US Law Protects Israeli Human Rights?

The decision of the state of Israel to demolish the homes and villages of 10,000 citizens represents the kind of human rights infraction that is described in the human rights amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act.

David Bedein,

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credit David Michael Cohen
Last week, at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, in southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces conducted a "dry run" of bringing dead and wounded Jewish Israeli residents of the Gaza region to the hospital. The training was designed in light of the summer plans of the Israeli government to forcibly remove all 8,000 Jewish men, women and children from their 21 farming communities in the Jewish communities of the Katif district in Gaza, and another 2,000 Jews from four communities in northern Samaria.

A senior official in Israeli intelligence estimates that at least 100 Jewish residents will be killed in the expulsion process, since these residents have no intention of leaving their homes and farms voluntarily, and since the IDF has every intention of using live ammunition to facilitate the expulsion of Jews from Katif and northern Samaria, while razing their houses, farms and synagogues.

In late February, at the closing press conference of the annual Israel convention of the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations, a journalist asked Conference Chairman James Tisch how Jewish Americans will react if the Israel Defense Forces use American-supplied law enforcement equipment to kill Jewish Israelis. The journalist also asked Tisch if it was legal to use US-made law enforcement equipment in that process.

Tisch, who had just read out a statement of support from more than 50 Jewish American organizations in support of the current policies of the Israeli government, was stunned by the question and said he would look into the matter.

I do not know if Mr. Tisch looked into the matter. I did.

While walking the halls of the US Congress earlier this month, I asked for and received a copy of the US Foreign Assistance Act. A congressional human rights policy specialist pointed to the relevant section of the law, which restricts nations receiving foreign aid from the US from using that aid to subjugate human rights and civil liberties. That official pointed to Section 502B, the "Human Rights" amendment, which was added to the US Foreign Assistance Act in 1979 to ensure that any and all US foreign aid would not abrogate the fundamentals of human rights and civil liberties. She explained that this would mean that any equipment supplied by the US to an aid recipient would come under the jurisdiction of this "human rights" amendment to the US Foreign Assistance law.

Clause (a)(1) of the Human Rights amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act clearly states that "a principal goal of the foreign policy of the United States shall be to promote the increased observance of internationally recognized human rights by all countries.... [N]o security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.... Assistance may not be provided... to a country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."

The law goes on to state, "The President is directed to formulate and conduct international security assistance programs of the United States in a manner which will promote and advance human rights and avoid identification of the United States, through such programs, with governments which deny to their people internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international law or in contravention of the policy of the United States."

This law also mandates that United States "promote respect for and observance of human rights in that country and discourage any practices which are inimical to internationally recognized human rights, and publicly or privately call attention to, and disassociate United States and any security assistance provided for such country from, such practices." This US law defines "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights" to include "flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons."

Professor Eliav Schochetman, Dean of the Shaarei Mishpat Law College, testified last month before the Knesset's Parliamentary Law Committee that the decision of the state of Israel to demolish the homes and villages of 10,000 citizens represents the kind of human rights infraction that is described in the human rights amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act. It would violate the constraints of Israel's own Basic Human Rights Law, which oversees Israeli democratic institutions in matters of human rights and civil liberties, in the same way that the US Bill of Rights ensures that the US government can never trample on the human rights and civil liberties of American citizens.

In his testimony, Schochetman also noted that this Israeli government decision represents a violation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all democratic governments are adherents. Prof. Schochetman cited clause 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which mandates that it is illegal for sovereign governments to expel their citizens and ethnic minorities from their homes, from their private properties or from their farms. Since the only group that Israel has slated for expulsion is Jews, it may be recalled that the government of Serbia was recently held liable for international prosecution at the International High Court of Justice in the Hague under the charge of "ethnic cleansing", after leaders of Serbia allegedly expelled an ethnic minority solely because of their religion.

Prof. Schochetman concluded that Israel's decision to expel Jews from their homes would represent a wanton violation of basic human rights and civil liberties protected under Israeli and international human rights law. He also mentioned the clauses in the San Remo Treaty, ratified by the League of Nations and then by the United Nations, that provide international protection for Jews purchasing and dwelling in the "Jewish Homeland", defined as any land that lies anywhere east of the Jordan River.

Knesset Law Committee chairman Michael Eitan could not find any other law professor who would contradict Schochetman's assessment that the Israeli government's proposal to destroy and exile 25 Jewish communities would indeed represent a mass human rights violation.

Since the Israeli government intends to use US-supplied law enforcement equipment in its proposed expulsion, the question remains: Will the US Congress and will the American people allow for the use of US-supplied law enforcement equipment in such a process?

This has now become an American issue. After all, there is a difference between destroying the home of a terrorist and the intention to demolish 25 communities of law-abiding citizens. Now, it is the turn of the American citizen to communicate with their elected representatives in the US Congress.

Epilogue:

I did ask the congressional human rights specialist if the human rights amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act would apply to Israel's demolition of the homes of terrorists. Her answer was that US human rights officials have determined that it would not apply to such acts, since terrorists are viewed as combatants.




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