Congressional Briefing on Gaza One Year Later -

Quest for Accountability, July 2015

One year after Gaza — no accountability
Mondowiess - July 14, 2015

by Josh Ruebner

One year has passed since Israel began its devastating assault on the occupied and besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip. The 50-day attack, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians—more than two-thirds of whom were civilians—including more than 550 children, made last year the deadliest Palestinians have experienced since Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to the United Nations

Israel also damaged or destroyed more than 150,000 Palestinian homes in this assault, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge”. Due to the ongoing joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip,
not a single home has been rebuilt, as more than 100,000 Palestinians remain internally displaced in temporary shelters, in schools, or in others’ homes. The UN has noted that “the extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come”.

reports by Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) and Breaking the Silence (PDF) document extremely disturbing cases in which Israel used US weapons—including F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Hellfire missiles and Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers—supplied at taxpayer expense, to kill Palestinian children in deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportional attacks and to wantonly destroy Palestinian homes and other civilian infrastructure for no military purpose whatsoever.

In one incident, an Apache helicopter-fired missile hit a residential building in Beit Hanoun on July 18, 2014 killing five children. Older brother Ahmad Abu Jarad told DCIP: “We found my sister Samar crushed with blood coming out of her nose, ears and head, and her neck was smashed. My other sister, Ahlam, was also dead. She was all charred, only part of her hair was not burned. The scene was excruciatingly painful. We recovered my brother Naim, who was still breathing at the time. His right leg was cut off, his private parts were cut off, too, and his entire body was smashed. He died before we could put him inside the ambulance.”

A first sergeant in an armored corps unit testified to Breaking the Silence that “there’s nothing at all left of Juhar al-Dik,” a village near Gaza City. When asked what caused the destruction, he replied: “Most of it was D9s (armored bulldozers). They just took down all the orchards. Not a single tree left. They worked on it for three weeks. When they didn’t have a specific job like leading our way or opening up a specific route for us or some other mission, they just went and flattened things. I don’t know what their specific order was, but they were on a deliberate mission to leave the area razed, flattened.”

To date, Israel has predictably failed to hold itself accountable for these atrocities through domestic judicial proceedings. The lack of seriousness of Israeli investigations into “Operation Protective Edge” was displayed most egregiously when the military exonerated itself in the killing of
the four Bakr cousins—Ahed and Ismail, aged 9, Zakaria, aged 10, and Mohammad, aged 11—as they played soccer on the Gaza City beach.

Assuming that Israel will hold itself accountable is like appointing the arsonist to investigate the fire he started. Israel can and must be accountable for its actions by outside actors, including Congress and the Obama administration. US laws are designed to prevent foreign countries from using US weapons to commit human rights abuses. The Arms Export Control Act limits US weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense” and the “Leahy Law” sanctions units of militaries that commit grave human rights abuses and prevents individuals associated with these crimes from receiving US visas.

No country should be placed above the law, especially one which is considered an ally of the United States and receives more US military aid (PDF) than all other countries combined. Members of Congress have the opportunity to remedy the impunity that Israel unfairly enjoys by
sending this letter (PDF) to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to investigate the findings from these human rights reports and hold Israel accountable, as mandated by US law, for any violations that occurred.

Members of Congress and their staff are also invited to attend a Capitol Hill briefing on Wednesday, July 29 at noon in 121 Cannon, featuring eyewitness accounts of the impact of Israel’s attack from a Gaza-based photojournalist, along with testimony from legal advocates on Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.

Encourage your Member of Congress to support this letter and attend this briefing by taking action.

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US Congressional Briefing: Israeli investigations into Gaza War cases are illusory
August 4, 2015

See videos of the speakers at this briefing:

Speakers urged US lawmakers to raise serious concerns about lack of accountability for human rights violations and war crimes by Israeli military 
in Gaza.

On 29 July 2015, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Adalah and co-sponsors presented a congressional briefing in Washington D.C., to mark one year since the 50-day war on Gaza in 2014 that claimed the lives of 2,220 Palestinians, about 70% of whom were civilians. Together with a coalition of human rights organizations and civil society partners, Adalah urged US lawmakers to raise serious concerns with Israel about the total lack of accountability for gross human rights violations and alleged war crimes by the Israeli military in Gaza.

The briefing on Capitol Hill drew around 70 attendees, including staff from at least 20 different congressional offices. Josh Ruebner, policy director at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, gave opening remarks. Eman Mohammed, a Gaza-based photojournalist, presented photographs taken during the war and provided a harrowing personal testimony of the injury of her child. Speakers from Adalah and Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) highlighted specific violations of international humanitarian law during the military offensive and discussed the failures of domestic Israeli investigatory mechanisms.

Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, provided an overview of the 50-day military offensive and highlighted the high price paid by Palestinian children in Gaza. In a recently-released report “Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged on Children”, DCIP independently verified the deaths of 547 Palestinian children among the killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Nearly 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces were 12 years old or younger. Parker said there has been no accountability for grave violations against Palestinian children.

Nadia Ben-Youssef, Adalah’s US representative, detailed the flaws in Israel’s domestic investigatory proceedings and the almost insurmountable obstacles faced by Palestinians from Gaza when trying to access Israeli courts in compensation cases against the Israeli military to seek redress. Providing the latest updates on complaints into 22 separate incidences submitted by Adalah together with Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza to the Israeli Military Advocate General, Adalah demonstrated the near impossibility of securing criminal accountability for Palestinian civilian victims through Israeli legal channels.

“Adalah’s continued engagement with Israel's domestic investigatory mechanisms in pursuit of accountability for victims has provided concrete evidence that any alleged improvements by Israel to its internal military investigations are illusory, and that the military continues to grant itself complete impunity for war crimes.”

The briefing closed with a from-the-ground update from Raed Jarrar of the American Friends Service Committee, who had just returned from Gaza. Jarrar emphasized the humanitarian disaster for the besieged population of Gaza one year after the war, and urged lawmakers to use existing US legislation, including the Leahy Law, to hold Israel accountable for the grave human rights abuses committed in Gaza.

The Capitol Hill meeting was sponsored by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and cosponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just World Books, Middle East Children's Alliance, United Methodists for Kairos Response, and the US Palestinian Community Network.

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