The Guardian • Issue #2077


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2077


Hannah Middleton

Professor Mark Beeson from the University of Technology Sydney writes: “If we are looking for historical parallels and lessons, then the razing of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis is unfortunately one that comes readily to mind. While we would all agree that this was appalling, inhuman and unfathomable, is blowing women and children to pieces in Gaza any less so?”

Israel is enforcing a ‘complete siege’ on Gaza, withholding all food, water, fuel, medicines, and other basic supplies. International humanitarian law is clear: Israel’s siege is a war crime. The recent aid concession does not change this.

It is irrelevant in international law what the military motive for starvation is – humanitarian law accepts no justification.

The siege, which is depriving all Gazans of basic necessities, is a form of collective punishment and is prohibited in international law without exception.

The 24-hour evacuation order of northern Gaza was declared “impossible” by the UN and a “death sentence” for patients in its hospitals. Under article 49, Geneva Convention IV, the attempted forcible transfer of civilians is illegal. (article 49, Geneva Convention IV).

Israel is guilty of a war crime against the Palestinian people. Its unprecedented brutal assault on the Gaza Strip that has so far killed over 8000 Palestinians, including more than 3000 children, displaced half of Gaza’s population, and destroyed much of the civilian infrastructure.

Some commentators suggest that the Hamas-led military operation, codenamed Al-Aqsa Flood, on 7 October was also a war crime. However, evidence suggests this may well not be true.

The majority of information regarding the Hamas attack comes from the Israeli army which has painted a picture of a wholesale civilian massacre with babies, children, and women the main targets of a terror attack.

To date, there is no credible evidence of these alleged atrocities. In addition the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published incomplete statistics showing that almost half the Israelis killed were in fact combatants.

Haaretz has released information on 683 Israelis killed during the Hamas offensive, including their names and locations of their deaths on 7 October. Of these, 331 casualties – 48.4 per cent – have been confirmed to be soldiers and police officers.

There is little to no credible evidence that Palestinian fighters intended to kill Israeli civilians. Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida says that a key objective of their operation was to take Israeli prisoners that they could exchange for the approximately 5300 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are women and children, held in Israeli jails under increasingly brutal conditions.

Australia has legal obligations to ensure that international law is respected.

All states are under an explicit legal duty to not only respect but to ensure respect for the laws of war, for international humanitarian law.

As the illegality of the siege of Gaza stretches on, the obligations of Australia as a party to the Geneva Convention become greater and more demanding.

It is unacceptable that our so-called leaders will not do the just and morally right thing which is to defend the basic human rights of all people, not a select few.

So what must Australia do? It cannot aid or assist Israel’s continuation of the siege. To do so could be an illegal act itself. This includes statements legitimising or supporting the siege.

Australia should also press for expanded humanitarian access and an end to the siege in line with Israel’s legal obligations.

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