Israel's military says it goes above and beyond international law requirements to protect civilians. Both Israeli and international human rights groups, however, disagree. One human rights group, CODEPINK has issued a call to action Tuesday, urging the public to demand United States news reporters halt their disinformation and pro-Israel propaganda.
Human rights groups accuse the Israeli government of unlawful conduct, bombarding homes of militants in the crowded coastal enclave where the Palestinians have been caged into an open air prison, with neither a way or a place to flee.
The United Nations human rights chief on Friday raised "serious doubts" over Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law in Gaza.
“The Gazans are caged, or imprisoned, under blockade by both Israel and Egypt since 2007,” Human Rights Alert's Dr. Joseph Zernick said in Israel when interviewed Sunday by Deborah Dupre. “The IDF gives notice to entire neighborhoods that they are ‘targeted’ and that they must leave their homes before bombing starts. But there is practically nowhere to go.”
Israel insists its Operation Protective Edge, with stated goals of halting cross-border rocket fire against Hamas, is defensive and proportional. "Defensive" is part of the hoax, according to Dr. Zernick, who says Hamas rockets are not hitting Israel's populated areas.
Israeli rockets repeatedly hit homes of Hamas figures in Gaza, that Israel says are actually ''command and control'' centers.
''They are using the phrase command and control as a sweeping excuse to demolish civilian homes. This contravenes international law, endangers civilians and has led to a high death toll," says Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for B'tselem, an Israeli human rights group.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner denies B'tselem's allegations.
"We are not targeting homes," he said. "They are operation centers. When you have a command and control room and rockets and one bedroom it's not a home. It's a military position with human shields."
International law regarding targets
International law has strict criteria for military targeting during warfare. Article 52 of the 1977 additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 stipulates that ''attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization in the circumstances ruling at the time offer a definite military advantage.''
International law specialist Yael Ronen, of the Sha'arei Mishpat Academic Center in Hod Hasharon, Israel asks one central question regarding legality of Israel's assaults: ''What does the army mean by command and control?''
''If it's where they keep their computers, if what your destroying is the communications system inside, than it may be targetable as military infrastructure. If all you can say is this is where a person works and makes calls, without the structure of the house providing a military function, than the house doesn't qualify as a military objective because he can make his calls in the rubble or another place and Israel doesn't gain military advantage.''
So is the Israeli army targeting such command centers? Asked for this evidence, the army spokesman, declined to provide specifics, only saying "Our intelligence knows where they (militant commanders) are and what specific orders they give.''
A senior Israeli legal adviser, who asked not to be named, says the military adheres strictly to the principle of proportionality and ''undertakes constraints [on targeting] that are much more significant than the constraints of international law.'' Adhering to proportionality in Gaza is challenging ''because of the environment, working in urban terrain and because of the modus operandi of your opponent. For Hamas, their strategy and tactics is to operate within the civilian population and use it as human shields,' he said. The adviser added that in Gaza, the military has very good intelligence to rely on to ensure the legality of operations.
Meanwhile, A United Nations agency, in effort to halt extreme human rights violations, called on Israel Monday to halt the bombing of Gaza civilians, referring to the international humanitarian law violation as "tyranny."
As the United States endorses Israel's genocide of Palestinians, according to a White House spokesperson last week, a doctor on Monday, who is treating wounded Gazans, asked where the U.S. government decency is.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, called on Israel “to end attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure which are contrary to international law,” a rare recognition by a UN agency that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians.
CODEPINK call to action against US media pro-Israel propaganda
As the world watches Israel assault Gaza, mainstream American media has been presenting a one-sided picture of the conflict, according to human rights defenders such as CODEPINK
"Tell CNN now: Stop downplaying Palestinian suffering in your coverage of the conflict," CODEPINK urged in an emailed statement Tuesday, first citing CNN's one-sided reporting:
- CNN’s Chris Cuomo said the “death toll in Israel is rising as rockets keep coming in from Gaza,” when there have been 200 Palestinian deaths and only one in Israel.
- CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield suggested that Gaza missiles may be more powerful than Israeli missiles, when Israel’s sophisticated military technology is no match for Gaza’s crude rockets.
As CODEPINK says, today's pro-Israel propaganda in the U.S. is so blatant, commentators have even gone so far as to claim scenes of destruction in Gaza are in Israel, as Diane Sawyer did on ABC last week, and have called the Israeli military “incredibly compassionate” for warning Palestinians before bombing their homes, as Ben Ferguson did on CNN.
The Israeli government has warned tens of thousands of Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes. As The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart said, however, Gaza is between Israel and the sea. Where exactly are they supposed to evacuate to? The border of Egypt is closed, locking Gaza residents into an open-air prison.
"We deplore the targeting of civilians by the Israeli military and Hamas," CODEPINK said in a written statement Tuesday. "While Israeli civilians have warning sirens, bomb shelters, the Iron Dome, and one of the best equipped militaries in the world, the people of Gaza have no sirens, no shelters, no place to run, and no place to hide.
"The U.S. media’s portrayal of Israel as the victim misleads the American public into supporting continued unconditional military aid to Israel to the tune of $3.1 billion a year."
CNN’s coverage unfairly blames the people of Gaza for the violence wrought upon them.
"They rarely mention Israel’s crushing military offensive that has killed almost 200 Palestinians and destroyed schools, hospitals, centers for disabled people, and much more," asserts CODEPINK. "They rarely give the larger context showing how Gaza has been under siege, unable to control its own borders, airspace or coastline. Even now with the coverage of the ceasefire, there’s no mention of the fact that Israel violated the last two negotiated ceasefires, or that the conditions of the ceasefire were negotiated between Israel and Egypt and the US–– without Hamas.
When Diane Sawyer misidentified images of Palestinians in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on ABC World News, saying they were Israelis under fire, she came under heavy criticism by human rights defenders and was forced to make an on-air apology for her error.
Sources: Christian Science Monitor, Examiner.com, Before It's News, CODEPINK