‘A Massive War Crime’

International law experts and human rights groups are denouncing Israel’s announcement of an intensification of its longstanding blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military exercise near the Gaza border, November 2014. (IDF, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip on Monday, pledging to block food and fuel from entering the occupied enclave and cut off the territory’s electricity — steps that international law experts and other observers decried as a clear war crime that will devastate civilians.

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” said Gallant.

Using rhetoric that one commentator called “blatantly genocidal,” Gallant added that “we are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”

Israel has been imposing a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for nearly two decades, impoverishing much of the crowded enclave’s population and denying millions sufficient access to clean water and other necessities. Children, who make up roughly half of Gaza’s population, have been disproportionately affected.

An intensification of the blockade against Gaza — often described as the world’s largest open-air prison — would be both unlawful and catastrophic, analysts warned.

“Starving 2 million people who cannot move and are under a land siege and naval blockade is genocide,” Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto wrote on social media. “This is a war crime.”

Yoav Gallant, on right, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, on Feb. 13, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tom Dannenbaum, a legal scholar and associate professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, agreed with that assessment, pointing to International Criminal Court statutes.

“Gallant is ordering a massive war crime (ICC 8(2)(b)(xxv)) and very likely a crime against humanity (ICC 7(1)(b), 7(2)(b) [extermination] / 7(1)(k) [inhumane acts]),” Dannenbaum wrote. “Presence of combatants within a civilian population does not affect its civilian character (AP I 50(3)). ICC has jurisdiction.”

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, called Gallant’s comments “abhorrent” and said that “depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime, as is using starvation as a weapon of war.”

“The International Criminal Court should take note of this call to commit a war crime,” said Shakir.

The announcement of a total blockade on Gaza comes as Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of the Palestinian territory and asking the U.S. to ramp up military support in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attack on Saturday, which killed more than 700 people.

Israel has since launched a wave of airstrikes in Gaza, killing more than 500 people and injuring thousands. Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly killed Monday by an Israeli attack on Gaza’s largest refugee camp.

“The intense bombardment has so far displaced more than 120,000 people in the besieged Palestinian enclave,” Al Jazeera reported.

An analysis published earlier this year by the human rights group Euro-Med Monitor estimated that Israel’s 16-year blockade “has impoverished more than 61% of Gaza’s total population” and “left nearly 53% of the population facing food insecurity.”

Map by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the Gaza–Israel barrier in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

In a statement on Monday, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that Israeli officials “who now call for killing, destroying, crushing, smashing, and even starving the residents of the Gaza Strip” in the wake of Hamas’ attack “forget that this is already Israeli policy.”

“At this moment, Israel is attacking in the Gaza Strip, when it is clear that once again many of the victims are civilians — including women, children, and the elderly,” the group added. “Deliberate harm to civilians is always wrong and prohibited. There can be no justification for such crimes, not when they are committed as part of a struggle for freedom and liberation from oppression, and not when they are justified as a fight against terrorism.”

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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44 comments for “‘A Massive War Crime’

  1. JPar
    October 12, 2023 at 09:35

    In the early 1980’s, Israel helped fund the new Hamas organization which built Islamic religious schools and spiritual centers. The aim was to divide Palestinians and weaken them thus making them more vulnerable. Arafat, head of the secular PLO at that time, wondered what was going on as the PLO got no funding from Israel.
    In time Hamas grew into a larger organization with a military wing making it hard for the PLO to control the region. Israel after much delay finally realized it had gone too far, but it was too late.
    So in some way, Israel holds some responsibility for the atrocities happening now.
    As for the US government, get rid of AIPAC which provides so much power to a foreign, irresponsible, unreasonable politic, Zionism.

  2. Selina Sweet
    October 11, 2023 at 16:37

    Defense Minister Gallant…showing us his “mettle” as with context of memory brings forth the often depicted movies of the wretched fruits of domination gone mad Buchenwald style …and here…Gallant enacting unhealed victim come perpetrator….what are to make of this?…..2023 Dachau, Israeli style? And watching the USA’s ignominious one-sided
    belligerent support of on-going naked oppression …revealing just how far degraded the Eagle has become only talons and a sharp beak sans moral/emotional intelligence…all this not to say Hamas’ brutality is okay. Not one iota. But, at the same time, understood. Who among us does not know that being hemmed in on all sides for years and years either breaks you or fills you with such hatred and rage that at some point the container can no longer hold.

  3. Walter O'Reilly
    October 11, 2023 at 11:42

    “scourge on humanity”

    Really? The look a lot like all the rest of the humanity. Seems like everyone is fighting and full of hate. You have to take a number to get coverage as ‘war of the day’.

