23 January, 2009

War criminals and criminal wars

Ehud Olmert has put his justice minister in charge of defending Israel against charges of war crimes during the recent war in Gaza. At the same time "Israel's military censor has already banned the publication of the identity of the unit leaders who fought against Hamas Islamists on the Gaza Strip for fear they may face war crimes charges," AFP reports.

So, Israel claims its soldiers did not commit war crimes, but in order to protect them in case they did, their identity has to be hidden. That's brilliant.

I sometimes think the whole war crimes-debate is a distraction, just like the debate on Israels use of illegal weapons. As Amira Hass pointed out in Haaretz a few days ago, 'legal' weapons also kill. And even if you only target military installations and enemy fighters, you become a war criminal the very moment you decide to launch a criminal war. While it's undeniable that both sides has committed plenty of war crimes in this conflict (although one side on a far bigger scale), calling for the prosecution of those responsible is without meaning if at the same time the greater crimes of occupation, illegal settlements, conquest of land by force, ethnic cleansing, and so on, are ignored.

Pic above: Israeli soldiers shoot potentially lethal rubber-coated bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian children during a demonstration in the occupied West Bank.

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