International Law

Israel and Gaza: The world without international law

Hamas has been firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip in violation of international law. Specifically, it has been violating the prohibition of the use of force contained in article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter. This prohibition is contained in a norm of jus cogens or peremptory law, from which there can be no derogation by agreement.

Israel has the right of self-defense against an armed attack in accordance with Article 51 if the U.N. Charter and general international law.

However, the exercise of this right is subject to two conditions:

First, the use of force in self-defense must be necessary to stop the armed attack to which the country is being subjected. Here, that means the force used must be aimed at stopping the armed attack, and rationally related to that objective.

Second, the use of force by Israel must be proportional to the threat posed by the armed attack by Hamas.

Regardless of whether or not Israel can sustain its argument under international law, as interpreted by impartial experts, that its use of force against Gaza is a necessary and proportionate response to Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel, Israel is legally obligated to comply with international humanitarian law (the laws of war).

International humanitarian Law prohibits the targeting of civilians, including news agencies. The Israeli military gave residents of a residential building in which the Associated Press and Al Jazeera had their offices one hour to evacuate the building before it was bombed.

This warning constituted undeniable evidence that this residential building, filled with civilian residents and workers, was deliberately targeted.

Consequently, the bombing of this building would appear to constitute an egregious war crime by Israel. Bombings of other civilian targets also represent presumptive war crimes.

The United States should not veto any Security Council resolutions necessary to take these steps.

The steps suggested above would lead back to the path of international law and a cessation of hostilities.

The alternative is a continuation of the the illegal actions we have witnessed in recent days, and a progression toward a wider war.

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