  4. Randal Marlin
    October 11, 2023 at 11:39

    In Canada, we have a criminal law against hate propaganda. The law is often presented as an undue restraint on free speech. But the Supreme Court of Canada has narrowly circumscribed the scope of the term “hatred,” in the context of this law.

    “Hatred,” as defined by the Court, “is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups therefore thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred in this sense is a most extreme emotion that belies reason; an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group affiliation.”

    Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant’s “we are fighting human animals,” may well fit this description. It is de-humanizing language, comparable to description of Tutsis as “cockroaches” preparatory to their slaughter by Hutus in Rwanda, or “Colorado beetles,” by anti-Russian extremists in Ukraine. It is painful to recall that Hitler used physical disease metaphors conveying the idea that Jews were purveyors of spiritual death to the nation as Nazis defined it. It may be that Defence Minister Gallant intended the description to apply only to members of Hamas who responsible for the recent atrocities, but the response of punishing Gazans generally suggests application to that larger group. The effect of that language is to support further injustice and likely escalation of violence.

    One of the great misconceptions of our time, one that I remember from early childhood, is the maxim “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Especially now, in the age of social media, we should be aware of the falsity of this maxim, and should take the trouble to call out de-humanizing language every time it appears, for the havoc it can wreak.

  5. Eddie S
    October 11, 2023 at 11:37

    If the UN hadn’t been corrupted and co-opted by the US neo-cons over the past 40+ years, they would be the appropriate body to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict as well as the Ukraine war, but the neo-con bastards have delegitimized the UN to the point where it’s almost just a rubber-stamp for the ‘western powers’.

  6. Walter O'Reilly
    October 11, 2023 at 11:14

    One thing I’ve learned about human nature. The oppressed, while they may claim a moral high ground to throw off the oppression, never seem to learn this as a lesson. Instead, they take over the methods and thinking of the oppressor. The previous victims of hate don’t learn that hate is wrong. But they do learn the power of hate. On a individual scale, the child who is abused becomes the abusive parent.

    Its my nature to help the oppressed. But, one does apparently need to be careful about giving them any trust to have learned the right lessons from the experience. That ‘moral glow’ they had as ‘the oppressed’ doesn’t have any permanent effect. At least not one you can rely on.

    If you think I have an example in mind as I write the above, I was deliberately vague. I have at least three, and I presume I could come up with more if I wanted to work at it. So, the example that you think I have, well it might be on the list. Or not. But if you think I only have one example, you are too narrow.

  7. Walter O'Reilly
    October 11, 2023 at 10:52

    One thing for certain, thanks to Joe Biden and the Democrats, you can kiss any US ‘diplomacy’ in the Arab world goodbye. Joe Biden and the Democrats, standing behind Netanyahu and his rivers of blood, with the Americans cheering and passing the ammunition, this has not gone unnoticed.

    Cynics may say that this was always the US stance, but the Americans used to be more subtle about it. Or at least even a little subtle. They would re-arm, re-supply and provide ‘intelligence’ to the Israelis, but they would also call for cease-fires and for the bloodshed to end and give at least a fake pose of being wiling to mediate. Joe Biden and the Democrats have thrown that away, and have gone for full blood-thirsty war cries. Once again, all the Democrats are interested in are ‘body counts’.

    The Arabs have noticed this. The Arabs know what the Democrats ignore, that this fight is in defense of the mosque in Jerusalem that the Israeli settlers have been invading lately. And now the same Arabs see the Americans, who they haven’t trusted in a long time anyways, fully standing behind the Israelis, with no apparent concern for any life that is not Israeli. The Americans are telling the Arabs to their face that their lives are worth to them. Nothing.

    This is not going to be forgotten. Not for a long time. Maybe not ever. I was born hillbilly, and we think we have long memories, but the Hatfields and the McCoys won’t be nothing to how long this is going to be remembered.

    America, has already been stumbling around the middle east wondering ‘why don’t they like us?’ America’s standing in the middle east just went a whole lot further downhill. Even if they can bribe a leader to make a deal, its unlikely that the leader would take the risk of angering their own people by working with the Americans. Their so-called friends are refusing their calls to join them, and are not just edging but at least jogging away from them. I don’t expect Turkiye or the KSA to join the fight to defend the mosque, but both are moving away quickly, and making sure that everyone knows that they are not with the Americans on this.

