Israel Still Holding Gaza Civilians Hostage, Doesn’t Get Geneva Conventions

By Juan Cole

The Israeli government is saying that it will only let in building materials so that Palestinians in Gaza can rebuild or repair the some 40,000 buildings that have been damaged or destroyed if Hamas disarms.

It is legitimate for Israel to seek the disarming of Hamas, but it isn’t legitimate or legal in international law for it to hold non-combatants’ lives and welfare hostage in order to accomplish that goal.

Israel is the occupying Power in Gaza because it controls its land and sea borders and its air space, and decides policy for its inhabitants, such as whether they can export their made goods (the answer is no). I.e. it has effective control. Israelis sometimes attempt to escape the obligations of the occupier by saying that they “withdrew” in 2005. But that doesn’t change their status as occupier, and, indeed, the very fact of having sent 8,000 Israelis into Gaza where they attempted to usurp 40% of its land and a lion’s share of its water was a war crime. The Geneva Conventions don’t allow the occupier to transfer its own citizens to the militarily occupied territory! (Article 49: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”> So that they are no longer committing this crime is all very nice, but it doesn’t relieve them of their obligations as the occupying Power.

In the Geneva convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations by the military occupier, civilian non-combatants are called “protected persons”:


No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

So Gaza civilians cannot be denied building materials because somebody else fired a flying pipe bomb into the Israeli desert. The noncombatants don’t bear a personal responsibility for those little rockets.

This article 33 was put in because the world was appalled by Nazi crimes of collective punishment.

That is why the Israeli blockade of the civilians of Gaza since 2007 is and has all along been a war crime, contravening the Geneva Conventions.

Using the children they just made homeless as a bargaining chip in a bid to disarm Hamas is not only illegal, it is also heartless.


Related video:

Gaza residents return to ruined homes – BBC News

24 Responses

  1. If only there was some enforcement mechanism at the UN to these international conventions, maybe this sort of thing would mean something. Sadly, until then, Israel can continue to thumb its nose at the world community. There are two sets of standards that apply to the behavior of nations, and Israel and the US do not subject themselves to the same rules they apply to others.

    • The UN does have an “enforcer” remit and can take troops from any member country (which agrees to supply troops) in order to pacify and protect areas at war. I can remember this being done over and over in the 1950s and ’60s, but usually in 3rd world countries. The problem is that (I believe) it has to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council and, while Israel is not a member, certainly not a permanent member, it does have a voice (and a vote–including a veto) via the USA which is a permanent member and always supports Israel.

  2. Why is it “legitimate for Israel to seek the disarming of Hamas”, while Israel that has a long record of aggression against all her neighbors and the Palestinians under its occupation should be armed to the teeth? That kind of peace would be the peace of the grave, and it would mean that Israel could attack the defenseless Palestinians every time she wishes as she has done regularly in the past, while the Palestinians have no means of defending themselves. Surely, a more equitable solution would be to ban the sale of all weapons to Israel until a lasting solution has been found to the Arab-Israeli conflict and a free and viable Palestinian state has been established.

    In view of the level of Israeli atrocities during the past few weeks when they have shown that they stop at nothing in order to crush their opponents it is high time to put Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons on the table and remove that mortal and existential threat to the whole of the Middle East and beyond. Anything short of that would be highly irresponsible as Israel’s nuclear arsenal poses a grave danger to international peace and security and encourages proliferation.

    • Very, very good and to the point. Especially in how Israel represents the biggest destabilizing factor and threat to the Middle East, and BEYOND.

      Anytime a country that small and inconsequential on its merits can effective dictate the policy of the Worlds hegemony, there exists an incredibly dangerous situation.

    • It would seem more logical and legitimate for Hamas to seek the disarming of Israel, considering all the violence Israel perpetrates against Gaza for no good reason, over and over again.
      In addition, Israel possesses many nuclear weapons and consistently threatens Iran and others with potential nuclear bombings. Why isn’t it Israel that is being disarmed?

    • Hamas does have one of out cherished rights: the right to remain silent. I think that’s about the limit of Israel’s graciousness.

    • As we have all learned, “Only might makes right.” Under International Law, such as it is.

      Any constraint on the Beast, of course, anything that holds us all back from Ragnarok, link to, is to be applauded and fostered, however hypocritically the notions may be abused and fraudulently applied…

  3. What person could possibly believe that the ramifications of these acts will make for a safer and more secure Israel?

  4. It is interesting that only one high-ranking government official, as far as I know, has had the integrity to resign in protest.

    “British gov’t minister resigns over ‘morally indefensible’ Gaza policy, urging Palestinians to go to international criminal court” by Philip Weiss – link to

  5. We in the United States are not in a position to be self-righteous about moral decay in Israel.

    “Likening Palestinians to blades of grass: From the Archive: As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge winds down with more than 1,700 Gazans – mostly civilians – dead, Israeli leaders may feel they’ve finished a recurring chore, “mowing the grass” to eliminate troublesome Palestinians,” as ex-CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray observed in 2012. – link to

    • No, no, no. Those that read this blog and other similar blogs have ever right to “to be self-righteous about moral decay in Israel.” since they’re exposed to the truth or as close to the truth as possible.

