Is Israel Guilty of War Crimes?

Is Israel Guilty of War Crimes? January 19, 2024

Is Israel Guilty of War Crimes?

In case you don’t know, the world court in the Netherlands is hearing arguments brought by The Republic of South Africa that the State of Israel is guilty of war crimes/crimes against humanity. This is in responded to Israel’s response to the bombings and kidnappings in Israel by members of a Palestinian militant group based in Gaza. If you don’t know about this war, please inform yourself. Here in the U.S. the news broadcasts about it have been frequent, almost every evening, eclipsing news stories about the war in Ukraine.

Some news reports say that approximately twenty thousand people of all ages and religions, most of them innocent civilians, have been killed by Israeli bombings of Gaza. The images shown on the news have been shocking and dismaying.

At first, after the militant group invaded Israel and bombed Israeli towns and cities and kidnapped innocent Israeli civilians, including children, world opinion (outside of the Arab world) seemed to be sympathetic to Israel. That tide of world opinion (I’m speaking very generally here) has turned, against Israel, believing that it has over reacted militarily, possibly (some say) aiming at genocide of the population of Gaza.

A major problem here is that the media simply cannot be trusted. And another problem is that there is always two sides when war happens, which is not to say I think there is always moral or ethical parity.

What one has to do is study the back story, the history, behind this conflict between Israel and the militant group operating in and out of Gaza. I’ve lived through most of that history and kept up with it by reading articles and books and watching many documentaries. I have been to Israel twice. This decades-long conflict is extremely complicated. It cannot be understood without first understanding the Israeli (and most Jews’ mindset) about Israel’s existence and the threats to it. It cannot be understood without first understanding the Palestinian (and most Arabs’ mindset) about the same.

Israel and most Jews worldwide believe that the Arab world and Iran (which is not Arab) wants to wipe the Jewish state of Israel off the “map” of world geo-politics. They also believe that many, if not most, Arabs and Iranians (and many others) are fervently anti-Semitic in the contemporary sense of being anti-Jewish, hating Jews. Israel and its Jewish supporters and many Christian Zionists believe God provided the territory in the Middle East that was once the homeland of the Jews, Palestine, as a haven from pogroms and even Holocausts. It is their refuge and last hope.

On the other hand, most Palestinians and their supporters (except Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel of which there are many) have long believed the post-Holocaust “invasion” of Palestine by European and other Jews was a crime, driving most of the Arab people of Palestine from their homes and into refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere.

I was there and heard both sides and saw much including a huge, now abandoned Palestinian refugee camp just across the Jordan river from Israel in Jordan. My Israeli guide (Jewish) explained that the Palestinians left Israel voluntarily; Palestinians (not citizens of Israel) told a different story.

I had a friend who was Christian and passionately pro-Jewish State of Israel. He was a scholar of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) and had studied in Jerusalem. He told me that any criticism of the State of Israel was tantamount to anti-semitism (in the contemporary sense of hating Jews). We argued about that. He was adamant.

On the other hand, I had a colleague who was Jewish who was passionately pro-Palestinian.

My point is that I don’t think anyone can or should make up their mind about the situation in Israel and Gaza without studying the history of the conflict in that region of the world going back at least to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. (Yes, I know, it was a process beginning in 1947 and possibly only ending in 1949.)

I also want to remind Americans (and others) that IF Israel is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, so is the United States and Great Britain, both of who bombed German and Japanese cities indiscriminately during World War 2. As many as one hundred thousand innocent German and Japanese civilians died in some of those “carpet bombing” raids (especially in Dresden and Hamburg). I lived in Germany for a year and informed myself very thoroughly about these events.

None of that is to pass judgment either for or against Israel. I’m just saying, history is important. Anyone who will not take the time to study the historical background of events like this (what is happening in Gaza) should not have an opinion about the guilt or innocent of either side.

I recently watched a long documentary about why the U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs (excuse me, atomic bombs) on Japanese cities in 1945. I learned that former president of the U.S. Herbert Hoover, advised President Truman to make piece with Japan after the U.S. had basically destroyed the Japanese empire in Asia. He strongly discouraged Truman from invading “the Japanese homeland.” Ultimately Truman agreed because his generals told him that a U.S. and allied invasion of the islands that make up Japan would probably cost as many as a quarter of a million American lives. Every Japanese civilian was trained to fight invaders. Truman decided to go against Hoover’s advice and end the war with the new weapons of mass destruction, using them on civilians.

Back to Israel and Gaza. Apparently Israel has come to a decision something like Truman’s with regard to Japan. If the media are to be believed. And my own study of the Middle East crises (between Israel and her neighbors and Palestinians) leads me to believe that most Israelis believe they do not have to keep putting up with Palestinian militant groups attacking them. When I was in Israel I saw numerous teenage boys and girls carrying automatic rifles publicly, often ushering school children to and from school. There was reason for that. Fear of Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel was rampant and has been for a long time. On the other hand, many Palestinians fervently believe that the State of Israel has no legitimate existence and that even acts of terrorism against Israeli Jews are ethically justified. My Jewish colleague believed that.

So, before jumping to the conclusion that Israel is committing war crimes/crimes against humanity, or that it is not, do your homework. Study the historical background of the conflict—from both sides. Don’t focus only on what the American media say or on news articles. Take a wider view; study history. Try to put yourself in “both shoes,” so to speak. I warn you that studying the history of the conflict going back to the historical process of the founding of the modern Jewish State of Israel and even before that will complicate your thinking about the present conflict. For example, learn that the Mufti of Jerusalem during World War 2 was personally a friend and ally of Hitler’s. Then learn that the reason was the British occupation of Palestine and Jerusalem. Etc., etc., etc.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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