The United States is Not Just a Bystander in Israel-Gaza Violence

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three  medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit:  Amnesty International)

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

This past week, Israel has been carrying out air strikes and other military operations that have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of them civilians not directly participating in hostilities.

The U.S., as the largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices, as well as training and techniques to Israel, bears a particular responsibility for the deployment of the weapons it provides.

Amnesty International is calling for a U.N.-mandated international investigation into violations committed on all sides amidst ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza and continuing volleys of indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israel.  Amnesty is also calling for a UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.

In conjunction with that effort, Amnesty International USA urges the U.S. government to suspend transfers of munitions, weapons, crowd control devices, and military training to Israel.

U.S. arms transfers should not resume until and unless Israel stops violating human rights across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that these transfers will not be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Israel must also put in place credible accountability processes for past violations.

During this latest military operation, both Israel and leaders of Hamas are resorting to the same rhetoric and many of the same military tactics used during previous military operations. The international community cannot sit idly by, allowing the number of civilian deaths and injuries to climb without any real response.

Since July 7th, more than 172 Palestinians in Gaza have died due to these strikes and some 1140 have been injured, many seriously. The United Nations estimates seventy-seven percent (77%) of those killed are civilians; over twenty percent (21%) – children.

Thousands in Israel, including children, live under the fear and threat of rocket fire from Gaza. They seek shelter when the sirens wail – day or night. These rockets violate international law because of their indiscriminate nature. Fortunately, no Israelis have been killed and only a handful have been injured so far.

Over the years, Amnesty International, has documented the link between U.S. arms and Israeli violations.  U.S.-made F-16s, Hellfire missiles, drones, U.S.-issued Caterpillar bulldozers, Apache helicopters and other equipment have been directly linked to violations by Israeli forces of international humanitarian and human rights law. Yet, the U.S. continues to supply weapons to Israel. Knowing this, the U.S. is violating its own laws and policies, as well as (potentially) implicating itself in the commission of any future violations that may take place.

U.S. policy prohibits the provision of weapons where there is a credible expectation that they may be used in grave human rights violations.

Amid renewed hostilities and continued failure by both sides to provide accountability, Amnesty International is again calling for an international arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip. The goal is to prevent further serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by the parties to the conflict.

Amnesty International USA is again calling on the U.S. government to act in accordance with its own laws and policies concerning weapons transfers by stopping its flow of weapons to Israel. (Read our earlier letter to Congress, June 26, 2014.)

Co-Written by members of the Military, Security, Police Coordination Group (including Susan Waltz, Diego Zavala, Jillian Foster, Nate Smith and Colby Goodman) and Sunjeev Bery, Middle East & North Africa Advocacy Director, for Amnesty International USA.

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36 thoughts on “The United States is Not Just a Bystander in Israel-Gaza Violence

  1. Very informative article. The problem seems to be from both Israel and Hamas, but the victims of these air strikes and military activities is very clear. The death toll in Gaza is 172, yet the death toll in Israel is 0. Its quite clear who the victims are.

    • The fact that the Israeli air defense system has been 100% effective in shielding them from the nearly 1,000 rockets launched indiscriminately against residential areas in Israel apparently has clouded the questions of who the victims are.

      It is an immorally ghastly calculus that derermines that more civilans should die to confirm Israel's right to self-defense.

      • Israel can't 'defend' land which it is has stolen and is occupying illegally. Providing Israel with arms is not 'assisting in the peace process' … it is perpetuating the slaughter. Israeli snipers killing individuals who are doing no wrong and children playing (yes, there are videos now available), bombing a school, an ambulance, a hospital for invalids…. all are nothing to do with 'defending' … it is nothing short of barbarism and genocide. Palestinian children being held in prisons in Israel with no trial (as operated by G4) are illegal – yet the US turns a blind eye to this and other atrocities. Shame on you Israel! Shame on you USA! Shame! Shame! Shame!

