces have been slammed by the United Nations, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Watch for Children in Armed Conflict for its continued abuses of Palestinian children. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reports that Israeli forces routinely deny Palestinian children “registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools, and clean water,” and “continuously use Palestinian children as human shields and informants.” The use of children or civilians as human shields in armed conflict is in violation of Geneva Convention Law of Armed Conflict Rule 97 as well. UNICEF (2017) reports “child arrests and detention frequently occur in East Jerusalem. Harassment by Israeli Security Forces at check-points, violence from settlers and the demolition of houses and other infrastructure are an ongoing feature of daily life affecting children and families across the West Bank.” Following the horrific abuse of Ahed Tamimi and her family, Human Rights Watch issued a report citing widespread abuses of Palestinian children and unjust treatment in military courts by Israeli forces. Amnesty International writes that the IDF had “tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children, particularly during arrest and interrogation, with methods including ‘beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats.’”
A fourth category of gross human rights violations involves the slaughter of non-combatants, including medical practitioners, journalists, and civilians. The killing of non-combatants are war crimes and in violation of Geneva Convention IV.
Article 20 of Geneva Convention IV prohibits the killing of medical personnel. It states:
"Persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected. In occupied territory and in zones of military operations, the above personnel shall be recognizable by means of an identity card certifying their status, bearing the photograph of the holder and embossed with the stamp of the responsible authority…"
While the Geneva Convention clearly protects medical personnel in occupied territories, Israeli Defense Forces have targeted medical facilities and killed medical personnel who were treating wounded individuals. Between 2008 and 2009, IDF forces were involved in attacks against an estimated 15 hospitals, 43 primary health care clinics, and 29 ambulances. At least 16 health workers were killed and 25 were injured while tending to wounded persons. In 2012, at least 16 hospitals and clinics, and 6 ambulances were attacked during Israeli military offensives. At least 3 medical workers were injured. In 2014, at least 17 hospitals, 56 primary health care clinics, and 45 ambulances were attacked during Israeli military offensives. At least 23 medical personnel were killed and 78 were injured. In 2015, at least 34 medical facilities were attacked, at least 92 ambulances were damaged, and at least 147 medical workers were injured during Israeli military offensives. Physicians for Human Rights- Israel documented at least 11 attacks on medical facilities and medical personnel in 2016. In 2017, the Coalition of Safeguarding Health in Conflict documented at least 93 attacks against medical personnel and medical facilities, mostly committed by Israeli Defense Forces. Between March 30 and May 27, 2018 alone, IDF forces have launched attacks affecting 245 health workers and 40 ambulances. On June 1, 2018, IDF shot to death Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year old female Palestinian paramedic who was tending to injured protesters when she was slain. Israel’s attacks on protected persons such as medical personnel are war crimes, and they constitute gross violations of human rights.
While the number of deaths and causalities of non-combatants remain disputed across different sources, no sources examined dispute the fact that Israel continues to commit war crimes and human rights violations against non-combatants in the occupied territories.
The promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right that must be afforded to our neighbors in humanity just as it is afforded to ourselves. United States congressmen and women must stop aiding the militias of those governments who impede individuals’ access to such opportunities. Stop providing aid to Israel’s military. Enforce the Leahy Law now, lest the United States be held accountable for its complicity in committing abuses against Palestinians through its military aid to Israel.
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