Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again


by Guest    
3:39 pm - March 17th 2012

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contribution by Steve Hynd

Yesterday, I was stood in the middle of an escalating protest against the Israeli occupation in the village of Kafr Qaddum. The air was thick with tear gas, panic was spreading as people were running in all directions to escape.

In this commotion another round of tear gas was fired directly at the crowd. I saw someone meters from me collapse. A man caught him as he was falling and lifted him onto his shoulders. As he tried to escape other men came to help carry him.

After a few meters they laid him down on the ground and it became clear he had been shot in the neck by a tear gas canister. This was the second person of the day to suffer this fate.

The former legal advisor for Judea and Samaria, Col. Sharon Afek of the Israeli Defence Force stated in April 2009 that, “direct firing [of tear-gas canisters] at persons is prohibited” and that a “broad directive will be issued that will prohibit the firing of a tear-gas canister directly at a person.”

When in July 2011 the Israeli human rights group B’tselem enquired to why they were still recording multiple incidents of tear gas canister being directly at crowds, Major Uri Sagi from the IDF stated that, “we have again clarified to the forces…the rules relating to firing of tear-gas canisters at persons, including the prohibition on directly firing a tear-gas canister at a person.”

In December 2011 the death of Mustafa Tamimi was caught on camera. He was killed by a tear gas canister fired by an IDF soldier from the back of a jeep just a few meters away. It gained wide spread media coverage and raised by Don Foster MP in a letter to the FCO.

Despite all this, despite IDF regulations stating that tear gas must be fired at a 60 degree angle, yesterday I witnessed them repeatedly firing directly at the crowd.

Not only that, IDF tactics varied between spraying chemically produced water with a awful smell (aka ‘skunk water’), firing tear gas and even using dogs to capture protesters towards the front. A boy had his arm broken by the dog before being arrested.

This was the first time I had seen dogs being used at protests – a potentially worrying development.

The protest is organised under the principle of non-violence. Regularly however, stones are thrown at the IDF by boys from the village despite men trying to stop them. It was reported that last week that a soldier was hit in the face by one of these stones.

This reality that the IDF faces however provides no justification for their continued breach of both IHL and their own regulations. We are collecting too many examples now of the IDF misusing tear gas.

It is time for the IDF to start enforcing its own standards and to live up to its obligations under International Humanitarian Law.


Steve Hynd is a human rights activist, blogger, and environmentalist.

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Reader comments


I am always sceptical when somebody say that “international humanitarian law” has been breached, yet he does not specify which convention, treaty or article has been violated.
It sounds too much like a non-lawyer trying to use big legal words.

You may want to try reading the links instead of trolling.

3. brian routh

Israel are the nazis of the middle east!

@Andreas Moser – One of the basic principles of IHL is that of distinction. In order to ensure protection of a civilian population AND civilian objects (property etc), all sides involved in a conflict have to at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. In my humble opinion (and I will admit I am not a lawyer) – firing directly into a demonstration violates this principle of distinction. The full text can be found under article 48 here http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/470?OpenDocument

It is this same principle that makes firing rockets indiscriminately into residential areas a violation of IHL.

I hope this helps and you don’t just think I am someone trying to use big words!

5. Just Visiting

> It is this same principle that makes firing rockets indiscriminately into residential areas a violation of IHL.

That’s strange analogy – are you saying that if Hamas said they were aiming at Israeli military bases, it would be fine to be attacking with rockets?

Whereas with crowd control – of course crowd-control devices are used where the crowd is, after the crowd has already formed!

Of course they are being fired ‘at’ the crowd.

But as you say, ‘tear gas must be fired at a 60 degree:

Although, in order for the gas to have an effect on the crowd, the canister must drop down within the crowd anyway, mustn’t it ?

Or does the 60% mean shooting it down at the ground ?

6. Just Visiting

Steve

> The protest is organised under the principle of non-violence. Regularly however, stones are thrown at the IDF by boys from the village despite men trying to stop them.

I am not sure I’m comfortable with that phrase.

Why are the protest organisers unable to stop the violent people on their sides.
Is their lack of success – indication that actually they don’t want a peaceful protest?

Why aren’t you yourself addressing these questions?

Are the organisers aware that the media will be less interested in reporting if ‘nothing much happens’ ?

There is it seems history of Palestians and western media being willing to ‘create news’.