    Americans have this strange belief that they can make reality to suit themselves. But for a long, long time to come, when the Americans talk to Arabs, they can say any lie they want, but the Arabs are going to be seeing the invaders into that mosque, and the smoke pyres of the dead in Gaza. Kiss any notion of American diplomacy in the Arab world goodbye. Power and money might open the doors, but they won’t find friendship or trust for such a long time that it will seem like eternity.

    Thanks Joe! Thank you Democrats! Heck of a Job, Blinkie.

  8. Arch Stanton
    October 11, 2023 at 10:41

    The only way the Zionists will stop the 7 decade genocide is for the following domino effect to happen.

    1. Hezbollah must officially declare war on the Genocidal maniacs. This, like Scott Ritter said on Saturday, would probably start a chain of events which would bring the US, Syria and Iran into the fray.

    2. The Persian gulf would be shut off and with it the oil that’s needed to lubricate the worlds economy. Global recession.

    3. Conflict ends after regional carnage & huge devastation

    4. Finally, a new dawn, new governments set-up and a hope for peace

    The danger here is of nuclear escalation as Russia, China and the US will all be key players. However, as far as Palestine is concerned, they’ll be dammed either way.

  9. A Bee
    October 11, 2023 at 05:34

    I can’t believe this is happening, they are monsters. Hopefully the Middle East can rid themselves of this scourge on humanity

  10. October 10, 2023 at 21:39

    mgr, that’s an excellent comment. What’s making me feel almost desperate is our government’s continuing support for these monstrosities. It seems there is nothing Israel can do that will cause us to even give them a slap on the wrist. Not massive war crimes, not desecration of holy sites, not murdering American citizens–nothing. This is why I was internally cheering when I heard the new that Hamas had attacked. I know war is evil. I was afraid, even three days ago, of the consequences for Palestinians. But they have suffered so much that I was almost relieved to see them strike back.

    What’s needed now is a just peace. And that will require some major concessions from Israel. There is not one mainstream U.S. politician with the gumption to push for this. As I said, I feel almost desperate. I cannot begin to imagine what the poor souls in Gaza feel. I am praying for them.

  11. Philip Reed
    October 10, 2023 at 20:58

    It always amazes me how Israelis appear to lack any self awareness when it comes to disproportionate retaliation against a much weaker foe. Actions that are ironically similar to the actions of their historical nemesis during WW2.
    How do they not see the similarities in the actions,deeds and words between themselves today and those that tried to commit genocide upon them 83 years ago. ?

  12. Lois Gagnon
    October 10, 2023 at 20:40

    The US, Israel, Europe and the rest of the empire’s colonies are about to learn that what you sow so shall you reap. The world is fed up with imperial wars of conquest which leave most of the world’s population in dire straights while a tiny elite live like gods. These blood thirsty tyrants will have to learn the hard way as always that their victims have limits to what they will tolerate and that limit has been reached.

  13. ray Peterson
    October 10, 2023 at 19:15

    Julian Assange locked in a UK prison; his spirit still convicts the West of war crimes.
    American support of Israel’s now genocidal slaughter of Palestinians, having Hamas
    resistance as an excuse, calls to mind Israel’s bombing of the USS Liberty in its
    1967 Arab Israeli war. Israel murdered 34 American sailors, wounded with napalm
    170 others and well, with President Johnson’s blessing, what’s the big deal
    about slaughtering Palestinians? After all they’re only “human animals”.

  14. SH
    October 10, 2023 at 19:05

    Apparently the ICC apparently has already been taken care of … just like our SC …

  15. mgr
    October 10, 2023 at 17:14

    Israel regards Palestinians as less than human. Ukraine feels the same way about Russians. In fact, in Ukraine, the belief that Russians are Slavs, and less than human, while Ukrainians are not, which, of course, is not true, is taught in Western Ukrainian schools. Thus, Ukraine believes and treats Russians as non human, as compared to themselves who are human, while Israel believes that Palestinians are non human while implying that they themselves are. Apparently, this gives them leave to overlook their own respective behaviors. And these hatreds are deliberately passed down from generation to generation. Just where did they think they would end up? What society can thrive based on hatred?

    And, of course, everyone, all the sub-humans, are out to get the “real humans.” Zelenski says he wants Ukraine to be the “new Israel.” Both societies see themselves as the victims of the hatred of others, as if their own actions have no bearing on their outcomes. Israel wails that the Arab world denies their right to exist. And yet, Israel in word and deed denies existence to the Palestinians. But, apparently, because Israelis are human while Palestinians are not, this is their God-given right. It should go without saying that any God that encourages such hatreds is a supremely fucked up God and should be institutionalized.

