Israel Seeks International Law Rewrite

Israel and its supporters are leading a charge to rewrite how international law defines crimes against humanity to create more leeway for military attacks that kill large numbers of civilians, a bitterly ironic development, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

The promulgation of International law addressing crimes against humanity was one of the major legal achievements resulting from World War II. As Robert Jackson, the lead American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials put it, the crimes bred by that conflict were “so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Crimes against humanity include government-initiated or -assisted policies or practices resulting in massacre, dehumanization, unjust imprisonment, extrajudicial punishments, torture, racial/ethnic persecution, and other such acts. In reference to the last-cited crime, in 1976 the United Nations General Assembly declared the systematic persecution of one racial group by another (for instance, the practice of apartheid) to be a crime against humanity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security meeting with senior Israeli Defense Forces commanders near Gaza on July 21, 2014. (Israel government photo)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security meeting with senior Israeli Defense Forces commanders near Gaza on July 21, 2014. (Israel government photo)

Given the origins of this body of law, it comes as a shock that there are now a number of countries that would like to weaken, and perhaps even do away with, this category of law. These states claim that terrorism, and the so-called war against it, have changed the international environment so greatly that laws designed to protect us all from crimes against humanity are now tying the hands of those who regard terrorism as the present greatest threat to civilization.

While this argument may have some headway with certain governments and populations, it is a distortion of facts and a mangling of history. The vast majority of crimes against humanity require a level of organization and force only found with the state. This fact was brought out during World War II to such a degree that it could no longer be ignored.

On the other hand, the crimes of small groups of terrorists may indeed be heinous, but even at their worst, they do not come close, in terms of numbers affected, to the crimes of states. For governments to decry laws attempting to rein in their own major crimes as impediments against their efforts to battle those perpetrating, in comparison, relatively lesser crimes, is more propaganda than truth.

The Israeli Contribution

Take for example the State of Israel. The fact that Israel is among those states, perhaps the main state, attempting to do away with the laws protecting us all from crimes against humanity should come as yet another shock. How can a state that loudly proclaims that its reason for being is the protection of all Jews, seek to undermine laws that were, in good part, promulgated in response to the brutal persecution of Jews?

Part of the answer to this question may have to do with the fact that Israel does not represent all Jews, but only those who adhere to the Zionist ideology – the ideology of the Israeli state – and it is with the well-being of these Jews that the state appears most concerned.

As for the alleged danger to all Jews (for instance, the resurgence of anti-Semitism), one suspects that Israel’s leaders use this as a pretense to pursue policies and practices relevant only to the State of Israel and its guiding ideology. And these policies and practices happen to consistently contravene the laws proscribing crimes against humanity.

The Israelis are not very secretive about this. Take, for instance, Moshe Yaalon, the present Israeli Defense Minister and one of those actively working against international law referencing crimes against humanity.

At a recent conference entitled “Towards a New Law of War,” sponsored by Shurat HaDin (an organization of Israeli lawyers operating internationally to defend Israeli military and civilian practices which violate international law), Yaalon declared that in any future with conflict with Lebanon, Israel “will hurt Lebanese civilians including kids of the family   . We did it in the Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”

His excuse for this criminal position is that organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas allegedly hide their soldiers and weapons in densely populated urban areas. However, journalists on the ground have found this to be false.

Yaalon also held out the prospect of using nuclear weapons against Iran sometime in the future. The fact that present international law holds such actions to be crimes against humanity is the reason Israel seeks to undermine such law and create a “new law of war.”

Another indicator that Israel will continue to defy this aspect of international law is the recent appointment of Ayelet Shaked as Minister of Justice in the newly formed government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Shaked has declared that Israel is at war with the entire Palestinian people and therefore they all should be destroyed, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Shaked is a deceptively innocent-looking woman. Her behavior, however, calls to mind Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray. 

The West Gives a Green Light

Major Western nations seem ready to support Israel in this effort, even though it clearly encourages a new era of state-sponsored barbarism. For instance, the U.S. government has consistently protected Israel’s criminal behavior from United Nations condemnation by using its veto in the Security Council.

The British government has restricted the use of “universal jurisdiction,” an aspect of international law that allows victims of war crimes to initiate prosecution against responsible individuals in any country that is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions. In order to exempt indictable Israelis, the UK has declared that only its Director of Public Prosecutions (always a politically malleable individual), rather than trial judges confronted with strong evidence, can issue universal jurisdiction arrest warrants.

The governments of Canada and several European states are attempting to  criminalize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which seeks to pressure a change in Israeli policies toward Palestinians. And on it goes.

