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National Lawyers Guild Urges US Government to Cease $3 Billion Annual Military Aid to Israel

National Lawyers Guild Urges US Government to Cease $3 Billion Annual Military Aid to Israel
July 18, 2014
Tasha Moro
Communications Coordinator
212-679-5100 ext 15

Recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and ground invasion violates international law

NEW YORK–The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) expresses its outrage
about Israel’s ongoing indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks
against Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in the Gaza Strip.
Following a barrage of recent airstrikes, the Israeli military on July
17 began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Power has been cut to the entire Gaza Strip, as close to two million
Palestinian civilians huddle in the dark reporting explosions, flares
and Israeli airstrikes hitting in the north and eastern parts of the
Gaza Strip. As of July 15, Palestinian human rights organizations had
documented the killing of 194 Palestinians, including 37 children and 28
women in Gaza.  72.7% of those killed are considered civilians.  At
least 1,218 Palestinians have been injured.  1,489 houses have been
destroyed or damaged in addition to 23 schools, 34 mosques, an ambulance
center, 13 NGO offices, 38 fishing boats and 5 hospitals. According to
the UN Office for Humanitarian Assistance, over 17,000 Palestinians have
taken shelter in UNRWA schools and another 6,500 have found shelter
with families or friends.  While rockets have been fired into Israel by
militants in Gaza, they have resulted in one death and little damage.

The population of the Gaza Strip has been living under an Israeli
imposed closure for the past seven years, itself constituting a form of
collective punishment.  As a result of the siege, 70 percent of
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are dependent on humanitarian assistance
and  have not yet even recovered from the damage and destruction caused
during previous Israeli offensives in 2008-9 and 2012.

Once again, Israel’s military attack against the occupied Gaza Strip
is being portrayed by the US government as an ongoing military
conflict, one in which Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket
fire from Gaza. President Obama recently wrote in the Israeli newspaper
Haaretz that “our commitment to Israel’s security remains
ironclad. The US is committed to providing more than $3 billion each
year to help finance Israel’s security through 2028.”  Meanwhile, both
House (HR 657) and Senate (SR 498) have passed resolutions supporting
Israel.

“All this is indicative of the US policy of double standards.  No
matter how many innocent Palestinian civilians are killed and injured,
how many civilian homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools Israel destroys
through its bombs, the US sees Israel as the victim and continues to
fund Israeli massacres,” said NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani.

‘Operation Protective Edge’ is taking place in the context of
Israel’s belligerent occupation.  “Israel controls Gaza from the air,
land, and sea, and is therefore obligated under international law to
protect civilians there – as in the West Bank,” said Audrey Bomse,
Co-Chair of the NLG Palestine Subcommittee.  “As the Occupier, Israel
cannot rely on the argument of self-defense and must act in accordance
with the laws regulating the conduct of hostilities and occupation.”

Furthermore, in light of Israel’s widescale punitive military
campaign across the West Bank following the disappearance, and death of
three young Israeli settlers, blamed – without a shred of evidence
to-date – on Hamas, the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip is indicative
of a larger political agenda: to destroy any chance of the Palestinian
unity government succeeding, to destroy Gaza’s infrastructure, and to
“mow the grass” – a term Israel uses to justify periodic assaults on the
Gazan people’s will to resist occupation.
 
The NLG believes that international humanitarian law must be adhered
to.  The principle of distinction requires all parties to distinguish
between civilians and combatants, as well as between civilian objects
and military objectives. The principle of proportionality prohibits
launching an attack, which may be expected to cause loss of civilian
life, injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, which would be
excessive compared to the concrete military advantage anticipated.  In
addition, Palestinian civilians are protected under the Fourth Geneva
Convention, which obliges Israel, as the Occupying Power, to ensure the
well-being and safety of the occupied population and respect
Palestinians’ right to life and dignity.

Israel has admitted intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians
and homes.  On July 8, the Israeli military announced that it had
deliberately bombed the homes of four persons it called senior Hamas
activists.  According to international customary law, a permissible
military objective is “limited to those objects which by their nature,
location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military
action […or] or offers a definite military advantage.”  The punitive
targeting of the homes of people who may have links with armed groups,
but are not taking active part in hostilities, is impermissible.

Israel’s framing of its military actions in Gaza as “self-defense”
is part of a long-standing effort to weaken and change international
law.  The US must end its complicity in this effort.

The NLG calls upon the US government to immediately and
unequivocally condemn Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate
attacks against Palestinian civilians and civilian objects. The NLG
further calls upon the US government to cease the $3 billion annual
military aid to Israel, which enables it to continually violate
international law and human rights, including the Palestinian right to
self-determination.

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