7. So Much For Subtlety

The protest is organised under the principle of non-violence. Regularly however, stones are thrown at the IDF by boys from the village despite men trying to stop them. It was reported that last week that a soldier was hit in the face by one of these stones.

So people throw stones at soldiers. They fire tear gas back. There is no breach of any international law I can see here. Notice that the OP is, as usual with these sort of threads, misrepresenting the IDF rules. They prohibit firing tear gas canisters direct at individuals. He implicitly claims firing them into a crowd is the same thing. It is not. The soldiers are entirely free to fire tear gas into a crowd. That is the purpose of tear gas. What they must not do is deliberately target an individual as direct fire can kill. He does not, as far as I can see, witness any soldier doing that.

8. Just Visiting

And Steve

you quote B’tselem.

But you are aware that there is evidence that at least one video they provided to the media was staged?

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=82&x_article=2002

9. So Much For Subtlety

4. Steve Hynd

One of the basic principles of IHL is that of distinction. In order to ensure protection of a civilian population AND civilian objects (property etc), all sides involved in a conflict have to at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. In my humble opinion (and I will admit I am not a lawyer) – firing directly into a demonstration violates this principle of distinction.

So basically it is your opinion. As you are not an impartial observer, there is about a billion miles between what you saw and an actual reason for the rest of us to think international law is being violated. Distinction? What distinction? Soldiers are hit with rocks. They do not reply with artillery – as is the wont in the region despite your utter indifference to that – but with tear gas. How is that not proportionate and entirely in line with international law?

10. Albert Spangler

For clarity, the problem is “you don’t shoot people with cannisters”. If this isn’t obvious to anyone then it should be.

This whole situation is one of continuous tension and difficulty. All it takes is a few idiots and the whole rickety edifice of human ideals come crashing down, and this should be noted in their actions.

I think it will do the IDF more good than harm for themselves to do their best to avoid hurting protesters, even if they are being threatening themselves. Pointing out where they are breaking laws means they are being held to account.

Let this be clear, I am in no way defending any of the actions of violence which they may be reacting to. But, for them to have a shred of legitimacy, and to have less chance of stones being thrown in the future, this is a stupid thing to do.

Also, if people are committed to peaceful protest, a few bad eggs should not be the whole face of that protest.

I cannot begin to fathom the depths of problems behind the cultural, political and religious differences which ignite these conflict, it fills me with dismay to see two groups of people, both of which have suffered greatly, acting so inhumanely towards each other. We desperately need leaders who will speak out against this constant war against humanity being committed by the suspicious, the racist, the bigoted and, most of all, the scared.

Someone needs to speak strongly against both sides, rather than picking one and sticking with it in the blinkered stupidity that we apparently must tolerate, and support both sides in their efforts to both defend themselves against oppression, and live with safety and needs taken care of.

I detest Hamas, just as I detest the actions of Israel against people who should be under their protection. I detest the leaders that tried to wipe Israel off the map and threaten its existence. I detest the persecution Jews have had to suffer for Israel to be seen to be necessary. I detest the persecution Muslims have had to suffer as a result of Israel’s attempts to defend itself. I detest the whole situation and I seriously hope that some people will eventually come forward from both sides, in Palestine, and eventually the middle east, to shake hands and work together, rather than this constant futile victimisation. And lastly, I hope that the religious extremists, both in Palestine and in Israel, will lose their hold over their people and for the red veil of hatred to be lifted from both societies.

Bah.

11. So Much For Subtlety

4. Steve Hynd

One of the basic principles of IHL is that of distinction. In order to ensure protection of a civilian population AND civilian objects (property etc), all sides involved in a conflict have to at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. In my humble opinion (and I will admit I am not a lawyer) – firing directly into a demonstration violates this principle of distinction. The full text can be found under article 48 here http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/470?OpenDocument

Article 48 obviously does not apply here. This is what it says:

“Art 48. Basic rule

In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

First of all, Israel was not engaged in a military operation. Second an honest reading of this would notice it makes everything the PLO or Hamas or any other members of their alphabet soup of terrorist groups does illegal. There has never been a time when the fighters for these groups have worn a uniform and distinguished themselves from the local civilian population. The fault lies entirely with them. If this was a military conflict to which this article applied, then Hamas et al would have to step away from the civilian disturbance, wear a uniform and otherwise fight in the open. They refuse to do so.

