Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East Files Criminal Charges Against Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz for War Crimes
We, Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, are filing criminal charges against Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed under their leadership in the Gaza Strip in August this year. In “Operation Breaking Dawn”, Gaza was bombed intensively from 5 to 8 August; this was a supposed pre-emptive strike that was carried out without a concrete threat. While Lapid claimed to have defended his people, Gantz announced that there would be “further pre-emptive strikes in the future if necessary”, whether the threat came from Khan Younis (in Gaza) or Tehran – a sign that the Israeli leadership wanted to show strength by killing Palestinian children in the face of Western nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Among the 38 mostly civilian victims were 18 children and four women. Some of them died immediately, others succumbed to their injuries days later. Of the 360 injured, almost two-thirds were undoubtedly civilians: 151 children, 58 women and 19 elderly people. These are usually injuries from bombings that affect lives forever.
In public, this excessive attack was largely portrayed as self-defence against Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who in fact only fired rockets in response to the Israeli bombardment. But even in the opposite case, there would be no justification for such a scale of civilian suffering and destruction. Israel, thanks to international – including German – complicity, has the most modern weapons technology at its disposal and is of course capable of carrying out precise attacks. When so many civilian casualties are accepted in order to eliminate a few combatants, the end result is deliberate massacres. As Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has pointed out:
It is forbidden to launch an attack that is expected to accidentally kill or injure civilians or damage civilian objects in a way that is disproportionate to the concrete and direct military advantage expected.
We demand consequences for the two men who are responsible for this suffering above all others. Benny Gantz, as Chief of Staff, was already in 2014 largely responsible for the even greater devastation that claimed some 1500 civilian lives (500 of them children) in Gaza under the name “Operation Protective Edge”. In the next election campaign he boasted of having “bombed Gaza back to the Middle Ages”. All war criminals should be treated in the same way, including Israeli ones. As Amnesty International stated in its recent report on Israel regarding the crime of apartheid:
All states may exercise universal jurisdiction over all persons reasonably suspected of committing the crime of apartheid, while states that are party to the Apartheid Convention have an obligation to do so including to prosecute, bring to trial and punish those persons responsible for the crime. This means that states must conduct prompt, effective and impartial criminal investigations when presented with reasonable evidence that an individual within their territory or control is reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility or extradite suspects to another jurisdiction that will do so.
As a Jewish organisation, we stand for universal human rights. Like many Jewish organisations worldwide, we insist that Israel neither represents Jews nor speaks on our behalf. Israel must be held accountable for war crimes like any other state.
The board, 11 September 2022