New York, NY – In response to the ongoing atrocities in Gaza, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
For over 40 years the Center for Constitutional Rights has made it a point to apply an international law analysis to events at home and abroad. In that spirit, CCR condemns the Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which have killed nearly 700 Gazans since December 27, 2008.
Most recent, on Tuesday, January 6, an Israeli airstrike targeted a UN-run school in the Jabalya refugee camp that served as a shelter for numerous families fleeing their homes, killing over 40 Palestinians and wounding 50.
The scope and nature of the Israeli military operation in Gaza show that its aim cannot accurately be described as just “self defense,” and that its impact on the civilian population of Gaza is severe. The sheer numbers – nearly 700 Palestinian dead, in comparison to 10 Israeli dead – belie such a claim. The military attack has included shocking violations of humanitarian law principles, including:
The massive bombing of densely populated areas, causing the high number of civilian casualties, violates the requirement of distinction between military and civilian targets.
The principle of proportionality is incompatible with the targeting of schools, mosques, shelters, homes in crowded refugee camps, civil society institutions, and civil government buildings, targets that are civilian in nature and almost certain to result in a high number of civilian deaths and casualties.
The high proportion of civilians killed in Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli offensive – as much as 50 percent according to some observers, even excluding the civil police force – violates the prohibition of collective punishment.
It should also be noted that the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel over the past two years violates the free passage of foodstuffs and medicines mandated by international law, including Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. As a result of the blockade, a humanitarian crisis has prevailed in Gaza even prior to the military attack. Malnutrition is extremely high and affects 75 percent of Gazans. Unemployment is estimated to affect 70 percent of the Gazan population. Gaza’s agricultural economy, as well as its industrial economy, have been devastated.
The vast majority of observers, including many in Israel, counsel that military force cannot resolve this conflict. CCR fervently hopes that diplomacy will replace brute force and that the United States, which has consistently backed Israel’s hard line with military equipment and United Nations vetoes, will at last come down on the side of law and humanity. It is worth noting that most of the military equipment used in this recent operation has been produced and funded by the United States, including F-16 airplanes and Apache helicopters. What is critically needed at this point is a just and lasting ceasefire, leading to a just and lasting peace.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.