Today, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee’s Palestine Subcommittee submitted a report to the ICC prosecutor with facts showing that Israeli air and ground attacks on Palestinian territory preceded Hamas and non-Hamas rocket fire, and thus could not have been in self-defense; in fact, these attacks actually sparked a vast increase in rocket fire. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted to military goals for the Israeli attacks that had nothing to do with stopping rocket fire.
The NLG report, also sent to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, also presents the law regarding self-defense, including the finding by the International Court of Justice that self-defense is inapplicable to an occupying power. Thus, the onslaught on Gaza could not legally be based on self-defense, even if Israeli forces had not been the first to launch military attack. The report concludes that Israeli government officials and military leaders should not continue to enjoy impunity, and their self-defense claim should be discredited.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and the U.S. Senate invoked claims of “self-defense” as justification for the July-August 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza that resulted disproportionately in civilian deaths. The self-defense claim against the rockets was also used to deflect allegations of Israeli war crimes by respected human rights organizations, and to discredit the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict and the International Criminal Court (ICC) inquiry into the situation in Palestine.
“The central message that Israeli forces were protecting Israeli citizens from Hamas rockets was so ubiquitous in the Western media as to eclipse war crimes allegations,” said submission author, James Marc Leas, a Vermont attorney and past co-chair of the subcommittee. “But the facts and law do not support the self-defense claims.”
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.