  2. US taxpayers are most culpable by 'virtue' of providing $9.9 MILLION every DAY to Israel which sustains, aids and abets its illegal, immoral and untenable Occupation of the indigenous Palestinians.

    Silence in the face of injustice is complicity in injustice and it is up to 'we the people' of the USA to demand our 'leaders' lead in the true American way: EQUAL human rights and FREEDOM for ALL!

    In his Farewell Address, President George Washington warned US:

    Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

    Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence…

    In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.

    The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave…

    So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils.

    Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and Wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification…

    The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.

    • With all respect Eileen Flemming, your citation is grossly inappropriate.

      The US has close ties to Israel, and an obligation to assist in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestineans.

      The US has been successful in achieving peace settlements between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. Part of the formula of this success is backing Israel's right to existence and self defense with the weapons and resources to make it so.

      The Palestinean extremists who launch attacks on Israeli civilians are the ones responisble for the breakdown of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinean authority.

      Turing a blind eye to these perpetrators of mayhem is bad enough, but abetting them by punishing Israel for defending itself makes us complicit in their attacks.

      Israel has interest in continued conflict- they stand little to gain from the aquisitionof the small parcels of land in Gaza and the West Bank, but the strategic issues the Israelis are fighting for are essential to their continued survival, certainly as a country, and if the ISIS campaign is any indicator, also to their actual physical survival.

  3. Good to see my tax dollars are being used wisely. Funny how one sided the coverage of this event is. Israel is always the bad guy, while the 12th century head banging trash can fire hundreds of rockets at population centers and nothing is said.

    Iron Dome is only reason Israel is not experiencing many casualties from the onslaught of unguided missiles being sent their way. If the so called “Palestinians” don’t want to dismantled by return missile fire, stop shooting at Israel.

    Apparently this simple concept is beyond these people.

    Let’s see how these remarks stay posted.

    • See? They've stayed posted, despite your use of phrases like "12th century head banging trash," which probably would not have been tolerated had they been aimed at Jews. If you had read the piece, you would have seen that Ms. Garwood goes out of her way to condemn the rocket attacks on Israel.

  4. The outrage at the possibility that Russian supplied weapons may have been involved in the downing of the Malaysian airliner, juxtaposed with the use of United States supplied weapons and technology to kill civilians in Gaza, gives significant credence to a call by Amnesty International that the U.S. government must stop the supply of U.S. weapons and technology to Israel.

  5. I think international groups like Amnesty have it very wrong in trying to achieve "balance" or parity in their treatment of the Israeli-Palestinean struggle.

    It is not matter of keeping score as to which side incurs the greater casualties or is at the losing end of the latest strikes.

    It behooves us to look deeper and try to address the root causes of this violence, which is Palestinean extremism.

    Robert Chapman
    Brooktondale, NY

  6. Israel shows the disorderliness and vulgarity that accompanies a functioning democracy, but the IDF is disciplined and accountable to the duly elected Israeli civilian authorities.

    The same cannot be said of the Palestinean extremist groups, even HAMAS which is currently in government in Gaza. These groups are accountable to no one, are utterly unreliable negotiating partners, launch spontaneous and planned attacks targetted against Israeli civilians without regard to law or decency. HAMAS and other extremist Palestinean froups are not above using civilians as human shields or publicizing such suffering to gain political advantage in Europe and the Americas.

    Taking a solomonic approach condones the cruel lawlessness of the Palestinean extremists and exposes Israel to imminent danger which will include massive pogroms of the sort we witness frequently in countries like Syria, Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq in which comparable fundamentalist extremists operate.

    • And neither are Israeli soldiers above using Palestinian children as their own human shields at gunpoint and while handcuffed. Look it up, it's very well documented and there is far more proof of that than there is proof that Hamas does this.

  7. This is not a current picture or a missile from a current conflict. It is from 2009. It has no bearing on the current situation. I'm sick being mislead on opinionated agenda driven reporting. This is unprofessional and not journalism.

