Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) participated in a congressional briefing in Washington on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to investigate and hold Israeli forces accountable for using American-supplied weapons in attacks against Palestinian children last summer.The July 29 briefing on Capitol Hill drew around 70 attendees, including staff from at least 20 different congressional offices. Josh Ruebner, policy director at the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, gave opening remarks and Eman Mohammed, a Gaza-based photojournalist, provided testimony on what life was like on the ground during the 50-day Israeli military assault on Gaza one year ago. Speakers from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) and DCIP highlighted specific violations of international humanitarian law during the military offensive and discussed the failure of Israel to hold itself accountable for its actions.
Despite well-documented evidence of war crimes committed by the Israeli military during the assault on Gaza, Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, said there has been no accountability for grave violations against Palestinian children.
“DCIP’s investigation into all Palestinian child deaths during Israel’s military assault on Gaza last summer found overwhelming and repeated evidence that Israeli forces committed grave violations against children that amount to war crimes,” said Parker. “In order to end impunity and increase protections for children, the U.S. government must take concrete action to ensure that American-supplied weapons are not used to commit violations of international law.”
Nadia Ben-Youssef, an attorney and U.S. representative for Adalah, detailed the flaws in Israel’s domestic investigatory proceedings and deliberate obstacles Palestinians from Gaza face when trying to access justice and seek redress.
“As a Palestinian legal center based in Israel, we have continued to engage with Israel’s domestic investigatory mechanisms in pursuit of accountability for the victims of last year’s massive Israeli military assault in Gaza,” said Ben-Youssef. “Any alleged improvements by Israel to its internal military investigations are illusory, and the military continues to grant itself complete impunity for war crimes.”
Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days between July 8 and August 26, claimed the lives of 2,220 Palestinians, including at least 1,492 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
DCIP independently verified the deaths of 547 Palestinian children among the killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Nearly 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces were 12 years old or younger. Not a single perpetrator has been held accountable for any of the deaths.
In early June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shielded Israel from accountability for atrocities against children when he removed Israel’s armed forces from a draft list of groups that commit grave violations of children’s rights during armed conflict.
An independent United Nations commission presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on June 29 that detailed international law violations committed by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza during the conflict.
The UNHRC endorsed the report in a resolution passed by a 41 to one vote on July 3. The resolution expressed alarm “that long-standing systemic impunity” has allowed for repeated violations of international law without consequence. The resolution reaffirmed “the need to ensure accountability” to end impunity. All eight European Union member states of the UNHRC, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, voted in favor of the resolution. The U.S. was the only member to vote against the resolution.
The briefing was sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and cosponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just World Books, Middle East Children’s Alliance, United Methodist Kairos Response, and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.