Defining Proportionality and Discrimination
- The rules of just conduct within war include the principles of proportionality and discrimination.
- According to defense experts, proportionality is subjective and is determined loosely by military leaders.
- Israel and non-state armed groups like Hamas are bound to these rules by the Geneva Conventions.
- The Geneva Conventions are a group of international treaties that regulate armed conflict.
- Israel and Palestine are both “ratified parties of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949,” which specify the need for protection of civilians.
- Experts indicate that both the Israeli military and Hamas, as the de facto governing body in Gaza, must comply with the Conventions.
Proportionality and Discrimination in the Israel-Hamas War
- Several leaders, including the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, have identified Israeli government actions, including the cutting of water, electricity, and food supplies, as “against international law.”
- Flashpoints for the debate about proportionality and discrimination center around attacks on hospitals and refugee camps in Gaza.
- On October 31 and November 1, Israel bombed Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, killing at least 195 civilians and invoking concern from the UN Human Rights Office that the attacks “could amount to war crimes.” Israel claims the attacks successfully targeted Hamas fighters and tunnels.
- On November 13, Israel bombed Deir el-Balah and the Jabalia and Nuseirat refugee camps.
- On November 15, Israel raided al-Shifa Hospital, which holds thousands of patients, medical workers, and displaced people. Some experts say this is a war crime, while the Israeli government claims Hamas runs a command center from underneath the hospital.
- As of November 15, 11,320 people have been killed in Gaza, including 4,650 children.
Definitions of Success
- The two main objectives for Israel are “to bring home hostages and defeat Hamas”, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though the Israeli government has been accused of lacking an endgame in Gaza.
- President Biden has repeated statements about the U.S.’ ironclad commitment to Israeli security and echoed the Prime Minister’s call to eliminate Hamas.
- Biden has assessed that an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake” and, in agreement with official U.S. policy, has advocated for a two state solution.
- Many, including former secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, believe that “Hamas is counting on Israel to overreact,” which would erode international support for Israel and cause Arab states to pull back from normalization efforts.