3rd Thursday Action Alert: Urge the US Administration to Hold Israel Accountable for Violations of International Law

3rd Thursday Action Alert: Urge the US Administration to Hold Israel Accountable for Violations of International Law

Last week, Israel released the findings of its investigation of the May 11 murder of Al-Jazeera journalist and Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh.  Local and international human rights organizations as well as CNN and other media organizations that investigated the killing all concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli soldiers.  However, until last week Israel denied any responsibility and tried to shift blame for the killing onto Palestinians.

Counter to these claims, in its new report Israel concluded that there was a “high possibility” that Abu Akleh was “accidentally hit” by an Israeli soldier, leaving open the possible of other culprits.  The report also stated that “there is no suspicion of a criminal offense that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation.” 

Despite the clear evidence showing Israeli responsibility for the killing of Abu Akleh, the US response to the report makes clear that it will not pressure Israel or demand accountable in any way for Abu Akleh’s death, despite calls for an independent US investigation, and criticism of the Israeli report by B’Tselem.  State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel only said, “We’re going to continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on the rules of engagement.” Abu Akleh’s family has continued to seek a meeting with President Biden, with no positive response to date.

Israeli incursions into the occupied northern West Bank city of Jenin, which Abu Akleh was covering when she was killed, have continued into September, including raids of homes, killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians, and home demolitions.

This lack of accountability is nothing new. For decades, Israel has acted with virtual impunity in its wonton disregard for international law and disrespect of human life. 

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli-enabled massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, many of whom were women and children, in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut on Sept. 16-18, which followed the evacuation of PLO fighters from Lebanon in late August, 1982.  The operation was led by then-Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who “bore personal responsibility” for “not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed,” according to the Kahane investigation’s report.  Sharon later became Israel’s prime minister.

It is most often civil society, including human rights organizations, that are the most meticulous in documenting violations of human rights and international law.  When such organizations are inhibited in their work, society suffers and the facts are often lost.  In mid-August, Israeli forces welded shut the doors of international respected civil society and human rights organizations in Ramallah, deemed (without evidence or proof) “terrorist organizations” last October by the Ministry of Defense.  The international community has not accepted this action, but Israel has also not been held accountable for its assault on these well-respected organizations.

By closing them down and working to cut off their funding, it further prevents the necessary activity of documentation of human rights abuses. Last week, the organizations urged the US Administration to “condemn Israel’s latest actions aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society organizations” and to “demand Israel to rescind the designations under both Israeli civilian law and military law.”

It is past time for the US to employ its leverage to hold Israel accountable for its continuing violations of international law and human rights.  Urge President Biden and Secretary Blinken to use their influence to press for an independent investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder, to support civil society and human rights organizations right to operate freely and provide necessary documentation of Israel’s violations, and to hold Israel accountable to international law when it is in violation.