Israel's Disproportionate Violence And The World Central Kitchen

"Governments that dismiss the idea of accountability for supplying weapons to human rights violators such as Israel must recognise their fallacy"

Israel's Disproportionate Violence And The World Central Kitchen

The recent Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid convoy of the World Central Kitchen (WCK), an international NGO for food aid, has exposed the use of deadly force without regard to protocols and flawed rules of engagement in war. The targeting of seven staff members of WCK, under complete military intelligence, is a tragic consequence of unbridled war in Gaza that has killed more than 220 aid workers and 179 UN staff members in six months. It is disturbing to witness violation of the jus in bello principle of ‘discrimination’ and ‘proportionality’ or in simple words, the rules of morally proper conduct of war that differentiate legitimate military targets from civilians, and a use of force that is morally appropriate. It is strange that Israel makes no discrimination between civilians and combatants – as a consequence of which more than 30, 000 innocent civilians have been killed and over75,000 injured. 

In the airstrike on WCK, the Israeli military deliberately targeted an aid vehicle, claiming that it believed it to be Hamas. This pattern is similar to bombing buildings and hospitals, refugee camps and densely populated areas where innocent civilians are killed unjustifiably in search of Hamas. Israel’s administration admitted killing the staff of WCK was a “grave mistake” and ordered an investigation, dismissing two senior officers and censuring the rest, raising a major question as to whether it is a befitting punishment for war crimes. Israel’s UN representative to UN also called it a “tragic mistake.” The WCK responded that the apology for the outrageous killing is “cold comfort” for the families and demanded a third-party investigation that Israel has denied and the US has not supported – thus undermining the right to a fair trial. As to how far this apology will usher a change in war tactics remains to be seen.

Amidst massive international pressure from Australia, UK, Poland and the US for its staff members whose blood is on hands of the Israeli military, intelligentsia and government officials have shown one voice in demanding an arms embargo on Israel. 

A phone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu underscored the profound apprehension of the US government, signaling a departure from the prior six months of unwavering support for aid contingent upon the safeguarding of civilians and facilitating humanitarian relief efforts. Thirty-three Democrats in Congress have affixed their signatures to a missive advocating for a reevaluation of arms transactions with Israel, while some have tendered resignations from the US State Department in protest. Nancy Pelosi, former US Secretary of State, unequivocally denounced the transfer of weapons by the US as an "unjustifiable" transgression. This marks a significant departure from the policy of appeasement that historically bolstered Israel diplomatically, politically, and morally.

The bombing of WCK at such a pivotal moment, when humanitarian assistance was desperately required for the famine-stricken populace, evokes profound distress and portends far-reaching consequences. Prominent aid organisations have expressed regret for their involvement, with several suspending operations aimed at providing crucial aid, thereby exacerbating the plight of the populace and deepening the famine. The obstruction of humanitarian aid and the failure to furnish essential supplies to besieged civilians constitute a blatant violation of the ICJ's mandate by Israel, suggesting an intent to eradicate Palestinians as an ethnic group and race.

Israel must be held answerable for its transgressions, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The notion of indiscriminate killing followed by an attempt to exonerate oneself by pleading ignorance of legality is reprehensible. Ignorance of the law offers no reprieve. The US must leverage its influence to compel Israel to alter its conduct of warfare, distinguishing between legitimate targets and exercising proportionate force, thereby facilitating a cessation of hostilities. All aid extended to Palestine must be contingent upon the security of its citizens, including aid workers. Allies and trade partners should cease arms sales to Israel and discontinue subsidies for settlement projects. Turkey's prohibition of exports across 54 sectors dealt a significant blow to Israel, and should other trading partners follow suit with similar export restrictions, the repercussions will be substantial.

Governments that dismiss the notion of accountability for supplying weapons to human rights violators such as Israel must recognise their fallacy: they can and should be held liable for their complicity in facilitating atrocities.

The writer has an LLM in International Economic Law