The average citizen is either ignorant of or misinformed about the growing danger to an aspect of international law that protects us all. And that is too bad, because it is the average citizen who will always suffer the most from the commission of crimes against humanity.

Beyond the dangers of ignorance and misinformation, there is the ongoing problem of nationalism. The laws allowing for the prosecution of those who commit crimes against humanity were instituted at a time when most nations were so mindful of the barbarism of World War II that their leaders were willing to let go of a bit of their national sovereignty to create potentially meaningful international law. However, they would not go so far as to create an international police force with truly independent operating powers.

It has been 70 years since the end of World War II and nationalism is as strong as ever, while the memory of its barbaric capabilities has faded – despite isolated reminders offered by the multitude of small wars that come and go almost yearly.

So we are embedded in a cycle of violence, led astray by our faulty memories and national hatreds. By now we should know better, but we don’t.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

23 comments for “Israel Seeks International Law Rewrite

  1. Mookie Tenembaum
    May 24, 2015 at 07:10

    Excellent article and reasoning with only one small caveat: the alleged facts are just the author’s biased opinions.
    “You are entitled to your own opinions but alas, not to your own facts”
    Daniel Patrick Moynahan

    • dahoit
      May 24, 2015 at 11:28

      Quoting drunken morons diminishes you.

  2. Peter Loeb
    May 24, 2015 at 07:10


    “…How can a state that loudly proclaims its reason for being is
    the protection of all Jews seek to undermine laws…
    promulgated for the protection of Jews..?.” —L Davidson

    Another approach to viewing the apparent paradox is to under-
    stand Zionist rulers as another exhibit of what in the US was
    for many decades THE (usually urban) POLITICAL BOSS.

    The ghettos were managed in precisely this fashion for the
    Nazis during World War Two by the “Judenrat” (Council of
    Jewish Elders) almost all of whom were Zionists. In fact, their
    Zionism is not per se a requirement but the absolute
    dictatorial control of a group with loyalties based on ethnicity
    has been a persistent characteristic.

    In the case of the Judenrat, see “JUDENRAT: THE JEWISH
    OCCUPATION” bu Isaiah Trunk (Macmillan Co, NY, 1972).

    For a comparison with other groups (non-Zionists and
    not in World War Two) see Gabriel Kolko in MAIN CURRENTS

    The leader of the Judenrat featured his own birthday as a
    “holiday”, decided who should work and where, who should
    die and who should not.

    The Judenrat were not rebels against the Nazis in any sense
    but were close collaborators with them. They toured in
    limousines with Himmler and worked closely ostensibly
    (they said) to protect Jews. If the Nazis decided that children
    under 10 years were not useful in a ghetto, the Judenrat
    organized them over the protests of their Mothers. With
    lunchpails in hand, they were put in a train to their deaths.
    The Mothers were told that “if we (the Judenrat) don’t do it
    they (the Nazis) will and that will be worse.”

    Such actions were typical in World War Two but it must
    be emphasized this is not ONLY a characteristic of Zionists
    (see Kolko, op cit).

    Many of the horrors of Zionist rule are patterned on this
    past history. Of course there are other factors as well.

    It can only be hoped that any and all attempts to water
    down these basic tenets of international law will never
    pass muster at the UN. (It may even reflect on Zionist
    Israel’s empty claim to “democracy”!)

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. keith adams
    May 24, 2015 at 07:04

    I cannot make a distinction between “jews…zionists”…………if anybody acted in my name I would be incandescent with rage…..this “do-gooder” attitude precipitated the present situation….its time people polarised properly against the media first of all…and all who spread the lies….without it…these psychopaths wouldn,t be able to manipulate the stupid.
    Lets be honest we are simply outnumbered by stupid people who refuse to become involved. If we could target the media personnel by ostracization or similar and bring home to this filth the poison they are spreading…we possibly could “educate” the “desperate housewife n american idol” addicts to observe the truth and act.

  4. fbjle
    May 24, 2015 at 03:34

    Please do not get confused or confuse or muddy the waters.Without judasim there’s no zionism, it simple as that.

  5. Gerald
    May 23, 2015 at 18:04

    to Zachary Schmidt
    It was the Romans who killed Christ.
    Apparently you either don’t know history or are an ante Semite.

    I amazed at all the writers who are ignorant of the true facts.
    Perhaps the hate Israel and the Jews.

    If you are Christian you should be thankful to the Jews because they gave you Jesus Christ.
    Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew.

