Once again self-proclaimed international law experts are throwing around terms that they do not understand to accuse Israel of atrocities as it responds to a vicious attack from the terrorist group Hamas.
Today, these “experts” are concerned about the war crimes of “forcible transfer” and “deportation” as Israel tries to save innocent Palestinian civilians by warning them to leave Hamas strongholds.
Here is another short primer on international law: Saving civilian lives is not a war crime. Terms matter, and there is a difference between an evacuation and a forcible transfer. Saving innocent people is what any army is supposed to do and literally the opposite of what Hamas has done and continues to do.
But don’t take my word for it, let’s ask the United Nations what the war crimes “forcible transfer” and “deportation” mean when the entity involved is not Israel (emphasis added):
What are the crimes of deportation and forcible transfer? Forcing persons to leave the area where they reside can be a crime against humanity, a war crime or both. If they occur in the context of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population, deportation and forcible transfer are crimes against humanity. Deportation and forcible transfer occur when individuals are forced by expulsion or coercion from the place they were lawfully present, and there was no basis under international law for their displacement. When persons are displaced across an international border, it is called deportation. When such displacement occurs within a national boundary, it is called forcible transfer. Forced displacement does not require physical force and can be caused by the threat of force or coercion, duress or psychological oppression. A person is lawfully present in an area if they have a right under domestic or international law to be there, including refugees and stateless persons. International law allows the involuntary removal of persons only where it is strictly for the security of the persons or for imperative military reasons, but only for as long as the removal is necessary.
This is not, in fact, a close call.
Israel is attacking Hamas, not targeting the civilian population.
Israel has an overwhelming imperative military reason to ask civilians to leave (stopping a genocidal terrorist organization) and is doing so for the security of those persons. Not a war crime—quite the opposite. This is what just war looks like.
Actually, Israel is quite literally following the letter of international human rights law.
Per the Geneva Conventions, Article 58(a) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I: the parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible, “without prejudice to Article 49 of the Fourth Convention, endeavor to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives.”
Per Article 57, 1(c) “effective advance warning shall be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.”
To review—Israel is engaging in a lawful, proportionate attack against a genocidal enemy force. The war crimes of forcible transfer require evidence of illicit intent; the opposite is true here. Israel has already evacuated hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to keep them out of harms’ way; now Israel is desperately trying to save the lives of Palestinian civilians as well ,even at the expense of telegraphing its own attacks. Meanwhile, Hamas is ordering people to stay in harms’ way, as human shields, so they can then complain to an undiscerning media about how many civilians Israel killed.
By any definition, Israel’s warnings are an act of morality, if not grace. But once again, when it comes to Israel, somehow the rules are different.
Dr. Mark Goldfeder, Esq. is director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.