The government must condemn all war crimes consistently and immediately join the demands for a permanent ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. This is written by Robin Bankel, PhD in business administration. Photo: Wafa. Source: Wikimedia commons.


War crimes against civilians are not self-defense

The government's reaction on the recent escalation in Israel and Palestine reveals a double standard that undermines both humanitarian law which Sweden's reputation in the outside world. Man has gett Israel an almost unconditional support, at the same time as the country's military on one systematically and fully controlled manner commits war crimes against a defenseless civilian population. 

Immediately after the Hamas attack ordered Israel a complete blockade of Gaza, including water, electricity, food, medicine and the fuel on which Gaza's hospitals, power plants and water treatment plants are completely dependent. The effect was as expected. The majority of Gaza's hospitals and healthcare facilities have been forced to shut down when they are most needed. Acute lack of resources has led to painful treatments without anesthesia, surgery with only simple pain relief, overcrowded hospitals there children left to die because the resources are not enough and cancer patients who completely lost the opportunity for life-saving treatment.

The UN believes that 15 liters of clean water is necessary to meet basic needs during a humanitarian emergency. Before the "humanitarian pause" every person in Gaza disposed 2 to 3 liters partially unserviceable water per day and there is still an acute shortage. The food system in Gaza has collapsed. Oxfam reported on October 25 that only 2 percent of the food normally allowed into Gaza was allowed to enter, and the organization accused Israel of using starvation of civilians as a method of war. During the now ended humanitarian pause, the entry was barely a third of the normal case, i.e. far from the basic need. Several MR organizations and UN Special Rapporteurs has established that these measures constitute systematic war crimes.

The forced evacuation

Israel early issued an evacuation order in northern Gaza. Among other things was released flyers with threats that those who remain will be considered accomplices of Hamas. Since then has over 80 percent of the population have become internally displaced. Human Rights Watch considers the forced displacement of the civilian population to be a war crime. An Israeli authority leak revealed a blueprint for an outright ethnic cleansing of Gaza. Netanyahu played down its significance as “hypothetical”, but the military's way of gradually forcing the Palestinians south at the same time as forbidding them to return to their homes in the north suggests the opposite. Researcher has pointed out that ethnic cleansing is also underway in the West Bank, where Hamas does not rule.

The bombing campaign

Israel declared after October 7 that the focus would be on damage rather than precision. The result is that almost 100 buildings has been damaged or destroyed. Civil targets being attacked intentionally, amongst refugee camps and markets, hospital, schools, bakeries, universities, courts, churches and mosques 

The bombings have been described as a war on children. In the first 3 weeks, Israel killed over 3 children, which according to Save the Children exceeds the number of children killed in all the world's conflicts in each of the years 2020 to 2022. Twice as many children have now died in Gaza. 

About 70 percent of the almost 16 dead in Gaza are women and children. Of the 2 700 more than half of those missing are children. The proportion of women and children dead or missing corresponds quite precisely to their proportion of Gaza's population. This suggests that it is not a question of isolated war crimes, but an indiscriminate attack on all of Gaza. Israeli genocidal rhetoric and documented war crimes strengthens this image. 

Indiscriminate attacks on Gaza are nothing new, but the scale on which they are now taking place is unprecedented. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffith was asked where he ranks Gaza among all the atrocities he has witnessed in his career. "The worst thing ever", answered he and recalled that he witnessed the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. International law experts has warned for the risk of genocide, some call it a "textbook example” on genocide. More and more people are appealing to the world's leaders to act.

The government's double standards

The Swedish government's position has always been that Israel has acted proportionately. Despite criticism, they have refused to distance themselves from Israel's actions and alone clarified that this "self-defence" must take place in accordance with international law. At the UN, the government advocated a humanitarian pause over demands for a permanent ceasefire. Late at last you have required access for humanitarian aid but neither condemned Israel's war crimes nor demanded that these end in their entirety. On the contrary have the right to self-defense invariably prosecuted. 

At the same time that Israel systematically commits war crimes and potential genocide, the country's right to self-defense is thus emphasized. What would a corresponding response to the Hamas-led massacre look like? For example, while the atrocities were ongoing, stressing the Palestinians' legal right to armed resistance to the military occupation and calling for a "humanitarian pause". Of course completely unthinkable! It had been rightly dismissed as a stand for terrorism and an affront to its victims. But when it comes to Gaza, different rules apply as the government effectively defends war crimes while they are being committed against civilians on a massive scale. What does this double standard hide? 

One explanation lies in the reluctance to consistently differentiate between the rights to defend against aggressions and the you defend yourself, who are two different things. When it comes to Hamas' crimes, a distinction is always made. That the systematic oppression of the Palestinians allows armed resistance is never allowed to excuse terrorism. In terms of international law, this is completely correct. Given the same yardstick, the right to self-defense cannot be used as an excuse for Israeli war crimes against civilians. However, the fact that double standards apply is shown time and time again when the government shifts the focus from the question of the Israel defends itself to the question of to Israel defends itself.  

Sweden's stance contributes to colossal human suffering and erodes our credibility in matters of peace and justice. To restore trust and protect civilians, the government must consistently condemn all war crimes and immediately join the demands for a permanent ceasefire. The aftermath will be characterized by demands for legal proceedings, which Sweden should naturally support. As we have seen in Gaza, it is mainly women and children who suffer when the laws of war are sacrificed on the altar.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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