      Most, the majority or whatever percent of Americans that rely on the corrupt mass news medias do not know the truth of what’s really going on in the Middle East, Palestine and the world. Very likely they and you cannot feel or relate to the pains of the Palestinians. Try going without hot and cold “clean” running water, a place to live and 3 square meals daily for a week and see how great you feel. I’ve had such experiences and it is not great. Try this for years and see what happens to you.

      I waiting to see real solutions and actions for solving the problems in the Middle East, America and the world. I’m tired of reading new descriptions of the problems or just repetitions of the killings, torture and crimes against humanity.

      The US government DOES NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS! It represents the corrupt Billionaires and their puppet millionaires. What the US government does is not what “honestly informed Americans” would want done. Many Americans are brained washed by the controlled: news medias, movies, education…..

      Corrupt Billionaires control the US government and the news medias and also own the Federal Reserve and the IMF.

      I began reading Informed Comments in 2010 and in a couple weeks began telling others about Juan Cole, including friends, 10 professors, professionals, swimmers, students, doctors, strangers, meditators, street people and all those I knew and others I met in Costco and wherever. Out of at least 600 people only 4 knew who Juan Cole is.

      • The US government DOES NOT REPRESENT AMERICANS! It represents the corrupt Billionaires and their puppet millionaires.

        But the voters keep reelecting the same politicians that keep getting it wrong.

        • We do not get to choose who runs and as only those with vast money-bags have a chance to win elections, we do not have a democracy but a plutocracy.

      • Arab-American Justin Amash had a BIG victory in Michigan yesterday. The mainstream Republicans tried every dirty trick in the book, even calling Amash “al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress,” but it didn’t help. He won easy.

        Amash’s father is Palestinian and his mother is Syrian. They’re both Christians, so the Muslim label won’t work. War party Republicans fear Justin Amash and Rand Paul antiwar types. Amash even voted against $225 million more from Bibi’s IRON DOME.

        Justin Amash is one “blade of grass” that won’t go down easy.


        Over 70 percent of Congress voted for the war on Iraq. Polls showed a similar percentage of the American people supported that war.

        Congress gave 100% support for the Israeli aggression against Gaza. Some members probably “held their noses” on that vote, but only 20-some percent of the American people were strongly opposed according to polls.

  6. Dear “Nobody,” thanks for trying to increase others to being informed.

    If enough people are informed, then a critical mass is reached and great breakthroughs can occur for all peoples.

    Even with less than great breakthroughs, a small number of informed people can mitigate harm by pushing back against unjust and destructive policies.

    • There’s nothing wrong about spreading the word, as it was put. But it is possible to be more strategic about it. This isn’t so pertinent to you necessarily, but keep in mind that some people are listened to more than others. Approached with this awareness the “tipping point” for meaningful action drops precipitously.

  7. There are in place the instruments for the international community to seek redress on behalf of the Palestinian people. The world is witnessing one of the most outrageous events of inhuman and inhumane acts of state terror inflicted on a defenseless population by a world-class military power. The United Nations is the holder of such instruments: the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice, The Crimes Against Humanity Court, etc. But, who would initiate action? The United Nations has been reduced to impotence by the veto power held among five others by the United States. The United States has vetoed nearly one hundred resolutions condemning Israel. As a moral and legal power the United States is totally discredited by its own unilateral behavior in Iraq, Chile, etc., etc. What is left for Civil Society around the world? Perhaps a boycott of the kind that brought the Apartheid regime down in South Africa.

    • The United States has vetoed nearly one hundred resolutions condemning Israel. As a moral and legal power the United States is totally discredited by its own unilateral behavior in Iraq, Chile, etc., etc.

      And in no position to claim moral superiority.

  8. Apparently the Israeli government, and perhaps most Israelis, consider that the entire Palestinian population is an enemy and so does not enjoy rights as “protected peoples.” A view evidently shared by the USG. Even the representative here in west Texas who voted against the $225 “emergency” funding for Iron Dome says that he just wanted to ensure it was fiscally sound, and he is absolutely standing by our “ally.”

    • The Israeli governments do not consider Palestinians as an enemy but as illegal squatters on the land they claim as the Israelis, despite all but a few Jews in Palestine never having had any contact with that land for 2,000 years until the last half of the 20th Century.

    • “Gaza Crisis: ‘The Real Danger to Israel Comes from Within’: Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but left behind death and destruction. Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz tells SPIEGEL that her country is gripped by fear and is becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy”. Interview Conducted by Julia Amalia Heyer – link to

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