The only sane reading of this article is that everything Israel did was legal, and nothing these terrorist groups did was.

It is this same principle that makes firing rockets indiscriminately into residential areas a violation of IHL.

I look forward to your article on that subject.

10. Albert Spangler

For clarity, the problem is “you don’t shoot people with cannisters”. If this isn’t obvious to anyone then it should be.

It is not obvious that anyone has violated this rule. You can fire tear gas canisters into crowds. If they accidentally hit someone that is tragic but not illegal.

I think it will do the IDF more good than harm for themselves to do their best to avoid hurting protesters, even if they are being threatening themselves. Pointing out where they are breaking laws means they are being held to account.

Notice that this is precisely what Israel does. In a region where the Syrians are using artillery on civilians – to the complete indifference of the British Left, much of which it has to be said has been in the pay of the Syrians or their friends for a long time – the Israelis have rules to minimise civilian harm and are applying them. For which they are criticised. Pointing out the blatantly double standard that amount to racist incitement is the only way forward here.

Also, if people are committed to peaceful protest, a few bad eggs should not be the whole face of that protest.

And yet what do you think they should do?

There was an American politician who said the whole problem with the Middle East is that neither side would sit down and behave like good Christians. It is interesting to see the same Disney-ified sentiment on LC.

the Syrians are using artillery on civilians – to the complete indifference of the British Left

Back in the real world, there’s a fair amount of outrage about this.

But this is coming from the same idiot who thinks that that no-one cares when secular teachers abuse children.

I will try to answer some of the points raised the best I can:

@Just visiting – targeting military targets is (for me) morally unpalatable but it is not outlawed under IHL. IHL was designed to govern armed conflicts. Think of them as a basic minimum standard. So when I refer to rockets being fired into residential areas, this is also a breach of IHL….this is not to say I personally support any other action.

With the use of tear gas, if it is used as designed, then it will be fired in an arc (again I am not saying this is good). What I witnessed on Friday was it being fired directly at the crowd. This is it being used as a weapon opposed to a crowd control tool.

In terms of whether or not the demonstration was ‘non violent’. It was organised as a non violent demonstration and the organisers went to considerable lengths to try and enforce this. As with everything however, there was a diversity of views and many of the younger men go with the intention of throwing stones. I tried to include this in the last paragraph (to show that the violence was not one sided).

Finally about B’tselem – I had not heard that story about the camera before…I will look into it.

@So much… I should have made my point clearer – what I saw was tear gas being fired directly (in other words with no arc) at the crowd.

I consider myself to be impartial. Why do you think I am not?

Comparing the actions of last Friday to the atrocities in the region is unfair (and believe me I am far from indifferent). Just because something is not as bad as something else does not make it right. The soldiers used tear gas as a weapon (opposed to crowd dispersal). They did this a manner that failed to distinguish between civilian and combatant (IHL states that if a party has any doubt about whether someone or a group is a civilian or not that they must be treated as one).

The Palestinian Territories are considered ‘occupied’ (in reference to the Hague Convention) and as such their actions within that territory ARE subject to IHL. You are right to point however that many Palestinian groups have also violated IHL over the years (although I have not yet personally witnessed this – hence no article).

@albert – have you come across combatants for peace? An interesting organisation bringing together ex fighters from both sides. Worth checking out.
http://cfpeace.org/

Last but not least – if anyone is interested I have posted some videos of the protest on my personal blog http://stevehynd.com/2012/03/16/a-not-so-peaceful-protest/

…oh come on….
it’s OK for the palestinians to fire rockets indiscriminately into Beersheva…but the big bad Israeli’s try to defend their people and their committing crimes against humanity???

What school did you come from….strictly “Self Defense”!!!

15. So Much For Subtlety

13. Steve Hynd

With the use of tear gas, if it is used as designed, then it will be fired in an arc (again I am not saying this is good). What I witnessed on Friday was it being fired directly at the crowd. This is it being used as a weapon opposed to a crowd control tool.

When it is fired on an arc it is also fired at the crowd. You mean you think it was aimed at individuals. That is a different claim. The flatness of the trajectory will depend on how far away the target is. Nothing else.

As with everything however, there was a diversity of views and many of the younger men go with the intention of throwing stones. I tried to include this in the last paragraph (to show that the violence was not one sided).

And yet you did not choose to start with the fact that it was a violent protest to which the Israelis responded with tear gas. I would have thought that was the main fact here.