    If he were alive today he would condemn the anti semitism that exists in the so called Christian countries.

    • Zachary Smith
      May 24, 2015 at 12:34

      “to Zachary Schmidt

      Pal, your cut/paste skills could definitely benefit from extra practice time. Either that, or you need to go back to hasbara 101 to work on the finer points of insulting the goyim. It’s true that about 2/3 of my ancestry is German. It’s also true that my female relatives qualify for the DAR 18 times over.

      Yeah, I know that Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew. I also know that the Romans executed him. Problem is, the right-wingers of the Catholic Church and the ignorant among the Protestant Fundies believe otherwise.

      But century after century, Pope after Pope has promoted unconscionable antiSemitism. St. John Chrysostom, in the fourth century, said, “I hate the Jews. God hates the Jews and always did.” In 1555, Pope Paul IV published a Bull that stressed that the “Christ-killers,” the Jews, were by nature slaves and should be so treated. In 1581, Pope Gregory XIII claimed that the Jews’ guilt regarding Jesus’ death grew deeper with time, mandating perpetual slavery.

      For four centuries the medieval Roman Catholic Inquisition rained terror on Europe. Whole communities of Jews were forced either to convert or leave the country the next day. Most “converted.” Then, if any of them were suspected of still observing Jewish rites, they were hauled before the Catholic Inquisition for their “heresy,” gruesomely tortured, then burned to death at the stake. A single accuser could bring this about. So if you liked to put on clean underwear on Saturday, or didn’t like the taste of pork, you would be tortured and murdered by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The absurdity of all this is exceeded only by its cruelty. And it led straight to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

      Pope Pius XII kept silent while those gas chambers were working full time; and that silence equated to aiding and abetting genocide. The whole world knew what was going on, but the Pope spoke not one word against Hitler. And as recently as 1965, Pope Paul VI denounced the Jews for failing to receive the Messiah.

      • CB
        May 24, 2015 at 20:08

        Zachary, in fact, the Jews did
        kill Christ, even if by the hands
        of the Romans – just as they
        crucified hundreds of millions
        in our times – largely, by the
        hands of others.
        No, not Jews, you might say,
        but only the Pharisees.
        — Doesn’t matter.
        2000 years ago, the Pharisees
        had total control of the Jews –
        just as in our times the Zionist
        neocons have total control,
        as did the Judo-communists
        not so long ago.
        During the last 2000 years,
        the Semitic Jews were
        replaced by the Khazars.
        — Doesn’t matter.
        The governing Pharisaical
        regime remains completely
        intact – and now governs you,
        too, not to mention the rest
        of the ‘free world’…
        Or else, why would you be
        putting yourself through this
        mental acrobatics, where you
        must persist with this black
        legend of the Spanish
        Inquisition persecuting
        poor little Jews?
        In fact, the Inquisition had
        no slightest jurisdiction over
        the Jews, and those marranos –
        pigs – false Christians – that
        it did prosecute may well have
        deserved to get fried, for all
        you know, as was the custom
        of the day.
        Not any worse than being
        hanged, drawn and quartered,
        as was the contemporary
        English custom.

      • Zachary Smith
        May 27, 2015 at 23:36

        (third try to post after 3 days of ‘moderation’)

        Memo to the poster Gerald:

        in fact, the Jews did kill Christ, even if by the hands of the Romans


        where you must persist with this black legend of the Spanish Inquisition persecuting poor little Jews?

        Whenever I find it necessary to post on a topic where I’m grossly uninformed, I try to at least mention my situation in that regard.

    • David Roberts
      May 24, 2015 at 20:13

      Christ was an ‘eastern’ Jew. I am pretty sure he would have a strong aversion to European Zionism, which is the very antithesis of his teaching.

    • May 26, 2015 at 13:37

      As to Jesus being a Jew; that has come under debate in certain archeological circles since historically, there were two cities of Nazareth. One was in the south within the Kingdom of Judea, while the other was far to the north in the Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of Israel has no relation to the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah as it disappeared as it became assimilated into the other cultures that surrounded it and\or overran it.

      If Jesus was born in the south than yes, he would have been a Jew. However, if he was born in the northern city than he was whatever the culture at that time was, which was not Jewish.

  6. Joe Tedesky
    May 23, 2015 at 17:46

    My criticism of the current Israeli Zionist government has nothing to do with Jewish. In fact, I fear for the average Jewish person. My fear comes from the backlash which they may suffer one day, as a result of the Netanyahu’s they have amongst them. I also, must include the average American citizens security at risk, for what all the US government has done. Yes, I don’t blame all people of any race, color, religion, or creed, for what the one percent among them do. Most people are decent and good. Prosecute the ones who need prosecuted, and do nothing more.