    From an objective viewpoint, Israel and Ukraine are two horribly distorted societies. What kind of future do they expect? What seeds are they sowing, as if hatred somehow does not beget more hatred and destruction. The reality is that their cultural bigotries have carried their respective societies to exactly where they are now, clinging desperately to their hatreds as they slip beneath the surface. This is nature taking its course. I guess, as Zelenski says, Ukraine and Israel do share a common bond, or perhaps a common psychosis.

    • firstpersoninfinite
      October 10, 2023 at 18:37

      Well said. And Zelenski has a money trail to an Israeli billionaire. No wonder he feels a warm kinship.

    • Valerie
      October 10, 2023 at 20:29

      “What kind of future do they expect? What seeds are they sowing, as if hatred somehow does not beget more hatred and destruction. ”

      It would appear that these two countries (ukraine/israel) are at the apex of what culminates as the most serious threat to the planet and life as we know it. But of course they are not wholly to blame for this. We can invoke the promotion of this antagonistic behaviour to the UK/US/EU. To difuse these situations will take no less than the complete abandonment of the support from these governments and their weapons manufacturers. The psychosis you mention is fueled by others with equal but different psychosis; not hatred, but fear.

    • Walter O'Reilly
      October 11, 2023 at 12:11

      Both are long-term western projects in ‘nation-building’.
      The only difference is that Israel came with a book of myths, but Ukraine had start from scratch.
      Both are nation building projects where the capitalist west tries to create a new nation/culture in a region The goal of course is to grow the profit and power of the capitalist west.
      And in both cases, the west and their client fully rejected any friendly relations with their neighbors in this process. They did not want a new nation that made friends and integrated into the region. They wanted a nation who’s internal politics was based on being enemies with their neighbors. The west, like the ‘mother countries’ of colonial times, wanted new nations whose connections went back to the capitalist west.
      The west wanted fighters at Fort Apache as a base in Indian Country.
      Given their common origins, it is rather likely that they would appear similar to each other.

  16. Jeff Harrison
    October 10, 2023 at 16:19

    I believe the actual human animals in this scenario are the Israelis.

    • WillD
      October 10, 2023 at 23:09

      Yes, they’ve demonstrated their cruelty and brutality quite convincingly over the years.

    • Charles Darwin
      October 11, 2023 at 12:21

      As a believer in Science, I’m not sure there is a distinction between “humans” and “animals”.

      • Valerie
        October 11, 2023 at 13:47

        Agree with that. But i believe animals are better than humans.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    October 10, 2023 at 16:00

    Hey, remember back in 2018 when the Palestinians penned up in Gaza actually tried non-violent peaceful resistance by marching to the Gaza concentration camp fence. Remember how the bloodthirsty, creepy and violent Israeli Defense [sic] Forces shot dead the unarmed Palestinian protesters one by one with impunity.

    • Rob
      October 10, 2023 at 17:02

      Some of the snipers aimed for the lower extremities, which resulted in serious injuries that in some cases required amputations.

      • Drew Hunkins
        October 10, 2023 at 17:49

        Precisely. The whole thing was nauseating.

        After witnessing (on social media) those daily massacres, it was a Crossing the Rubicon moment for me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, what they got away with! It prompted me to read more incendiary and provocative stuff like Israel Shahak’s “Jewish History, Jewish Religion”, Gilad Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who?” and Kevin MacDonald’s “Culture of Critique.”

        I haven’t had the same view of geop0litics ever since I saw that wanton carnage.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      October 10, 2023 at 20:41

      I remember it very well, actually.

    • Walter O'Reilly
      October 11, 2023 at 12:26

      One of the first things I do in a new house is to disable the Memory Hole. So yes, I remember.

  18. Em
    October 10, 2023 at 15:43

    ‘A Massive War Crime’???

    All wars are crimes against humanity, especially when they are perpetrated by those who are thinking only of their own security issues as the only international concern, against the very human beings, whose lives they have long attempted to eviscerate by odious means, such as ethnic cleansing as well as by industrially murdering innocents, in the process of securing their presence in territory they have usurped through force.

    For anyone, let alone the Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, to say “we are fighting human animals”, referring to Palestinians, and vowing to “act accordingly” he obviously has two classifications for human beings: his ilk, who are ‘chosen’ by nature to be the ‘chosen’ and therefore, superior; and the ‘others’, Arab Palestinians, who he categorizes as sub-human. He’must be a progressive, for rather than applying the long-standing racist characterization, he has created a neologism; “human animals”. If this is not an outright expresion of a racist, well then, I am NOT a monkey’s uncle, but I too am the monkey!