I should have made my point clearer – what I saw was tear gas being fired directly (in other words with no arc) at the crowd.

So what? That does not prove that it was fired directly at an individual. If the crowd is close, there is no point to firing it on an arc. They let them get too close. All canisters fly in an arc. Gravity makes sure of that. You mean the arc was, in your opinion, too flat. That is debatable and yet it still does not mean that the canister was aimed at an individual.

I consider myself to be impartial. Why do you think I am not?

The work you do and the group you do it with.

Comparing the actions of last Friday to the atrocities in the region is unfair (and believe me I am far from indifferent). Just because something is not as bad as something else does not make it right.

What is unfair about it? What is more I am not compared the atrocities in the rest of the region. I am comparing your single minded focus on the mote in the eye of the Jewish state with your, so far, utter indifference to the beams in those of the Syrians and everyone else. I agree that if Israel was doing something bad – and there is no evidence of that whatsoever – it would not be right because Syria was doing something worse. But the fact that Israel, as a Jewish state, gets a grossly disproportionate share of attention of criticism while Syria does not is relevant. When American law gives Crack users, predominantly Black, ten times the sentence that cocaine users, predominately White, do, we suspect racism. Rightly.

The soldiers used tear gas as a weapon (opposed to crowd dispersal). They did this a manner that failed to distinguish between civilian and combatant (IHL states that if a party has any doubt about whether someone or a group is a civilian or not that they must be treated as one).

The problem is that Hamas does not distinguish between civilians and combatants – even assuming they are entitled to be called such. Not the IDF. Again you assume what you saw was the deliberate targeting of individuals. But you do not know. You cannot know. You assume. The IDF treated all these people as civilians. That is why they used tear gas – which would be illegal if used against soldiers. It would be called a chemical weapon. If they used artillery that would be treating them as soldiers. You are applying rules in such a widely inappropriate way it makes you look like a hanging judge determined to find Israel guilty no matter what.

The Palestinian Territories are considered ‘occupied’ (in reference to the Hague Convention) and as such their actions within that territory ARE subject to IHL.

So what? I don’t recall denying it. The point is that these rules do not apply here. This was not a combat situation involving combatants. It was a normal civil disturbance dispersed with the use of tear gas.

You are right to point however that many Palestinian groups have also violated IHL over the years (although I have not yet personally witnessed this – hence no article).

Many? All. None of them have even tried to observe these rules – rules you are only applying to the Jewish state and no one else. Not witnessed or not tried to see?

@SteveHynd – well, you do seem a little bit partisan, looking at your blog.

But I suppose, although I agree with SMFS about the disproportionate emphasis on Israel, I’m not sure one can use this argument to delegitimise every criticism of Israel, on the grounds it add to the disproportion. And he seems more pro-Palestinian than anti-Israel – not words I find myself typing often!

I’m sure the Palestinians of that area are really fed up with the occupation and sick of the hassle and humiliation it brings – but demonstarations like this are almost guaranteed to end in violence. How could they not really?
Is the way that the Israelis respond really that different to how so many other countries would deal with similar protests? In Egypt and Greece they love to fire the tear gas into crowds too. Personally I don’t think that ”resistance” is all it’s cracked up to be.
It was the same in Northern Ireland in the early 70s. Have a look at this current mural from Falls Road which ”celebrates” resistance.

Oppression breeds resistance
Resistance breeds freedom

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4128/5067027677_6b3e78f26b_z.jpg

It’s a lot of rubbish IMO, as what it did was to bring on decades of sectarian conflict and pointless killing.

18. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Why is anyone surprised. Israel is a pariah racist state which ,with American backing, systematically and ruthlessly murders anyone in its way.

So much for subtlety: grow up.

Basically tear gas is a crowd control tool, gas which disperses rapidly from the cannister when it is fired up into the air. But when you fire the cannister at a flat trajectory, it becomes a high-speed projectile weapon. Firing projectile weapons at an unarmed crowd is bad, as it means you are very likely to cause serious injury or worse. This is the reason for the IDF rule that they should be fired at an angle of 60 degrees.

Whether you aim a cannister at an individual or not has no bearing, nor does the distance you are away from the unarmed crowd in question.

