US State Department
US State DepartmentiStock

Israel is legally fighting a just defensive war against genocidal Hamas in Gaza. It is not violating US or International Law and as the US State Department admits they have no actual evidence thereof.

The State Department’s report (NSM-20 Report), required under the President Biden’s National Security Memorandum-20 (of February 8, 2024), was submitted to Congress on Friday, May 5, 2024. The Report concluded that the “assurances provided by each recipient country”, including Israel, “to be credible and reliable so as to allow the provision of defense articles covered under NSM-20 to continue.”

Yet, the State Department’s unclassified version of the NSM-20 Report also gratuitously contained a series of unconfirmed and tawdry allegations, for which it found no real evidence to support any finding of an actual violation of law.

Nevertheless, the abstruse legalese used in the Report was rife with opportunities for confusion and misunderstanding, especially to non-experts looking for any reason to demean and vilify Israel. Indeed, it almost seemed like the material published was contrived as part of a vile political smear job for mainstream media consumption and to pander to certain constituencies, despite concluding that the US could legally continue to supply Israel with weaponry.

The NSM-20 Report was issued before the UN released its new estimates of reported civilian deaths in the Hamas war, on the following Wednesday, May 8, 2024. The UN finally admitted that, in reliance on Hamas generated figures, it had vastly overstated the number of deaths among women and children by almost half.

Never mind that the prior inflated numbers were hotly disputed by many experts, because they made no sense. Among other things, there were no reports of any combatant deaths in the figures (nor any deaths due to the misfiring of the rockets fired by Hamas and its cohorts or other friendly fire. The real experts were right.

After all, who can reasonably argue that terrorist Hamas’ assertions could just be taken at face value; it’s absurd.

Remember the first big test of Hamas’ credibility and the reprehensible useful dupe role the media played in the incident involving a misfired rocket by a Hamas cohort that hit the parking lot at Al Shifa Hospital, on October 17, 2023. At first it was falsely described as the bombing of the Hospital by Israel, which was dutifully and wrongly blamed for killing 500 innocent civilians. Then it turned out it was not a bombing of the Hospital, but a misfired rocket from Gaza by a Hamas cohort that hit the parking lot outside the Hospital and killed closer to 50 people.

Would that the media and others learned from these mistakes. It almost seems like there are those in the media, government and elsewhere whose first instinct is to prejudge and blame Israel and the Jews. The almost reflexive response to anyone who suggests otherwise or calls for a through investigation and real evidence before any conclusions are reached appears to be mockery and derision.

The May 8th UN report of fatalities also contained an important caveat not reflected in previous reporting. It noted a substantially lower figure for fatalities identified than those merely reported by Hamas. Nevertheless, there is still no delineation between combatants and non-combatants.

Israel government spokesperson Avi Hyman noted Israel has been“condemned globally because of a fake and fabricated civilian death toll created anddisseminated by Hamas”. He went on to say, “The United Nations has rubber-stamped these Hamas numbers and become a Hamas newswire to the world”. He declared, “In reality, Israel is setting the new gold standard for urban warfare with what appears to be the lowest civilian to combatant casualty ratios in history”.

Real experts on war like John Spencer and Richard Kemp agree. Moreover, some have suggested even the reduced figures are overstated, inasmuch as they include all deaths and don’t identify causes such as from natural causes. They also lump together all children under 18, eventhough it is undisputed that Hamas uses armed teenage soldiers, who are actual enemy combatants. Therefore, it is likely that the true figure for collateral deaths of civilians is even lower.

The State Department, UN and others appear to ignore the work of John Spencer, Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at West Point, who truly understands the nuances and statistics of Israel’s war in Gaza. He well appreciates and has written about the unprecedented steps that Israel has taken to minimize civilian casualties.

It is also important to note that the State Department received a Report from what was referred to as the ‘Independent Task Force’ on the Application of NSM-20 specifically to Israel, which was submitted on April 18, 2024. This self-proclaimed group, self-styled as the ‘Independent Task Force’, of self-proclaimed non-partisan experts on international law, civilian harm mitigation best practices and US domestic law and policy on security assistance, would appear to be nothing of the sort. The co-chairs, members and research assistants include known Israel bashers and even a former State Department official who resigned because of President Biden’s support for Israel. Yet, many of their specious unsupported allegations appear to have made their way into the State Department’s own Report.

I can't help but wonder why recognized experts like John Spencer or other experts at Department of Defense were not consulted. Why the misplaced reliance by the State Department on its own staff or other pseudo-experts and propaganda? Are any of them real authorities on the Law of War with actual experience and proven track records in practice of correctly interpreting the arcane provisions of this specialized area of Law? In this regard, here's an excerpt from US Dept of Defense, Law of War Manual (§

"The party that employs human shields in an attempt to shield military objectives from attack assumes responsibility for their injury. However, the enemy use of voluntary human shields may be considered as a factor in assessing the legality of an attack. Based on the facts and circumstances of a particular case, the commander may determine that persons characterized as voluntary human shields are taking a direct part in hostilities."

This highly relevant provision and its application to the circumstances at hand in Gaza is nowhere discussed in the report.

Also missing in the report is any discussion of the fact that Hamas is a US designated foreign terrorist organization and, therefore, any assertions by Hamas or it supporters and cohorts is necessarily suspect. Moreover, any coordination with Hamas or its agents and especially advocacy of its interests may be subject to enforcement under 18 USC 2339.

Hamas & supporters use sloganized euphemisms and prevarications of international law like misusing the terms ‘Genocide’ and ‘Occupation’ to slander Israel and fuel virulent Jew hatred. An egregious example is the outright false statement that the ICJ found the claim of genocide against Israel plausible.

Joan Donoghue, the former president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the time the ICJ delivered its findings on January 26, 2024, took the unusual step of correcting widespread misreporting of the ICJ’s ruling on Gaza. She noted that the ICJ took jurisdiction of the case, “But it did not decide — and this is something where I’m correcting what’s often said in the media — it didn’t decide that the claim of genocide was plausible.”

Israel is prosecuting a just and legal war against evil Hamas and may it be triumphant. May G-d protect Israel, the IDF, the hostages and all of us and return the hostages and Israel's valiant soldiers home safely.

Leonard Grunstein, retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Bernard Revel at Yeshiva Univ. and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and more.