    Ten minutes of first-hand, hard-won moral reasoning, from Yanis Varoufakis.


    • SH
      October 10, 2023 at 18:57

      Hi, Em – tried to cut and paste your citation, but Yanis didn’t come up …

      hxxps: ?

      • Consortiumnews.com
        October 11, 2023 at 14:18

        Change xx to tt

    • firstpersoninfinite
      October 10, 2023 at 19:01

      Thanks for that great video. A must see/hear.

    • Graeme
      October 10, 2023 at 23:33

      thanks for the link to Yanis; you’re right, it’s the most sensible commentary that needs to rise about many others.

    • michael888
      October 11, 2023 at 07:42

      I prefer the term “untermenschen” for its historical basis, and “deplorables” for more modern use. Racism in violent action, is just the nadir of “othering” people, to mistreat people with differing views and cultures, and of course to justify theft of resources, property, and lives. The rationalizations of psychotic leaders.

      • Em
        October 11, 2023 at 13:52

        Forgive the unfortunate language faux pas!

        Would you accept the rationalization of due to writing in the heat of the moment?

        How do so-called leaders differ from us, we the people?

  19. Paula
    October 10, 2023 at 15:38

    “depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime, as is using starvation as a weapon of war.” Why, then is it allowed in Cuba and other areas of the world. Are we ever going to be kinder than chimpanzees? Or maybe they are already kinder than humans! We are a long way from being evolved or even “woken.”

  20. Vera Gottlieb
    October 10, 2023 at 15:08

    Gaza: israel’s open-air shooting gallery.

  21. Vera Gottlieb
    October 10, 2023 at 15:05

    Nazi tactics: extermination…

  22. Drew Hunkins
    October 10, 2023 at 15:02

    Israel’s been committing crimes against humanity and blatant human rights violations with impunity for several decades. All paid for with the hardworking tax dollars of U.S. citizens.

    Every single Israeli citizen has “Med4All” or universal healthcare coverage. Meanwhile here in the U.S. we have people filing for bankruptcy or committing suicide bc of exorbitant medical bills.

    Unreal. Unreal.

    • SH
      October 10, 2023 at 19:01

      Shucks, no wonder Israel doesn’t want to recognize Palestinians as citizens, think of the medical bills they would have to pay!

    • Valerie
      October 10, 2023 at 20:04

      I share your frustration Drew. It’s unbelievable really. And what’s more unbelievable is the fact there’s more of us than them. A lot more. How can we all tolerate this blatant abuse. Why are we not in the streets. I recently watched the documentary by John Pilger “the war on democracy”. It was amazing to see thousands and thousands of people coming to defend their rights. And winning; chasing the userpers out. And so, the brave Palestinians with practically nothing to defend themselves against a formidable foe, rise up against the oppessors. And the world looks on. And words are spoken at the UN. But those words die on the air because they have no power.

      • Drew Hunkins
        October 11, 2023 at 10:43

        Excellent comments Valerie.

  23. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    October 10, 2023 at 14:40

    Crush the “human animal” could be yet another cash cow after “humanitarian interventions” of the past for the ever enterprising Western MICs ! The sovereign animals of Israel are on human hunting !

  24. firstpersoninfinite
    October 10, 2023 at 14:25

    In a statement on Monday, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that Israeli officials “who now call for killing, destroying, crushing, smashing, and even starving the residents of the Gaza Strip” in the wake of Hamas’ attack “forget that this is already Israeli policy.”

    Back in the 1990’s, a friend of mine had an ex-Israeli soldier stay at their house, a quite young, young man. He told my friend that “Palestinians were animals.” Living in the American South, my friend was already well-aware of what it was like to have neighbors and fellow citizens described as “animals.” Maybe the Israeli citizenry can push for their own version of the Thirteenth Amendment for their country, and maybe they’ll be able to implement its legacy better than we did in the U.S.. Of course, they’d have to remove their entire government from office immediately. It should not be lost on anyone in the U.S. that every major police force in our country has trained with the Israeli Security Forces. What Israel will do to Gaza is already in the American Authoritarian Playbook. Our government couldn’t stop Israeli war crimes even if it wanted to do so. When you are the world’s only Superpower, you either exude a light across the entire globe or else remain a minor character in the Marvel Movie universe. When you start to believe you can create your own reality, you’ve left all semblance of reality.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      October 10, 2023 at 20:44

      If I had been your friend, I would have kicked that “ex-soldier” out of my house.

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