  8. Facts can lie. Take the comparison between casualties of those from Gaza and Israelis . If one ignores the fact that Hammas uses civilians as human shields and uses hospitals and schools as bases , has built a network of tunnels underneath cities to fight a war and use civilian deaths as a propoganda tool , forcing civilians to stay in the line of fire , after the Israelis have dropped 2 million leaflets, phone calls, sms , telling civilians to get out and also setting up a hospital for palistinian civilian casualties – the figures tell a different story.
    19 hours ago · Like · 2

  9. I'm sad to see Amnesty International misunderstand the nature of this conflict and support such irresponsible, uniformed reporting. Hamas also accepts US aid and is to blame for the conflict in israel. Comparing death tolls to say who is to blame is utterly illogical. Israel has become adept at protecting itself out of necessity, so thankfully, mercifully, they've kept their people alive. Meanwhile, because Hamas/Palestinians aren't so good at protecting their own (using their children as human sheilds, for pete's sake!), they've got casualties, but minimal, mercifully, thanks to Israel's measures to protect even their enemy's children as much as is reasonable. AI of all groups should be speaking out for them! Action for Human Rights (including Israelis). Hope for Humanity (All of humanity!) Until this is true for AI, I won't be supporting this group from now on.

  10. It is astonishing to see how many well-meaning people allow themselves to be fooled into placing the blame on the wrong side, here.

    The reason the "death toll" is so one-sided is because of the attitudes and actions of the two sides. To compress it to a soundbite, Israel uses its weapons to protect its civilians, while Hamas uses its civilians to protect its weapons.

    If some crazy people with large stockpiles of weapons were shooting at you and your family, and holding their own children in front of them as they shot, what would you do? Let's assume there are no police in this analogy. The bad guys (that's the ones who started shooting) are poor shots, and their weapons aren't the newest, upgraded models, but they are still deadly if they hit. How long would you wait before shooting back?

    If they just killed your dog, and a bunch of the livestock on your farm, and sent one of the barns up in smoke, is that enough for you? If they've wounded several of your children, but nobody has died yet, is it time to fight back yet? Or do you think you should wait until they get lucky, and blow up a building with lots of your children in it, before you start protecting yourself? How many dead children is enough for you?

    I one of these people keeps aiming at your baby, while holding his own as a shield, what do you do? Do you sit there and do nothing, to protect his baby, while he kills yours? And if you aim at the shooters, but your aim isn't perfect, and a few of their children end up dead, whose fault is it? Or if one of his children throws themself in front of the bullet that was aimed at the shooter, whose fault is it? Yours, for defending your family, or his, for using them as shields?

    The situation really is that clear-cut.

    Oh, and if you want to use the old excuse about Israel "occupying" their land, think again. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. But even if you think Israel should give up its entire country, are you really going to justify years of murdering innocent civilians over a land dispute? What low standards are you setting for these people?

    • " How long would you wait before shooting back? "

      Shooting back is one thing. Bombing UN refugee shelters is another. The situation really is that clear-cut.

    • Okay – the neighbour shoots and kill your dog. As a response, you grab a pack of explosives. You thought you were careful – you just intended to blow up the barn where one of the neighbours is working, but the explosives level his house and also kills his wife and ten month old baby. Not him, though, as he already left. "Not my fault", you think, "I even hollered 'I am going to get you!' ", as you make your way to the next house you suspect he may be in.

      It is that clearcut, Miriam, especially if you tend to construct these kinds of hypothetical situations instead of dealing with reality.

  11. Hamas celebrates every Palestinian child that is killed by Israel.
    Edith Garwood.
    You don't seem to see the big picture.
    Hamas hates the jews more than they love their own children.

    Until THAT changes; Israel will be forced to protect their country.

    Israel doesn't protect against these terrorists, they will be killed.

    • "Hamas celebrates every Palestinian child that is killed by Israel. "

      Where does a statement like that come from? What possible proof could there be of it? Tis is pure hate speech, pure propaganda. If anyone is insensitive to the deaths of children, it is you – or whoever crafted your statement.