All of the above is very hard to misunderstand, but I have to give you credit for going out of your way to try. It would be good of you to try to maintain some self-respect however, and not defend IDF tactics that are at the very least clear breaches of their own rules of crowd control, if not IHL itself, and that have already killed one unarmed demonstrator.

I have yet to receive my paycheck from the Syrian government for “racial incitement” in order to gloss over their crimes against humanity, but thanks for reminding me they owe me some cash.

Is this worse than what’s happening in Syria? No, clearly not. Was this guy in Syria, and therefore able to report on any of that? No, clearly not, he was in Qafr Kaddum getting shot at with tear gas cannisters by the IDF.

Can someone let me know how many LC articles they have been on Hamas and Islamic Jihad breaking ‘Humanitarian Law’. I only ask because I cannot find any….at all. Weird.

21. tigerdarwin

lived in Israel for two years

I witnessed many acts of racism towards Arabs

Some roads cannot be traveled on by Arabs

While I was there the first Intifada started

Youngsters throwing stones were regularly shot

Little has changed

Yes, it’s true that Hamas fires hundreds of rockets into Israel. Have done for years. But only a few of them hit anyone. They’re practically useless.

Israel on the other hand, usually connects with the target.

That’s what’s so unfair.

“Israel on the other hand, usually connects with the target.”

Indeed, how unfair those indiscriminate rocket attacks don’t hit more women and children.

Tory. Don’t wish to be impolite, but is there a possibility that the irony has been missed?.

25. Just Visiting

Steve

Will you be blogging about the worrying threat to Israel from Egypt:

“Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament votes in support of expelling Israel’s ambassador… The vote was taken by a show of hands on a report by the chamber’s Arab affairs committee that declared Egypt will “never” be a friend, partner or ally of Israel. The report described Israel as the nation’s “number one enemy” and endorsed what it called Palestinian resistance “in all its kinds and forms” against Israel’s “aggressive policies.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/egypts-islamist-dominated-parliament-votes-in-support-of-expelling-israels-ambassador/2012/03/12/gIQA9Qfh7R_story.html


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. A not so peaceful protest | Hynd's Blog

    [...] This article was posted on the Liberal Conspiracy blog. [...]

  2. Nemesis Republic

    RT @sunny_hundal: "Yesterday, I witnessed #Israel break Humanitarian Law again" http://t.co/7k1cgzxb despite pledges not to @steve4319 #EDL

  3. Tiana Bayemani

    "Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again" http://t.co/lHvKswgz – despite pledges not to (by @steve4319)

  4. Pamela Kittelson

    #UK : Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/w2tzjfER

  5. Theb55

    #UK : Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/w2tzjfER

  6. Alex Braithwaite

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/awKpEHkI via @libcon

  7. fljf

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/awKpEHkI via @libcon

  8. Brian Routh

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/J7tB1YWD via @libcon

  9. Owen Blacker

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/44PxAZvU

  10. RepublycanParty

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break … – Liberal Conspiracy: contribution by Steve Hynd. Yesterday, I was stood… http://t.co/CXAh08Hu

  11. Alma Costa (Almito)

    We have to make a new hum law for them.. @libcon Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/zkqxNGYu

  12. JC

    MT @libcon: Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/TKFxN8zQ #Israel #Palestine

  13. Jamie

    Good article on Israel ~ 'Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again' ~ http://t.co/O3pPFZTZ (thanks to @libcon)

  14. KrustyAllslopp

    MT @libcon: Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/TKFxN8zQ #Israel #Palestine

  15. Fredrik Walløe

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kSWpJ931 via @libcon #Israel

  16. MarinKay

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/hdME5sle via @libcon

  17. andrew

    Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break … – Liberal Conspiracy: contribution by Steve Hynd. Yesterday, I was stood… http://t.co/8D05hzXt

  18. superphonic

    "Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again" http://t.co/lHvKswgz – despite pledges not to (by @steve4319)

  19. Daniel Pitt

    #Israel breaks Humanitarian Law, again http://t.co/BRRsIfaZ #palestine #apartheid #zionism #racism

  20. Steve Hynd

    I have attempted to answer some of the comments on the @libcon article http://t.co/Y9N2lf1m

  21. Derek Wall

    I have attempted to answer some of the comments on the @libcon article http://t.co/Y9N2lf1m

  22. Tiana Bayemani ?????

    "Yesterday, I witnessed Israel break Humanitarian Law, again" http://t.co/lHvKswgz – despite pledges not to (by @steve4319)





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