    • Stefan
      May 23, 2015 at 19:35

      Indeed, you are correct.

      It is very comfortable for zionists to hijack the culture of the jews so as to capitalise on historical arguments to shield them from the crimes they pretend condemn, but are in fact absolutely guilty of.

      A non jew can be a zionist and a jew can denounce zionism on a very good basis.

      I too am worried that many innocent people will suffer again for the hypocrisy of the few.

      We all have a vested interest in preventing that, despite being called names by the zionists.

      Zionists are ready to sacrifice jews as non-jews for their perverse ideology.

      Read the case of rabbi Josef Antebi, a jew tortured by the zionists and is now disabled and sitting in a wheelchair, because he dared to critisice zionism and the zionist crimes against palestinians.

  7. Daniel Dearborn
    May 23, 2015 at 16:47


    This latest hypocrisy is going to backfire for Israel. Their actions are in fact a tacit admission of…………..war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide etc. Otherwise Israel would have no reason to change try and change the law. And even if Israel manages to bribe, threaten, cajole or blackmail enough countries to make the change this doesn’t absolve Israel of the holocaust it has perpetrated against the Palestinian people since 1948. What Israel really wants is to enact ex post facto laws to in a desperate bid to stave off countless convictions in the international courts which are now pending including, wait for it……………war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. At this point the only people NutenYahoo’s new regime are fooling are themselves.

  8. Abe
    May 23, 2015 at 16:08

    Hasbara (Hebrew: הַסְבָּרָה‎ hasbará, “explaining”) propagandist trolls strive to discredit websites, articles, and videos critical of Israel and Zionism.

    Hasbara tactics of deception include:

    1) accusing anyone who offers legitimate criticism of Israel or Zionism of being “anti-semitic”, and

    2) deliberately posting incendiary comments with links to “anti-semitic” and “Holocaust denial” material.

    These smear tactics have intensified due to ever-increasing Israeli military aggression and outright racism, as well as Israel’s collusion with the United States in regime change projects from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

    Readers of Consortium News are alert to these deceptive tactics.

    • Vesuvius
      May 24, 2015 at 17:35

      Exactly. We have seen this so often, that today, we are immune.
      If anyone labels me “anti-Semitic”, I will accept is as praise, or even flatter.

    • Stefan
      May 24, 2015 at 21:58

      The best counter is to keep calm, point to sources and debate / argue in a civilised, informatve manner.
      I have noticed that they usually crack under the pressure of the cool temper and factual data.
      They actually do more damage to their perverse cause themselves, continuing to parrot the same nonsensical material.

  9. Terry Washington
    May 23, 2015 at 12:42

    WHY are these racists(or are they agent proovocateurs prompted by the Mossad?) allowed to write on this forum???


    • Zachary Smith
      May 23, 2015 at 13:32

      (or are they agent proovocateurs prompted by the Mossad?)

      It’s a possibility which can’t be dismissed out of hand. One way of discrediting a person or site is to give the impression it’s infested with people who hate Jews.

      On the other hand, there are plenty of “traditional” Catholics who believe their Church did the right thing for the last 2000 years by going after the Christ Killers at every opportunity.

      Evil Mossad provocation or neo-nazi Catholic nut – who knows?

      • Mike
        May 24, 2015 at 20:22

        The decision to kill Jesus was made after he went into the temple, turned over the tables of the Money changers(the bankers in today’s world), and kicked them out of the temple. If Jesus came back to life today and went up against the Rothschild’s and their agent, who are the real owners of this country and the other shitty little country, I have no doubt in my mind that he would be crucified again.

    • dahoit
      May 24, 2015 at 11:25

      Are you saying calling obvious racist racists is wrong?WTF?

  10. john patterson
    May 23, 2015 at 12:32

    Nothing surprises me with these Zionist racists..

  11. Tom Welsh
    May 23, 2015 at 10:05

    “In order to exempt indictable Israelis, the UK has declared that only its Director of Public Prosecutions (always a politically malleable individual), rather than trial judges confronted with strong evidence, can issue universal jurisdiction arrest warrants”.

    In more direct and less polite language, the British government believes that it – and it alone – should decide who is entitled to the protection of the law. Not those stuffy old judges. Funnily enough, David Cameron and Teresa May are sounding more and more like King Charles II – and look what happened to him. (Oh dear, I do hope I haven’t committed the crime of extremist speech).

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