  12. Try telling the whole — unspun story just for once Amnesty. Are you aware of the great lengths Israel goes to spare Civilian casualties? — while the Hamas terrorist organization TARGETS civilians and uses civilian housing/population/churches/hospitals etc… as camouflage, shields and propaganda???? You are an effective and useful tool for Hamas congrats. Pull your collective heads out for some air please.

  13. I cannot understand the Zionist mentality. They seem to have taken on the Nazi ethos of " a superior race" ? My heart goes out to the holocaust victims and their families, it was a heinous crime which the Israelis are now perpetrating on the Palestinians. Thank God for people like Norman Finkelstein, at least the world knows that being Jewish does not mean You support the Gazan holocaust! Thank You Mr Finkelstein.

  14. The Palestinians have every right to defend themselves against the occupation of their lands, the loss of countless lives and the violations of so many of their human rights. It is not an equal battle. Israel receives huge funds from the USA, has an army, airforce and navy. The Palestinians have nothing to fight back with except home made rockets. There must be a political solution to the problems there, an end to the siege of Gaza, the end of violations of Palestinian human right, the fisherman must have the right to earn their living etc etc . Only then will there be peace in the region.

  15. What Amnesty int. is asking those in goverment is almost impossible, Why?
    first. The weapon industry is soo big and feed on those conflicts around the world.
    The human cost to USA goverment and Carlyle (weapons manufacture) is NOT their priority as we humans
    AIPAC power is the Goverment
    Not the president, Congress is on their. Payroll ,in other word , American politics is for sale , gone sold
    WE the poeple are in the limbo of the worst politics in the last 50years . And yet to come ,when you. Sell your soul for money NOTHING is left.

  16. I fully agree israel is out of control and must be fully disarmed. My reservation that this applies to Hamas and other resistance groups who have the right to resist occupation in INT.LAW will be the one forced to be left of any means of defence while the USA will do nothing but keep providing all manor of arms to facilitate the genocide of Palestinians with it's complicit repugnant impunity that it allows Israel to luxuriate in. It is the occupation of Gaza and West Bank and the siege of Gaza that leads to the on going violence. I do not belive anyone would have suggested the resistance to Hitler in WW2 should have been disarmed. It is time for citizens of USA to mass on government on mass to stop this and stop their appathy no USA aid to Israel will stop this lunatic state. GOD BLESS ALL PALESTINIANS. Mai Waby

  17. Why doesn't Israel accept the two-state solution.

    Isn't it better to achieve co-operative respect and economic interaction than this constant warfare.

  18. It's a shame you stand for human rights but are still so clearly biased. There have most certainly been deaths from Israel, also children. Do not minimize the extent of deaths for Israel and imply that they are the perpetrators. Do not portray Gaza as the victim when they are clearly attacking and terrorizing Israel as well. Israel is defending itself. Hope for ALL humanity, yes?

  19. I cannot even find the words to express my feelings or thoughts.Peace and freedom from supression.

  20. Amnesty – You need to update the dead and injured figures on this document – it is way out of date and incorrect. Current deaths are around 1,800 and injuries around 10,000. Please update

  21. What amnesty can do is to force to stop now the violations by breaking up every commitment toward US. Don't provide tolerance where tolerance is a faded out word. When US have only guns to support their rights -the rights of israelian need for security in this case- the human rights are washed away thoroughly. There are not any humans that deserve less rights, what is being done in Palestine is a complete failure of humanity in general. What is most important is to understand is that humanity without violence can be powerful and the only answer to all kind of mutual disaster (if we can pretend that palestine is in any way in a situation that can be an analogue threat to israel as israel is for her) and that is what amnesty is there for.

  22. We have no idea how it will end but most of us especially those who want peace will expect that there are some better results in the end between Hamas and Israel. We do hope that there are no more victims due to this conflict.

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